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.
When Graham is ditched by her husband (Luke Wilson) she rents a clunker and heads to El Paso Texas discovering that not only her marriage but also her faith and sanity are at stake in this clever original comedy. Through Graham's odyssey the film explores issues of honor and promise while never getting preachy or pretentious. The script is funny yet never slapsticky. And though touching the films never falls prey to drippy sentimentality.
Always a bride's maid and never a bride (with knockout supporting turns in
"Boogie Nights" and "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me") Graham finally takes command in her first lead role. Her face is as expressive as it is beautiful as she gently glides from strong to comical to vulnerable. This surely won't be her last starring role. Casey Affleck comfortably fits as Graham's dopey but loyal brother who half-wittedly forgets that Jolene is his sister. When he gives her a sensual kiss she responds by reminding him "I'm married and I'm your sister." He replies "Oh yeah." Wilson restrains from playing the stray husband as a cartoon villain and gives us a cad who's hard to hate.
This was obviously a labor of love for writer/director Lisa Krueger and every bit of her passion shows onscreen. She gives the actors a spotlight to shine in paints a beautiful picture of the Texas desert and trusts the audience with her vivid characters. Krueger's graceful touch turns Jolene's warm naiveté into something refreshingly strong and hopeful.
Universal's unsinkable "U-571" continued full speed ahead in first place this weekend just as studio tracking data indicated it would.
The PG-13 World War II submarine drama, which had a 19% first-choice tracking going into the weekend, held on to the top spot with a brisk ESTIMATED $12.33 million (-37%) at 2,615 theaters (+32 theaters; $4,715 per theater). Its cume is approximately $38.2 million, heading for $60 million-plus in domestic theaters.
"U-571's" per theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, "U-571" stars Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi.
"Once again, Universal keeps the marketplace afloat," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "With nearly 40% of the market share in a lackluster environment, Universal managed to have three films in the Top Ten."
Rocco sees "U-571" sailing "past $60 million, but a lot depends on what happens next week. There's a very big film that's tracking tremendously well for males called 'Gladiator,' which is 50% owned by Universal (and 50% owned by DreamWorks). 'U-571' could be affected by it. There's no doubt about it. It depends on how much the marketplace can expand. If you take a look at the business, there's not much going on out there. So we're hoping that 'Gladiator' does expand the marketplace enough for 'U-571' to hang in there and for 'Gladiator' to do a ton of business."
Although DreamWorks is distributing "Gladiator" domestically and Universal has it internationally, Rocco pointed out, "We're 50-50 partners. We share equally in the film."
The R rated action adventure "Gladiator," a period piece set during the time of the Roman Empire, is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Russell Crowe.
Universal also owned second place, opening its "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas" to a rock solid ESTIMATED $10.81 million at 3,037 theaters ($3,560 per theater).
"Vegas" is the PG rated prequel to the 1996 "Flintstones" blockbuster that grossed over $350 million worldwide.
Directed by Brian Levant, director of the original "Flintstones," the prequel stars Mark Addy and Stephen Baldwin.
"It's great. There's no (other) family film in the marketplace. Its tracking indicated it would open around $10 million, which is what I expected," Universal's Rocco said.
"We also have a lot of promotional tie-ins this week -- particularly with Burger King -- which should keep it in the marketplace. There's nothing else doing business with the family audience. Obviously, the kids like it, particularly young females."
New Line's opening of its PG-13 rated time travel thriller "Frequency" was a high-powered third with an ESTIMATED $9.125 million at 2,621 theaters ($3,481 per theater).
Directed by Gregory Hoblit, it stars Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel.
"We're just tickled," New Line distribution head David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "It was tracking (to open) at $7 million. We had a big rush at the end, which is a New Line specialty. We think this picture's going to be in the marketplace for a long time."
Who is the film's core audience? "You know something," Tuckerman replied, "it's all over (the place). That was one of the problems we had with (marketing) the movie. All sections are, like, tracking equally -- the under-25, the over 25, and both male and female."
20th Century Fox's opening of its PG-13 rated drama "Where the Heart Is" finished fourth with a heartening ESTIMATED $8.3 million at 2,437 theaters ($3,405 per theater).
The $15 million "Heart" is likely to be profitable for Fox, which reportedly picked it up for domestic and English speaking territories for just $9 million.
Directed and produced by Matt Williams, it stars Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing and Joan Cusack.
"The picture played extremely well, especially to women," Tom Sherak, 20th Domestic Film Group chairman and senior executive vice president of Fox Filmed Entertainment, said Sunday morning.
"70% of the audience was women. It played in the 80%'s definite recommend and in the 90%'s excellent and very good. So, hopefully, it will have a nice long run. The definite recommend for younger women (under 25) was 82% and for older women was 78%."
Noting "Heart's" low acquisition cost to Fox, Sherak said, "We should do really well on it."
New Line also scored a fifth place victor with "Love & Basketball," down three hoops in its second week with a still lovely ESTIMATED $5.55 million (-32%) at 1,245 theaters (+8 theaters; $4,458 per theater). Its cume is approximately $15.9 million.
The PG-13 rated drama, which reportedly cost under $10 million to make, is targeted to under-25 African-Americans.
Written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, it stars Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan.
"I think it's going to do between $35 and $40 million," New Line distribution head David Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "I think it's profitable now."
Paramount's R rated military trial drama "Rules of Engagement" fell three pegs in its fourth week to sixth place with a quiet ESTIMATED $4.75 million (-41%) at 3,027 theaters (-193 theaters; $1,569 per theater). Its cume is approximately $50.2 million heading for $60-65 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by William Friedkin, it stars Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated romantic comedy "Keeping the Faith" continued to show good legs in its third week, down two rungs to seventh place with an okay ESTIMATED $4.6 million (-35%) at 2,171 theaters (+13 theaters; $2,150 per theatre). Its cume is approximately $25.7 million.
Directed by Edward Norton, it stars Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman and Edward Norton.
Columbia's PG-13 rated dramatic comedy "28 Days" slid four notches to eighth place in its third week with a restrained ESTIMATED $4.0 million (-45%) at 2,523 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,585 per theater). Its cume is approximately $28.6 million, heading for $40 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Betty Thomas, "Days" stars Sandra Bullock and Viggo Mortensen.
Universal's "Erin Brockovich" fell three notches to ninth place in its seventh weekend with a less sexy ESTIMATED $3.77 million (-31%) at 2,504 theaters (-652 theaters; $1,505 per theater). Its cume is approximately $113.0 million, heading for $125-130 million in domestic theaters.
The R rated dramatic comedy was co-financed by Universal, which is distributing it domestically, and by Columbia, which is releasing it internationally. The two studios are 50-50 partners in the picture.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, it stars Julia Roberts, Albert Finney and Aaron Eckart.
Rounding out the Top Ten was New Line's R rated suspense thriller "Final Destination," down one rung and holding solidly in its seventh weekend with a strong ESTIMATED $2.53 million (-10%) at 1,153 theaters (-162 theaters; $2,190 per theater). Its cume is approximately $46.1 million heading for $50 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by James Wong, it stars Devon Sawa.
MGM's PG rated romantic comedy "Return to Me" was nearly tied with "Final," placing 11th, down three slots in its fourth week with an okay ESTIMATED $2.5 million (-37%) at 2,006 theaters (-314 theaters; $1,246 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.2 million.
Directed by Bonnie Hunt, "Return" cost only about $24 million to make. It stars David Duchovny and Minnie Driver.
Last weekend also saw the arrival, via Sony's Screen Gems label, of its R rated digitally shot comedy "Time Code," placing 23rd with an enc uraging ESTIMATED $0.095 million at 7 theaters ($13,571 per theater).
Directed by Mike Figgis, it stars Saffron Burrows and Salma Hayek.
"We're really excited about it," Sony Pictures releasing president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "We really feel like we're on the front end of a real filmmaking revolution here. I think that's always what made the project fun. We got very nice reviews and, I think, great results. The Nuart (in West L.A.) looks like it's going to do over $25,000. Both New York runs look like about $17,000 each. I think there's real interest here. The fact that it's the beginning of something that a lot of people feel is coming - shooting completely in digital from beginning to end -- really makes it kind of exciting.
"This really is the kind of picture we formed Screen Gems to get involved with. I think Valerie Van Galder and her marketing team really did a terrific job on this."
Looking ahead, Blake said, "We're going to add 16 more major markets next Friday and then expand on May 12 in the markets we opened this week."
Lions Gate Films' R rated dark comedy "The Big Kahuna" arrived in New York and Los Angeles, placing 24th with an okay ESTIMATED $0.088 million at 8 theaters ($11,000 per theater).
Directed by John Swanbeck, "Kahuna" stars Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and Peter Facinelli.
"On May 12 we go into seven additional markets exclusive, and on May 19 it's going to go out to approximately 400 runs," Lions Gate co-president Tom Ortenberg said Sunday morning.
Looking at "Kahuna's" first weekend, Ortenberg said, "I think it's solid. It's an art film. It's going to play like an art film. Our best run in Los Angeles was actually Pasadena, which I think shows the more mature suburban nature of the picture. So I'm not so concerned about opening up to huge numbers out of the gate. On 'The Red Violin,' we had areas where, for example, Palo Alto/Menlo Park was bigger than the city of San Francisco. Deerfield, Illinois, was bigger than the city of Chicago. Boulder was bigger than Denver.
"We weren't looking for huge numbers out of the core runs. We were looking to get the picture on its feet and established in the marketplace and kind of set the groundwork for further expansion. I think that's pretty much what we've done."
Miramax's R rated dark comedy "Committed" opened in New York and L.A., placing 26th with an uncommitted ESTIMATED $0.012 million at 6 theaters (3 in New York and 3 in Los Angeles; $2,000 per theater).
Written and directed by Lisa Krueger, it stars Heather Graham and Casey Affleck.
"It will go to the Top Ten (markets) next week," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning.
USA Films' R rated dark comedy "The Idiots" opened in New York, placing 27th with a calm ESTIMATED $0.007 million at 2 theaters ($3,642 per theater).
Directed by Lars von Trier, it stars Brodil Jorgensen.
Sony Pictures Classics kicked off its R rated romantic comedy "Bossa Nova" at two theaters in New York. No estimates were available Sunday morning since SPC does not track its openings.
Directed by Bruno Barreto, it stars Amy Irving and Antonio Fagundes.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front, Miramax's R rated comedy "East Is East" went wider in its third week, placing 21st with an encouraging ESTIMATED $0.27 million at 39 theaters (+21 theaters; $6,100 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.6 million.
Produced by Leslee Udwin and directed by Damien O'Donnell, "East" stars Om Puri and Linda Bassett.
Paramount Classics' R rated drama about teen suicide, "The Virgin Suicides," expanded in its second week, placing 22nd with a less sexy ESTIMATED $0.17 million (-29%) at 29 theaters (+11 theaters; $5,765 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.5 million.
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, it stars James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst and Josh Hartnett.
USA Films went wider with its R rated drama "Joe Gould's Secret," placing 25th in its fourth week with a dull ESTIMATED $0.064 million at 32 theaters (+3 theaters; $2,013 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by Stanley Tucci, it stars Ian Holm and Stanley Tucci.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $76.97 million, up about 42.47% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $54.02 million.
This weekend's key film gross was down about 9.80% from this year's previous weekend, when key films grossed $85.33 million.
Last year, 20th Century Fox's opening week of "Entrapment" was first with $20.15 million at 2,815 theaters ($7,157 per theater); and Warner Bros.' fifth week of "The Matrix" was second with $8.72 million at 2,903 theaters ($3,002 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $28.8 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $23.1 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films (those grossing $500,000 or more), last weekend's top six distributors were:
Universal was first with four films ("U-571," "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas," "Erin Brockovich" and "The Skulls"), grossing an ESTIMATED $28.22 million or 36.6% of the market.
New Line was second with three films ("Frequency," "Love & Basketball" and "Final Destination"), grossing an ESTIMATED $17.2 million or 22.3% of the market.
20th Century Fox was third with one film ("Where the Heart Is"), grossing an ESTIMATED $8.3 million or 10.8% of the market.
Buena Vista (Disney, Touchstone)was fourth with three films ("Keeping the Faith," "High Fidelity" and "Fantasia 2000"), grossing an ESTIMATED $7.9 million or 10.3% of the market.
Paramount was fifth with one film ("Rules of Engagement"), grossing an ESTIMATED $4.75 million or 6.2% of the market.
Sony Pictures Releasing (Columbia, TriStar, Screen Gems) was sixth with one film ("28 Days"), grossing an ESTIMATED $4.0 million or 5.2% of the market.
(12)The Road to El Dorado/DreamWorks: Theaters: 2,247 (-923) Gross: $2.2 million (-58%) Average per theater: $979 Cume: $46.6 million
(13)Fantasia 2000/BV/Disney: Theaters: 53 (0) (all IMAX) Gross: $2.0 million (+11%) Average per theater: $38,056 Cume: $49.7 million (domestic)
(14) American Psycho/Lions Gate: Theaters: 1,012 (-230) Gross: $1.35 million (-50%) Average per theater: $1,334 Cume: $12.1 million
(15)The Skulls/Universal: Theaters: 1,340 (-707) Gross: $1.31 million (-52%) Average per theater: $975 Cume: $32.6 million
(16)High Fidelity/BV/Touchstone: Theaters: 806 (-425) Gross: $1.3 million (-40%) Average per theater: $1,635 Cume: $22.2 million
(17)Gossip/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 1,525 (0) Gross: $0.98 million (-58%) Average per theater: $645 Cume: $4.2 million
(18)Romeo Must Die/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 709 (-730) Gross: $0.84 million (-46%) Average per theater: $1,180 Cume: $53.7 million
(19)American Beauty/DreamWorks: Theaters: 791 (-339) Gross: $0.73 million (-46%) Average per theater: $923 Cume: $128.2 million
(20)Where the Money Is/USA Films: Theaters: 456 (-1,079) Gross: $0.3 million (-76%) Average per theater: $650 Cume: $5.4 million
(21)East Is East/Miramax: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(22)The Virgin Suicides/Paramount Classics: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(23)TIME CODE/Sony/Screen Gems: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(24)THE BIG KAHUNA/Lions Gate: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(25)Joe Gould's Secret/USA Films: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(26)COMMITTED/Miramax: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(27)THE IDIOTS/USA Films: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)