Sunday, 22 March 2015

Chappie (4½ Stars)

I finally went to see this film in the cinema, after being busy arranging my move for the last few weeks. I don't think I've mentioned it in my blog yet. I'm in the middle of moving house. I've never liked the house that I live in. I moved here because the last house I was renting was sold in 2008 and I had to move in a hurry. I cried when I moved here. Literally, I cried. It's so much smaller than the house I was living in until 2008, and as a result I had to throw away a lot of my furniture. My four-poster bed and my wall-sized wardrobe had to be left behind. It was heart-breaking.

Now I have to move again. Last year my landlord attempted to increase the rent, and I refused to pay more because I couldn't afford it. Now he's finally lost his patience and given me notice. I was told to leave within two months unless I pay the new rent. My previous rent was £510 per month, now he wants £600. Last year I went to the council office to get advice. In my street all the houses are identical, as is typical for streets in England's industrial cities. I was told that I could appeal against the rent increase, because the average rent in my street is £400. In addition, I spoke to two of my neighbours who live in my street; one of them pays £350 per month rent, the other pays only £220. They were both shocked that my rent is so high for a house the same as theirs, and even more shocked that my landlord wants more.

I suppose I could take my landlord to court over his proposed rent increase, and I would probably win the case, but I don't want the stress of years of arguments while I'm living here in this poor quality house in which the unused fireplace has only been closed by taping plastic bags over the hole in the wall. I was lucky enough to be recommended a new house by my next door neighbour. The quality of the house is better, it's slightly cheaper (£500 per month) and it's in a quieter street. The disadvantage is that it's slightly smaller than the house I'm in now. I have to downsize again. Sigh..... At least this time I don't have any beautiful furniture to take with me. My previous house, where I lived from February 2002 until April 2008, was a home which I felt comfortable in, where I liked to invite my friends, and I would gladly have remained in it for the rest of my life. My new house (May 2008 to March 2015) is just four walls around me, nothing more, nothing less. I don't live here, I survive. My bedroom doubles as a storage room, and even if I were dating a girl I would feel ashamed to take her into my room. I'm fortunate that my dating days are behind me.

Will I feel better in my new home? Ask me again a few months from now. Somehow I can't imagine remaining there for the rest of my life. I'll try to make it look cosier than than the hole I've been in for the last seven years, but I don't think of it as a place for living a long time. At the moment my daughter Fiona is still living with me. When she moves out I'll start looking for something more suitable for myself. Slowly. As long as I have a roof over my head I'll be in no rush. I won't invest in any attractive new furniture, but at least I'll make an effort to keep my bedroom tidy.

I almost forgot that I'm supposed to be writing about a film. Despite the bad reviews from critics, I consider this to be director Neill Blomkamp's best film so far. He's taken a risk by setting the film in the near future, claiming that it will happen in South Africa in 2016. That will already be the past by the time most people watch it on Netflix. A company called Tetravaal has created police robots that it has sold to the Johannesburg police force. The rest of the world is looking on to see whether the experiment will be successful. But the robots' creator, Deon Wilson, doesn't want to stop there. Instead of just programming a machine to act like a police officer, he wants to give a robot real artificial intelligence and the ability to learn.

Deon takes a broken robot home to experiment with his new software, but he's hijacked by a criminal gang and the robot is stolen. The two gangsters Ninja and Yolandi take it upon themselves to educate the robot, that they call Chappie. Ninja wants to use Chappie as a tool to aid him in his robberies, but Yolandi has motherly instincts and wants to bring him up as a child.

The real stars of the film are Ninja and Yolandi, members of the South African group Die Antwoord. They're usually described as a rap group, but their music includes elements of 1990's Europop, and the lyrics are laced with dark humour, meaning they have more in common with goth music than other rappers. They're difficult to pin down to any music genre, and that's the way they like it. Neill Blomkamp is a fan of the group, and he asked them to just be themselves rather than act. Their characters in the film even use their real life names, or at least the stage names that they use as musicians. As a fan of Die Antwoord I immediately noticed that Yolandi was wearing the same outfits that she's worn in her music videos. Several of Die Antwoord's songs are used in the film soundtrack.

According to an interview with Neill Blomkamp, the film was devised as the first part of a trilogy. That's exciting. I know that the critics have panned "Chappie", but I love the film, and I hope that it makes enough money at the box office to justify the other two parts being made.

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