Cloud Atlas Review
Director – Lana and Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer
Cast – Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’arcy, Zhou Xun, Keith David, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon
Written and directed by the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer, it is an adaptation on the 2004 novel of the same name. It consists of six intertwined stories, ranging from the 1800’s to a post apocalyptic future. There are physical links between the stories… letters written in one time period are read by a character in another, a character in one story is worshiped as a deity in another, that sort of thing. The lead actors also all appear in several stories as characters with different ethnicities and even genders.
But the real link between the stories is thematic. The point of the movie is that people’s actions have consequences, and choices we make “reverberate through time”, etc. It’s not a new theme. It could easily be quite corny too, but success is all in the execution. Cloud Atlas avoids being cheesy, (more or less), and I would even describe it as inspiring. It easily avoids being boring, too, which seems odd as it’s almost three hours long.
It is definitely what I would call a “lie down movie”, though; one of those long films you can go to in a near-empty theatre, lie down on the seats, and let the movie wash over you. (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was another one.) The movie intrigues us, draws us in, and gets to the point in due time. It drags a bit in the middle, to be sure, but not for long. It’s six stories are all interesting in one way or another. They weave together well, despite the occasional jarring transition, and the actors all commit to their roles one hundred percent. If you don’t like any of the stories, there’s a new one coming along in a couple of minutes!
I would like to touch on the ridiculous accusations of racism that have surrounded the movie. Many white members of the cast appear in a couple of stories as ethnicities other than their own. This is done with prosthetics and makeup, and has drawn comparisons to black-face. Some people are asking why actors of the ethnicity portrayed were not hired to play those parts, and normally they would have a point. But in a movie like this, where actors of all colours play different parts, the accusation fall flat. You can not say putting Hugh Grant in vaguely Oriental makeup is racist when the next scene features Halle Berry as a white British woman. Context is key here, and there is no racism here. No chance.
Cloud Atlas is huge, audacious, and effective. It’s six stories complement each other wonderfully, and the actors are obviously into the spirit of the thing. It sounds so flippant to say it, but Cloud Atlas is inspiring. It might confuse some and alienate others, but it is much more approachable than some are saying. Highly recommended.
‘Cloud Atlas’ on other websites:
IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia
The Iron Lady Review
Director – Phyllida Lloyd
Cast – Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd, Iain Glen, Olivia Colman, Anthony Head, Nicholas Farrell, Richard E. Grant, Roger Allam, Michael Pennington
The Iron Lady features Meryl Streep in an Academy Award winning role as the legendary (and to some, infamous) British Prime Minister. Streep is excellent. So is her makeup. And that’s all that works, really.
If I was feeling vicious I might say the movie is ridiculous, and that a dull pencil has more of a point. If I was feeling generous I might say that the movie lacks focus. As it is, I will just say that I was by turns bored, frustrated, and bored again.
In attempting to follow Thatcher’s life, we jump back and forth from the present (where, in a shockingly insensitive plot device, she constantly hallucinates images of her dead husband), to the past, where we get a bare thumbnail sketch of what made her the woman she became; and what we are given is composed of very broad strokes, I must add. Her father was politically conscious and a Conservative, so of course we see him addressing a group of similar feeling folk with a speech straight out of Torie 101. We constantly hear his face over the film in these sections… “Be Strong, Margaret,” “Be yourself, Margaret.” The platitudes do not let up as we continue, either.
Once we reach the stage in her flashbacks when she is prime minster, the movie falls into a rut of scenes in the past alternating between crushing political defeats and uplifting Great Moments (you know what I mean, the moments from which trailers can cherry pick to their heart’s content), to Margaret hobbling around her small flat, hallucinating that her old hubby is still around, charming her with his eccentricities. There really is no point, nor is one ever implied. I found myself yearning for something resembling a through line, but there is nothing, not amongst the plot, the films comments on Thatcher, her governing style, the era, nothing. The Iron Lady is essentially the emotional equivalent of a Transformers film; while the latter may bore us with repetitive and dull action scenes, the former hits us over the head with one dry, manipulative, and dull Emotional Moment after another.
How is Meryl Streep so good, yet is so rarely able to choose projects worthy good as her talents? This film, a period drama biopic, was for some reason helmed by Phyllia Lloyd, the same person as Mamma Mia. Mamma Mia… the ABBA musical. The ABBA musical that also somehow managed to be dry as dust and absolutely pointless. Are we supposed to like Margaret Thatcher? To hate her? To see her as just a human being? I don’t think the movie knows or cares, and by the last of the sugar-coated Great Moments, our teeth are numb, we feel listless, and we don’t care either.
The Iron Lady is frustratingly inept, but has a commanding performance by Meryl Streep. Actually, most of the actors acquit themselves well, but a lame duck of a script and muddled direction stop the movie from becoming anything. It is mainly frustrating because the motives behind the movie are so obviously pure. I can really only recommend this to Streep purists.
“The Iron Lady” on other websites:
Director – Terry Gilliam
Cast – Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Robert de Niro, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins, Ian Holms, Jim Broadbent
I had always heard of Brazil as one of Terry Gilliam’s better films and a definite cult movie. I love dystopian sci-fi like Children of Men and 1984, and while I didn’t know Gilliam very well, I recently purchased a box set of his movies and I look forward to exploring even more of this divisive film-makers work. Brazil was, I think, my first Gilliam movie to watch all the way through, and boy was I off to a good start.
Brazil is a dystopian movie, but it has a wonderful dose of charm and quirk that I understand is Gilliam’s trademark. While it is dark and gloomy from a visual standpoint, it clips along at a lovely pace, and has a great set piece or two sprinkled in there as well, interspersed with some wonderful acting from Jonathan Pryce, the ever reliable Ian Holms, and specifically Michael Palin.
We follow Sam Lowry, played by Jonathan Pryce (a great actor who also appears in movies as varied Evita, Tomorrow Never Dies, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series) as he maneuvers his way through life in a dystopian future. He dreams often of a specific girl, and he finally finds her only to realize she may be associated with a terrorist group. The movie mainly concerns itself with Lowry’s journey towards and with this fantasy woman, as he fights the ridiculous, suppressive, and ineffective bureaucracy that turns its citizens into soulless machines.
Having since watched a few of his other movies, I think I have found that Gilliam often has a problem with keeping a story coherent and focused, and frankly there is a bit of that here. However it is not as prominent in, say, The Brothers Grimm or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. And really there is a lot of charm (damn I’m overusing that word, sorry) in Gilliam’s helter skelter method. It comes across much like your grandfather when he rambles on and on with some story. Except, how cool would it be to have your grandpa talk about dystopian societies with vivid dream sequences and on-the-nose social satire? Brazil cool, that’s how cool.
Brazil is Gilliam at his best. The satire of the movie is great, and the imagination on display greatly rewards repeat viewings. This is the kind of movie that isn’t for everyone, but should be. Highly recommended. Oh! And this movie is where that Wall-E music comes from!
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