Moonrise Kingdom – Review

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3Star

by Ken B.

Moonrise Kingdom is as exciting a movie one can imagine that isn’t really billed as such. As typical of director Wes Anderson, everything’s perfect (or maybe “unreal” is the right word) from an aesthetic standpoint. Here, camera shots are precise, dialogue is said without a second thought, exterior scenes are shot with a sepia tinge, and a storm at the end over a near-Nolan blue. But under this, there is a well assembled and admirable movie. It’s become lazy to resort to the word “quirky” when referring to the contents of Anderson’s filmography, but it’s sort of obvious.

Most of the film transpires over three days in September 1965. Sam (JARED GILMAN) is 12 years old and a member of the “Khaki Scouts”, Troop 55. Scout Master Ward (EDWARD NORTON) notices that Sam’s tent is empty one day, and a massive search goes out for him. Where is he? Well, to explain this, we flash back a year and find out about him meeting Suzy (KARA HAYWARD). Through letter correspondence, they realize that the other considers themselves an outcast and concoct a somewhat elaborate scheme to run away together.

Anderson’s script (co-written with Roman Coppola) is intriguing. Each character is fascinating, regardless of their prominence in the film. I was especially interested in Bill Murray will faithfully appear in Anderson’s films does so here. (He plays Suzy’s father). Jason Schwartzman, whose career arguably started due to his involvement in Anderson films, has a small but significant role towards the end.

It’s probably wise not to go into a Wes Anderson film not expecting realism – a hyper-realism-esque deadpan may be a more appropriate descriptor. Open emotion is restricted to a minimum. It is a factor in the background of scenes, and the construction of dialogue, but it is intentionally not overtly displayed as part of the overall output of the scene itself.

Music is a recurring theme in Moonrise Kingdom – the film starts and ends with a 45 rpm containing a voice dissecting an orchestra, and this continues with Alexandre Desplat’s score over the end credits. This almost provides a strange contrast with the mood of the movie itself – music, by nature, is based on an outpouring of emotion.

This is a well done film, no question about it. While it has no lasting impact as anything especially great on me, this is not because of the existence of big, gaping flaws, but just by the fact it doesn’t stand out from other three star movies in terms of overall memorability. That’s not to say that it isn’t different, though. Moonrise Kingdom is very different than most any other movie I’ve reviewed this year. I was excited when I had the chance to look at a Wes Anderson film, as I had heard so much about his movies and his career in general. Now that I have, my conclusion is basically what I hoped for going in – clearly styled, well and uniquely written, acted as mandated, and a recommendable feature.

Buy from Amazon: DVD / Blu-ray

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The Siege – Review

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3Star

by Bret W.

This review was originally published to the now-defunct website The People’s Reviews in October 2000.

It’s every American’s worst nightmare: terrorism hits at home, and it hits hard.  When we are witness to these acts of violence in other countries, even when they are done to Americans, we can still displace some of the fear and feelings of being violated in the knowledge that these acts were still very far away.  But anyone who was alive and conscious at the time remembers the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, and of the federal building in Oklahoma City, and suddenly we weren’t so safe anymore.

The Siege is a movie that preys on this feeling of inadequacy, the fear that we are only a breath away from unnatural and uncalled for death.  In the film, we see a portrayal of the frustration at being impotent against the unseen threat, a threat that is very real and very close.  It’s unsure to FBI Agent Anthony Hubbard and his Lebanese partner Frank Haddad why these attacks are occurring, but they know that there must be some reason.  Enter the CIA agent who seems to know more than she’s letting on, including what her real name is – she introduces herself as Elise, but is later introduced as Sharon.  Suddenly the film is thrown into a three-way conflict: Palestinians vs. USA; FBI vs. Palestinians; FBI vs. CIA.  As the attacks continue with no apparent progress being made by the US agencies, the president calls for martial law in New York and sends the Army to secure Brooklyn and begin a systematic search for the terrorist cells.

Again, it’s the filmmakers preying on the audience’s greatest fears – martial law and domestic terrorism – that propel this film beyond that of a normal action or techno-thriller film.  The realism is incredible, and the believability factor is high, which makes this an even more disturbing and frightening film.  We see fear and paranoia striking at the hearts of well-intentioned Americans who turn their backs on the premise of the freedom they so greatly value, to bring the witch-hunt to a violent end no matter what the cost.  We find it hard to believe that any Americans could be so cruel, that we may mimic the actions of the Nazi’s in WWII Germany who herded the Jewish population by the millions into concentration camps.  Here, the US Army herds the Palestinian population of Brooklyn into a similar camp and, although there was no mass-extermination, treated the inmates with the same degree of disdain that the Germans did the Jews.

It’s frightening because it is so real, and the realism was aided greatly by the fine performances of the entire cast, particularly Benning, Washington, and Willis.  It’s a very topical and timely film that shows us what could happen, and what we as Americans should never let happen … and yet, it’s a film that shows more than the desperation of a nation with its back to the wall.  Excellent action and a gripping storyline make it a film that’s as enjoyable to watch as it is socially conscious.