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Disgusted at the lot of 'em

Posted : 9 years, 7 months ago on 27 April 2008 09:16 (A review of Romper Stomper [1992])

I can't believe I gave a violent film like this four stars, but I just did. It's rated 18, so I knew what I was getting myself into (and this was only the second film I ever watched from this rating category). I felt like curling up and pulling the blanket over my head the whole time, appalled at the violence on the screen. This film doesn't make many words but speaks to you on a visceral level. In the end, a lot of people are dead and you will be disgusted at the lot of 'em.
It has some weak points, plotwise, but it is still worth watching. You'll witness the decline of a group that actually thinks they are the top of the heap, while getting themselves deeper into the **** every minute. This one was actually X-rated in Germany until last year for it's content of violence and nationalsocialist insignia.


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Mesmerized.

Posted : 9 years, 7 months ago on 27 April 2008 06:00 (A review of Solaris)

I decided to see this film at the worst time, probably: Sick, in bed, sleeping 20 hours of the day. The day I felt a bit better, I decided I would like to watch a film. This one had come in as an add-on with the TV magazine, and I remembered seeing the posters way back in 2002 (for some reason I didn't go and see it then. Pity.). So, popped the DVD into my laptop, got my good earphones, and crawled back into bed. If you now think I fell asleep after 10 minutes, you are wrong. Despite my state, I was mesmerized. This is something I hadn't come across for a long time.

From the moment you see Chris Kelvin (Clooney) sitting on his bed, head in hands, and hear the voice of Rheya (McElhone) in voice-over you know that this is not going to be a normal sci-fi film. You witness Kelvin act out the things of everyday life, making appointments with clients, holding group sessions as a psychologist, but you feel quite early on that there are demons from his past haunting him. Soderbergh also enhances this by keeping the focus on Kelvin, and having other people vanish into the blurred background, only leaving their voices to be heard.

These demons are becoming more real once he reaches Solaris on his investigation mission. One of the most memorable scenes for me was the first appearance of Rheya. Kelvin darting out of his bed, hitting his head, trying to wake up and finally understanding that this is real and not a dream. Sent shivers down my spine. And while Chris loses his grip on reality, Rheya becomes more real and more aware of herself and of the fact that her existence is something "unreal". At first Rheya is only talking in formulas, but as the film progresses, she develops a new personality and we see Rheya (Solaris) becoming more like Rheya (Earth) again. And there are the two other members of the crew, Dr. Gordon (v. Davis) and Snow (J. Davies). Snow is...- weird, and Davies' creepy characterisation was spot on, IMO. You'll understand *why* Snow acts this way later in the film. The only person choosing reality instead of dreams, and incidentally the only one to survive is Dr. Gordon. She also is the one that ultimately figures out a way to get rid of the apparitions and doesn't hesitate to do so.

There is another member of the cast that merits mention and that is the score. In most films, the score is either utterly forgettable or tells you the story in broad strokes and with thumping drums. In this one, it felt like a fifth character, setting the mood for a scene, and freshening up the atmosphere with a little splash of notes here and there. It also kept you in a kind of... trance-like mood in parts, thereby adding another layer to the "reality or dream?" question that permeates the film.

Soderbergh took Lem's classic science fiction story and made something entirely different from it, but still a classic sci-fi story, exploring love, reality, minds and sanity.


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