Neil Blomkamp has returned to a dark, cannibalistic Johannesburg for his latest film, the future-set Chappie, about a robot with real thoughts, emotions, and the capacity to learn and live like a human being.
Blomkamp, who was educated at Vancouver Film School and has become the establishment's poster alumnus, first rose to prominence with 2009's surprise hit District 9. He stalled out a little with the Matt Damon-led Elysium in 2013, and Chappie has – unfortunately – failed to blow back critics' hair in its advance screenings.
"Now Blomkamp, back home in Joburg, finds new ways to go off the cinematic rails with Chappie," writes TIME's Richard Corliss. "On the weird side, the movie takes place in South Africa's largest city, with a teeming multiracial population; yet it has fewer roles for black actors than Disney's new live-action Cinderella. Blomkamp has reimposed Apartheid on his own movie."
Chappie stars Dev Patel as the robot's creator and Hugh Jackman as the half-mulleted villain... or maybe just a scared mortal.
The film premiered on Wednesday in New York City and will be released in North America on Friday night, March 6.
And keep in mind that, while it had just a 30 per cent approval rating from critics aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes, it also had a 96 per cent 'Want To See' audience score and has received positive vibes – "Chappie is both a technical marvel and a hard-driving, highly emotional film," writes the much-revered Leonard Maltin. "Despite echoes of District 9 and even older films like Short Circuit, Chappie is an impressive piece of work – until Blomkamp goes off the rails in a climax that doesn't make much sense."
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Also in theatres this weekend, Dev Patel (this guy's everywhere) returns to the hospitality business with Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, and Celia Imrie in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – the sequel to 2012's smash hit of almost the same title.
The negatives? Well, perhaps the first one didn't need a sequel, writes Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com, who gave the film 1.5 stars:
"The original Best Exotic Marigold Hotel made nearly $137 million worldwide. The motivation for a second film seems about as shameless as it was when Adam Sandler rounded up his buddies again to make Grown Ups 2."
It's probably still charming, at least to those who are up for being charmed – not unlike how India was presented in the first film, as the land of light and colour to England's 'in death's waiting room' vibe.
"With Smith, Dench and Nighy, the cast really is expert," writes the Denver Post's Lisa Kennedy. "And Patel is swift with a phrase even if Sonny's a bit of a dunderhead, Sure, it has the comfy vibe of the familiar, but it's all in feel-good fun."
Finally, Dave Franco and Vince Vaughn rope veteran Brit actor Tom Wilkinson into their raunchy comedy scene with Unfinished Business – the film about Vaughn and his two employees, one too young (Franco) and one too old (Wilkinson) who resort to party timing with their new clients in Berlin, in an effort to win their business over an old rival (Sienna Miller).
I'll skip linking to Rotten Tomatoes here. The film has weak reviews, but you aren't going to watch this expecting The English Patient. The trailer will tell you what you probably want to see, more than any haute couture-like columnist could: