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Every now and then a smaller movie appears out of right field and gives a particular genre the good swift kick in the pants that it desperately needs. DISTRICT 9 ($40) is the good swift kick in the pants that the science fiction genre desperately needed. Without any movie stars to distract its audience, DISTRICT 9 is all about its story and its execution by the production team, not to mention the impressive performance of the unknown actor filling the film’s central role. Co-written and directed by Neill Blomkamp, DISTRICT 9 takes the premise made familiar by the movie ALIEN NATION and runs off in a completely different direction. One day in 1982, an alien spacecraft appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa and became stranded there after a command module separated from the ship and fell to Earth… never to be recovered. For months, the ship sat dormant hovering over the skies above Johannesburg, until a human infiltration team cut their way into the ship. Inside were discovered well over a million malnourished arthropod-like aliens, who were then relocated to the planet below for their own good.

Of course, it then becomes the question of what to do with the aliens. Unable to be mixed in with the human general population, the aliens (derogatorily referred to as "prawns") find themselves confined to government-contained encampment inside Johannesburg called District 9. During the more than twenty years of its existence, District 9 has become little more than a squalid ghetto, rife with criminal activity; despite a private police presence that helps contain the inhabitants. After a long public outcry regarding District 9, a plan is put in place to create District 10, which will move the ever-increasing alien populace to a new camp two hundred forty kilometers northwest of Johannesburg. MNU, the private corporation responsible for policing District 9, is also handling the relocation… with the media and the world watching. Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is the primary MNU field worker charged with serving eviction notices to the alien populace of District 9, who does his unenviable job, with an armed private police backup standing squarely behind him. Unfortunately, the aliens are less than cooperative, and things only seem to get worse for Wikus, after an accidental contamination by a strange alien liquid begins re-writing his DNA and changing his cellular structure. Soon, Wikus is a hunted fugitive, who finds himself forced to hide amongst the inhabitants of District 9.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has made DISTRICT 9 available on Blu-ray Disc in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the AVC codec. DISTRICT 9 features a super 1080p presentation that makes the most of the documentary look adopted for this movie. Other than a few shots, the image is exceedingly well resolved, showing excellent levels of sharpness, fine image detail and texturing. Even the heavily CGI shots maintain impressive clarity and fine detail. Perhaps this is attributable to the end-to-end digital production techniques employed for the film. The photographic style employed for DISTRICT 9 has something of a high contrast edge that tends to dial down the colors to a more mundane appearance. Blacks are pure and the whites maintain stability, despite the contrast push. Since this is a digital production, there are no film-based flaws. Video noise is almost non-existent. Overall, this is a truly excellent video presentation.

DISTRICT 9 is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. In terms of sonics, DISTRICT 9 is a punchy, potent pleasure that delivers the kind of sound that one expects from a science fiction film containing a number of action sequences. As expected, the talky "documentary" sequences are front-loaded in comparison to those containing any action or weapons fire. When given the opportunity, the sound design roars and screams at the viewer from all sides, while following the on screen action from channel to channel. There is an excellent sense of envelopment from the track, even during the quieter moments, but it is the action that stands out. The lossless encode helps lose the viewer in the action, by making the sound effects seem as though the are in the same room. As for the bass channel, it packs the expected explosive wallop that shakes the room. Dialogue is clear and natural sounding, but some of the South African accents can be difficult for Americans to comprehend. A French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is also encoded onto the disc, as is an English Descriptive track. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and Hindi.

Full motion video, animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplements. Starting things off is a running Audio Commentary with co-writer and director by Neill Blomkamp. Featurettes and other programs include the following: a three-part documentary entitled The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker's Log (thirty four minutes), Metamorphosis: The Transformation Of Wikus (ten minutes), Innovation: Acting And Improvisation (twelve minutes), Conception And Design: Creating The World Of District 9 (thirteen minutes) and Alien Generation: The Visual Effects Of District 9 (ten minutes). Twenty-three Deleted Scenes are also provided. DISTRICT 9 is also BD-Live enabled (requires a Profile 2.0 player). Sony’s MovieIQ feature is available through BD-Live, which provides the viewer access to a continuously updated database of additional information about the film, its cast, crew and soundtrack, as well as other trivia. A Digital Copy of the film is also provided.

As I stated above, DISTRICT 9 is all about story and execution, and serves as the good swift kick in the pants that the science fiction genre desperately needed. The Blu-ray presentation is excellent on all fronts. Very highly recommended.



District 9 [Blu-ray] (2009)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2009 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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