Lana Wachowski


Kristin Beck, the first woman Navy SEAL, is the greatest action hero you’ll see at the movies this summer. That is if you’re able to get to one of the screenings of Lady Valor. At the moment, I count two showings of the film in New York City next month (June 14th and 16th) as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and then at least one showing in San Francisco on June 27th as part of the Frameline Film Festival. Technically it’ll still be summer when it premieres on CNN on September 4th, but that’s just shy of the season, movie-wise. I am still hoping that CNN Films gives the documentary a proper theatrical release before its cable debut, but I also got the idea today that the news network should bump up its airing to catch the wave of positive attention to the transgender community after today’s reveal of the new Time magazine cover featuring Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox. That would be stupid, though, because there’s no reason that this should only be a wave. Lady Valor needs to arrive when it arrives as normal in order to continue the whole current. We’ve seen films about transgender characters, both real and fictional, for decades, and while Time calls now a tipping point for the transgender movement, the main reason why they’re focusing on it at this moment seems both to do with the upcoming release of the second season of Orange is the New Black and to finally make up […]


Cloud Atlas

If you can find a review of Cloud Atlas that doesn’t use the word “ambition,” I will give you a quarter. Everyone is talking about the sheer grandiosity of the project, an adaptation of a book that has been called “unfilmable.” More than simply the most obvious talking point, the movie’s vast scope is also a major point of division between critics. Those that love it seem to praise its ambition most of all, while its detractors claim that the Wachowski Starship and Tom Tykwer bit off far more than they could chew. I would argue for the latter, that while there are many excellent individual moments spread across Cloud Atlas’s six stories, the larger endeavor often gets bogged down in its own scope. However, that might mean nothing at all for its Oscar chances. Cloud Atlas is a great example of a group we might call “lesser epics.” These films tell broad, temporally extensive narratives that take up many years, distant locales, and well over two hours of screen time. They are often period pieces with meticulous detailing, gorgeous landscapes, and the occasional stunning special effects. Yet for whatever reason they don’t come quite come together in the end and they rarely make much money. At the end of the day, however, their ambition is often deemed enough on its own to garner a smattering of Oscar nominations. Cloud Atlas is nothing if not ambitious, but is that enough to impress the Academy?


The Wachowskis

The Wachowskis haven’t directed a ton of movies. They also haven’t given a ton of interviews. If we can look at their output versus their impact (and in the case of Speed Racer, divisiveness), they look an awful lot like auteurs. There’s a number of themes they enjoy working with as well as a brand of visuals that seem conflicting movie to movie even as they share a kernel of The Future between them. At the very least, it would be easy to call them auteurs, but they completely reject the title and the concept. After Bound, The Matrix series, Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas and their non-directorial writing (most notably V for Vendetta), they’ve maintained a firm view of film as a truly, inextricably collaborative process. For them, that goes even above and behind the standard meaning. They’re a bit enigmatic, but that’s fantastic. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from two totally normal, crazy people named Lana and Andy.


Cloud Atlas TIFF

Film, like any art at its core, can be like philosophy in its pursuit of things not easily quantified. With Cloud Atlas it’s easy to say that Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer came together to make a film which spans time periods and geographical locations (some as far away as the edge of the galaxy) to show that as tiny as each of our lives are, they are still interconnected threads that shape things to come. Cloud Atlas is the definition of epic. In the beginning, we see Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) at a typewriter, narrating his work saying, “I know that you’re tired of flashbacks and flash forwards. However,…” in a playfully pleasant way of apologizing for its misgivings. Then, the sprawling, era and personality-jumping film opens up to grow into something massive and wonderful. Don’t worry about the flashbacks, Mr. Cavendish.



All evening I was prepared for the snarkily apathetic responses to a certain film holding its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival Saturday night. Sadly, there was no Tweet expressing, “Cloud Atlas … shrug.” But there were indeed some claims of “meh” and “okay,” though perhaps not as many as there were declaring the ambitious effort either a monumental masterpiece or an epic failure. The film, which is based on the David Mitchell novel and adapted and directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer, seems to be this year’s Inception or Tree of Life, as it parts the waves of criticism more distinctly than even the current American political divide. And, hey, Cloud Atlas actually sounds rather relevant to the presidential election with its apparent themes of history repeating itself and debate over change. The funny thing about a movie like Cloud Atlas is that the negative reviews seem to be more marketable than the positive. Those who say it’s a narrative mess still tell us to see the film for ourselves, if only because it’s still a marvel of cinema. And critics with the highest praise cut their own exaltations down by stating that a lot of moviegoers are going to hate it, whether because they won’t have the patience or they just won’t get it.


trailer_cloud atlas

The novels of David Mitchell are densely layered affairs concerned with a complicated multitude of characters facing big and complex issues. Or so I hear. His novel Cloud Atlas is a favorite of many, but even those who would love to see a film version have been adamant that such an endeavor would be a foolish and fruitless undertaking. That opinion didn’t change when Tom Tykwer and Andy & Lana Wachowski announced they had written a screenplay and were looking for funding and distribution. It wavered slightly when the casting announcements started rolling in, but it otherwise stayed steadfast. But now the first official trailer has dropped, and while the possibility of a disaster remains it looks like these three writer/directors have accomplished something amazing. Will it live up to the novel? Who knows, but there’s no doubting anymore that they’ve accomplished something audacious and wonderful here. Check out the extended trailer below (courtesy of Cinema Blend).



The Mayans, the wise race of ancients who created hot cocoa, set December 21st, 2012 as the end date of their Calendar, which the intelligent and logical amongst us know signifies the day the world will end, presumably at 12:21:12am, Mountain Time. From now until zero date, we will explore the 50 films you need to watch before the entire world perishes. We don’t have much time, so be content, be prepared, be entertained. The Film: The Matrix (1999) The Plot: At the tail end of hacking being considered cool, a cool hacker is approached by other cool, smartly dressed hackers about fighting the man. But seriously now, Neo, a whipsmart hacker, is recruited by an underground movement only to realize his entire existence has been lived inside of a machine. Foreseen to be “The One” who will free humanity, Neo must master himself within the virtual world to topple the evil computer overlords.



Hold your pitchforks back for but a moment, dear readers, as I confess that my interest level in Lana and Andy Wachowski‘s next project, Cloud Atlas, is minimal. While I am confident that the Wachowskis, along with co-director Tom Tykwer, will be able to turn a massive tome into something fluid and cohesive, I’ve been unable to rouse much emotion to the project beyond that. Much as I’d like to be proven wrong, I’m still much more excited about the siblings’ next project – an original sci-fi film called Jupiter Ascending that we’ve known about since October. While we still don’t know anything about the plot beyond just those slim details, it looks like we may soon be able to picture a starring pair in the lead roles – Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis.



With the Wachowski siblings in the midst of filming segments of the massive Cloud Atlas adaptation, it looks as if Andy and Lana are ready to jump back into the Hollywood machine in a big way. Warner Bros. is reportedly setting up a new project for the pair (unfortunately, not their long-discussed hard-R Iraq War homosexual romance drama) that will see them back on a familiar ground. The new film is called Jupiter Ascending, and while little is known about the project, we do know that it is an original sci-fi idea from the pair, and that the studio is already ringing the “franchise” bell. They are looking for a spring production start, which means that the buzz now revolves around finding an A-list star to lead the project. The Wachowskis’ previous original sci-fi franchise, The Matrix, was not only a huge financial and popular success (making a staggering $1.6b worldwide), but the first film is also one of the best-rated and reviewed sci-fi films of the past couple of decades. We won’t talk about Reloaded and Revolutions here (not a fan). But what the franchise proved was that the Wachowskis are adept at conceiving of and executing a large-scale sci-fi concept that can appeal to both critics and moviegoers. If Jupiter Ascending is of the same mold, everyone is in for a treat. Now, if we could just get a logline on the project (I’m already picturing an epic battle between the actual planet of Jupiter and everyone else […]


Speed Racer

Speed Racer is the young, hotshot kid that’s going to shake up the world of racing. With the help of his loving family and hot girlfriend (?), he’ll be able to stop the stock scheme of some villain and change the face of race car driving forever. Will Speed find the will to defeat some evil corporate schmuck? Since this is intended to be a kid’s movie, yes, you bet he will! Why We Love It: Dick Tracy + Sin City + The Matrix + The Wizard of Oz + Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory + Wall Street (yes, that Wall Street) + whatever visually eye-titillating movie you can think of = Speed Racer. This film is totally “cool beans,” and that, while featuring flavors of those movies listed, is its own colorfully bombastic beast.

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published: 01.25.2015
published: 01.25.2015
published: 01.25.2015

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