There are really only two huge releases this week, and those could both be classified as niche releases, since one hails from a subscription cable network and one didn’t do well domestically at the box office. Showtime’s Dexter is busy gearing for its final season on the subscription cable network, and to pump fans up for Season 8, CBS Broadcasting has released Dexter: the Seventh Season on to Blu-ray and DVD so that fans can relive Season 7’s most heightened moments. Additionally, Warner Home Video has put together a Blu-ray and DVD release for Cloud Atlas, an ambitious film with numerous characters that features numerous time periods and with multiple tones. Read on to learn about some of April 30th's best releases, and maybe even a few that may have slipped under your radar.

Cloud Atlas Blu-ray
Cloud Atlas, like other films based on books, walks a fine line between being faithful to the novel it spawned from and creating a vision that is wholly its own. Over the lengthy span of 172 minutes, we meet Zachry (Tom Hanks), a Valleymen tribesman who is living a life of violence some time in the future, Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent), who lives in the present and plots to escape an old person’s home, and Luisa (Halle Berry), a journalist in the 1970s who stumbles on a corrupt company. There are stories about sailing ships and stories of spaceships, stories about love, and stories about the “Cloud Atlas Sextet,” a beautiful piece of music that is the films’ namesake.

The film is told in six vignettes that are intermixed throughout so that audiences only get each story one puzzle piece at a time. The story crosses genres and timelines, but it’s sort of like a fun mystery, too, with each story connecting at various points. Actors like Hanks, Berry, and Broadbent, as well as Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Doona Bae, Keith David, Hugo Weaving, and Jim Sturgess play characters in nearly all of the vignettes and the makeup jobs in the film are almost as impressive as the way the story arcs are laced together for the film. Cloud Atlas offers an ambitious vision and plot, but it asks for something simple from its audience: that we don’t get bogged down in the film’s ambition, and that we get wrapped up in its moments of comic or duplicitous behaviors, in its beauty, its grotesqueness, and its realest instants.

You can order Cloud Atlas over at Amazon.

Best Special Feature: Instead of bonus features, the extras on the Cloud Atlas disc are called “focus points.” This makes the extras a little bit difficult to find on the menu page if you don’t know what you are looking for. Each of the “focus points” is a small section of a larger “Making of” documentary that looks into the background of putting together the film, as well as practical concerns from the set.

Of the “focus points,” the segment that was particularly enjoyable was “The Impossible Adaptation” The segment looks into adapting David Mitchell’s famous novel of the same name and creating a blueprint that would work for the purposes of onscreen storytelling and still maintain the connectivity between the six separate stories that are present in the book. Mitchell himself pops up and talks about how he wrote each story separately, before splitting them in roughly twenty minutes, in a process that took Twyker and the two Wachowskis months and months. Cast members and crew members pop up all over each of the extras on the disc, and if you liked the movie, the extras are worth a watch. Some deleted scenes would have been nice, though.

Other Special Features:
“A Film Like No Other”
“Everything is Connected”
“The Essence of Acting”
“Slaves & Sextets”
“The Bold Science Fiction of Cloud Atlas
“Eternal Recurrence: Love, Life and Longing in Cloud Atlas

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