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.
With the official announcement of Sunday's activities, San Diego Comic-Con finally has its full line-up. And boy oh boy is it ever chock-a-block with things to do. For those not easily overwhelmed, we've broken down the highlights that will no doubt bring in tons of spoilers, revelations, exclusives, and news about our favorite television shows and movies. The comic convention has quickly turned into THE place to reveal information to a highly-rapturous nerd-and-geek-a-palooza in addition to the discussion of the comic book and fandom worlds.
So take a look at the highlights below and get your schedules ready--it's definitely going to be tight to manage seeing everything worth attending. Does anyone have an extra time-turner handy?
For those lucky enough to get into the preview night, there is a nearly 4 hour block of pilot screenings that include ABC's 666 Park Avenue, CW's Arrow, FOX's The Following, NBC's Revolution, and CW's Cult.
Thursday morning starts off with several panels, including an hour of movie trailer screenings. The cast and crew from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 will be on-hand to present a sneak peek at the film followed by a Q&A. Disney hosts a panel featuring Tim Burton and his Frankenweenie, Sam Raimi and Oz The Great and Powerful, and Wreck-it Ralph. John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman will also be there. To round out the afternoon, Teen Wolf of the MTV variety and USA's Psych will also have panels going. The CW's Beauty and the Beast has a panel during the evening, and the zombies will be out for The Walking Dead's early evening discussion. Wilfred's team will have an hour to chat about the FX-by-way-of-Australian television show, and CBS' Elementary will serve you some behind-the-scenes clues into the show for Sherlock and Watsons everywhere. On the movie front, The Expendables 2 will talk about the action and and explosions experienced by on-hand stars Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and more. Jon Benjamin has his first panel of the weekend to discuss Archer before the folks from Dexter chat about the world's most lovable serial killer, in what promises to be filled with tons of details about the upcoming season. Comedy Central gets in on the fun with a discussion with the boys from Workaholics before everything ends with a lively sing-along featuring Neil Patrick Harris' internet sensation, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog.
Community brings the cult-favorite's cast to San Diego for what will be an undoubtedly kooky and obscure pop culture reference-laden event, while the bronies will be found at a My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (I know!) panel. Nickelodeon's buzzified new show Legend of Korra takes a stab at the comic-con circuit, as well as CW's midseasoner Cult. Fans of Adult Swin have several panels running on Friday, and Big Bang Theory gets an upgrade to the prestigious Hall H for its cast chat. Things are a little bit creepy in honor of the superstitious Friday the 13th, with a panel for ABC's 666 Park Avenue, as well as several other horrific sessions. In curious music-related news, Chris Martin and the Coldplay crew will be on hand to chat about the alleged secret narrative behind their album Mylo Xyloto that has turned into a comic miniseries. Interesting! At lunchtime, The Walking Dead will raise you from the undead before David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel talk the Bones season seven shocker. Elijah Wood will be there to discuss his voice work on Disney's Tron: Legacy series before afternoon highlight and sure-to-be-packed-to-the-gills Game of Thrones panel moderated by series-and-novel creator George R.R. Martin. A portion of the cast: including Jon Snow, Theon Greyjoy, Cersei Lannister, Robb and Catelyn Stark, and Daenerys Targaryen will be on hand to dish on winter's impending arrival. White walkers!
Think you're done yet? Oh no, my friends, there's much more--including Bob's Burgers, a preview of Resident Evil: Retribution, and a panel discussing kick-ass ladies featuring Kristin Bauer van Straten, Sarah Wayne Callies, Kristin Kreuk, Nikki Reed and Anna Torv. Wil Wheaton will serve up a Q&A for Falling Skies.
Sony heads up a huge two-hour panel featuring their upcoming films, including the reboot of Total Recall with Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel and Bryan Cranston on stage, as well as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's futuristic Looper, and Neill Blonkamp's Elysium featuring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.
Phew! But we're not done yet, America. Oh no. Joss Whedon and Anthony Bourdain both have panels during the evening portion, before Bryan Cranston has another panel with his hit show Breaking Bad. Cult-favorites that ended-too-soon for some fans (Dollhouse, FlashForward, Firefly, and The Middleman) have their own panel — with Firefly's hosted by the Science Channel — about what the writers wish they could've shown before Resident Evil: Damnation has a 7-minute sneak preview event with a subsequent Q&A.
Saturday starts out strong with a panel for next year's Will and Jaden Smith film/comic book, After Earth. G4's Attack of the Show comes up next with a behind-the-scenes look at the nerd-favorite. Then it's a trip to Storybrooke, where the cast of Once Upon A Time will chat about the magical show. Keep an eye out, as Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parrilla, and Emilie de Ravin will all be on hand. Felicia Day and Wil Wheaton are hosting a Geek & Sundry panel that promises big-time announcements that Wheaton fans will sure to delight over for days after. Lizzy Caplan, Alison Brie, Martin Starr, and Geoffrey Arend will all be on-hand to discuss their new film Save the Date, which tells a contemporary story of modern love using the style and tropes of comic book storytelling to make the movie. A highlight of Saturday morning is definitely the sneak-peek of Django Unchained, featuring a Q&A with Quentin Tarantino and the cast. Futurama also has a panel on the day, as well as Chris Hardwick's ever-popular Nerdist empire. But Saturday's shenanigans don't stop here--we're barely even through lunchtime, you guys--other panel highlights include The Simpsons, Jake Gyllenhaal will discuss his new film End of Watch, and the crew from Family Guy will also chat up the convention. There's a panel each for the folks from Grimm, Being Human, and Vampire Diaries, to discuss the supernatural dramas second, third, and fourth respective seasons. The Shameless cast talks drunken shenanigans and family calamities before the evening takes off with the big guns. On the TV front, True Blood, Glee, MythBusters, and Cinemax's Femme Fatales all get their own Q&A time. Movie highlights in the evening include Iron Man 3 and Person of Interest. Nerd hero Kevin Smith also has his own panel.
The day starts off strong with a Fringe panel featuring stars Anna Torv, Josh Jackson, Lance Reddick, Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole, and John Noble. After that, things get Supernatural with Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, but continue with an alleged "earth-shattering announcements that will change the life of Peter Parker [aka Spiderman] for another 50 years" in a panel featuring the Marvel crew. Intrigue! By then it's lunchtime and the cult-favorite Doctor Who will premiere some exclusive content in preparation for the upcoming season of the BBC hit. Seth MacFarlane will be on hand to premiere the first episode from season four of The Cleveland Show. In an attempt to make us all feel 100 years old, there will be a 20th anniversary celebration/panel for Buffy the Vampire Slayer which will feature surprise guests and the original movie Buffy, Kristy Swanson, as well as stars Nicholas Brendon and Clare Kramer. There will also be a separate screening of the musical episode later on in the afternoon. FX favorite Sons of Anarchy will also take an hour on the stage, as well as a panel on the Harry Potter fandom.
Phew! Information overload much? For those of you that are going, which of these panels are you most excited about? For those not attending but keeping score, which panels do you think will be the true highlights? Let us know in the comments!
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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.