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.
Even though the man who has allegedly been stalking her since September is out of the country, pop princess Britney Spears but is asking for a restraining order to keep him at least 1,000 yards away, City News Service reports. Masahiko Shizawa of Yokohama, Japan, was forced to return to his homeland after his visa expired but has been stopped twice while attempting to return to the United States. According to court papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Shizawa has made "numerous attempts to contact" Spears at her Los Angeles home and has sent her photos of himself with a note reading, "I'm chasing you." The 21-year-old pop star also complains that Shizawa sent her "love notes" and followed her to the homes of her parents and to a home that the singer owns outside California. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge is expected to rule today on Spears' request for a "stay-away" order.
Lee Majors, who played astronaut and test pilot Steve Austin in the 1970s TV series The Six Million Dollar Man, is suing Universal Television Group, claiming he was short-changed on profits from the show. According to the suit, Universal agreed to pay Majors 15 percent of net profits earned from the series and its post-network syndication, money the actor claims he has never received. The suit seeks a full audit of Universal's books and financial records relating to the show dating back to its inception and payment of unspecified sums found to be owed him, Reuters reports.
Talk show host Jerry Springer is considering running for the U.S. Senate next year, The Associated Press reports. Springer, a Democrat, said he'll decide by summer whether to challenge Ohio Sen. George Voinovich, a Republican who has said he'll run for a second term in 2004. Springer does admit his nationally syndicated Jerry Springer Show could work against him. "The plus is that I'm known by everybody. The minus is that I'm known by everybody," he said.
Las Vegas police have dropped a rape charge against Rene Angelil, the manager-husband of singer Celine Dion, due to lack of evidence, the Canadian Press Association reports. Yun Kyeong Sung Kwon, 47, claimed that Angelil raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room in March 2000--a charge that Angelil has consistently denied. Kwon has now been charged with trying to extort $13.5 million from Angelil, 61, and Dion, 34.
Zach Galligan, who starred as Billy Peltzer in the 1984 fantasy pic Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor theft after stealing a CD from a Tower Records store on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. A security guard told detectives he saw Galligan conceal a $12.99 Deep Purple CD in his trousers before walking out. Galligan, who was taken to the West Hollywood sheriff's station and released early yesterday, reportedly had enough cash on him to have paid for the CD, City News Services reports.
Director David Fincher has committed to shoot The Lords of Dogtown for Sony Pictures, a film about the surf and skate culture that took root in Venice in the 1970s. According to Variety, the film was originally set up at New Line, where it was to be the directorial debut of Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. Fincher had been on board only as a producer. Last year, Stacy Peralta's Dogtown and Z-Boys, a documentary about the Dogtown teenagers who began skateboarding in empty swimming pools around Los Angeles, became an underground hit for Sony Pictures Classics.
Wednesday's second episode of Fox's musical reality show American Idol held onto about 95 percent of its premiere-night audience, Variety reports. According to Nielsen, Wednesday's 90-minute episode of American Idol averaged 24.91 million viewers overall--Fox's best-ever showing (excluding sports) in the Wednesday 8:30-10 p.m. time slot. ABC's The Bachelorette, meanwhile, fell to a season low with 13.39 million overall viewers.
Ratings for MTV's The Osbournes have been dropping off in its second season, from a high of 6.6 million viewers for its Nov. 26 premiere to 3.5 million on Jan. 14, the AP reports. The first season started slow and built into a phenomenon while the second season started fast and faded. But Brian Graden, chief programming executive at MTV, said he's not worried about the numbers. The show's tone is different this second season, depicting the family coping with sudden fame as well as Sharon's bout with cancer.
Actor Kevin Spacey and singer Elton John will perform a duet together at a Feb. 5 London fundraiser, the AP reports. John is chairman of the Old Vic Theater Trust, which bought the 185-year-old theater in 1998 when it was in danger of closing. Spacey, who starred in Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh at the Old Vic in 1998, is a board member of the trust. The benefit will also feature Sinead O'Connor, Diana Krall and her new partner, Elvis Costello, who will all perform hits by John.