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Moon looks like one of the coolest films of the year. Written and dir­ec­ted by David Bowie’s son Zowie (now known as Duncan Jones), star­ring the effort­lessly inter­est­ing Sam Rockwell and fea­tur­ing 2001-crossed-with-Alien pro­duc­tion design and a trippy plot that seems to require all your atten­tion, Moon was one of the hits of the Festival and is now back for a full cinema release.

Rockwell plays “Sam”, a solo miner super­vising oper­a­tions on the sur­face of the Moon. The com­pany he works for is dig­ging up a spe­cial min­er­al used to fuel the Earth’s fusion power sta­tions. He’s at the end of a three year gig and start­ing to go a bit stir crazy. His only com­pany is a Kevin Spacey-voiced ser­vice robot named GERTY – a cross between HAL 9000 and the cute drones from Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running. GERTY makes him tea, patches his wounds and pretty much does everything else around the place except go out­side and actu­ally fix machines.

The inter­stel­lar satel­lite uplink towers are dam­aged so no live com­mu­nic­a­tion is pos­sible with any­one – not the bosses on Jupiter or the lovely wife and child on Earth. It’s all pretty fishy but Sam does­n’t start sus­pect­ing any­thing might be up until he blacks out and crashes on the way to a repair job. And when he wakes up, it’s like déjà vu all over again.

But for all its clev­er twists and turns, undeni­ably effect­ive atmo­spher­ics (and moon­scapes that look like they were res­cued from that great tv show “Space 1999”), I have to give Moon a fail. Why? Because I simply did­n’t buy the ori­gin­al premise and when you’re not on board at the begin­ning every extra twist just takes you fur­ther away from ‘get­ting it’.

I mean, if you were a massively suc­cess­ful min­ing com­pany provid­ing 70% of the world’s energy would you a) put the oper­a­tion entirely in the hands of one lonely engin­eer and make him work for three years at a stretch, then con­struct an elab­or­ate, risky and highly tech­nic­ally advanced scheme to keep him there or b) bite the bul­let and get an HR depart­ment to prop­erly recruit, train and pro­tect your assets. But that would­n’t make for riv­et­ing cinema, would it?

Talking of work­place cinema, The September Issue is a very fine example of that par­tic­u­lar genre. Based around the assembly of the enorm­ous, sea­son defin­ing, September Vogue magazine, you don’t have to under­stand or appre­ci­ate cou­ture to enjoy this film. The cent­ral char­ac­ter is Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief and fig­ure­head for the whole Vogue philo­sophy. She’s canny, tough and sur­pris­ingly self-aware, but she isn’t the only inter­est­ing char­ac­ter in the film: down-to-earth former mod­el Grace Coddington’s prodi­gious styl­ing and art dir­ect­ing tal­ents seem increas­ingly out of step with the pres­sure for celebrity-driven con­tent and the film plays that con­flict out nicely. And as you might expect for a film with aes­thet­ics on its mind it is often rav­ish­ing to look at.

Judd Apatow’s Funny People deserves to be con­sidered for a little while after the cred­its roll – longer than you would nor­mally pon­der a Hollywood com­edy, say 20 minutes at least. The usu­al Apatow mix of coarse humour plus pock­ets of emo­tion goes a little fur­ther in the dir­ec­tion of the lat­ter as Adam Sandler’s isol­ated stand-up com­ic turned movie star dis­cov­ers he is going to die. As a way of re-connecting with the world he befriends a young comedi­an played by Seth Rogen. There are some nice moments in this film (and every­one involved is obvi­ously try­ing to achieve some­thing true among the penis and fart jokes) but there’s no jus­ti­fic­a­tion what­so­ever for a Hollywood com­edy to be the same length as 2001. Indulgent but not worthless.

I try and watch fam­ily films with a few kids around me so I can gauge the tar­get mar­ket’s reac­tions along with my own. Aliens in the Attic took a while to con­nect with the young­lings I shared the screen­ing with (based on the num­ber of unsched­uled bath­room breaks) but had them pretty much onside by the end. Two fam­il­ies head to a remote house by a lake for 4th of July week­end. The kids dis­cov­er a quar­tet of angry knee-high ali­ens hid­den in the roof, an advance guard for an impend­ing inva­sion and it’s up to our tooth­some band of adapt­able teens and pre-teens to save the plan­et. Sporadically amus­ing, but inof­fens­ive, there’s a nice moment where the kids have to work out how to use a rotary dial tele­phone. Very cute.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 23 September, 2009.