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Clooney's spectral Sci-fi adventure.

Solaris (Cert 12a): stars George Clooney and Natascha McElhone; director Steven Soderbergh. 94 mins. Rating **** Analyze That (Cert 15): stars Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal; director Harold Ramis. 95 mins. Rating **** Jackass the Movie (Cert 18): stars Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera; director Jeff Tremaine. 85 mins. Rating * Adaptation (Cert 15): stars Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep; director Spike Jonze. 114 mins. Rating ****

SOLARIS is a Hollywood remake of a 1972 Russian film of the same title, a film which one critic at the time described as ``an obscure intellectual snorefest.'' As it ran got close on three hours, one can understand why.

Even at 95 minutes, the Hollywood version does have its longeurs.

That it is well worth a visit is thanks largely to the performances of George Clooney and his Brit co-star Natascha McElhone.

It's a science fiction tale about a space station orbiting the planet Solaris. Something funny is going on there and apparently physiologist Chris Kelvin (Clooney) is the only man to sort it out.

He arrives not knowing what the problem is only to find a couple of people acting very strangely. Then his dead wife (McElhone) arrives on the scene.

Knowing her to be a figment of his imagination, he sends her spiralling into space. Next day she is back but this time he agrees to let her stay.

It seems people on the station have found other ``companions'' turning up, people they know but who should not really be there.

The minor plot revolves around Clooney's indecision about his ghost wife and the wife herself realising she is not real.

The script by director Soderbergh allows many lengthy moments without dialogue and when conversation comes it tends to be of the chest-beating variety.

But Clooney is very good as the anguished psychologist, emoting in grand form and looking suitably concerned. And for Clooney's female fans, he even lays out on a bed butt-naked.

McElhone has the more difficult role as the wife who realises she is some sort of astral projection. She handles it beautifully and sympathetically.

The flashback scenes in which she is properly flesh and blood allow her to play the mysterious intellectual who first attracts Clooney's attention. One can understand the interest as she drifts around looking quite gorgeous and speaks in posh English style.

But it's the Solaris scenes which give her the greatest range and she takes full advantage of them.

The script has a few holes in it - some of the people on the station talk about their ``companions'' but we never see them. And the camera does hang too lovingly over the set rather than getting down to the action.

But it is always intriguing and you leave the cinema feeling a little worried about the meaning of life.

ANALYZE THAT is a sequel to - you have guess it - Analyze This. In the original comedy, Robert DeNiro played the gangster who seeks undercover help from psychiatrist Billy Crystal. It was one of those slow burners - there never was a local press show - which became a hit on video.

Hence, four years later, comes this follow-up.

I never did get to see the original but if it was as funny as this, I must catch up with it.

De Niro's character Paul Vitti is now behind bars and desperate to get out to sort out some ``family business'' so he pretends to go crackers.

He wanders his prison singing songsfrom West Side Story. Crystal's psychiatrist is called in to help and forced to take him to his house on special leave much to the despair of his wife (Lisa Kudrow).

It all gets a little manic when DeNiro is hired as advisor on a gangster television show and starts planning a robbery.

The script from director Ramis and others is full of smart gags and DeNiro has a great time playing the gangster as does the film's executive producer Crystal. One can see how much they enjoy it with the final credit out-takes when they tend to crumple up with laughter over many of their scenes together.

Those who saw the original say it is not a match to that one. All I can say is that it remains a very funny film with both leads on top comic form.

THE most useless film of the week is Jackass: the Movie, a documentary film in which a group of lads try to outdo eachother with stupid tricks.

A warning before the film starts suggests that viewers should not attempt the same tricks as the ones we see had been performed by professionals. Professional what, though? Idiots.

What skill does it take to cut the spaces between your fingers with paper edges, fall off a skateboard travelling a rail or make a mess in your trousers?

The latter scene marks a low-point in film documentaries as some chap prepares to spend twopence in a showroom toilet. Prepared too well, the camera shows him soiling himself in the car beforehand.

He returns later to accomplish his toilet feat, the camera panning in to show the result.

The sad thing is that most members of the general public watching these antics could not be less interested. Even the store manager makes a simple and obviously true remark about his ``customer''.

There are a couple of passable moments. An opening scene has a chap renting a car, entering it for a demolition derby and returning it totally scrapped. In another, the team hide in bushes near golfers teeing off and let off air horns as the golfers are making their swings.

Reactions are pretty obvious. The rent-a-car manager is annoyed but not amusingly so while the golfers finally swing their golf balls towards the airhorn fiends.

But is this all true? One suspects many of the scenes were stunted as were the reactions - the golfers were too good to be true. Above all, few of the stunts are interesting and most of them completely dull. People dressed as pandas running around Tokyo may have seemed a good idea but nothing really happens. Most of the public ignore the twerps which is posibbly the best thing to do with this film.

Adaptation has picked up a few Oscar nominations. Don't let that put your off, even its arty premise.

Scriptwriter Charlie Kaufman has written a very funny film about himself.

In the movie he is played by Nicolas Cage, a neurotic writer with writer's block. But he has a twin bother Donald (also played by Cage), a self confident chap who is also a writer and completing a screen treatment of a non-fiction book.

The book writer (Meryl Streep) steps into the action and it all becomes a surreal, very funny account of Hollywood, writers and American life. Bizarre but rather loveable.

CAPTION(S):

George Clooney in ghostly goings-on in the sci-fi thriller Solaris
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 28, 2003
Words:1143
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