Indie Double Feature: Black Dynamite and Moon

bill bodkin looks at two indie flicks that are definitely worth a rent…

Spoofs and satires were once an art form in Hollywood. Genius writer/directors like Mel Brooks and the Zucker Brothers provided us with brilliant works like Young Frankenstein and Airplane!. Clever film references, witty dialogue, social commentary — all of these were trademarks of a great spoof/satire. Then everything started to get silly when the second Naked Gun film came out in the 1980s and the genre has devolved to the poop jokes, crotch shots and heavy handed celebrity parodies of Meet the Spartans and Epic Movie.

However, the genre was given a huge karate kick to the chest in the form of Black Dynamite — a clever, witty and absolutely hilarious send up of the Blaxploitation genre.

Written by and starring Michael Jai White, whose most notable role was in the forgettable live action Spawn movie, Black Dynamite deftly recreates the typical Blaxploitation flick, mistakes and all. Yes, terrible cuts, jumps in logic, boom mics entering shots, weird coloring on the film stock as well as gratuitous to the point of absurd amounts of violence and nudity. If you’ve ever watched Shaft, any Pam Grier film or Superfly, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

The clever script and deft editing are a major reason why the film works, however it’s Jai White’s performance that makes the film, pun intended, dynamite. Usually known for his hyper masculine and brutally serious action roles, Jai almost self-parodies himself as the hyper masculine and brutally serious Black Dynamite. And there in lies the brilliance, he’s in on the joke and plays it to the utter hilt. It’s cheesy and over-the-top on purpose and as an audience member you can easily buy into it. It’s the same unspoken wink-and-nod that the Zuckers implemented so perfectly in Airplane!.

Simply put, Black Dynamite is an escapist film that doesn’t insult your intelligence. Film buffs will appreciate and enjoy the hell out of the genre satire while fans of action-packed comedies will get their fill of karate kicks, punches to the face and gut busting laughs.

Moon is one of those films you sit on your futon, mouth agape and just uttered the word “wow” as the closing credits roll by.

Written and directed by David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, Moon is a visually breathtaking, brilliantly acted film that has all the trappings of a major science fiction epic, but the heart, emotion and spirit of an independent feature (the film, despite it’s effects work, star power and set design only cost $5 million dollars).

Moon’s haunting plot centers around Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), an astronaut, working out a lonely three-year contract harvesting helium from moon rocks, which has helped created clean energy for the earth. We meet Sam as his contract is coming to an end and as you can imagine, he’s a bit on edge. Isolated for three years, he’s become accustomed to only speaking to the HAL-like space station robot GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Then, as imagined, stuff goes a bit awry. He begins seeing things…including another version of himself.

The plot that unfolds is refreshingly original, tear-inducing and suspenseful — not bad for the son of a rock legend whose prior film experience was a 26 minute short film.

Yet, while the film has a very good plot, it serves as the backdrop to the brilliant performance of Sam Rockwell. The film is literally a one-man show set to a sci-fi stage. Rockwell portrays just about every emotion you can imagine a lonely man could feel — loss, sadness, rage, desire, insanity, all with a well-trained composure. This role could easily be played to a scene-chewing, self-indulgent hilt, but Rockwell is a pro and one of the most under-appreciated actors of our generation. His performance here was definitely the biggest snub in the Best Actor category at this year’s Oscars. The man can act and I feel his day with a golden statue is in the near future.

So if you’re a person who’s a big film buff, someone who loves to discover new and exciting hidden gems in the film world, then rush out and rent Moon immediately.

Bill Bodkin is the gray bearded owner, editor-in-chief and co-founder of Pop Break. Most importantly, he is lucky husband, and proud father to a beautiful daughter named Sophie. He can be seen regularly on the site reviewing The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, and is the host of the site's podcast, The BreakCast. He is a graduate of Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism & English. Follow him on Twitter: @BodkinWrites

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