In theaters: Messy maps
Based on David Mitchell's sprawling, multi-directional novel of the same name, Cloud Atlas
(Warner Brothers) is an ambitious, if cockeyed, collaboration between filmmakers the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer. A mind-blowing undertaking, it is as visually spectacular as Avatar
and as dumbfounding as The Tree of Life
. As it turns out, the best of the interwoven stories will have appeal to LGBT viewers, in spite of its star-crossed conclusion.
Traversing time, space, continents and galaxies, Cloud Atlas
lays out a muddled map of accents and period costumes – past and futuristic. Short attention-span cinema for the multi-tasking generation, Cloud Atlas
jumps around like a bedtime story for a hyperactive child. Centuries crisscross paths as we are transported through the 19th, 20th, 21st and beyond and back and forth.
There is high drama to be found on the high seas aboard a ship in the 1800s where Dr. Henry Goose (Tom Hanks) practices bad medicine, as well as in the early 1970s as investigative journalist Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) finds herself uncovering an oil industry scandal that has all the makings of a suspense thriller. Drama also rules the future in a post-apocalyptic world with an alien visitor (Berry, again) as well as in the New Seoul of 2144, where droid Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) takes on an unforeseen messianic role.
Comedy has a place in the landscape of Cloud Atlas
, too. Bumbling modern-day book editor Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) is trapped in a no-win situation when the goons affiliated with one of his clients wants a slice of the pie he can't afford to cut. But that's nothing compared to the revenge his brother Denholme (Hugh Grant) has in store for him. In a melodramatic segment set in the 1930s, gay lovers Robert Frobisher(Ben Wishaw) and Rufus Sixsmith (James D'Arcy) are separated when Robert takes a job as the amanuensis of creatively blocked composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Broadbent, again). The young, inexperienced, but incredibly talented, Frobisher blossoms. Meanwhile Ayrs experiences his own late-career blooming. But there are mixed messages and crossed signals. Frobisher's bright light begins its dimming and eventual extinguishment.
wants to be about something, but it never succeeds in letting the audience know exactly what that is. Messages about past-lives and reincarnated beings intersecting get lost in the shuffle of stories. If you have three hours to kill, just for the opportunity to be visually dazzled, Cloud Atlas
could fill the bill. Or you could just watch The Matrix
At home: Happy anniversaries
Cult-hit Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
(Touchstone) makes its Blu-Ray debut in honor of its 15th anniversary. The humorous story of overcoming the hardships of the past and redefining yourself in the present still elicits a fair share of laughs, even if the movie as a whole doesn't hold up too well. Think of it as the hot high school jock everyone is anxious to see at the reunion that has let himself go to seed.
Ten years after graduating from high school in Tucson, the titular BFFs Romy (Mira Sorvino) and Michele (Lisa Kudrow) are still inseparable. Sharing a beachfront flat in L.A., they're the kind of girls who make fun of Pretty Woman
while they watch it for the 100th time. They get dressed up to go clubbing, order Diet Cokes with extra cherries, and end up dancing with each other. When Romy wonders if they'd be better off as lesbians, Michele suggests they have sex to see if they are. Rebuffing Michele, Romy suggest Michele ask again if they're still unmarried at 30.
While at work as a cashier at a Jaguar dealership, Romy runs into classmate Heather (Janeane Garofalo). Entrepreneur Heather (she invented fast-burning cigarette paper) informs Romy that their 10 years class reunion is approaching. At home, Romy and unemployed Michele page through the yearbook and reminisce, which leads to a series of high school flashbacks. Borderline social pariahs, Romy and Michele are taunted by the "mean girls," led by Christy (Julia Campbell). Class nerd Sandy (out actor Alan Cumming) is in love with Michele who won't give him the time of day. Romy is hot for class stud Billy (Vincent Ventresca), but he only has eyes for Christy.
In spite of their less than positive high school memories, Romy and Michele decide to attend the reunion. But in order to make a better effort at fitting in and making them look more successful than they are, the pair concocts a scheme involving a borrowed Jag and the invention of Post-It Notes. A brief detour as a road movie, followed by an extended dream sequence, and Romy and Michele make their respective entrances at the reunion.
At the reunion, there are confrontations and humiliations. History is recounted and covers are blown. Expressions of love are given voice and apologies are exchanged. But the high school reunion wouldn't be Romy and Michele's if they didn't exact some sort of revenge and make a triumphant exit (which they do aboard zillionaire Sandy's helicopter). Not as much fun to watch as it was when it first came it, it's still probably better than attending your own class reunion. Blu-Ray bonus material includes a production featurette.
Before she made two (count them) of the worst movies of 2009 (My Life in Ruins
and I Hate Valentine's Day
), Nia Vardalos wrote and starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding
(HBO Home Entertainment), "the most successful rom-com ever made." Vardalos' breakthrough film is marking its 10th anniversary in a special edition Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Copy set.
The most popular Hellenic movie since Zorba The Greek, My Big Fat Greek Wedding
stars Vardalos as 30 year old and unmarried Toula. Her father Gus (Michael Constantine), who considers Windex a cure-all for what ails you and can trace any word back to its Greek root, tells her she's starting to look (which he's been doing since Toula was 15!). Still living at home with her father, mother Maria (Lanie Kazan), brother Nico (Louis Mandylor) and itinerant yia yia, Toula undergoes a transformation after she enrolls in college to take computer classes. Hired by her travel agent Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin, who steals every scene in which she appears), Toula meets and falls for teacher Ian (John Corbett).
Of course, Toula's parents (and large extended family) are hesitant about her getting involved with someone who isn't Greek. But the heart wants what it wants. Ian's selfless act of being baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church seals the deal and a wedding date is set. Throughout, Vardalos effortlessly portrays the highs and lows of growing up in an ethnic househould. She mines humors (and some pathos) and makes the experience feel universal. When Toula (and her family) come in contact with Ian's WASPy clan, the laughs are in abundance.
Still as entertaining as it was 10 years ago, it's easy to understand why My Big Fat Greek Wedding
was so well-received when it debuted. Bonus features include deleted scenes, the original 2002 audio commentary and the featurette "A Look Back at My Big Fat Greek Wedding."
Also observing an anniversary, the 1992 Whoopi Goldberg vehicle Sister Act
, directed by the late gay filmmaker Emile Ardolino (Dirty Dancing
) and co-starring Kathy Najimy and Maggie Smith. The movie and its 1993 sequel, Sister Act & Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, respectively, have been rereleased in a triple disc set (2 DVDs/1 Blu-Ray), containing an array of bonus features, from Touchstone.