Cloud Atlas (2012) Review

30 05 2013

ImageIt has been some time since I have updated this blog and for that I sincerely apologize. Between work, a new hobby that has engulfed a lot of my time and resources (pinball collecting!) and life in general, I just haven’t taken the proper time to keep up with this blog. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been watching movies regularly. Movies have always and will always be a very important part of my life, and I am hoping that I can find the appropriate time to at least keep this blog up to a much better extent than I have over the past six to eight months. Enough apologies, on with the review!

Cloud Atlas is a film adaptation based on the 2004 novel of the same name by David Mitchell. Somewhat famously, it has become the most expensive independent film to ever be released, having been produced for nearly $100 million outside of the studio system. The narrative structure follows six distinct and separate storylines over six different time periods, and was a co-production between the Wachowskis of Matrix fame and Tom Tykwer who helmed such films as Run Lola Run and The Princess and the Warrior. By co-production, I mean this was very literally a co-production between the three, in that the script was written and re-written by all the involved, as well as the segments being  directed by the Wachowskis and Tykwer, respectively, with two totally separate crews working in parallel.

The separate storylines take place in the following times and places: The South Pacific Ocean, 1849; Great Britain, 1936; San Francisco, Calif., 1973; United Kingdom, 2012; Neo Seoul (Korea), 2144; and The Big Island, 2321. The characters in the respective storylines are portrayed by many of the same actors in different roles. Multiple performances are given by Tom Hanks, Halle Barry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy and Zhou Xun, among others. Each storyline is separate of the others outside of the unifying theme that history can and will repeat itself, and that there is an interrelation between people, places, time and the decisions they make.

At nearly 3 hours and with much intertwine between the six stories, the film has polarized critics and managed to end up on both best and worst film lists of the year. With that distinction in mind, it is a bit of a difficult film to review for a wide audience, so I will have to be rather subjective in my approach. For me, there were individual stories I enjoyed more than others out of the six, but none of them failed to pique my interest. I was thoroughly engaged throughout the entirety of the film and actually really connected with the moral of the story and the brilliant multi-faceted performances from the main cast. In time, I could very easily see this film achieving a cult status, as many experimental films do that are originally shunned or misunderstood by the mainstream upon release.

If you don’t mind a narrative structure that interweaves heavily and is primarily held together by the overarching theme of the film, then I think you will really enjoy this movie. However, if turbulent story structure and disjointed parallel structure turns you off, then this is definitely not the film for you.


The Thing (1982) Review

5 04 2011

Copyright 1982 Universal Pictures

★ ★ ★ ★

John Carpenter is a master at low budget horror and science fiction films.  Before watching this, I had seen Dark Star, Assault on Precinct 13, Escape from New York, Escape from L.A. and, of course, Halloween. With most of these films, I have been surprised at the level of enjoyment I’ve experience watching them, being that I don’t necessarily consider myself a huge fan of the genres.

The Thing is a remake of Howard Hawk’s 1951 The Thing from Another World, which itself was based on a novella by John W. Campbell Jr. called Who Goes There? This version takes place at an American research station in Antartica, where the inhabitants are currently waiting out the harsh winter.  They are alerted when a sled dog comes running to their station from across the snow-filled, empty plains; the dog is being chased by two gunmen in a Norwegian helicopter.  They kill the Norwegians for firing at their base and take in this strange dog.  The dog, in classic sci-fi nature, turns out to be an incarnation of a strange extraterrestrial life-form.

It’s a classic science-fiction tale, you have a group of guys who are fighting a strange alien life form in hopes of saving the world.  However, this film is exceptionally well done for the genre.  The tension between the characters, who don’t know which of them is still human and which has been afflicted, keeps the suspense high during the entire film.  Furthermore, Rob Bottin’s special effects in this film are top notch.  This was before the era of CGI, so all the amazing effects are done using makeup, prosthetics and camera tricks.  Sure, there are a couple shots that look a little hokey, but all in all, the effects in this film really sell.

The all male cast is headed up by Carpenter favorite, Kurt Russell, who plays the usual rogue-like character that he seems to excel at.  There’s also a lot of familiar faces in the supporting cast who, you may not know by name, but definitely would know the face.  Supporting characters include Wilford Brimley, Donald Moffat, Keith David and Richard Dysart.  All the cast do a fine job.  These aren’t Oscar worthy performances by any means, but for the story, it’s a perfect group of actors for what was needed.

For those of you who like happy endings and upbeat stories, this is not a film for you.  If, however, you like a thrilling science-fiction film that presents the bleak realities of a possible apocalyptic disaster, then they don’t get much better than this.  This is the type of film Carpenter was born to make.  Upon it’s release in 1982, this film didn’t do very well at the box office and that’s a real shame, because I think it’s a fine example for this genre.

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