Tag Archives: opening in dallas

Review: ‘Cloud Atlas’ Aims to Be Profound, But Falls Gloriously Short

Doona Bae in 'Cloud Atlas' (Warner Bros.)
Doona Bae in ‘Cloud Atlas’ (Warner Bros.)
Wildly ambitious, visually sumptuous, and head-achingly confounding, Cloud Atlas is an experience that aims to be profoundly moving. The film, an adaptation of a novel by David Mitchell, paints on a huge canvas spanning six different time periods and hundreds of years, all featuring a relatively small cast, led by Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, with multiple key roles played by Doona Bae (above), Jim Sturgess, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Hugh Grant, and Ben Whishaw.

The film begins on a ship crossing the Pacific Ocean in 1849, moves forward to England in 1936, shifts to San Francisco in 1973, jumps to London in 2012, leaps to Neo-Seoul in 2144, and ends up on a primitive planet 150 years “after the Fall.” The individual stories are linked by the actors who appear in them, each time assuming a different character with a different perspective on life; sometimes their characters are heroic, sometimes villainous; sometimes they are leading players in the story, sometimes they are bit players.

The basic idea seems to be that every living being is connected in some way, whether within the same time period or in one life after another. Using the same actors in different time periods reinforces this idea, but it edges too close to parody to be effective, especially because some of the actors are not up to the requirements of their multiple roles. Sad to say, this may be the worst performance I’ve seen by Tom Hanks; his attempts at accents are better-suited to comedy sketches on Saturday Night Live. And applying “Korean” makeup to Caucasian or African-American actors, or, conversely, applying “white-face” makeup to an Asian actor, is patently ridiculous and borderline offensive.

The project is a collaboration between Tom Tykwer and Wachowski siblings Andy and Lana, with the trio sharing credit for the screenplay. The Wachowskis directed the segments set in 1849, 2144, and “after the Fall,” while Tykwer handles the episodes in 1936, 1973, and 2012. The entire film shares a similar aesthetic, with an emphasis on the individual visual splendor of each time period, but a disregard for innovation or clarity in the action sequences that pop up.

Beyond the simple-hearted “message” that the filmmakers clearly yearn to impart, the stories themselves are far too familiar and rely too heavily upon stereotypical narrative beats to compel interest on their own merits. Once the time periods are established chronologically, the filmmakers begin jumping around between them, hoping to establish those spiritual, spatial connections that the characters occasionally mention explicitly.

It’s been suggested by other critics that multiple viewings will bring greater insight into the film as a whole. That may be, but after a single viewing, my biggest complaint wasn’t with the complexity of following a narrative fractured into six different time periods, or with performances that were often embarrassing in their nearly-amateur nature, or even with the simplicity of the film’s message. No, my biggest complaint is that the film doesn’t add up to much more than a very pretty, elaborately-constructed puzzle box — without much of a puzzle to solve.

Still, it’s a wonder to behold, and is best seen in the theatrical environment.

Cloud Atlas opens across the Metroplex on Friday, October 26. Check local listings for theaters and showtimes.

Review: ‘Magic Mike’ Strips Away All Pretenses

Steven Soderbergh's 'Magic Mike'
Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Magic Mike’

Take away the breakaway pants, substitute robots for strippers, and Magic Mike is a perfectly ordinary summer movie, story-wise. Ah, but add Steven Soderbergh to the mix, and what pours out is a seemingly complex work of art.

Magic Mike is not above pandering to straight women and gay men, but neither does it avoid trafficking in male-fantasy fulfillment; it provides a little something something for nearly everyone, as long as you’re cool with partial nudity and physical objectification. Soderbergh is the not-so-secret ingredient that makes the movie eminently palatable, a tasty treat elevated far beyond its ordinary narrative structure and stereotypical character arcs.

Soderbergh once again coaxs career-best performances out of actors (Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey) who previously appeared to have hit the ceiling of their limited range. As he did with Gina Carano in Haywire, he manages a similar trick with Cody Horn, a new actress with little to no acting experience.

Tatum plays the titular character, a self-described “stripper/entrepreneur.” By night, he’s the star attraction of a male dance revue that does big business with the ladies of Tampa Bay, Florida. By day, he’s a budding custom furniture maker and construction worker, and it’s on the latter gig that he meets 19-year-old Adam (Alex Pettyfer).

The two bump into each other later that night; sharp-dressed Mike takes pity on the bedraggled-looking Adam (who he takes to calling The Kid), and invites him along to his night job so he can earn a few extra bucks. Adam is an unexpected hit with the ladies, which impresses Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), the owner and manager (and occasional featured dancer) of the strip club.

Soon enough, Mike is indoctrinating Adam into the ways of the male stripper — with an assist by Dallas, who provides dance lessons — and Adam proves himself to be a natural. He quickly becomes intoxicated with the fleshly opportunities of his new job, which does not please his older sister Brooke (Cody Horn), a medical assistant who shares an apartment with her baby brother.

Mike slowly starts to develop a relationship with Brooke, even while continuing to sleep with Joanna (Olivia Munn), who, lucky for Mike, enjoys casual sex and threesomes with anonymous females. Mike also is trying to start a custom-furniture business, while Dallas holds open the promise of an equity share in a new club in Miami, evidently the mecca for all male strippers in Florida.

Magic Mike, written by Reid Carolin and inspired by Tatum’s own experiences as a young stripper, is a male fantasy of a female fantasy, one in which all the men are physically-fit and dancing for the amusement of the ladies. It’s told from the perspective of a decidedly heterosexual modern male, however, and reflects old-fashioned values.

Of the two female characters, one denies her own sexuality and the other goes overboard in expressing it. (In other words, the classic madonna / whore complex, separated for easy parsing.) Our hero has a heart of gold and a body built for sin, but he’s not terribly bright — note the way he deals with his financial savings and also how he handles himself with a loan officer at a bank.

The movie represents a battle between the emotional and the phsyical, which suits the exemplary style of Steven Soderbergh just fine. He deconstructs what would otherwise be a modern updating of Flashdance with his camera and his choice of locales and his editing style.

Magic Mike looks and feels like it’s been sitting in the heat and humidity of Florida too long; it’s rumpled and sweaty and lived in, which is also its charm and its ultimate power, as Soderbergh keeps everything off-kilter enough to make the movie pop in a rather delicious manner all through its running time.

It’s enough to make a fella blush.

Portions of this review originally appeared in slightly different form at Twitch. Magic Mike opens wide today across the Metroplex.

Indie Weekend: ‘Your Sister’s Sister,’ ‘The Woman in the Fifth,’ ‘Bill W.’

Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt in 'Your Sister's Sister'
Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt in ‘Your Sister’s Sister’

Three indies are opening locally today, June 22:

  • ‘Your Sister’s Sister.’ Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt play sisters who reunite at a remote cabin in the company of recovering friend Mark Duplass. Advance reviews have been mixed to positive. (Landmark Magnolia.) Not previewed.
  • ‘The Woman in the Fifth.’ An American novelist (Ethan Hawke) hopes to rekindle a romance in Paris; when that doesn’t work out, he takes a questionable job and meets a mysterious woman (Kirstin Scott-Thomas). Advance reviews have been mixed. (Angelika Dallas.) Not previewed.
  • ‘Bill W.’ A documentary about the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. (Texas Theatre.) Not previewed.

Opening wide:

  • ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.’ With only a scant few days remaining before an asteroid destroys Earth, neighbors Steve Carell and Keira Knightley take a road trip to resolve past regrets. My review. Recommended.
  • ‘Brave.’ The new Pixar films is a dark fairy tale revolving around a 10th-century Scottish princess and her battles with her mother. My review. Recommended.
  • ‘Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.’ The 16th President of the United States gets a violent historical makeover from the director of ‘Wanted.’ Advance reviews have been mixed to negative. Not previewed.

Review: ‘Prometheus,’ a Sci-Fi Extravaganza

Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus' (Fox)
Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ (Fox)

Let’s get this out of the way: Ridley Scott’s Prometheus looks spectacular. It starts like gangbusters, establishing its own stately pace and sense of wonder.

And then the problems begin, resulting in an experience that is mixed, at best, and severely muffled, at worst.

To put things into perspective, it’s good to remember that Alien arrived in the post-Star Wars, post Close Encounters of the Third world of May 1979. Scott, who’d been directing television commercials before making his feature debut with the stylish but little-seen The Duellists, was an unknown. The cast featured no big stars. Advance buzz had developed, however, due to the devastatingly effective TV ads and the great tag line: “In space no one can hear you scream.” The film delivered, fusing the premise of a thriller with the atmosphere of a horror picture in a science-fiction setting designed by mad graphic artists.

The sequels that eventually followed wisely endeavored to blaze their own trail. James Cameron’s Aliens, for example, combined a monster movie aesthetic with a war-movie mentality and attached it to the raw physicality of an action movie coupled with the warm emotional appeal of mother-daughter bonding.

For Prometheus, Scott and co-writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof have spun a tale that is more purely “science fiction” than Alien, which at its roots was a genre picture. Prometheus aims to deal with the big questions of life: Who created man? Where did life originate?

The main mission of the movie centers around archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), who have discovered evidence that indicates aliens visited Earth in the distant past and created mankind — and they think they know where the aliens came from.

Funded by aged industrialist Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the years-long mission lands on a distant planet and a team sets off to explore. The key players are Weyland’s robotic “son” David (Michael Fassbender), ship’s captain Janek (Idris Elba), company executive Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), while sacrificial lambs are played by Rafe Spall, Kate Dickie, and others.

The early scenes are magnificently realized, immersing the viewer in a fully detailed future world. The “Prometheus” is a sparkling new ship with sparkling new technology, as opposed to the aged hulk that was the “Nostromo” in Alien. The visuals are compelling to watch, and the tweaks on characters and situations made familiar from the original film are enjoyably clever.

After a certain point, however, the big ideas are pushed to the back burner and the thriller component of the picture takes hold, and it’s in this section that the changes start to ring false, and the inconsistent logic and head-shakingly silly character behavior takes a toll on the suspension of disbelief. And then the third act shoots off in yet another direction, with a resultant change-up in the tone and pace, and it begins to feel like a huge mess.

The ambition is admirable, but Prometheus can’t shake off the overly-schematic nature of its narrative, which is nearly unavoidable for a prequel. After all, we know how Alien begins.

Prometheus makes a good-faith effort to create an entirely new experience, but ultimately it’s too reliant on re-using plot twists and narrative beats from Alien to stand on its own. Still, the parts of the film that work are better than most wide releases in their entirety this year, which means Prometheus is the must-see movie of the weekend for adults.

Prometheus opens throughout the Metroplex on Friday, June 8.

Weekend in D/FW: ‘Repo Chick,’ ‘Summer Wars,’ ‘Illusionist’

And we’re back, awaking from our winter hibernation to share our picks for the weekend — assuming that you’re an adventurous person who refuses to let snow and ice keep you off the streets. Good for you, movie lovers! Also, the snow has stopped falling, and it’s forecast that things will clear up and temperatures will rise throughout the weekend. Be careful out there.

  1. ‘Repo Chick.’ Alex Cox’s non-sequel to ‘Repo Man’ is a cracked Saturday morning TV show for adults. It’s an imaginative, green screen trip into a world defined by the 2008 financial crisis and model toys. This may be worth risking your life to see. (The Texas Theatre)
  2. ‘Summer Wars.’ Cute, adorable flick about the possible end of the world at the hands of a computer avatar. A Japanese family film, of course. Great animation; looks very good on the big screen. (Angelika Dallas)
  3. ‘The Illusionist.’ Sylvain Chomet, director of the amusing and elegant ‘The Triplets of Belleville,’ adapts an un-produced script by Jaques Tati. (Angelika Dallas, Angelika Plano) Q&A Alert: Animator Justin Hall and production manager Fiona Hall are scheduled to be present after the 7pm show on Friday at Angelika Dallas and the 8:05 pm show on Saturday at Angelika Plano.
  4. ‘Biutiful.’ Javier Bardem has been nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as drug dealer struggling to keep it together as he faces his own death. Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. (Angelika Dallas, AMC Grapevine, Cinemark Legacy, Cinemark West Plano, AMC The Parks at Arlington)
  5. ‘Winter’s Bone.’ Nominated for multiple Academy Awards, the atmospheric, tension-filled drama returns to the big screen for a limited engagement. Jennifer Lawrence gives an exceptional performance as a teenage girl searching for the truth about her father. John Hawkes is likewise superb. (The Texas Theatre)
  6. ‘Repo Man.’ Alex Cox’s original features Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Staunton. (The Texas Theatre)
  7. ‘Annie Hall.’ Woody Allen’s classic 70s comedy about hesitant love and romance, with Diane Keaton. (Friday at 7:30 pm only, Palace Arts Center, Grapevine)
  8. ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.’ Er, OK, midnight movie fans, here’s your weekend pick. (Landmark Inwood)
  9. ‘Sanctum.’ James Cameron served as executive producer, but did not write or direct, this R-rated 3D adventures into flooded caves. (Wide across the Metroplex)
  10. ‘The Roommate.’ Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly star as college roommates who don’t get along. (Wide across the Metroplex)

Also, I hear there’s some big event in Arlington on Sunday afternoon, so best steer clear if you can.

Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World'
Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World'


The very first frame announces the intent of the movie: the Universal Studios logo, in pixellated form, with cheesy synth music playing the theme. We’re in an 8-bit world, and director and co-scripter Edgar Wright is at the controls.

A dazzling plunge into an unending deluge of visual and cinematic tricks proceeds forthwith. Yet they’re not really “tricks” in the sense of a magician’s sleight-of-hand; they’re a means of expressing the alternating currents of bliss, confusion, fear, hope, lust, and love (maybe? possibly?)  that surge through the mind and body of anyone taking the delicate first steps in a relationship.

Continue reading Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World