Sunday, October 28, 2012

Cloud Atlas

Movie Name: Cloud Atlas
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Lilly Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer
Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Ben Wishaw, James D'Arcy, Jim Sturgess, Hugo Weaving, Keith David, Doona Bae, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, David Gyasi, Martin Wuttke, Xun Zhou
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Sci-Fi
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

"Cloud Atlas" is a unique project, an adaptation of the stupendous book from David Mitchell, and directed by the trio of Lilly and Lana Wachowski, previously directors of "Bound", "The Matrix" trilogy and "SpeedRacer", and Tom Tykwer, who previously directed "Run Lola Run", "Perfume" and "The International". The film offers the premise that everything and everyone is connected, what we do while we're alive carries itself through times and existence. The film follows six different stories, which are connected by some element which the viewer uncovers as the story progresses. The first story follows Adam Ewing in the 19th century, who is slowly being poisoned by a false doctor who is in fact after his gold. The second story follows Robert Frobisher, a young destitute man, who is forced to leave his lover, due to a poor financial situation. Robert ends up working for an almost retired, but well known composer, to secure his earnings, but also to create his own masterwork. The third story introduces Luisa Rey (in the 1970s), a reporter who ends up uncovering a masterful conspiracy plot surrounding a nuclear power plant on the brink of collapse. Her discoveries put her on a target to be silenced at all costs. The fourth story presents Timothy Cavendish, an editor and publisher, who is on the run from some aggressive money collectors, and who due to the machinations of his brother, ends up being held prisoner in an asylum. The fifth story takes place in the future, in New Seoul, where a race of genetically created women, are specifically assigned managerial tasks. The rebellion in this society wants to expose this new type of slavery. The sixth story, also taking place in the far future, focuses on Zachry, a man who witnessed his father and brother being killed by a rival clan, and lives with the guilt that he did little to help them. He helps a more technologically advanced group who comes to his island for research. Of that group, he particularly focuses on Meronym, who is exploring his world, including the habits of his tribe.
The film is cleverly constructed and built around these different stories, whose tentacles spread and touch each other. The actors are given different parts in the different stories, changing genders, ethnic groups to serve the purpose of the stories and simultaneously add substance to the common thread of perpetuity of actions and their consequences throughout different ages. While each chapter very much functions autonomously, the characters have sufficient dimension which allows us to understand what motivates and propels them to act the way they do. Be it a loving relationship that can't be spoken of, an awakening from a life of servitude, or even a guilty conscience that is suddenly awakened, all these relationships that are illustrated throughout the narrative, eventually bring to life the concept that every action has a consequence, and that we are indeed connected to each other in more ways than one. It's a film with multiple layers, including humorous ones, that makes these situations and characters always engaging. Technically the film is impeccable, from the stunning cinematography from John Toll, to the visual effects, which create futuristic, yet "realistic" areas (reminiscent of Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" or Steven Spielberg's "AI") , and of course the makeup (which can at times be a bit distracting). This is an ambitious and fantastically crafted film, which maintains the spirit of the book and yet gives it an extra layer due to the interpretation of the directors/writers. Worth watching!

Sunday, October 21, 2012


Movie Name: Argo
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina, Titus Welliver, Bob Gunton, Philip Baker Hall, Richard Kind
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Following the commercial and critical success of his first two directorial efforts, "Gone Baby Gone" and "The Town", Ben Affleck is back, tackling a story based on true events. The story of "Argo" follows the events surrounding the hostage situation that occurred in 1979/1980 in Iran with a group of American embassy workers. The group managed to take refuge in the Canadian ambassador's house following the invasion of the American Embassy. Back in the US, Tony Mendez comes up with a concept of portraying the group as part of a film crew and thus manage to secure their safe extraction, before the Iranian regime notices that they are there.
Ben Affleck is clearly an intelligent director, and "Argo" uses a fantastic premise and concept to build a film that brims with tension. The film successfully creates the atmosphere lived in 1979/1980 and provides insight into the tense political situation that dominated the world at that time. The film intertwines the more combustible political and war-like situation, with the more outlandish concept of using a fake Hollywood production to successfully save the hostages. The film really has a fantastic production design and cinematography, but Alexander Desplat and his soundtrack are disappointing - the talented composer is basically copying his own work from Jonathan Glazer's "Birth". The film also falters in Ben Afflecks attempts to make the story one of personal redemption for his character. That belongs to another film. "Argo" is nonetheless a good film worth checking out.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Movie Name: Frankenweenie
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Tim Burton
Stars: Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Charlie Tahan, Atticus Shaffer, Christopher Lee, Conchata Ferrell, Robert Capron
Genre: Comedy, Animation, Horror
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 9

Tim Burton's "Frankenweenie" is a beautifully realized version of a short feature the director worked on at the beginning of his career at Disney. The film follows the story of young Victor Frankenstein, who is a lonely young boy, whose best friend is Sparky, his lively little dog. In one unfortunate accident, Sparky gets killed, and Victor unable to deal with his loss, decides to bring him back to life. This seemingly small event, starts going around Victor's young school colleagues, who in a bid to win the science fair unleash all sorts of monsters around town.
Tim Burton is a director with a very unique universe. As usual his main characters are part of the social tissue of a community, but always move in the fringes of it. His young hero, Victor, again comes in the vein of Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and even Willy Wonka - characters who are idiosyncratic and conduct their lives in a manner that though consistent with themselves, still sets them apart from everyone else. "Frankenweenie" has all of this and all the traditional trademarks from Tim Burton: the love of classic horror films, the eerie taste of suburbia, the quirky supporting characters, all designed fantastically well, with a beautiful cinematography from Peter Sorg and music from Danny Elfman. This is a great work from a director who keeps developing his universe and giving us films that have heart, intelligence and humor. A very good film worth watching.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Movie Name: Looper
Year of Release: 2012
Director: Rian Johnson
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Pierce Gagnon, Frank Brennan, Garrett Dillahunt, Nick Gomez
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

Rian Johnson's third feature, "Looper" is again an original screenplay from the young director, who previously directed the fantastic "Brick" and the interesting and flawed "The Brothers Bloom". "Looper" follows the story of Joe, a young man in 2044 who is basically a killer for hire. Joe eliminates people who are sent from the future by a crime syndicate - this sort of job is called a "looper". All these "loopers" eventually have to kill themselves. When the Joe from the future is sent back, he manages to escape, sending the life of his younger self on a downward spiral. The younger Joe attempts to escape retaliation for the unfinished job and also understand a larger crime plot taking place in the future. On his quest to escape, the younger Joe comes to know Sarah and her young son Cid, who both change his life forever.
After "The Brothers Bloom", director Rian Johnson is back with a stunning and intelligent science fiction film. The director manages to create a future that is bleak, and yet recognizable and not totally removed from our current reality. The characters are fully explored, in particular the young Joe, played fantastically well by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (under prosthetics to make him look like a younger Bruce Willis). The film utilizes the concept of time travel to smartly create  a notion of interconnection throughout the main characters and their fates, giving the film more than just an extra layer of action set pieces. This ends up giving the film it's pulse and heart, differentiating it from any standard action film. A great film waiting to be seen.