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Film Review: Chappie

Review by Graeme Wood
15.03.15

 

Chappie_filmtrailer

Neil Blomkamp brings us his third feature following the critically acclaimed audience favourite ‘District 9’ and the less successful Hollywood looking but soulless ‘Elysium’.

In a near future Johannesburg a robot police force are being deployed to clean up the gangster ruled streets of the city. The robots creator Deon Wilson dreams of taking the robots development further and introducing a consciousness, something his finance driven boss Michelle Bradley forbids. Taking matters into his own hands Deon steals a badly damaged robot in an attempt to upload his new software, plans go badly awry however when a criminal gang kidnap him and he is forced to adapt the robot in a plan to make it steal for them. Meanwhile, his rival for funding Vincent Moore, frustrated by the company’s refusal to further develop his altogether less subtle ‘Moose’ law enforcement robot programme, exploits the situation to his own ends.

It’s an intriguing scenario especially with the surrounding South African backdrop providing a different visual feel and the pacy narrative is never less than gripping. The essence of the film is that Chappie_FilmStillonce adapted with a consciousness Chappie, as the robot is named; will quickly develop into something more than human. It’s a familiar theme for movies this year having been explored in ‘Ex-Machina’ and the soon to arrive ‘Avengers-Age of Ultron’. ‘Chappie’ plays as more intelligent version of Robocop but there is also plenty of humour to be had in the scenes of Chappie’s childlike growth and his behaviour when copying the slang and attitudes of his gangsta ‘mother’ Yolandi and ‘father’ Ninja. Yet there is also a certain sadness that he is so easily led into acts of criminality, drawing some parallels with bad parenting skills perhaps. Yet the film never tips over into gimmicky or sentimental overplay, Blomkamp and co-writer Terri Tatchell ensure matters remain earthy, edgy and never more than a moment away from quite shocking violence.

What is remarkable is how easily we warm to Chappie itself, played using motion capture and voiced by District 9’s Sharlto Copley, the very metal looking robot mimics human body language well enough to covey its awkwardness and emotions with ease. As it develops you can see it moving from curious child through adolescence to gullible adult without it changing appearance accept for an amusing ‘street’ makeover complete with tattoos and bling. Even Chappie’s face somehow manages to convincingly emote while remaining nothing more than a small screen with moving parts and lights.

Visually there is little attempt to glamorise the city itself and it remains a bleak landscape with Blomkamp focusing on its more downtrodden areas. Like his two previous films it is worth noting that save for Dev Patel’s Deon Wilson almost all of the company employees and gangsters are played by Chappiefilm_kushfilms.comwhite actors. A few smaller roles within the police force only are played by black actors. Do Chappie and Deon, persecuted throughout; therefore represent something more than their characters? It’s hard to say as, despite there being plenty of opportunity for racial allegories; the writers do not appear especially interested in delving too deeply into the social aspects of matters. For example, no attempts are made to draw on why people would be so accepting of a robotic police force, though there is a religious sub-plot touched upon when Moore views Chappie’s self-awareness as a god-less abhorrence.

Some may struggle with the first act which is a little too hectic and packed with unlikeable criminals speaking in barely distinguishable South African slang. Oddly the cut I saw had subtitles for a character who was perfectly comprehensible but none for snatches of the Afrikaans dialogue.

Dev Patel is therefore our only identification figure, at least until Chappie is rebooted, and handles the role of benign father with likeability and charm, though any real scientists watching may be wincing at his work methods. Oddly the two least well drawn characters are played by the biggest Chappie_HughJackmannames. Sigourney Weaver gets to scowl a lot in her office but is sorely underused, while Hugh Jackman relishes his casting against type as antagonist Moore whose motivation, while explained becomes unbelievable as he resorts to increasingly melodramatic methods to prove his robot is every bit as good as Deon’s. If this is supposed to represent his inner clash between veteran soldier and the scientist he has become then it merely falls into Alpha Male territory.

Of the other cast both actors who play the robot’s surrogate parents, Ninja (yes that’s his actual name) and Yo-Landi Visser, who are part of a rap group in real life, bring a down to earth and very South African feel to things, Ninja is the least likeable and brings little warmth or presence to his mindless gangsta shtick, both feel ‘too white’ though to have cast black actors would have felt too stereotypical. There characters bear the same names and though shrill and unlikeable they have an interesting arc within the film. The bond they develop with Chappie seems to bring them together as a family unit to the point that both become heroic in the last act. This supports the development of Chappie and draws on the underlying theme of family. Not that it all ends in a cosy finale; after a number of high octane action sequences, delivered by Blomkamp in all their messy glory, the climax is even more visceral. The fact that you’re rooting for two criminals and a robot says much about the way the film draws you into this unusual, flawed but inventive story. There is a hasty epilogue about transferring human consciousness into robot bodies that makes little sense and leaves Chappie an ultimately flawed but very enjoyable film.


kushfilms.com

The whitewashed cast of ‘Exodus’ is irresponsible — Another 2014 Movie Once Again Changing History

 

We at Kushfilms.com have been just so annoyed and once again disappointed with Hollywood with their racists discriminatory filmmaking  and in the case of the film ‘Exodus’ the director Ridley Scott and sadly Christian Bale (one of our favourite British actors); that we really didn’t want to give this film any type of exposure at all – Nada – absolutely nothing!

We do also realise the danger of continuing to let Hollywood make these type of films as they have done since the creation of Hollywood without there been a wave of negative feedback and a call to not support box office sales of racists misleading history changing film-crap like Exodus.

But after already speaking out about films like; Noah & Lucy all made this year in 2014, which also blots out the African genesis of mankind from genuine world history, we just felt we shouldn’t give Exodus any type of exposure at all, hoping it will in a counter-intuitive manner help the film to attract low box office sales.

Sadly with all that has been happening recently; Sony Pictures executives personal emails exposed, their producers slagging off black stars like Kevin Hart and doubting the international box-office appeal of Denzil Washington, the lack of diversity here in the UK and the US in both television and film, black films and actors not been given fair opportunity to shine as with the recent UK semi-partial bogus release of the British urban film Montana and not to mention the ever increasingly worrying racial separation currently happening in the United States facilitated by the deaths of numerous young black men and now two New York police officers in a supposed revenge killing.

I have to wonder if there is some kind of agenda by forces unseen to undermine and in some cases to exterminate globally the progress of black people – Yes now in 2014!
Marlon Palmer (Director)
Kush Films

 

Taken from Mashable.com
Written by Yohana Desta
11.12.14

We just love this straight-talking professional article on the film Exodus written by Yohana Desta of mashable.com that we just had to reprint it here for you our readers.

Please feel free to give us some feedback – send comments to: info@kushfilms.com

What a shame — Exodus: Gods and Kings could have been epic.

exodus-05

Starring Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton and Sigourney Weaver, the new Ridley Scott film has already garnered controversy for casting white actors as ancient Egyptians. Some have called for a boycott, but the Academy Award-nominated director has kept fairly quiet on the criticism — until a recent interview with Variety.

Scott explained:
“I can’t mount a film of this budget, where I have to rely on tax rebates in Spain, and say that my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such,” Scott says. “I’m just not going to get it financed. So the question doesn’t even come up.”

There’s a lot to unpack, but it’s worth noting that Scott’s position is not entirely without merit — filmmakers, even those working with major studios, have an incredibly difficult time funding movies. As the industry becomes more reliant on revenue from foreign countries, where top stars are still a critical draw, you need big names on the marquee to get a green light. Period.

However, that doesn’t excuse films from making the same irresponsible casting decisions over and over. While movies are still an art form, filmmakers are increasingly held accountable for working within a system that egregiously ignores minorities. Half of all contemporary films still fail the Bechdel test, despite its growing influence as a measure of gender bias. Ironically, studies show that films with a more diverse cast earn more revenue.

Sure, Exodus is just a movie — but its message surfaces social issues that do more harm than good.

As someone who has seen this film, I can attest to its aggravatingly backward casting. Not only is the main cast aggressively whitewashed, but the decision to degrade actors with dark skin was an utter distraction. Scott’s need to get a movie star may become the film’s own Achilles heel.

What Ridley Scott gets wrong.

bale-scott-edgerton

Christian Bale, Ridley Scott and Joel Edgerton – Image: Andy Kropa /Invision/AP/Associated Press

An expensive film has to recoup its budget and race to the top of the box office. Exodus: Gods and Kings is an expensive movie. With an estimated $140 million budget, it makes sense why Scott feels pressure to deliver on the film’s promise. However, that is where all forgiveness of Scott’s racist Biblical epic ends.

The uproar against this film has been dragging on for months on end, initially because of the film’s cast list. The movie stars carrying this film — Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton (if he can be called a “star” yet), Sigourney Weaver and Aaron Paul — are all white, as are most of the male supporting cast with speaking roles (save for Ben Kingsley, who is half-Indian).

In contrast, aside from Weaver, most of the main actresses with speaking roles — Hiam Abbass, Maria Valverde, Golshifteh Farahani and Indira Varma, mainly — are non-white, which might be the film’s only saving grace in terms of racial casting. But let’s go back to Scott’s Variety quote.

His reasoning deliberately places the blame elsewhere, as though it’s completely out of his hands. In the grand scheme of things, what he’s doing in this film is not different from many other Hollywood films — one need only go back as far as Noah to find a jarringly all-white cast in a biblical epic. Exodus carries on the grand tradition of white actors playing…well, everything. Native Americans. Asians. Other Ancient Egyptian people. However, tradition does not make this film’s actions inexcusable.

Now, this may be the point where you ask: But isn’t the exact skin color of the ancient Egyptians up for debate anyway? Thanks to the Nile River, ancient Egypt was a blend of many outside cultures. However, as Penn State University anthropology professor Nina Jablonski pointed out, it is safe to surmise that they likely had tan skin, as depicted in ancient artwork of Egyptian royalty.

Egyptian art
Jablonski also wrote in her book Living Color: The Biological and Social Meaning of Skin Color: “In ancient Egypt as a whole, people were not designated by color terms, and slavery was not associated with darker skin.”

If you couldn’t tell from my author photo, I’m a dark-skinned black woman. And if you couldn’t tell from my name, I’m of East African descent. When I watched Exodus: Gods and Kings in an early press screening,

joel_ramsesI saw things a little differently than the 18-35-year-old white men Scott’s film is no doubt trying to reach.

When the initial casting for the film ignited uproar, it was because dark-skinned actors were cast as servants, soldiers, assassins — you get the idea. Going into this film, I remained open-minded — perhaps Scott had been unfairly vilified in the film’s early reports. Instead, I was slapped in the face with racist imagery.

— Jaime (@jaimichnew) December 5, 2014

Within the first few minutes of the film, two black actors are shown, but they’re merely servants to the high priestess (played by Varma). The next few times you see dark-skinned people, it’s essentially the same — they’re the ever-present bodyguards of Ramses, the wicked assassin sent to kill Moses. They’re servants who flit in and out of rooms. Dark-skinned people in this film are treated like furniture, scattered in the background like props. They are mute (I can count on one hand how many times a dark-skinned actor speaks, and that’s being generous). It’s a visual representation of the statistic that only 25.9% of speaking characters in 600 films from 2007-2010 and 2012-2013 were minorities. And this is a movie set in Africa. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this film’s imagery — and let’s be clear, this is a popcorn flick for your eyes, not your brain — is that it may as well have been set in the Antebellum South. The brutally callous way with which black actors are relegated wordlessly to the background and white actors in the foreground was incredibly uncomfortable and so distracting I was aghast Scott got away with it. Once I noticed the disturbing trend, I decided to tally in my notebook how many times I saw a prominently featured dark-skinned actor stand in a scene without speaking. By the end of the film, I had 40 marks in my notebook. That’s 40 opportunities to give a black actor a voice. Forty chances to let a dark-skinned person rise above the subservient role he or she has been given. Forty times Scott did not realize how gruesomely ignorant his film had become.

What should have happened.

Christian Bale in a scene from 'Exodus: Gods and Kings.'

Christian Bale in a scene from ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings.’


Dark-skinned people in this film are treated like furniture, scattered in the background like props.

 

 

In a recent interview, Christian Bale defended Scott’s casting choices, spinning them as opportunities to spotlight lesser-known minority actors. “…We should all look at ourselves and say, ‘Are we supporting wonderful actors in films by North African and Middle Eastern film-makers and actors?’ Because there are some fantastic actors out there,” he says. “If people start supporting those films more and more, then financiers in the market will follow…To me, that would be a day of celebration.” Bale’s comments are the closest thing to a mea culpa offended viewers are going to get. In the same interview;

Scott told the film’s boycotters to “Get a life.”

Bale has a great point — films from those regions deserve attention. However, the Hollywood system, in which Bale is an active participant, largely ignores minorities. A 2011 UCLA study showed that only 10.5% of films starred minorities. Therein lies another problem. There are minority actors who could carry Exodus. If Scott was so determined to secure Bale, fine — but why horribly whitewash the rest? Revered actors like Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor or Djimon Hounsou all possess at least as much gravitas and popularity as Edgerton. An actress like Angela Bassett or Viola Davis could have have tackled Weaver’s surprisingly small role with gusto. (Weaver may be Scott’s golden girl, but her presence was one of the most distracting of all.)

Sigourney Weaver in 'Exodus: Gods and Kings.'

Sigourney Weaver in ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings.’

Scott’s movie star tactics also haven’t helped reviews. Exodus currently holds a 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Its real star is the special effects. That $140 million budget was put to good use, particularly with well-orchestrated battle scenes and visually stunning plagues of, well, Biblical proportions. For that reason alone, millions of people will see this film. However, tracking indicates it might make around $29 million opening weekend, which is enough to secure a top spot, but shaky for a film with that kind of budget. Global audiences might eat up its massive scale, and see it because it carries the name of the director who brought us Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator. And yet, I am not entertained.

Aside from Bale, Edgerton also spoke about the film’s casting controversy in an interview with IGN. Though he admits to not keeping up with all the criticism, he wants people to get the film’s true message: “It has one of the most important resonant messages that we really face as a human race, which is: On an ethical standpoint the ideal is that we treat each other with equality, as this story shows the struggle that ensues when one race subjugates another.

” How ironic that this film stands for just the opposite.