Viewed – 21 July 2015  Blu-ray

I must admit I’m becoming quite an admirer of South African director Neill Blomkamp’s brand of sci-fi action thrillers.  His debut, the acclaimed District 9 certainly impressed, and his follow up the underrated Elysium was one of my favourite movies of recent years.  So sitting down to this latest, albeit somewhat more personal effort I’ll admit I was excited.


A robotics scientist at a company that builds and runs an android police force, creates the first true artificial intelligence and installs it in a test robot fresh off the battle field.  However on-route home to do more tests, the robot is stolen by a group of desperate thugs who subsequently adopt it and name it Chappie.

Set in a near-future Johannesburg, Blomkamp’s movie stars Slum Dog Millionaire’s Dev Patel as the scientist, Hugh Jackman as a rival scientist and Sigourney Weaver as the head of the company.  Playing against type, Jackman is good fair and seems to be loving time out from Wolverine.  Weaver on the other hand get’s a rather limited, thankless role considering her Sci-Fi credentials, so it’s left up to Patel who is very good and a bunch of lesser-known but intriguing co-stars to carry the movie around a brilliant creation.  Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley (The A-Team, Maleficent) does a stellar job voicing the robot, instilling a naivety and energy to the character that really brings it to life.  We follow Chappie’s exploits from frightened child to becoming a hanging-with-the-homies gangster, whilst all the time being manipulated by gang leader Ninja and befriended by surrogate mother ‘Yo-Landi’.

YolandiThink a cross between eighties classic Short Circuit (Number Five is alive!) and genre favourite RoboCop (not the lacklustre remake) with some blatant borrowing of that movie’s key ideas even down to an Ed 209 look-a-like.  The story’s most fascinating aspect however; Chappie’s learning felt rushed, for a robot who has to pretty much grow up before our eyes (…how’d he know lying?), and the clichéd thugs / locales were straight out of the post-apocalyptic handbook.  Yet Blomkamp threw in enough stylish action and energy to keep this viewer smiling and entertained throughout – and that ending was sheer class.

On this evidence, I can’t wait to see what he does with Alien.

Verdict:  4 /5

Slumdog Millionaire

Viewed – 27 June 2009  Blu-ray

This is the big one.  The film everyone has been talking about.  I must admit though that even after all the hype surrounding it’s stunning victory at this years Academy Awards, the subject matter didn’t hit me with that ‘must see’ vibe.  This follows the story of a young kid (Dev Patel) from the impoverished slums of India who has somehow found himself on the country’s version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, well on his way to winning the jackpot.  Now what surprised me was the fact that this isn’t just a rags-to-riches cliche of a story where at first we watch said slums upbringing, leading to that fateful appearance on the show.  But infact, the kid is already on the show and the film flashes back, bit by bit to how he got there, carefully drip-feeding the viewer information and back story – much more satisfying.

This is powerful, gritty and fascinating, part real-world expose, part love story, part thriller, and with a feel good ending that is built up to perfectly.  Danny Boyles direction here never misses a beat, is intelligent and stylish but never looses the realism under such admittedly eye-catching production values.  This is a beautifully filmed and edited movie, with some excellent choices of music and stunning Indian locales, both heart breaking and awe-inspiring.  Dev Patel’s performance is assured, steely-eyed and confident, but very subtle at the same time, with actors playing younger versions of him handling the more intense moments.  So then, this is a gripping and thought-provoking film made with care and a very professional eye, making it one Oscar winner worthy of the title.

Additionally, for anyone wondering about the Blu-ray, this is definitely one of the best pictures I have yet seen, with a strong soundtrack to accompany it, making it a guaranteed poster-boy for the format.

Verdict:  4 /5