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.
There's an allure to imperfection. With his latest drama Lawless director John Hillcoat taps directly into the side of human nature that draws us to it. Hillcoat finds it in Prohibition history a time when the regulations of alcohol consumption were subverted by most of the population; He finds it in the rural landscapes of Virginia: dingy raw and mesmerizing. And most importantly he finds it in his main character Jack Bondurant (Shia LaBeouf) the scrappy third brother of a moonshining family who is desperate to prove his worth. Jack forcefully injects himself into the family business only to discover there's an underbelly to the underbelly. Lawless is a beautiful film that's violent as hell striking in a way only unfiltered Americana could be.
Acting as the driver for his two outlaw brothers Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke) isn't enough for Jack. He's enticed by the power of the gangster figure and entranced by what moonshine money can buy. So like any fledgling entrepreneur Jack takes matters into his own hands. Recruiting crippled family friend/distillery mastermind Cricket (Dane DeHaan) the young whippersnapper sets out to brew his own batch sell it to top dog Floyd Banner and make the family rich. The plan works — but it puts the Bondurant boys in over their heads with a new threat: the corrupt law enforcers of Chicago.
Unlike many stories of crime life Lawless isn't about escalation. The movie drifts back and forth leisurely popping in moments like the beats of a great TV episode. One second the Bondurants could be talking shop with their female shopkeep Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain). The next Forrest is beating the bloody pulp out of a cop blackmailing their operation. The plot isn't thick; Hillcoat and screenwriter Nick Cave preferring to bask in the landscapes the quiet moments the haunting terror that comes with a life on the other side of the tracks. A feature film doesn't offer enough time for Lawless to build — it recalls cinema-level TV currently playing on outlets like HBO and AMC that have truly spoiled us — but what the duo accomplish is engrossing.
Accompanying the glowing visuals and Cave's knockout workout on the music side (a toe-tapping mix of spirituals bluegrass and the writer/musician's spine-tingling violin) are muted performances from some of Hollywood's rising stars. Despite LaBeouf's off-screen antics he lights up Lawless and nails the in-deep whippersnapper. His playful relationship with a local religious girl (Mia Wasikowska) solidifies him as a leading man but like everything in the movie you want more. Tom Hardy is one of the few performers who can "uurrr" and "mmmnerm" his way through a scene and come out on top. His greatest sparring partner isn't a hulking thug but Chastain who brings out the heart of the impenetrable beast. The real gem of Lawless is Guy Pearce as the Bondurant trio's biggest threat. Shaved eyebrows pristine city clothes and a temper like a rabid wolverine Pearce's Charlie Rakes is the most frightening villain of 2012. He viciously chews up every moment he's on screen. That's even before he starts drawing blood.
Lawless is the perfect movie for the late August haze — not quite the Oscary prestige picture or the summertime shoot-'em-up. It's drama that has its moonshine and swigs it too. Just don't drink too much.
In the creepy new adaptation, Shields will take on the part of Chris MacNeil, the mother of demonically possessed child Regan, while Chamberlain will play priest Father Merrin.
Ellen Burstyn and Max von Sydow originally starred in those roles in the cult 1973 film.
Playwright John Pielmeier insists the production will scale back on the movie's more gruesome scenes.
He says, "The story of the battle between faith and evil needed no spinning heads or green vomit. The horror should unfold instead on a simple set with an incredible cast (which we absolutely have), and the central conflict between doubting Father Karras and the demon should be a series of debates, in which the young girl possessed is the least of the figures present."
The Exorcist will open at Los Angeles' Geffen Playhouse on July 11.
The Star Trek icon has teamed up with comedy writer Chris Regan to co-author Shatner Rules: Your Guide to Understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large.
The tongue-in-cheek tome, which also contains fun facts and stories about the star, explores the 80 year old's optimistic way of viewing the world and features a collection of his best advice.
He says, "The book is not only funny and a great amusing read, but it expounds on saying yes to opportunity, saying yes to life, opening yourself up to life. By saying no, you're saying no to life. And so the book is very amusing and very funny, and yet it has something to say."
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Jamal (Martin Lawrence) is a worker at the Medieval World theme park who falls into a moat and emerges in 14th-century England a world inhabited by knights in shining armor. Once he pieces together what has probably happened Jamal tries to find a way to go back to the future. Along the way he finds himself inadvertently caught up in a rebellion led by a sort of medieval feminist Victoria (Marsha Thomason) against an illegitimate monarchy. With the help of Sir Nolte (Tim Wilkinson) a once legendary knight who has fallen on hard times Jamal and Victoria plan their attack on Percival (Vincent Regan) an evil knight aware of their plans to quash the monarchy and the king's iron rule. Jamal leads Victoria Nolte and their army of peasants into battle by teaching them football and wrestling techniques but when Jamal finally finds a way back to the 21st century he must face the feelings he has developed for Victoria.
Veteran actor/comedian Martin Lawrence (What's the Worst That Could Happen? Big Momma's House) was definitely a great replacement for Chris Tucker who was originally set to star in the picture. His character's off-the-wall reactions to things like toilet facilities (stone benches encrusted with filth) are hilarious but Lawrence also manages some more touching scenes with enough ease--despite his loudmouth antics. Wilkinson (In the Bedroom Shakespeare in Love) also delivers a poignant performance as a once brilliant knight now badly in need of Alcoholics Anonymous. Regan (The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc) as the evil Percival gives dozens of steely glares. Less impressive was Thomason (Long Time Dead) whose character was too one-dimensional and practically emotionless.
Derived from Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court in which a 19th-century New England factory worker is struck in the head and awakens in 6th-century Camelot the story for Black Knight comes with practically guaranteed built-in laughs. The film directed by Gil Junger (10 Things I Hate about You) generates a few chuckles especially when dealing with issues of hygiene. Lawrence also delivers some great lines though some are popular rap lyrics like "Punks jump up to get beat down." The problem with the jokes is that they are hardly original and blatantly predictable. Who would not have guessed that Jamal would freak at Middle Ages plumbing and show his medieval counterparts some modern hip-hop dance moves? The 14th-century sets however are surprisingly realistic looking considering this is a comedy rather than a period film.
This ain't your daddy's version of "The Exorcist." The most acclaimed and artfully done horror film is returning to U.S. cinemas on Friday, 27 years after its original release. With a full 11 minutes of never-before-seen footage, plus a fully reworked stereo soundtrack (with additional music and notched-up sound effects), "The Exorcist" feels, in many ways, just as contemporary today as when it was released (except maybe for the big lapels, sideburns and the slow pacing).
This isn't the "director's cut" of the film, but rather the "writer's cut." William Peter Blatty, who wrote the screenplay (based on his novel), has been lobbying ever since "The Exorcist" first came out to replace a handful of scenes that director William Friedkin filmed but edited out of the picture. (Read Hollywood.com's accompanying interview with William Friedkin.)
While most of these additions are either minor (a short snippet of dialogue) or low-key (new noises in the attic, a ghostly shadow on the wall), there are several major changes that help to explain some of the enduring mysteries of the film.
Here's a brief rundown of the major scenes that now appear, for the first time, in "The Exorcist."
The "Spider-Walk" Scene: This deleted scene, which lasts only a few seconds, is the stuff of movie legend. In one of the most conventional "shock value"-type scenes filmed for "The Exorcist," Regan (Linda Blair) startles her mother and housekeeper by scampering down the stairs upside-down in a weird sort of insect crawl. Originally, director Friedkin opted to cut this scene out simply because it didn't look convincing; the effect was created by hanging Blair's stunt double on wires and gliding her down the stairs, but the wires were slightly visible and it was apparent that Regan wasn't crawling under her own power. For the new version, Friedkin used computer-generated imaging to matte out the pesky wires and to otherwise clean up the imperfect effects work. Then he replaced this footage (it occurs, startlingly, at the end of the scene wherein Regan's mom learns of Burke's mysterious death). He also judiciously edited it for maximum effect, cutting out the tail end of the sequence wherein Regan's devilish (and very rubbery) tongue flicks out of her mouth.
The Doctor's Office: One of the great mysteries (or imperfections, if you prefer) of the original cut of "The Exorcist" was that there was very little foreshadowing of Regan's demonic possession. Except for her fascination with a Ouija board, there was nothing to suggest a connection to the supernatural. In fact, there was a gaping hole in the story. After the infamous "party scene," wherein Regan wanders into the room and tells an astronaut that he's going to "die up there" on the moon, Chris puts her daughter to bed and tells her not to worry. That her weird, unexplainable behavior is caused by nerves, just like the doctor said. But never before had the movie shown or mentioned anything about a visit to the doctor. The new version of "The Exorcist" fixed that gap by replacing an entire scene that Friedkin originally filmed yet deleted because he felt it too expository.
The Moment of Truth: Near the end of the film, after Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) and Father Karras (Jason Miller) have completed Round One of the exorcism, the two priests sit outside Regan's bedroom, gathering strength to continue the climactic ritual. In the original cut, two men were simply seen sitting on the stairs, and the implication was that they were simply collecting their physical strength. The new version restores a brief conversation between the two, wherein Karras asks the question that all of us watching the question are also asking: "Why her? Why would the devil possess this little girl." Father Merrin doesn't exactly know, except to say that it's the ultimate test of faith, a gambit by the devil designed to erode everyone's faith in God.