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.
Cartoonist Charles M. Schulz created the loveable cast, comprised of Brown, his sister Sally, their pet dog Snoopy, and friends Linus, Lucy, Franklin, and Peppermint Patty, in 1950.
He continued chronicling their adventures until he died in 2000, creating many popular TV specials, including the holiday classic A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Now the Peanuts gang is set to get the movie star treatment by bosses at 20th Century Fox, with Schulz's son Craig and grandson Bryan signing on to produce.
The as-yet untitled project will be directed by Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who! filmmaker Steve Marino and released in U.S. theatres in November, 2015 - 65 years after the first Peanuts strip was published, according to the Associated Press.
It may have taken the blood, if not lives, of two of the show's favorite characters to achieve, but "ER" managed to again win the top ratings spot last week, beating back ABC's cash-soaked "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire."
With the popular characters portrayed by Noah Wyle and Kellie Martin on life support -- and viewers left betting who'll flatline (hint: Martin says she's leaving the show) -- "ER" pulled a 20.9 rating, good for the No. 1. (Each rating point equals a little more than 1 million TV homes.)
That's the good news for the NBC drama.
The bad news is that the network may have to mug and maim the entire cast, or at least have Regis Philbin wheeled into the emergency room, to continue to fend off ABC's greed-fueled beast.
"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" continued to look a lot like the Ed Sullivan-era Beatles on the Billboard charts, in a word: dominating.
Proving once and for all that money is indeed more seductive and addictive than, say, black tar heroin, ABC's green-dream machine was firmly parked in three of the four top rating slots. The Feb. 8 edition clocked in with a 19.2 rating; last Sunday's, with a 17.8; and, last Thursday's, with a 17.7.
Overall, ABC won the week, followed by NBC, CBS, Fox, UPN and the WB.
If the threat of death kept "ER" at the top of the ratings hill, the real-life demise of Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz helped nudge CBS' "60 Minutes" into the Top 10 after the classic newsmag ran a previously aired segment on Schulz. A quick recycle of the life and art of the man who brought us Snoopy -- less than 24 hours after he died -- was enough to carry Mike Wallace & Co. to the sixth-highest rated show last week with a 14.9 rating.
NBC's happy-go-lucky "Friends" actually fared better than "60 Minutes" (maybe they were all wearing their Peanuts jammies during a sleepover), taking a 15.4 rating, which was enough to put it over both NBC's "Frasier" and ABC's smart legal drama "The Practice."
In other ratings:
Not Enough Pot to Make it Funny: Fox's "That '70s Show" remained mired in the 70s -- as in 71st place -- drawing a relatively ungroovy 6.0 rating. A second installment pulled the same. Bad vibes? Anything but. The mellow network suits have renewed this thing through (rough estimate) the 24th century.
Say A Little Prayer: CBS is undoubtedly hoping its much-touted "City of Angels" (No. 64) will get touched by an angel before the Grim Reaper pays a visit, as the medical drama tanked again with an anemic 6.4 rating.
Sex, Drugs & Video Tape: The Funniest, Sexiest, Naughtiest, Caught-on-Tape, Real Video Network, sometimes known as Fox, saw its stable of "Did you see that!?" programs hover at the lower end of the ratings spectrum, with "The World's Wildest Police Videos" (No. 77), "TV Guide Sitcom Scandal 3" (No. 78), "World's Sexiest Commercials" (No. 81) and even the groundbreaking (or maybe that's ground-opening) "Cops" (No. 82) charting no higher than a 5.7 rating.
Here's a complete rundown of the Top 10 for the TV week Feb. 7-13, according to stats from Nielsen Media Research:
1. "ER," NBC 2. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Tues.), ABC 3. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Sun.), ABC 4. "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Thurs.), ABC 5. "Friends," NBC 6. "60 Minutes," CBS 7. "Frasier," NBC 8. "CBS Sunday Movie: Sally Hemings -- American Scandal," CBS 9. "ABC Monday Night Movie: Mary and Rhoda," ABC 10. "The Practice," ABC