Friday, August 20, 2010

Film Review--Soylent Green

SOYLENT GREEN
starring Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson, Joseph Cotten, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Brock Peters, Dick Van Patten, and Lee Van Cleef as The Beav

New York City in 2022 is an abysmal place.  Overpopulation is beyond out of control.  The exhaustion of resources has left people surviving on rationed water and a manufactured substance called Soylent Green.  But when the CEO of the Soylent Corporation (Cotten) is mysteriously killed, a detective (Heston) must delve into what Soylent Green really is.  He doesn't like what he finds.

A thoughtful, slow-paced science fiction film like this could never be made today.  A pity.  It's refreshing to experience "speculative fiction" where the characters are allowed to develop and think about the situation that they are in.  Lord knows I was thinking about it.  This film paints a depiction of a future that could be frighteningly similar to our own.  Proto-cyberpunk in its own way, we see how unchecked human behavior in tandem with corporate greed leads to suffering on a worldwide scale.  While Heston is his usual manly-man self, even if borderline misogynistic, his melancholy bleat at the end can be viewed as a cry of all humanity against an oppressive machine run by the few for their own gain.  It's a famous movie line and you probably know it, but I'm not going to write it here just in case someone hasn't heard it.  Edward G. Robinson turns in a performance that is quite touching.  Fitting really, as it was his last. 
All in all, a quality production but not exactly an escapist "upper."  Although I did like the riot control trucks.  I'd like to drive one of those around here.

RATING: PDG (Pretty Darned Good)


Not sure if I've posted this next review before.  If I have, sorry for the repeat.

A SCANNER DARKLY
starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson, Rory Cochrane, and George Takei as The Beav.

In the near future, an undercover cop (Reeves) gets involved with a bunch of small-time users and distributors of a drug called Substance D. His own mental state begins to border on schizophrenia as roles and lines become blurred, sending him in for a series of psychological tests.

There have been many adaptations of author Philip K. Dick's work. Some have been triumphs (Blade Runner), others have sucked in ways things have not sucked before nor should ever be allowed to again (Screamers). I'm happy to say that this one falls somewhere in between those two polar extremes. It's a strong story with A-list actors told in an innovative, "augmented reality" sort of combination between live action and animation. This format could be headache-inducing among a few viewers, but it didn't bother me. Then again, I saw it on a small screen and the theatrical experience may have differed from my own.
Most satisfying are the moments were these "potheads," for lack of a better word, get themselves into predicaments and work furiously to get themselves out, often with humorous results. In fact, I'm wondering if Robert Downey Jr. modeled his character after Daffy Duck. Just something about his short haircut, omnipresent round shades, and the bill of his cap popped up. If so, I applaud him for taking after a comedic genius, yes I say that with all sincerity.

RATING: PDG (Pretty Darned Good)

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