Three of the last four Woody Allen films - an excellent Match Point (2005), featuring Scarlett Johansson's best performance to date, along with more middling Cassandra's Dream (2007), and a mostly minor Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008) - have all been pictures from bleaksville: sure, we all hope for and chase after love, but in the end that's all so much superstructure to base factors like class or nationality from which we can never achieve escape velocity; ho to the hum, yo. His latest, Whatever Works, is conceived as an apology of sorts for all the director's current doom and gloom obsessions, so the Woodman gets points for trying, anyway. But Whatever Works is still an absolute train wreck, lacking any sort of the requisite energy to make the madcap comedy this so badly wants to be go and move. People's exhibit 'A' is Woody's choice of Larry David for his stand-in this go around. David's overall persona is twitchy and neurotic, sure, but there's a little street there, too, and not all the CGI in the world could make me believe that that Larry David doesn't like a good roll in the hay, or that he would pick through Allen's closet for weird old man shorts, and the Woody-speak sounds utterly ridiculous falling out of David's mouth to boot. Anywho, just to be sure you know where Woody's coming from, he has David end the film with a painfully earnest monologue, and I have to believe that he actually believes all the things his woefully miscast star says about happiness, togetherness, and our ever-so-short time on earth. However, I don't think we needed his avatar to literally turn to us and plead to take love where and whenver we can find it because it's here today gone tomorrow: I know for a fact that Woody Allen believes in heaven, or a place like it - maybe a film set where all the directors, even if they're nebbish, bespectacled and slight, they always have a cast of actresses on tap who're statuesque, raspy voiced and curvy, or otherwise blonde.
There is no such heavy-handedness in Gotz Spielman's Revanche, a 2008 nominee for the best foreign film Oscar, which, somewhat like Whatever Works, also proceeds from the idea we dupe ourselves into believing in the control we have over our lives. Rather than face the audience and tell us, Spielman does what filmmakers are supposed to do and shows us: the cinematic themes and motifs are all there - a not-so-good guy, his "angel" (really, we don't get a name until at least thirty minutes in), his gun, his plan, a trigger-happy cop, the cop's wife, and a house in the country. If it sounds like you know where all this is going, you don't, not the way you think. And because of this richness, and despite being Spielman being a filmmaker who chooses to show us rather than tell, Revanche also feels like something quite literary.
Duncan Jones' Moon is probably the most disappointing movie of the summer, a flick that appeared to promise to warm up some of the sci-fi tropes mined by Kubrick, Tarkovsky (and of late Soderbergh) - or as J.G. Ballard mused, that space, by its very spacey nature, even some space on a moon a few million miles away, is not at all like here, constituting a different reality altogether. Instead, Jones never bothers to scrutinize either the good ideas he introduces into Moon's story or the ones laying in wait, but dispenses with them almost as quickly as they pop up, choosing to hold us by the scruff of the neck and march us, one step two step fast as you can, to the movie's blah blah ending. But nevermind all that: bad scifi flicks are inevitable, a sad fact of our lives, like white trash neighbors who move in right next to you and stay up all hours like every night of the week, no matter how many times you call the cops, no matter how many times you call the building manager, they stay up all night drinking shitty beer and SINGING EAGLES SONGS VERY VERY LOUD ALL NIGHT DRINKING THEIR BEER. No. The issue is Moon's star, Sam Rockwell, so memorable in A Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy (2005). That's the issue - will someone please give Sam Rockwell a project worthy of that talent? Pretty please?