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.
NEW YANKED MAGAZINE? New York Magazine is a very popular read in Los Angeles, especially because so many homesick ex-New Yorkers have relocated to the Left Coast.
So it came as quite a blow when the native sons and daughters couldn't find their weekly Gotham fix — the Nov. 29 issue of New York Magazine -- on L.A. newsstands.
What makes it doubly annoying is the fact that the issue carried a highly unusual L.A.-centric article, a scathing profile by Nikki Finke of ex-CAA superagent, drug addict and Mike Ovitz protege Jay Moloney, whose recent suicide shocked the entertainment community.
Finke's allegations were stinging: Dubbing Moloney a "gangsta" agent, she also suggested that the former CAA "Young Turk" was a racketeer whose death may have been more karma than tragic. She recounted his rise in the Biz, thanks to mentor Ovitz, who had him do double duty as nanny and driver on the Ovitz homestead before moving Moloney into the CAA mailroom.
In no particular order, Moloney, alleged Finke, snitched on fellow workers as Ovitz's spy, spread vicious and harmful rumors about competitors, probably stole at least one screenplay idea from friends, lied to at least one major client (Sean Connery), used Ovitz's name to get perks (a lounge chair at the posh Hotel du Cap in Antibes, France) and flaunted his drug usage in hip clubs, etc.
Not completely certain that there was no hanky-panky involved in the curious absence of the Nov. 29 issue of New York Magazine in L.A., we made some calls. Alex, who manages the popular Santa Monica World News newsstand in West Hollywood, said that this was the first time that New York Magazine didn't show up. At Anderson News, New York Magazine's L.A. distributor Robin Dorn said that the issues arrived on time. But Nat Dortch, Anderson's assistant operations manager, said that the magazine went out late, that "something got messed up with the ground carrier" also known as the "break-up agent.'
Mike Gural, director of newsstand sales for the magazine, is investigating the matter. He said that, according to New York's production director, "everything went out fine and on schedule" from the printing plant in Illinois to Anderson News in L.A.
GIRLS, ERUPTED: How to explain the amazing number of strong female characters and even stronger female performances hitting screens this fall and winter. Already, even wise old King Solomon wouldn't be able to choose between Hilary Swank, star of Fox Searchlight's "Boys Don't Cry," and Janet McTeer, star of Fine Line Features' "Tumbleweeds," for the upcoming Best Actress Oscar award.
Even their co-stars are being touted for nominations: Chloe Sevigny for her role as Brandon Teena's girlfriend in "Boys Don't Cry" and the debuting Kimberly J. Brown as McTeer's daughter in "Tumbleweeds." And let's not forget the strong performances of Annette Bening and even Thora Birch and Mena Suvari in "American Beauty."
This week will find Julianne Moore, sporting a very acceptable British accent, as the hypotenuse of a love triangle in Columbia's period romance "The End of the Affair." On Dec. 17 and also speaking veddy British, Jodie Foster, as the eponymous Anna in 20th Century Fox's extravagant epic "Anna and the King," portrays an awfully upright English teacher to the royal family in 1860s Siam (now Thailand).
And there are already whispers of Oscar nominations for Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, co-stars in the psychological drama "Girl, Interrupted," which opens Dec. 21.
Two-time Oscar nominee Kate Winslet has won some boosters and Oscar whispers for "Holy Smoke!" and Gwyneth Paltrow, for the upcoming "The Talented Mr. Ripley," might turn out to be the actress to beat. You go, girls!
SUNDAY IN NEW YORK: It was unseasonably balmy Sunday in New York, with spring and more than a little love in the air. So maybe we should forgive writer/director/boulevardier James Toback, appropriately known for films such as "The Pick-Up Artist," for taking to the streets and doing what he does best.
On Sunday, moviedom's second most infamous womanizer (Warren Beatty retains the No. 1 position in an emeritus capacity) did some picking up on New York's tony Upper West Side hub at 72nd Street and Broadway, chatting up at least one surprised young woman and taking her to a nearby coffee shop in an effort to get her to commit to a date.
Of course, it wasn't just the springlike weather that drove Toback into pick-up mode. His conversation, aiming to get the woman to commit to a rendezvous, oftentimes returned to the word "testosterone." But the "girl, interrupted" turned down Toback, who sported casual clothes, topped off by a Yankees cap and enough beard for two St. Nicks (it's that testosterone, he told her).
Because of action and motives so brazen, it occurred to us that Toback, with appropriately titled films under his belt such as "Fingers," "Love and Money," "Two Girls and a Guy" and "The Big Bang" might also have been trolling for ink. On that front, we're happy to accommodate by also reminding that Toback's "Black and White," which Screen Gems will release in March, opens with what one journalist calls a "filthy" Central Park scene involving two high school girls and a hip-hop artist.
Meanwhile, Friday in New York, at a much more formal evening gathering on the much more formal Upper East Side, a group of TV news biggies, including Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, downed caviar and other delicacies with their drinks. The lavish food offerings were no doubt given careful scrutiny by restaurant guide mogul Tim Zagat, also in attendance.
BUZZ CUTS ...
Tragic and Lowdown: Two tremendously disparate events that happened Friday are nonetheless related. Woody Allen's latest film "Sweet and Lowdown," a mockumentary starring Sean Penn as a flawed 1930s jazz guitarist, opened nicely in three New York theaters. This and Allen's other recent films probably would not have been possible without the fortune generated by the Safra banking family. Allen's producing partner, Jean Doumanian, is the longtime companion of Jaqui Safra, nephew of Edmond Safra, the billionaire banker and scion of the financial dynasty. Last Friday, Edmond Safra died in a mysterious fire in his Monte Carlo penthouse, where two hooded men apparently were attempting a burglary ...
Sharon a New Formula: Don't ever say Sharon Stone doesn't know how to promote a movie. Talking to journalists about her upcoming HBO movie "If These Walls Could Talk 2," Stone, who co-stars with Ellen DeGeneres in a segment about a lesbian couple who become moms, says that she's never experienced greater on-screen chemistry with a co-star than she did with DeGeneres.
Hollywood was suffering from the box office blahs over the weekend, just as Hollywood insiders anticipated. For the first time since Oct. 22, no films cracked double-digits.
Miramax's PG-13-rated teen-appeal romantic comedy "Down To You" managed to top the chart with only an estimated $8.30 million at 1,971 theaters ($4,211 per theater).
Written and directed by Kris Isacsson, it stars Freddie Prinze Jr. and Julia Stiles.
"I think it's great," Miramax Senior Vice President, Marketing, David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "Freddie Prinze Jr. cannot deny the fact that he has a following. He really can do a great job of opening a picture.
"I think our (marketing) materials were good, and it just looked like a fun movie for its core audience of young girls. There hasn't been anything for them for a while.
"The PG-13 (helped). 'Girl, Interrupted' definitely has a female appeal, but with its R rating, it sort of gets limited a little (to older teen girls). With 'Down To You's' PG-13, it really opens up that lower end of the age range."
New Line's R-rated urban-appeal comedy sequel "Next Friday" was a close No. 2, sliding one slot in its second weekend with a still solid estimated $8.20 million (-43%) at 1,175 theaters (+72 theaters, $6,979 per theater). Its total is approximately $32 million.
Directed by Steve Carr, it was written by, stars and was produced by Ice Cube.
"I think we've got $45 million in the bag," New Line Executive Vice President, Distribution, David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "I would have been happy with (a drop of) 50%, so we're thrilled (with 43% off).
"It was a very inexpensive film. The negative cost was about $10 million -- very profitable for New Line."
Universal's critically acclaimed R-rated drama "The Hurricane" held on to third place as it continued to expand in its fourth week with an OK estimated $7.01 million (-22%) at 2,101 theaters (+647 theaters, $3,335 per theater). Its total is approximately $23.4 million.
Directed by Norman Jewison, it stars Denzel Washington as wrongly imprisoned boxing champion Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.
"Hurricane" received three Golden Globe nominations, including best picture, actor/drama (Washington) and director (Jewison). The film is also generating Oscar buzz in those categories.
"'Hurricane' still has its velocity," Universal Distribution President Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "In a very soft marketplace, it continues to show legs."
Noting that the film is a top contender for Golden Globes, Rocco said that is helpful because, "It's the visibility. You get a lot of television coverage on the Golden Globes nationally. So Golden Globes always helps. I think it will do well."
Columbia's PG-rated family comedy "Stuart Little" continued to hold well in its sixth weekend, down two pegs to fourth place with a less exciting estimated $6.50 million (-31%) at 3,151 theaters (+59 theaters, $2,063 per theater). Its total is approximately $117.2 million, heading for $140 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Rob Minkoff, it stars Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie and Jonathan Lipnicki.
"As usual, it's nothing but good news on 'Stuart,'" Sony Pictures Releasing President Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "It certainly seems to be rolling to at least $140 million."
Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's R-rated prison death-row drama "The Green Mile" held on to fifth place in its seventh week with a still respectable estimated $5.50 million (-29%) at 2,483 theaters (theater count unchanged, $2,219 per theater). Its total is approximately $109.7 million, heading for $130 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Frank Darabont, it stars Tom Hanks.
DreamWorks' PG-rated sci-fi fantasy comedy "Galaxy Quest" held on to sixth place in its fifth week with a less high-flying estimated $4.80 million (-29%) at 2,259 theaters (-191 theaters, $2,125 per theater). Its total is approximately $54.6 million, heading for $60 to $70 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Dean Parisot, it stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman. Columbia's R-rated drama "Girl, Interrupted" dropped three notches to seventh in its fifth week with a less attractive estimated $4.40 million (-46%) at 1,935 theaters (+33 theaters, $2,274 per theater). Its total is approximately $16.3 million. Directed by James Mangold, "Girl" stars Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie.
"A little bigger drop than we'd like on 'Girl, Interrupted,' but its younger female audience was probably affected by (the arrival of) 'Down To You,'" Sony Pictures Releasing's Blake said.
Paramount's R-rated drama "The Talented Mr. Ripley" dropped one rung to eighth place in its fifth week with a less lively estimated $3.88 million (-36%) at 2,215 theaters (-154 theaters, $1,750 per theater). Its total is approximately $68.4 million.
Written and directed by Anthony Minghella, it stars Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Cate Blanchett.
"Ripley" looms as a top candidate for Oscar nominations, having received five Golden Globe nominations -- best picture/drama, actor/drama (Damon), supporting actor (Law), director (Minghella) and score (Gabriel Yared).
"Awards will be a big factor," Paramount Distribution President Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "I figure it's going to get to around $80 million, but if it gets some awards, that could carry it on up there. Certainly, the Academy, if it comes in there, (would be a big help)."
Buena Vista/Touchstone's R-rated boxing-theme comedy-drama "Play it to the Bone" went wide quietly in its fifth week, placing ninth with an estimated $3.5 million at 1,556 theaters (+1,556 theaters, $2,249 per theater). Its total is approximately $3.5 million.
Written and directed by Ron Shelton, it stars Woody Harrelson and Antonio Banderas.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Paramount's R-rated drama "Angela's Ashes," which went wide in its fifth week with a subdued estimated $3.28 million at 610 theaters (+604 theaters, $5,369 per theater). Its total is approximately $3.7 million.
Directed by Alan Parker, "Ashes" stars Emily Watson and Robert Carlyle.
"We got hurt pretty bad by the weather, on Friday, particularly," Paramount's Lewellen pointed out, noting that while the numbers were disappointing, there is the potential of growth, especially if the film does well with Oscar nominations. He added that the snow and bitter cold weather that hit a number of East Coast markets this weekend tend to keep people home, "particularly the older audience, which this film appeals to."
Last weekend also saw the arrival of Miramax's PG-13-rated drama "Diamonds," placing 32nd with a low-carat estimated $0.019 million at 13 theaters in Kansas City ($1,727 per theater). Its total, including its Academy Award qualifying run in December, is approximately $.033 million.
Directed by John Asher, it stars Kirk Douglas, Dan Aykroyd, Jenny McCarthy and Lauren Bacall.
USA Films reissued its PG-rated suspense drama "Rear Window," the Alfred Hitchcock classic starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly. The 1954 film, restored by Robert Harris and James Katz, placed 33rd with an appreciative estimated $0.013 million at one theater in New York ($13,229 per theater).
Last weekend saw no national sneak previews.
On the expansion front, last weekend saw Columbia's R-rated drama "The End of the Affair" go wider in its eighth week, placing 17th with an unromantic estimated $1.55 million at 686 theaters (+594 theaters, $2,255 per theater). Its total is approximately $5 million.
Directed by Neil Jordan, it stars Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore.
"It's a little rough on all the expansi ns this year," Sony's Jeff Blake said Sunday. "It's such a crowded field, you're always bumping into something. It's hard to pick that perfect moment when to expand."
Focusing on the fact that Golden Globes and Oscars would be very helpful in driving "Affair," Blake noted, "Look, if we get a Golden Globe tonight, that would certainly be a plus."
Buena Vista/Touchstone's R-rated drama "Cradle Will Rock" expanded in its seventh week, placing 22nd with a calm estimated $0.60 million at 506 theaters (+450 theaters, $1,186 per theater). Its total is approximately $1.8 million.
USA Films' R-rated drama "Topsy-Turvy" went wider in its sixth week, placing 25th with a brisk estimated $0.34 million at 40 theaters ($8,545 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.5 million.
Written and directed by Mike Leigh, it stars Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner.
Warner Bros. and Alcon Entertainment's PG-rated family drama "My Dog Skip" added theaters in its second week, placing 30th with an OK estimated $0.12 million at 28 theaters (+23 theaters, $4,300 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.18 million.
Directed by Jay Russell, it stars Frankie Muniz, Diane Lane, Luke Wilson and Kevin Bacon.
Fox Searchlight Pictures' R-rated drama "Titus" went a little wider in its fifth week, placing 29th with an OK estimated $0.15 million at 17 theaters (+9 theaters, $8,500 per theater). Its total is approximately $0.5 million.
Directed by Julie Taymor, it stars Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend - took in approximately $78.95 million, down approximately 1.19% from $79.90 million for the comparable weekend last year. The total would have been $76.90 million and down 3.76% if it were not for Buena Vista/Disney's IMAX run of "Fantasia 2000," which placed 16th with an estimated $2.05 million at 54 theaters in the United States (theater count unchanged, $37,963 per theater). Its total is approximately $17.5 million worldwide.
Last weekend's key film gross for three days cannot be compared with the previous weekend, which was a four-day holiday weekend.
Last year, Paramount's second week of "Varsity Blues" was first with $10.57 million at 2,339 theaters and Universal's fifth weekend of "Patch Adams" was second with $8.10 million at 2,909 theaters. The top two films one year ago grossed $18.7 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $16.5 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were the following:
Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia, TriStar) was first with three films ("Stuart Little," "Girl, Interrupted" and "The End of the Affair") grossing an estimated $12.60 million or 16% of the market.
Buena Vista (Touchstone and Disney) was second with six films ("Play it to the Bone," "Toy Story 2," "Fantasia 2000," "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo," "Cradle Will Rock" and "Bicentennial Man") grossing an estimated $12.25 million or 15.5% of the market.
Miramax (Miramax, Dimension) was third with two films ("Down To You" and "The Cider House Rules") grossing an estimated $10.70 million or 13.6% of the market.
New Line was fourth with two films ("Next Friday" and "Magnolia") grossing an estimated $10.45 million or 13.2% of the market.
Universal was fifth with two films ("Snow Falling On Cedars" and "The Hurricane") grossing an estimated $8.48 million or 10.7% of the market.
Warner Bros. was sixth with two films ("The Green Mile" and "Any Given Sunday") grossing an estimated $8.04 million or 10.2% of the market.
(11) "Toy Story 2"/BV/Disney: Theaters: 1,990 (-336) Gross: $3 million (-39%) Average per theater: $1,508 Total: $231.3 million
(12) "Any Given Sunday"/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 2,201 (-304) Gross: $2.53 million (-47%) Average per theater: $1,149 Total: $70.3 million
(13) "Supernova"/MGM: Theaters: 2,280 (0) Gross: $2.40 million (-58%)(tie) Average per theater: $1,059 Total: $10.1 million
(13) "The Cider House Rules"/Miramax: Theaters: 823 (+6) Gross: $2.40 million (-15%) (tie) Average per theater: $2,916 Total: $15.7 million
(15) "Magnolia"/New Line: Theaters: 1,077 (+39) Gross: $2.25 million (-34%) Average per theater: $2,089 Total: $15.2 million
(16) "Fantasia 2000"/BV/Disney: Theaters: 54 (0) (all IMAX theatres and all in U.S.) Gross: $2.05 million (% decline N/A) Average per theater: $37,963 Total: $17.5 million (worldwide total)
(17) "The End of the Affair"/Sony Pictures (see EXPANSIONS above)
(18) "Bicentennial Man"/BV: Theaters: 1,607 (-609) Gross: $1.60 million (-53%) Average per theater: $996 Total: $54.4 million
(19) "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo"/BV: Theaters: 1,466 (-454) Gross: $1.50 million (-53%) Average per theater: $1,023 Total: $61 million
(20) "Snow Falling On Cedars"/Universal: Theaters: 1,098 (-57) Gross: $1.47 million (-44%) Average per theater: $1,340 Total: $10.5 million
(20) "Anna and the King"/Fox: Theaters: 945 (-560) Gross: $0.90 million (-57%) Average per theater: $950 Total: $35.9 million
(21) "The World Is Not Enough"/MGM: Theaters: 889 (0) Gross: $0.64 million (-39%) Average per theater: $720 Total: $123.5 million
(22) "Cradle Will Rock"/BV: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(23) "Sleepy Hollow"/Paramount: Theaters: 758 (-134) Gross: $0.55 million (-30%) Average per theater: $726 Total: $96.7 million
(24) "Man On the Moon"/Universal: Theaters: 592 (-628) Gross: $0.44 million (-65%) Average per theater: $745 Total: $33.3 million
(25) "Topsy-Turvy"/USA Films: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(26) "Being John Malkovich"/USA Films: Theaters: 190 (-28) Gross: $0.32 million (-27%) Average per theater: $1,680 Total: $20.2 million
(27) "End of Days"/Universal: Theaters: 334 (-112) Gross: $0.23 million (-34%) Average per theater: $675 Total: $65.5 million
(28) "The Bone Collector"/Universal: Theaters: 341 (-43) Gross: $0.20 million (-35%) Average per theater: $575 Total: $65.1 million
(29) "Titus"/Fox Searchlight: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(30) "My Dog Skip"/Warner Bros. (see EXPANSIONS above)
(31) "The Best Man"/Universal: Theaters: 151 (+7) Gross: $0.076 million (-35%) Average per theater: $500 Total: $34.1 million
(32) "Diamonds"/Miramax: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(33) "Rear Window"/USA: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)