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A sweeping time-jumping epic which you will either love or hate highlights the weekend's new movies.
"Cloud Atlas" is a grandly realized, if sometimes flawed, drama that unfolds six interconnected tales over five centuries from an 1849 Pacific voyage to a post-apocalyptic tribal society, with stops in pre-WWII Scotland, '70s San Francisco, modern Britain and a 22nd-century Seoul. The characters are connected by destiny and the choices they make in their lives. The cast, headed by Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, recurs in different guises, characters, skin colors and sometimes genders. Filmmakers Andy and Lana Wachowski ("The Matrix") and Tom Tykwer ("Run Lola Run") combine these stories, taken from David Mitchell's novel, to explore the ideas of reincarnation and the through-line of souls. It's a stunning high-wire act of a movie, even with a few small stumbles.
Another directing collaboration is at work in "Chasing Mavericks," an inspirational sports drama notable for its impressive surfing footage. It tells the story of Jay Moriarity (played by Jonny Weston), a teen who lives to surf and becomes obsessed with tackling the mythical big waves at the California coastline known as Mavericks. He finds a mentor in "Frosty" Hesson (Gerard Butler), a neighbor and veteran surfer who puts Jay on a rigorous training program to build up the physical and mental stamina needed to challenge Mavericks. Directors Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential") and Michael Apted ("The World Is Not Enough") tag-teamed the production (Apted took over when Hanson dropped out over health issues), and they create a solid story of determination and a surrogate father-son relationship.
For Halloween, there's "Fun Size," a comedy with the dubious distinction of being the first release under the Nickelodeon Movies banner to get a PG-13 rating. It's also awful from start to finish, a joke-free comedy about a high-school senior (Victoria Justice) frantically trying to find her missing little brother (Jackson Nicoll) in all the trick-or-treat madness. This is one movie that deserves to be egged and toilet-papered or, better yet, ignored completely.
The art-house slate doesn't provide any new joys this weekend.
"The Paperboy" is an overcooked Southern potboiler, centering on a belle (Nicole Kidman) trying to get her boyfriend (John Cusack) off of Death Row enlisting a big-city reporter (Matthew McConaughey), and getting the reporter's younger brother (Zac Efron) hot and bothered in the process. This is director Lee Daniels' follow-up to his acclaimed "Precious," but it's just a mess of steamy and sweaty cliches.
"V/H/S" is a horror anthology that grafts six found-footage scary stories together, stitched like Frankenstein's monster. There are a couple of good ones here, but the batting average isn't enough to recommend the whole package.
Lastly, there's another pre-Halloween offering: "Silent Hill: Revelation 3D," a sequel to the 2006 horror thriller and based (like the first one) on the popular videogame series. This one was not screened for critics.