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.
The magical R-rating is both a gift and a curse to Adam Sandler's signature brand of lowbrow humor. In That's My Boy the comedian returns to the dim-witted roots that made him a star in early outings like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore (complete with high-pitched mushmouth accent) but with a ramped up "ew" factor. Unrestrained Sandler piles on as many expletives and gross-out scenarios as a two-hour movie can hold — and it works out quite well. With costar Samberg nailing the disgusted straight man role Sandler's penchant for acting like a fool is enhanced by the sick stylings of director Sean Anders (Sex Drive) and only occasionally teetering into truly offensive territory. Laughs aren't guaranteed but the movie provokes (which is a big step up from Jack and Jill).
Back in the '80s Donny had a secret relationship with his teacher Ms. McGarricle that resulted in a son Han Solo (he's a middle schooler what do you expect?). The torrid affair put McGarricle in jail Donny into celebrity tabloid spotlight and Han Solo in the hands of a tween father. Thirty years later everyone's screwed up: Donny (Adam Sandler) is a drunk on the brink of jail time for tax evasion McGarricle's still in jail and Han Solo (Andy Samberg) now "Todd " is a successful number-cruncher with severe social issues. On the weekend of Todd's wedding Donny reenters his life hoping to bring revive their relationship and reunite him with his mother — that is on camera so Donny can make $50 000 from a gossip TV show and stay out of the slammer. Posing as Todd's long-lost best friend Donny stirs up trouble becoming buddies with Todd's friends and family and acting like a imbecile.
The wedding setup is overdone but always prime for comedy: plenty for a numbskull to screw up logical progression (there's a wedding at the end!) and a bachelor party scene to squeeze in the most disgusting bits and have them make sense. That's My Boy makes the most of its conventions — including what we all know and expect from a Sandler comedy — by continually one-upping itself. After a night of heavy drinking at the local strip club/omelette bar that results in do-it-yourself ear piercing and robbing a convenience store with Vanilla Ice Todd returns home to expel the night's worth of drinking all over his fiancee's wedding dress. Then he makes love to the dress. Then his fiancee (Leighton Meester) wakes up to find the dress. Then it goes even further than one would care to imagine. Grossed out yet? Amazingly lower-than-low brow material is handled with clever timing and great delivery. It's just that the foundation is bodily fluids.
That's My Boy falters when it throws in gags that serve zero purpose to the story. Strange racist humor a mentally retarded bar patron played by Nick Swardson (a Sandler mainstay) random allusions to Todd Bridges' drug habits — barrel-scraping one-offs that have nothing to do with the movie. At two hours the movie needs slimming and the fat is apparent. Thankfully the main ensemble goes to great lengths to make the hard R comedy click with Sandler and Samberg playing well off each other (although Samberg doesn't have the making of a leading man after this movie) and SNL alums like Will Forte Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer driving by to bring the funny. Even Vanilla Ice's extended cameo fits the anything-goes tone playing a version of himself that befriended Donny in his celebrity days. Now he works at an ice skating rink.
After a few lame ducks That's My Boy is a return to form for Sandler. It wavers in quality but it has energy and color. A cash-in this is not and for any Sandler fan with a stomach for hardcore bathroom humor it's a must-see.
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
Follow Thomas Leupp on Twitter.
Follow Hollywood.com on Twitter.
When you think of classic animated films, you can’t possibly forget the features Disney has brought into our lives. Most of us grew up with at least a handful of cartoon epics – depending on the generation – and now with Tangled, Disney is bringing the long line of princess-themed animated features to a close. As they move on into their next phase of Disney magic with Rapunzel and her tower-escape accomplice, Flynn Ryder, it seems like an appropriate time to take a look back at Disney’s best trusty companions starting from the release of their first animated feature 73 years ago.
These friendly faces have been with us since Disney’s original glory days,providing the foundation for the sidekicks that followed them in the long line of animated classics. Despite the fact that they aren’t necessarily original characters, the Disney spin on them has made each beloved character synonymous with the Mouse House.
The Seven Dwarfs
Okay, I’m already cheating by picking more than one sidekick at a time, but you can’t really separate one dwarf from the others. In addition to providing comic relief and a few tender moments, Sleepy, Sneezy, Happy, Dopey, Grumpy, Bashful, and Doc were really the best friends a girl whose stepmom tried to have her killed and subsequently drove her into the woods could have. Not only do they take her in (once she wins them over by being the best, most helpful singing houseguest ever) but when Snow White falls into her poison apple nap, they overtake the evil queen and send her to her death. If that wasn’t enough, their adorable little beards and dig, dig, digging Hi-ho’s should seal the deal.
This tiny guy has become one of the Disney mascots, appearing in countless other cartoon ventures and singing the unofficial Disney theme “When You Wish Upon a Star,” but we fell in love with the little chirper back in 1940 when his heart, courage and bravery helped little Pinocchio find his way back to Geppetto and real boyhood. The puppet’s “official conscience” (he’s got a badge and everything) wasn’t actually supposed to see the end of the film according to the original story, but Walt Disney altered the tale and Jiminy's been a symbol of Disney magic ever since.
You really can’t say Disney without thinking of this spritely, stubborn little lady. Her pixie dust is sprinkled over almost every Mousey venture and if Mickey wasn’t Walt’s right-hand man, she could have a chance at giving the cheery mouse a run for his money as the most beloved Disney character. Of course, she earned her post by playing the trusty, yet feisty, sidekick to Peter Pan eventually putting her life on the line to save Peter from Captain Hook’s gift-wrapped bomb. Like Jiminy, Tink’s status as a Disney mascot has landed her roles in handfuls of other cartoons and films.
The Ultimate BFFs
These folks may not have special powers or super strength; they can be timid and they don’t always get it right, but their fierce friendship helps keep our heroes on track and in good company.
Winnie the Pooh is a lovable dope and his best friend is always there to help him along. He may be tiny, he may be squeamish, but his heart is ten times his stature. His sweet disposition and great capacity for friendship make him very special to the honey-loving bear. Piglet often overcomes his immense fear of dark, dangerous situations when it’s up to him to save the day.
Much like Piglet, Flounder is fearful but loves wholeheartedly and comes through when it really matters. As Ariel’s lifelong best friend in The Little Mermaid, the little blue and yellow fish supports her unconventional (and unpopular) affinity for human culture and is the one who eventually gives her the statue of Prince Eric that King Triton blasts to smithereens.
Aladdin’s little monkey doesn’t always do the right thing, but his heart always finds its way eventually. He probably causes just as much trouble for his partner in crime as he solves for him -- need I bring up the giant ruby incident in the Cave of Wonders? -- but he manages to overcome his often selfish and childish ways when it comes down to it.
The Class Clowns
These guys share some similarities with the Ultimate BFFs, but they keep us in stitches along the way and usually get their voices from big name actors. Every Disney character has a little humor for good measure, but these sidekicks raise the bar on animated funny.
Robin Williams’ blue genie changed the landscape of animated sidekicks forever. The actor did the unthinkable while recording dialogue for Genie – he improvised and adlibbed many of his lines, creating quite a bit of work for animators. Genie morphs into 52 different characters at-will throughout the film and proliferates laughs even in the darkest of times.
Timon and Pumbaa
I’m breaking the rules again, but you can’t have Tweedle Dee without Tweedle Dum and you can’t have Timon without Pumbaa. After they save young Simba from the desert, the duo help him adapt to jungle life and teach him the ways of their problem-free philosophy, Hakuna Matata (it means no worries, for the rest of your days), all the while allowing the Broadway-style antics of actors Nathan Lane and Ernie Sabella to keep audiences giggling.
In addition to the fact that the little one-eyed, round, horned, skinny-legged monster from Monsters Inc. is funny-looking, his voice is provided by the classically hilarious Billy Crystal. As a scare assistant to the very large and very fuzzy professional scarer, Sully, Mike is wound a little tight. He attempts to keep Sully’s wistful decisions from causing bigger problems, but manages to make being uptight hilarious.
Villains need assistance too, even the evil queen in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs has her magic mirror. The best of the bad guy sidekicks are often hilarious and sometimes equally as hapless, but they always manage to muck it up for the good guys.
Captain Hook’s only friend and first mate may not always be the most helpful pal; he may be an idiot from time to time; and his loyalty may be driven by fear, but he’s really all Hook’s got. The other pirates begrudgingly follow their cantankerous leader, but Smee bumbles and stumbles throughout Neverland never failing to serve his baddie bestie. It’s a kind of loyalty you could almost admire if it wasn’t pointing in the wrong direction.
Flotsam and Jetsam
These twin moray eels assist Ursula and planning the destruction of the beautiful mermaid princess, Ariel. They creepily finish each others’ sentences and spend most of their time with their tails tightly entwined, but the thing that makes these villains great evil sidekicks is the crystal ball and portal that they create when their yellow eyes combine. Without them, Ursula would have had a hard time keeping tabs on poor Ariel.
This foul, feathered friend does Jafar’s evil bidding in Aladdin and manages to create an appropriate setting for Gilbert Godfried’s grating voice (although we can enjoy momentary relief each time we watch the Sultan stuff a handful of crackers into the macaw’s mouth). He’s got a good heart somewhere in that little body and he’s usually good for a laugh, but he tends to cling to the dark side, giving Jafar the idea to marry Jasmine for control of the kingdom and using his mimicking skills to trick Aladdin and his friends.
Sidekicks are always there to help, but some could earn awards or medals for their guidance and assistance in our heroes’ and heroines’ romantic fates.
Though he may not actually have hands, Lumiere manages to act as a helping hand, allowing The Beast and Belle to eventually find common ground. He acts a sort of double agent because while he’s undoubtedly The Beast’s closest friend, he’s also the one that defies The Beast's rules and coaxes Belle out of hiding when she's locked in her room. He may be a bit of a ladies’ man, but he manages to help bring the troubled yet fated pair together.
Horatio Thelonious Ignacious Crustaceous Sebastian is a Disney original. Though he wasn’t part of Hans Christian Anderson’s original story, the film wouldn’t be complete without the Jamaican crustacean. He starts out as Triton’s right-hand man and vows to watch after Ariel, but when he sees how she longs for dry land his heart overcomes his brain and he follows her to keep her from harm. He provides the perfect romantic setting once on land, cooing “Kiss The Girl” to help coax the handsome prince into kissing the newly be-legged Ariel.
He may be the newest member on the sidekick roster, but Ray definitely deserves a spot on the list. The firey, Cajun firefly is a hopeless romantic who despite his toothless grin oozes Bayou charm and selflessly devotes himself to helping Prince Naveen and Tiana find their way to the voodoo priestess so they can undo their froggy forms in The Princess and The Frog. The sweet little bug’s undying love for the Evening Star whom he refers to as Evangeline is what eventually helps Prince Naveen uncover his deep love for Tiana.