Monday, October 29, 2012

New Releases: Cloud Atlas & Silent Hill: Revelation

No real theme for these two, other than both being released on the 26th and a little bit of MoviePass-related frustration in getting the tickets (in previous months, I would have been able to buy IMAX and 3D tickets at the independent theaters supporting the program, but not any more, even when they would have been cheaper than the regular-priced evening tickets), even before the whole mess with the card not working at all...

I have to wonder if I would have looked at Silent Hill 2 the same way if I hadn't seen Cloud Atlas the day before. It's a big "be kind and love each other" story, and that colored my impressions of the other - after Sharon/Heather makes a big production about how she and her new classmates aren't going to be friends, and the movie reiterates that she is the empathic part of "Alessa" (it's a thing), so it seems like there's an interestingly humanist spin on the horror movie.

It doesn't fully go that way, and backs off what it does somewhat. That's a shame; it's the most interesting thing the movie's got going for it with Christophe Gans out of the picture. Speaking of which, what's with him working so little? No movie since Silent Hill, which came five years after Brotherhood of the Wolf, itself six years after Crying Freeman. It seems like he's prone to biting off more than he can chew, and he winds up putting a ton of effort into movies that just never happen.

Cloud Atlas

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 27 October 2012 in Regal Fenway #12 (first-run, digital)

Cloud Atlas is like a whole week of going to the movies compressed into three hours (and that's for the likes of me; for the less fanatical, a month or two). It would be a pretty good week, though maybe not a great one, but these filmmakers have definitely made something greater than the sum of its parts.

In 1849, lawyer Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) has traveled to the South Pacific but finds himself returning not only with a signed contract, but a runaway slave (David Gyasi). In the 1930s, Robert Frobisher (Ben Whisaw) takes a job as the assistant to composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent) while pining for his lover Rufus (James D'Arcy). In 1973, writer Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) investigates suspicious goings-on at a San Francisco nuclear power plant. 2012 has publisher Timothy Cavendish (Broadbent) needing to hide out from an author's violent friends but not much liking how it turns out. In the 22nd century, fabricant Sonmi-451 (Bae Doo-na) shows signs of individual thought and is broken out of her dormitory by rebel Chang Hae-joo (Sturgess). Finally, on an isolated island 106 years after the fall, hunter/stroyteller Zachry (Tom Hanks) and visitor Meronym (Berry) find they need each other's help.

My usual tendency when reviewing an anthology movie is to examine each of the elements separately, and there would be a certain logic in attacking Cloud Atlas that way even if the filmmakers choose to cut from one story to another rather than present them as individual short films. After all, the six stories come from different genres - a historical adventure, two flavors of science fiction, a drama, a thriller, and even a comedy - so describing what works and what doesn't would certainly be easier that way. That would sell the movie far short as a whole, though - a large part of what makes it remarkable is how well it comes together. Indeed, there's an argument that the most valuable part of the crew might be editor Alexander Berner, who helps sew together the directorial work of Tom Tykwer (the 1930, 1973, and 2012 threads) and Lana & Andy Wachowski (1849 and the future) so that no single element ever seems to dominate and the whole keeps a remarkably good pace. This movie never seems to drag; even though all six stories climax together, they get there by routes just different enough that the movie never seems to drag.

Full review at EFC.

Silent Hill: Revelation

* * (out of four)
Seen 28 October 2012 in AMC Boston Common #18 (first-run, digital 3D)

I'm not sure why, exactly, I went to see the second Silent Hill movie; I didn't like the first and the people who drew me into it are either absent (director Christophe Gans) or reduced to cameo appearances (star Radha Mitchell). Surprisingly, Revelation proves to be a minor upgrade, with a much less stupid script making up for a parallel reduction in style, but that still doesn't bring it up to "good".

Christopher DaSilva (Sean Bean) and his adopted daughter Sharon (Adelaide Clemens) have been on the run since Christopher's wife Rose (Radha Mitchell) disappeared inside Silent Hill, West Virginia six years ago, settling in new towns and taking new names on a regular basis; today they're "Harry" and "Heather". Heather doesn't remember her ordeal in Silent Hill, but she has strange dreams and when her father is taken (and "come to Silent Hill" scrawled on their new house's wall in blood), she and fellow new kid in town Vincent (Kit Harrington) head out to rescue him.

The main way that writer/director Michael J. Bassett improves on the first movie is in the script; where Silent Hill is a mess of idiot-plotting and demonstrations that the video game routine of "go place, find strangely-hidden clue, repeat" looks ridiculous in any other context, the new movie has some understanding of cause and effect and at least suggests an interesting theme of Sharon/Heather's enforced isolation being the true enemy. Bassett even has a nice moment where he just gets an inevitable "surprise" out of the way rather than dragging it out until the last act.

Full review at EFC.

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