Warner Bros. Pictures via Everett Collection
Clint Eastwood, famous for gritty westerns, intimidating squints and asking punks if they’re feeling lucky, wouldn’t be the first person you’d think of to direct a glitzy movie musical. He’s about as far removed from the world of production numbers and intricate choreography as you could possibly get, so it’s something of a surprise that he’s the director bringing the hit musical Jersey Boys to the big screen. Though the film is based on the lives and careers of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the film’s real star power is behind the camera, which should help it stand out in an unusually crowded field of movie musicals.
Though it's been a few years since we've seen a full-blown spectacular on screen, 2014 has three iconic musicals receiving the Hollywood treatment. After Jersey Boys has gotten moviegoers warmed up, December will bring a new, modern take on Annie as well as the star-studded film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's iconic Into the Woods. But which of these upcoming musicals are the real show-stoppers, and which are you better off skipping? We've run down the year in movie musicals, along with their potential for greatness, both critically and commercially.
Jersey Boys Opens: June 20 What It’s About: The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and their journey from being four guys harmonizing under a streetlight to becoming one of the biggest bands in the world, including the gambling debts, mob threats and personal crises that almost stood in their way. Star Power: Director Clint Eastwood and Christopher Walken in a supporting role. The main cast is made up of primarily unknowns, although John Lloyd Young won a Tony Award for playing Frankie back in 2006. How Good It Looks: Thus far, it’s gotten mixed reviews, with many critics taking issue with its by-the-book approach to an interesting, conflict-filled story. That weird, grey filter that Eastwood uses can’t be helping matters, either. Box Office Potential: The film hasn’t gotten a lot of promotion ahead of its release, but the Four Seasons are a recognizable enough name that Jersey Boys should be able to pull in a decent amount of money. The show’s still going strong on Broadway 8 years later, after all. Awards Potential: It’s being released too far from awards season, and the early reviews aren’t strong enough to make Jersey Boys a real contender, but we’d be surprised if Eastwood or Young’s name didn’t come up in conversation once or twice - but only once or twice. Number Worth Waiting For: “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” of course.
Annie Opens: December 19 What It’s About: Business tycoon Benjamin Stacks takes in Annie, a foster child who has been living in the evil Miss Hannigan’s orphanage since she was born, in order to help his Mayoral campaign. Star Power: A pretty star-studded cast, including Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne, and of course, Quvenzhane Wallis. How Good It Looks: Every production of Annie lives and dies by its hero and its villain, and while Wallis seems to be a charming and entertaining Annie, Diaz’s Miss Hannigan seems downright terrible. This is definitely a film that can go either way. Box Office Potential: A beloved, classic, family-friendly musical with a Christmas release date and a big-name cast? It’s probably going to rake in the cash. Awards Potential: Very little. Unless it’s animated, the Academy doesn’t really pay attention to child-friendly films, and anyway, this Annie is more about spectacle than substance. Number Worth Waiting For: “Hard Knock Life.” We’d say “Easy Street,” which everyone knows if the best number in the show, but it’s probably best to wait and see some more of Diaz’s Miss Hannigan before we get too excited for it.
Into the Woods Opens: Christmas What It’s About: Set in a fairy-tale forest, a witch attempts to teach various characters important lessons about life and love. Star Power: Off the charts: Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, Chris Pine, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt and Christine Baranski, to name just a few. How Good It Looks: Not much has been released about the film yet, so it’s hard to tell, although Streep does look fantastic as the Witch. Box Office Potential: If the A-List cast or theater pedigree doesn’t bring in a big audience, the massive marketing push that Disney will inevitably roll out should do the trick. Expect this one to do very well with moviegoers. Awards Potential: Of the three films on this list, Into the Woods has the best shot at any awards recognition, even if it’s just because Streep gets nominated every time she leaves the house. We’d be surprised if Sondheim’s new music doesn’t become a major contender in the Best Original Song race, and depending on how well the film is received, Kendrick, Blunt and director Rob Marshall – all former nominees – could have a decent shot at a nomination as well. Number Worth Waiting For: “No One is Alone,” which is not only the most well-known song from the show, but will also be sung by Kendrick, everyone’s dream best friend.
Justin Timberlake, Imagine Dragons Robin Thicke and Jennifer Lopez were among the big winners at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards on Sunday (18May14), each taking home top honours. The SexyBack hitmaker, who is currently on his world tour, emerged victorious in a total of seven categories, including Top Artist, Top Male Artist and Top Radio Songs Artist, while he also claimed the title for Top Billboard 200 Album for The 20/20 Experience.
Imagine Dragons and Robin Thicke were also multiple winners on the night, while Lorde had double the reason to celebrate as she was named Top New Artist and her hit Royals earned her the Top Rock Song prize. It was also a big night for Jennifer Lopez, who opened the Las Vegas ceremony by joining Pitbull and Claudia Leitte to perform their official 2014 FIFA World Cup soccer anthem, We Are One (Ole Ola).
She returned to the stage almost three hours later to close the show with her new song First Love as she was feted with the Icon Award by pal Ricky Martin and rapper Iggy Azalea, while video tributes from the likes of Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Cameron Diaz, Britney Spears, Rihanna and Mary J. Blige were shown on a big screen. She grew emotional as she gave thanks to her friends, family and key colleagues and she wrapped up her acceptance speech by addressing all the youngsters watching the awards on TV, telling them, "Have faith, think big, dream big and know that anything is possible. You never know where you might end up. Thank you, I love you."
Other show highlights included Ricky Martin's energetic Vida and Lorde's first TV rendition of her new single Tennis Court. There was also a pre-taped Birthday surprise from Katy Perry, who recorded a segment from her recent gig in Newcastle, England, where she plucked a real birthday girl from the audience and serenaded her onstage, for the awards show, while footage from Miley Cyrus' concert in Manchester, England last week (14May14), when she sang a cover of the Beatles' Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds with the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne and Steven Drozd, also aired.
The main list of winners at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards, presented by rapper Ludacris, is as follows:
Top Artist - Justin Timberlake
Top New Artist - Lorde
Top Male Artist - Justin Timberlake
Top Female Artist - Katy Perry
Top Duo/Group - Imagine Dragons
Top Touring Artist - Bon Jovi
Top Billboard 200 Artist - Justin Timberlake
Top Billboard 200 Album - Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience
Top Hot 100 Artist - Imagine Dragons
Top Hot 100 Song - Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams, Blurred Lines
Top Radio Songs Artist - Justin Timberlake
Top Radio Song - Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams, Blurred Lines
Top Digital Songs Artist - Katy Perry
Top Digital Song - Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams, Blurred Lines
Top Social Artist - Justin Bieber
Top Streaming Artist - Miley Cyrus
Top Streaming Song (Audio) - Imagine Dragons, Radioactive
Top Streaming Song (Video) - Miley Cyrus, Wrecking Ball
Top Christian Artist - Chris Tomlin
Top Christian Song - Matthew West, Hello, My Name Is
Top Christian Album - Alan Jackson, Precious Memories Volume II
Top Country Artist - Luke Bryan
Top Country Song - Florida Georgia Line featuring Nelly, Cruise
Top Country Album - Luke Bryan, Crash My Party
Top Dance/Electronic Album - Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
Top Latin Artist - Marc Anthony
Top Latin Song - Marc Anthony, Vivir Mi Vida
Top Latin Album - Marc Anthony, 3.0
Top R&B Artist - Justin Timberlake
Top R&B Song - Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams, Blurred Lines
Top R&B Album - Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience
Top Rap Artist - Eminem
Top Rap Song - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton, Can't Hold Us
Top Rap Album - Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Top Rock Artist - Imagine Dragons
Top Rock Song - Lorde, Royals
Top Rock Album - Imagine Dragons,
Night Visions Milestone Award - Carrie Underwood
Icon Award - Jennifer Lopez.
Parents-to-be Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis have bought a new Beverly Hills mansion, which they plan to turn into a family home. The Hollywood couple paid over $10 million (GBP6.25 million) for the sprawling estate, according to RealEstalker.com.
Kutcher and Kunis will now call Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, Ziggy Marley, and Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban neighbours.
Actress Kunis finally confirmed reports suggesting she was engaged and pregnant during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show last week (ends09May14).
Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
There are some actors that we love to hear sing. In fact, we've compiled a list of a few performers' voices that we can't get enough of. Then there are others that really just shouldn't be given the opportunity to sing on screen. Some of them are truly terrible and some others are just misguided, but here's our look at the worst singing performances in movies.
Pierce Brosnan, Mamma Mia!
There's a reason that they used to dub actors' singing voices in musicals (Hello, Marnie Nixon!), and Brosnan is the poster child for revisiting the practice. He looks terrific in the Mediterranean locales and linen suits of Mamma Mia!, but his singing is bad enough that it almost deserves its own separate category.
Russell Crowe, Les Miserables
It's hard to know exactly what the producers were thinking when they cast Crowe in Les Miz, beyond just that he sort of looks right for the role of Inspector Javert. He certainly doesn’t sound right. Most of the rest of the cast can legitimately sing, so tossing the Gladiator star into the mix was all the more jarring.
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
There are actually worse vocal performances in Tim Burton's film about the "Demon Barber of Fleet Street"… Alan Rickman and Helena Bonham Carter to name two. The issue with Depp's singing is that he can't seem to figure out what to do with his accent. Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not, and sometimes it morphs into a little bit of Keith Richards/Jack Sparrow.
Alec Baldwin, Rock of Ages, or...
...Tom Cruise, Rock of Ages
We tried to pick which was worse… Baldwin singing "I Can't Fight This Feeling" with Russell Brand or Cruise singing "I Want to Know What Love Is" with Malin Akerman. There was no consensus since they're both about as bad as anything you'll ever see in a movie musical. Feel free to watch them and see if you can decide... if you can make it all the way through either one.
Drew Barrymore, Music and Lyrics
We love Barrymore, really we do. She's adorable and sweet and we like having her around. It's just that her voice is a little too thin for her to be singing on camera. We thought so in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You and we thought the same thing in her rom-com with Hugh Grant.
Michael Caine, The Muppet Christmas Carol
Okay, so it's a Muppets movie, we get it. Kermit and Miss Piggy aren't the best singers either. But both Tina Fey and Amy Adams have proven that just because you're surrounded by felt doesn't mean that you have to sing poorly. In the grand tradition of British stage actors, Caine just kind of talks his way through his singing parts. Not all traditions are good.
Cameron Diaz, My Best Friend's Wedding
Yes, the script called for her to be intentionally bad… and, by that standard, this is a dynamite performance. You know that you're in a rom-com when the crowd at a karaoke place starts going nuts for someone butchering a Dusty Springfield song.
Edward Norton, Everyone Says I Love You
This is kind of a shame, because it's clear that Norton really enjoys singing. He tosses himself into the musical performance with gusto, treating it like it's the prison cell scene from Primal Fear… which is what makes him such a good actor. It just doesn't make him a good singer. Based on Keeping the Faith and his Motorola commercial, however, it does seem like he'd be more fun at a karaoke bar than Diaz.
Adam Sandler, The Wedding Singer
Here's the mistake that a lot of people make… just because Sandler sings a lot doesn't mean that he's a good singer. We admire the fact that he likes to do it and we laughed at "The Turkey Song" and "The Hanukkah Song" on Saturday Night Live, same as everyone else… but there are limits to how much of Sandler's man-child voice that we can take. He is, however, welcome to continue serenading Barrymore once every 10 years as he did recently on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Sometimes even bad singing is sweet.
For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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Reunited rockers Soundgarden will celebrate the 20th anniversary of their album Superunknown by performing the landmark release in its entirety at the upcoming South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Texas. The grunge stars, who made a comeback in 2010, will headline the third night of the iTunes Festival gigs at the Austin event on 13 March (14), when they will play every track from the 1994 disc.
The special show will feature the return of drummer Matt Cameron, who previously announced he would be sitting out Soundgarden's 2014 tour due to his commitments with his other band, Pearl Jam. Cameron joined the Alive hitmakers in 1998, a year after Soundgarden originally split.
Coldplay and Keith Urban are among the other artists booked to play the iTunes shows at the SXSW festival.
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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The girl with the golden voice (and some seriously well-manicured talons) has made her first post-pregnancy appearance tonight with a well-deserved win for her nominated theme song, "Skyfall." Singer Adele brought giggles and candor to the Globes stage (housed at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel) while accepting her award for the James Bond film of the same name.
Adele welcomed her first child — a son — with boyfriend Simon Konecki, in October. News of her pregnancy came as a huge shock to fans after sweeping the Grammy Awards in February. She announced the happy news of her pregnancy in June on her website when she was already five months pregnant — unbeknownst to pretty much everyone. Her single, "Skyfall," was up against several other big hitters for Best Original Song, including Taylor Swift's track from The Hunger Games, Jon Bon Jovi's number from Stand Up Guys, Keith Urban's track from Act of Valor, and "Suddenly" from Les Miserables.
Adele exclaimed "Oh my God!" no less than four times after taking the stage to accept her golden globe (literally) of a trophy. Continuing on her tour of general fabulousness and British charm, the singer only looked for a fun night out after months of what could only be non-stop sleepless nights and spit-up. "I was not expecting this," the singer said in her speech. "Thank you for letting me be part of your world." Check out the full thank-yous, below:
What do you think of tonight's Globes? Were you excited for Adele's win? Sing it to us in the comments!
[Photo Credit: NBC]
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Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
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.