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.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.
Universal's "Meet the Parents" continued to meet box office success, becoming the year's third film to place first for three consecutive weeks.
The PG-13-rated comedy was still laughing all the way to the bank in its third weekend with an estimated $16.32 million (-23%) at 2,619 theaters (+4 theaters; $6,230 per theater). Its cume is approximately $81.0 million, heading for a domestic theatrical gross of $130 million or more.
"Parents'" international release is through DreamWorks Pictures, which co-financed the film and will share equally in its success.
"Parents" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
"Being number one for the third week in a row is extraordinary," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "It's only been twice this year that that's happened. The last time was with 'Erin Brockovich' (also from Universal) and the time before was in February with 'The Whole Nine Yards' (from Warner Bros.). Two of the three are ours. Of course, we went through the entire summer without anything being number one for three weeks in a row."
"Brockovich" placed first the weekends of Mar. 17-19, Mar. 24-26 and Mar. 31 - April 2. "Yards" was number one the weekends of Feb. 18-21, Feb. 25-27 and Mar. 3-5.
Asked where "Parents" is heading in domestic theaters, Rocco replied, "I'm sure it will go to $130 million, at least."
The film is playing so well, she explained, because it's "a broad appeal comedy."
Directed by Jay Roach (director of both "Austin Powers" hits), "Parents" stars Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller.
Rocco also pointed with pleasure to Universal's critically-acclaimed, R-rated drama "Billy Elliot," the first title from the studio's new Universal Focus banner. "Billy" expanded gracefully in its second week and tied for 17th place with an estimated $0.5 million at 38 theaters (+28 theaters; $13,240 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
'Billy Elliot' is coming along nicely," Rocco said. "It's a very slow roll out. The new engagements looked spectacular. We had solid increases in the old engagements, where we didn't expand in the marketplace. So we're very happy and will continue to roll out.
"We did another set of exit polls this weekend. Once again, it was (very strong) with 96% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) and an 80% definite recommend, which only proves that last weekend's exit polls were very solid. The numbers are strong and they're well above average. People's top reason for coming to see it was the story and the reviews."
20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated comedy "Bedazzled" opened with better-than-anticipated energy to a sparkling estimated $13.72 million at 2,568 theaters ($5,344 per theater).
"We feel great about it," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning. "The whole market looks like it's come back pretty strong. 'Meet the Parents' won't go away. Even with another comedy coming in, it's real strong. The marketplace is terrific. We're very pleased."
What audience is it attracting? "It looks like everybody," Snyder replied, "because we've got kids coming Saturday afternoon, also. We're off to a good start."
Directed by Harold Ramis, "Bedazzled" stars Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley.
Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated drama "Pay It Forward" kicked off in fourth place with a very encouraging estimated $10.16 million at 2,130 theaters ($4,768 per theater).
"The exits are sensational," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "We had 91% in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good). We had 80% definite recommend, which is huge. So I think this movie is going to leg it out.
"We seemed to be hurt more than any more last night because of the World Series. We're playing to a much older audience (than other films in the Top Five). In New York, 'Titans' was up 23% (from Friday), 'Bedazzled' was up 7%, 'Parents' up 14%. We were up zero."
Asked if "Forward" will go wider this weekend, Fellman replied, "We're not going to spread. We're going to hang in and see how we hold the second week. Hopefully, the Yankees will finish (the Series) off quickly."
Directed by Mimi Leder, "Pay It Forward" stars Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated football drama "Remember the Titans" from producer Jerry Bruckheimer gave up two yards on the box office gridiron in its fourth weekend, still holding well in fourth place with an estimated $10.0 million (-23%) at 2,801 theaters (+75 theaters; $3,545 per theater). Its cume is approximately $77.4 million.
Directed by Boaz Yakin and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman, "Titans" stars Denzel Washington.
Dimension Films' R-rated action adventure "The Legend of Drunken Master" opened with less energy than insiders anticipated, placing fifth with an estimated $3.7 million at 1,342 theaters ($2,757 per theater).
Directed by Lau Ka Leung, it stars Jackie Chan.
DreamWorks' R-rated political thriller "The Contender" fell one ballot to sixth place in its second week with an okay estimated $3.6 million (-33%) at 1,571 theaters (+55 theaters; $2,274 per theater). Its cume is approximately $10.6 million.
Written and directed by Rod Lurie, "Contender" stars Gary Oldman, Joan Allen, Jeff Bridges and Christian Slater.
New Line's R-rated horror thriller "Lost Souls" plunged four pegs to seventh place in its second weekend with a calm estimated $3.25 million (-59%) at 1,970 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,650 per theater). Its cume is approximately $12.9 million.
Directed by Janusz Kaminski, "Souls" stars Winona Ryder and Ben Chaplin.
Warner Bros.' reissue of its R-rated 1973 horror classic "The Exorcist" dropped two notches to eighth place in its fifth week with a less scary $2.9 million (-45%) at 1,708 theaters (+53 theaters; $1,698 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.8 million, heading for $40 million or more in domestic theaters.
"Halloween's coming up and that should give us a push," Warners' Fellman reminded. "So we'll get into the $40 millions."
Directed by William Friedkin, "Exorcist" stars Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair and Max von Sydow.
Paramount's R-rated urban appeal comedy "The Ladies Man" slid five rungs to ninth place in its second week with an unloved estimated $2.85 million (-47%) at 2,043 theaters (+21 theaters; $1,395 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.7 million.
Directed by Reginald Hudlin, "Ladies" stars Tim Meadows, Karyn Parsons and Billy Dee Wiliams.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Artisan Entertainment's R-rated romantic comedy "Dr. T and the Women ," down three slots in its second week with an unexciting estimated $2.5 million (-50%) at 1,489 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,678 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.1 million.
Directed by Robert Altman, "Dr. T" stars Richard Gere, Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett, Laura Dern, Shelley Long, Tara Reid, Kate Hudson and Liv Tyler.
OTHER OPENINGS This weekend also saw the arrival of Keystone Entertainment's PG-rated family film "MVP: Most Valuable Primate," placing 22nd with a slow estimated $0.14 million at 185 theaters ($745 per theater).
Directed by Robert Vince, it stars Kevin Zegers and Jamie Renee Smith.
Miramax's R-rated suspense drama "The Yards" opened in New York, L.A. and Chicago, placing 26th with a short estimated $0.052 million at 8 theaters ($6,500 per theater).
Directed by James Gray, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Charlize Theron and James Caan.
Miramax's G-rated documentary "Calle 54" opened in New York for a one week Oscar qualifying run, placing 27th with a quiet estimated $8,000 at 1 theater.
Directed by Fernando Trueba, it stars Paquito D'Rivera and Tito Puente.
SNEAK PREVIEWS There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated comedy "Best in Show" went wider in its fourth week, placing 11th with a still-promising estimated $2.16 million (+1%) at 497 theatres (+206 theaters; $4,346 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.8 million.
Directed by Christopher Guest, "Best" stars Jennifer Coolidge, Christopher Guest and John Michael Higgins.
New Line's R-rated Spike Lee satire "Bamboozled" went wider in its third week, placing 18th with a calm estimated $0.43 million at 244 theaters (+227 theaters; $1,742 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
Written and directed by Spike Lee, "Bamboozled" stars Damon Wayans, Savion Glover and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Universal's R-rated drama "Billy Elliot," the first title from the studio's new Universal Focus banner, added theaters in its second week and tied for 16th place with a very encouraging estimated $0.5 million at 38 theaters (+28 theaters; $13,240 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.8 million.
(Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco's comments about "Billy" are included in today's Top Ten grosses report.)
Directed by Stephen Daldry, "Billy" stars Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Bell, Jamie Draven and Adam Cooper.
Fine Line's R-rated drama "Dancer in the Dark" went slightly wider in its fifth week, placing 19th with a dull estimated $0.33 million (-17%) at 126 theaters (+3 theaters; $2,595 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.8 million.
Written and directed by Lars Von Trier, "Dancer" stars Bjork and Catherine Deneuve.
Artisan Entertainment's controversial unrated drama "Requiem For A Dream" expanded in its third week, placing 25th with a still sexy estimated $0.087 million at 5 theaters (+3 theaters; $17,400 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by Darren Arnonofsky, "Requiem" stars Jared Leto and Ellen Burstyn.
"We just opened up our second market, L.A., and the numbers were tremendous," Artisan distribution head Steve Rothenberg said Sunday morning. "We got a great review in the L.A. Times. The (Laemmle) Sunset, alone, is going to do about $26,000, which for L.A. is a pretty darn good (gross).
"On Nov. 3 we go into the top 12 cities. We're in New York and L.A. now. Then we go into San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, Philly, D.C., etc."
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $76.48 million, up about 9.68% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $69.73 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down a marginal 0.65% from this year's previous weekend when key films grossed $76.98 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of "The Best Man" was first with $9.03 million at 1,346 theaters ($6,710 per theater); and Paramount's fifth week of "Double Jeopardy" was second with $7.62 million at 3,002 theaters ($2,539 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $16.6 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $30.0 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were:
Warner Bros. was first with four films ("Get Carter," "The Exorcist," "Pay It Forward" and "Best in Show"), grossing an estimated $16.3 million or 21.3% of the market.
Universal was second with two films ("Meet the Parents" and "Bring It On"), grossing an estimated $14.86 million or 19.4% of the market.
20th Century Fox was third with two films ("Bedazzled" and "Digimon: The Movie"), grossing an estimated $13.7 million or 19.1% of the market.
Buena Vista (Disney and Touchstone) was fourth with one film ("Remember the Titans"), grossing an estimated $10.0 million or 13.1% of the market.
DreamWorks was fifth with two films ("The Contender" and "Almost Famous"), grossing an estimated $4.93 million or 6.4% of the market.
Miramax (Miramax and Dimension) was sixth with one film ("The Legend of Drunken Master"), grossing an estimated $3.7 million or 4.8% of the market.
ADDITIONAL ESTIMATES (11)Best In Show/Warner Bros.: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(12)Almost Famous/DreamWorks: Theaters: 1,707 (-555) Gross: $1.33 million (-39%) Average per theater: $780 Cume: $28.8 million
(13)Get Carter/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 1,925 (-390) Gross: $1.09 million (-63%) Average per theater: $565 Cume: $13.9 million
(14)Bring It On/Universal: Theaters: 1,736 (-436) Gross: $1.04 million (-36%) Average per theater: $600 Cume: $66.2 million
(15)Digimon: The Movie/Fox: Theaters: 1,655 (-170) Gross: $0.87 million (-55%) Average per theater: $525 Cume: $8.5 million
(16)Billy Elliot/Universal Focus: (see EXPANSIONS above) (tie)
(16)Urban Legends: Final Cut/Columbia: Theaters: 1,081 (-1,140) Gross: $0.5 million (-58%) (tie) Average per theater: $465 Cume: $21.0 million
(18)Bamboozled/New Line: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(19)Dancer in the Dark/Fine Line: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(20)Nurse Betty/USA Films: Theaters: 516 (-502) Gross: $0.2 million (-59%) (tie) Average per theater: $390 Cume: $24.1 million
(20)Nutty Professor II: The Klumps/Universal: Theaters: 421 (-104) Gross: $0.20 million (-31%) (tie) Average per theater: $465 Cume: $122.1 million
(22)MVP: MOST VALUABLE PRIMATE/Keystone Ent.: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(23)The Watcher/Universal: Theaters: 351 (-520) Gross: $0.12 million (-70%) Average per theater: $330 Cume: $28.8 million
(24)Girlfight/Screen Gems/Sony: Theaters: 229 (-24) Gross: $0.11 million (-50%) Average per theater: $460 Cume: $1.4 million
(25)Requiem For A Dream/Artisan: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(26)THE YARDS/Miramax: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(27)CALLE 54/Miramax: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)