Two Dramas from Warner Bros.
Cloud Atlas (December 2/12)
Though one can't help admire the ambition that's clearly on display here, Cloud Atlas, for the most part, comes off as a tedious slog through six hopelessly uninvolving storylines - with the impressive visuals and intriguing performances quickly rendered moot by the otherwise pervasively dull atmosphere. The movie, which casts folks like Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugh Grant in a number of different roles, gets off to a nigh disastrous start right from the get-go, as filmmakers Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski kick the proceedings off with a short prologue involving an unintelligible futuristic figure (Hanks) - with the viewer's inability to make heads or tails of the character's baffling patois resulting in an arms-length feel that persists virtually from start to finish. It's just as clear, however, that the narrative does contain a few bright spots, with, for example, much of the '70s-set subplot, which follows a tenacious reporter (Berry) as she attempts to uncover corruption, making a far more positive impact than, say, the convoluted and monotonous sci-fi tale or the progressively insipid story of rebellious senior citizens. Cloud Atlas' absurdly overlong running time (172 minutes!) ensures that even its mildly engaging attributes eventually lose their luster, while the meandering midsection drains the film of its tenuous energy and highlights the inherent pointlessness of the various storylines. The end result is an incredibly disappointing misfire that should (and could) have been much, much better, with the tremendous filmmaking on display unable to disguise the fact that there's just nothing interesting going on here (ie the movie is, by and large, a palpable bore).
Trouble with the Curve
Trouble with the Curve follows aging baseball scout Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) as health issues force him to team up with his estranged daughter (Amy Adams' Mickey) on a scouting trip, with the movie detailing the pair's inevitable reconciliation as well as the various problems and issues that crop up on the journey (including Mickey's predictable relationship with Justin Timberlake's hunky Johnny). Filmmaker Robert Lorenz, making his debut here, has infused Trouble with the Curve with precisely the sort of languid feel that one has come to expect from Eastwood's own directorial efforts, and there's little doubt that the strong setup and stirring performances, coupled with an eclectic supporting cast that includes Robert Patrick, John Goodman, and Matthew Lillard, go a long way towards initially sustaining the viewer's interest (ie though it's never engrossing, the movie is, at the outset, compulsively watchable). It's only as the film crawls into its deliberately-paced and almost excessively familiar midsection that one's attention begins to flag, with the meandering atmosphere, which often threatens to cross over into stagnancy, effectively highlighting the hackneyed bent of Randy Brown's screenplay - as the scripter has suffused the narrative with an unreasonable number of cliched, stereotypical elements (eg the entire arc of Adams' hard-working, uptight character). And although Lorenz has peppered the proceedings with a handful of striking sequences - eg Mickey finally confronts Gus about his absence during her childhood - Trouble with the Curve, which closes with an admittedly uplifting feel-good finale, is simply unable to raise itself up to the level of its engrossing performances (ie Eastwood delivers a typically grizzled yet surprisingly affecting turn that deserves better material than this).