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.
British and Australian talent featured highly in this year's Bafta awards, Britain's equivalent of the Oscars. Moulin Rouge and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring each received 12 nominations, Reuters reports. The two films will battle it out in the best film category against A Beautiful Mind, Shrek and the French romantic comedy Amélie. The stars of Richard Eyre's Iris, Judi Dench, Jim Broadbent, Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville, each received nominations, as did Ian McKellen for his portrayal of the wizard Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. Dench also received a best supporting actress nod for her role in The Shipping News. Nicole Kidman received a best actress nomination for The Others while fellow Aussie Russell Crowe won a nomination for best actor in A Beautiful Mind.
Britney Spears looking...prim? The pop princess will appear in two Pepsi commercials dubbed "Now and Then" during the upcoming Super Bowl XXXVI wearing period outfits instead of her typical midriff-baring getups and singing jingles from the 1950s, '60s, '70s and '80s. Internet users will then be asked to vote on their favorite generation. The winning era will be featured in a 30-second commercial shown during the second quarter of Sunday's game.
Playboy Playmate Petra Verkiak, aka Miss December 1989, took a high school teen to his girl-ask-guy winter formal after reading his college entrance essay, The Associate Press reports. Verkiak, 35, said she thought Toby Hawking's essay, which she received from a friend who got it from Hocking's mother, was "really deep." The former pinup showed up at Foothill High School in a limousine with the straight-A clarinet player and exclaimed, "This is like a fairy tale."
Anschutz Entertainment, the company that built the new homes for the Oscars and the L.A. Lakers, has reportedly set its sights on the Emmys. According to Variety, representatives from the company met with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences board of governors and executive committee to sway them into moving their annual primetime Emmy awards show to a venue in downtown Los Angeles. Anschutz Entertainment plans to build a 7,000-seat theater across from its Staples Center, which would be ready in time for the 2005 ceremony.
Last Wednesday's Inside the Real West Wing, an up-close-and-personal look inside the Bush White House that aired on NBC from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m., surpassed The West Wing episode that followed it in the ratings race. While the special drew 15.2 million viewers, The West Wing averaged 14.7 million viewers. Perhaps the fact that the episode was a rerun was to blame. Figures show that on average, 18.4 million viewers tune in to President Josiah Bartlet.
Just a few months after CBS announced a full-season order of 22 episodes of The Ellen Show, the network has shut down production of Ellen DeGeneres' struggling comedy. The five remaining original episodes have been yanked through the February sweeps and will air instead in March and April.
Astrid Lindgren, the creator of braided redhead Pippi Longstocking, died Monday at her Stockholm home after several days of illness. She was 94. Lindgren wrote more than 100 works, including novels, plays, short stories and poetry, but her most popular character was Pippi Longstocking, the freethinking freckled girl with mismatched stockings.