Sci-Fi and Survival Abound in Fall Film Offerings, Out Now

Posted on | November 10, 2013 | 1 Comment

Sandra Bullock in Gravity (2013)Before Gravity opened on October 4, this year was seeming like another rather ho-hum year for movies, after the very good year for cinema of 2012. But perhaps this sudden flood of great movies should be expected; after all it is awards season. So far, I’ve seen three fall films: Gravity, Robert Redford boating drama All Is Lost, and sci-fi book adaption Ender’s Game. Sci-fi and survival seems to be the current trend in movies, because all three films focus on staying alive under the hardest circumstances and/or jaw-dropping special effects with a dash of scientific smarts. Here are my takes on these three films.

Alfonso Cuaron’s stunning science-fiction masterpiece, Gravity, is one of those films that comes along every so often and simply blows your mind. It’s incredible, beautiful, thrilling haunting, and full of heart; not to mention special effects filled set pieces that you’ll be replaying in your head for weeks. The premise here is fairly basic: Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first trip to the moon. Leading her mission is seasoned space vet Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney). Everything is going fine when, you guessed it, things start to go wrong. Debris hits, the shuttle is destroyed, and Stone and Kowalsky are separated. As Dr. Stone tries to find safety, a deadly survival adventure begins.

A chaotic space disaster in Gravity (2013)The genius of Gravity is how Cuaron takes this standard disaster movie plot and turns it into a riveting contemplation on life, death, and letting others go. Clooney is funny and likable but he’s basically playing, well, George Clooney The Astronaut. The real surprise here is Bullock, who, as our inexperienced protagonist, gains our sympathy and hope from a brilliant performance. Oscar is sure to come calling.

Gravity is a must-see movie. A must see movie on the big screen. If you didn’t catch it in IMAX 3-D, try just the 3-D, which is probably the most gorgeous, terrifying, and brilliant use of the medium to date. In fact, all of the visual effects are beautiful from the opening pan over Earth to the more showy spacecraft explosions. With awe-inspiring spectacle, terrific performances, and a dazzlingly flawless script, this is truly the best movie of the year so far. From conception to cinema, it took 6 years for Cuaron to make this masterpiece. But trust me, it was worth it. Gravity reminds us of the power of life. And the power of the movies. 5 Stars

Robert Redford fights the ocean in All Is Lost (2013)Another tense adventure, All Is Lost stars Robert Redford as a nameless guy in his mid-70s on a simple boating adventure. When his 39-foot yacht hits an abandoned shipping container and his boating electronics lose power, he must use his tools, his books, and his will to survive against all odds.

Redford is quite good as the only character in the film and his near-wordless performance is harrowing, beautiful, and achingly amazing. But apart from some truly spectacular moments, I can’t say this is the “performance of a lifetime” acting showcase that most critics have been raving about. In fact, I’d prefer the witty daredevil character type that Redford perfected in classics like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting over the brooding, elderly everyman we get here.

But the film’s big problem is director J. C. Chandor (Margin Call), who does just an okay job with the script. We know nothing about the only character in the film and most of the running time consists of Redford being tossed around his boat. That’s not to say there aren’t moments of greatness. The cinematography is ravishing, the scenery is terrific, and Redford’s breakdown moment is truly affecting. But these stronger elements can’t save the film from feeling a little bit empty… and occasionally lost. 3 Stars

Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield in Ender's GameEnder’s Game, the young adult sci-fi adventure based on the classic 1977 novel by Orson Scott Card, is a surprisingly good film. The first reason is the high caliber cast of Oscar all-stars including Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfield, and Abigail Breslin. These performances vary from slightly laughable to totally enjoyable, bit parts to major characters, but everyone is a blast to watch. Hugo‘s Asa Butterfield plays Ender, a boy who’s a cunning genius at military tactics and battle commands. He must train to lead an army of kid soldiers against an imminent attack by the evil aliens called Formics who almost destroyed the human race long ago.

Battle Room thrills in Ender's Game (2013)Director Gavin Hood keeps the story interesting thanks to a smart script and eye-popping special effects. The sequences inside the zero-gravity training environment, The Battle Room, are worth the ticket price alone. When Ender first steps into the room, I got a sense of “I haven’t seen that one before” magic. The film isn’t flawless, however. Thirty-six years after the book was published, the story isn’t really anything new and the movie occasionally drags. But Ender’s Game is still a worthwhile thrill-ride with a smart script and gorgeous visuals that make it worth seeing. 4 Stars

Well, that’s it for now! Expect an early Oscar race analysis soon…

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | December 28, 2012 | Add Comments

Bilbo Baggins and some dwarves in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

3 1/2 Stars

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey tells the beginning of Bilbo Baggin’s epic adventure. Bilbo lives a comfortable yet uneventful life in Bag End. But when Gandalf the Grey, a tall and powerful wizard, comes to persuade Bilbo to go on an adventure, things get complicated. 13 dwarves arrive at Bilbo’s house, eat all his food, and ruin certain parts of his home. Eventually Bilbo decides to go along with Gandalf and the dwarves. But what is this adventure, exactly? It’s a quest to reclaim the dwarves’ castle. Invaded many years ago by a dragon named Smaug, their home is filled with treasure! In an attempt to reclaim what is rightfully theirs’, Bilbo, and Gandalf face treacherous obstacles along the way during the first segment of (for Bilbo, at least) an unexpected journey…

I will start this review off by saying that I have read the book The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, but have not read The Lord of the Rings books or seen The Lord of the Rings movies. And as for the decision about making The Hobbit into three films, I am a bit skeptical though more excited by all the possibilities, than some at least.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey begins the way I expected it, based on all the critics’ reviews and the decision to make a trilogy out of a single book: the film starts off slow. We spend a long, long, long (I’ll just say overlong, to keep my sentence not too, too, too overlong..long…long!) time at Bilbo’s house. I must say the dwarves’ slapstick comedy as well as the funny dialogue (Gandalf talking about “the game of golf was invented” takes the cake, I just gotta say!). I also can’t think of anything I’d leave on the cutting room floor from the scenes in Bilbo’s house, but it just felt a little… uneventful (not unexpected).

A dwarf and a troll in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)Once the adventure does get going, however, I didn’t get much more pleased with the film. While the beginning is actually rather daring for a blockbuster (can you honestly name a big budget extravaganza from this year that spends 20+ minutes in one character’s house, without any action scenes?) the middle is overly conventional. We simply get one action scene. And then another… And then another… And then another… And then you get the idea, already! While the middle third of the film is no slog and some of the fight sequences are really entertaining the film doesn’t head in one, concrete direction.

Galadriel and Gandalf in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)Things slow down (and get a bit weird: Galadriel seeming in love with Gandalf and then just oddly disappearing) when we take time to visit Elrond, played nicely by Hugo Weaving, and some other visitors: Saruman, portrayed by Christopher Lee, and Galadriel, played by Cate Blanchett. This not in the book sequence is a nice break from all the action (and I assume) a chance for Lord of the Rings fans to catch a peek at former favorite characters, but it just didn’t grab me. Though it may be, as I already said, a good chance to “slow down” the movie it’s just not interesting enough for Peter Jackson to grant it an ability to be as lengthy as it is.

However to make up for the disjointed beginning we get an amazing third act. There’s the riddle packed Bilbo and Gollum confrontation, a big goblin battle, and a flaming pinecones filled fight with Thorin’s old enemy, Azoc. Honestly these three climaxes could’ve been in separate movies. Bilibo and Gollum in this one, goblin fight in the sequel, and the pinecone sequence in the last installment (with added Smaug). Or a better idea would be to have added the dragon to this film, saved some money for other films, and stopped all the criticism of expanding the story. And with just that they could have made one film, not three. Maybe two films would’ve been the right fit.

Martin Freeman is great as Bilbo Baggins, turning in a mostly comical role. All Freeman needs to do is win an Oscar, star in some other blockbusters, and complete The Hobbit trilogy. If he can survive all that he’ll become a full fledged movie star. Alot of the times the star of a movie series will disappear once their franchise has ended, but that normally happens to younger actors (Elijah Wood of The Lord of the Rings, just 20 when The Fellowship of the Ring was released in 2001, is a prime example). Freeman is 41 and, despite the fact that his biggest role up unto this point was starring as Arthur Dent in franchise hopeful turned disastrous flop The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, he’s great here. He shows just the right amount of comic verve and jolly vigor. He does a commendable job without ever turning into a bland macho man. It’s a fine performance…but just that… fine. There seems to be just a bit lacking there. It’s not Oscar worthy or classic, for that matter, either. But it’s good, nonetheless. And, FINE, I’ll stop complaining already!

The supporting cast is strong but unsurprising. Ian McKellen (as Gandalf the Grey) and Richard Armitage, as Thorin Oakenshield, are okay but nothing different than the normal type of actors who appear in fantasy franchises. Meanwhile, Ian Holm and Elijah Wood have totally unnecessary screen time, reprising their roles (Old Bilbo and Young Frodo, respectively) from The Lord of the Rings. They do NOTHING interesting in an opening prologue that isn’t returned to for the rest of the film. As for the dwarves, they’re “quite a merry gathering” though no single actor stands out.

Technically the film is wonderful, with dazzling sets, amazing effects (both sound and special), weird yet great make-up, and a terrific score by Howard Shore—featuring a hummable theme melody and the so-so Song of the Lonely Mountain by Neil Finn.

A rock monster battling the heroes in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)Now to quickly sum up my thoughts on seeing this film in IMAX 3-D; brilliantly incredible! Seriously, Hugo and The Amazing Spider-Man are the only films that could rub shoulders with The Hobbit in my pantheon list of The Greatest 3-D Films (if I ever did one!). And after seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark, back in it’s September re-release, and this (these are the only two IMAX films I can vividly remember watching) I now feel like IMAX is one of the ultimate ways to experience cinema in this day and age. Combine them together and shake the pot and…and…and…TA-DA!!! You’ve got movie magic, especially for a cinematic event such as this one (take note of the awesomely in-your-face moving and/or living rock mountain scene!)!

Gollum hiding from Bilbo in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Jouney (2012)

My favorite scene is the triple climax. I’ve already talked about the goblin battle and the Azoc-pinecone fight. But just to review: while the goblin battle is particularly thrilling the Azoc fight has particular emotional resonance, thanks to Thorin’s tragic connection to the made up big baddie. As for the riddle sequence, Andy Serkis turns in an unsurprisingly great as Gollum, even if he doesn’t pour emotion (as in Rise of the Planet of the Ape’s Caesar) or slapstick comedy (as in The Adventures of Tintin’s Captain Haddock) into the small role. But as for the scene there’s not much to it, apart from the fun yet creepy riddles. Nonetheless it’s probably the most satisfactory scene of the film for fans of the book. While each third of the climax may not be wholly satisfying on it’s own, added up they create an entertaining finale.

My favorite character is Bilbo Baggins. He’s not the ideal protagonist for a big budget fall film but that’s what makes him great. We spend a great deal of time seeing his decision making process of whether or not to go on an adventure with Gandalf. But despite this overlong showcase of one Hobbit’s predictable decision we still get to know the character and savor Martin Freeman’s witty performance enough to be happy with Peter Jackson’s big screen interpretation of one classic character (or I should say Hobbit!).

Thorin Oakenshield prepares to battle Azoc in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy action violence, and frightening images. I agree but would add that anyone over 11 or 12 will be fine, depending on your level of sensitivity. NOTE FOR THOSE OF ALL AGES: The flashback to the death of Thorin’s father is revoltingly gross, no matter how old you are.

The movie wants to be a comedy. It wants to be an epic. It wants to appeal to toddlers, teenagers, and people who read The Hobbit when it was first published. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it doesn’t. But no matter what, this is a journey worth taking. A precious fantasy adventure that is is flawed, fun, and ferociously thrilling all in one. Bring on the sequels to a prequel! But for whatever reason Peter Jackson has decided to make three Hobbit movies. And that’s the way this epic trilogy will play out. I kinda want to shout out “Bring on the sequels to a prequel!”, but something tells me not too. At least we get some emotional highpoints, even if not nearly enough. “From the smallest beginnings come the greatest legends.” reads the poster’s tagline. But from one book expanded into three films we get a visually awesome (especially in IMAX 3-D) yet overall ho-hum first installment.

A Lavish, Sci-fi IMAX Exclusive (Flick’s IMAX Exclusive Review)

Posted on | December 25, 2012 | 1 Comment

If you attended an IMAX or IMAX 3-D showing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, then, unless they lost the film reel, you probably saw the first nine minutes of next summer’s Star Trek Into Darkness. You can watch all of the International Announcement trailers (the Japanese subtitled one has an extra fifteen seconds) and last week’s new teaser that is, minus the voiceover at the beginning and a bit of new material, virtually the same thing, here. In the following paragraphs, I’ll describe the nine minute exclusive and share my thoughts on it.Star Trek Into DarknessThe IMAX exclusive begins with an African-American couple whose daughter is in the hospital. The start is rather abrupt with an alarm going off and the entire shebang is very teasery, so I suspect that this might not be the first nine minutes, just a nine minutes towards the beginning. But whenever the sequence takes place, it’s miraculously good. No, not good. It’s great. Abrams uses the opening scene to introduce the villain: Benedict Cumberbatch’s…er, villain. The exact antagonist that Cumberbatch will play has not been revealed but rumors that he might be Khan have spread at light-speed. (Is that Star Wars or Star Trek?) Anyway, Cumberbatch is only in the trailer for less than a minute, but at least we get a glimpse of him.

The remainder of the trailer is the Enterprise crew’s journey to save a species that will die if not saved, because of an erupting volcano. Abrams and his technical crew are all very skilled at the technology and I got a feeling watching this trailer. I witnessed visual effects that felt new. They didn’t feel like something I had seen in hundreds of other films. No, this felt new and unique, especially the 3-D. I prefer 3-D not in my face at every moment, but instead merely popping out at key moments which is much more powerful. The latter is exactly what Abrams does here, and it works perfectly. There are two moments in particular that use the 3-D wonderfully. The first is when Kirk and fellow crew member, Bones, are being chased by an alien species on an island. The aliens fire arrows which land square in your face. The second moment is when Kirk and Bones escape from the aliens by jumping off the edge of the island (more like a mountain), which just so happens to be a five-hundred foot drop.

Moments like these are moments that are truly magical on the silver screen and most especially on the massive IMAX screen. Anybody who is think of seeing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in IMAX 3-D should definitely do so, and not just to see the film. This exclusive trailer is worth the extra few dollars. You don’t only get a glimpse of what could be a potential summer blockbuster. You also get a glimpse into the future of visual effects…

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Flick’s Review)

Posted on | December 18, 2012 | 1 Comment

4 1/2 stars

Bilbo Baggins, an adventure hating hobbit lives quietly in the Shire. That is until a company of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield and overseen by Gandalf, turn up at his door. They are looking for “a fourteenth member of their company”, as thirteen is unlucky. Gandalf believes he has found that member. What say the other dwarves? They couldn’t disagree more. But, Bilbo joins and their perilous journey to take back the dwarf”s home begins.The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey is not your average blockbuster. Peter Jackson, the director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is helming this epic saga. Saga? That’s right! Jackson’s initial plan was to split J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit in to two films. The same was done for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and the same will be done for the next Hunger Games film, Catching Fire. And the same was also done for the final Twilight book, Breaking Dawn. So it didn’t come as much of a surprise when Jackson gave us the news. So why is this Hobbit film business so unlike anything else? That’s because Jackson uncovered roughly 125 pages of notes from Tolkein, “deleted scenes”, if you will. He will be interspersing them throughout the films, and has already included some in An Unexpected Journey. Jackson thinks that with all of the notes he has found he’ll have enough material for a third film. “Count em’ on all three fingers: it’s what we call epic!” That’s what some think of this plan. While others are leaning towards “HE’S GONE MAD! MAD! JACKSON IS A MAD MAN!” Personally, I do think that the scheme is aimed to make money and will result in at least one very, very poor film. But for now we can merely speculate about this first film. So I will…

After all of the hullabaloo about the fact that this is going to be a trilogy, can we actually enjoy this film? I can and I did. I think the film is entertaining, and found it to be surprisingly funny. Jackson included just about everything from the first six chapters of the book, climaxing with a Gandalf, dwarf, and Bilbo vs. Orcs battle. Plus, there are some extended and added parts from the notes! Because there is not a central villain in the book (except for Smaug towards the end), Jackson has decided to add an Orc who has a long and dark past with Thorin. I’m not sure if this was found in the notes or what, but it works okay for the film. I don’t have too much of a problem with adding this character, but I would prefer for Jackson not to tamper with the books so much. The Rivendell sequence, on the other hand, is gloriously designed. Characters from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy that were not in the book are included in this sequence. They include Elrond, played by Hugo Weaving, Galadriel, played by Cate Blanchett, and Saruman, played by Christopher Lee. The actors are all wonderful and their is some humor and mystery thrown in there, so all in all, it adds up to an enjoyable sequence, if a bit long.The film received a mere 65% rating from critics on rottentomatoes.com. Many critics found it boring, tedious, and way too long. And, of course, they are remembering that two more films are on their way. But I, for the most part disagree. Yes, the film could have completely cut about three of the action sequences. Some of the sequences are beautiful, especially with the glorious IMAX and 3-D .

The film does at times start to feel, not boring, but certainly tiresome. The nearly three hour running time starts to show and my popcorn was gone long before the halfway benchmark. And I’m not a fast popcorn muncher! Let me explain how I could help Jackson out in the editing room. Jackson uses the 3-D to great effect when Bilbo and the dwarves are struggling to stay on the cliff. That’s exciting and wonderfully choreographed, but the moments of the rock giants bashing each other is not nearly as exciting. I would rather it to be replaced with…nothing! Jackson and his longtime editor, Jabez Olessen could have trimmed a good half hour. If Smaug was thrown into the climax this could have ended here! Okay, okay, I guess that’s not correct. There are many more moments to cover: the dwarves in the river, more added scenes, the final Smaug confrontation, and much, much more. And yet…as I sat in the theater watching the film, I couldn’t help but think in the back of my mind: two more three hour IMAX 3-D extravaganzas will be coming soon!

I said that I would get to the IMAX and 3-D critiques later. So now I’ll get to them.  First off, the IMAX. Originally, the plan was for us (Flack, our family, and I) to view the film in IMAX and only IMAX. But at Providence Place theaters, you can only watch the film in regular format or IMAX and 3-D. Nevertheless, we saw the IMAX and 3-D version. I will admit that the IMAX screen is unbelievably massive. I know all critics say this and you’re probably not believing me (I didn’t believe the critics), but it really is about seven stories tall and you can tell. There were several moments during the film where I could feel the ground literally shake. My shirt moved a centimeter or two. Even though you have to empty your pocketbook for this massive screen and “earth shattering sound”, I think for a film like this that you can truly title an event, it’s worth it.

Onto the 3-D! I don’t dislike 3-D as much as some do, but I will admit that the glasses I was given at this showing were unusually annoying. But after the first hour, I did get used to it and I managed to just sit back and enjoy the show because this 3-D is spectacular. It’s absolutely thrilling in every sense of the word. There are a few scenes in particular that stand out. They include: rocks chipping off mountains falling into your eyes as rain drips down and Bilbo and co. struggle to keep their lives and the final climactic battle is given an interesting depth that involves flaming pinecones (I don’t want to give anything else away). There is also a very long trailer for J. J. Abrams’ Summer 2013 sequel, Stark Trek Into Darkness that uses 3-D wonderfully (more on that in the future).I’ve told you about all of the 3-D and IMAX and chit-chat about the fact that this is a trilogy, but is there any emotion behind the action? Yes, in fact there is. I will be purposefully vague as to not give anything away, but I will say that there is a nice portion of emotion at the end and every so often throughout. In other words, on the whole, this is a journey worth taking. WARNING: SOME UNEXPECTED THREE-DIMENSIONAL ROCKS MAY MAKE YOU JUMP. JUST A WARNING!

My favorite character is Bilbo because of his human qualities. He is the central protagonist, but fortunately Jackson paints him as a human and relatable character. Plus, he has some fun action scenes and those hobbit ears…Oh my!

My favorite scene is the adaption of “Chapter 6: Riddles in the Dark” because of…GOLLUM! It’s been nearly a decade since The Lord of the Rings Trilogy began (I haven’t seen the films, but I can judge from photos and trailers), so the Mo-Cap technology has evolved enough to create a truly creepy 2012 Gollum. Howard Shore’s score is just about at it’s best here with the track merely titled Riddles in the Dark. The last reason? That wonderful quote: “What has Bagginses got in it’s pocketses?”. Pure, genuine Gollum.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is rated PG-13 and I agree. There are some creepy off-headings that will push you to keep the youngsters home.

A cinematic event if there ever was one. A true spectacle with some emotional tidbits. Highly entertaining, if overlong.

An Epic of Intricately Complex Proportions

Posted on | October 26, 2012 | 1 Comment

Cloud Atlas (2012)In the following article Flack talks about the Wachowski siblings career and how they have teamed up with German director Tom Tyker to create the visionary, mind bending Cloud Atlas, out today.

The Wachowski siblings have had an extremely respectable career. If you’ve ever wanted to be a Hollywood director you probably wouldn’t mind being in their position. But lately they’ve been faltering. Lana (previously Larry) and Andy debuted with the crime thriller Bound in 1996. Not everybody loved it but Roger Ebert did, calling it “Pure cinema spread over several genres”. The film made $6 million but cost $4 million to make. But the sibling had much bigger plans. In 1994 they completed a script for a sci-fi trilogy called The Matrix. In 1999 the instant action classic was released to commercial and critical success. As Rotten Tomatoes says the movie is “An ingenious combination of Hong Kong action, ground-breaking Hollywood FX, and an imaginative vision.” This, so far at least, is the high point of their career.

The Matrix (1999)After a massive blockbuster there’s always the same route. Make a sequel! And the Wachowskis did that. In 2003 a collection of 9 animated short films titled The Animatrix were released on DVD, though some were available online and one showed before the 2003 Stephen King adaption Dreamcatcher. The shorts were produced and in some cases written by the Wachowskis but they directed none of them, leaving the job to others. On May 15, 2003 the highly anticipated The Matrix Reloaded was released, which showed out of competition at the Cannes film festival that year. On November 15th The Matrix Revolutions wrapped up the trilogy in the same year. Both sequels cost $150 million each and were shot at the same time but while Reloaded is the highest grossing installment of the series, Revolutions is shockingly the lowest.  And even though the original film has an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes the sequels have a 73% and 36%, respectively. On the whole, the sequels are not remembered fondly and was often a tragic shoot. However one reason the Wachowskis should be proud of the series altogether is that they made a lot of money. So how to follow it up? Wait five years before releasing a new film. But on May 9, 2008 Speed Racer (the only Wachowski film that’s not rated R) was released. The project had been in development since 1992 and is based on a Japanese anime TV show from the 60’s. But the movie didn’t even earn it’s budget back in worldwide grosses, let alone make a profit. Critics nor audiences were fans of the movie and is thus reflected on as a candy colored, unnecessary flop.

Cloud Atlas (2012)But after the harsh reaction to their recent movies the Wachowskis are poised to make a comeback with an epic of intricately complex proportions. The movie is titled Cloud Atlas and is also co-directed by the man behind Run Lola Run, Tom Tyker. Together these three directors have taken the book Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, and turned it into a film. The book and film feature six different stories of different genres that eventually connect. On top of that the many, many actors play two roles each, while Halle Berry and Tom Hanks play six each in different stories. The movie is a mishmash of ideas, stories, and genres. The first story is set in the 19th century and tells the story of a lawyer sailing from the Pacific to California. As he sails home he records his voyage in a half finished diary which eventually resurfaces to a poor musician in 30’s Belgium, in the second story. The pianist’s friend also appears in the third episode in which Halle Berry as a reporter falls in love with Tom Hanks as a scientist during 1975 set against a possibly deadly nuclear conspiracy. The story of Berry’s character next lands in the hands of a murdering publisher who gets trapped in a prison taken care of by a very nasty care worker in the fourth adventure set in early 21st Century London and once again featuring Tom Hanks this time as a gangster type author. The publisher has ties with Sonmi-451, a clone trying to gain her humanity with the help of a man trying to bring down a totalitarian society in the near hi-tech future. In the final installment a tribesman played by Hanks (living after the apocalypse called The Fall) tries to escape Hugh Grant as a cannibal and a recurring evil, Devil type creature along with the help of companion survivor Meronym, played by Berry.

The Wachowskis and Tom TykerThe movie cost about $120 million to make and just by watching the trailers you can tell. But the directing trio has called it an independent movie despite the fact that it’s being distributed by Warner Bros. Still even the gigantic budget doesn’t seem large enough. The novel by David Mitchell was published in 2004 and was greeted by acclaim, awards, question marks, and mixed reviews. While on the set of V For Vendetta, written and produced by the Wachowskis, the star of Vendetta, Natalie Portman showed Lana, Cloud Atlas a book she’d just read and loved. So Lana read it, then Andy, and within a year they had written a first draft. They had wanted to work with Tom Tyker for a while and knew this would be the perfect opportunity. So the three of them spent a year in a Costa Rica writing more drafts and laying out index cards and rearranging them. Natalie Portman was promised the role of Sonmi-451 but had to drop out. James McAvoy and Ian McKellen were both considered for roles but the cast is extremely respectable as it is. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturges, Ben Winshaw, Doona Bae, Keith David, James D’Arcy, and many more are among the stars.

Cloud Atlas (2012)Despite these big names, will audiences actually turn up for a movie that is so long and complex? Well it’s not just confusing mind boggling interconnecting story lines you’ll find at this film. You’ll also receive the bang for your buck. The fifth story especially features lots of action. Watch the trailer and you’ll see what could be the best chase scene of the year. And of course there’s lots of special effects throughout. But the movie is 172 minutes long and there’s a guarantee that it’s not a 2 hour, 52 minute action scene. But no matter what you’re wanting or expecting from Cloud Atlas you’re going to get something. How good is that something? Well, reviews have been flooding in since the 10 minute standing ovation that the movie got at it’s premiere at TIFF, the Toronto International Film Festival. (Flick and I attended the kids version April of this year). Some critics LOVE the film some critics DON’T. Roger Ebert (and the Wachowskis) have compared the film to 2001: A Space Odessey in a good way. Ebert gave it 4 out of 4 stars while others have been much less kind. But most like Bob Mondello, who largely disliked the film says “Cloud Atlas is now a film, for better or worse. Mostly worse I’d say, but give these folks credit …” I think the film, no matter what, was worth making. The Wachowskis and Tyker have reportedly had a great time working on the film, and so have the actors. There have been plenty of advertisements on TV, talk shows, and the Internet as well as a five and a half minute trailer released over the summer, a second and shorter trailer, and three behind the scenes featurettes. The movie however is rated R, which always reduces the number of viewers. Yet it is in IMAX, which costs more (thus adding money). But you don’t have to see it in IMAX. There are so many reasons why it will and won’t be a blockbuster success. If I was allowed to see the film I would see it opening day in IMAX. However, not everybody feels that way and so I’m guessing the movie will debut to $9.5 million on it’s opening weekend. Terribly disappointing but sadly likely. However I’m guessing the movie will do great internationally, thanks to the German Tom Tyker and partly foreign cast, and can at least make back it’s budget.

Tom Tyker (who composed the music for Cloud Atlas before shooting began) has no upcoming films he is currently working on. The Wachowskis are producing, writing, and directing a sci-fi action adventure starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum and set to be released sometime 2014. Jupiter will likely be commercially successful. And so after all the future may be bright.

Now go see Cloud Atlas and remember everything is connected. When you see Cloud Atlas there is one word that will come out of your mouth (to quote a certain other Wachowski film): whoa.

Cloud Atlas (2012)Tell us if you’ve read the book and then your opinion in the comments after seeing the movie (and what you think of these director’s other work and if you even want you see the movie)!


Raiders Of The Lost Ark: The IMAX Experience (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | September 18, 2012 | 2 Comments

Raiders Of The Lost SArk5 Stars

In Raiders Of The Lost Ark Indiana Jones, everyone’s favorite archeologist with a fedora and a whip, goes on adventures to bring back treasured ancient artifacts for the museum at the school where he teaches. His latest mission? To bring back the Ark of the Covenant despite the fact the fact that evil Nazis are racing him to the prize. With the help of his old love interest Marion, good friend Sallah, and long time pal Marcus Brody who works at the same school as Indy he has to try to survive snakes, a shirtless bald German, eye popping terrors, and more.

The first of a four film series, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a treasured classic filled with adventure, comedy, romance, and of course tons of action. Nowadays one of the best ways studios can try to ensure that they’ll make box office gold with their latest projects is to bring together multiple Hollywood heavyweights to work together. But there will never be an A list paring more prestigious than Raider’s: Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Since then they’ve worked on almost every type of film imaginable but back then they were known for two films; Jaws and Star Wars, respectively. While those movies were just the beginning of their careers they were still the two highest grossing films of the time. As expected Raiders didn’t, doesn’t, and will simply never disappoint.

Raiders Of The Lost ArkOne of the main reasons the film works is Harrison Ford’s title performance. Not only does he deliver the action man requirements better than most actors, if not all, he’s also hilarious and witty. That said, the rest of the cast delivers well rounded performances. Karen Allen, Paul Freeman, John Rhys Davies, Denholm Elliot, and Alfred Molina, the eventual Doc-Oc, take stereotypical characters (i.e. the sidekick, love interest, super bad guy, doomed untrustworthy companion, eetc.) and flesh them out, adding vigour, comedy, and fun.

As for the now classic Spielberg and Lucas pairing, it plays out magneficentley. Both have a knack for action set-pieces that really work and that talent is brilliantly showcased here. The classic opening, the truck chase, the scene where Indy and Marion are trapped with a bunch of snakes, and the creepy yet cool climax are all thrilling sequences.  it might not be as great as some of Spielberg’s other works but it is certainly as thrilling, quotable, and all out entertaining as anything he has ever worked on.

This movie is so good it would even be fun to watch on a tiny T.V. But seeing it on an IMAX screen is astonishing. When you go to an IMAX movie you’re not just seeing a film on the big screen you’re seeing it on the biggest screen. For anyone who has never been to IMAX head on over to the Providence Place Mall, despite the very expensive costs it’s worth it at least once. Pick a film like this one that is thoroughly entertaining and has action sequences that are massive and epic in scope. But how does this movie work with the format? The restoration of Indy isn’t perfect: the wide shots are at times seemingly blurrier than ever although maybe I just noticed that on the big screen. When polishing up an  older film for release you have to be careful, after all fans expect it to be perfect. But when doing it for this big a screen it needs to be dazzling. And, aside from the already mentioned occasional glitches, it is. When I walked into the theater I felt absolutely astonished. 6 stories high and featuring a great sound system it is undoubtedly one of my favorite moviegoing experiences in my life so far. While it’s left Providence (for now) I heard it might be expanding it’s originally one week long run so try to track it down at all costs.

But is this masterpiece flawless? Not quite. During the climax SPOILER ALERT! (though let’s face it, who hasn’t seen this movie?) all the bad guys’ faces melt. And what does Indy and Marion do? Close their eyes and wait. There could have been a little battle scene between Belloq and Indy which concludes with Belloq being thrown to the ground by Indy straight into the Ark. Then he would forget to close his eyes along with the other bad guys that perhaps Marion and Sallah could have been fighting. However the heroes would close their eyes and survive. The real ending doesn’t ruin the picture but if they just wanted to clean it up a bit that wouldn’t have hurt.

My favorite character is obviously Indiana Jones. Never has a leading man injected an action hero with so much humor and life. Harrison Ford, a wonder in the title role, is above all what makes this movie a classic.

My favorite scene is the opening because it is incredibly thrilling and gives you a lick of the meal to come. Plus you really can’t beat a glistening golden idol, a failing sand bag, speared skeletons, and one massive boulder.

The film is rated PG by the MPAA. There was no PG-13 back then because it was invented because of the second Indiana Jones film. Nowadays I would rate it PG-13 for some romance, lots of action violence, occasional glimpses of blood, and one very gory climax.

Note: If you want to hear a great disscussion about the Raiders of the Lost Ark IMAX re-release head on over to the Filmspotting website to listen.

Raiders of the Lost Ark has never been better nor bigger. Massive in scope and epic in scale, here is a film that could be called the Citizen Kane of action movies. As thrilling as it is fun, as pulse-pounding as it is laugh out loud hilarious this is (plain and simple) a classic. It’s a master collaboration between Spielberg and Lucas even though it certainly doesn’t have the heart of E.T. and maybe not the everlasting appeal of the original Star Wars (though no doubt, Raiders will never be forgotten) it’s still a great time at the movies. If you haven’t already or even if you have see it on the biggest screen: IMAX. Just when you thought Raiders couldn’t get any better it……..did.