A slightly better showing this month than last, with 5 new films…
First up, Cloud Atlas is a sprawling, epic story by the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. It’s made up of six stories, each set in a different time period, but with the same cast members playing roles in each. The stories intertwine to various degrees, but you shouldn’t try and closely follow the logical connections: the film is much more about the thematic connections between the stories, particularly those that lead into the far future. We get some very good performances, particularly from Halle Berry and Tom Hanks who do a wide-range of characters, from the grubby and desperate to relatively heroic. This is an excellent film that is worth seeing at least once, but you’ll probably want to see it again. (See my Cloud Atlas Twitter review).
Stoker, from Park Chan-wook, is that most disappointing kind of film: one for which the trailer does an extremely good job of setting up a mood and atmosphere, which the film itself utterly fails to deliver. Most of the drama is so obviously telegraphed that you’ll see it coming from very early on, which seems to have lead the film makers to believe that they don’t then have to earn those moments. There are a number of places where characters do things that don’t emanate from themselves, but are there because the plot mandated it. This leads to some terribly stilted dialogue, and leaden scenes. All in all, there’s very little redeeming here. Dreadful. (See my Stoker Twitter review).
I’ve never felt that The Wizard of Oz really needed any more backstory, but given the number of people attempting to provide just that, I am clearly in the minority. Oz: The Great and Powerful shows how the great wizard, Oz, came to be ruler of the Emerald City. It’s a nice enough take (he was originally a con-man magician) but, being aimed at children, there’s only so much they can do with the premise. While it doesn’t stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny, it is at least a fun film with a few decent laughs in there, though I can’t quite remember what they were now. Fun, but entirely forgettable. (See my Oz: The Great and Powerful Twitter review).
Robot and Frank is the surprisingly sweet tale of a former cat burglar who, in his old age, gets a a helper robot. After the fairly predictable beginning (old man hates robot, old man grows to like robot), it settles down into a lovely story. At times it’s genuinely touching and sweet, and at others it’s very funny, particularly when it does something quite unexpected. The various subplots eventually pay off into a few moments that really make the film. Frank Langella is great as the lead and Susan Sarandon does fine as the love interest, but both James Marsden and Liv Tyler seemed fairly half-hearted. That aside, it’s a wonderful film. (See my Robot and Frank Twitter review).
Finally, The Paperboy is a bit of an in-cohesive mess. There are a number of ideas being progressed, from youthful arrogance, to seeking danger, to not always really knowing those who you should be close to. The setting, a baking hot summer in smalltown Florida, seems like a good boiling pot for the themes, but none of them ever really heat up and turn into the driving force of a film. We end up with a half-cooked stew of bits and pieces that don’t fit particularly well. There are some excellent performances (John Cusack is great as a slimy Floridian swamp dweller) and it captures the feel of the moment well, but there are too many structural issues for that to matter. Disappointing. (See my The Paperboy Twitter review).
A tough month to call, but I think Cloud Atlas wins due to the scope of its vision, and all the moments it does deliver well, even though there are a few that fail to work.