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.
Top Story: Clear Channel Dumps Howard Stern
Many listeners who regularly listen to shock jock Howard Stern's nationally syndicated show were in for a surprise this morning. Radio giant Clear Channel Communications, Inc., said Wednesday it was dumping Stern from its six radio outlets that carry his show (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Rochester, N.Y.; Orlando, Fla.; San Diego, Calif.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Louisville, Ky.) under a new "zero tolerance" policy toward indecency, Reuters reports. Stern's Tuesday interview with Rick Salomon--hotel heiress Paris Hilton's partner in the infamous sex tape--is the reason why. According to a transcript of the show released by Clear Channel, Stern asked Salomon if he engaged in anal sex and referred to the size of his penis. Then, using a racist term, a caller asked Salomon if he had ever had sex with any famous black women. "Clear Channel drew a line in the sand today with regard to protecting our listeners from indecent content, and Howard Stern's show blew right through it," Clear Channel Radio president John Hogan said in a statement. "It was vulgar, offensive and insulting, not just to women and African Americans but to anyone with a sense of common decency."
Jackson Documentary Wins Journalism Prize
Martin Bashir's 90-minute documentary Living With Michael Jackson, in which the self-proclaimed King of Pop said he sometimes lets children sleep in his bed, has been named program of the year in the Royal Television Society's TV journalism awards. The industry group said Tuesday the interview showed "great journalistic enterprise," The Associated Press reports. "To get the interview was remarkable enough, but to turn it into such riveting television with serious revelations that have stood the test of fierce reaction marked this out as the outstanding program of the year," the society said. Jackson is currently facing charges of child molestation in California.
Woman Alleges Martin Lawrence Hit Her
A woman sued Martin Lawrence Monday in Superior Court, accusing the comedian of hitting her in the jaw at a party after she asked him if he'd be interested in attending another party at the Playboy mansion. According to the lawsuit, when Jennifer Palmer approached Lawrence at a Jan. 18 party, he responded by "wildly waving his hands around, slurring and mumbling in a manner suggesting that he was intoxicated or otherwise disoriented, using very foul language." Palmer alleges she tried to push him away and he struck her in the jaw. Lawrence's publicist called the accusations false and "financially motivated." Palmer is seeking more than $25,000 for assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress, the AP reports. A hearing is scheduled for June 7.
Wedding Scene Cut From Jersey Girl
Director Kevin Smith said he cut a wedding scene with Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez from his upcoming Jersey Girl. "I didn't know if [it was right] to leave it in," Smith is quoted as saying in the March 8 issue Us Weekly magazine. "People might forget they're watching a picture, like, 'Wait, didn't these two NOT get married?'" Affleck and Lopez abruptly postponed their September 2003 nuptials because of the excessive media attention surrounding the ceremony. They have since ended their engagement. Jersey Girl is set for release March 26.
Elvis' Granddaughter Makes Modeling Debut
The late Elvis Presley's 14-year-old granddaughter made her modeling debut at a fashion show in Milan, Italy, for designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana, Reuters reports. Riley Keough, daughter of Lisa Marie Presley and her first husband, musician Danny Keough, did her turn on the catwalk Wednesday, dressed in a tiny denim miniskirt and T-shirt. "I was really nervous before, I was shaking," Riley said after the show. "But it was fun. I'm looking forward to the next one."
Puddle of Mudd Singer Arrested
Puddle of Mudd lead singer Wesley Scantlin was arrested Sunday, after throwing a bottle and spitting at fans during a concert in Toledo, Ohio, AP reports. "We thought we were going to have a riot based on this guy's conduct," Earl Mack,an undercover state liquor agent with the Ohio Department of Public Safety's investigative unit, told the AP. "It could have been a lot worse." Scantlin was charged with disorderly conduct, intoxication, misconduct involving a public transportation system and criminal mischief. He was released Monday after posting $150 bond.
Doonesbury Wants Proof Bush Served
The Doonesbury comic strip is offering $10,000 to anyone who can prove President Bush served in the Alabama Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, Reuters reports. "That's right--we're offering $10,000 cash to anyone who can prove George W. Bush fulfilled his Guard duty in Alabama," Wednesday's strip said. "So if you served with Mr. Bush--even if only in the officers' club--we want to hear from you right now!" Readers are referred to the Web site doonesbury.com, where a Witness Registration Form asks for online testimony, Reuters reports. The winner, however, will not actually receive the reward but instead the Web site says the cash will be donated in the winner's name to the United Service Organization (USO), which entertains American troops.
Role Call: Rodriguez To Commit Sin
Director Robert Rodriguez will direct Sin City, an adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic noir crime novel series. According to Variety, the story is set in Las Vegas and interconnects storylines that involve unsavory inhabitants of the town. Rodriguez has already shot the film's opening with Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton, and Variety reports he's now casting the remaining roles as the rest of the film gets under way in March.
Reported by Guylaine Cadorette and Kit Bowen