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.
William Asher, who directed widely popular episodes of such classic TV shows as I Love Lucy and Bewitched, died Monday at a board and care facility in Palm Desert, Calif., according to USA Today, at the age of 90 years old. Though no cause of death has been officially given, Asher's wife, Meredith, says that he died of complications from Alzheimer's disease.
But Asher managed to leave quite an incredible mark on the world, making generations of fans laugh time and time again. His association with Lucy stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz began when he directed the pilot of Eve Arden's Our Miss Brooks for their Desilu Studios. This led to him heading at least 100 episodes of 'Lucy,' including the classic “Job Switching” episode, in which which Lucy and Ethel are seen working in a candy factory and unable to keep up with the chocolates being sent down the conveyor belt that they are supposed to be wrapping.
Asher also produced and directed episodes of another popular hit television show, Bewitched, which starred his then-wife Elizabeth Montgomery as a witch. During that time, he was nominated for four Emmys for directing and producing, winning once for directing. So even though he may be physically gone, his endless contributions to entertainment will never be forgotten.
Aside from his wife, Asher is also survived by Liane Sears and Rebecca Asher, sons Brian, Bill Jr., Robert and John, four stepchildren, nine grandchildren and eight step-grandchildren.
[Photo credit: Wenn.com]
Kitty Wells, Country Music Legend, Dies at 92
Charlie Sheen Donating $1 Million to U.S. Troops
No Doubt's New Single "Settle Down" — LISTEN
We're continuing our one-year old tradition, which we so lovingly started last December, which is our way of making celebrities' New Year's resolutions for them. Sure, the first time Lindsay Lohan got into some trouble, our dastardly sides had a bit of fun digging up all the dirt we could find. And the second and third time, it was still pretty entertaining, but we've reached that point where it's not even interesting to hear that she has to spend 4 hours in jail or that she's suing someone else for mentioning her name in a fairly accurate hip-hop verse. We're over it. We cover it begrudgingly because that day Justin Bieber has yet to come out with a music video featuring Mariah Carey gyrating or because Johnny Depp hasn't compared paparazzi photos to an indescribably horrible act that is in no way similar.
Essentially, we do it because we have to, but it comes with a thick layer of cynicism instead of the glowing adoration of a post about say, Beyoncé's baby bump or Ryan Gosling's good Samaritan act. All we're saying is, we're going to write about you, celebs. It's a given. We're too obsessed. We'd just like it if our 2012 coverage didn't include these bad behaviors:
CELEBRITY BEHAVIOR AGREEMENT
THIS CONTRACT, entered into on this 1st day of JANUARY, 2012, by KELLY SCHREMPH, KELSEA STAHLER, and all members of CELEBRITY CULTURE is for the continuation of celebrity status and celebrity news coverage for the entirety of the year 2011. The undersigned celebrity reporters will continue to cover celebrity culture if the celebrities (both mentioned and unmentioned) adhere to the contract as follows:
We, the celeb writers of Hollywood.com, reserve the right to revoke celebrity status and all subsequent news coverage on their site in the case that these stipulations are breached.
1. YOU WILL NOT TWEET WITHOUT FIRST USING YOUR GOD-GIVEN BRAIN.
Thinking before exposing one's thoughts on an unguarded social networking site should be an easy requirement, but just ask Ashton Kutcher, who tweeted about the Penn State scandal before knowing that his precious Joe Paterno was fired for good reason. Or ask Roger Ebert, who tweeted "Friends don't let jackasses drink and drive," when Jackass star Ryan Dunn passed away tragically. Or ask Charlie Sheen, whose cell phone crashed when he absentmindedly tweeted his phone number to Justin Bieber in a public at-reply. Or ask Anthony Weiner, who had his own "DM fail" when he accidentally publicly sent that photo of his package. Thinking: it's what humans do.
2. CHARLIE SHEEN WILL TAKE 2012 OFF.
If you're not tired of hearing "winning" and "tiger blood" and any other warlock lingo, you must have spent 2011 hiking the Andes or helping build homes in a war-ravaged nation with no possible link to the interwebby world, because those phrases were ubiquitous - and they are officially over. Sheen and his crazy train need to pack it up starting at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1. When we can stop associating him with goddesses and porn families, he can come back. Until then, we don't want to hear a peep.
3. YOU WILL NOT GET TOO DRUNK TO LEGALLY RIDE IN A CAR.
Who cares about that time she forgot the lyrics to the National Anthem? Christina Aguilera later got arrested for public intoxication while riding in the passenger seat of her boyfriend's car. The boyfriend got pulled over for drunk driving, but passenger Aguilera was carted away when police discovered that she'd clearly won the drinking contest. Let's all agree this is unacceptable.
4. AS A CELEB, YOU'VE GIVEN UP THE PRIVILEGE OF KEEPING NUDE PHOTOS SECRET. DON'T TAKE THEM, OR BE PREPARED FOR SOME PERV TO LEAK THEM TO EVERY WILLING BLOG.
While Blake Lively's little photo shoot is still unconfirmed (officially, though our eyes suggest otherwise), the damage is done. Even sweet, classy lady Emma Watson became the victim of a nude photo scandal, though her photos were actually proven to be fake. But then you have Scarlett Johansson, who actually admits to taking her nudie pics, so ardently in fact that she instigated a full FBI investigation to find the hackers who stole them.
4a. JUST BE HONEST ABOUT IT.
If your nude photos do leak, just admit it and launch an investigation to find the culprit. Then you can go on late night shows and look like the most mature person in Hollywood when you're able to joke about it.
4b. DRUGS ARE BAD TOO, MMK?
So, maybe you're not running around topless at the hot tub, but instead you're exercising your college-age need to experiement with things like cheap liquor and weed. If you can't be sure you can trust the revelers around you not to take pictures or video and post them to Twitter, either make them sign a contract or come to the mature conclusion that it's just not worth it.
5. IF YOU'RE MENTALLY UNSTABLE, AVOID HIGH PRESSURE SITUATIONS AND GOOD MORNING AMERICA.
Chris Brown went on GMA for what he thought was your average music-related interview when he fielded a few questions about his chequered past. He was agitated during the interview, but it was what happened off camera that had us all rolling our eyes and reluctantly talking about it. He shattered the glass in his dressing room and stormed out of the GMA offices sans his shirt. The undersigned reporters will like still write about such incidents, but we do not promise to be nice about it.
6. IF YOU DON'T LIKE HAVING SEX WITH SOMEONE, DON'T AGREE TO MARRY HIM OR HER.
Crystal Harris, unfortunately you will be forever known as the woman who dumped Hugh Hefner and then told Howard Stern what a terrible lover the Hef supposedly is. Instead of looking like a young girl who realized her mistake at the last minute, she painted herself as the harpy who dished dirt on the poor old 80-something year-old man she dumped. She made us feel sorry for Hefner, and that's practically the Mount Everest of celeb-facing sympathy.
7. YOU NEVER HAVE TO PEE THAT BADLY.
French actor Gerard Depardieu really had to go on his most publicized flight ever. When the flight attendant told him to be patient, and that the bathrooms were locked at the moment, Depardieu became so irate he peed in the aisle of the plane. While this incident did give birth to the giggle fit heard 'round the world, let's not let it happen again.
8. IF GEORGE CLOONEY SAYS HE'S NEVER GOING TO GET MARRIED, BELIEVE HIM.
Elisabetta Canalis was kicked to the curb by everyone's favorite silver fox a curiously short time after she talked about her "fairytale" and her "friends" released statements to the press about her hopes for her matrimonial future with the actor. She later stated that they had never discussed future plans like kids or marriage, so it seems on some level she knew it wasn't an option. Plus, if her nameless informant friends really heard her say those marriagey things, I'm guessing it was a Pinot Grigio secret situation and those ladies are going to girls' night hell for spilling the details to a gossip rag.
9. YOU CANNOT BE A ROLE MODEL AND PROFESS YOUR LOVE FOR THE "DRUNK DIET" AND USING "WHISKEY AND OTHER STUFF" AS ARTISTIC INSPIRATION
You cannot be a role model and profess your love for the "drunk diet" and admit you "drink whiskey and other stuff" when writing songs.
Lady Gaga acts as a role model to her little monsters, urging them to support LGBT issues and to be themselves, no matter how hard it can be, yet she publicly admits to living like a 70 year old mentally ravaged bar fly. You can't have both worlds, Gaga.
10. KIM KARDASHIAN MAY NOT GET MARRIED AGAIN, BUT IF SHE DOES, WE RESERVE THE RIGHT TO COMPLETELY IGNORE THE REQUISITE TWO-DAY E! SPECIAL.
We're all too aware of the most famous Kardashian's incredibly short lived marriage to Kris Humphries. They met, three minutes later got married and in the blink of an eye got divorced. (You may want to check the official timeline on that, which shouldn't take that long since it all happened in the same year.) Naturally a command like this comes with a few other requirements:
10a. TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Do not marry someone the same year you meet them.
10b. A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME, MINNESOTA IS.
Do not get married if you haven't decided on a general area of the country to live in.
10c. TRUE LOVE MEANS NEVER TELLING YOUR PARTNER THEY'LL SOON BE IRRELEVANT.
Don't marry someone who doesn't understand why you're famous. (To be fair, we're still trying to figure that out.)
10d. PAY FOR YOUR OWN WEDDING, MULTIMILLIONAIRES; AND DON'T RUB IT IN OUR FACES.
Don't televise your heavily sponsored wedding on national television.
10e. A TV WEDDING IS GROUNDS FOR NEVERENDING SKEPTICISM.
Don't complain about fans and reporters questioning the validity of the marriage if requirement D is not followed.
By signing this document you agree to these stipulations. If you are found in breach of these rules, you may find your celebrity status in low esteem and the number of headlines bearing your name will be significantly diminished. We will also accept a lack of signatures in exchange for your attempts to simply follow these rules. Just knock it off, okay guys?
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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 God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.