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 Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.
"Charlie's Angels" kicked off to a divine, butt-kicking $40.5 million, sending weekend ticket sales soaring about 37% over last year.
Columbia's PG-13 action adventure comedy had been a high flyer on Hollywood's advance radar screen with insiders anticipating a $25-30 million opening. Instead, "Angels" arrived to a spectacular, record-setting ESTIMATED $40.5 million at 3,037 theaters ($13,335 per theater).
"Angels" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing in wide or limited release last weekend.
"It's the biggest non-summer opening ever -- period," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. Noting that "Angels" helped push weekend ticket sales by all key films in the marketplace to nearly $101 million, he added, "It's the first $100 million weekend since Labor Day."
"Non-summer" excludes comparisons to films opening from May through July. Also excluded are comparisons to films that opened, as some have done for Thanksgiving in the past, on a platform basis and then went wide in their second weekend.
"It's also the biggest opening for a first time director," Blake pointed out, applauding McG, the award-winning commercial and music video director who makes his feature film directorial debut with "Angels." "The over-$40 million (openings before this) all were directed by somebody who had done (a feature) before."
The film's audience, Blake said, was "men and women and a mix of all ages 13 to 40. That was the key. It was slightly more female than male, but only 55%-45% and men responded as much as women. On our CinemaScores, we got an A- overall and an A from both young males and young females. The mix of ages was, I think, the real key to (its success). Sixty-five percent were over 21, which speaks to some of the nostalgia, but it really had entertainment value for a wide mix of ages.
"Clearly, we had more than one audience. As we've all seen, sometimes you get that spectacular Friday (from the young audience) and you don't get the expansion you hope from Saturday (from the adult audience). This was up 21% from an amazing Friday of $13.5 million to a more amazing $16.5 million."
Asked where "Angels" is likely to wind up in domestic theaters, Blake replied, "The average performance off a $40 million opening usually is about three and a half times. 'Water Boy' even did a little better than that. They opened to $39.4 million in 1998 and ended up doing $161 million."
So is $150 million possible for "Angels?" in domestic theaters? "We will keep our fingers crossed," he said. "It may not be out of reach certainly with the good mix of ages and the different kinds of audiences we've got going and responding well."
"Angels" is clearly a shot in the arm for what has been a lackluster box office this fall. "There's no question, there's a lot of great films this November that I think everybody's been looking forward to," Blake noted. "It's certainly been 'Meet the Parents' and 'Remember the Titans' carrying the load for the last month. Now, I think, this has proven to be a film for everybody. I think (when you look at) the product coming up, it's maybe not for everybody, but certainly there is something for everybody."
With "Angels" leading the way, indications are that Columbia should have a very strong fourth quarter in theaters. "We hope to keep our winning streak going with (Phoenix Pictures') 'The 6th Day,' which is really an exciting action film from Arnold Schwarzenegger (and directed by Roger Spottiswoode)," Blake said. "It's been received very well so far. It's opening Nov. 17 and we're going to be in probably 2,700 or 2,800 runs."
Columbia's mountain climbing action adventure "Vertical Limit" opens Dec. 8, Blake said, in 2,400 to 2,500 theaters. Directed by Martin Campbell, it stars Chris O'Donnell and Scott Glenn.
"If we can get the mix of ages and interest we got in 'Charlie's Angels,' we're going to be in great shape," Blake added. "I think that's the key."
Directed by McG, "Angels" stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Bill Murray.
Universal's PG-13-rated blockbuster comedy "Meet the Parents" gave up first place to "Angels," but fell only to second place, not to third as Hollywood handicappers had anticipated.
"Parents" was still showing great legs in its fifth week, down one peg to second place with a still impressive ESTIMATED $13.07 million (-13%) at 2,672 theaters (+25 theaters; $4,890 per theater). Its cume is approximately $116.9 million, heading for a domestic theatrical gross of $150 million-plus.
"Parents'" international release is through DreamWorks Pictures, which co-financed the film and will share equally in its success.
"'Meet the Parents' is a film that's continuing to prove its strength week after week after week," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "It's a film that I don't think anyone would have thought would be a Thanksgiving holiday contender and now it is."
Asked where "Parents" is likely to wind up in its domestic theatrical run, Rocco replied, "$150 million-plus. Every week, I keep on saying, 'Let's see what happens next week.' The fact is that 'Meet the Parents' is a bonafide blockbuster and it stands on its own."
Directed by Jay Roach (director of both "Austin Powers" hits), "Parents" stars Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller.
Rocco also pointed to the continuing success of the critically-acclaimed, R-rated drama "Billy Elliot" from the studio's specialized film arm Universal Focus. "Billy," a likely contender for Golden Globe and Oscar nominations, went wider in its fourth week, placing 13th with a very encouraging ESTIMATED $1.06 million at 119 theaters (+82 theaters; $8,890 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.9 million.
"We're moving along with 'Billy Elliot' as we planned," Rocco said. "The expansion in the many markets we're open in proved to be very successful. "'Billy Elliot' next weekend is between 400-500 playdates. It's certainly a picture that the word of mouth has continued to spark audiences to see in the theaters that have already been open. The head-to-heads (comparisons) are virtually flat (showing virtually no decline from the previous weekend)."
Directed by Stephen Daldry, "Billy" stars Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Bell, Jamie Draven and Adam Cooper.
DreamWorks' PG-13 period piece drama "The Legend of Bagger Vance" opened in third place with a solid ESTIMATED $12.0 million at 2,061 theaters ($5,843 per theater).
Directed by Robert Redford, "Bagger" stars Will Smith, Matt Damon and Charlize Theron.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated football drama "Remember the Titans" fell one notch to fourth place in its sixth week, still holding incredibly well with an ESTIMATED $7.00 million (-12%) at 2,737 theaters (-66 theaters; $2,612 per theater). Its cume is approximately $96.8 million, heading for $110 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Boaz Yakin and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman, "Titans" stars Denzel Washington.
Artisan Entertainment's R-rated sequel "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" fell four rungs to fifth place in its second week with a quiet ESTIMATED $5.3 million (-60%) at 3,320 theaters (+3 theaters; $1,596 per theater). Its cume is approximately $22.1 million.
Directed by Joe Berlinger, "Blair Witch 2" stars Kim Director, Jeffrey Donovan, Erica Leerhsen, Tristen Skylar and Stephen Barker-Turner.
20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated comedy "Bedazzled" fell two pegs to sixth place in its third week with a slow ESTIMATED $4.67 million (-40%) at 2,500 theaters (-71 theaters; $1,870 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.8 million.
Directed by Harold Ramis, "Bedazzled" stars Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley.
Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated drama "Pay It Forward" dropped two rungs to seventh place in its third week with a less rewarding ESTIMATED $4.39 million (-36%) at 2,130 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,059 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.2 million.
Directed by Mimi Leder, "Pay It Forward" stars Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.
New Line Cinema's PG-rated family film "The Little Vampire," a very low cost pick up, fell two notches to eighth place in its second week with an anemic ESTIMATED $3.55 million (-38%) at 2,009 theaters ($1,767 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.3 million.
Directed by Uli Edel, "Vampire" stars Jonathan Lipnicki.
Paramount's R-rated romantic comedy "Lucky Numbers" dropped two digits to ninth place in its second week with an unhappy ESTIMATED $2.18 million (-53%) at 2,528 theaters (+31 theaters; $860 per theater). Its cume is approximately $7.9 million.
Directed by Nora Ephron, "Numbers" stars John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Dimension Films' R-rated action adventure "The Legend of Drunken Master," down one notch in its third week with a calm ESTIMATED $1.6 million (-35%) at 1,183 theaters (-162 theaters; $1,352 per theater). Its cume is approximately $9.8 million.
Directed by Lau Ka Leung, it stars Jackie Chan.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Providence Entertainment's PG-13-rated drama "Mercy Streets," placing 24th with a soft ESTIMATED $0.085 million at 175 theaters ($485 per theater).
Directed by Jon Gunn, it stars Eric Roberts.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front, Universal's critically-acclaimed, R-rated drama "Billy Elliot" from the studio's specialized film arm Universal Focus, went wider in its fourth week, placing 13th with a very encouraging ESTIMATED $1.06 million at 119 theaters (+82 theaters; $8,890 per theater). Its cume is approximately $2.9 million.
Directed by Stephen Daldry, "Billy" stars Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Bell, Jamie Draven and Adam Cooper.
Artisan Entertainment's controversial unrated drama "Requiem For A Dream" expanded in its fifth week, placing 21st with a sexy ESTIMATED $0.26 million at 25 theaters (+21 theaters; $10,400 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.9 million.
Directed by Darren Arnonofsky, "Requiem" stars Jared Leto and Ellen Burstyn.
"We took it to the top 15 cities, and we're the number one specialized film out there," Artisan distribution head Steve Rothenberg said Sunday morning. "Our plan is to add five, 10, 15 cities every week through the holidays. We're making a concerted effort to see if we can garner an Academy Award nomination for Ellen Burstyn. She's gotten great reviews and her performance is great. And we think we have a shot, so that's what our plan is -- to build slowly through the holidays."
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $100.92 million, up about 37.07% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $73.63 million.
This weekend's key film gross was up about 34.71% from this year's previous weekend when key films grossed $74.92 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of "The Bone Collector" was first with $16.71 million at 2,587 theaters ($6,460 per theater); and Warner Bros.' second week of "House on Haunted Hill" was second with $7.71 million at 2,710 theaters ($2,846 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $24.4 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $53.6 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were:
Sony Pictures Entertainment was first with one film ("Charlie's Angels"), grossing an ESTIMATED $40.5 million or 40.1% of the market.
Universal was second with two films ("Meet the Parents" and "Billy Elliot"), grossing an ESTIMATED $14.12 million or 14.0% of the market.
DreamWorks was third with two films ("The Legend of Bagger Vance" and "The Contender"), grossing an ESTIMATED $13.4 million or 13.3% of the market.
Buena Vista (Disney and Touchstone) was fourth with one film ("Remember the Titans"), grossing an ESTIMATED $7.0 million or 6.9% of the market.
Warner Bros. was fifth with three films ("The Exorcist," "Pay It Forward" and "Best in Show"), grossing an ESTIMATED $6.76 million or 6.7% of the market.
Artisan Entertainment was sixth with two films ("Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" and "Dr. T & the Women"), grossing an ESTIMATED $5.86 million or 5.8% of the market.
(11)Best in Show/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 497 (0) Gross: $1.54 million (-16%) Average per theater: $3,089 Cume: $11.3 million
(12)The Contender/DreamWorks: Theaters: 1,309 (-330) Gross: $1.4 million (-43%) Average per theater: $1,067 Cume: $16.2 million
(13)Billy Elliot/Universal Focus: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(14)The Exorcist/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 950 (-451) Gross: $0.84 million (-47%) Average per theater: $884 Cume: $38.7 million
(15)Lost Souls/New Line: Theaters: 947 (-761) Gross: $0.64 million (-53%) (tie) Average per theater: $675 Cume: $16.4 million
(15)Ladies Man/Paramount: Theaters: 1,340 (-483) Gross: $0.64 million (-58%) (tie) Average per theater: $475 Cume: $13.0 million
(17)Dr. T & the Women/Artisan Ent.: Theaters: 602 (-402) Gross: $0.56 million (-56%) Average per theater: $700 Cume: $12.1 million
(18)Almost Famous/DreamWorks: Theaters: 417 (-290) Gross: $0.49 million (-30%) Average per theater: $1,170 Cume: $30.5 million
(19)Bring It On/Universal: Theaters: 475 (-382) Gross: $0.26 million (-36%) Average per theater: $540 Cume: $67.0 million
(20)Bamboozled/New Line: Theaters: 186 (-57) Gross: $0.24 million (-34%) Average per theater: $1,285 Cume: $1.9 million
(21)Requiem For A Dream/Artisan: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(22)Nutty Professor II: The Klumps/Universal: Theaters: 262 (-86) Gross: $0.18 million (-10%) Average per theater: $685 Cume: $122.6 million
(23)The Yards/Miramax: Theaters: 144 (-2) Gross: $0.17 million (-46%) Average per theater: $1,175 Cume: $0.7 million
(24)MERCY STREETS/Providence Entertainment: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(25)Loving Jezebel/Fox Searchlight: Theaters: 25 (-49) Gross: $0.006 million (-87%) Average per theater: $235 Cume: $0.070 million