David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
There are a lot of perks that come along with being a famous Hollywood celebrity. Fame and fortune are just the tip of the privileged iceberg. Stars also get to travel all over the world, collect a massive pile of unneeded swag, and become enormously popular — sometimes a little too popular. Like, so popular, they drive fans to do crazy things. (Like photoshopping ASkars into your Christmas card picture each year. No? That's just me?) A little obsession might be harmless, but when does your fandom turn into, well, Kathy Bates in Misery-dom?
To help keep your star-struck actions in check, we've created a celebrity fan meter ranking devotees from one (healthily obsessed) to 10 (quick: call the asylum!). See where you fall into the mix below!
1. The Polite Video Fan
Most people only ever dream of asking their favorite celebrity out on a date, but in July 2011, Sgt. Scott Moore made the dream come true when he posted a video on YouTube asking Mila Kunis to join him at the Marine Corps Ball in North Carolina later that year. And after some coaxing from her Friends With Benefits costar, Justin Timberlake, Kunis said yes. Granted, this started a massive trend in which anyone who ever owned a video camera was asking Hollywood stars out on dates. Overall, however, the proposals were seen as harmless and sweet, if a bit (after awhile) unoriginal. If you fall into this category, congratulations: Your obsession is completely under control.
2. The Funny Fan
At PaleyFest 2011, True Blood star Stephen Moyer admitted to experiencing some pretty humorous fan interactions. “Men will ask me to leave a voicemail for their wives as Bill [his character] because they say it will get them so laid," Moyer recalled. "Sometimes I will do it.” It's definitely an odd (but understandable?) request, but completely in the realm of sanity. If you would prefer Moyer bite you, jump to No. 6.
3. The A-Picture-Speaks-a-Thousand-Words Fan
Not everyone can find the words to express their love and devotion to their favorite Hollywood star, so some prefer to show it by getting enormous tattoos done in their honor. One person went so far as to ink Britney Spears entire face on his back, along with some lyrics to her song "Circus." Over excessive: Yes. Dangerous: No. Everyone is entitled to do whatever they want to their body as long as it isn't affecting others. What you lose in dignity you make up for in cool party tricks.
4. The Stripper Fan
The Jonas Brothers and stripping go together about as well as... wait, did I break any laws putting "Jonas Brothers" and "stripping" in the same sentence? Anyway, the trio had to confront an overzealous fan in 2009, when a man rushed the stage at a concert. The boy trio were performing in Madrid when the man jumped on the stage, took off his shirt, and ran circles around the band. The best part of the whole thing, though, was the fact that neither Joe, Kevin, nor Nick paid any attention to it. They just kept on playing like nothing was happening. It's not exactly the best impression you could ever make given that you could potentially disrupt an otherwise enjoyable concert, but rushing the stage is not an unheard of action. This guy just chose to do it Woodstock-style.
5. The Peetaphiles Fan
Now that The Hunger Games has become everyone's new favorite franchise, fans are getting more and more obsessed with the stars of the movies, a fact that Josh Hutcherson has just recently becoming aware of. On Conan, the actor recently described all the creative signs fans have made him since THG whirlwind took off, calling themselves "Peetaphiles." They've even started combining the names Peeta and Katniss together, forming the combo nickname: Peeniss. (Again, did I just break a law?) Yes, the names are filled with underlying sexual references, but you still haven't reached full-out crazy... yet.
6. The Vampire Lover Fan
The vampire craze really hit its stride a few years back when Twilight, True Blood, and The Vampire Diaries made their fangy debuts. But some fans have trouble differentiating fantasy from reality -- many have asked the vampire actors to bite them. Just ask Paul Wesley, who plays Stefan Salvatore in TVD. "I can't tell you how many pictures I've taken of me biting people on the neck," Wesley shared with New York magazine. But he's not all the surprised. "People that ask me to bite them don’t quite exactly fit the category of normal to begin with." You hear that, ladies? You're hovering over the crazy line now.
7. The Delusional Fan
Here's where things start to get out of control. True Blood star Joe Manganiello shared a story at PaleyFest 2011 in which a fan once asked him at ComicCon to lick her wounds. Well, why not? After all, werewolf saliva can supposedly heal injuries. Wait, the fact that I know that means I might be a No. 7. Oh no!
8. The Girls Gone Wild Fan
Speaking of werewolves, Twilight star Taylor Lautner told Parade.com that a mob of 2,000 girls broke through the hotel lobby in Brazil and tried to reach him in his room. It got so bad that the National Guard was called to help take care of the situation. Hint: when you have to be restrained by professionally trained military enforcement, then you know you've gone too far.
9. The Hit and Trample Fan
TwiHards, as a whole, can be a pretty crazy bunch, but a particular group of girl fans made the hall of fame (shame?) in the summer of 2009 when they chased Robert Pattinson across the street... causing him to be hit by a car. Granted, it was more like a graze, but despite what the Twilight movies want you to believe, RPatz is not indestructible. Proceed with caution, and don't do anything to ruin that face!
10. The Intent-To-Kill Fan
When word got out that Selena Gomez was dating well-known teen heartthrob Justin Bieber, several of the pop singer's fans started sending a series of death threats in the poor girl's direction, taking Bieber Fever to a new (and completely wrong) level. Sure, it's totally understandable to be sad when your celeb crush starts crushing on someone who isn't you (oh my god how could he not love me did he see my shrine?!), but just remember to dial it back a bit. Former Disney stars need love too.
More:Josh Hutcherson: Astonished By His 'Peetaphile' FansJustin Bieber Fans Threaten Selena GomezEmma Stone, Jennifer Aniston, and Taylor Swift Also Invited to Marine Corps Balls
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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