Who's In It: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope
The Basics:They're from space and they're stranded near Earth, their ship permanently stalled in the air above a huge city. They're called "prawns" but they look more like giant walking cockroaches. They're also treated the way the black population of South Africa was before the end of Apartheid. So the fact that this story of oppressed aliens--and the human bureaucrat who gets a little too close to their DNA for his own liking--takes place in Johannesburg is just one of its multiple not-hidden-at-all metaphors.
What's The Deal: Every once in a while a big, crowd-pleasing movie no one was expecting comes out of left field and makes audiences take notice of a new inventive talent. That's newcomer Neill Blomkamp, who took a small budget and a lot of creativity and made a cooler aliens-on-the-run movie than anything American audiences have been given by Hollywood in a very long time. In fact, the low budget makes everything look grimy, gutter-tech and real, and that suddenly seems striking and visually fresh compared to the slickly digital effects we're all used to being bombarded by now. And that's all you get from me right now because talking about it too much will ruin your good time.
Back to His Roots: Producer Peter Jackson must have decided he'd found a kindred spirit in Blomkamp when all the viscera started flying around on set. There's plenty of gross alien goo and crazy violence happening here and a zig-zagging line can definitely be drawn between this film's blood and guts and Jackson's gnarly early output like Dead Alive and Meet The Feebles.
Speaking of Ruining Your Good Time, Here's a Nagging Problem I Had That's Pretty Spoiler-ish So You Might Skip Reading it Until After You See The Movie: It has to be said that for all its righteously indignant political subtext and secondary ability to be read as an analog for the AIDS crisis in Africa, I couldn't quite get over the way that the film entirely sidesteps the idea of aliens having the ability to self-govern or think their own way out of their plight (save for the lone smart one in the bunch). Instead the plot relies on a ringer-martyr from the oppressor human population to get himself in deep with the aliens and come to their rescue. If this had been a film that was actually about Apartheid and it had a white hero, no one would take it seriously. So the giant cockroach thing was a smart move.