Monday, February 03, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LVII
Two cross-country flights, two in-flight movies.

Wednesday: The Tuxedo
This Mask-like plotline is really just an excuse for Jackie Chan to show off his martial arts mastery. The gist is this: There's this tuxedo, see? It's been augmented to give you highly skilled martial arts -- and dancing -- abilities. Chan plays a cabbie who gets recruited as the driver for a James Bond-like secret agent. After the agent is injured, Chan dons the tux and takes the agent's place. And the mission continues! The interplay between Chan and Jennifer Love Hewitt's character -- the agent's partner -- is relatively weak, and outside of the martial arts eye candy, this movie has little going for it. Fun for Chan completists, perhaps.

Sunday: Solaris
This is more like it. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, this 2002 s-f movie done in the style of '70s stalwarts such as 2001 (which isn't surprising given the novel's 1972 Russian remake) is based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem. George Clooney plays a psychologist who's sent to a space station in orbit around Solaris, a star that has intriguing psychological effects on the station's crew. Clooney's character, after a series of emotional flashbacks, falls prey to the star's power, and the movie addresses the nature of humanity, the reality of memory, and ethics. A slow-paced yet powerful film, Solaris is a sleeper hit. I'm almost surprised it was made, but I'm glad it was, and it makes me want to read the book. It also makes me hopeful that other classic s-f novels, stateside and otherwise, will be made into films as impressive as this. Soderbergh's portrayal of the future is stark and not too far from the present, and the cast, largely of unknowns -- Jeremy Davies plays a wonderfully distracted man on the edge of sanity -- performs well.

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