Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandan. Sci-Fi/drama. Written by David Mitchell, Andy & Lana Wachowski. Directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy & Lana Wachowski.
FILM SYNOPSIS: An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.
PREVIEW REVIEW: This very esoteric, nonlinear film may not be the best film of the year. It may not be the worst film of the year. But at 172 minutes, it certainly is the longest film of the year. Throughout, as it bounced back and forth to different time periods, with the same actors playing different roles in prosthetics that make them barely recognizable, whatever allegorical symbolism the writers and directors wanted to convey, the Cinema-verite style got in the way, causing the film to become a drawn-out mess.
Great art takes you into a world where you’ve never been and certainly the technical aspects found in Cloud Atlas do that. But special effects and special makeup should add to the story, not become it. The filmmakers hide their message as well as the film’s plot even better than the makeup people do the actors.
While the theme/synopsis has something to do with the examination of mankind being condemned to repeating past mistakes and how doing the right thing can make a difference – heady and admirable objectives – the film fails to ignite the viewer emotionally. Like most films dealing with futuristic concepts, with few exceptions it’s cold and detached. Ultimately, and despite itself, the film causes the viewer to become a watch-watcher, where we disappointingly hope for a conclusion time and again, only to be frustrated with even more movie to come. As Mr. Shakespeare put it, the production is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
DVD Alternatives: The Tree of Life. Director Terrence Malick offers up his fifth film, an impressionistic story of a Midwestern family coping with a death, embittered relationships, and haunting questions concerning God and the afterlife. (PG-13) Click HERE for full review.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005). Not since Dorothy landed on the yellow brick road have young and old alike entered such an enchanting world. Its story and dialogue are witty for adults, its magical look spellbinding for kids. PG (Though there is no blood and the filmmakers attempt to avoid excessive brutality, this good vs. evil tale does include violence – from bombs exploding to a wicked witch slapping a youngster to wolves attacking to an all out Braveheart-like battle. There are a few jolting scenes and several scary moments; parents should attend with little ones in order to reassure. The kids learn life lessons, the film is pro-family and the spiritual insights are distinctly biblical).
Groundhog Day. Bill Murray learns how to treat others after being caught in a surreal world where he wakes up each morning to re-live the same day.
A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway To Heaven). Written and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, this engaging fantasy has David Niven as a WW2 pilot surviving a crash that should have killed him. Soon, however, he faces a heavenly court that proclaims his survival was a mistake. The flyer must defend his existence in order to remain on Earth with his new love. The scenes filmed in color are breathtaking, Niven gives a sound performance, and the romance, ah, the romance – superb.
Signs. Farmer Mel Gibson discovers crop circles on his land. Soon the world is crawling with hostile aliens. Like Hitchcock, director M. Night Shyamalan builds tension through restraint. It’s not what we see, but what we imagine that scares the Jujubes out of us. Besides being an arm-grabbing suspenseful thriller, Signs is an equally touching family drama. We get to know this broken family as they cope with the traumatic loss of a wife and mother. There is an intimacy in both script and presentation that causes us to care for these people. Mr. Shyamalan uses invading space aliens as a metaphor for our fears of the unknown and our struggles with life’s injustices. Rather than merely using the supernatural to scare us, he incorporates emotion and humanity into the thriller to give us a drama that suggests the importance of faith and spirituality in our journey through life. Added to the drama and suspense is the story’s subtext about a man losing, then regaining his faith. The film also has an intriguing take concerning coincidence in our daily lives. Do things happen by chance or do they serve to develop our nature? Shyamalan’s film is about finding our way – or finding our way back.
Time Changer. D. David Morin, Gavin MacLeod, Hal Linden, Jennifer O'Neill and Paul Rodriguez. Time travel adventure. The story centers on a Bible professor from 1890 who comes forward in time to the present via a time machine. An involving adventure that illustrates the disaster of moral relativism and the pit a society falls into when it sheds itself of an ultimate authority, Time Changer is full of Christian teaching, and containing a spiritual and very powerful ending. Time Changer was produced by a Christian film company. This is one made for the entire family.
The Time Machine (1960). Rod Taylor. Based on the classic science fiction novel by H.G. Wells, the story has an inventor going 800,000 years into the future with his new invention. There he discovers that man has divided into the hunter…and the hunted. H.G. Wells was a genius who opened a world of possibilities through his science fiction. Neither this 1960 George Pal version, nor the 2002 remake with Guy Pearce, really captures the depth of his work. But as escapist fare, both films are action-filled and involving. However, beware: the villainous Morlocks, though cartoonish, are far too scary for little ones.