District 9 (Blu-ray) (2009)

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Released 29-Dec-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Audio Commentary-by director/co-writer Neill Blomkamp
Featurette-The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker's Log
Featurette-Metamorphosis: The Transformation of Wikus
Featurette-Innovation: The Acting and Improvisation of District 9
Featurette-Conception and Design: Creating the World of District 9
Featurette-Alien Generation: The Visual Effects of District 9
Deleted Scenes-22 Deleted scenes
Trailer-Michael Jackson's This is It
Featurette-Joburg From Above: Satellite and Schematics
Web Links-MovieIQ , Cinechat & BD-Live
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 112:15
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Neill Blomkamp
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Sharlto Copley
Jason Cope
Nathalie Boltt
Sylvaine Strike
Elizabeth Mkandawie
John Sumner
William Allen Young
Greg Melvill-Smith
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $42.95 Music Clinton Shorter


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
French DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
French
Hindi
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     If you attach Peter Jackson's name to a film project it's bound to get noticed, especially after the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Interest in the cinematic adaptation of The Hobbit amongst fans was rekindled in June, 2010 after it was announced that Guillermo del Toro was not directing the two-film feature due to scheduling conflicts. Apparently Peter Jackson has held discussions with New Line Cinema to be attached again to direct. I believe his name alone will guarantee a return upon the investment in these films. As for District 9, the story of the forced relocation of a separate alien slum of Johannesburg, South Africa, one must ask if Peter Jackson's name caused a $US37 million opening weekend at the box-office in the United States? Not bad considering the film cost $US30 million to make.

     The reason Peter Jackson was involved in producing this film is because originally he and director/writer Neill Blomkamp were going to adapt the overwhelmingly successful video game Halo for the cinema. Recent video game adaptations have been notorious failures (Hitman, Max Payne or Prince of Persia: Sands of Time anyone?) so perhaps it was wisest that this plan was not followed through.

     First time feature film director Neill Blomkamp based the story of District 9 on his 2005 six-minute short film, Alive in Joburg. This film tells the story of alien refugees, includes interviews and is done in a documentary style. For the major film the same premise was followed, with Blomkamp's friends Sharlto Copley and Jason Cope returning to star in the major film. Copley plays the incompetent bureaucrat Wikus van de Merwe (apparently the surname van der Merwe is synonymous with bureaucratic inefficiency in South African culture) who is in charge of relocating alien refugees from District 9, an enclosed slum in Johannesburg, to another location outside the city. The plot is based on the forced relocation of black residents from District Six in Cape Town in the 1970s. Jason Cope plays the alien Christopher Johnson, plus all the speaking alien parts, but you don't see him in the film as Johnson because of the added post-production CGI effects (you can see how Jason Cope played the parts of aliens with speaking roles in the extras section on the Blu-ray). He also plays Grey Bradnam, the UKNR Chief Correspondent who is interviewed throughout the film.

     District 9 is a unique film; the first half is presented as a live documentary as the audience follows Wikus van der Merwe on his travels to District 9 to hand out evictions to alien refugees. The second half plays more like a typical cinematic feature as the story turns and we learn more about the alien race and their desire for more humane treatment and freedom. Blomkamp deliberately set out to show how racism and xenophobia causes the human antagonists to be cruel and inhumane, in contrast to Christopher Johnson who is shown to be conscientious and honourable.

     This original science fiction thriller film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, and Best Editing. The visual effects by Image Engine, who had never worked on a major film before, are superb for a first-time effort, especially as Blomkamp originally wanted the stellar New Zealand company Weta Digital to do the effects. Ironically, they were busy doing work on Avatar. This unheralded film, with little marketing, was able to gross over $US200 million at the box-office during its theatrical run. This is unheard of in today's cinematic landscape for a film with no recognisable major stars. It just goes to show that the essence of a good movie is a good story.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     District 9 was shot using the high definition Digital Red One Camera, the same type of camera used for Alex Proyas' Knowing. The video transfer is a 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

     Although the average bitrate (19.70 m/b per sec) is lower than other films on Blu-ray (averaging between 25 to 30 m/b per sec), the digital transfer is simply outstanding here. The slums look sharp and detailed, the computer-graphic image effects blend in naturally.

     Colour is slightly muted, understandably so since archival footage is used to create a fictional back story, yet the image transfer is also vibrant, and more so in the second half of the film which is less 'mockumentary' and more 'cinematic'. Of course since this was shot digitally, there are no film artefacts to mention or digital noise.

     Subtitles are available in English, English for the Hard of Hearing, French and Hindi. There is also an option to listen to the audio commentary by director Neill Blomkamp with commentary subtitles in English.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The score immerses the viewer into the action of the film. Dialogue is sometimes placed at the front or back channels as we follow the main character, Wikus van der Merwe, throughout the film.

     The main audio track is a lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track encoded at 3958 kbps, and a French 5.1 dub track is encoded in DTS-HD Master Audio at 2717 kbps. There is also an English Dolby Digital 5.1 Descriptive Audio track encoded at 448 kbps. Neill Blomkamp's commentary is encoded in Dolby Digital Surround 2.0 at 192 kbps.

     Dialogue is mainly clear and synchronised, except when we hear the aliens speak or other non-native South African foreigners. Sometimes the soundtrack seems deliberately less precise to support the xenophobic theme of the film.

     Clinton Shorter's score is not dominated by background music (here are six songs used in the film), rather it is used mainly to support the action sequences depicting military-style conflict.

     Surround channel usage is sharp and precise. The rear channels feature discrete detail and are used often during action scenes, accurately replicating the sound of vehicles, helicopters, bullets and explosions. The subwoofer is used to great effect when alien weapons are used. It is also used for bass effects for explosions and there are many of these in the second half of the film so your subwoofer will get a workout here.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio commentary by director/co-writer Neill Blomkamp

     Blomkamp discusses the development of the story based on his 2005 six-minute film. Also discussed are modern ghettos in Soweto where the filming took place, xenophobia and the challenges of filming on location. Recorded prior to the release of the film, this commentary is superb, well worth listening to.

The Alien Agenda: A Filmmaker's Log (HD - 34:19)

     This is a three-part documentary which looks at how the project got off the ground while it was still Halo. Peter Jackson, co-writer Terri Tatchell, Neill Blomkamp and actors Sharlto Copley and Jason Cope also discuss the experience of making the film. The apolitical agenda is emphasised here, with on-set locations featured and shooting methods discussed (fixed camera vs. hand-held). The last part of this three-part documentary focuses on the sound design of the film, specifically in creating the alien language.

Metamorphosis: The Transformation of Wikus (HD - 9:52)

    Sharlto Copley and his makeup team show the various stages of his five-hour process to transform his character throughout the duration of the movie.

Innovation: The Acting and Improvisation of District 9 (HD - 12:05)

     Quite incredibly for a major feature film, the actors were encouraged to improvise their roles. Sharlto Copley was encouraged to be natural, in fact Blomkamp kept his errors and blunders in some scenes. The result is that we have a down-to earth story which allows its audience to easily empathise with the main characters.

Conception and Design: Creating the World of District 9 (HD - 13:18)

     Director Neill Blomkamp, production designer Philip Ivey, prosthetics effects supervisor Joe Dunckley, lead concept designer Greg Broadmore, lead creature designer David Meng, visual effects supervisor Dan Kaufman, co-writer Terri Tatchell, and design and effects supervisor Richard Taylor discuss how sets were designed and how they came up with alien technology, weapons and spacecraft.

Alien Generation: The Visual Effects of District 9 (HD - 10:18)

     Here we get a behind-the-scenes look at how motion capture techniques were used for aliens, how human actors interacted with imaginary characters which were added later in post-production and how the filmmakers managed to include nuclear powered combat-suits, drop-ships and the hanging spaceship above Johannesburg.

22 Deleted scenes (HD - 23:28)

     These deleted scenes focus mainly on the first part of the film in a documentary-style. It features interviews with less-prominent MNU characters, Nigerians and ordinary modern-day South Africans. Most of these scenes were cut for pacing reasons.

Trailer - Michael Jackson's This is It (HD - 2:21)

     The trailer for Kenny Ortega's film is also forcibly shown when you put this Blu-ray disc into your player. You can also opt to view it in the Special Features tab of the Main Menu.

Joburg From Above: Satellite and Schematics of the World of District 9

     This interactive map allows you to navigate District 9, the alien mothership, and MNU headquarters. You can access text biographies and backgrounds of characters, view drawings and schematics of vehicles, learn about alien anatomy and see highlights from the film.

Web Links - MovieIQ , Cinechat & BD-Live

     The film gives you the option of playing along with MovieIQ, which provides the viewer with an internet-based trivia track. You can also log onto Sony's portal with BD Live. Cinechat is a gimmicky feature which allows you to chat with other people who are watching the Blu-ray in their own homes at the same time, but why would you want to?

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    District 9 has been released in Region Free versions in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, Japan and Australia. These releases all carry the same main extras, only differing in language options. The United States release includes extra trailers and a digital copy, otherwise it is identical to the aforementioned Regional releases.

Summary

     District 9 proved to be a critical and box-office success story in 2009. Unlike other science-fiction thrillers, it presents itself in a realistic documentary-style with a plausible back story. District 9 has been in the IMDb Top 250 since it was released; at the time of writing this review, it is No. 122.

     Sony has again supported its Blu-ray releases by providing a quality lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack and great extras. If you haven't seen District 9 do yourself a favour and pick this title up for watching over a weekend. You won't be disappointed!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Thursday, July 08, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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