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.
On Monday, the Director's Guild of America announced their nominees for best director for a TV movie: the honorees are Billy Crystal for 61*, Robert Allan Ackerman for Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows, Jon Avnet for Uprising, Frank Pierson for Conspiracy and Mark Rydell for James Dean. The DGA Awards will be presented March 9.
Meg Ryan will soon begin filming Against the Ropes--a story based on Jackie Kallen, the first female boxing manager--with Omar Epps co-starring and Charles Dutton directing, Variety reports. Kallen led a total of four middleweights to championships.
Kevin Spacey's production company Trigger Street Prods. will see their first documentary, Uncle Frank, on the big screen soon. The Berlin Intl. Film Festival, which opens Wednesday, will present the film--along with several others--as a special screening, Variety reports. Uncle Frank takes a look at old people's homes in New York.
Catherine Zeta-Jones will soon be the new face of Elizabeth Arden and apparently both parties are happy about the contract, People reports. A spokesperson for Arden said the beautiful 32-year-old Welsh actress "is the epitome of personal style." Zeta-Jones gushed, "I am proud to be part of the company."
Looks like more than Patriot fans walked away happy from Sunday's Super Bowl. Neither advertisers nor Fox can complain about the 86.8 million TV viewer average, the Los Angeles Times reports. The toughest competition was NBC's halftime Playboy Playmate episode of Fear Factor, which only held a mere 11.4 million viewers captive. Approximately 83 million watched U2's half-time tribute to the Sept. 11 victims.
Michael Jordan and his wife Juanita Jordan have announced they will "attempt a reconciliation," Reuters reports. After 12 years of marriage, Juanita cited irreconcilable differences as reason for the couple's split, but has now withdrawn her divorce petition.
Just because he's no longer the acting President of the United States, Bill Clinton still has fun playing politics. Saturday, Clinton attended a birthday party for a former staffer where he hobnobbed with senators, and Sunday, he hosted a Super Bowl party for guests ranging from Chris Tucker to Alec Baldwin, PageSix.com reports. Just in time for a nightcap, Mr. Clinton picked up a 10:30 p.m. cocktail at the Waldorf to raise money for his William Jefferson Clinton Foundation.
HBO is moving up its movie version of The Laramie Project, starring Janeane Garofalo and Steve Buscemi, to March 9 from March 16 because the latter date happens to coincide with NBC's premiere of The Matthew Shepard Story, starring Stockard Channing and Sam Waterston, the LA Times reports. What's the big deal? The two movies recount the same incident--the 1998 murder of gay college student Sam Shepard--and the networks don't want to compete for viewers.
Tune in to MTV on Valentine's Day if your heart beats true blue--red, white and blue, that is. Secretary of State Colin Powell will sit down with youths across the globe to answer questions on politics and current events. Powell will take questions from people at MTV locations around the world, and the program will be translated into multiple languages.
The WB is getting ready for their fall line-up, complete with comedies and dramas aplenty. And though about the same number of pilot shows will be produced this year as last by the WB, the focus is very clearly on "family and teen appeal," Variety reports.
Pay-per-view (PPV) movies that have had a theatrical release seem to be the most popular items on PPV these days, as revenues for released movies jumped 54% to $1.354 billion, Variety reports. Live events, such as boxing and wrestling, have fallen on hard times, due to lack of headliners (boxing) and market consolidation (wrestling).