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Digi@themovies: Cloud Atlas, Chasing Mavericks

Digitaria Staff Photo | Digitaria
By Digitaria Staff , Co-authored Post | @digithoughts
Oct 26, 2012

Point of order - if I were judging this movie at trial I’d have to recuse myself on the grounds of Prior Relationship. I’ve read almost everything David Mitchell, author of the novel Cloud Atlas, has written. Fortunately, the rules of blogged movie reviews aren’t so stringent as those of jurisprudence.

Jointly directed by Tom Twyker and the Wachowski siblings, the Cloud Atlas film adaptation weaves six interconnected timelines into a thrilling, uproarious, emotionally stirring piece of cinema. The Wachowskis handle the earliest plotline and two futuristic ones, Twyker three that range from the 1930s to right now.  What could have been a disjointed complexity is saved by expert editing, however, and the timelines interleave in a manner that’s surprisingly easy to follow.

Those who have read the book will notice parts missing, of course. Nothing short of a season on TV could have hoped to hit every plot point. That said, Cloud Atlas does remarkable credit to a novel that most of the Hollywood establishment considered “unfilmable.”

Notably, each of the main actors is cast multiple times throughout the movie’s “history,” often in very different parts. Halle Berry, for example, plays six roles, at times against her race, gender, and age. Although the story isn’t explicitly about past lives, the multi-part casting is an effective technique on the part of the filmmakers to emphasize the sins-of-the-past aspects of the narrative.

What ties all the stories together are protagonists seeking freedom -- personal, artistic, romantic, professional -- against powerful establishment and social forces that want to oppress and exploit. Some win, some lose, but the actions and results in one time reverberate to the next, and the longer Cloud Atlas goes on, the more emotionally resonant the connections become.

In large part, I’m glad that that Cloud Atlas is as good as it is. To tell the truth, I would have been happy with a movie that was only okay. Just seeing the world come alive on film would have been enough for me. The fact that it’s actually terrific, sprawling, engaging, exciting, and touching is icing on the six-layer cake. (***1/2) -- Charles Crawford

A SoCal agency reviewing a surfing movie? What’s not to like? Chasing Mavericks is a true story based on the short but memorable life of Jay Moriarty (Jonny Weston), a young man who loves the ocean and wants to learn more -- to the point of an obsession to surf the most dangerous waves in North America, the Mavericks. Gerard Butler plays the surfing legend Frosty Hesson, who takes the kid under his wing (or board) for a 12-week journey of physical and mental preparation that turns into a father-son type bond that convinces and resonates with the audience.

As directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted, the film is as much about living life to the fullest and how a kindred spirit can spread joy into the lives of many, as it is about surfing. That said, there are some mind-blowing sequences that show some of the most incredible waves and eave you in awe of what the ocean really is and how dangerous it can be.  

My only complaint about the film was Gerard Butler as Frosty Hesson. It seemed odd to have a local California surfing legend with a Scottish accent.  Butler was convincing as a human being, but it was tough for me to get past the accent.

Overall, I left the movie wanting to know more about all the characters portrayed in the movie. what was based on facts and what was put in for Hollywood. I spent the next several hours doing research on the web and coming away with an even better appreciation for how the directors cast the movie and why people in that region have the slogan “livelikejay.”  (***) -- Renee Smith