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471 reviews in total 
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Crowded But Inspired, This Will Surely Befuddle First-Time Viewers, 10 December 2014
6/10

Like six movies muscled into one, Cloud Atlas is a raw, dense, ambitious mash of tangled wires and blinking lights. Needless to say, the film must be seen more than once to fully comprehend, and even then it's a nut that demands a viewer's complete concentration to crack. It's a mosaic, stitching vastly different subjects, atmospheres, landscapes and circumstances into the same cloth with mixed results. Things are so breakneck that, even at three unusually long hours, I felt like I was missing large swaths of story, merely scratching the surface of what was actually going on. The editing is partly to blame for that, with its dizzying leaps across generations (which, in some instances, occur several times in a single scene), and the heavy makeup effects - employed to cast the same actors in several roles, genders, ages and nationalities - are often a major distraction. For a film as loaded as this one, even a momentary pause to identify a vaguely-familiar face can tangle the feet, leaving us helplessly adrift in a sea of themes and imagery. It alternates between stunning and baffling in the blink of an eye, an experience that's both confounding and mesmerizing to behold. Kudos to the filmmakers for daring to try something so thoroughly different from the norm. It's magical on the rare occasions it all comes together and works as a single, monumental behemoth, but is also plagued by a swarm of ticks and shortcomings. I wonder if the time and effort necessary to actually access its thematic riches might be a steeper cost than many viewers are willing to pay. A complicated picture, both to ingest and to rate. Today's score may be subject to change.

A Spirited, Soulful Search for Closure and Life Beyond Loss, 4 December 2014
8/10

Not what you might expect from a 9/11 rumination piece. Somehow it manages to come off as both intensely personal and strangely universal. Superstars Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock share the top billing, but their screen time is quite narrow and limited in favor of a stiff, appropriately awkward pre-teen, who struggles for years to find a deeper meaning behind his father's sudden demise inside the towers. In that role, Thomas Horn (in his first-ever dramatic appearance) is cloudy, conflicted and heart-wrenchingly real. Prone to fits of sudden anger and misdirected violence, he never seems selfish or misguided in doing so - a tricky feat for such an inexperienced actor. This is a film about trying to piece together a shattered vase without the benefit of adhesive. It's about survivor's guilt, the emotional distance and self-doubt of adolescence and the profound emptiness of a meaningful loss, but while it's often deep, dark and somber, that sense never threatens to engulf us. The boy's father had a light-hearted zest for life that pulses well beyond his own mortality, and his playful spirit lends color and passion to what could have otherwise (quite easily) become an emotional drag. A spirited, hearty journey that bears a loud spectrum of emotions, and stops just short of exploiting the national tragedy it revolves around.

An Overly Tame, Lacklustre Affair - Inoffensive But Unremarkable, 1 December 2014
6/10

The lightweight, feel-good saga of a man carelessly adrift in middle age without really recognizing how beleaguered he's become. A half-slate at the local community college opens new horizons and introduces him to colorful, inspirational new figures, which he takes in stride admirably. It's soft rock for the cinema, a shallow little story that's aloof and happy but not terribly gripping or important. Tom Hanks is fine in the lead role, throwing back to the classic everyman archetype that brought him fame and fortune, and his chemistry with Julia Roberts (a bitter, icy communications professor) is more comfortable and real than what we saw in their previous collaboration, 2007's Charlie Wilson's War. Beyond a few passages that may or may not have come from a pamphlet on existentialism and a few strangely unexplored plot threads, there's very little to it. Mildly funny, warm and friendly, it's also quite bland and thoroughly whitewashed.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Wonderful Throwback to the Days of Pixar Yonder, 1 December 2014
10/10

Like an old slugger on the downswing of his career, under the right circumstances Pixar can still knock the ball out of the park. Toy Story 3 is living proof, vivid and playful and touching and meaningful at or above the lofty levels of their mid-peak masterworks. With a true ensemble cast, it allows the old stars to spin their familiar spells while tossing in a few new supporting players (Michael Keaton as Barbie's beau Ken is especially entertaining) but wisely doesn't focus on any single character for too long. With a roster this well developed, still clicking deep in their third feature, why not celebrate that kind of rare, wonderful diversity? I'm glad Pixar waited to tell the right story, too: the level of care, meaning and power that's on display here simply doesn't come around all that often. Let's do it right or not at all, yeah? Needless to add, it's a stunner visually, with brighter colors, more brilliant settings and no shortage of Pixar charm fitting right in alongside the timeless character designs and visual themes of the two preceding films. An essential tale that's effectively moving, sweet, heartfelt and hilarious... and maybe even the best chapter of the trilogy.

Passionate, Fiery, Puzzling... But Also Deeply Flawed, 26 November 2014
4/10

Tom Hanks returns as Robert Langdon, dedicated cryptologist and all-around smartest guy in the room, just in time to save Catholicism from conspiracy and MacGuffin alike. The film moves at a rapid pace, and excels at white-knuckled, buzzer-beating thrills, but it's got problems. Not the least of which is Langdon himself, who spouts like a broken nozzle atop the fountain of knowledge for the duration. OK, we get it, he's exceptionally smart and this is what he does best, but his act quickly grows redundant and tiresome. Not only does he know all the answers almost as soon as the riddle presents itself, robbing the audience of the joy of working anything out for themselves, he's also immediately ready to fire off a lengthy dissertation about the relevant historical figures, masterpieces and religious movements while muscling about various set pieces. That evil becomes necessary when the film quickly paints itself into a corner, setting a merciless time limit on each puzzle that pushes suspension of disbelief right out the window. Now, not only are we unraveling mysteries older than recorded time in less than sixty minutes, but we're also visiting libraries, slicing through political red tape and effortlessly navigating the whole of Vatican City, swamped by humanity in the midst of a papal election. Despite all that, I still held the film in good graces until the calamitous final act, which is capped by exploding helicopters, ludicrous swerves and a parachutin' pilot priest. More generic than The Da Vinci Code, it places a much heavier emphasis on nail-biting than convention-challenging, which is a shame because that's precisely the trait that set the original apart. Not quite disastrous, but dangerously close.

A Colorful, But Vacant, Dash Through Celebrity's Less Glamorous Stages, 24 November 2014
5/10

Much more of a Colin Hanks showcase than anything; though it was sneakily billed as a double-act with his father, old man Tom only pops in for about five minutes (literally appearing for a cup of coffee). Late in his schooling, Hanks the Younger discards his father's plans for the future and goes on a quest to find himself, eventually winding up as road manager to a tired, dated, has-been magician with an inferiority complex. John Malkovich is brash and colorful in that role, twisting the bitter old character into something flamboyant, tangible and complicated. Hanks is better than usual, too, and brews up some confusing chemistry with Emily Blunt in a supporting role. Outside of the acting, though, there's very little to praise: the film's tone bounces all over the place in desperate search of a connection. One moment it's quirky and jubilant, the next sappy and melodramatic - no transition. None of the characters really grow, or say anything of value - they just pace through life doing what they've always done, waiting for things to happen to them. Even the visual style floats all over the place, blown about on the director's whimsy like an autumn leaf carried away by the wind. Inoffensive, soft and identity-free, I could see some potential bubbling away in this cauldron, but it's lost in the wash.

Heavy Moral Quandaries from the Heart of the Nuclear Standoff, 21 November 2014
7/10

A coastal Australian population (and the US submarine coincidentally docked nearby) awaits the inevitable, weeks after the rest of the world was wiped out by a wave of nuclear-powered, mutually-assured destruction. There's an eerie sense of normalcy to the landscape, by far the film's greatest, most thought-provoking strength. The worker bees all go through their usual motions, as if a great big wall of radioactivity weren't looming off the coast, slowly creeping in to poison them all. It's enough to pull us out of the moment and consider how we might react in such a situation ourselves: when there's nothing to be done, isn't it better to ignore the inevitable, living out the rest of our days in a willfully-ignorant sense of unsteady bliss? Of course, there eventually comes a moment when such questions can't be dodged any longer, and the cast makes some bold, powerful decisions in the face of a long, grueling death by airborne toxin. Those uncomfortable choices, and the ethical quandaries that precede them, form a stiff backbone for the film. The slow, dry pacing of its superficial plot can be difficult to work through, though, and ultimately that's what keeps it from reaching its loftiest ambitions. As with many sci-fi commentaries of the era, you'll have to do a lot of reading between the lines to make the most of this one. It's smarter, but also far less accessible, than most of its modern counterparts.

A Thoroughly Manufactured Holiday Novelty, Fake Like a Plastic Tree, 21 November 2014
3/10

Transparently forced Christmas "magic" that can't even lean on its CG visuals for support. Despite the wide variety of gaudy, jolly ghosts, elves and Christmas nicknacks flittering about the screen, this movie has no spirit, no zeal, no life. It sure goes through the motions, producing overly-familiar shapes, sounds and colors by the shovelful, but that never translates to more real emotion than the pajama section of a Sears catalog. It's mostly a one-man show, with Tom Hanks providing voices for a good ninety percent of the cast, but he's unable to work any holiday miracles with such flat source material. The wealth of bad, empty computer graphics do the film no favors, either, somehow managing to bridge the gap between hollow marionettes and the unnerving denizens of the uncanny valley. A desperate effort to join the endless parade of holiday classics, it's a noble-minded (but incompetent) talent flush.

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Playful, Surprising and Ambitious, It's Not Your Typical Romantic Comedy, 12 November 2014
8/10

A forehead-wrinkling bit of relationship fantasy that'll stick in your teeth for days. I found a lot of thematic similarities between this one and Being John Malkovich. Though it's not nearly so dark and grim about it, The One I Love delights in asking similarly deep, puzzling questions about the root of an unhappy relationship and the sense of futility that's so often associated with mending something so broken. Of course, like Malkovich, it's also based around a weird, jolting plot device that skirts explanation for its own benefit. The real allure of that vehicle, of course, isn't with the solemn inspection of its construct, it's with the games it directs with the main players. Usually I'm the first to complain when such an elephant is left ignored in the back of the room, but in this case (if you'll excuse the string of metaphors) I think it would be a case of missing the forest for the trees. It's not perfect - the false-finish is telegraphed and the second act sags at times - but it deserves praise for trying something so fresh, and for evenly exploring both sides of the central relationship. Men will see the movie one way, women will see it another, but both will leave with a better understanding of the other's perspective.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Glitzy and Substantial, But That Ending..., 12 November 2014
6/10

This dash of cinematic junk food boasts a crisp, chocolatey effects extravaganza for an outer shell and a wash of sticky, creamy sci-fi curiosity at its core. The concept is tricky but fascinating, a bit stretched but not so far that it completely shatters the illusion. It's basically Groundhog Day meets Independence Day, with Tom Cruise wearing a great big suit of mechanized armor as its showpiece. Go into battle, kill some aliens, meet a grisly demise, respawn at the checkpoint and try it all over again; that's basically the plot. It's best when Cruise is relegated to mere rapid-fire cannon fodder, trying like hell to make the most of his chances and failing miserably. The ride gets markedly less entertaining, and more humdrum, as it slides into sentimentality and finality. The ending is a real whiff, too, and undoubtedly colors my memory of the better bits that I'd enjoyed previously. It smacks of a last-minute rewrite, something that's utterly at-odds with the dashes of smart, dark material that had spiced things earlier in the ride. A film that wants to be flashy and ballsy, but instead finds itself tamed and neutered.


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