Last Saturday night I had some friends over for a horror movie marathon. One of the films we watched was Joe Dante’s “Gremlins,” which I’m ashamed to admit I hadn’t seen before. It felt a little out of place in October, since I didn’t realize ahead of time that the movie happens around Christmas, but I still enjoyed it immensely and laughed a lot. All the zany Gremlin behavior and the tiny props operated by the Gremlins were classic. Probably the funniest thing about the flick is that a bonehead move by Corey Feldman’s character is what causes everything to spiral out of control. So at the core, the entire mess is his fault. Maybe the first time, although definitely not the last, that poor Feldman would be blamed for bad stuff happening.
At the box office this weekend you’ll have the chance to see Wachowski/Tykwer mystical tale “Cloud Atlas,” the surf drama “Chasing Mavericks,” the creepy 3D videogame inspired flick “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D,” and the lighthearted Halloween romp “Fun Size.”
MY PICK: “Cloud Atlas”
“Cloud Atlas” examines how the experiences of individuals impact others in the past, present, and future. One soul is transformed from a killer into a hero and a kind act flows across centuries to spark a revolution. Everything is linked: the 1849 diary of a trans-Pacific voyage; letters from a composer to his lover; a cover up at a nuclear plant; a farce involving a publisher at a nursing home; a rebellious clone in distant future; and the adventure of a tribe in a post-apocalyptic world.
Co-Directors/Writers: Andy and Lana Wachowski (“The Matrix,” “Speed Racer”), Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”)
Based On: David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas
Notable Actors: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon
MY TAKE: When I heard the extreme hot and cold criticism coming from the Toronto International Film Festival about “Cloud Atlas,” I predicted that I would either celebrate its brilliance or hate it with a fiery burning passion. Surprisingly, I didn’t have such a vehement reaction after I finally saw it though. I think “Cloud Atlas” is a truly impressive effort from the Wachowskis on par in scale and ambition with their “Matrix” trilogy; their collaboration with Tom Tykwer is a very effective one.
The almost three hour film flies by, impressively weaving a complex tapestry of narratives seamlessly together. At first, the frequent jumping between time periods is a bit jarring, but it quickly becomes second nature as you get invested in each one of the individual stories. What’s amazing is how all of them reach a satisfying resolution in a random succession, which is unexpectedly fitting.
Special effects in “Cloud Atlas” are phenomenal, effortlessly transporting you to the individual time periods where the tales take place. The most visually stunning era though, is the futuristic Korea, where sleek, vibrant technology meets dark dystopian undertones. The makeup in the film is even more extraordinary than the visuals, transforming distinguished actors like Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, and James D’Arcy into unrecognizable characters of both the same and opposite sex. As grand as this sprawling epic is, it does have flaws.
Perhaps the biggest ones are the low register of the dialogue and the bizarre dialect with which some characters speak. Given that the gap in time periods it makes sense that linguistically people should sound different, but when you can’t comprehend them, it’s frustrating because their interactions don’t have as much meaning. It’s also harder to get emotionally invested in everyone as a result. The other issue is that lines you do understand, tend be very heavy handed when on the subjects of fate, life, death, and love. Whenever someone says something that the filmmakers consider “poignant” there’s an intense score that rises up and beats you over the head. That can be quite annoying.
Overall though, “Cloud Atlas” is another enjoyable high concept film from the Wakowskis. Definitely not for everyone, although if you appreciate movies about intertwining characters then you’ll be satisfied by this one.
My Grade: B+