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.
There is something particularly unnerving about demon possession. It's the idea of something you can't see or control creeping into your body and taking up residence eventually obliterating all you once were and turning you into nothing more than a sack of meat to be manipulated. Then there's also the shrouded ritual around exorcisms: the Latin chants the flesh-sizzling crucifixes and the burning Holy Water. As it turns out exorcism isn't just the domain of Catholics.
The myths and legends of the Jews aren't nearly as well known but their creepy dybbuk goes toe-to-toe with anything other world religions come up with. There are various interpretations of what a dybbuk is or where it comes from — is it a ghost a demon a soul of a sinner? — but in any case it's looking for a body to hang out in for a while. Especially according to the solemn Hasidic Jews in The Possession an innocent young person and even better a young girl.
The central idea in The Possession is that a fancy-looking wooden box bought at a garage sale was specifically created to house a dybbuk that was tormenting its previous owner. Unfortunately it caught the eye of young Emily (Natasha Calis) a sensitive artistic girl who persuades her freshly divorced dad Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan of Watchmen and Grey's Anatomy) to buy it for her. Never mind the odd carvings on it — that would be Hebrew — or how it's created without seams so it would be difficult to open or why it's an object of fascination for a young girl; Clyde is trying really hard to please his disaffected daughters and do the typical freshly divorced parent dance of trying to please them no matter the cost.
Soon enough the creepy voices calling to Emily from the box convince her to open it up; inside are even creepier personal objects that are just harbingers of what's to come for her her older sister Hannah (Madison Davenport) her mom Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) and even Stephanie's annoying new boyfriend Brett (Grant Show). Clyde and Stephanie squabble over things like pizza for dinner and try to convince each other and themselves that Emily's increasingly odd behavior is that of a troubled adolescent. It's not of course and eventually Clyde enlists the help of the son of a Hasidic rabbi a young man named Tzadok played by the former Hasidic reggae musician Matisyahu to help them perform an exorcism on Emily.
The Possession is not going to join the ranks of The Exorcist in the horror pantheon but it does do a remarkable job of making its characters intelligent and even occasionally droll and it offers up plenty of chills despite a PG-13 rating. Perhaps it's because of that rating that The Possession is so effective; the filmmakers are forced to make the benign scary. Giant moths and flying Torahs take the place of little Reagan violently masturbating with a crucifix in The Exorcist. Gagging and binging on food is also an indicator of Emily's possession — an interesting twist given the anxieties of becoming a woman a girl Emily's age would face. There is something inside her controlling her and she knows it and she is fighting it. The most impressive part of Calis's performance is how she communicates Emily's torment with a few simple tears rolling down her face as the dybbuk's control grows. The camerawork adds to the anxiety; one particularly scary scene uses ordinary glass kitchenware to great effect.
The Possession is a short 92 minutes and it does dawdle in places. It seems as though some of the scenes were juggled around to make the PG-13 cut; the moth infestation scene would have made more sense later in the movie. Some of the problems are solved too quickly or simply and yet it also takes a while for Clyde's character to get with it. Stephanie is a fairly bland character; she makes jewelry and yells at Clyde for not being present in their marriage a lot and then there's a thing with a restraining order that's pretty silly. Emily is occasionally dressed up like your typical horror movie spooky girl with shadowed eyes an over-powdered face and dark clothes; it's much more disturbing when she just looks like an ordinary though ill young girl. The scenes in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood in Brooklyn look oddly fake and while it's hard to think of who else could have played Tzadok an observant Hasidic Jew who is also an outsider willing to take risks the others will not Matisyahu is not a very good actor. Still the filmmakers should be commended for authenticity insofar as Matisyahu has studied and lived as a Hasidic Jew.
It would be cool if Lionsgate and Ghost House Pictures were to release the R-rated version of the movie on DVD. What the filmmakers have done within the confines of a PG-13 rating is creepy enough to make me curious to see the more adult version. The Possession is no horror superstar and its name is all too forgettable in a summer full of long-gestating horror movies quickly pushed out the door. It's entertaining enough and could even find a broader audience on DVD. Jeffrey Dean Morgan can read the Old Testament to me any time.
Flight Lieutenant Sean Cunningham, who was part of the famed Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team - known as the Red Arrows - died from multiple injuries after he was fired 200 feet (61 metres) into the air and his parachute failed to fully open.
Macpherson, who met Cunningham during the Pride of Britain Awards earlier this year (11), has now expressed her sadness and sent her condolences to his family.
She tells Britain's Daily Mirror, "I am sorrowed by the death of Sean Cunningham, who I had the pleasure to meet whilst presenting an award at the 2011 Pride of Britain Awards. When we met, I found Sean elegant and charming with a wicked sense of humour. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."
Cunningham is the second Red Arrows pilot to die in a plane accident this year (11) - in August (11), his teammate Jon Egging lost his life after his aircraft plunged to the ground during a show in Bournemouth, England.
Lindsay Lohan has been selected as the new multi-million dollar celebrity spokesperson for Proactiv anti-acne products.
Lohan joins a long list of celebrities endorsing the product including Jessica Simpson, Alicia Keys, Sean 'Diddy' Combs, Elle Macpherson, Brooke Shields and Kelly Clarkson.
In the two-minute spots which began airing yesterday on networks MTV and E!, Lohan states, "My skin, thanks to Proactiv, is clear all the time!"
The 20-year-old will collect a $2 million fee for her appearance in the ads, in which she shares her own acne experience, according to website TMZ.com.
The Mean Girls star's paycheck comes up short compared to other Proactiv celebrity spokespeople including Combs, who received $3 million to endorse the product, and Simpson, who received $2.5 million, according to Forbes magazine.
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According to a TV Guide poll, fans want Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears to move on in their love lives--meaning no going back to Sean "P. Diddy" Combs or Justin Timberlake, girls. Now that Lopez has split from her husband, Cris Judd, 73 percent of those polled don't want to see Lopez return to Combs, while 59 percent hopes Spears moves past Timberlake.
The Lord of the Rings star Sir Ian McKellen and actress Sharon Gless of Showtime's Queer As Folk fame will act as the grand marshals of San Francisco's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Parade on Sunday, July 7. They'll ride in a pink Cadillac.
Woody Harrelson is off the hook--for now. The London taxi driver who claimed the actor trashed the inside of his cab last month has dropped the charges, according to Reuters. Harrelson's alleged odd behavior in the cab was followed by a chase through the streets of London, where police finally apprehended the Cheers star. Harrelson was reported to have paid the taxi driver $800.
Comedian Chris Rock and his wife welcomed their first child, daughter Lola Simone, on Friday in New York.
Tom Arnold, the host of Fox Sports Net's Best Damn Sports Show Period and the man formerly married to Roseanne, has gotten hitched again. On Saturday, June 29, he wed girlfriend Shelby Roos at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson was the victim of a home burglary in the posh Notting Hill district of London, Scotland Yard revealed on Monday. Apparently, the robbery happened on May 23, and an investigation is being carried out. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman would not give any details "at the victim's request" on what was stolen, Reuters reports.
Fans of the late martial arts great Bruce Lee may be pleased to learn that American Movie Classics will be airing a documentary about him, Bruce Lee: A Warrior's Journey, Tuesday night. In it, 33 minutes of finished footage from Lee's last film, Game of Death, will be shown, presented according to an original outline by Lee. The film was released in 1978, five years after Lee's death at age 32, but some considered it a joke because he appeared in only 11 minutes of the film.
More celebs are joining folk singer Bob Dylan on his first foray into acting. Ed Harris and Giovanni Ribisi have joined the cast of Masked & Anonymous, about a wandering troubadour/ex-con who performs one last concert. Other cast members include Jessica Lange, Angela Bassett and Jeff Bridges.
Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon are looking to work together in Clint Eastwood's new film Mystic River. Eastwood will direct the film, about three childhood friends brought together after 25 years when the daughter of one of the friends is murdered.
George Michael is back--large and in charge. His latest song, "Shoot the Dog," released Monday, is a political satire and by far his most controversial yet: He describes British Prime Minister Tony Blair as President George Bush's poodle. Nice image.