Toy Story 4
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I have yet to see the more acclaimed 1972 version. I have also never seen the 1968 made-for-television version, nor have I read the original novel. My sole experience with Solaris is the divisive 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. That being said, what I found with the 2002 version is a beautiful, cerebral, emotionally-engaging, and melancholic exploration into loneliness, guilt, existentialism, the metaphysical, and so much more. When a space station goes silent near the planet, Solaris, therapist, Dr. Chris Kelvin is sent to investigate what happened based on a video recording sent by one of the crew members, asking him by name to come. Even a security team sent in before him never returned, so the trip is already looking uneasy. Upon arriving, he sees blood trails and very few signs of life. He finds two crew members - Snow, a strange and neurotic crew member, and Gordon, who is filled with paranoia and doesn't even want to come out of her room at first. The other crew members are dead, due to the unexplained phenomena that the crew are experiencing (Though, Dr. Kelvin does see a child, but is unable to catch him and talk to him). During his stay, Dr. Kelvin is awakened by his wife, Rheya, who thinks they are at home together. Dr. Kelvin is understandably taken aback by this...because she's dead. Dr. Kelvin's time on the ship becomes a time of emotional torment as old memories are awakened and as he and the surviving crew members try to figure out what exactly is going on around them...all while being trapped in the terrifying isolation of space. Solaris is a gripping, slow-building drama that really strikes a chord as Dr. Kelvin relives memories of his marriage to Rheya - the good times, the bad times, and the ugliest of times that resulted in tragedy. It becomes incredibly heartbreaking at times, but never in an overwrought way. Rather, the way it unfolds is shown to us in a more believable manner, making such scenes all the more crushing. What makes it worse is that whatever force that has taken the form of Rheya states that she only exists through his memories and how he remembers her, causing her torment as she experiences these things, trapping her in a never-ending existential nightmare. It's a film that ponders life with all of its ups and downs, as well as exploring the possibility of a higher power and forces beyond our control. I found it to be a superb film that had made me engaged from beginning to end. I wanted to know what was happening, I wanted to dissect the myriad themes, and I was also engaged emotionally, becoming invested in the turmoil of Dr. Kelvin's life. I think Solaris is one of the most underrated and best films of the 2000's. We need more sci-fi films like this.
Wassup Rockers is a strange film by a very unusual director. It doesn't have the hard-hitting edge of previous works like Kids, Ken Park, or Bully, but it still proves to be a very interesting and messy experiment by a director seeking new boundaries and topics. It's also strangely light-hearted, considering the director (though not entirely without moments of violence and some sexual content). The story follows a group of Latino boys from Los Angeles who like to skate and play punk rock music in a band. One day, they decide to travel by bus to Beverly Hills where they find themselves in a series of misadventures like running from the police, visiting a hot girl at her mansion and getting into a fight with preppy boys, and other bizarre scenarios. Amidst the frantic pacing, the film also takes time to tackle the issue of race as the boys are scrutinized for being Latino, as well as the issue of class. It doesn't dive deep into its subject matters, making it feel like a bit of a step back compared to the uncompromising, in-your-face tone by Clark's aforementioned films. But what really holds this film together are the cast who are interesting, funny, and feel believable. The film may be shaky on a story level, but as a character piece, it works quite well. In the end, Wassup Rockers is another enjoyable film by a controversial director. It may not have the bite of his previous work, but it remains a strangely compelling nonetheless.
Bully is a film that walks a razor-thin line between gritty drama and sleazy exploitation. It's not a comfortable viewing. In fact, it may stay with you long after watching it because it is a very grim and frank study into the minds of troubled youth, empty existences with no future, living day to day by thriving only on vices and impulses, peer pressure, and the ugly truths about violence and vengeance. The story is inspired/loosely based on the real life 1993 murder of Bobby Kent by his friends because of the way he treats them. He is verbally abusive, physically abusive, exploits others for his own gain, and is also a rapist. Leading the charge is a girl named Lisa, the girlfriend of Bobby's longtime friend, Marty Puccio. Since Marty is unable to break away from Bobby, she comes up with the idea to kill Bobby, which slowly begins to snowball by recruiting other friends and a wannabe hitman. Egging each other on, they set their deadly plan into motion. None would do this by themselves, but with the peer pressure echo chamber enclosing them, anything becomes possible. Make no mistake, Bobby Kent is a vile bastard of a character - completely and utterly loathsome. However, his "friends" are not exactly winners, either. There's nobody you can call particularly likable, which will make this film a hard viewing for a lot people (People who pan a film solely because there are no likable characters...even if that was the point of the film). Sure, Bobby's done some vile things, but it seems that their actions aren't just revenge against him, but against society and how they feel their lives have turned out. He becomes the representation of all that they feel is wrong in their lives ("He's the source of everybody's problems," says Lisa at one point). I found the film to be a gripping, harrowing look into wasted lives, the ugliest aspects of peer pressure, and the grim nature of murder and the aftermath. Bully will also be an assault on your thoughts in other ways, with its unflinching depictions of graphic sex scenes and nudity (There's a crotch shot of the character Ali, that makes the famous Sharon Stone crotch shot in Basic Instinct look G-rated by comparison), abundant drug use, and visceral violence in more ways than one (Such as Marty's reaction to Ali saying she's pregnant and won't get an abortion, to which he grabs her so hard, he leaves bruises). It's an ugly and grim viewing, but a very visceral and engaging one nonetheless. It can rivet you, offend you, or you may find it to be trash masquerading as art. I think Bully is fantastic and Larry Clark's best film.