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.
This is not the story I was going to write this morning. Last night, I attended a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises — first as an eager fan, secondarily as a journalist — but I knew exactly what story I wanted to tell. Midnight premieres have changed. (Obviously, right?) It’s not just fanboys and she-geeks packing the seats anymore. You don’t have to be a comic book fundamentalist or a costumed cinephile to buy an advanced ticket… hell, you don’t even have to like the superhero/vampire/pirate/wizard that the movie’s about. You go to midnight movies because it’s the thing to do when it comes to movies you’re moderately to very excited about seeing, because it’s the only way to vanguard the social media wave or have something to talk about at the water cooler the next day.
“I used to come to these things all the time so that I could be the first to tell my friends about the movie,” said Alejandro Espinoza, 31, a Brooklynite who showed up to the theater dressed as the film’s anarchic hulk Bane. “Now I come because if I’m not the first, then I’ll be the last. Everyone comes on Thursdays now.” Max Tilly, 25, added: “I think people used to go to movies at midnight because they were the biggest fans of something. Now anyone who wants to see it will go at midnight. I don’t think movies have necessarily gotten better. They’ve just gotten bigger.”
Thursday at 12 is the new Friday at 8. That’s what I wanted to prove as I walked into AMC’s Empire 25 cineplex in Times Square last night. Before, I thought that midnight screenings had changed. This morning, it appeared that they did. Of course, how could I have known that my trip to the movies on Thursday night may very well have been the last normal midnight screening for the foreseeable future?
In the wake of the harrowing news of the Colorado theater shooting — in which a 24-year-old masked gunman allegedly killed 12 and injured dozens more at a midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises — it’s clear that the culture of midnight movies is now in a state of flux. If moviegoers were just on the verge of transforming early A.M. screenings into the next big social scene, what now? With the shooting in mind, will Thursday night premieres be more sparsely attended than ever? Will beefed-up security change the face of midnight showings, as it did with getting on a plane after 9/11 or going to school after Columbine? Or will crowds continue to brave the chaos that characterizes these cinematic events, despite the now-heightened danger associated with the congested masses and concealed strangers?
“I never thought that a movie’s opening premiere would be a place to do something like [the shooting], but after it happened, I see that it’s a place for that because they don’t screen for weapons or guns,” Josh Garza, 21, says. “Everyone’s normally outside waiting until 12 o’clock, and then once they all go in, they’re all packed into a theater … It’s [primed] for that, if that’s the sort of thing you’re looking to do."
Chaos. It’s the ironic word of the day, characterizing not only Bane’s narrative in TDKR or alleged shooter James Holmes’ actions in Colorado, but also the entire nature of the midnight experience. After my screening, crowds spilled out onto escalators, elevators and fire escape stairs, shuffling towards any visible exit in mass numbers — and without any order whatsoever. But that’s typical of a midnight showing, right? An overstuffed crowd, a tight space, and a staff reluctant to be working late. Throw in a number of costumed moviegoers with masks and God-knows-what weapons (are they real or fake?) in their utility belts, and you suddenly have to ask yourself: How much do I trust the people around me? Is the man in the mask next to me just an eager fan, or someone more dangerous?
In the wake of the Colorado events, AMC has banned costumed moviegoers and security is amping up in theaters all over the country — the NYPD is securing movie theaters in Manhattan as the Department of Homeland Security lends a hand to theater owners nationwide. Will a bulking up of security make future midnight audiences more or less fearful to return to the multiplex? Are audiences as scared as we think they are?
“I don’t think it would deter me,” Garza says. “After this situation, I feel that going to the movies for a midnight premiere could be like a hot spot for people who want to do some massive destruction, so it would make me feel a little better that they’d be screening for weapons or anything of that nature.”
“Look at it this way,” Stefanie Williams, 25, says. “If I’m willing to stay up for a midnight showing and have to work the next day, security isn't going to bother me. If I’m a fan of the movie, especially [something] like Batman, it won't stop me.”
The difficulty in this situation is determining whether the Colorado shooting has an effect not only on moviegoing as a whole, but specifically on the tradition of midnight premieres. The alleged shooter chose a midnight showing, but he could just as easily have picked a Friday rush or a Saturday matinee. Now the magnifying glass will fall to midnight. Tentative fans could replace eager ones; strict procedure could replace excited pre-show chatter; and, perhaps most importantly, rigorous security measures could eliminate the entire culture of dressing up for the movie (it's already started at a theater in New Jersey). Will the magic of midnight movies disappear?
"I don't think you can have a midnight movie without costumes," Salil Huda, 28, says. "They make the whole thing feel like an event. You don't have to dress up to appreciate all the people who do. That's what makes it a fun experience."
Tons of film lovers will still flock to the theaters this weekend for The Dark Knight Rises, but the fate of the midnight showing won’t be known until the next major release: Total Recall, which hits theaters on Aug. 3. It's not quite a dress-up movie (unless taping a third boob to your chest is your idea of proper public attire), but it could hint at future implications for the midnight culture, and by the time The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 is released in November, we'll have a firmer idea of the new status quo that faces these early screenings.
“I’d be fine attending future midnight screenings,” says 31-year-old Justin Allen, before stumbling on a harsh realization: “After last night, I’ll never be able to sneak outside food in. The irony, of course, is I’ve always attended movies for an escape. Now I have to look out for traps.”[Photo Credit: Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters]
Follow Marc on Twitter @MarcSnetiker
Additional reporting by Kelsea Stahler and Abbey Stone
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While Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan helped define the style of a modern day war film it was his HBO mini-series Band of Brothers that truly captured the World War II experience. The multi-part saga dealt with every nook and cranny of the US military's involvement in the war from large scale battles to intimate character details. The new movie Red Tails developed and produced by Spielberg's Indiana Jones collaborator and Star Wars mastermind George Lucas attempts to cover the same ground for the sprawling tale of the Tuskegee Airmen—albeit in a two hour compressed form. The result is a messy handling of a powerful story of heroism. The good intentions make it on to the screen...but the drama never gets off the runway.
Red Tails assembles a talented cast of young actors to portray the brave men of the 332nd Fighter Group a faction of the Tuskegee Airmen. The ensemble is reduced to a jumble of simplistic one-note characterizations: Easy (Nate Parker) the do-gooder with a dark past; Lightning (David Oyelowo) the suave rebel who never listens to orders; Junior (Tristan Wilds) the fresh-faced newbie ready for a good fight; and the rest a nameless group of underwritten yes men all with just enough backstory to make you interested but never satisfied. Thankfully with the little material they have to work with the gentlemen excel. Rapper-turned-actor Ne-Yo is a standout as the quick-witted Smokey overshadowing vets Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr. (who spends most of the movie chomping on a corn cob pipe and grinning).
With the plethora of characters comes too many plot threads and Red Tails stuffs its runtime with everything from epic flyboy dog fights romantic interludes (Lightning finds himself infatuated with a local Italian woman) office politics alcoholism and even a POW camp escape. If there was a true lead character the movie may have succeeded in stringing the events together in a coherent narrative but instead Red Tails is choppy and uneven. The aerial battles for all their CG special effects nastiness are incredibly exhilarating but when the movie's not tackling the intensity of a battle (which it does often) it comes to a near halt. That mostly comes down to history standing in the way—the crux of the story focuses on how segregation caused the military's higher ups to avoid utilizing the Red Tails in true battle. Meaning there's a lot of talk on how the team should be fighting as opposed to actually doing it.Director Anthony Hemingway tries to do this important historical milestone justice but the execution flies too low even under made-for-TV movie standards. Red Tails is a dull history lesson occasionally spruced up with Lucas' eye for action. The charisma of the the main set of actors goes a long way in keeping the film tolerable but they can't fill the gaping hole where the emotional hook belongs. This is a movie about heroes yet not once are the filmmakers able to pull off a moment that feels remotely brave. Which is unfortunate—as it's a story of the utmost importance.
Innocent Voices depicts the brutal reality of El Salvador’s 1980 civil war as seen through eyes of an 11 year-old boy who may soon get drafted by the army despite not understanding what the war is about. Though both sides were soldiered with young boys it was the government that actively recruited all 12-year-olds and forced them to fight. Eleven year-old Chava (Carlos Padilla) is about to turn but that doesn’t stop him from trying to enjoy life. Since he’s the man of the house--his father left to earn money in America and never returned--Chava wants a job so he can help his overworked mom (Leonor Varela) who quit her restaurant job to stay home and shield her three children from stray bullets. His first job comes when he stumbles upon an old bus owned by a jovial but careless bus driver (Jesus Ochoa). The two become instant friends as Chava rides the railing and calls out the stops. Meanwhile he discovers love after summoning the courage to ask the teacher’s daughter to fly paper fireflies with his friends. All the while the moment he has dreaded--his 12th birthday--looms large over his days. His Uncle Beto (José María Yazpik) a guerilla fighter on the run tries to convince his mother to let Chava live with him in the hills where it’s safe but she can’t let him go. Once he turns Chava must hide with the other boys when the soldiers come around to recruit. But he grows tired of hiding and takes matters into his own hands running off to join the guerillas where he discovers a fate worse than fighting--that of never seeing his family again. Perhaps the strongest element in the film is the surprisingly mature Padilla. Getting a child actor to perform on any level can sometimes be an exercise in futility but director Luis Mandoki manages to get Padilla able to run the gamut of emotions--joy fear the awkwardness of new love--in a very real and convincing way. While most directors would shy away from placing so young an actor into difficult situations particularly the climactic scene where Chava faces execution and watches his two best friends get shot in the back of the head Mandoki defies conventional wisdom and challenges Padilla who is most worthy of the call. As Kella Varela exudes strength despite her constant worry over her children particularly Chava whose arrival home after curfew causes her to feel rage worry forgiveness and joy in a matter of seconds. Legendary Mexican actress Ofelia Medina has a small but important supporting role as Kella’s mother--she provides her daughter’s family with their last peaceful refuge before their lives are destroyed by the army. Minor characters such as Uncle Beto the Bus Driver and Chava’s classmates all serve their purpose though Xuna Primus the classmate Chava falls in love with handles emotional scenes with Padilla with similar maturity. Innocent Voices marks the first Spanish-language film for Mandoki since the international success of Gaby-A True Story--and he’s back true to form. With Innocent Voices he has crafted a powerful and emotionally gripping film that never shies from the ugly realities of how war destroys families and makes men of boys well before their time. Sharing screenwriting credit with actor Oscar Torres on whom the story is based Mandoki benefits from his strong cast particularly Padilla; a wrong choice in casting Chava could have sunk the film. Mandoki masterfully lulls us into thinking that Chava might have some hope of living a normal life in El Salvador--he plays with friends just like any other kid. But every time it looks as though Chava is experiencing life as he should bombs explode machine guns erupt and soldiers come storming in to remind us that he’s living in the middle of a civil war. Ultimately Chava’s only escape is to America but he must leave behind his family much like his father in the beginning. It’s a nice bookend to Chava’s development: Despite the chaos around him his position as head of the family and the specter of being recruited into the army his real transformation into manhood comes when he finds the courage to strike out on his own.
Colombian folk singer Carlos Vives topped the Latin Grammy nominations with six nods Wednesday, including album, record and song of the year.
Vives, who also won a Grammy this year for best traditional tropical Latin album, performs in the style of Vallenato, the traditional music of Colombia's northern plains, which is known for its simple lyrics about village life, The Associated Press reports.
"Me and my people are very happy," Vives told AP through a translator. "This shows that traditional music and rhythms that come from the heart can have appeal no matter the language."
The third annual Latin Grammys ceremony will take place Sept. 18 at the new Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, airing live on CBS.
Here is a list of nominations in some of the top categories:
Record of the Year
La Negra Tiene Tumbao, Celia Cruz; Sergio George, producer; Jon Fausty, engineer/mixer
Mentira, La Ley; Humberto Gatica and Kenny O'Brien, producers; Humberto Gatica, Cristian Robles and Eric Schilling, engineers/mixers
Se Me Olvido, Gian Marco; Emilio Estefan Jr. and Archie Pena, producers; Javier Garza, engineer/mixer
Y Solo Se Me Ocurre Amarte, Alejandro Sanz; Humberto Gatica and Kenny O'Brien, producers; Chris Brooke, Humberto Gatica and Eric Schilling, engineers/mixers
Dejame Entrar, Carlos Vives; Andres Castro, Emilio Estefan Jr., Sebastian Krys and Carlos Vives, producers; Javier Garza, engineer/mixer
Album of the Year
Sereno, Miguel Bose; Peter Walsh, producer; Alessandro Benedetti and Peter Walsh, engineers/mixers
La Negra Tiene Tumbao, Celia Cruz; Sergio George, Isidro Infante and Johnny Pacheco, producers; Mario deJesus and Jon Fausty, engineers/mixers
Jobiniando, Ivan Lins; Roberto Menescal, producer; Guilherme Reis, engineer/mixer
MTV Unplugged, Alejandro Sanz; Humberto Gatica and Kenny O'Brien, producers; Humberto Gatica, engineer/mixer
Dejame Entrar, Carlos Vives; Andres Castro, Emilio Estefan Jr., Sebastian Krys and Carlos Vives, producers; Javier Garza and Sebastian Krys, engineers/mixers
Song of the Year
A Dios Le Pido, Juanes; Juanes, songwriter
Dejame Entrar, Carlos Vives; Andres Castro, Martin Madera and Carlos Vives, songwriters
La Negra Tiene Tumbao, Celia Cruz; Sergio George and Fernando Osorio, songwriters
Morenamia, Miguel Bose; Miguel Bose, Lanfranco Ferrario and Massimo Grilli, songwriters
Y Solo Se Me Ocurre Amarte, Alejandro Sanz; Alejandro Sanz, songwriter
Best New Artist
Best Female Pop Vocal Album
Peces De Ciudad, Ana Belen
Secreta Intimidad, Cecilia Echenique
Vuela, Monica Molina
Viaje Infinito, Nicole
Muchas Flores, Rosario
Best Male Pop Vocal Album
Sereno, Miguel Bose
Sea, Jorge Drexler
Lerner Vivo, Alejandro Lerner
A Tiempo, Gian Marco
Mas De Mi Alma, Marco Antonio Solis
Producer Of The Year
Geronimo Labrada Jr., X Alfonso
Ana Lourdes Martinez Nodarse