Tune to The 2 Guys Named Chris Show every Monday to get the scoop on the latest new films and releases to DVD from a Canadian point of view. Julie Crawford, Film Critic for The Vancouver Courier, gives her two cents worth every Monday morning on Rock 92.
October 29th 2012
by Biggie Josh Ellinger,posted Oct 30 2012 8:49AM
The film was adapted from David Mitchell’s best-selling novel. But Cloud Atlas, the star-studded, time-travelling epic co-directed by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Lana and Andy Wachowski (The Matrix fame) feels more like an expose on the sameness of formulaic Hollywood scriptwriting than it does an existential lesson on how “from womb to tomb our lives are bound to others”.
The plots span centuries: in 1849 a clerk (Jim Sturgess) is sent to the Pacific Islands to negotiate a slave contract, only to be poisoned by Tom Hanks. In 1936 a struggling composer (Ben Whishaw) acts as an amanuensis to a great composer (Jim Broadbent), and writes letters to his lover back home; in 1973 the lover (James D’Arcy) now aged, tells a reporter (Halle Berry) about a powerplant cover-up. Her life is endangered but she is saved by nuclear scientist Tom Hanks. A present-day publisher (Broadbent again), extorted by a Cockney Tom Hanks, finds himself in a nursing home. New Seoul in 2144 offers a twisted and gruesome extrapolation of Darwin’s theory, and needs a martyr (Doona Bae) to effect change. A few hundred years later we see Tom Hanks defending his village from a cannibalistic Hugh Grant and speaking to a visitor (Berry again) in a kind of space-age Forest-Gump-Middle-Ages mashup. Just assume that Hanks will show up in almost every plotline, dressed in bizarro prosthetics. (You’ll recognize him: he’s the one with the worst accents.)
In terms of casting, gender and race are erased: black plays white, men play women. But for all its CG flash and captivating production design, this three-hour magnum dopus feels like there was an incident at the local multiplex, resulting in five movies cobbled together. Themes of imprisonment, escape, faith and rebirth do resound in every story, punctuated by thuddenly preachy lines like “all boundaries are conventions, easily transcended” or “death is only a door” or “by each crime we birth our future”. But good lines in a novel do not a good film make.
North Carolina political backstory: Zack Galifianakis’ uncle Nick was a democratic congressman in the late 60s, early 70s; he challenged Jesse Helms in 1972. The action in the film centers on a congressional election taking place in North Carolina, with Galifianakis playing the naïve, cardigan-wearing new kid who goes up against lazy incumbent Will Ferrell.
There are a lot of nods to real-life politics – like Dan Ackroyd and John Lithgow, who play the Motch brothers, obviously lampooning the big-money conservative Koch brothers, mixed with an unhealthy dose of potty humour. Highlights include an improvised Lord’s Prayer and when Will Ferrell punches a baby in the face.
It’s dumb, it’s crass, but it’s a fun watch at this time of year: get out for early voting and then reward yourself with this movie.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), is Darius, a Seattle magazine intern tasked with hunting down the person who placed a classified ad asking for a buddy to time-travel with him: “Must bring your own weapons; safety not guaranteed”. She starts out thinking that Kenneth (Mark Duplass) is nuts but soon an awkward romance is kindled. The film won the screenwriting award at Sundance so the characters are drawn as real people, not comedy cutouts, and the film has plenty to say about loss, regret, loneliness and hope.
Extras include: a making-of featurette, the ad behind the movie, and a Time-Capsule easter egg.