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.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
If you follow showrunner Dan Harmon on Twitter, you were probably sensing from his pessimism that something wicked this way comes. And it that wicked thing has cometh: Community is not a part of NBC's midseason lineup.
I'm going to give you 5-10 minutes to compose yourself because I'm sure you're doing exactly what I'm just did: having a mental breakdown like that time Abed found out Cougar Town was moved to midseason. Six seasons and a movie. Six seasons and a movie. It seems that Community ended up with an accidental meta reference on its hands because while the series does not appear on NBC's midseason schedule, NBC confirms that it is not cancelled -- yet.
Its sour ratings are puttering along above 3 million viewers -- which to be fair in tandem with both Rock Center With Brian Williams and Parks and Recreation ratings these days -- which is probably why the flailing network decided to bench the series for the time being. Let's just be thankful we won't have to go another half a season without Parks, and while I'm dangling positives in front of your nose like frazzled sitter with a shiny baby rattle, 30 Rock will be back come midseason! Yay! Right? Please cheer up.
Also missing from the new schedule is Prime Suspect, though I doubt anyone has real tears in their eyes over that (I'm not talking about myself...the person crying right now is just...a friend...and I'm cutting onions...and it's pretty humid in here...okay I'm not crying this is just for affect but I'm still pretty sad about Community).
Up All Night and Whitney also trade spaces in the new lineup and Chelsea Handler's comedy Are You There Vodka? finds a home on Wednesday nights. Check out the full press release and schedule below:
UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. – November __, 2011 – NBC today announced its new mid-season 2012 schedule which features the premieres of four new series in “Smash” (February 6), “The Firm” (two-hour premiere January 8, time slot premiere January 12), “Fashion Star” (March 13) and “Are You There, Chelsea?” (January 11). The new lineup also includes the return of “The Voice,” “30 Rock,” “The Celebrity Apprentice” and “Who Do You Think You Are?”
In addition, there are day and time period changes for “Whitney,” “Up All Night,” “Rock Center with Brian Williams” and “Harry’s Law.”
Following are night-by-night details:
Last spring’s hit vocal competition series “The Voice” returns even louder with an hour-long season debut following Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, February 5 (10-11 p.m. ET, time approximate) and then resumes in its regular day and time on Monday, February 6 (8-10 p.m. ET). Following “The Voice” is the much-anticipated musical drama “Smash” which premieres Monday, February 6 (10-11 p.m. ET).
“Fashion Star” – the new reality competition series hosted and executive-produced by Elle Macpherson – will premiere with a two-hour episode on Tuesday, March 13 (9-11 p.m. ET) and resume on Tuesday, March 20 (10-11 p.m. ET). “The Biggest Loser” will open a new edition on Tuesday, January 3 (8-10 p.m. ET) followed by “Parenthood” (10-11 p.m. ET) which continues through its season finale on February 28.
The freshman comedy “Whitney” (8-8:30 p.m. ET) moves into a new day and time beginning January 11 followed by the series debut of the new comedy “Are You There, Chelsea?” (8:30-9 p.m. ET) on January 11. “Rock Center with Brian Williams” (9-10 p.m. ET) also joins the Wednesday lineup starting February 8. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” remains at 10-11 p.m. (ET).
The new drama “The Firm” moves into the Thursday lineup (10-11 p.m. ET) beginning January 12 following its two-hour premiere the previous Sunday (January 8) from 9-11 p.m. ET. The first-season comedy “Up All Night” will also move to Thursday nights at 9:30 p.m. (ET) on January 12 which is also the night that multiple Emmy Award-winning “30 Rock” returns for its season debut (8-8:30 p.m. ET). “Parks and Recreation” (8:30-9 p.m. ET) and the Emmy-winning “The Office” (9-9:30 p.m. ET) remain in the same time periods.
The returning series “Who Do You Think You Are?” makes its season debut on February 3 (8-9 p.m. ET). “Chuck” will have its two-hour series finale on January 27th (8-10 p.m. ET). “Grimm” (9-10 p.m. ET) and “Dateline NBC” (10-11 p.m. ET) remain in the respective time periods.
“The Celebrity Apprentice” returns on Sunday, February 12 (9-11 p.m. ET). “Dateline NBC” begins on Sundays (7-9 p.m. ET), on January 8. “Harry’s Law” moves to the 8-9 p.m. (ET) time period on March 4 and “Dateline NBC” will return to 7-8 p.m. (ET) on March 4.
The premieres of the new January-March program schedule follow in a grid (all times ET); new series are capitalized.
8-10 p.m. -- “The Voice” (season premiere Sunday, February 5; series resumes February 6)
10-11 p.m. – “SMASH” (beginning February 6)
8-10 p.m. -- “The Biggest Loser” (beginning January 3)
10-11 p.m. – “Parenthood” (through February 28)
10-11 p.m. – “FASHION STAR” (beginning Tuesday, March 13, 9-11 p.m. ET with two-hour premiere; one-hour broadcasts resume March 20)
8-8:30 p.m. – “Whitney” (beginning January 11)
8:30-9 p.m. – “ARE YOU THERE, CHELSEA?” (beginning January 11)
9-10 p.m. – “Rock Center with Brian Williams” (beginning February 8)
10-11 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”
8-8:30 p.m. – “30 Rock” (beginning January 12)
8:30-9 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation”
9-9:30 p.m. – “The Office”
9:30-10 p.m. – “Up All Night” (beginning January 12)
10-11 p.m. – “THE FIRM” (two-hour premiere Sunday January 8; Thursday time period premiere January 12)
8-9 p.m. – “Who Do You Think You Are?” (beginning February 3)
9-10 p.m. – “Grimm”
10-11 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
8-9 p.m. – “Harry’s Law” (encore broadcasts)
9-10 -- “THE FIRM” (encore broadcasts)
10-11 p.m. – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (encore broadcasts)
7-9 p.m. – “Dateline NBC” (beginning January 8)
8-9 p.m. – “Harry’s Law” (beginning March 4)
9-11 p.m. – “The Celebrity Apprentice” (beginning February 12)
Source: Alan Sepinwall, Reuters