flickflackmovietalk

Irrational Man is Thin but Breezy Entertainment (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | August 22, 2015 | Add Comments

Irrational Man (2015)Irrational Man, Woody Allen’s 45th film, is a movie of contradictions: it’s likable but thin, exaggerated fun but also absurdly implausible.

The film begins as Abe Lucas, a potbellied philosophy professor at the end of his luck, arrives at a New England college called Braylin. He meets with the school president, who asks “Is everything alright?” and it’s hard not to instantly notice that something is off. Abe seems distracted and a little off balance. He suffers from alcohol and depression and his classroom lectures play out like dazed rants from a hardened old soul.

One of his students is Jill (Emma Stone), a bright and popular girl intrigued by Abe’s controversial writing and his rumored womanizing past. She quickly falls in love, to the chagrin of her suspicious boyfriend Roy (Jamie Blackley). Abe certainly likes Jill, but he’s hesitant to drag her into a doomed-from-start relationship. Of course, that’s exactly what he does; simultaneously, he’s having an affair with Rita, a fellow professor (Parker Posey).

Then Abe and Jill overhear a woman’s teary confession involving a lawyer she wishes were dead. Fed up with the lazy passiveness of modern life, he decides to turn his life around by murdering the lawyer. His attitude and outlook on life seem to brighten overnight, to the surprise of everyone around him. Little do they know his happiness is the effect of deception, murder, and some far-fetched trickery.

Irrational Man (2015)

Irrational Man‘s biggest flaw is Allen’s script, which plays out like a thin short story. Abe, Jill, and Rita (who’s barely a character) are senseless people and fairly one-dimensional, which makes it hard to connect to this character-driven story. The nicest person in the movie is probably Roy, who’s as preppy, predictable, and dull as a movie boyfriend can be.

That’s not to say the movie is unbearable. Abe’s park-set murder plan, the film’s central sequence, has a delightfully macabre tone. Emma Stone is likable and charmingly naive as Jill, which is just what the role calls for. And Rhode Islanders will have fun spotting some familiar locations.

About halfway through, Irrational Man begins to crumble. The tightrope-thin storyline reveals it’s flimsiness, while the film begins to drag. It doesn’t help that Jouaquin Phoenix doesn’t seem sure if this is a dark character study or a lightweight murder mystery and that Parker Posey is stuck with a sketch of a character. The movie falls into a jumble of cliches and interesting ideas that never get developed.

Irrational Man (2015)Then comes the climactic fight, which has an absurdly dark screwball tone the rest of the film could’ve benefited from. On the whole, this is a fairly minor movie from Woody Allen, who recently acknowledged (in a surprising but sensible interview) that he’s too lazy for greatness. It sounds crazy, but that’s a decent explanation for Irrational Man. It’s a low-key murder mystery that makes no attempt to be a deep character study or a memorable romantic comedy. “I’m lazy and an imperfectionist”, he told the interviewer. “Film-making is not the end-all be-all of my existence.” For the audience’s sake, however, it would be nice if he did give his all to a project. Maybe he’s just too busy coming up with new ideas to perfect a single film. (He’s returning to Los Angeles for the first time since Annie Hall for his next film, which he’s shooting now with Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and Bruce Willis.) For now, though, we have Irrational Man. It certainly won’t brighten your spirits or get you thinking (the way Midnight in Paris and Annie Hall did). But it won’t send you out depressed with the movies, the way Abe feels towards life. Walk in with low expectations, and you might leave happily surprised.

The Theory of Everything (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | December 6, 2014 | Add Comments

The Theory of EverythingStephen Hawking, who was diagnosed with ALS disease in 1963 but conquered his two-year life expectancy and became an influential theoretical physicist, is not your average scientist. Luckily, The Theory of Everything, which chronicles Hawking’s marriage to Jane Wilde and significant scientific achievements, is a more sophisticated, contemplative biopic than one might expect.

As the film begins, Hawking is a socially awkward, slightly clumsy, and rather directionless Cambridge undergraduate. He meets Jane Wilde at a party, and they’re instantly charmed by one another. Then, after an ugly fall, Stephen is diagnosed with “motor-neuron disease” and told his ability to talk and walk will quickly decline. He’s confused, he’s angry, and he wants to shut out Jane from his life. She won’t let that happen, however, and promises to help him through the challenges that lay ahead.

That all sounds predictably inspiring, and it is, but the film reveals new layers as their marriage continues. As the years wear on, Jane endures alongside Stephen and suffers with him.  Eventually, she, and the audience, ask: how much of herself is she sacrificing? The youthful, unwavering love the couple initially shared becomes more fraught with tension, yet becomes something deeper, with the passing of time.

Anthony McCarten’s screenplay, adapted from Jane Hawking’s memoir, gives equal attention to both Jane and Stephen, providing a fleshed-out, two-sided relationship without male or female cliches.

It’s the performances that really make or break this type of film, and The Theory of Everything has two great ones. As Hawking, Eddie Redmayne gets ample opportunity to display his acting talent, but it’s his subtlety that makes the role heartbreaking. As his eager, intelligent vigor fades into weary sickness, Redmayne undergoes a remarkable physical transformation. His head slumps down, his hands scrunch up, and his speech slurs. Remarkably, his intellect remains untouched. Jane’s confidence, however, does not. Actress Felicity Jones shows us all her roles: loving wife, persevering companion, and apprehensive, frustrated woman. Her role may be less physically demanding than Redmayne’s, but it’s just as emotionally testing.

Science geeks interested in gleaning some new information from a Stephen Hawking biopic will be thoroughly disappointed, but it’s hard to imagine others sharing such a sentiment (for those interested, there’s Hawking’s book “A Brief History of Time”.) Director James Marsh is far more interested in complex relationships and the limits of love than he is in mathematical equations that provide a theory for everything. He’s clearly adept at working with actors, and creating a believable human love story. But, thanks to cinematographer Benoît Delhomme, the film also has a muted, lush beauty. Marsh and Delhomme are keen visual thinkers, and they imbue the soft, enchanting frames with a hazy warmth, universal grandness, and ravishing romance (as Jane and Stephen tenderly kiss, the camera lifts upwards and floats away).

That’s not to say The Theory of Everything is without it’s flaws. Some plot strands, while effective, are repetitive, and the film feels a bit slow. And the inspiring, against-all-odds story of triumph and romance, while historical and illuminating, has been seen before.

The Theory of EverythingStill, it’s easy to fall for the film which, while often hard to watch, leaves you with a sense of hope for mankind. Die-hard physicists may complain, but it’s hard to imagine a more compelling version of Hawking’s story, made within the Hollywood boundaries. Then again, you may leave the theater unsure about the “biopic” genre. How many more films about historical icons can we watch? Why do some celebrities of the past get the movie treatment and not others? The Theory of Everything is a fine film, and it gives us new insight into a famous figure. But sitting at the dinner table, you may tell your friends “I really didn’t know much about Stephen Hawking, and the film was quite informative. Oh, and the acing was phenomenal.” But didn’t you say the same thing about Lincoln? Saving Mr. BanksThe King’s Speech? Surely filmmakers have original, fictions stories to tell too? Coming soon: The Imitation Game, Mr. Turner, and Unbroken… Hmm.

The Singer-Songwriter Romances of John Carney: Once and Begin Again

Posted on | November 27, 2014 | Add Comments

Two musicians (	Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová) fall in love in OnceFor all their differences (in budget, star power, and setting), Once and Begin Again, both directed by John Carney, are remarkably similar. The two films each follow a singer-songwriter, post break-up, as they attempt to kickstart a music career, while bonding with a new friend/fellow musician/possible love interest. Do the two films prove Carney as the master of the modern musical? Seven years after it’s indie success, does Once stand up? And is Begin Again (now on DVD and available to rent) a promising follow-up?

You know the story of Once: a poor guitarist befriends a shy, Czech pianist and the two write songs and fall in love. It’s equally likely you’re familiar with the film’s success story: $150,000 indie manages to gross $1.9 million and win an Oscar. Watching the film for the first time, this year, I was surprised by all the acclaim for a enjoyable but modest film. While the songs (especially the beautiful “Falling Slowly”) are simply gorgeous, Once runs on humble charm rather than filmmaking expertise. It’s easy to see why audiences fell for the songs and the story, but Carney’s lack of directorial talent was too obvious for the film to work on me. Main problem: the over-used, almost infuriating shaky cinematography. Tim Flemming’s camerawork is rarely striking but constantly irritating; he moves the camera around so often, you get the sense he doesn’t know what to do with it. Carney’s script, meanwhile, is more premise than story but manages some raw, affecting moments of pure emotion. Luckily, leads Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, clearly unprofessionals, have some honest chemistry (especially when they’re performing). Maybe the Broadway show, with more music and less wobbly camerawork, would impress me more.

Gretta (Keira Knightley) and Dan (Mark Ruffalo) record an album around NYC in Begin AgainBegin Again, meanwhile, takes the simple premise of Once and piles on more characters, subplots, and a layer of distinctly un-Dubline-like pop-star gloss. Gretta (Keira Knightley), heartbroken after her chart-topping guitarist boyfriend (Adam Levine) cheats on her, is a singer-songwriter who doesn’t quite know what do with her music. Then she meets a divorced, drunken producer (Mark Ruffalo), who convinces her to sign on for a record deal. The (laughable cutesy) twist? To make their album, they record around outdoor NYC locations. It’s all only slightly less predictable than you’d expect (like Once, the ending favors the bitter over the sweet). Light, amusing, and easy to please, with an undercurrent of heartache, things rarely stray far from a gentle, hopeful, hummable tone. The issue is there’s no “Falling Slowly” here, and Knightley’s singing skills are meager. It’s also hard to believe the plot, which assumes an irony-free, unoriginal folk-singer could make a splash in the era of EDM (electronic dance music). If you take the jump, however, you’ll enjoy some clever music industry quips, a satisfyingly disappointing ending, and Ruffalo’s likable turn as a failed father and once-great producer struggling against the music industry’s changing tides.

After two music-romances, you’d expect Carney to try something new… And you’d be wrong: Sing Street, slated for next year, will follow a Dublin boy as he starts a band in London. The film is currently in post-production, so it may be too late to offer advice but let’s hope the songs are memorable, the script not too predictable, and the camera steady. Or else I’ll just stay home listening to this.

The Wind Rises (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | April 6, 2014 | Add Comments

Jiro Hirokoshi designs airplanes and finds love in The Wind Rises (2013)Ravishing fantasy adventures that appeal to young and old have always been Japanese animation wizard Hayao Miyazaki’s trademark. Films like My Neighbor Totoro, Princess MononokeKiki’s Delivery ServiceSpirited AwayHowl’s Moving CastlePonyo, and others have gained him international acclaim, a legion of fans, and an Oscar. Personally, I’ve always been a fan; his films’ childlike wonder and sometimes philosophical themes are a always a nice refresher from the crass glut of American CGI.

Miyazaki’s latest film, The Wind Rises, is also his last (you may recognize the title; the film was nominated for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars). Moving away from make-believe worlds of wonder, the film is loosely based on the life of Jiro Horikoshi, a designer and engineer of many Japanese fighters during World War II. The film follows Jiro, from childhood and college, to designing and engineering, past earthquakes, death, and war. Dream sequences, a trip to Germany, failure, innovation, and romance are all on the menu in this epic wartime love story.

With such success with his “kids movies”, you might think Miyazaki would falter with a serious historical drama rated PG-13. And if you thought that…you’d be wrong. The Wind Rises is easily one of his best works, filled with character, depth, and subtext that will probably reward repeated viewings. Like always, the animation itself is the most impressive aspect of the film (and that’s not a bad thing). Miyizakaki, and his Studio Ghibli, have made visual leaps and bounds since My Neighbor Totoro, released 25 years ago. Backgrounds don’t look grainy, characters no longer have a cute simplicity, and fast-moving action has lost the blurriness of yore. Though the less complex technology worked with his previous films, it almost feels like Miyizaki couldn’t have made Wind Rises until now. The sumptuous, rich visuals have 3-D dimensional scope that wows you in every shot. The movie is like a thousand gorgeous paintings: it could be silent film and still be a must-see.

Perhaps that is what makes the rest of the film so impressive. The brain has as much to think about here as the eyes have to see. Miyizakaki’s script is thoughtful and ponderous, with a lot to say about life, love, and war. Most interesting is the exploration of the relationship between man and machine. Jiro builds planes of beauty and complexity, only to watch them be flown off to kill, kill, kill. By creating these planes, is he encouraging war? Or is he simply designing masterpieces of engineering? There’s so much to chew on here and the filmmakers want you bite it all off.

Wind Rises is also peppered with a strong cast of supporting characters: Jiro’s younger sister, his boss, his best friend, and, maybe most fascinating of all, an on-the-run criminal staying at a nice hotel. In telling the story of a man’s life, it’s inevitable for a film to drag a bit here and there. Near the middle, Wind Rises is a little slow but its meandering feel makes it a unique achievement. It’s like we’re living with main character, watching the world from inside his head.

What a way to go out! The Wind Rises‘ arresting animation and contemplative story make this a true masterpiece and one of the best animated films in recent years. Farewell Miyazaki and thanks for the ride.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | January 8, 2014 | Add Comments

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) skateboards to a volcano in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)The Secret Life of Walter Mitty 3 1/2 Stars

This was a great year for movies, but have any films made you laugh out loud from beginning to end? Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is one of those films. Stiller is excellent as director and actor, and the film is as bizarrely funny as it is cheerfully delightful. It’s not perfect but it’s still one of the most enjoyable films of the year.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) lives his quiet life daydreaming about romance, adventure, and co-worker crush Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig). He works as a Negative Assets Manager in LIFE Magazine’s photography department.  But as LIFE moves online, and prepares for it’s final issue, Walter’s job is threatened.  Legendary photographer Sean O’ Connell (Sean Penn) sends in some possible cover photos for Walter to look at. Negative 25 (which Sean declares to depict “the quintessence of life”) is immediately selected for the cover. But when Walter can’t find the photo, he flees his job and flies to Iceland, to search the world for Sean. As he tussles with sharks, scales the Himalayas, and falls in love with Cheryl, Walter discovers living is a lot more thrilling than dreaming.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) with his co-worker crush Cheryl Melhoff (Kristen Wiig) in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a fine achievement for Ben Stiller, both as actor and director. As actor, he’s absolutely hilarious playing Walter. Stiller portrays Mitty as a hardworking daydreamer in search of excitement and gives the character soul and meaning. His performance is thoughtful and moving, and yet his deadpan delivery and quirky physical humor will make you burst out laughing. Even in the dramatic scenes, he’s wonderful. The supporting cast is solid too: Kristen Wiig, Patton Oswalt, Sean Penn (in a 5 minute role), and Adam Scott, as Walter’s obnoxious boss Ted, are all fine. But this is Stiller’s show and he’s subtly hysterical in a great role.

Stiller’s work as director, however, is even more impressive. From the gorgeous visuals to the layered script, his mark is all over the movie. He’s plenty experienced at making audiences laugh, and that’s quite evident here: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is easily one of the funniest movie of the year. But it’s not the jokes that surprise; it’s the fact that Stiller proves himself as a truly talented director. The movie is equal parts comedy, romance, and adventure and Stiller is equally adept at all three. The film is beautiful, moving, and enthralling, not least because of Stiller’s direction.

Ben Stiller’s directorial voice is eccentric, funny, and and adventurous, and his unique style often works…but not always. Stiller occasionally indulges in his comedy roots a bit too hard, as if he’s as afraid of the unknown, like Mitty. Some of the broader slapstick humor just isn’t funny and a few scenes feel weird for the sake of it (a Benjamin Button spoof, for example, is amusingly strange but has no reason being in the movie). As the film tries to wrap up, some scenes meander and drag. Though the poignant ending is perfect, Stiller takes too long getting there.

Despite its flaws, the film’s technical side is flawless. Stuart Dryburgh’s cinematography is ravishingly expansive, while the special effects are remarkably effective. The soundtrack is a soulful compilation of catchy tracks including Of Monsters and Men, Jack Johnson, and others. Best of all, the appropriation of David Bowie’s Space Oddity in a key scene is perfectly hummable. Only Greg Hayden’s editing needs a little work; the film, as previously mentioned, is overlong at 114 minutes.

Steve Conrad’s script is also terrific. It feels timeless and topical at the same time, and the characters are well developed. The story is captivating and surprising, and I found the LIFE magazine and photography story-lines engrossing.  Still, plot points like these often get jumbled around. Conrad and Stiller sometimes have more food than they can chew, with all the one-liners, characters, locations, set-pieces, and product placements. Though most of this is entertaining, some scenes could’ve been expanded.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) meets master photographer Sean O'Connell (Sean Penn) in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a funny, enthralling adventure that marks the arrival of Ben Stiller as a true director. Stiller is also hilarious in the title role, leading a fantastic cast. While it sometimes drags and Stiller’s directing skills still need a bit of work, Walter Mitty is as inspiring, hilarious, and heart-warming as any other film this year. There’s no need to dream. This is one of the most entertaining films of 2013.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Flack’s Review)

Posted on | December 7, 2013 | 1 Comment

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) ready for battle in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 4 1/2 Stars

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, the satisfyingly exhilarating follow-up to The Hunger Games, is easily one of the most entertaining sequels to come out of Hollywood in a long time, thanks to Jennifer Lawrence’s riveting lead performance and director Francis Lawrence’s phenomenal adaptation of Suzanne Collin’s bestselling book.

The plot is sophisticated and multi layered but the basic gist is this: The previous year, Katniss Everdeen (played by Jennifer Lawrence) won the Hunger Games, the televised death match where kids fight to the death, along with love interest Peeta Mellark. Now, her and Peeta have caused a revolution against the rich and evil that live in the Capitol. Things get even worse when the dictator behind the Capitol, President Snow, announces that the 75th annual Hunger Games will have previous winners compete. Now, Peeta and Katniss are forced back into the arena for a death match with more enemies, more suspense, and more action than before.

All this sounds very heavy handed but director Francis Lawrence never loses sight of the depth and heart that makes this series special. Unlike the previous installment, Catching Fire doesn’t race to begin the Games. In fact, it’s not until halfway into the film that the Games begin. Lawrence takes his time setting the scene. We get to know Katniss better this time around, but we also get to know the supporting cast, as well.

Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) and Katniss Everedeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

There’s certainly a lot going on here: a love triangle, old grudges, politics, fashion, and bloody death matches and it’s a surprise everything stays together. The secret is that Suzanne Collins (author of the book series) served as one of the screenwriters. Collins obviously knows the story best and you can tell. Shockingly, there weren’t any big scenes I missed from the book and some added witty dialogue.

The cast, here, is spectacular, starting with Jennifer Lawrence. As Katniss, she’s bold, tough, and conflicted. The character is a heroic one but Lawrence also paints her as a wounded, flawed, somewhat tragic hero. It’s this nuanced heroine that makes this series unforgettable.

The only slight disappointments are Peeta and, the other love interest, Gale. Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth, respectively, are decent actors and do a fine job, but unlike Lawrence, they don’t exactly resemble the book’s descriptions. In fact, some of the smaller characters threaten to steal the show (not a problem). Jena Malone, as fierce and funny Games competitor Johanna Mason, is sharp and hilarious, thanks to some memorable moments that make her small role stick out. Sam Claflin and Jeffrey Wright are also fantastic, as fellow Tributes (the name for Hunger Games competitors).  Rounding out the cast is Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the deceptive mastermind behind the Games.

Catching Fire has a number of heart string tugging moments but there’s also enough bravura set-pieces to rival most summer blockbusters. Once the Hunger Games begins, it’s all action-all the time. But that doesn’t matter because the fights are filmed beautifully and careful and are a thrill to watch. It also doesn’t hurt that there is real suspense here.

Another strong aspect of the film is the look. Lawrence doesn’t try to mimic previous director Gary Ross’ shaky-cam shots nature shots of hazy beauty, nor the over-the-top Capitol fashion. This time around, things are more down to Earth. The sets look lived in and the everything is snowy and dark. Before and during the Games, the dominant colors are gray, blue, and white. Unlike other franchises, The Hunger Games seems to be developing a new, singular look for each film.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in The Hunger Games: Catching FireThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire is thrilling and thoughtful. It serves as the perfect antidote to this summer’s lackluster crop of ho-hum blockbusters. Ending with a massive cliff-hanger, Catching Fire is the must-seed blockbuster of the season. The odds are certainly in this franchise’s favor…

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)!

 

Vertigo (Flick’s Review)

Posted on | October 25, 2012 | Add Comments

5 stars

John Ferguson is an aerobic policeman. After retiring, John is pulled back in to it all by one of his old college friends. The old friend tells John that his wife has been acting like another person lately, she’s been driving ninety four miles without his knowing. As things get even more complex, the lines between who is who are blurred.

Vertigo is a film that will, currently is, and should be remembered for the ages. I saw the entire film., my brother fell asleep in the middle of it, so the next morning I watched the second half with him again. The second viewing of the second half (I hope I’m not giving you vertigo… yet) let me sink my teeth into all the tiny little details that I had missed the first time around. I know what you’re thinking: “That’s what happens every time you watch a film the second time. You pick up everything you missed the first time.” But there’s something about Vertigo (I’m still trying to wrap my head around it), it is the rare film that is almost flawless. It is so well rounded; in every scene we witness something even more mind boggling than the last.

The plot is incredibly interesting. I don’t think I have ever watched a film more complex than this, but the sophisticated storyline only builds the suspense. If the storyline was simple and uninteresting, then the suspense could only get as far as half baked. Why? Well if we don’t care about what’s happening, then there goes our interest. Right out the window.

This film is what everyone says it is: it’s a physiological puzzle that twists your brain until it hits the floor. If you want to watch something while folding laundry or doing work, let me suggest that Vertigo be last on your go-to list. If you do watch it at the right time however, you won’t be able to stop watching it, I couldn’t.With every good movie (and yes, I mean just plain old good movie), there is something that aids the brilliance. The layering on the cake, if you will. Here it’s the acting, the sets, everything. But there’s one element that you can’t miss. As I’m writing my review I’m listening to it now. It’s frighteningly sophisticated. It’s quiet, and then it will blare the horns and you’ll know it’s the tower scene. That’s right: it’s Bernard Herrmann’s nail bitingly unforgettable score.

It would be truly impossible to write an entire review of an Alfred Hitchcock film without mentioning the master of suspense, himself. Well there you go: I mentioned Hitchcock and I’m not done yet. Anyway, Hitchcock is a brilliant director. With each of the eight and a-bit-of films of his I’ve seen (North By Northwest, the original The Man Who Knew Too Much, Rear Window, To Catch A Thief, Notorious, The 39 Steps, the first half hour of Lifeboat, Rebecca, and now Vertigo) he tries to push himself a little farther. And here, if ever, he does.

My favorite character is Madeline because of the many different phases she goes through (I’m not going to give anything away), each one twisting your mind even further than the last.

My favorite scene is the second tower scene because it has amazing performances, Hitchcock masters it all with frighteningly exact precision, and oh the music. It is also one of the best finales in all of cinema history. Yes, ALL OF CINEMA HISTORY!

Vertigo is Not Rated, but I would rate it PG-13 for scenes of peril and complex situations.

A suspense film like no other, Vertigo may not be Hitchcock’s best, but it still is wonderfully good, bizarrely complex suspense.

search this site

resources

  • What do you think?

    • Who is your favorite super hero?

      View Results

      Loading ... Loading ...
  • ________________________

    • Which movie are you most looking forward to this year?

      View Results

      Loading ... Loading ...
  • ________________________