Cloud Atlas (***½)
Simply put, Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer’s Cloud Atlas is an allegory about love, freedom, and the connectivity of the human spirit throughout all of time, space, and everything in between. But there is nothing simple about this film – this challengingly ambitious and wildly intrepid film – that weaves six unique stories through different periods in time (between 1849 and approximately 2346), all following the same actors redefined in each tale by different ethnicities, genders, and ages, in what is almost certainly a nod to reincarnation. If you try to connect the dots between each story being told, you might miss the larger point of the narrative, as Cloud Atlas is most profoundly felt in the sum of all its exuberant parts. And while I was intrigued with each separate story being told, I was surprised by the wave of emotion that hit me as the film pulled itself together marvelously in the end. Cloud Atlas is already an esoteric and devisive film amongst critics and audiences alike, but count this writer as one on the side of this being one of the best films of the year.
Take This Waltz (***)
In Take This Waltz (now available on video), Margot (Michelle Williams) and Lou (Seth Rogen) are a married couple who care about each other greatly, though the former has grown bored with the latter in their relationship. Returning home from a writing assignment, she meets an artist named Daniel (Luke Kirby), and discovers that he lives right across the street from her. The two fall in love, and while Margot struggles hopelessly to fight the attraction/connection she has for Daniel, she grows increasingly frustrated and fatigued by Lou. Take This Waltz is an emotionally draining parable to the “grass is always greener” idiom, driven by a powerhouse performance from Michelle Williams, an actress that seems to hit just the right notes in everything she does. Sarah Polley’s (Away From Her) subtle storytelling builds into something that feels genuinly intimate, if not all too palpable.
Pusher is reviewed by Joseph Braverman, and releases this weekend in New York and Los Angeles, while also available to the masses via VOD format.
The remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Pusher is a wildly stylistic affair that combines the frenetic energy of Snatch with the violent pop art of Drive. It’s just unfortunate that the film’s plot – a London drug pusher loses deal after deal for his kingpin supplier, building up considerable debt while his life hangs in the balance – is so banally by-the-numbers. Narrative elements from various gangster genre films have been regurgitated here, and no matter how visually inventive certain scenes feel (the club segments, for instance), the feeling of “been there, done that” is prevalent throughout. To make matters worse, our protagonist, Frank (Richard Coyle), makes an abundance of poor decisions when the right one is always handily available, thereby losing any trace of sympathy you may have had for him. Pusher’sstandout feature is stunning model Agyness Deyn as Flo, the pushed-aside girlfriend of Frank who is expected to do whatever it is he requires of her, no questions asked. Deyn isn’t featured enough in Pusher – a giant misstep by director Luis Prieto – but the role she plays in the film’s conclusion leads to one of the most memorable movie endings in 2012, rebelliously enthralling in equal measure to the last few glorious minutes of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. For that alone, Pusher finds value amidst its consistent stages of mediocrity. (**½)