Review roundup - This is what you pay for...

Original writeup date - December '12 

HARDWARE (1990) 

Okay I have to say it - this was disappointing (sorry cult movie fans). I'm well accustomed to low budget b-thrillers and low rent science fiction fare. When done right they can be vastly better than the kinds of mass produced Hollywood popcorn fodder out there. So I was kind of exited to see they'd released this on a shiny new BD disc here, and was ready for some low grade acting and fun robot murder. It starts off well enough, there's some nice set work on show in the apocalyptic world they've devised (reading into this it's apparently based on the 2000AD Cursed Earth, which is a neat idea). Unfortunately it's mostly set inside a single apartment, and goes south as soon as the aforementioned killing machine gets activated. See it was looking good, the opening prologue has a lot of atmosphere as a junk trader collects machine pieces from a nuclear desert wasteland. There are great details of the dystopian setting hinted at in dialogue or on the radio being played. But when the action starts, it falls to pieces for me. 

The robot apparently can only see in body-heat vision, so instead of rampaging about the housing block spends long stretches of time just kind of hiding ... somewhere. Our hero, some kind of war-vet vanishes off into the building instead of rushing back when he deduces the robots purpose (seriously, what's taking him, isn't he downstairs?) and heroine, a shut-in junk artist; sits around in the dark sweating for most of the movie or hiding from the excessively slow moving robot. Exiting chase sequences, these are not. Unless they thought tension was going to be raised by long scenes of people pressing intercom buttons that apparently don't ever work, while the killbot behaves erratically and moves in and out of the dark. There are seriously odd choices made in the editing room here. There are cuts during the action to people sat playing chess. I appreciate the antagonist is a low budget model or puppet, but I spent a lot of time wondering what was going on here, confused and not entertained. Is this blasphemy to some? Perhaps. 


MOON (2009) 

Sam Rockwell stars in this effective drama, which I have to admit is difficult to talk about without going into spoilers, but it's seriously worth checking out. I will say this is very atmospheric and has some nice practical model work, refreshing to see these days. The influences of 2001: A Space Oddysey are worn on it's sleave, and there are hints of Alien and Silent Running here in the art direction and design work. 

In the future it seems that the moon is a source of clean
Hydrogen fuel harvested from the surface rocks (apparently this has some scientific basis) for use in nuclear fusion. So we find one lone astronaut is on an isolated 3 year contract to monitor the mostly automated base operations of a British-Korean energy conglomerate, helped only by the station AI for company (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Things are not all as they seem as you'd expect, shady business practices are soon uncovered and there is a lot of drama which unfolds as the plot goes on and our hero figures out how Lunar Industries does it's business. The isolationist themes and space madness type ideas have been done before, but are well played. I really like the performances and also the haunting soundtrack by Clint Mansell. What really sells it is Rockwell though, and so all these things combined make it one the best low key thrillers in recent years.