Bartender, get me another Tarkovsky. Stronger, this time. For those of you sighing heavily, I promise I’ll get back to watching the trash Hellraiser sequels soon.
I gave my whole Tarkovsky spiel in my write up on his 1972 introspective sci-fi film, Solaris. After having missed Stalker at my local independent theater, I was disheartened that I wouldn’t get to see it, especially after one of my co-workers saw it and really enjoyed it. But alas, you can always count on the Criterion Collection to re-release old school art films for way too much money, and a couple weeks ago, they did just that. Talking about the value of films and how much they should cost is a debate for another day. Let’s just get to the Russian arthouse weirdness.
Stalker takes place in a strange world. Is it post-apocalyptic? Perhaps. Nothing grows in the non-specific country in which Stalker takes place. Buildings are ruined, and the earth is cracked beneath everyone’s feet. Is it a dystopian hyper-industrial future? There’s more evidence of this, with the militaristic police that seem to be patrolling every street corner and every back alley. Chemical factories and power plants make up the skyline. Whatever the case, the world of Stalker is a funereal one. Three men meet in a bar. We do not know their names, only their professions. The Professor, the Writer, and the Stalker, a man trained to bypass the military quarantine surrounding a mysterious area of lush greenery simply known as the Zone. These men are prepared to risk their lives for their mission into the Zone, as legend has it that within the Zone lies a room that can immediately grant the wishes of anyone who enters.
Editor’s Note: I started writing this while kind of blitzed (similar to my Bye Bye Man review, but with maybe half a dozen more bottles of Alpine in me), so bare with me here. I took a sober moment the next day to comb through this write up and clean it up to the usual amount of typos and grammatical errors.
I’m lucky enough to live in a town that has a local independent cinema, which screens a ton of newer indie releases as well as manages to show old prints of classic movies. Local arthouse and documentary films also get a home there, but the reason I’ve taken a new shine to the place is because they’ve been on a bit of an Andrei Tarkovsky kick recently. Last month they showed Stalker, arguably his most revered movie (honestly, among Tarkovsky fans, every single one of his films is up for being considered his best work) which I unfortunately wasn’t able to catch. I was kicking myself for that one, so when I found out that they’d be showing Tarkovsky’s philosophical sci-fi epic Solaris, I made sure I was able to make it out to catch it on the big screen.
For those of you who might not know (I was only introduced to Andrei Tarkovsky recently), Tarkovsky was the most famous Soviet era Russian filmmaker, and was able to produce art so expressive of his own feelings and thoughts his films were repeatedly banned, seized, and burned by the USSR until finally he was exiled from the union. Among the arthouse and independent film fans, Tarkovsky is usually held in the same echelon as Kubrick, Lynch, and Coppola. He’s apparently kind of a big deal. This film is the first I’ve ever seen of his, so we’ll see how he stacks up.
Tarkovsky’s 1972 offering Solaris is often considered as a Eastern European response to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a slow, heady sci-fi flick that uses its setting and creative choices to explore interesting and thought provoking themes and questions. Solaris is smaller in scale and a little more introspective than 2001, following a psychologist named Kelvin who is sent to a space station orbiting the eponymous ocean planet. Kelvin’s mission: to investigate the strange messages received from the station. Word is that most of the crew are dead and the survivors have since descended into madness. When he reaches the station, Kelvin is informed that there are “guests” on board: physical manifestations of the occupants’ memories, apparently conjured up by the alien planet below them. Before long he runs into what appears to be an amnesiac version of his wife, Khari. Kelvin is particularly distraught over this, considering Khari committed suicide a decade prior. Things then get weirder, and much more Russian.
Oh boy. I’ve had this one coming for a while. Jupiter Ascending is the latest full length film from the Wachowskis, the dynamic duo of writer/ directors who are known for occasionally popping into the Hollywood scene and flipping the sci-fi genre on it’s head. They dropped The Matrix in 1999, and… umm… I guess they fumbled around with it’s sequels, then there was Speed Racer in 2008 which only made back 75% of its 120 million dollar budget. There was also Cloud Atlas in 2012, which had pretty mixed reviews, and, well, I guess they knocked it out of the park with The Matrix and just kind of floundered for almost two decades since then.
So, that brings us to Jupiter Ascending. This movie is about Jupiter (Mila Kunis), a daughter of a Russian immigrant who’s family flirts with the poverty line running a house cleaning business for the rich and the upper class. Her life sucks, having to wake up before 5am every morning and scrubbing toilets all day, every day, but her life gets flipped, turned upside down when she meets Caine (Channing Tatum) a half-man-half-dog (he’s his own best friend!) hybrid from space who brings her to space so she can find out she’s Queen of Earth because her DNA is exactly the same as the actual Queen of Earth whose dead now and the Princes and Princesses of this intergalactic royal family are fighting over who gets to own Earth so they can farm the humans to make big glo-sticks that keep you young forever. This is all the first 15 minutes of the movie. Confused? Me too. (more…)
Looper is the third feature length film from writer/ director Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) who has been swallowed up by the Hollywood machine to direct Star Wars Episode VIII. Looper is a neat little time travel movie set in the not so distant future starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe: a Looper, a man who kills people who are sent back in time by a crime syndicate in the future. Apparently it’s super hard to dispose of a body in the future, so sending it to the past to be killed and left there is a sure fire way to keep things under wraps.
When Loopers sign up for this gig, they are on contract for 30 years which when up is when they are sent back in time to be killed by their past selves, closing the loop. If the loop doesn’t get closed neatly, the mob that hires out the Loopers will make sure both ends of the loop are closed off. Get it? Got it? Good. So, naturally, one day Joe happens to show up to perform a hit only to find himself face to face with an older version of himself (Bruce Willis) who is ready and willing to fight him. Older Joe escapes, and present day(ish) Joe has to track him down and kill him to close the loop before the mob closes it for him. (more…)
Let’s take a break from the Halloween madness that’s been going on here on the blog and move towards adult films. No. Not, like, porn. Like, films with more mature themes than dumb slasher flicks. Okay, mature themes still sounds like porn, but I swear they aren’t porn. Just, screw it. I watched The Big Short a while ago and never wrote about it, and I saw Arrival in December. (more…)