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.
Top Story: Sharon Stone and Hubby Phil Bronstein Split
Sharon Stone and her husband, San Francisco Chronicle Executive Editor Phil Bronstein, are headed for divorce court. According to The Associated Press, Bronstein filed his petition for divorce Thursday in San Francisco County Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences. Stone, 45, and Bronstein, 52, were married Feb. 14, 1998, and have a 3-year-old son, Roan. They said in the joint statement that they were committed to being great parents and having a friendship, as parents, going forward. Bronstein made headlines two years ago when a 7-foot-long Komodo dragon bit his left foot at the Los Angeles Zoo during a private visit arranged by Stone. The Basic Instinct star, meanwhile, was also in the news in 2001 when she was treated for a brain hemorrhage at the University of California.
Oscars Invite 87 Countries for Foreign-Language Consideration
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has asked 87 countries to submit films for foreign-language Oscar consideration, Variety reports. In order to qualify, a film must have a predominantly non-English dialogue track in the submitting country's official language and is also required to have had a minimum run of a week at a public theater in the home country between November 2002 and September 2003. Nominees will be announced Jan. 27. The 76th Academy Awards are scheduled for Feb. 29 at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.
Theater Bans Young Children
A movie theater in Kansas City, Mo., has banned children under six in a bid to accommodate its adult clientele. According to Reuters, the Cinemark Palace is no longer showing movies rated G or PG and fliers posted in the lobby announce that as of July 4, the theater will show "adult films, independent films and films geared toward adult audiences." The Palace also has a VIP room where adults can sit in recliners and drink alcohol while watching a movie. A spokeswoman for Dallas-based Cinemark USA said they are not trying to exclude children but reinforcing a more adult-oriented film menu.
Kutcher Sticks With That '70s Show
It's nice to see that all that fame hasn't gone to Ashton Kutcher's head. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the actor has struck a new deal with That '70s Show production company Carsey-Werner-Mandabach that will keep him on the Fox sitcom through the 2004-05 season. The '04-'05 pact will reportedly bump Kutcher's per-episode salary to the low six-figure range, which means he will make somewhere between $5 million-$7 million for each 25-episode season. Kutcher, who is already under contract for the upcoming 2003-04 '70s Show season, is also creator/executive producer/star of MTV's hidden-camera prankster series Punk'd.
NBC Leads Key Demo, CBS Nabs Total Viewers
NBC leads the pack in the adults 18-49 demographic five weeks into the summer ratings period but CBS is the most-watched network in total viewers, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Fox, meanwhile, is running second to NBC in adults 18-49, and ABC is fighting to stay tied with CBS for third place in the key demo. The Big Four networks are taking significantly different approaches with their summer scheduling strategies, with NBC running a steady stream of reality shows, while CBS has so far relied on reruns of its regular schedule. ABC has run its crop of new sitcoms while Fox is sticking to a new slate that includes American Idol Jr., American Juniors.
Lollapalooza Opens Saturday
Lollapalooza, the concert that toured summer stages from 1991 to 1997, opens Saturday in Indianapolis after a six-year hiatus. Audioslave, Incubus and Jurassic 5 are set to headline along with Jane's Addiction, who are promoting their first new album since 1990's Ritual De Lo Habitual. In addition to enjoying the music, concertgoers will be able to use cell phones to interact with giant plasma screens set up on the grounds, and visit the X-Box tent to play any of 140 X-Box video game consoles, the AP reports.
SoundScan Compiles Sales of Music Download
Nielsen SoundScan has begun compiling sales of permanent music downloads, which will be included in Billboard's new download tracks chart. Sales data will initially come from the digital-music services run by Apple Computer, Liquid Audio, MusicNet, RealNetworks and Roxio, but streams and other non-permanent digital-music sales will not be included. This week's top three digital track sales are "Crazy in Love" by Beyonce featuring Jay-Z, followed by Kelly Clarkson's "Miss Independent" and Coldplay's "Clocks."
Role Call: McConaughey To Star in Don Cheadle's Directorial Debut
Matthew McConaughey is in negotiations to star in Tishomingo Blues, which will mark the feature directorial debut of actor Don Cheadle. The pic, an adaptation of the Elmore Leonard bestseller, is set in Mississippi and centers on a circus high diver staying at the Tishomingo Lodge & Casino who witnesses a murder by local members of the Dixie Mafia. The project is expected to begin production Sept. 2.