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.
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
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.
This weekend at the box office, moviegoers finally got to work out their frustrations.
As expected, the new comedy Anger Management beat the daylights out of the competition with a whooping $44.5 million,* making it the highest opener of 2003 (topping Daredevil, which opened in February with $40.3 million).
"The comedy genre this year is just incapable of burning out," Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations told the Associated Press. "People are looking to blow off steam. What better way than seeing a movie that combines Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler?"
And Management was apparently all moviegoers wanted to see this weekend, as the rest of the list paled miserably in comparison. Last week's top dog Phone Booth, came in at No.2 with a measly $7.5 million, while the teenybopper What a Girl Wants took third with $6.7 million.
Rounding out the Top Five were the enduring comedy Bringing Down the House, which held the fourth spot with $4.6 million and the cop drama A Man Apart, which came in a No. 5 with $4.4 million. Horror newcomer House of 1,000 Corpses opened in seventh place with $3.4 million in limited theaters.
Even with Management's huge numbers, this weekend's box office only jumped five percent from last weekend. Still, the film helped revive a four-week slump, which is a good sign that things may finally be picking up.
THE TOP TEN
Sony Pictures' PG-13 Anger Management screamed its way to the top with an ESTIMATED $44.5 million in 3,551 theaters ($12,532 per theater).
The film's strong opening makes it the best April opener of all time, beating out The Scorpion King, which opened in 2002 at $36 million. It's also the best opening film for both its stars Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler. Nicholson's best opening to date had been Batman, which hit theaters in 1989 and took in $40.5 million its first weekend, while Sandler's 1999 Big Daddy was his biggest at $41.5 million.
Management follows the exploits of a mild-mannered man who is mistakenly ordered into an anger management program to battle his inner demons--but it turns out the only real demon in his life is his unorthodox therapist.
Directed by Peter Segal, it stars Sandler, Nicholson, Marisa Tomei and John Turturro.
20th Century Fox's R-rated Phone Booth called in at No. 2 with an ESTIMATED $7.5 million, dropping 50 percent from its top spot last week. The thriller about a man trapped in a phone booth by a homicidal sniper played at 2,489 theaters ($3,023 per theater) and its cume is approximately $26.6 million.
Directed by Joel Schumacher, it stars Colin Farrell, Kiefer Sutherland and Forest Whitaker.
Slipping down a spot to third was Warner Bros.' PG-rated What a Girl Wants with an ESTIMATED $6.7 million (-41%) at 2,964 theaters (+ 8 theaters, $2,260 per theater). The Teen Beat comedy, which follows a young American girl who heads to London in hopes of meeting the father she's never known, a high-profile politician, has collected approximately $20.4 million thus far.
Directed by Dennie Gordon, it stars Amanda Bynes, Kelly Preston and Colin Firth.
Proving comedies are indeed the flavor of the year, Buena Vista's PG-13 Bringing Down the House moved up one place to fourth with an ESTIMATED $4.6 million (-45%) at 2,830 theaters (-80 theaters, $1,625 per theater). Now in its sixth week, the laffer's cume is approximately $117.7 million.
Directed by Adam Shankman, it stars Steve Martin and Queen Latifah.
New Line Cinema's R-rated A Man Apart dropped a few notches to fifth place with an ESTIMATED $4.4 million (-60%) at 2,495 theaters (+36 theaters, $1,784 per theater). The cop drama--about a U.S. narcotics officer who takes on a Tijuana drug cartel to get retribution for the murder of his wife--has taken in approximately $18.2 million so far.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, it stars Vin Diesel and Larenz Tate.
DreamWorks' PG-13 Head of State slid from No. 4 to No.6 with an ESTIMATED $4 million (-53%) at 2,256 theaters (+101 theaters, $1,773 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.9 million.
Directed by and starring Chris Rock, the film also stars Bernie Mac, Lynn Whitfield, Robin Givens and Tamala Jones.
And for those horror fans--Lions Gate's R-rated House of 1,000 Corpses debuted in seventh place with an ESTIMATED $3.4 million at 595 theaters ($5,714 per theater).
Set in the 1970s, the film revolves around two young couples who take a misguided tour onto the back roads of America and are set upon by a bizarre family of psychotics. Murder, cannibalism and satanic rituals are just a few of the thousand horrors that await.
Director by heavy-metal singer Rob Zombie, it stars Karen Black, Michael J. Pollard, Bill Moseley and Chris Hardwick.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Miramax Films' PG-13 Chicago held onto eighth place with an ESTIMATED $3.29 million (-36%) at 2,114 theaters (-281 theaters, $1,556 per theater). Now in its 16th week, Miramax's most profitable film has earned approximately $156.9 million.
Directed by Rob Marshall, it stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
Taking a dive three spots to dig in at No. 9, ,Paramount Pictures' PG-13 The Core shoveled in an ESTIMATED $3.22 million (-48%) at 3,019 theaters ($1,068 per theater). The disaster thriller about saving the Earth by jumpstarting its core has made $25.6 million in three weeks.
Directed by Jon Amiel, it stars Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, Delroy Lindo, Stanley Tucci, D.J. Qualls and Tcheky Karyo.
Also shaving off three spots to claim tenth place was Sony's R-rated Basic, which came in with an ESTIMATED $2.2 million (-59%) at 2,246 theaters (-630 theaters, $980 per theater). Its cume is approximately $23.8 million.
Directed by John McTiernan, it stars John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Connie Nielsen.
Guess word of mouth counts for something. The critically acclaimed R-rated independent film Better Luck Tomorrow from Paramount Classics opened in 13 theaters with an ESTIMATED $398,489, averaging a very healthy $30,653 per theater.
The film plays on the story of straight-A, Asian-American teens in Southern California who, bored with their suburban lives, slide into petty crimes that lead to violence.
"These kids could be anybody," Van Toffler, MTV president told AP. "It's silly to underestimate the eclectic moviegoing tastes of our demographic. The cast doesn't have to look or feel like them for them to want to see it."
Directed by Justin Lin, it stars Parry Shen, Jason Tobin, John Cho and Karin Anna Cheung.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $ 86.9 million, up 5.76 percent from last week when they totaled $82.2 million. The Top 12 were also up 6.30 percent from last year when they totaled $81.7 million.
Last year, Paramount Pictures' R-rated Changing Lanes opened in the top spot with $17.1 million at 2,613 theaters ($6,555 per theaters). The Panic Room came in No.2 with $10.6 million at 3,119 theaters ($3,405 per theater) while Sony's The Sweetest Thing debuted in third with $9.4 million at 2,670 theaters ($3,532 per theater).