Dvd let­ter­box

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

THIS is one of the great DVD-down­load re­lease weeks of the year, al­though not be­cause ac­claimed or suc­cess­ful films are be­ing re­leased. Rather, this week’s batch is a mot­ley crew of glo­ri­ous mis­fires and nearly-got-theres fea­tur­ing big-name stars and al­lur­ing au­teurs. And one film stars Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger.

Cloud At­las is the one that deserves most at­ten­tion but view­ers should find some­thing to their lik­ing among Oliver Stone’s Un­told His­tory of the United States, Steven Soder­bergh’s pharma-thriller Side Ef­fects, Lee Daniels’s The Paper­boy and David Fincher’s se­ries House of Cards.

You know what you’re com­mit­ting to when jumping into Stone’s di­dac­tic doco se­ries with Peter Kuznick about their home­land.

And Soder­bergh’s sup­pos­edly penul­ti­mate film Side Ef­fects (MA15+, Road­show, 106min, $39.95), star­ring Jude Law, ap­pealed to me greatly with its smooth sheen and neat per­for­mances (I get the Rooney Mara thing now, al­though her sis­ter Kate an­noys me a lit­tle in House of Cards).

And if you ever doubt how will­ing an ac­tress Ni­cole Kid­man can be watch The Paper­boy (MA15+, Road­show, 107min, $39.95), an in­cred­i­bly flawed and er­ratic drama no­table pri­mar­ily for Kid­man’s per­for­mance.

Then there’s Cloud At­las. I still don’t know what I think of this adap­ta­tion of David Mitchell’s epic novel by the Wa­chowski sib­lings, Lana and Andy, and Tom Tyk­wer. The Wa­chowskis love noodling into geek phi­los­o­phy and in Cloud At­las (MA15+, Warner, 172min, $39.95) they have a doozy, a sprawl­ing tale that in­ter­weaves six nar­ra­tives, from a 19th-cen­tury Pa­cific is­land to a fu­tur­is­tic ‘‘Neo-Seoul’’ of 2144.

The film has many at­tributes the Wa­chowskis have loved in pre­vi­ous films in­clud­ing a cool as­sas­sin, fu­tur­is­tic Asians, and philo­soph­i­cal and nar­ra­tive play about the na­ture of ex­is­tence and re­cur­ring souls. And it oc­curs within a wildly am­bi­tious raft of en­vi­ron­ments re­quir­ing com­plex cin­e­matic en­gi­neer­ing.

The stun­ning sce­nar­ios fea­ture Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weav­ing, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw and Jim Broad­bent reap­pear­ing as dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters pro­pel­ling the six criss­cross­ing plots in some­times in­ge­nious, oc­ca­sion­ally pre­pos­ter­ous guises. To be hon­est, the film doesn’t be­gin to make any sense un­til about 40 min­utes in, which is not an is­sue given it runs for an­other two hours.

Of course, be­ing a Wa­chowski film, it is in con­stant dan­ger of dis­ap­pear­ing up its own worm­hole but you can’t help but be sucked in if you sur­vive those open­ing two reels. There’s al­ways some­thing to savour or rail against.

It is pon­der­ous and pre­ten­tious yet it seeks pur­pose. I sus­pect in the com­ing cy­cles of time with which it wres­tles, Cloud At­las will be the kind of film cinephiles re­visit. As a no­ble, very watch­able odd­ity rather than a soar­ing suc­cess.

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