Weekend Movies: ‘Solaris’ Leads Packed House
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – After teaming up for some light fun in last year’s “Ocean’s 11,” George Clooney and director Steven Soderbergh take a deadly serious turn with sci-fi film “Solaris,” which opened nationwide on Wednesday.
“Solaris” leads a pack of new films including Disney’s animated “Treasure Planet,” cartoon “Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights” and action flick “Extreme Ops” that Hollywood’s studios will usher into theaters for this Thanksgiving holiday.
But the problem for “Solaris,” its filmmakers acknowledge, is that audiences may not be sure what the movie is about. Is it science-fiction? Is it a romance? Is it serious art house drama, or is it just a chance to see Clooney’s naked rear end.
“It’s been hard to talk about the cosmos without talking about George Clooney’s ass,” Soderbergh joked in interviews.
The movie’s marketers have found it hard to put “Solaris,” based on a novel by Stanislaw Lem and adapted for a classic Russian film in 1972, into any specific film genre.
It has been easier to show superstar star Clooney walking around in a space suit or talk about shots of him hugging co-star Natascha McElhone clad only in his birthday suit.
Forget the fact that big-time action director James Cameron of “Titanic” fame produced the film, because “Solaris” has no action — although but it does have other virtues.
“Anyone who has experienced any significant loss or any significant love will find something” with which to identify, said Oscar winning director Soderbergh.
WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE?
Clooney plays Chris Kelvin, a psychologist sent to a space station orbiting the energy-rich galactic sphere, Solaris.
A series of strange deaths have occurred on the station, and only two scientists remain alive. Kelvin is sent to negotiate with whoever or whatever is on Solaris that led to the deaths and, at worst, bring the survivors home.
Once there, he learns people who travel to Solaris contact people important to their lives. In Kelvin’s case, his deceased wife (McElhone) returns to his bed.
What “Solaris” asks audiences to consider is what lengths a person will go to in order to regain a lost love and whether love transcends life as we know it.
Is it a science fiction? Yes, but only because it is set in the future. Is it a romance? Yes, but only in that it questions the boundaries of love. Is it serious art-house drama?
“We’re trying to raise the bar (for filmmaking),” said Clooney, “if we blow it, at least we did it taking a chance.”
Leave the popcorn at the candy counter. “Solaris” is rated PG-13 for sexuality and nudity, language and theme elements.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, but also set in space, is Disney’s “Treasure Planet,” which is an animated re-telling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”
The movie uses hand-painted Disney animation compared with the new computer-generated films like “Monsters, Inc.” that have been big hits in recent years. But never count out Disney when it comes to family films, regardless of the style. “Lilo & Stitch” was a hit, and it used hand-drawn characters.
In “Treasure Planet,” 15 year-old Jim Hawkins joins a space ship that looks exactly like an old Spanish galleon. He is the cabin boy and is tutored by ship’s cook, John Silver.
But Hawkins discovers Silver is a scheming pirate plotting mutiny, and the boy must quickly grow from teen to man to faces the pirates. It is rated PG for action adventure and peril.
SAME OLD TRICKS
Even though it is animated, “Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights” is not aimed at children and, in fact, it has the same sort of crude sexual and bodily function humor audiences got in Sandler’s live-action films such as “Mr. Deeds.”
Sandler voices several characters including the lead role of Davey, who looks and dresses a lot like Sandler, himself.
When Davey is arrested on the first night of the Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, he is saved from jail only by a kind old man named Whitey who promises to help reform him. Over the next eight days, Davey learns to spread kindness on Earth.
The movie is rated PG-13 for frequent crude and sexual humor, drinking and drug references.
Finally, “Extreme Ops” is perhaps better for its ski and snowboard footage than its story, which sounds very much like a half-baked plot dreamed up so the movie’s makers could capture some radical skiing and snowboarding.
In the film, a group of commercial directors set out to tape a sequence of skiers and snowboarders racing down a slope ahead of an avalanche. In the process, however, they film a group of terrorists camped out in the Austrian Alps.
Given that sequence of events, our erstwhile extreme sports enthusiasts are now put in the position of saving the world.
“Extreme Ops” is rated PG-13 for violence, peril, language and some nudity.
Enjoy the popcorn and I’ll see you at the movies!
Weekend Movies: ‘Solaris’ Leads Packed House