I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
CHAPPIE isn’t quite the misstep to send Niell Blomkamp’s career the way of the Wachowskis (JUPITER ASCENDING), but it’s nowhere near the organic richness of Blomkamp’s first feature film, DISTRICT 9.
Set once again in Johannesburg in the near-future, CHAPPIE opens the same way DISTRICT 9 did, with mock news footage establishing how the police have commissioned an elite team of android crime-fighters (ROBOCOP style, which even sound like Peter Weller) in an attempt to restore law. These droids, called “Scouts,” are the brainchild of inventor Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), whose creation is hailed by Tetra Vaal‘s CEO (a pointless casting of Sigourney Weaver) to the consternation of a jealous colleague named Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman and mullet).
Vincent’s design, dubbed “The Moose,” is big; however, it requires a human pilot (like PACIFIC RIM). This idea isn’t fully realized yet, and understandably so, as it’s an expensive war machine. Deon and Vincent’s rivalry set in motion a series of events that bring Johannesburg on the brink of chaos, thus leading Deon to create the world’s first true artificial intelligence– Chappie (a terrific Sharlto Copley).
Despite its threadbare plot and obvious ROBOCOP nods (among other films of the genre), CHAPPIE is entertaining to boot. With its stunning urban landscapes, gangster-talking metal hero and all-party-in-the-back bad guy (Jackman), Blomkamp puts forth an admirable experimentation. Don’t expect a serious dead-on-point film like DISTRICT 9, but a fun, loving one that will both warm your heart and put a smile on your face.
It was announced just over a week ago that Blomkamp’s next film will be the latest installment in the ALIEN franchise. Although Blomkamp hasn’t since reached the same heights he did earlier in his career (when his creativity wasn’t clouded by Hollywood’s deep pockets), with CHAPPIE, the writer-director shows more promise and that he is heading in a direction to put his filmography back on track.
CHAPPIE opens tonight.