'District 9'

Alien life forms agitating, human life forms agitating back, secret scientific experiments, ethical dilemmas everywhere you turn -- that is the sweeping intellectual force field of "District 9," a great place to muck around whether you're a sci-fi fan or not. Though you'd never guess given its swagging confidence and inventive style, but this clever thriller is director Neill Blomkamp's first feature. That it is set in South Africa, with much of the action taking place in the poverty and grime of a shantytown just outside Johannesburg, only adds to the rich texture of the film. There is more irony than comedy, the action comes with a bloody edge and it leaves you with more questions than answers. All the makings for great debates around the water cooler or over cocktails. So see it, then talk among yourselves.

-- Betsy Sharkey

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