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.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The much touted New York premiere of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones will close the Tribeca Film Festival in lower Manhattan on May 12. According to Variety, Star Wars writer and director George Lucas has teamed up with the Tribeca Film Festival and the Children's Aid Society to co-host the New York premiere of the film, which open in theaters May 16. There will be a morning screening for children and families affected by Sept. 11, another for youngsters from the Children's Aid Society and a third in the afternoon to benefit the Children's Aid Society. Tickets for the afternoon screening are $500 each. Lucas told Variety, "As a father and filmmaker, it's my pleasure to offer the film in support of the children of New York City." Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones will also premiere May 12 in 10 other cities in the United States and Canada.
Five days after giving birth by caesarian in London's private Portland hospital, new mom Elizabeth Hurley has reportedly started playing house with friend Elton John. Hurley, 36, is said to be staying at the singer's 37-acre house in Old Windsor while she recovers. Sky News also reports that Hurley has asked John to be the baby Damian's godfather, but the story adds that neither side would confirm the reports.
Hunk George Clooney has reportedly dumped his Canadian girlfriend, actress Maria Bertrand, for former porn star Krista Allen. According to Sky News, Clooney threw a birthday party for Allen at a Los Angeles restaurant last week. Allen played Jenna on the Baywatch TV series and in the 1994 Emmanuelle adult entertainment series, she showed a group of aliens the art of making love. If you liked this series, we also recommend Beach Babes from Beyond.
Actor/rapper Will Smith and his brother, Michael Peck, are working on a proposal to build a 500-room minority-owned hotel in Broward County, Fla., The Associated Press reports. The project has been stalled since the county cut its ties with the hotel's developer, but Smith and Peck's firm, Treyball Developments, could to take over the project without any money from the county. Treyball Developments was also involved with a hotel project in Smith's hometown of Philadelphia.
Actress Nona Gaye, who starred alongside Will Smith in Ali, will portray the character Zee in the Matrix sequel The Matrix Reloaded, Variety reports. Late singer/actress Aaliyah, who was killed in a plane crash last August, had originally been cast in the role. Zee's character will be introduced in the second film and will segue into the third installment, The Matrix Revolutions. Gaye, the daughter of Marvin Gaye, will begin shooting in Sydney, Australia, next week, joining stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne.
Mark Wahlberg will be starring in a remake of the 1969 caper The Italian Job by director F. Gary Gray. While the original picture centered on a gold heist set entirely in Europe, the modern version will begin in Italy with the robbery taking place in Los Angeles. According to Variety, Wahlberg will play career criminal Charlie Croker, who masterminds the robbery by creating L.A.'s largest traffic jam. Shooting begins Aug. 3 at Paramount Pictures.
NBC has pulled out the big guns in the brutal battle for Nielsen's May ratings sweeps and the 2001-02 season crown. The network confirmed that it will air its two-hour reunion special The Cosby Show: A Look Back from 9 to 11 p.m. on May 19, Variety reports. The show will be up against Fox's two-hour The X-Files series finale, ABC's The Practice two-hour season ender and CBS' three-hour wrap of Survivor: Marquesas. Nielsen's sweeps numbers help local affiliates set ad rates for the next few months, compelling networks to schedule their biggest programs during the November, February and May sweeps.
Tricon Global Restaurants Inc., who own the Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell restaurant chains, is the latest to follow the lead of Burger King and Office Depot and pull ads from FX's cop show The Shield. The show's lead character is a corrupt Los Angeles detective who plays as dirty as the crooks, drug dealers and murderers he busts. The show has been criticized for its vulgarity.
A controversial exhibit featuring nude paintings of Madonna was unveiled Wednesday at the Maclaurin Art Gallery, a small gallery in Scotland. Artist Peter Howson's new collection features 10 portraits of Madonna, some of them of the pop icon in the nude. Although Madonna is a fan of Howson's and previously posed for the artist clothed, these works are drawn from the artists' imagination. Howson told the BBC he was disappointed that Madonna had not given him her reaction to the paintings.
Grammy-winning rapper Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, has settled a lawsuit brought against him by John Guerra, the man he allegedly assaulted for kissing his former wife Kimberly Mathers. The incident took place outside the Hot Rock Sports Bar and Music Café in Warren, Mich., in June 2000. Although neither party has admitted to any liability or wrongdoing in the settlement, both agreed that Eminem would pay Guerra $100,000 minus attorney's fees rather than take the case to trial.
Celine Dion announced she is moving to Belgium for three months to rehearse for her to the stage next year, the AP reports. In an interview on a Belgian television show, Dion said that she had found a house in La Louviere, a gritty steel town located 30 miles south of Brussels. The 33-year-old Canadian singer is set to begin appearing at Caesar' Palace's new 4,000-seat coliseum theater in Las Vegas in March 2003, and her show is scheduled to run at least three years.
VH1's annual Divas concert is moving from New York to Las Vegas, the AP reports. The concert will air live from the MGM Grand on May 23, with proceeds going to VH1's Save the Music Foundation. This year's headliners include Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion and Cher, who have performed in past Divas concerts. More performers will be announced later.
Producer and writer Louis "Deke" Heyward died April 3 of complications from pneumonia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the age of 81, Variety reports. Heyward wrote more than 50 motion pictures, 3,000 radio shows and a slew of television programs and novels. In 1977, Heyward won an Emmy for the television movie The Gathering and launched the television game shows Twenty-One and Tic Tac Dough. After a career that spanned more than half a century, Heyward spent his later years teaching writing and working with underprivileged children at Camp Kilpatrick in Malibu, Calif. He is survived by his wife Sandra, two children and five grandchildren.