Peter Travers has had a bad week. Not only did he pay his own hard-earned money to see the deplorable G.I. Joe last week, millions around the world also spent a fraction of their paychecks seeing G.I. Joe, thereby ensuring that Travers will eventually have to stomach watching G.I. Joe 2.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, since there’s a new film in theaters this weekend that rewards us all for enduring the Transformers 2s of the Hollywood world, and this new film is called District 9. Produced by Lord of the Rings‘ Peter Jackson and written and directed by South African first-timer Neill Blomkamp, the pair only needed $30 million to make the must-see sci-fi film of the summer. And yes, that includes Star Trek.
The premise, without giving too much away: A spaceship stalls above Johannesburg, and the aliens within — dubbed Prawns” because of their crustacean-like appearance — are put into an encampment called District 9. The situation mirrors the apartheid and segregation Blomkamp witnessed when living in South Africa, but this is no political fable. The government plans to move the residents of District 9 to District 10, essentially a concentration camp, but when the man in charge of the move — Sharlito Copely in a tour de force performance — accidentally becomes infected and turns into one of the “prawns,” the film really takes off. It’s suspenseful, it’s thought provoking, it’s imaginative and it’s the movie to see this weekend.
Other movies worth seeking out this weekend: Ponyo, the latest stunner from master animator Hayao Miyazaki, Spread featuring Ashton Kutcher’s best performance to date and the guitar god documentary It Might Get Loud with Jack White, U2’s The Edge and Jimmy Page.
But by all means necessary, avoid this weekend’s Scum Bucketeer, The Time Traveler’s Wife, starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, two actors Travers likes appearing in a film he called “chick flick hell.” The plot: Girl marries guy, guy turns out to be time traveler, girl nags guy about time traveling because he often misses dinner and Christmas. The film had the potential to be a decent science fiction flick, especially considering it’s about time travel, but instead it’s Scum Bucket-bound.