Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas

A movie that makes you want to read the book – just so you might have a chance of finding out what in the world is going on… Yep, that’s Cloud Atlas.

This is a long film, at 172 minutes it’s a pretty long slog and for about 160 minutes of that I basically had no idea what the film was about. Which inevitably is kind of annoying, no matter how beautiful the camera shots are and how well acted and interesting individual storylines are. I mean, I knew the tagline was “everything is connected” and it’s quite clear that the same actors are playing characters throughout all the stories but that didn’t really help the film make sense or have a point…apart from “everything is connected“.

I can see how all this would make a pretty good book as you explore characters and repeated events but it felt like this needed to be further developed into maybe an 8 hour TV series or a mini-series. I really think it was a mistake to try to contain this much story in a movie.

I adore the Wachowski’s movies in general. I even like Jupiter Ascending and I liked Cloud Atlas but it just never quite reached any highs or the high silliness of Jupiter Ascending. The Wachowski’s never do anything by halves though and Cloud Atlas is no different in that regard. I just wish I could have seen some sense a bit earlier instead of just feeling like I was watching disparate stories evolving in very small ways for such a long time.

Also I couldn’t really cope at all with the clearly “asianed” actors that populated the New Seoul storyline. I mean it’s the future, just havewhite folks or Koreans (radical!) with interesting future haircuts living in New Seoul. The actors just looked terrible. It was another mistake I think.

Adding to my list of mistakes was the use of the neo-English in the far future scenes. It was just impossible to understand – it needed subtitles. Using some neo-English would have sufficed but having far future Tom Hanks narrating in that language was really jarring and didn’t help at all with having a clue what might be going on.

Then there was the religious aspect that turned out was really the basis of everything. The reincarnation kind of religion based on love with the same “souls” (New Seoul – get it!?!) reoccurring in peoples lives. Interesting, no doubt, but it took too long to get there and by the time I worked it out I kind of didn’t care.

So, redeeming features were the action sequences and some pretty self-referential inside jokes as well as some really good acting (not so much Tom Hanks and Halle Berry unfortunately – but that’s probably because they were stuck trying to speak neo-English – not good). It was fun catching the actors made up in different genders and cultures but I suppose that was a bit weird too when you think about the current discussion of cultural appropriation and also how bad the white actors in New Seoul make-up looked. But I don’t really know how you could make it clear that souls were being attracted to the same souls over and over again in a movie anyway.

Time to read the book I think.

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Attack the Block

AtB

It’s not often that you see a movie set in London’s estates that isn’t an intense downbeat heavy drama. Don’t get me wrong this movie is still downbeat about the life the kids are leading but this time they’re fighting aliens!! Yeah, take that Brit drama!

Attack the Block is set in the familiar high rise estates so often seen as part of London’s seedy underbelly on TV and film. Filled with criminals, destitutes, single mothers and neglected teens. I’m really hoping the reality is a bit nicer than the portrayal on the screen.

We start in the criminal underbelly/neglected teen section of the estate and pretty much stay there through the whole film. These kids are finding their meaning in drug deals, robberies and brit gang culture. The two younger boys who follow our main protagonists around show us where these young men came from, idolising their elder brothers, and the drug dealers show us where these youngsters are headed.

The tough guy act doesn’t last long when they realise they are dealing with really aggressive aliens not the usual easy to intimidate residents of their block. With the help of a nurse living in the block, that they earlier held up at knife point (which lends an interesting dynamic) they are forced to use their wits and strengths, rather than relying on smart arsery, to out run the marauding aliens.

The aliens are pretty cool too, well, not the first one it looks kind of gross (it looks like a large hairless dog), but the follow ups are big old wolf types that are so black they are like that new black that science just found which is really hard for humans to see (yes, science is one conglomerate where people do science), they are blind, and have glow in the dark teeth! Yeah, aliens FTW!

I wonder if glow in the dark teeth keep you awake at night?

So, redemption. You know it’s coming, you know you want it. You’ll get it but you’ll have to wade through quite a few torn up bodies and a sea of blood to get there. Also a room full of marijuana which is locked up like Fort Knox. The story turns out to be quite clever, there aren’t any major twists but the giveaway makes the movie a lot more enjoyable and some things that hadn’t made sense before make a lot more sense.

The action is pretty constant with a couple of scenes early on that take their time to build you up to the inevitable gore with such tension that it is almost mean. The chase is on from pretty early on and it only lets up for moments of relief.

I loved this film it was just the right mix of horror, suspense and sci-fi. It was like Alien but set in London and with way more action! So more like Aliens but with the underprepared crew of the Nostromo running around rather than the soldiers toting huge guns.

Elysium

elysium

Action, sci-fi, future dystopia – is there anything I love that Elysium doesn’t have? Oh, a meaningful storyline or characters I care about? Yeh, that’s an issue.

Elysium had so much potential! I loved Neill Blomkamp’s first film District 9. It had action, sci-fi, future dystopia and it also had a meaningful storyline and characters. That film was so raw and unpolished and it worked.

Elysium was supposed to be unpolished (note the future dystopia). The Earth has been abandoned by the rich elite and the poor non-elite have been left to fend for themselves. We meet good ole Matt Damon struggling to survive and desperate to reach Elysium the floating retreat of the rich and lustrous and clean and neat and greenery loving people who used to live on Earth. They have health care you know – got an illness? Elysium can zap that. And that’s it. I just couldn’t care about it. Matt Damon was under utilised – we all know the guy can do action. Jodie Foster could have been awesome but her character just evilled about (you know walking evil, talking evil, being a bit over the top about it = evilling about).

The whole outcome of the film was telegraphed like a punch in WWE. You can see everything coming like you’re being told. Was the best friend actually wearing a red shirt a la Star Trek? – because he may as well have.

I would like to think of something positive about Elysium but I can’t think of much. I did read somewhere that Jodie Foster’s character was originally meant to be a male character so it was refreshing to have an evil woman as the person you would hate if you felt anything at all about this film.

Elysium is all about the blokes though, apparently in evil future dystopias women are either mothers or bad and can’t take care of themselves – they need Matt Damon or some South African guy to do their stuff. Come on Hollywood – get over it!!

Hey, need some feels? What about a little girl with terminal cancer who won’t live unless she gets to Elysium? Yeh, feel that audience. Except you don’t. I was so over it by the point that she was introduced that it was more an “of course” than an “oh no”. Another female for Matt Damon to save. Boring.

At least Elysium passes the Bechdel Test because the Mother and Daughter talk to each other about something other than Matt Damon. I can’t remember what they talked about because I didn’t care. (Yeh, take that Elysium…)

What a pity that Elysium was so drab. It’s a really interesting idea and there is so much current political tension around health care at the moment (I’m looking at you USA) that Elysium could have really made a statement that would make us think. But no, that didn’t happen, not at all.

Unfortunately potential and otherwise good actors doesn’t count for much when the story is so tedious and predictable.

Sad face. No. Bored face. Yes, that.

Casshern

Image

Casshern is an unusual beast. It has an anime aesthetic with rich visuals that are clearly animated yet it is a live action film. It’s dark, brooding and soulful yet also action packed and anime confusing. The anime is much more like a moving painting than a Saturday morning cartoon.

Casshern is a Japanese film therefore there are subtitles. This would be a problem for some as there is a lot of exposition regarding the society in which the characters live and the science behind the main storyline.

Set in a future dystopia after the end of the 50 Year War between Europa and Asia, the Earth has been decimated and the scenery is dominated by destroyed infrastructure and the blood red suffering sky filled with the pollution of so many years of war. This future is steam punk influenced with the great machines of coal and steam dominating the skyline. Even the robot armies of Europa have a feeling of World War I about them more than a shiny imagined future.

Society has suffered and Asia has won this devastating war which means the signage is a mix of Russian, Japanese and Chinese. Loud speakers announce Soviet style propaganda and banners hang from the walls in a way reminiscent of World War II.

The storyline is actually quite poignant, in retrospect, with lessons about compassion, understanding the different, the ethics of science experimentation, racism, the realities of war and political corruption. It is never really clear who the baddies are but it is clear which characters think they are baddies and those who think they are good.

The world is run by corrupt old officials and the people are looking for a saviour; in steps a human restored to life by neo-cells (don’t ask me; although I think the answer is “science”). He is a reluctant hero who is suffering from his memories as a soldier and trying to understand the situation in which he finds himself. He also has some solid daddy issues.  But then so do most of the characters.

I really liked this movie and it was actually in the retrospect that I think I liked it best. In some ways it was a crazy over the top sci-fi influenced anime but in others it was a poignant look at the trials of life, death and the decisions we make.

The main drawback of this film is the serious anime confusion one suffers while watching it. Maybe if I could understand Japanese Casshern would be less confusing, no doubt the more subtle concepts are lost in translation.

I certainly don’t think Casshern is for everyone but anime fans should probably check it out.