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.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Moviegoers fell in love with "Heartbreakers" this weekend, giving MGM its second straight first place opening this year.
The PG-13-rated romantic comedy from MGM and Davis Entertainment captured the top spot with a frisky estimated $12.3 million at 2,750 theaters ($4,468 per theater).
Directed by David Mirkin, "Heartbreakers" stars Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Gene Hackman.
"Two in a row," MGM worldwide distribution president Larry Gleason said Sunday morning, referring to the studio's Number One openings for "Hannibal" in February and now "Heartbreakers." "The last time (MGM had two consecutive first place openings) was 1995 with 'Get Shorty' and 'GoldenEye,' which were back to back pictures. The Lion is back again!
"This is right where we wanted ('Heartbreakers') to be. We're happy for it. The plan that we had of aggressively screening this picture (with sneak previews two consecutive Saturday nights) and showing that it was fun also helped us get an audience that's a little bit younger. Jennifer Love Hewitt was a key to that. The fact that we have her in this movie has enabled us to get more young people in."
Looking at the film's audience composition, Gleason noted it was, "60-40 female-male. It got a 68% definite
recommend against a norm of 50% and that's great. It was pretty evenly older women-younger women, males were a
little bit lighter. The Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good) are 83%. It bodes well for the future."
Sony's Screen Gems division opened its R-rated urban appeal comedy "The Brothers" in second place with a
muscular estimated $10.7 million at 1,378 theaters ($7,765 per theater).
"Brothers" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
Written and directed by Gary Hardwick, "Brothers" stars Morris Chestnut, D.L. Hughley, Bill Bellamy and Shemar Moore.
"This is a very focused release with half the prints of the other top pictures this week and has an incredibly strong screen average," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "It has an A CinemaScore, which really makes you believe that those 1,378 runs are going to be playing for a long time."
"Brothers" should be nicely profitable for Sony. "It's a $6 million negative," Blake said. "We always had our eye on Universal's release of 'Best Man,' which was similar certainly (in being an) African-American romantic comedy. They opened Oct. 22, 1999, in 1,346 screens to $9,031,660 and did $34.1 million. So we always have had our eye on that one, and the fact that we've beat it pretty significantly really gives us hope that this is definitely a picture we can get into the mid-$30 millions or $40 millions. At a $6 million cost, that's a terrific piece of business."
Sony's Screen Gems label, he said, "is really on a bit of a roll here after 'Snatch.' Their next release is (the horror genre drama) 'The Foresaken' on April 27 (directed by J.S. Cardone and starring Kerr Smith and Brendan Fehr), and then they have 'John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars' (directed by Carpenter and starring Ice Cube, Jason Statham and Natasha Henstridge) this summer. It's a very wonderful, focused marketing job by the Screen Gems group. You can give the credit to Valerie Van Galder, who's the head of marketing, and Clint Culpepper, who's the head of production. They really teamed up for a good one here."
Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures' R-rated action drama "Exit Wounds" slid two pegs to third place in its second week with a less-penetrating estimated $9.23 million (-50%) at 2,830 theaters (theater count unchanged; $3,260 per theater). Its cume is approximately $32.6 million.
Directed by Andrez Bartkowiak, "Exit" was produced by Joel Silver and Dan Cracchiolo. It stars Steven Seagal and DMX and was executive produced by Bruce Berman.
Paramount's R-rated World War II drama "Enemy at the Gates" from Mandalay Pictures added theaters in its second week but still fell two rungs to fourth place with a quieter estimated $8.4 million (-39%) at 1,677 theaters (+168 theaters; $5,009 per theater). Its cume is approximately $26.2 million.
Produced and directed by Jean-Jacques Annuad, "Enemy" stars Joseph Fiennes, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins and Ed Harris.
"I was a little disappointed in the Friday figure, but Saturday came back real strong. We were down 29% on
Saturday, and I'm figuring about 40% today (Sunday) because the Academy Awards will impact us a little more than it will some of the other films, (because 'Enemy' is) more adult and a little more upscale," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning.
Sony Pictures Classics' Oscar-contending, PG-13-rated action adventure "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" rose one peg to fifth place in its 16th week, still basking in the glow of its 10 Oscar nominations with an estimated $4.65 million (+15%) at 2,027 theaters (+167 theaters; $2,295 per theater). Its cume is approximately $106.3 million.
"Tiger's" nominations include Best Picture, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Director. Director Ang Lee won the Directors Guild of America's award and is favored to win the Best Director Oscar.
Directed by Ang Lee, "Dragon" stars Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun-Fat.
Asked where "Tiger" goes from here, Sony Pictures Classics sales vice president Tom Prassis said Sunday morning, "We'll know tonight. I have a goal in mind if it wins, but I'm not going to tell you what that is. It's a significant number."
Have the nominations been a big help to "Tiger" at the box office? "They have," Prassis replied, "but I think the film has really done it on its own, as well. I'm not sure if it would have done $100 million (without its Oscar attention). But there are people who are going to see it over and over again. A lot of them are kids, and those aren't the people who pay attention to the Academy Awards. Right now we're reaching the people of my generation, who do follow the awards, I think more than before. That's who we're going after now. There's a lot of them."
DreamWorks' R-rated drama "The Mexican" skidded three notches to sixth place in its fourth week with a dull estimated $4.3 million (-46%) at 3,043 theaters (-119 theaters; $1,419 per theater). Its cume is approximately $57.7 million.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, "Mexican" stars Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
USA Films' R-rated, Oscar-contending drama "Traffic" rose three pegs to seventh place in its 13th week, still making the most of the Oscar nominations spotlight with an estimated $3.9 million (+14%) at 1,684 theaters (+2 theaters; $2,320 per theater). Its cume is approximately $107.6 million, heading for about $120 million if it does not win Best Picture and about $140 million if it does.
"Traffic" is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, "Traffic" stars Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Miramax's PG-13-rated, Oscar-contending romantic comedy drama "Chocolat," which was ninth last week, tied for eighth place in its 15th week, still holding very well on the eve of the Oscars with an estimated $3.3 million (-4%) at 1,781 theaters (-120 theaters; $1,852 per theater). Its cume is approximately $60.6 million.
"Chocolat" is nominated for five Oscars, including Best Picture.
"It'll probably work its way to just about $70 million," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow
said Sunday morning of the film, which only cost around $15 million. "This is definitely a profitable situation."
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, "Chocolat" stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin and Johnny Depp.
Warner Bros.' G-rated family appeal comedy "See Spot Run" from Village Roadshow Pictures, which was fourth last week, tied for eighth place in its fourth week with a slower estimated $3.3 million (-33%) at 2,605 theaters (-51 theaters; $1,282 per theater). Its cume is approximately $29.2 million, heading for $40 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by John Whitesel, "Run" stars David Arquette.
Rounding out the Top Ten was 20th Century Fox's opening of "Say It Isn't So" with a disappointing estimated $3.1 million at 1,973 theaters ($1,572 per theater).
Directed by J.B. Rogers, "Say" stars Heather Graham and Chris Klein.
There were no other noteworthy openings this weekend.
20th Century Fox held 189 sneak previews Saturday night of Fox 2000's PG-13-rated comedy "Someone Like You." The film opens March 30 at about 2,000 theaters.
"The reports I've gotten back are fabulous," Fox domestic distribution president Bruce Snyder said early
Sunday morning as he was starting to get details about the sneaks. "All the reports so far are sell-outs. I haven't
gotten all of them in, but they're very encouraging, very pleasing. It played wonderfully. It's a date night movie."
Directed by Tony Goldwyn, "Someone Like You" stars Ashley Judd, Greg Kinnear and Hugh Jackman.
On the expansion front, this weekend saw Sony Pictures Classics go wider with its R-rated drama "Pollock" in its seventh week, grossing a still colorful estimated $0.85 million (+13%) at 271 theaters (+42 theaters; $3,119 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.9 million.
"Pollock" received Oscar
nominations for Best Actor (Ed Harris)
and Best Supporting Actress (Marcia Gay Harden).
Directed by Ed Harris, "Pollock"
stars Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden.
"Very respectable. In an ordinary year, this would be a big film (for the company)," Sony Pictures Classics sales vice president Tom Prassis said Sunday morning, after discussing the blockbuster success of "Crouching Tiger."
Newmarket's R-rated film noir thriller "Memento" added a theater in its second week and continued to look very promising with an estimated $0.24 million (even) at 12 theaters (+1 theater; $19,627 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.6 million.
Directed by Christopher Nolan, it stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano.
USA Films' R-rated reality TV satire "Series 7" added a theater in its fourth week with a slow estimated $0.026 million (-28%) at 11 theaters (+1 theater; $2,320 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.15 million.
Written and directed by Daniel Minahan, "Series" stars Brooke Smith, Glenn Fitzgerald, Mary Louise Burke, Richard Venture, Michael Kaycheck and Merrit Wever.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $76.40 million, down about 3.98% from
the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $79.57 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 2.48% from last weekend this year when key films did $78.34 million.
Last year, Universal's second week of "Erin Brockovich" was first with $18.55 million at 2,851 theaters ($6,505 per theater); and Warner Bros.' opening week of "Romeo Must Die" was second with $18.01 million at 2,641 theaters ($6,821 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $36.5 illion. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $23.0 million.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., April 21, 2000 – Today's your day, Captain Sulu! Hundreds, maybe even thousands of costumed "Star Trek" aficionados plan to demonstrate outside Paramount Studios in Hollywood today, and at TV stations across the U.S. and Canada, to drum up support for a new TV series fronted by old-school Trekker (and perennial fan favorite) George "Sulu" Takei.
You see, "Star Trek" is going to hell in a hand basket – many fans think the current series, "Star Trek: Voyager," has veered too far from the ideals espoused by creator Gene Roddenberry. And "Voyager" is slated to end after the 2001 season, anyway.
Members of the Excelsior Campaign want the next "Trek" show to pick up where the feature film "Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country" left off. In that one, Takei piloted his own starship, the Excelsior.
Takei, of course, isn't complaining about all the attention. Earlier this month he stood in solidarity with the Excelsior Campaign's creator at a "Star Trek" convention in California, and on his web site (www.georgetakei.com), the actor notes that the groundswell of support for a Sulu series was "like a revival meeting … impressive, flattering and humbling."
If it all comes true, the show would also be one of the best gigs George has had in a long time (right now, he's working on "Overload," a low-budget sci-fi movie directed by Tony "Leave It To Beaver" Dow and featuring Bill "Lost In Space" Mumy.
Paramount officials haven't reacted to the Sulu campaign, but rumors have circulated recently among parties supposedly in-the-know that the studio has already green-lighted a fifth "Trek" series, to be called "Star Trek: Birth of the Federation." The word is that this series would pre-date the original "Trek" series and tell its origins, similar to the current skein of "Star Wars" prequels.
BEAM ME UP SOME VIAGRA, SCOTTY: In other "Star Trek" news, James Doohan became a father for the third time this week. He's 80. His wife is 43. Way to go.
SPIDEY SURVEY: While all the mainstream rumor-meisters were concerned this week with who'll play Anakin Skywalker in the next "Star Wars" installment, the folks over at Ain't It Cool (www.aint-it-cool-news.com) were tracking movement on the "Spider-Man" front. According to AICN's insiders (who are right more often than they're wrong), Australian actor Heath Ledger is Sony and director Sam Raimi's No. 1 candidate to play Peter Parker, the nerdy teen who inherits the ability to walk on walls and swing from a thread via a radioactive spider bite.
Here's the interesting part: This week, the Sci-Fi Channel's website (scifi.com) conducted a public opinion poll, asking readers which of six actors, all of whom are speculated to be "Spider-Man" candidates, is right for the role. As of Friday afternoon, with 800 votes tallied, Heath Ledger wasn't exactly the top choice. The results were: Ewan McGregor, 55 percent; Wes Bentley, 15 percent; Tobey Maguire, 11 percent; Chris Klein, eight percent; Ledger, five percent; and Leonardo DiCaprio, four percent.
SOMETHING WE'D REALLY LIKE TO SEE: With the soon-to-be-released "X-Men" movie, and the forthcoming "Spider-Man," Marvel super-heroes are no longer viewed askance by Hollywood. So it's little surprise to hear, via Coming Attractions (www.corona.bc.ca) that Fox may be getting ready to shift their long-in-development-hell "Fantastic Four" movie into gear. The website says Fox ahs hired "X-Men" producer Ralph Winter and that there is "sudden movement" behind closed doors on this one at the studio.