ABC Film Challenge – Sci-Fi – S – Solaris (2002)

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Writer: Steven Soderbergh (Screenplay) Stanislaw Lem (Novel)

Starring: George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Viola Davis, Jeremy Davies, Ulrich Tukur, John Cho, Morgan Rusler

 

Plot: A troubled psychologist is sent to investigate the crew of an isolated research station orbiting a bizarre planet.


Tagline – There are no answers. Only Choices.

Runtime: 1 Hour 39 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Over-Complicated Sci-Fi

 

Story: Solaris starts when psychologist Chris Kelvin (Clooney) is sent to an isolated research station orbiting a planet after a distress call was sent asking for him. On board the station, Chris meets Gordon (Davis) and Snow (Davies) who have been suffering their own visions, it isn’t long before Chris has his own vision, his wife Rheya (McElhone).

Chris starts to relive the relationship he had with his wife, who shouldn’t be there, he turns to the other researchers that could help explain what is going on, where he is left with the decision on whether to try and bring her back.

 

Thoughts on Solaris

 

Characters – Chris Kelvin is a psychologist with his own personal problems, he is assigned to help on a research station in space to figure out what has happened to the crew. Chris experiences his own vision, which makes him face the reality of what happened with his own marriage, making him question every decision what happened between him and his wife. Rheya is the wife of Chris, she has appeared on the station giving Chris his chance to be with her again. We see her in the memories of Chris, while on the station she isn’t everything Chris remembers. Gordon is one of the researchers that has been dealing with the unexplained visions, she has figured out how to beat them, only she must now convince Chris what is real or not. Snow completes the research team with his cryptic messages to helps Chris understand everything involved.

PerformancesGeorge Clooney is the standout of the cast here, he must deal with his character’s grief, while trying to use the scientific explanation for everything that is going on, he brings both sides of his emotional factor. Natascha McElhone does have the chemistry with Clooney for the character, she must also deal with two roles for her character. Viola Davis and Jeremy Davies both complete the supporting roles well without being tested to their full abilities.

StoryThe story here follows a psychologist that must travel to a remote space station to help the researchers, only for himself to become trapped with the similar visions they have suffered, with his being off his late wife. This does get to show how one man must deal with he grief of a lost love, facing his reality in a new way other than just talking it out, we see him come face to face with what is hurting him to learn just how to move on. We do get into a big scientific discussion about what could happen if you could get a second chance with somebody, to make up for a mistake. This does tend to get over complicated and fails to give us the support characters own visions as a major part of the story, which could show other experiences being suffered through. This does try to be interesting and does work very well, only it does try to become more than it offers.

Mystery/Romance/Sci-FiThe mystery involved in the film comes from how this planet is connecting to the station creating these visions, this plays into the sci-fi side of the film, as we can’t explain everything going on. The romance side of the film shows us just how one man can face his own romantic past in one moment.

SettingsThe film is mostly set on the station, this shows how Chris is looking back at his romance from a remote location, we do get to see where his life was once set.


Scene of the Movie –
The liquid oxygen moment.

That Moment That Annoyed Me We don’t use the supporting character visions.

Final ThoughtsThis is a sci-fi romance mystery that does get over complicated when it doesn’t need to, it has strong performances, but fails to use the supporting characters well enough.

 

Overall: Sci-fi that makes you scratch your head.

Rating

 

 

Sweet Home Alabama (2002)

Director: Andy Tennant

Writer: C Jay Cox (Screenplay) Douglas J Eboch (Story)

Starring: Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey, Candice Bergen, May Kay Place, Fred Ward, Jean Smart, Ethan Embry, Melanie Lynskey

 

Plot: A young woman who’s reinvented herself as a New York socialite must return home to Alabama to obtain a divorce from her husband, after seven years of separation.


Tagline – Sometimes What You’re Looking For Is Right Where You Left It.

Runtime: 1 Hour 48 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Sweet Rom Com

 

Story: Sweet Home Alabama starts as we see Melanie Carmichael (Witherspoon) a rising fashion designer in New York, dating the Mayor (Bergen) son Andrew Hennings (Dempsey) who proposes to her. This becomes massive news in the city, But Melanie must return to Alabama to get a divorce from her first husband Jake (Lucas) her childhood sweetheart.

Returning home Melanie gets to see how the friends and family have been living their own lives without her, how the people have changed and just how many people she left behind.

 

Thoughts on Sweet Home Alabama

 

Characters – Melanie was a small-town girl, who moved to the big city making herself the hottest name in the fashion industry, she gets engaged, but has one problem, she is still married back in her small town. She must face the people she left behind who show her how the simple life can bring them happiness, facing her husband to get the divorce to carry on with her life becomes more difficult than she imagined as she walks down memory lane. Jake Perry is the husband back in Alabama, he refuses to sign the divorce papers because he knows what that will mean, he grew up as the sweetheart of Melanie believing she is the one, while trying to make something of his life. Andrew Hennings is the fiancée in New York that will go against his mother’s wishes to marry Melanie. The rest of the characters mostly include the members of the small-town that Melanie has left behind, they all have their quirks.

PerformancesReese Witherspoon was the queen of the rom com at the turn of the century, this film shows why this was because she fits the film perfectly. Josh Lucas is good in his role and we completely believe him being from the small town. Patrick Dempsey does have a supporting role which he is good in as you can see him as the higher society guy compared to the small-town people. The rest of the cast get the laughs when you need them and give us the serious moments too.

StoryThe story here follows a woman that recreated herself to be a success, her past comes back to stop her reaching all the potential in this new life, which means she must walk down memory lane before deciding where her future is. This does show us how the past will always be important to your future and you should never forget where you came from. For rom com genre we know how this will play out and we can see the arc Melanie must go through during the film, the story will fill out the check list for the fans of the genre.

Comedy/Romance The comedy in this film comes from how the typical small-town locals are portrayed, we don’t get many psychical comedy moments. The romance leaves one woman needing to face her past love to be with her future love.

SettingsThe film is set in two main locations, the New York one shows us the new life Melanie has, while returning to Alabama we see the slower life she left behind, but loves deep down.


Scene of the Movie –
The wedding.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The small-town characters are slightly too generic.

Final ThoughtsThis might well be generic for the most part, but this works for the rom com genre which shows Reese Witherspoon shinning at what she always did best at the turn of the century.

 

Overall: Rom Com 101.

Rating

 

 

Denzel Washington Weekend – Antwone Fisher (2002)

Director: Denzel Washington

Writer: Antwone Fisher (Screenplay)

Starring: Derek Luke, Denzel Washington, Joy Bryant, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Leonard Earl Howze, Kente Scott

 

Plot: Antwone Fisher, a young navy man, is forced to see a psychiatrist after a violent outburst against a fellow crewman. During the course of treatment a painful past is revealed and a new hope begins.


Tagline – Inspired by a true story. 

Runtime: 2 Hours

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Moving Biopic

 

Story: Antwone Fisher starts as we pick up with the incident which caused navy officer Antwon Fisher (Luke) which saw him on the last chance situation, this brings him to psychiatrist Dr Jerome Davernport (Washington) that wants to help Antwone get to the root of this anger problems.

As Antwone starts to get his feet back on track he meets the beautiful Cheryl (Bryant) just before his latest leave where the anger erupts again, until Davenport gets to the bottom of al the problems that Antwone has been dealing with.

 

Thoughts on Antwone Fisher

 

Characters – Antwone Fisher is a real man, this is his story about his connection with a psychiatrist that helped put his life back on the right track after a troubled and abusive childhood. There was always a good man inside him, but the anger of abandonment haunts him. Dr Davenport is assigned to Antwone to see if he is going to be fit to return to duty in the navy. He struggles to get through to him at first, but pushes him to tackle his past to help him move on, unlike anyone before. Cheryl is the fellow navy officers that Antwone falls in love with, the one person that he opens up to and supports him.

PerformancesDerek Luke was an unknown actor at this point of his career, he took this role and made himself a star with his performance. Denzel took directing duties on this film too, where he is the supporting role and shows the level of performance that knows how to let the lead take control. Joy Bryant is good even if she is only given the role of supportive love interest.

StoryThe story here is one man’s life, Antwone Fisher, the abuse he dealt with in a foster home which has caused him to hold in plenty of anger. We follow the one doctor who helped Antwone get through these troubles to confront his past to make him the man he is today, a good man. This story is hard to believe, but is hauntingly as real as they come when telling the true story of one man, this could easily explain a lot of problems in the world, where are people do need to accept each other more, not use or abuse them.

Biopic The story of Antwone Fisher is one that ends up feeling incredible, the suffering he faced as a child to the levels he gets in the navy.

SettingsWe are shown where Antwone is now living, where he is from and how this moment has guided him from location to make him stronger.


Scene of the Movie –
Reunion.

That Moment That Annoyed Me We could learn more about where Antwone goes next.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good biopic that shows one man’s troubles in life that needed to open up about them to move on.

 

Overall: Good biopic throughout.

Rating

 

 

James Bond Weekend – Die Another Day (2002)

Director: Lee Tamahori

Writer: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade (Screenplay)

Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, Toby Stephens, Rosamund Pike, Rick Yune, Judi Dench, John Cleese

 

Plot: James Bond is sent to investigate the connection between a North Korean terrorist and a diamond mogul, who is funding the development of an international space weapon.


Tagline – Events don’t get any bigger than..

Runtime: 2 Hours 13 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Weakest of Brosnan’s Bonds

 

Story: Die Another Day starts as James Bond (Brosnan) is captured by the North Korean army, he is tortured for 14 months before getting traded back for brother of man he was training to capture Zao (Yune). Taken off duty, James goes solo in search for Zao, which sees him meet Jinx (Berry) who is on her own secret mission against Zao.

The investigation leads James towards the diamond trade, with Gustav Graves (Stephens) becoming the main focus of the investigation, Gustav has a huge reputation and soon James gets close to learn what his master plan is all about.

 

Thoughts on Die Another Day

 

Characters – James Bond finds himself captured in this outing, tortured for months for information, never giving up any secrets. Once he is traded, he is taken off active duty, but wants to go in search of the man traded for him, it shows him working more covertly trying to take down Gustav, who he believes will lead him to his target. Jinx is the mysterious stranger that James meets on his mission, she is on her own mission against Zao. Gustav Graves is a diamond mogul that has risen to fame with a brand-new secret project in the works, this has captured the attention of James who is in search of his secret. Miranda Frost is the PR woman for Gustav, she is also undercover from MI6 one of her first missions.

PerformancesPierce Brosnan does everything right in his role, he never looks out of place in what would be his final outing. Halley berry brings us a much strong American performance which was needed after the last film. Toby Stephens makes for a basic Bond villain, he does have to play a slightly more complicated role than we have seen before. Rosamund Pike does the best she can with her role, she does get a fight sequence though.

StoryThe latest adventure of James Bond takes things to a darker tone than before, because we see how he is captured and held for a long period of time, no easy escape meaning he will need to figure out how to get his payback once he is released, which sees him hunting down a diamond mogul. This does continue our trend of James needing to work with someone to stop the villainous plan, everything tends to play out as you would imagine, with the only part that feels fresh being the idea that James isn’t easily freed from his captive state.

Action/AdventureThe action here is mixed to say the least, when we have the practical action this is entertaining and even the best scenes in the movie, when we get to the CGI moments it is horrible to watch.

SettingsThe film does return to the exotic location with Cuba and Iceland being the stand out locations of the film.

Special EffectsThis is the first Bond film where the effects need to be discussion because we have some of the worst you will ever see in any film, the tidal wave scene and the invisible car just look pathetic.

Scene of the Movie – Ice car chase.

That Moment That Annoyed Me That Tidal Wave.

Final ThoughtsThis is another film in he Bond franchise that just doesn’t deliver, it has some entertaining action sequences, but the CGI moments almost make moments laughable.

 

Overall: Disappointing Another Day

Rating

 

 

Maggie Gyllenhaal Weekend – Secretary (2002)

Director: Steven Shainberg

Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson (Screenplay) Mary Gaitskill (Story)

Starring: James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeremy Davies, Lesley Ann Warren, Stephen McHattie, Patrick Bauchau

 

Plot: A young woman, recently released from a mental hospital, gets a job as a secretary to a demanding lawyer, where their employer-employee relationship turns into a sexual, sadomasochistic one.


Tagline – Assume the position.

Runtime: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Strangely Intriguing

 

Story: Secretary starts as young woman Lee Holloway (Gyllenhaal) gets released from mental home after her self-harming went too far, released to attend her sister’s wedding, she returns to her self-harming techniques, not in a suicidal way though. Wanting to be part of the world Lee gets her first job as a secretary for lawyer Mr Grey (Spader).

Working for Mr Grey gives Lee a new lease for life, she stops self-harming, while letting Mr Grey giving her the punishment she desires.

 

Thoughts on Secretary

 

Characters – Lee Holloway is a troubled young woman, she has been self-harming for years now, it has put her in a mental home for a time too, now she is ready to enter the world to have a normal job. She gets obsessed with BDSM which her boss punishes her with, the one thing that stops her self-harming. Mr Grey is the lawyer that Lee starts to work with, he demands the best from his secretary and doesn’t mind giving her punishment to make her better, he hides from problem clients and seems to live a lonely life. Peter is the potential new boyfriend for Lee that tries to have a normal relationship, while she is on her own voyage of self-discovery.

PerformancesMaggie Gyllenhaal is fantastic in the leading role, she is by far the star of this movie and showed us all the abilities she had in the acting field. James Spader is great too, he has always been able to walk into these types of roles well.

StoryThe story here follows one woman that wants to find comfort in the world, where the only comfort she has had before has come from her own self-harming, she has problems which will be getting fixed as she enters the real world. this shows how mental illness can create a way for voids to be used to help create moments of peace in lives. This does give us the important discussion to be made, which is fine because people need help to understand the problems people can be fighting with.

Comedy/RomanceCertain moments do have a comical tone to them, while the romance of the film is mostly about how Lee became obsessed with Mr Grey.

SettingsThe film is set in a big American city which shows how the people in each life can have their own personal interests which can come off stranger from the outside.


Scene of the Movie –
The cheque.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The Lee and Peter relationship is strange.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good movie that tackles mental illness that people are living with everyday, we have a brilliant performance from Gyllenhaal that put her name firmly on the map.

 

Overall: One to be watching.

Rating