Kam On Film: ‘Cloud Atlas,’ ‘Simon & The Oaks’ and What’s New In Theaters

Cloud Atlas

Warner Brothers

Rated R for violence, profanity, sexuality, ethnic slurs, nudity and drug use.

Halle & Hanks Co-Star In Adaptation Of Sci-Fi Best-Seller

Based on David Mitchell’s groundbreaking novel of the same name, Cloud Atlas offers an intriguing and visually-captivating cinematic experience that’s well worth the investment for its unorthodox narrative alone. Be forewarned, however, that you would be well advised to arrive at the theater already familiar with the cryptic best-seller’s inscrutable plot structure, if you hope to have a decent idea about what’s going on.

Since I hadn’t read the British Book Award-winner, I initially found myself quite baffled by the surrealistic saga’s elliptical storyline. Still, I was able to enjoy it immensely after gradually discerning the underlying method to the time-shifting madness.

It essentially consists of a half-dozen insular adventures which ultimately interlock despite unfolding over the course of past, present and future eras. They transpire in locales as far afield as a Pacific atoll in the 1840s, Cambridge, England in the 1930s, San Francisco in the 1970s, current-day London, Korea in the 2140s and a post-apocalyptic Hawaii in the 2340s. Meanwhile, their equally-diverse themes range from slavery to gay love to corporate mind control.

It took a collaboration by a trio of noted directors—Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Andy & Lana (formerly Larry) Wachowski (The Matrix)—to execute this ambitious, $100 million, big screen adaptation. In addition, the principal cast members—including Oscar-winners Tom Hanks (for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump), Halle Berry (for Monster’s Ball), Susan Sarandon (for Dead Man Walking) and Jim Broadbent (for Iris)—each play multiple versions of reincarnated characters.

Nonetheless, Cloud Atlas is as much a morality play about human fears, frailties and failings as it is a mind-bending sci-fi mystery. For, while you’re busy deciphering complicated clues, the picture intermittently indulges in pretentious fortune cookie philosophy prompting reflection upon the deeper meaning of life.

Hence, the dialogue is needlessly diminished by preachy poster speak like “Separation is an illusion,” “To know yourself is only possible through the eyes of another,” and “From womb to tomb we are bound to others” designed to hit you over the head with a simplistic New Age message. Another minor flaw is the film’s almost three-hour running time, which can easily be explained by the directors’ desire to remain as faithful to the 544-page source material as possible, rather than conflate characters, condense chapters and make other concessions for the sake of a Hollywood formula.

A cleverly concealed, centuries-spanning head-scratcher constructed with fans of the original sextet of stories in mind.


Very Good (3 stars)

In English and Spanish with subtitles

Running time: 172 minutes


Simon & The Oaks (Simon och ekarna)

The Film Arcade


Jewish Boys Come-Of-Age In Sweden In Surrealistic WWII Saga

Set in Sweden in 1939, Simon & The Oaks is a surrealistic, coming-of-age saga which unfolds against the backdrop of World War II. The title character, Simon (played by Jonatan S. Wächter, younger, then by Bill Skarsgård) is a youngster who, at the point of departure, has no idea he’s half Jewish.

He was adopted at an early age by a working class Swedish couple (Helen Sjöholm and Stefan Gödicke) who have not only hidden his roots, but done their best to shield him from the horrors unfolding across Europe. However, despite their love and support, Karin and Erik can’t help but notice their son’s growing discontent with his lowly lot in life.

Simon gradually evidences an insatiable curiosity that, as farmers, they simply aren’t sophisticated enough to address satisfactorily. In fact, he becomes so lonely that he starts talking to an oak tree in the yard and fantasizing about the rest of his natural surroundings.

Finally, his frustrated folks finally decide to enroll him in an upscale grammar school where he is likely to receive the intellectual stimulation he craves. There, he soon meets Isak (played by Karl Martin Eriksson, younger, then by Karl Linnertorp), a Jewish classmate bullied about his ethnicity whose relatively well-to-do family has recently escaped Nazi Germany.

The boys become fast friends, and their families also make acquaintances, despite the difference in social status. The plot thickens when Simon learns the truth about his ethnic background and proceeds to make the most of the opportunity to pursue an academic path. Isak, meanwhile, disappoints his dad (Jan Josef Liefers) by showing more of a desire to work with his hands than his head.

Directed by Lisa Ohlin (Seeking Temporary Wife) Simon & The Oaks is an ethereal, introspective escapade inspired by the Marianne Fredriksson novel of the same name. Besides the visual capture of some breathtaking cinematography, what makes the film engaging is the stark contrast in the personas of the blossoming, young protagonists.

A sensitive character study chronicling the considerable challenge of coming-of-age Jewish with the specter of the Third Reich lurking just over the horizon.


Very Good (3 stars)

In Swedish, German, Hebrew and English with subtitles

Running time: 122 minutes



Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening October 26, 2012


Chasing Mavericks (PG for mature themes and perilous action sequences). Overcoming-the-odds sports saga recounting the real-life adventures of an aspiring teen surfer (Jonny Weston) who enlists the assistance of a local legend (Gerard Butler) to train for one of the biggest waves on the face of the Earth. With Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer and Scott Eastwood (son of Clint).


Fun Size (PG-13 for profanity, partying, crude humor and suggestive material). Road comedy revolving around a disobedient teen’s (Victoria Justice) frantic search for the missing little brother (Albert Nicoli) she irresponsibly allowed to go trick-or-treating alone so she could attend a Halloween party being thrown by the boy of her dreams (Thomas McDonnell). With Chelsea Handler, Johnny Knoxville and Jane Levy.


Silent Hill: Revelation 3D (R for gory violence, disturbing images, brief profanity and momentary nudity). Horror sequel finds the sleepwalking heroine (Adelaide Clemens) again plunged into an alternate dimension after being plagued by nightmares on the eve of her 18th birthday. With Carrie-Anne Moss, Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean and Malcolm McDowell.


The Black Tulip (Unrated). Afghan drama about a pro-Western family which ends up targeted by the Taliban after opening a coffeehouse where women are treated as equals and are welcome to read feminist poetry on stage. Starring Haji Gul Aser, Sonia Nassery Cole and Walid Amini. (In Dari, Pashto and English with subtitles)


Citadel (Unrated). Primal horror flick about an agoraphobic father (Aneurin Barnard) who enlists the assistance of a vigilante priest (James Cosmo) to rescue his baby daughter from the clutches of the same hooded gang that had murdered his wife (Amy Shiels). With Jake Wilson and Wunmi Mosaku.


The Loneliest Planet (Unrated). Romance drama about the strains placed on the relationship of an engaged American couple (Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg) backpacking across Eastern Europe after their guide (Bidzina Gujabidze) proves to be more heroic at a moment of crisis than the hapless hubby-to-be.


Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story (Unrated). Hoop dreams documentary recounting the efforts of a 6-foot 10-inch center seeking to become the first one-armed NCAA college basketball player.


Orchestra Of Exiles (Unrated). Holocaust documentary recounting the heroic exploits of Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman who rescued some of the world’s greatest musicians from the Nazis en route to creating the Israeli Philharmonic. Featuring commentary by Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman and Zubin Mehta.


The Other Son (PG-13 for violence, drug use and brief profanity). Mistaken identity drama, set in Israel, about a Jewish soldier (Jules Sitruk) and a Palestinian med student (Mehdi Dehbi) whose lives are suddenly turned upside down after one discovers genetic proof that they were switched at birth. With Pascal Elbe, Emmanuelle Devos and Areen Omari. (In Hebrew, Arabic, French and English with subtitles)


Pusher (R for nudity, violence, graphic sexuality, heavy drugs use and pervasive profanity). English-language remake of the 1996 Danish crime thriller of the same name about a drug pusher (Richard Coyle) whose life spirals out of control over the course of one very eventful week. Cast includes Bronson Webb, Mem Ferda and Paul Kaye.


The Revisionaries (Unrated). Flat Earth Society documentary chronicling a Bible-thumping creationist’s re-election campaign for chairman of a very influential Board Of Education.


The Sessions (R for graphic sexuality, frontal nudity and frank dialogue). Fact-based drama recounting the plight of a paralyzed polio victim (John Hawkes) who seeks his parish priest’s (William H. Macy) approval of his plans to hire a sex surrogate (Helen Hunt) to lose his virginity. With Moon Bloodgood, Adam Arkin and Rhea Perlman.


The Zen Of Bennett (Unrated). Reverential biopic taking a look at the creative process of the legendary Tony Bennett with the help of colleagues like Lady Gaga, John Mayer and Andrea Bocelli, as the soulful jazz singer turned 85.