Sunday, February 28, 2010

Movie Roundup: (5) Death at a Funeral & (6) Moon

Movie #5: Death at a Funeral (2007---on DVD)

British people, a funeral, a corpse, a gay midget, a nude man on the roof. Blend it together, sprinkle with a dash of comedy of manners, and you get a fairly typical British farce, one replete with slamming doors, falling coffins and bad teeth. Death at a Funeral isn't a bad film by any means, but originality is not its strong suit. It's what I like to call a "slight" comedy, a film that's easily digested, has one or two big laughs, and then is out of your memory as quickly as it entered. You've probably seen similar films before, and they've probably been as good or better. Interestingly, it's the American actors which shine in this British-made film. Alan Tudyk (Firefly) of Plano, Texas is hilarious as an uptight Brit who accidentally gets a quadruple dose of hallucinogenic drugs on the way to the funeral. His story reminded me of HBO's Six Feet Under, in which some of the best scenes always involved people high on drugs trying to maintain some semblance of sanity during formal dinners of funerals. It's gimme schtick, but it works and works well. Peter Dinklage also excels as the aforementioned gay midget. Dinklage is virtually flawless in every film he appears in and brings a quiet dignity to roles which, let's face it, are not exactly scripted as overly dignified. It's a credit to his immense talent. Death at a Funeral is breezy, fun fare, but if you need to write a review of it, you better take notes. You won't remember one bit of it.

Rating: 5/10

Movie #6: Moon (2009---on DVD)

Of all the Oscar nomination snubs this year, none stands out more than the unrecognized performance of Sam Rockwell in Moon. Playing multiple versions of himself and, essentially playing the only character in the movie, the emotional and dramatic weight of Moon is squarely on Rockwell's shoulders. He delivers. Moon is a throwback science fiction movie with obvious nods to films like Silent Running, 2001, and Outland---all favorites of mine. Even the remarkable (for the money) special effects are heavy on throwback techniques such as the use of life-like miniatures. With a budget of just over $5 million, first-time director (and screenwriter) Duncan Jones impresses on all levels. It's hard to discuss Moon without giving away some of its well-kept secrets, so I'll just say that Sam Rockwell plays a man nearing the end of a three-year mining contract on the moon. Anxious to return home to his wife and daughter, he's all alone up there, save for the companionship of a Hal-like robot voiced by Kevin Spacey. It's my experience that the better the movie, the less I want to talk about it, and that's the case here. Just see it. If you're even a causal fan of sci-fi, this should move to the top of your queue. It's one of the best films of last year, and Rockwell gives, perhaps, the year's finest performance.

Rating: 9/10


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