Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Video review: "Moon"

Snooty cinephiles like to proclaim themselves indifferent to box office grosses, but I admit I pay pretty close attention to them. The reasoning is simple: Movies I like, I want to do well, so studios will have an incentive to make more like them.

"Moon," a tiny independent sci-fi film, made something like $5 million in theaters, which was probably less than the soda-and-snacks budget for "Avatar." Here's hoping "Moon" does well on video, because Hollywood needs more clever, imaginative movies like this one from first-time director Duncan Jones.

Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, the solitary worker living aboard a lunar base responsible for collecting energy from moon rocks that powers much of Earth. His only companion is Gerty, a one-eyed robot (splendidly voiced by Kevin Spacey) very much in the tradition of Hal from "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Nearing the end of his three-year contract, Sam is anxious to get back planetside to his family. But after an accident, he wakes up to find there are now two Sams aboard the station.

Are they clones of each other? Hallucinations of a dying mind? Split personality a la "Fight Club"?

Jones and screenwriter Nathan Parker shrewdly play with the audiences' expectations to keep us constantly, and grippingly, guessing.

Extras are the same for both Blu-ray and DVD versions. They encompass a pretty wide scope of features, although they aren't the most compelling stuff I've seen.

Jones contributes to two separate commentary tracks; one paired with producer Stuart Fenegan, and the other teamed up with the cinematographer and designers. Both tend to be a lot of rambling shot-by-shot descriptions, without much depth or context.

There's a 16-minute making-of documentary, and an 11-minute featurette on the film's low-budget special effects, including the challenges of getting two Sam Rockwells to interact -- and even fight -- onscreen.

There is also over 30 minutes of Q&A with Jones, Rockwell and others at Sundance Film Festival and at Space Center Houston.

Movie: 3.5 stars
Extras: 3 stars

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