Solyaris Visual Movie Browser for iPad Puts Hollywood Connections at your Fingertips– iPad App Review

Thanks to Solyaris, by developer Beat Raess, film buffs have a new tool to explore the interrelationships between actors, directors, and the movies they create.

This iPad-only app borrows the distinctive UI from Jammboxx’s Discovr Music (PadGadget = 4.5 stars) and Discovr Apps (PadGadget = 3.5 stars) and applies it to the history of film making. Solyaris likely takes its name from a ’70s Russian Sci-Fi flick that was remade starring George Clooney in 2002. Notably, the app confirms that the two films have no common cast members, but both movies credit Polish writer Stanislaw Lem as the author whose work inspired the films.

Solyaris allows the user to explore connections between films and the actors who appear in them. However, the screen quickly became crowded when I typed in a film with a large cast such as Waiting for Guffman. It is possible to pull out individual actors from the movie node, but it was difficult to get the correct one. I was trying to open Parker Posey’s information and accidentally opened Larry Miller. When I was trying to tap to close Larry Miller’s node I opened The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.

Unlike the Discovr series of apps, lacks the ability to fine tune the display through gesture control. For example, tap-to-zoom is not enabled. Individual nodes can be dragged into an open area of the screen before they are tapped and expanded to minimize the amount of overlapping text that is on the screen. To clear the screen, simply tap the “X” in the upper-right corner.

Solyaris adds the name of the character the actor played in the movie, or off-screen roll for writers and directors, to the thread that connects the actor’s node to the movie’s node.

The app also links users to background information about actors and films via IMDb and Wikipedia from within the site. This information can be viewed as a small pop-up window or in full screen mode. Users can also tap to find a movie on Amazon, iTunes, or to open links in TMDb, IMDB, and Wikipedia in Safari.

The search function works quite well. Typing in a general term such as “Cleopatra” yielded 9 different results, sorted by year. It was easy to find the 1963 classic starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Solaryis also makes it clear that the storied Hollywood couple appeared in numerous films together, unfortunately it’s difficult to see exactly which ones. When I gently teased some of the nodes away from Taylor’s name the thread linking the movie to her disappeared, although when I pressed the node and held it, a pop-up appeared with the role (i.e. “Elizabeth Taylor is Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?”).

Download Solyaris from the App Store for $1.99.

What I liked: Solyaris runs smoothly, and functions in both landscape and portrait orientations. The app offers users a different way to view how actors, directors, and movies are interconnected. It was fun to open a node and see a forgotten, but loved, movie appear.

What I didn’t like: If Solyaris’ execution was as elegant as its concept, the app would be nearly perfect. However, the UI soon became so cluttered that it interfered with the my ability to use the app.

To buy or not to buy: Film lovers may want to bear with the cluttered screen and imprecise controls in order to take advantage of the app’s unique search style. Potential users should also note that the app is still in beta, so perhaps the developer will address some of Solyara’s shortcomings in a future update.

About Emily: Emily is a freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. You can contact her via Twitter: @whatwentwrite

  • vodtoday

    Cool way of presenting information about actors directors etc. :) nice!