Tarkovsky is back to large screens again

"Solaris" will be released on New Year's holidays in a restored form

Reading time 4 minutes

On December 26, one of the most famous films directed by Andrei Tarkovsky will be released in 70 cities of Russia. It is a movie adaptation of the novel “Solaris” written by a Polish writer, Stanislav Lem. The film was first released in 1972. Immediately after the premiere, it received recognition from the general public and positive reviews from critics both in the USSR and abroad. This is proved by such awards as the Special Jury Grand Prix and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1972 International Cannes Film Festival, the Prize at the XXVIII International Karlovy Vary Film Festival in 1972, etc. Also, the picture is often recognized as one of the best science fiction movies in the history of cinema. Interestingly, the author of the original source did not accept Tarkovsky’s work.

Андрей Тарковский на съемках «Соляриса»
Andrei Tarkovsky on the set of Solaris

The plot of the film tells a story about the interaction of people with an alien mind discovered on the distant planet Solaris. Like many other Tarkovsky’s films, the main theme of Solaris is various existential problems of a person, such as awareness of self-hatred or acceptance of one’s own fears. The main roles were played by Sergei Bondarchuk’s daughter, Natalia, the famous Lithuanian actor Donatas Banionis, one of the regular actors in Tarkovsky’s films, Anatoly Solonitsyn, as well as Yuri Yarvet, Vladislav Dvorzhetsky and Nikolai Grinko.

Наталья Бондарчук и Донатас Банионис на постере «Соляриса»
Natalia Bondarchuk and Donatas Banionis on the “Solaris” ‘s poster

Restoration of “Solaris” has been carried out at the Mosfilm studio since 2011. Such a long period is a standard for films released more than 40-50 years ago. All defects of the old movie should be eliminated by specialists manually: color correction and sound recording errors. To achieve maximum quality after the restoration, professionals have been working on old materials for years. In addition, “Solaris” is the second restored Tarkovsky’s film in the last year. In October 2018, his 1979 film “Stalker” was released for re-rental. It was about a journey to a mystical room located in a certain forbidden zone. According to rumors, any human desire could be fulfilled there. Just like Solaris, the dramatic parable quickly became a cult and was awarded at the International Cannes Film Festival. Anton Dolin, an editor of the “Cinema Art” magazine, noted that Tarkovsky is one of the few representatives of Soviet cinema whose films still regularly resonate with young people. And not only in Russia: “Stalker” is regularly included in the list of 250 best films according to users of the world’s largest cinema website IMDB. At the moment, the picture is on 181 place. That is why, Dolin believes that the re-releasing of such films on the big screen is justified.

Кадр из фильма «Сталкер»
Shot from the movie “Stalker”

QWERTY – familiar and mysterious

Where the popular keyboard layout came from, and why it doesn’t yield to competitors

Reading time 4 minutes

The name of this keyboard layout came from the first six letters of the top row. QWERTY-keyboard originates in the era of typewriters.

The creation history of the familiar layout is not clear enough
The creation history of the familiar layout is not clear enough

Christopher Sholes, an elaborator of the first typewriters, determined to distribute keys in the simple alphabetical order. However, with an increase of the typematic speed professionals began to encounter a number of problems. For instance, the levers of the letters situated close to each other scraped and sticked with the rapid pushing. By trial and error and constant layout modernization the legendary typewriter «Remington 1» was finally launched. Its keyboard became the prototype of all contemporary ones. The blind method of the typemate, which became popular after typing competitions, helped in promotion of this keyboard layout. Edgar McGurrin, the court secretary, won over another contestant. When the winner was asked about the reasons of his triumph, he said he had typed with ten fingers without looking at the keyboard. His rival typed with only eight fingers staring at the keys, and this method considerably decreased typematic speed. Nowadays, one and a half century later, there are some courses where you can learn the blind way of working on the keyboard.

Why we love QWERTY so much when we are able to switch to other layouts?

Nevertheless, today there are disputes about effectiveness of QWERTY-layout. There were some attempts to supplant familiar layout on more ergonomic one. In 1936 university professor August Dvorak noticed a great number of typos in the work of one of his students. At that time the thought had come to his mind – to invent an absolutely new type of latin keyboard based on more convenient position of vowel and consonant letters. After it in the beginning of the XXI century DVORAK-layout was elaborated by Shay Coleman and obtain the name Colemak. As some studies claimed, these layout types enable to work 2-3 times faster. However, QWERTY doesn’t give in to more contemporary rivals, although every user can switch between layouts with the help of several mouse clicks.

Goodbye, Stan Lee! In memory of your heroes

Eluded by Spider-Man’s fame characters

Reading time 9 minutes

Stan Lee, the legend created Marvel Comics, has passed away at the age of 95. The artist, writer, producer, actor, and neither more nor less than “a person who made comics cool” – that is how the millions will remember Stan Lee. People will love his worlds and heroes as much as they loved him. However, there are characters which were not as popular as Spider-Man and X-Men.

Stripperella

One of the most famous not-popular characters is Strippella – a stripper named Erotica Jones who is also a secret agent.

The DVD cover of Strippella

Besides the enhanced reflexes and senses, superhuman strength, and an astonishing intelligence, Erotica can boast “sexy” martial arts and the arsenal of high-technological devices of questionable usefulness.

In 2003, debuted the eponymous TV-series where the main character was played by Pamela Anderson who gave Strippella her appearance and voice. These superhero series created for adults were rather comic making fun of genre cliches and conditionalities.

Despite the overall success of the series, it was closed down after 13 episodes because of the dispute between Stan Lee and Pamela Anderson. Another reason for this cancellation was that the ex-stripper Janet Clover claimed that Stan Lee stole her idea of this character when she discussed it during a lap dance.

Lightspeed

The next superhero on our list is another secret agent Daniel Light, also known as Lightspeed.

The box-art of Lightspeed

Daniel Light is a government agent who has the ability of super-speed, but this superpower puts him under a risk of getting fatal metabolic damage. Lightspeed gained his powers after surviving a building collapse triggered by the half-man, half-snake terrorist, called Python.

The movie about Lightspeed was released in 2006, and, to put it mildly, it hardly got any responses. Neither the Stan Lee’s status nor Jason Connery  starring as Daniel Light helped the motion picture to stand out.

Mosaic

The next superhero appearing under the Stan Lee Presents banner is Mosaic, also known as Maggie Nelson, aspiring young actress, who gained chameleon-like powers after some supernatural circumstances.

Бокс-арт "Мозаики"
The box-art of Mosaic

Maggie was exposed to an electrical storm and a magic rune which her father, an Interpol agent, had planned to study. After getting under this ancient spell, she possessed the ability to change her appearance, to merge with the environment, and to speak the language of an ancient race Chameliel, the owners of the magic rune. Using her new powers, Maggie investigates series of murders with Chameliel’s involvement and the origin of ancient artifacts.

The eponymous cartoon film was released in January 2007. This time the audience’s reaction was way better than in case of Lightspeed movie.

The Condor

After less than four months, another animated film with an original superhero The Condor saw the light. This movie tells the story of Tony Valdez, a professional skateboarder by day and an avenger in mask by night.

Бокс-арт "Кондора"
The box-art of The Condor

During a dangerous zombie attack, caused by nano-technologies invented by Valdez family, Tony gets severely injured and loses both of his parents. However, his friend Sammi returns him the mobility with similar nano-technology. The action has its side effect which gives Tony superhuman abilities. After gaining his capability to walk, The Condor starts the investigation of his family’s murder, hoping to revenge the killer.

The Condor film was accepted better than  Lightspeed, but comparably worse the Mosaic one. Overall, the audience took the film relatively well.

Chakra The Invincible

One of the most interesting characters is Chakra – an Indian superhero created in collaboration with Graphic India studio.

The cover of the third issue of Chakra: The Invincible

Raju Rai, Chakra The Invincible, is an ordinary boy from Mumbai conducting a research on chakra energy with the scientist Dr. Singh. Together they develop a technological suit that weaponizes all the Chakras in the body. Raju can fly, emit the energy beams and has superpowers. Using his superhuman abilities, he protects Mumbai from different scourges and dangerous villains.

Chakra The Invincible is one of the most successful Stan Lee’s original projects. The story turned into three animation films which were released in English and Hindi, series of comics, video games and toys.

Karakuridouji Ultimo

You would not expect the Stan Lee’s authorship behind the next story referring to Karakuridouji Ultimo. This character was created by Stan Lee and Hiroyuki Takei, a Japanese manga artist, best known as the creator of Shaman King.

Обложка первого тома манги "Механический мальчик Ultimo"
The cover of the first issue of  Karakuridouji Ultimo

This manga is about two robots, Ultimo and Vice, created in feudal Japan by Dr. Dunstan to be “perfect good” and “perfect evil”. Ultimo possesses the ability to transform into animal-like shapes, such as lions and cranes, and to manipulate time and space.

The pilot of Karakuridouji Ultimo was published in 2008, and it was positively met by the audience intrigued by a new shift in Stan Lee’s works.

Heroman

Another product of collaboration with Japanese manga artists is Heroman created by Stan Lee and Tamon Ohta.

A frame from Heroman. To the left – Joey, to the right – Heroman

Heroman, to be more precise, is actually two characters in one. On one hand, it is orphaned American boy Joey, from another — a robot Heroman which Joey fixed himself. Together they resist the alien attack caused by Joey’s school teacher.

Originally, Heroman was a broken toy that Joey repaired, but could not make work. However, a strange bolt of lightning brought Heroman to life, turned it into a giant robot, and gave Joey a special gauntlet. With its help, Joey could control Heroman.

For the first time Heroman was released as a manga in 2009 and has been publishing until 2012. Then, in 2010, the Bones studio produced an anime adaptation consisted of  26 episodes