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.
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.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Walters to get bumped in July
ABC is planning to bump 20/20 with Barbara Walters from Fridays to Wednesdays beginning July 25, rather than in September as previously indicated, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday. Curiously, it will be replaced for several weeks by the ABC magazine spin-off 20/20 Downtown, according to the newspaper. (Downtown is due to return to the air on June 11 in its old Monday-night time period.) In September, the drama Once and Again will move into the 10 p.m. Friday slot. Walters has previously expressed her dismay over the network's decision to move her program, which has been a fixture in the Friday time period for 15 years.
Nude news cut on "GMA"
Plans to air an interview with "body paint artist" Filippo Ioco and present some of his models on Good Morning America were abruptly canceled at the last moment last Wednesday following objections by GMA co-host Charles Gibson, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. The newspaper said Gibson voiced concern about the segment at a meeting prior to the show and that producer Shelly Ross and co-anchor Diane Sawyer concurred. Ross told the Post that she had agreed to book Ioco on the show after she had seen a segment of the syndicated Ripley's Believe It or Not!, featuring Ioco and his models, in which viewers said they could not tell that the models were not wearing real bikinis. "But you know what?" Ross told the Post, "You could tell the difference a little bit." Ioco said that he was told about a half hour before airtime that he and his models were off the show because "some senator did something in Washington" that had to be covered instead.
"The young" and the clearest
CBS, which already produces 17 of its 18 primetime dramas and comedies in the high-definition format -- more than any other network -- said Tuesday that it will also begin producing the daytime soap The Young and the Restless in HDTV. The first Y&R episode in the HDTV format is due to air on June 27.
was "Survivor" producer a friend of Rudy?
An additional examination of the deposition given by former Survivor contestant Dirk Been in connection with the lawsuit filed by the producers of the reality series against another contestant, Stacey Stillman, suggests that producer Mark Burnett was a longtime friend of Rudy Boesch, another contestant, and advised Boesch on how best to play the game. In the deposition, Been commented: "[Rudy] just said, 'Hey, me and Burnett, we're friends.' He said it to me privately and he said it to the group. It's not something Rudy tried to hide or was ashamed of in any way." News reports said on Tuesday that Burnett and Boesch met in 1996 when Boesch was part of a Navy Seals team that competed on Burnett's Eco-Challenge series, which airs on the Discovery Channel. Been also indicated during the deposition that Burnett advised Boesch on strategy during the Survivor contest. Following the Survivor series, Boesch was hired by Burnett to host his next reality series, Combat Missions, set to debut on the USA Network in the fall.
New, improved "big brother" returning in July
CBS, which drew respectable, if not the phenomenal ratings it had hoped for when it ran its original Big Brother series last season, announced Tuesday that it will bring back the reality game show on July 5 -- with a "new, improved format." Instead of airing the series six nights a week for a half-hour a night as it did then, the network will now carry it on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for one hour each night. Instead of 10 contestants, there'll be twelve. Even the music is being tweaked. Washington Post TV columnist Lisa de Moraes, writing in Wednesday edition, began describing some of the format changes, then interrupted herself in mid-description with the comment, "Oh, forget it, you don't need to know what's going on. It's a peep show, OK?"
Shower scene may get "Big Brother" contestant fired
Penny Ellis, a contestant on the British version of Big Brother may lose her job as a teacher after she was seen momentarily nude as she stepped from a shower on the TV show. Headmistress Cauther Tooley of the Sarah Bonnell School in Stratford told the BBC, "If she chooses to behave in a lewd manner, she will have made the choice to leave the school." She added, however, that she had not seen the controversial scene herself. "I've only heard about it. I understand that it was an accident and the towel slipped." Britain's Channel 4 network, which carries the reality series, later broadcast an apology for showing the bathroom scene.
A memorable Memorial Day
With outstanding ticket sales for Disney's Pearl Harbor, DreamWorks' Shrek, and Universal's The Mummy Returns, the Memorial Day weekend produced a memorable box-office record of $186 million, beating last year's record of $184.6 million, according to The Associated Press. But unlike last year, when five films competed strongly at the box office (headed by Mission: Impossible 2, which grossed 71.8 million), the top three this past holiday weekend accounted for 80 percent of the total gate. "It's really the strength of this handful of films that opened within the last few weeks that propelled this record-breaking weekend," Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told AP Tuesday.
Could "Pearl Harbor" have earned $100 million?
Leading the box office was Pearl Harbor with $75.2 million. Although some analysts had forecast last week that the film would become the first to top the $100-million mark in its debut, Disney officials pointed out that given its three-hour running time, such a feat would have been impossible. The studio claimed that the film played to sell-out crowds everywhere. "What greater compliment to a filmmaker [than] to know his show is sold out show after show after show," Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane told Bloomberg News. But, as New York Daily News critic Jack Mathews pointed out Wednesday: "Multiplexes are not limited to how many theaters they can use. You can be sure that if lines are around the block, screens will be added to accommodate them." Mathews estimated that, while Disney claimed the movie was "officially" showing on 3,214 screens, the actual number was more like 6,000 (a figure that might explain the poor showing of all but the top films). Solomon Smith Barney entertainment analyst released a report Tuesday predicting that Pearl Harbor will eventually gross between $200 million and $250 million domestically.
The top 10 films over the four-day Memorial Day weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):
1. Pearl Harbor, Disney, $75.2 million, ($75.2 million); 2. Shrek, DreamWorks, $55.2 million, ($111.8 million); 3. The Mummy Returns, Universal, $19 million, ($170.7 million); 4. A Knight's Tale, Sony, $9.1 million, ($44.3 million); 5. Angel Eyes, Warner Bros., $6.2 million, ($18.5 million); 6. Bridget Jones's Diary, Miramax, $4.2 million, ($62.4 million); 7. Along Came a Spider, Paramount, $2.1 million, ($70.6 million); 8. Memento, Newmarket, $2 million, ($14.5 million); 9. Spy Kids, Miramax, $1.3 million, ($105.2 million); 10. Blow, New Line, $1.24 million, ($51.6 million)..
"Town and Country" is worst flop in movie history
With New Line's Town and Country virtually pulled from release after earning only $6,712,451 in four weeks, the $80-million film now ranks as the biggest flop in movie history, FoxNews.com's Roger Friedman observed Wednesday. It succeeds the 1998 Kevin Costner starrer, The Postman.
Writer wants to know how much "Roger Rabbit" really made
The author who wrote the novel on which Disney's 1988 animated feature Who Framed Roger Rabbit was based has sued the studio, demanding that it produce an accounting of merchandise revenue related to the film. In his lawsuit, novelist Gary K. Wolf does not name a monetary figure but asks only that he be permitted to audit the studio's books related to the film.
Jackie Chan to star in Hong Kong's most expensive film
Jackie Chan has announced that he will star in an epic Mandarin-language film for Hong Kong's Golden Harvest Studios. With a budget of $78 million, it will be more than twice as costly as the most expensive film previously produced in the Asian film center. Titled The Art of War, it is to be based on the 2,000-year-old writings of Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu. As reported by Screen Daily, the online edition of the British trade publication Screen International, Chan will also serve as executive producer. In addition, the actor said that he has agreed to appear in what Golden Harvest is now calling Untitled Jackie Chan Action Adventure, to be filmed in English.
U.K.'s equity prepares to negotiate with producers
The British actors' union, Equity, is sounding tougher than its American counterpart as it prepares to enter into contract-renewal talks with British film producers on Friday. In a statement, Equity, which has 36,000 members, said Tuesday: "The cream of British talent has sent a stark message to U.K. film producers -- pay us properly or face a dispute. ... If these talks fail, Equity is bound to consider escalating the dispute." The actors have indicated that when they meet with negotiators for the Producers' Alliance for Cinema and Television, they will demand what appears to be the equivalent of residual payments. Currently they receive a flat fee.