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Phenomenal storyline propels ‘District 9’

An alien from “District 9.” Sony Pictures (Sony Pictures)
An alien from “District 9.” Sony Pictures (Sony Pictures)
The Washington Post

‘District 9’

The poison that permeates this phenomenal film is the same toxin that defined so much of 20th-century history: the oppression of the Other – in this case, scaly aliens with feelers for faces, a jones for canned cat food and a mother ship that has been hovering over Johannesburg for 20 years.

The underlying gravitas of the story, in which aliens are warehoused in camps and used for gruesome experiments, keeps director Neill Blomkamp’s film smart, even as the aliens are turning their pursuers into Heinz 57 Sauce.

As the craven corporate tool Wikus van de Merwe, acting newcomer Sharlto Copley is nothing short of revelatory. Wikus is assigned to move the aliens from their ramshackle township to tent cities that are, in fact, concentration camps.

The aliens are hard to like, but we like them, just as we end up liking Wikus and rooting for the demise of Greater Human Civilization. (1:52; R for bloody violence and vulgarity)

‘(500) Days of Summer’

This romance, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, understands that we mark our lives by our scrapes and defeats with love rather than by the white-wedding-cake successes.

It’s a drama that, at first blush, would seem excruciatingly ordinary: the 500-day affair between Tom (Gordon-Levitt), who believes wholeheartedly in love, and Summer (Deschanel), the object of his affection, who isn’t sure about love at all.

Does Tom convince Summer that love can be real, that it can work? That’s the narrative suspense here. But the real story is about those personal Waterloos, the battles that take everything to fight and whose victorious outcomes are far from assured.

What makes us connect is Tom’s funny, morose and ironic commentary as he does his damnedest to reach the heart of a woman whose idea of lover and friend is confusing. (1:35; PG-13 for sexual material and profanity)

‘All About Steve’

This gruesome, almost perversely unfunny movie about a crossword puzzle constructor who obsessively follows a man across the country may get an asterisk on Sandra Bullock’s resume as the most misguided move of her career.

Bullock’s Mary Magdalene Horowitz chases a news cameraman named Steve (Bradley Cooper), whom she nearly mauls on a blind date before they even pull away from the curb.

The movie is by turns cruel and unusual, culminating in a tortured critique of contemporary media and conformism. Thomas Haden Church provides a few laughs as a vain newscaster, but buying Bullock as a hapless nerd is simply asking too much. (1:37; PG-13 for sexual content including innuendos)

‘Extract’

Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Mila Kunis, David Koechner, Ben Affleck and their abuser – writer-director Mike Judge, creator of “Office Space” and TV’s “King of the Hill” – have violated the trust of their respective fan bases by participating in this disappointing comedy.

Bateman is the owner of a food-flavoring factory in a nondescript suburb of gated communities and hotel bars. His wife (Wiig) won’t have sex with him. His best friend is a scuzzy, pill-popping bartender played by Affleck.

It’s too timid to be black comedy, too inert to be slapstick, too unfocused and dull to be a takedown of the suburbs or of married life. (1:31; R for crude language, sexual references and drug use)

‘It Might Get Loud’

Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack White, three of the more influential guitarists of several generations, start a little fire-by-fret during director Davis Guggenheim’s film, which depicts wood, lacquer and hardware the way Hugh Hefner depicts Miss September.

The documentary was conceived as a tribute to the electric guitar, easily the most important musical development of the rock era, maybe even the 20th century.

The principals here, however – the elegant Page, the modest Edge and the cocky White – are strictly hands-on in achieving a singular sound that is, amid the clangor of mainstream musical traffic, distinctive and personal.

Guggenheim, who won an Oscar for “An Inconvenient Truth,” makes all this guitar/guitarist worship both cinematic and delicious. This film is full of personality and charm and has a charisma level that’s set at around 11. (1:37; PG-13 for brief vulgarity and smoking)

Also available: “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,” “Blind Date,” “Family Guy Presents Something, Something, Something Dark Side”

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