Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cloud Atlas Starship

The title of the post comes from the fact that the Wachowski siblings, formerly two brothers that were responsible for The Matrix trilogy, has since changed their moniker to the Wachowski Starship following a sex change for one of the brothers. Yes, formerly Larry, Lana Wachowski is one-half of the production team. The movie is based off a book, and one that I plan to read since I've heard nothing but amazing things about it.

Today, we have our second guest writer! A fellow blogger (click here to follow his past two+ years while in Peace Corps service in Panama), as well as a contributor to PolicyMic, Jack is a good friend dating back to sophomore year at Boston University. Seeing as how my local movie theater just got power back yesterday from the storms here in NJ, I've been seriously lacking on movies and thus reviews. Jack was kind enough to willingly contribute his two cents on Cloud Atlas. He's successfully convinced me to give the movie a shot; hopefully it lends itself useful to you, as well. Enjoy!

Before seeing Cloud Atlas, the most common review I heard from both peers and critics was, “ambitious.” One word, with a clear negative connotation. As in, “too ambitious for its own good” or “swing and a miss.” People mentioned multiple stories, multiple directors, stunning settings and the same actors playing different characters, and claimed that they tried to do too much with the movie. But the trailer made it look so damn intriguing...

When I'm on the fence about a movie, I have only two places that I will turn: Ila and Rotten Tomatoes. Every time I ignore an RT rating, thinking that I'll get something out of the movie that they didn't expect, I have been wrong.  I never see a movie that receives below an 80 on RT. Cloud Atlas got a 76. (I've never questioned Ila so I'm not even sure what would happen if I did.)

Thing is, some of my favorite movies, like Snatch and Sin City have multiple stories that converge, along with distinct styles; you would probably describe each of them as “ambitious.” Ila hadn't seen it yet, so I was left to battle my temptation to submit to the vague, but tantalizing trailer, or stick to my 80 rating rule and see something else. Figuring that this would be the type of movie that you have to see in theaters, I went for it. And for the first time ever, I disagreed with the RT rating.

Bottom Line: If you are at all interested in seeing Cloud Atlas, then go see it now, while it's still in theaters. I didn't see it in iMax but it would probably be worth it. If you decide to skip it in theaters, then definitely skip it at home, because it needs the gigantic visuals to compensate for the shoddily connected stories and inconsistent acting.
I usually try to choose a relevant picture, but since I still haven't seen it, here's the poster!

Here's what I really liked about Cloud Atlas:
  1. The future – Every part of the dystopian future was badass, visually incredible, and definitely the most exciting and disturbing part of the movie. And the Korean lady killed it.
  2. The editing – Some seemed to find it too frantic, but I liked the way the last hour of the movie was edited – lots of cuts between settings that reinforced their karma connection.
  3. Jim Broadbent – I think he makes a strong case for a Best Supporting Actor nomination in this movie. He is the only actor that plays all of his roles well and his adventure in the old folk's home is the clear highlight of the movie, carried by his performance (though massive kudos to Hugo Weaving for his role as the female nurse).
  4. The creation of The Cloud Atlas Sextet – Ben Whishaw absolutely rocks his only significant character in the movie across from a fantastically maniacal and manipulative Jim Broadbent.

Here's what kind of sucked about Cloud Atlas:
  1. Everything about the island future: The setting was strained, the acting was blah (even from Tom Hanks...and I don't say that lightly), and all actors bungled the unusual future-speak. (Kudos again to Hugo Weaving for being genuinely and convincingly creepy.)
  2. Inconsistent acting: Every actor in the movie, besides Jim Broadbent, had at least one uninspired performance as one of their characters (Whishaw is immune from this since he only really had one character). The movie was well cast and I was particularly disappointed with Halle Berry and Tom Hanks's inconsistencies. It was a difficult task, no doubt, but they should have been able to handle it.
  3. Shoddily connected stories: Maybe I'm not as intelligent or astute as I think I am, but I thought the connections between settings was pretty vague. Basically, good people become better people and bads stay bad? That's all we get after three hours? The last two futures were intimately connected and the entire movie had the Cloud Atlas Sextet running through it, but otherwise I thought the connections didn't quite cut it. One of the best examples of multiple stories connecting is, as I said, Snatch. One of the worst is Babel, which felt like three completely unrelated stories that were hastily and lazily connected after they had been written. Cloud Atlas is between these two, a little on the Babel side. 

Note that I did not mention the length, nor the 'ambition' in things that I didn't like about the movie. It deserved slightly higher than an 80 on Rotten Tomatoes, but I wouldn't put it any higher than 83.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyawful...kidding! it's Bonderful!

The latest, record-setting Bond movie came out this weekend, and there's nothing more I can add to all the hype it's already received. Skyfall, the 50th anniversary timed release and third Daniel Craig led Bond movie has pulled in the best opening for any Bond movie. With an amazing 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, I will not be dissagreeing with anything you've seen or read about the movie thus far.

First of all, the plot is so cohesive that I need to specifically mention it. I've never been big on Star Wars or LOTR, not because I don't enjoy them, but because I don't do well juggling many different and changing plot lines. I get lost in why he's going to a planet or why she's fighting that species. That usually is the case with Bond movies. Skyfall has a very straightforward villain and linear conflict. Much like my problem with Taken vs Taken 2: Taken Harder, the former has 1 established and direct plot while the latter bounces around between different villains and conflicts. Although Skyfall has mulitple acts, it's all cohesive. 

Bardem is a blond mastermind with one end in mind. I literally can't say more without giving away the tiniest bit of plot so I'll leave it at that. 

Stylistically, I very much enjoyed viewing this movie. This sounds lame, but the lighting and colors I thought were amazing. Each fight scene felt like it was filmed in a different style and with different colors being accentuated. The angles you viewed the shots at kept the movie feeling fresh, even with a run time of 143 minutes.

Two of the pivotal fight scenes
I saw it in IMAX, and without having seen it in regular, peasant-style screens I can't really compare. I would venture to guess that paying a few bucks more for the bigger screen is probably worth it. I know it was for The Dark Knight Returns.

Ok, here's my own little aside that I feel will hurt my street credit in the movie biz that I'm so much a part of... the movie felt very influenced by the Nolan Batman trilogy. There, I said it! It's very Bond-esq, don't get me wrong. But in light of the successes of Batman, I feel like there's some unconscious, maybe conscious, duplication. The villain was a madman that wanted to watch the world burn. The hero had to dig into his past to be able to beat the villain. The old vs new argument in age and abilities was brought up a lot between Bond, Q, M, and Silva (Bardem). Stuff like that. I don't think it was a copy or anything, it just was one of those things that I kept feeling like there were similarities between the two. It was like Batman meets Die Hard meets Bourne plus a lot of Daniel Craig shirtless (yes!).

Check out the opening credits while it's still up. The Adele song is even sweeter with the visual