9 April 2018

Solaris 2002

Solaris 2002
  • Director: Steven Soderbergh
  • Based on novel by Stanislaw Lem
  • Cast: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Viola Davis, Jeremy Davies
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • George Clooney – Gravity, Burn After Reading, Michael Clayton, Good Night and Good Luck, Intolerable Cruelty, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, The Perfect Storm, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Thin Red Line, Friends
    • Natascha McElhone– The Kid, Ladies in Lavender, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Cold Lazarus, Karaoke
    • Viola Davis – Beautiful Creatures, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Help, Far from Heaven, Kate and Leopold
    • Jeremy Davies – Manderlay, Dogville, Saving Private Ryan, Twister
  • Why? To compare with the Tarkovsky version
  • Seen: 8 April 2018 with Hal and YW in our read-book-see-film group 

We recently saw the Tarkovsky version, our little group. YW and Hal liked it quite a lot, me, not so much. But we agreed it would be interesting to see this one.
Chris Kelvin (Clooney) is a psychologist and gets a message from his friend, one of the crew on the space station orbiting the planet Solaris. Bizarre things are happening and they need his help.
Generally the film follows the book more than Tarkovsky, though much modernised. Rheya’s character is given a background and more depth, mostly a plus. The acting is all first-rate but Jeremy Davies as Snow is exceptionally good.
Sadly, like Tarkovsky, it does not use the book’s powerful ending. A pity. Otherwise a very good film.

4 * of 5 (Hal gave it 4.98 * and YW 2 ½ *)
On Tarkovsky’s version the ratings were me: 2 ½; Hal 4 ½ and YW 3 ½

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

 Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow 2004
  • Director: Kerry Conran
  • Based on novel: No
  • Cast: Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon, Sir Laurence Olivier
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Jude Law – Genius, Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows, Hugo, Contagion, Repo Men, Sherlock Holmes, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Sleuth, The Holiday, Breaking and Entering, The Aviator, Closer, Alfie, Cold Mountain, Road to Perdition, eXistenZ, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Gattaca, Wilde
    • Gwyneth Paltrow – Mortdecai, Contagion, Two Lovers, Infamous, Proof, The Royal Tenenbaums, Shakespeare in Love, A Perfect Murder, Sliding Doors, Moonlight and Valentino, Seven, Hook
    • Angelina Jolie – The Tourist, Wanted, Changeling, Girl Interrupted
    • Giovanni Ribisi – The Rum Diary, Public Enemies, The Dead Girl, Cold Mountain, Friends, Lost in Translation, Saving Private Ryan, SubUrbia, The X Files
    • Michael Gambon – The Hollow Crown, Fortitude, Quirke, Quartet, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, The King’s Speech, The Book of Eli, Brideshead Revisited, Cranford, Amazing Grace, Being Julia, Angels in America, Gosford Park, Longitude, Sleepy Hollow, Mary Reilly
    • Laurence Olivier – King Lear, Sleuth, Oh What a Lovely War, Spartacus, Richard III, Hamlet, Henry V, Rebecca, As You Like It
  • Why? Fun. Good cast.
  • Seen: Once before. Now 7 April 2018 

Very 1940s sci fi noir with a twinkle in its eye. Six scientists are missing. Journalist Polly Perkins (Paltrow), is drawn into the mystery. New York is invaded by gigantic cybermen. Polly photographs them and runs from them.
The situation is critical and Sky Captain (Law) is called in and arrives in his Batmobile airplane to save the day. But cities all over the world are being invaded! Only Sky Captain and Polly (who have a past) can save us!
The story itself isn’t very interesting and it’s quite badly written. The chases and battles put me to sleep as always. But it’s fun in its way. The characters are comic book plucky and visually it’s stunning.
As real movies go, it’s quite bad but as homage to Saturday matinees it’s entertaining enough.

2 ½ * of 5

Frankie & Alice

Frankie & Alice 2009
  • Director: Geoffrey Sax
  • Based on novel: No
  • Cast: Halle Barry, Stellan Skarsgård, Phylicia Rashad, Chandra Wilson
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Halle Barry – X Men Days of Future Past, Cloud Atlas, Things We Lost in the Fire, Monster’s Ball, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, Jungle Fever
    • Stellan Skarsgård – River, Cinderella, The Railway Man, Melancholia, Thor, Mamma Mia, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dogville, The Glass House, Dancer in the Dark, Amistad, Good Will Hunting, Breaking the Waves, Hamlet Prins av Danmark, Den enfaldige mördaren
  • Why? Halle Barry and Stellan Skarsgård
  • Seen: 6 April 2018 

LA in the 70’s. Frankie (Barry) is a stripper in a go-go cage. To survive, she closes her eyes and lets the music take her out of her body. Unfortunately the out-of-body thing gets her sent to a mental hospital. Doctor Oswald (Skarsgård) wants to discover the cause of her recurring black-outs and severe memory loss. She seems to do bad things that she doesn’t remember.
Frankie has another person living in her head. Alice. Or, actually, several.    
Movies about psychiatrists and patients tend to be interesting. Skarsgård and Barry, who are always good, lift this one to above average.

4* of 5


 Dogtooth (Kynodontas) 2009
  • Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Based on novel: No
  • Cast: Christos Stergioglou, Michele Valley, Angeliki Papoulia, Hristos Passalis, Mary Tsoni, Anna Kalaitzidou
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in – none of them
  • Why? Looked interesting. Good reviews
  • Seen: 2 April 2018 

A masterpiece. The 00’s best film. Ingeniously awful and funny. Don’t miss it. That’s what the critics say according to the DVD box. It has won lots of prizes and was nominated for an Oscar in the category Best Foreign Film.
Three teen-aged children are kept prisoner in their parents’ luxury estate. They are taught a language in which ‘telephone’ is the word for ‘salt’. They have no contact with the outer world except for Christina, a security guard at the father’s factory, who is driven blindfolded by the father to the house to have sex, robot-like, with the son, and, unbeknownst to the father, a few sex games with the daughters. The parents are kindly and protective and loving and punish them violently for all offenses. The parents tell the children the mother is pregnant with two babies and a dog.
What in the world is this film about? I’m all for weird but – sorry, maybe I’m dim but I don’t get it.
But then one of the daughters escapes and it starts to make bizarre sense.
Very bizarre.
I have no idea how many stars to give it. Somewhere between 0 and 10. You figure it out.

? * of 5

2 April 2018

Stardust 1974

Stardust 1974
  • Director: Michael Apted
  • Based on novel: No
  • Cast: David Essex, Adam Faith, Larry Hagman, Ines des Longchamps, Keith Moon, Dave Edmunds, Rosalind Ayres
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • David Essex – That’ll Be the Day
    • Larry Hagman – Superman the Movie, I Dream of Jeanie
    • Rosalind Ayres –That’ll Be the Day, Titanic
  • Why? Second half of That’ll Be the Day
  • Seen: 1 April 2018

The day Kennedy is assassinated Jim (Essex) returns to the amusement park where he had worked and recruits Mike (Faith) to be the roadie for his scruffy rock band. Very Beatle-y. Very Cavern-y. Mike sets them up with a vaguely Epstein-y manager. They make a recording. They do posh gigs. Jim does interviews. The single gets radio time. Jim is the star. Girls scream. TV. Number 1.
It’s such blatant plagiarism of the real Beatles story and A Hard Day’s Night that I cringe. Essex is just as cute as McCartney but McCartney he isn’t. Nor is he Lennon though he tries to be with his lame political statements.
Big business takes over and the pressure grows. Etc. Etc.
It’s very hard to care about the blasé still self-centred Jim and this story. Either make it about the Beatles or make it about a fictional band. This hybrid doesn’t work. The quasi-religious homage to woman and mother is embarrassingly dreadful (maybe it’s meant to be) and the last half hour is boring then melodramatic.
I had so been looking forward to these two films for a long time. What a disappointment.

2 * of 5 (Hal gave it 3* and liked it better than That’ll Be the Day)

PS A clever? cheeky? snide? nod to the Beatles: while Jim is doing an interview and asked how he found America one of the band members said sourly, “At least he didn’t say ‘Turn left at Greenland”.’
PPS A few of the background songs: ‘Do You Want to Know a Secret’, Monday Monday’, Doo Wah Diddy Diddy’, ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’, My Generation’, ‘White Rabbit’.  They help.

That'll Be the Day

That’ll Be the Day 1973
  • Director: Claud Whatham
  • Based on novel: No
  • Cast: David Essex, Ringo Starr, Rosemary Leach, Billy Fury, Keith Moon, Rosalind Ayres, Robert Lindsey,
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Ringo Starr – Caveman, Candy, Magical Mystery Tour, Help! A Hard Day’s Night
    • Rosemary Leach – Whatever Happened to Harold Smith?, An Unsuitable Job for a Woman, A Room with a View, All’s Well that Ends Well
    • Rosalind Ayres –Titanic
    • Robert Lindsey  – Extras, Gideon’s Daughter, Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, Cymbeline, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well that Ends Well, Twelfth Night
  • Why? Early rock history in England
  • Seen: once before. Now 31 March 2018

Jim is a small boy at the end of the war. His father has survived and come home but can’t take home life and leaves again.
Ten or so years later. Jim (Essex) abandons a promising future as a student and buggers off, like his dad.  He goes to Brighton, gets work renting deck chairs on the beach, hustles girls. All to late 50’s music – ‘Runaway’, Party Doll’, ‘Great Balls of Fire’, ‘Oh Donna’, ‘Tutti Frutti.’
He leads a tawdry life, writes poetic song lyrics and dreams of fame, he gets a job at a holiday resort and his affable work- and flat mate Mike (Starr) sets him up with girls. While Mike is basically decent, Jim becomes a charming but cold womaniser, even a date rapist. He abandons Mike who is being beat up by thugs and takes his job. After a time he returns to his mother and her grocery shop and the years pass.
He really is not at all nice. Charming but basically a selfish little sod.
The music is good, the acting is good, it’s fun to see Ringo as a somewhat sleazier but just as good-hearted version of himself but if we are expected to feel sympathy for Jim’s soul-searching it doesn’t happen. He is simply such an unpleasant character that it sours the film for me.

2 ½ * of 5


Passengers 2016
  • Director: Morton Tyldum
  • Based on novel: No
  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor in
    • Jennifer Lawrence – Joy, The Hunger Games, X-Men Days of Future Past, Winter’s Bone
    • Chris Platt – Wanted
    • Martin Sheen –Far from the Madding Crowd, Frost/Nixon, Blood Diamond, The Queen, Kingdom of Heaven, Bright Young Things, Wilde, Mary Reilly, Othello
    • Laurence Fishburne – Man of Steel, Contagion, Bobby, Akeelah and the Bee, The Matrix Trilogy, Mystic River, Othello, What’s Love Got to Do with It, Bozs n the Hood
  • Why? Jennifer Lawrence, sci fi
  • Seen: 30 March 2018  

A star ship is on its way to a colony planet. Two hundred some crew and five thousand passengers are in hibernation. The autopilot fails to prevent a collision and damage is done.
Jim Preston (Pratt) wakes up and is told by a hologram that everything is OK, the ship will arrive at the planet in four months. But slowly, terrifyingly, he realises he is alone on the enormous ship and he has woken up ninety years too early.
The android bartender Arthur (Sheen) tells him to live it up. Jim moves to a luxury suite, takes part in the offered entertainment, but as the weeks and months go by he turns into an unshaven, long-haired, slovenly, suicidal drunk.
Then he happens upon the hibernation pad of journalist Aurora Lane (Lawrence). He falls in love with her. Against all his moral qualms and struggles with his conscience, he opens her pod, bringing her out of hibernation.
Interesting concept though a bit Adam-and-Eve-y and conventional love story that doesn’t go anywhere. Then the ship starts having mechanical problems, one of the crew members (Fishburne) wakes up and it becomes more interesting.
It’s a handsomely filmed movie but there’s too much he-man, macho-guy-to-the-rescue and little-tearful-lady waiting for him to do it all, saved a bit by her rescuing him towards the end. Fewer clichés and gender stereotypes would have lifted the rating a lot.

3* of 5