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.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Disney takes another whack at “Witch Mountain” having found success more than three decades ago with Escape to Witch Mountain and its sequel. Now the story has been contemporized and Bourne-ified to create what is essentially a nonstop breathless race across long winding roads and two worlds competing for superiority. As in the original two children with extraordinary powers seek to save Earth and their own planet from evil forces. They waste no time jumping into a hapless Las Vegas taxi driver’s cab ordering him to put the pedal to the metal. It soon becomes clear the secret to their quest lies somewhere in Witch Mountain a place where top-secret government activity has been going on for years. With their own alien military leaders in favor of a violent takeover and the U.S. leaders ready for confrontation these two teens Sara and Seth plus their cabbie Jack Bruno race against time to find a better solution for both of their worlds.
WHO’S IN IT?
Fast becoming Disney’s go-to guy Dwayne Johnson (formerly known as The Rock) follows up his hit football comedy The Game Plan with another family-oriented tale in which he again gets upstaged by kids. His Jack Bruno proves the perfect foil this time as he gets to be funny cynical commanding and heroic all in the course of about 97 minutes. As events careen out of his control Johnson grows increasingly exasperated and that’s part of the fun. As Sara a smart extraterrestrial teen Anna-Sophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia) is ideally cast bringing a nice believability to the role without falling into stereotypes. Seth is well played but with one-note earnestness by Alexander Ludwig who still comes off a little too robotic at times. As an astrophysicist who gets caught up in the trio’s predicament Carla Gugino is a delight. Lead among the antagonists is Irish actor Ciaran Hinds who is properly mean and heartless when it comes to aliens of any stripe. Director Garry Marshall has an amusing cameo as a self-styled UFO expert and there are brief but welcome appearances by the all-grown-up Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann who played the ‘70s incarnation of the alien kids in the earlier films. Richards’ face-to-face meeting with Robb is especially sweet.
The filmmakers wisely keep the retro tone of the book and earlier films while using state-of-the-art visual effects and movie magic. A lot of sci-fi movies have come along since Escape to Witch Mountain premiered in 1975 – see Star Wars Close Encounters and E.T. And while Witch Mountain circa 2009 won’t do anything to make us forget those classics it’s good fun -- like welcoming back an old friend.
There’s no complexity in sight and the story isn’t given a lot of time to breathe. We barely get to know Jack Bruno before the kids have hijacked his cab and the whirlwind begins. A little more exposition and plot development would have been welcomed for those with an attention span beyond two minutes.
There are lots of first-rate action set pieces including a collision with a train and a chase through a Vegas casino but the climactic spaceship battle can’t be topped. Kids are going to eat this sequence up.
After showing Jack her alien prowess for the first time by making various items in his cab float in mid-air Sara says “you humans don’t move objects because you don’t develop your full brain capacity”. Bruno replies “No I don’t do it because it’s kind of creepy.”
Attractive college co-ed Casey (Odette Yustman) finds herself the target of the diabolical Dybbuk a spirit which has bided its time since her birth to make its nefarious presence known. Is it perhaps a manifestation of her twin brother who died in the womb all those years ago? Since dear old Dad (James Remar) is away on business -- seemingly for the entire length of the movie -- concerned Casey seeks answers from Sofi Kozma (Jane Alexander) a survivor of the Holocaust who may hold the key to Casey’s past. Needless to say those to whom Casey confides her fears often find themselves in danger of being offed in gruesome fashion. (Misery may love company but the Dybbuk doesn’t.) In a last-ditch effort to rid herself of the evil spirit Casey turns to Rabbi Sendak (Gary Oldman) who finally agrees to perform an exorcism after he too sees the signs. Aside from acting terrified (and looking good doing it) Yustman (Cloverfield) is totally at the mercy of the story which shows little mercy when it comes to providing any concrete (or even shaky) answers to the questions it raises. She’s attractive but there’s not much else to the character. As Casey’s respective boyfriend and best friend Cam Gigandet (Twilight) and Meagan Good (Saw V) are merely functionaries offering the typical mixture of skepticism and support before learning for themselves -- too late of course! -- that maybe Casey’s suspicions have validity. Adding a (misplaced?) touch of class to the proceedings are Oldman who doesn’t embarrass himself and Alexander who isn’t so fortunate. It’s also a wonder why Carla Gugino seen occasionally in flashback as Casey’s deceased mother even bothered. It’s a nothing role which might explain why the actress has no billing other than in the end credits. There’s no question that writer/director David S. Goyer has a deep love and appreciation for horror and science-fiction given his previous credits which include the scripts for Dark City Blade and The Dark Knight but as a director his work (which includes Blade: Trinity and last year’s The Invisible) leaves much to be desired. There are some good ideas here and some individual scenes are reasonably effective but the parts don’t add up to a satisfactory whole. The Unborn suffers from a botched delivery.
SANTA MONICA, Calif., Feb. 7, 2000 -- At long last, an awards show that's dedicated solely to the people who are truly indispensable to Hollywood: makeup artists and hairstylists.
Yes, you heard right -- one entire awards ceremony, with all the necessary trimmings and accoutrements, has sprung up to give special notice to industry makeup artists and hairstylists ... and no one else. (Don't worry, plastic surgeons of America, you'll probably get your nods soon enough).
Nominations for the 1st Annual Hollywood Makeup Artists and Hair Stylist Guild Awards, honoring outstanding makeup and hair achievements in film and TV, were announced today. The nominees in the 17 categories were chosen by 1,100 active members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 706. Guild members will vote for the winners. Balloting begins Tuesday, with awards to be handed out March 19 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
If all this sounds terribly serious stuff -- it is, according to guild committee member Marvin Westmore, scion of George Westmore, who started the first makeup and hair department at the Selig studio in 1917, and for whom the Lifetime Achievement Award is named after.
"It's very difficult to get the makeup and hair artists recognized in a proper manner. In the makeup field, as in the hair field, there're a number of categories that are never considered," Westmore said today. "We've got a category on contemporary makeup and hair, historical makeup and hair ... and about 15 other categories that address other specialties. We feel that it's important to give all the industry hair and makeup artists their proper due and not just simply lump their achievements together."
Celeb presenters who will dignify the event include Christina Applegate, Annette Bening, Ellen Burstyn, Kim Delaney, Brendan Fraser, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter and Rob Lowe.
Here's the complete list of nominees:
Best Contemporary Makeup -- Feature
Debbie Zoller, James MacKinnon and Jill Cady for "Goodbye Lover" (Regency/Warner Bros.)
Ronnie Specter for "The Story of Us" (Castle Rock/Universal)
Allan Apone, Donald Mowat, Ron Snyder and Adam Brandy for "Three Kings" (Warner Bros.)
Toni G and Will Huff for "The General's Daughter" (Neufeld/Rehme Productions/Paramount)
Best Period Makeup -- Feature
Leonard Engleman for "Tea With Mussolini" (Universal/MGM)
Patty York, Cheryl Nick, Michele Burke and Steve Artmont for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Ronnie Specter for "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (Fox Searchlight)
Best Character Makeup -- Feature
Sheryl Leight Ptak for "Man on the Moon" (Jersey Films/Universal)
Cheri Minns for "Bicentennial Man" (Columbia/Touchstone)
Kevin Yagher, Peter Owen, Elizabeth Tag and Paul Gooch for "Sleepy Hollow" (Paramount)
Best Special Effects Makeup -- Feature
Michele Burke, Kenny Myers, Will Huff and Kevin Haney for Mike Myers as Austin Powers and Dr. Evil, and Vernon Troyer as Mini Me in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Greg Cannom and Wesley Wofford for "Bicentennial Man" (Columbia/Touchstone) Stan Winston and Mike Smithson for Mike Myers as Fat Bastard in "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Best Contemporary Hair Styling -- Feature
Enzo Angileri for "The Thomas Crown Affair" (MGM)
Cydney Cornell for "American Beauty" (DreamWorks)
Paul LeBlanc for "Anywhere But Here" (Fox 2000 Pictures) Frances Mathais for "Simpatico" (Emotion Pictures/Canal Plus/King's Gate/Fine Line)
Best Period Hair Styling - Feature
Peter Tothpal, Janet McDonald and Angie Cameron for "The 13th Warrior" (Touchstone)
Candy Walken, Jeri Baker-Sadler, Jennifer O'Halloran and Toni-Ann Walker for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (New Line)
Vivian McAteer for "Tea With Mussolini" (Universal/MGM)
Best Contemporary Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Patty Bunch Leisure and Cynthia Bachman for "Big Brother Is Coming," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Cynthia Bachman and Patty Bunch Leisure for "I Never Promised You An Olive Garden," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler for "Thank You Providence," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Period Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf, Kevin Westmore and LaVerne Basham for "Triangle," "The X-Files" (Fox)
Marie DelPrete fpr "Between a Rock Star and Hard Place," "Rude Awakenings" (Showtime/Mandalay TV/Columbia/TriStar TV)
Lisa Layman, David Syner and Joseph Regina for "Pilot," "Freaks & Geeks" (NBC)
James MacKinnon and Stephanie Fowler for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Character Makeup - Television
Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French for Episode #505, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Jennifer Aspinall, Felicia Linsky and Ed French for Episode #507, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Cheri Montesanto-Medcatf and Kevin Westmore for "Two Fathers/One Son," "The X-Files" (Fox)
Best Special Effects Makeup - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Michael Westmore, Scott Wheeler, James Rohland and Ellis Burman for "Dark Frontiers," "Star Trek Voyager" (UPN/Paramount)
Todd A. McIntosh, Robin Beauxchesne, Douglas Noe and Brigette Myre-Ellis for "Living Conditions," "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" (Fox/WB)
Bill Corso and Douglas Noe for "Just Duet," "L.A. Doctors" (CBS)
Best Period Makeup - Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week)
June Brickman and Tammy Ashmore for "The 60's" (NBC/Trimark)
Sue Cabel, Matthew Mungle and Joe Hailey for "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story" (ABC) Marvin Westmore,
June Westmore and John Jackson for "Lansky" (HBO)
Best Character Makeup --Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie of the Week)
June Brickman and Tammy Ashmore for "The 60's" (NBC/Trimark)
Douglas Noe for "A Lesson Before Dying" (HBO)
Best Contemporary Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Ken Nelson and Suzanne Kontonickas for "The Devil's Music," "Charmed" (Spelling Television/WB)
Tim Burke for "Homo For The Holidays," "Will & Grace" (NBC)
Darrell Fielder, Jonathan Hanousak and Joy Zapata for "The Final Frontier," "Mad About You" (NBC/Columbia TriStar TV)
Best Period Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Stacy K. Black and Shana Fruman for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Lana Heying for Episode #592 "Lataya, Letisha and Lanesha," "All That" (Nickelodeon)
Garbillera Pollina for "Prom Night," "That 70's Show" (Fox/Carsey-Werner)
Best Character Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime)
Dugg Krikpatrick and Judith Teidemann for "Episode #511, "Mad TV" (Fox)
Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor for "Bride of Chaotica," "Star Trek Voyager" (Paramount/UPN)
Judith Teidemann, Dugg Krikpatrick and Chris Curry for "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire," "Mad TV" (Fox)
Best Innovative Hair Styling - Television (For a Single Episode of a Regular Series - Sitcom, Drama or Daytime) Dugg Krikpatrick for "Episode #505," "Mad TV" (Fox)
Josee Normand, Charlotte Parker and Gloria Montemeyor for "Dragon's Teeth," "Star Trek Voyager" (Paramount/UPN)
Stacy K. Black and Shana Fruman for "He's Come Undone," "Providence" (NBC)
Best Period Hair Styling - Television (For a Mini-Series or Movie o the Week)
Vickey Phillips, Gerald Coke-Riley, Patricia Gunlock and Michael White for "Purgatory" (TNT)
Matthew Kasten, Natascha Ladek and Mishell Chandler for "Annie" (Walt Disney Television/ABC)
Marlene Williams and Tim Jones for "And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny & Cher Story" (ABC/Larry Thompson)
George Westmore Lifetime Achievement Award