Reviews for September 9th, 2009
Directed by Shane Acker.
Based on the Oscar-nominated short film directed by Shane Acker. 9 (voice of Elijah Wood), a “stitchpunk” ragdoll, awakens for the first time in a post-apocalyptic world where humans no longer exist. The city that once existed where he wakes up now lies in ruins. Before seeking refuge among a group of other “stitchpunks” like him, 9 meets 2 (voice of Martin Landau), an elderly stitchpunk who gives him the function of speech to communicate with others. The rest of the group includes 1 (voice of Christopher Plummer), mute twins 3 and 4, 5 (voice of John C. Reilly), 6 (voice of Crispin Glover), who draws strange symbols that make more sense later on, 7 (voice of Jennifer Connelly) and 8 (voice of Fred Tatasciore). They’re all hiding from huge, vicious machines that set out to destroy them so that they could rule the world. Those machines had wiped out not only their own creators, but the entire human race as well. As more and more stitchpunks end up at the hands of the machines and have their souls destroyed, it’s up to 9 and the remainder of the group to venture out into the dangerous landscape in hope of freeing the souls. Screenwriter Pamela Pettler weaves elements of sci-fi, action, tragedy and drama with mixed results. The wafer-thin plot has a few moments of intrigue, but often drags, especially during the first half of the film where there are too few surprises and thrills to be found. A modicum of comic relief would have been very helpful to give audiences a brief rest from the very dark and grim overall tone of the film. When 9 decides to go on the quest to save the souls while risking his very own soul, you’d think there’d be a sense of adventure and thrills with at least some exhilarating scenes. However, too many scenes feel dull and monotonous, even during the action sequences, while none of the stitchpunk characters come across as particularly interesting or worth rooting for. They’re certainly interesting to look at, though, thanks to director Shane Acker’s superb use of CGI animation and plenty of attention to detail that makes each of the stitchpunks visually unique. The same can be said about the background CGI designs along with the use of color and the musical score which add to the very bleak atmosphere. At a very brief running time of 79 minutes, 9 manages to be visually stunning and marginally intriguing, but often drags, lacks palpable thrills, and leaves you feeling underwhelmed and unimpressed by the dull story. Number of times I checked my watch: 4 Released by Focus Features. Opens nationwide.
Directed by Joe Berlinger.
This captivating and engrossing documentary follows the legal battle of nearly 30,000 Ecuadorian tribespeople against the giant oil company Chevron. They claim that Chevron has polluted their land and water as a result of drilling for oil and failing to clean up all the toxic waste that’s in the form of black sludge. Texaco had once been the company that drilled oil and dumped the toxic waste before it merged with Chevron. Many Ecuadorians have suffered a wide range of illness from exposure to the toxins ranging from cancer to mysterious skin rashes to birth defects. Even the livestock that they need for food have quickly died after drinking the polluted water. Luckily, the Ecuadorians have Pablo Fajardo, a 35-year-old local lawyer, as well as a U.S. law firm that assists them during their courageous legal fight against Chevron. It’s essentially a David vs. Goliath battle where a lot is at stake, including the welfare of the Ecuadorians. If you’ve seen the documentary The Corporation or have awareness of the corruption of corporations throughout history, you should know that this lawsuit is a prime example of Chevron’s greed and ego as a profit-hungry corporation that treats the Ecuadorians and their precious land as if they’re less important than profit. Perhaps employees of Chevron who watch this documentary will get a chance to finally face their conscience and might even experience a crisis of conscience at some day. Fortunately, director Joe Berlinger does a superb job of putting many human faces to the plight of the Ecuadorians who desperately need Chevron to admit that they’re accountable and to find efficient and effective ways to properly clean up all the toxic waste. He also wisely includes footage of representatives from Chevron expressing their side of the story. Most importantly, though, Berlinger shows plenty of powerful images of the polluted environment throughout the Ecuadorian Amazon as well as the harmful effects of the pollution on the tribespeople themselves. Those images alone speak volumes about the dire need for something to be done ameliorate the situation there, especially for the sake of justice, public welfare, environmental preservation and, in the much larger scheme of things, evolution itself. At a running time of 105 minutes, Crude manages to be a provocative, well-balanced, illuminating and thoroughly engrossing documentary. Number of times I checked my watch: 0 Released by First Run Features. Opens at the IFC Center.