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.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association's 57th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night was dubbed "Hollywood's party of the year," and it certainly brought out some of Hollywood's biggest names. But a closer look under the show's "Holly-hood" reveals New York, like Hollywood, as big a star of the ceremony.
Yes, Hollywood pillars such as Jim Carrey, Tom Cruise, Jack Lemmon and Peter Fonda hugged statuettes for, respectively, "Man on the Moon," "Magnolia," "Inherit the Wind" and "Passion of Ayn Rand." And DreamWorks' "American Beauty" and Disney/Pixar's "Toy Story 2," both, cinematically speaking, very much American beauties, are most definitely brilliant Hollywood creations.
But, moving right along and Hollywood aside, New Yorkers couldn't get enough awards and recognition. Central Park West's Michael J. Fox, who sadly is leaving "Spin City" for health reasons, copped the Globe's best actor (comedy or musical) series. New York-based HBO (though creepily migrating West) swept the TV awards, thanks to movies such as "RKO 281" and "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" (Halle Berry got a Best Actress nod). And HBO's miniseries "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City," both shooting in New York, took a bundle of prizes, including those for performances by New Yorkers such as "The Sopranos'" James Gandolfini, Edie Falco and Nancy Marchand and "Sex and the City's" Sarah Jessica Parker of New York's West Village.
As for New York's Columbia University Film Division contingent that was "Golden Globing," we spotted director Ben Ross, recognized as director of "RKO 281"; Kimberly Peirce (director and co-scripter of "Boys Don't Cry," whose Hilary Swank took honors as best actress in a drama); writer/director James Mangold, whose "Girl, Interrupted" brought Angelina Jolie her best supporting actress award; and a beaming Milos Forman, Columbia's former film division chairman and director of "Man on the Moon," who was immediately thanked when its star and Golden Globe winner, Jim Carrey, jumped on stage to grab his best actor (comedy) award.
Among the many other New Yorkers spotted at tables were the French Film Office's evergreen Catherine Verret; Gotham's Sony Pictures Classics execs (thrilled that their "All About My Mother" took best foreign language film); Tribeca-based Talk magazine's Tina Brown; and New York producer John Hart ("Boys Don't Cry") who ambushed Hilary Swank for a kiss as she headed for the stage and her award for "Boys Don't Cry."
And who could miss New York filmmaker, writer and actor Gavin O'Connor, who grew up in Dix Hills in Long Island and now runs a Tribeca-based production company with his twin brother Greg. Gavin and bro hit it big at the Globes with Janet McTeer taking a best actress (comedy or musical) prize for "Tumbleweeds," which marked O'Connor's directorial, feature film screenwriting and acting debuts.
And when Gwyneth Paltrow ("The Talented Mr. Ripley"), having left the comfort of her home in New York's West Village, stepped up onto the Beverly Hilton's Golden Globe podium, the first thing out of her mouth and into the mic was "It's not the same without you, Harvey!" Harvey, of course, is Miramax Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein, who left Queens for Buffalo, N.Y., and has never gotten past Manhattan.
And let's take note that more of New York's once-feared Teamster drivers were thanked by winners than were moms, pops, spouses, even acting mentors. And a final New York coup had Brooklyn's Barbra Streisand -- that most New Yawky of New Yorkers in spite of her repatriation to the Left Coast -- the subject of the evening's long, elaborate and much-deserved tribute as recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contribution to the entertainment field. (In the interest of fairness, Hollywood can definitely lay claim to Cecil.)
IT'S LIKE, C'MON! It's not often this column can come to the rescue of both a Hollywood studio and a hit sitcom that are both in trouble, but when opportunity knocks this loudly, Buzz/Saw responds.
DreamWorks SKG is in a pickle. Steven Spielberg's", Jeffrey Katzenberg's and David Geffen's" studio, heading into TV's development season, is in desperate need of a hit. Their "Spin City" is in real danger of folding because Golden Globe winner Michael J. Fox recently announced that he is leaving the show. What's a hit sitcom to do when its star leaves? Duh ... find another star, of course, especially if he's already in your stable!
Which brings us (and maybe the geniuses at DreamWorks) to Chris Eigeman. One of film and TV's most achingly-charming-yet-not-quite-discovered comedic actors, Eigeman starred in the recently cancelled sit-com "It's Like, You Know," produced by (drumroll, please) DreamWorks!
So why not cast Eigeman in the Fox role? Like Fox, Eigeman has a real flair for comedy and has a very cute face with personality to match. He's just a few years younger than Fox and has already proved his high Q-rating in a number of critically acclaimed indie films, including three from now Paris-based director Whit Stillman -- "Metropolitan", "Barcelona" and "The Last Days of Disco."
We hear Chris is available for work and is a real fan of "Spin City." It's like, c'mon, you DreamWonks!