REVIEW: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas
Directed by: Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski
Written by: Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski (screenplay), David Mitchell (novel)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving

Tom Hanks and Halle Berry have come unstuck in time.  Over the course of Cloud Atlas’ wildly ambitious 172 minutes, the two mainstream Hollywood actors and a plethora of others- Susan Sarandon, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant- appear as wildly different characters in just as wildly different time periods, from California in 1973 to post-apocalyptic Hawaii hundreds of years from now.

The six varying and intersecting narrative threads in Cloud Atlas are stunningly shot and at times narratively captivating.  As adapted by Andy and Lana Wachowki and Tom Tykwer (who all co-wrote and directed), it amounts to a beautiful mess.  There are too many narrative threads and characters to begin with, and adding poor execution and editing to that just makes it worse.

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REVIEW: Arbitrage

Arbitrage
Directed by: Nicholas Jarecki
Written by: Nicholas Jarecki (screenplay)
Starring: Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tim Roth and Brit Marling

Richard Gere gives a phenomenally sly performance in Nicholas Jarecki’s equally sneaky Arbitrage, although when it’s all said and done the movie is content with simply being slick and clever.  It weaves a tale of deception and excess out of the generically named New York billionaire Robert Miller (Gere) and his various personal and financial misdealings.

By far the story’s biggest asset is its willingness to leave Miller’s social circle and directly confront issues of class and race.  Jarecki lingers on the wealthy lifestyle a little too often, but the man at the center of his movie is never a hero.  The bulk of the entertainment comes from watching Gere bring such a manipulative man to vivid life, and though it doesn’t really leave much to think about when the credits roll, it is certainly an engaging and relevant story to tell.

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REVIEW: Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Jeff, Who Lives at Home
Directed by: Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass
Written by: Mark Duplass & Jay Duplass (screenplay)
Starring: Jason Segel, Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer

Home is not a place.  It is a state of mind; that feeling of comfort, security and belonging.  For many, clinging to an idea of home is one of the driving forces of their day-to-day lives.  In Jeff, Who Lives at Home, the Duplass Brothers examine this notion with a light touch and a heavy injection of fate.

If home occupies the film’s title, destiny is its true focus.  The three main characters- brothers Jeff (Jason Segel) and Pat (Ed Helms) and their mother Sharon (Susan Sarandon)- are all clumsily shoved into each other with narrative push.  This would be completely amateurish if it weren’t for the focus on fate at the movie’s core.  The movie takes Jeff’s point of view even when he’s not there, pushing his bizarre world view into a reality that isn’t quite made for it.

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REVIEW: A Solitary Man

A Solitary Man
Directed by: Brian Koppelman & David Levien
Written by: Brian Koppelman
Starring: Michael Douglas, Jenna Fischer, Susan Sarandon, and Danny DeVito

You see him in the rear-view mirror, but he’s not looking back.  His eyes look stubbornly ahead at an open highway as his life is under construction.

Those eyes and that face belong to Michael Douglas, who in A Solitary Man plays Ben Kalmen, a disgraced degenerate of a character not unlike those that many other aging actors have done in the past few years.  A once-wealthy Baby Boomer taken from his pedastal of pleasure and placed in a rapidly swirling drain is a popular story when Oscar season rolls around.  Jeff Bridges and Mickey Rourke did it to their own ends, and now Douglas does it to his own.

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