Aneesh Chaganty

Archive for December, 2012|Monthly archive page

Pitch Perfect | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2012 at 6:41 PM

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Pitch Perfect

(2012, US, d. Jason Moore)

Strange, boring, and all too familiar to be receiving the acclaim it is (and talk of a sequel), Pitch Perfect is another retreading of wholly familiar Hollywood territory.

Though bolstered by very strong performances from a talented ensemble, these actors can only do so much to band-aid a movie we’ve all seen before. And while I’m the last guy to ever bash a film for being too formulaic or “Hollywood”, there must be a certain genuine quality to these films – and I never felt that was the case here.

I didn’t believe the love story. I didn’t believe any of the characters outside of the protagonist’s A Capella circle, and I especially didn’t believe that any of the songs they were singing would be received so well.

Pitch Perfect tells the story of Beca Mitchell (Up in the Air‘s Anna Kendrick), a new freshman in college/aspiring DJ who thinks she has far more promising options that don’t involve her attending college. Her father, a professor at the college, tells her that if she actively works in a group for an entire year and still doesn’t see the value by the end, then he will fully support her on her journey elsewhere. Of course, we all know how the story goes from there.

When Beca joins the Bellas, an A Capella organization without any chance of hope, it soon becomes her responsibility to give the group that juice in the arm it has been so desperate to receive. And during the process, Beca sees the light and wonder of friendship, of staying in school, of relationships, etc etc…

Moving on, I had a huge problem with the content of the Bellas’ songs. I listen to a lot of A Capella and what they were singing by the final competition was nothing new, but the filmmakers instead cheat and give every other competing team such boring and backwards songs that, of course, by comparison, the Bellas sound incredible. But if anyone actually steps onto a college campus and listens to the variety of songs A Capella groups put out, he will quickly discover there is nothing special about what the Bellas sang.

Of course, that problem would be forgotten if the entire film was a little funnier, more genuine, or even more unique. Sure, it had its hilarious moments. Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) and Kendrick provide a wonderful comic duo that really shines past the content they’re in and the occasional appearances of Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins are nothing but comedic gold. But Pitch Perfect far too often seems like a tonal-wannabe of the far better teen flicks of our generation, especially Will Gluck’s Easy A. Its screenwriting is smarter than the film its written for (which is often the case in good teen comedies), but still, nothing ever feels right here.

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Django Unchained | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2012 at 7:30 PM

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Django Unchained

(2012, US, d. Quentin Tarantino)

This is why I want to make movies. This is also why I don’t want to make movies.

Once a year, you watch a film in theaters that reminds you of watching movies as a kid. It reminds you of movies in which every plot twist was treated with surprise, every swear word made us flinch, every tear touched our heart, when every gun shot quickened our heart beat. It reminds us of what movies could do.

But over time, we become desensitized. The same things don’t do it for us anymore. And while movies come and go that do make us feel a strong, singular emotion, rare is the film that can capture the range of them.

Quentin Tarantino’s new movie is Django Unchained, the story of a freed-slave-turned-bounty-hunter named Django (played by Jamie Foxx) as he begins a journey to rescue his enslaved wife, Bromhilda (Kerry Washington), with the help of fellow bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz).

Part western and part blaxploitation, Django walks a fine line between reality and fiction. And though Tarantino is never afraid to throw history out the window (much as he did with 2009’s Inglorious Basterds), Django falls into an interesting controversy: is Tarantino glamorizing slavery? Is he infusing it with the dose of pop culture only he could and actually make life back then look better than it was? By making us laugh during intense depictions of cruelty, is he trivializing a deep-rooted American issue?

That’s just the argument. I, however, disagree. Do I think the ignorant viewer should be informed of what slavery actually entailed in real life? Absolutely. But if you don’t know that coming into the film, this film really isn’t for you in the first place.

Much as he did with Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino uses his the historical setting, in this case: the pre-Civil War period, as a backdrop to explore themes of vengeance, subservience, and survival of the fittest. Sure, he infuses every scene with such distinct panache it becomes easy to point fingers, but I don’t think he deserves blame. In fact, I think it’s laudable that something as alien and removed from modern society (can you imagine that the Holocaust was only 70 years ago?) can be made so relevant. But let’s get back to the review.

Django Unchained is a wholly original film – and another masterpiece from Quentin Tarantino. Much like his other films, it borrows from a hundred before it, but is still able to create something new and gripping. Its ability to blend humor with extreme tension over a single conversation about whether or not to shake someone’s hand is unparalleled.

The performances are riveting. Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Walz, and Samuel L. Jackson stand out as a few names that will most likely be unappreciated in the awards season, but deserve as much attention as they get. “Unhinged” would be the word that came to mind when describing them, especially DiCaprio, who plays ruthless plantation owner Calvin Candie. For most of the film DiCaprio allows himself to be overshadowed by Waltz and Foxx – as Candie himself is looking to make some serious money off them – but let me just say: when the sh** hits the fan, it hits hard.

Django Unchained is clever, hilarious, and horrifying – often at the same time. It’s the perfect blend of high style and confident storytelling and Tarantino’s signature, and developed maturity, is inscribed deep in every frame.

This is why I want to make movies. If you’re at a movie theater when this is playing, walk in and take a look at the audience’s faces. Watch how they contort from fear to happiness to laughter to sadness to repulsion to laughter and back to fear in just a few minutes. As a filmmaker, that’s the dream.

But it’s also why I don’t want to make movies. Because if something this good exists, then what hope is there for the rest of us?

Of course, I plan on taking the first route, but I hope you get the point: go see this movie. With a hard R-rating, it’s one hell of a ride.

Les Misérables | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 27, 2012 at 7:52 AM

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Les Misérables 

(2012, UK, d. Tom Hooper)

You may have already seen this film. And judging by the numbers, you’re probably going to at one point or another. Amidst incredible word-of-mouth and strong critical reception, Les Mis is sure to be a contender during every awards show this season. However, I wasn’t crazy about it. And I’ll tell you why.

Let me start off with the good things. I fully believe that director Tom Hooper was able to make the best version of Les Mis with the resources he had. I’ve been a fan of Hooper ever since his HBO/John Adams days. His ability to convey character and pain amidst daunting historical backdrops is very impressive and The King’s Speech still remains one of the best films I’ve ever seen. 

If there’s one thing that makes this modern rendition worthy, it’s Hooper’s attention to character. From the opening frame to the last, you can’t help but get the feeling that you, as an audience member, are in safe hands. Furthermore, every moment furthers the characters’ narratives. Hooper didn’t just accept the play as it was; there are new parts to this film that aren’t in the play. He makes sure that every scene is a clear motivation for character and that attention to detail really pays off.  

Continuing on, the actors that play these characters are a wonder. Let’s start at the top. Hugh Jackman has never been better. Finally, he’s given the chance to prove his acting chops as Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who turns his life around. I didn’t even have much of a problem with Russell Crowe, who plays Javert, a hard-nosed cop on the lookout for Valjean. Sure Crowe wasn’t blessed with a beautiful voice, but what he lacked in octaves he made up for in performance. Amanda Seyfried, Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Helena Bonham Carter, and Samantha Barks were all wonderful additions to the cast. But it’s really Fantine (Anne Hathaway) who steals the show.

Her one-take rendition of “I Dreamed A Dream” will sweep you off your feet. Period. In one song, Hathaway rises above Fantine’s little screen time to make the biggest impression on the film. Right then, I looked to those who I was watching the film with and thought, This is going to go down as one of the most memorable scenes in cinema.

But it doesn’t stop there. Les Mis is scattered with moments that will take your breath away. From a technical standpoint, there’s very little wrong with the film. Its production design, costumes, hair and makeup, visual effects, and sound design all advance the emotion behind the story in wondrous ways. 

But why didn’t I like it? 

The biggest problem Les Mis has is overcoming the source material. I’m very familiar with the stage musical, which is one of the best of all time, but I went in to the film judging it as a film alone, rather than a reincarnation.

I didn’t think the material deserved a movie adaptation. And I don’t mean “deserved” in the sense of “the stage version is too good to be adapted” but I mean it in the sense of “the stage version’s script was written for the stage, not the screen”. The two are far too similar.

What works on the stage – easily transitioning between low-brow humor, dark contemplation, rousing patriotism, tender love, and heart-wrenching sacrifice (with only a few lines of unsung dialogue) –  doesn’t work on screen. For me, it was too jarring. From an emotional standpoint, it was unfamiliar territory and from a tonal standpoint, it was far too inconsistent. And once it loses you, it’s hard to catch up. 

I’ll be clear though: Hooper, in my opinion, deserves as much credit for the film as he’s receiving. It really is a wonderful movie. There were moments that made me tear up, laugh out loud, fear, and feel more than I have in recent films. The performances alone are worth the price of admission (and the running time). But you have to be ready for this movie. You have to know what you’re getting into. And if you’re a fan of the musical and want to just see it on screen, you will love this film.

Be prepared. You’re not watching something that’s set in reality (even despite the music). You’re watching something grander. Something more profound. Something only Les Mis can do. But with that comes its caveats. It’s not for everyone.

But I really wish it was. 

Hyde Park on Hudson | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2012 at 2:01 AM

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Hyde Park on Hudson 

(2012, UK, d. Roger Michell)

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this film. Flying under the radar this awards season – apart from a noteworthy performance by Bill Murray – Hyde Park on Hudson is a rare treat amongst the adult dramas of 2012. Consider most people’s top 10 lists this year (including my own, which will be released on December 31st) and you’ll notice that most of the films contain some sort of technological advancement, big name star, or intense production value, which is what makes Hyde Park so unique. Relying on nothing but its story, Hyde Park actually may be one of the riskier filmic endeavors playing in theaters today. Though it’s no doubt that the film won’t stand any test of time – purely for its lack of novelty – it’s a delight to watch a movie that doesn’t ask the audience for anything more than to pay attention to a story. A simple story told through the eyes of a simple woman, Hyde Park on Hudson is one of the better films of 2012. 

Told through the eyes of Margaret Suckley (an ever-impressive Laura Linney), the fifth (or sixth) cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the film chronicles her relationship with the President – mostly focusing on two days spent at Hyde Park, FDR’s country estate. These two days are special because these are the days in which King George VI (Samuel West) and his Queen (Olivia Colman) are visiting from England to request the aid of the US in the impending second World War.

Hyde Park on Hudson is a story of disillusionment and a sort of sad acceptance for the way things are. No one and nothing is quite as it seems – though don’t expect a gun fight or melodramatic conclusion. The film chronicles the slow and simple affair between FDR and Margaret, culminating in the two days of King George’s visit to America.

My problems with the film arose only when director Roger Michell lost track of his protagonist. Though in strong control of its tone and pacing, Hyde Park often seems uncertain as to whether it is telling the story of Margaret (which it is) or a biography of FDR (which is desperately wants to). So often does the camera peer into the private conversations between FDR and the King that I often questioned what the director was trying to convey. I was only complaining in retrospect though. These private conversations are a highlight of the film, largely due to a strong performance by Murray (I often wondered, though: Was it actually his performance or was it the fact that, for once, Bill Murray wasn’t acting like Bill Murray?). By the end, however, Michell is able to gain sight of the story again. 

I have to compliment the cinematography in the film – which uses its camera, lenses, and lighting to advance its narrative. Reminscent much of 2010’s The King’s Speech in its lighting, Hyde Park on Hudson is a wonderful lesson in using the tools of digital technology to quietly pull on the heart strings of audiences. 

This is one of those films that will undoubtedly be forgotten in a few years. But in the meantime, if you can, please try and give it a watch. It’s worth the time. 

And it features one of the most dramatic uses of a hot dog in recent times. You’ll understand.

ParaNorman | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 26, 2012 at 1:19 AM

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ParaNorman

(2012, US, d. Sam Fell, Chris Butler)

Devoid of the selfish and need to one-up its animated “peers”, ParaNorman is a film that not only pays homage to the stories inspired it, but is also able to live on its own as an original story. 

ParaNorman takes place in the small town of Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts – made famous for a witch burning years before. Now the town makes its revenue through tourism. Paintings, drawings, plays, antique stores, etc are all named after witches and wizards and spells or infamous killings. Yet despite all of this, the residents are still quick to dispel any rumors of real witchcraft. Of anything out of the ordinary. Which is why our protagonist has such a hard time living a regular life. 

Meet Norman. a bullied child with a very unique gift: he can speak with ghosts. Very reminiscent of The Sixth Sense, the film follows Norman on his quest to save a town that not only doesn’t understand him but doesn’t understand the evil forces that threaten it. 

Filled with beautiful cinematography that took over 3 years to capture, the stop-motion film marks a rare treat in this year’s slate of animated films: a simple story that doesn’t rely on technological advancements to tell its story. In fact, its simplicity is what makes the film stand out and it’s what makes its message all the more powerful.

Though it does feature quite a bit of legitimate horror at times, ParaNorman is able to effectively utilize the genre as a palette for a very simple message. It’s the story of acceptance. Not of others, but of yourself. 

Funny, moving, and unique, ParaNorman is a throwback – not only in its appreciation of genre, but also in its appreciation of a simple story. 

This is 40 | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 24, 2012 at 7:16 PM

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This is 40

(2012, US, d. Judd Apatow)

Not as funny as you’d hope, not as touching as you’d expect, and far too long to not be considered over-indulgent, This is 40 marks a backwards step in Judd Apatow’s filmography. 

I understand the honest intentions behind the project. If there’s one thing that you can praise about the film, it’s that it never feels ingenuine. It’s very easy to relate to the family at the heart of the film (especially Leslie Mann, who’s finally able to prove how incredible of an actress she is) and the jokes (when they land) are not only funny, but “stomp-your-feet-clap-your-hands” kind of funny. Unfortunately, they are far between.

My biggest problem with the film comes from its blatant lack of plot. Apatow’s movies always run north of 2 hours, but audiences don’t complain. Here they were. Apart from a birthday party scheduled for a few days after the opening scene, there is nothing the audiences look forward to. In the middle of the movie, I began listing off a bunch of options Apatow had in front of him – that wouldn’t have affected the heart of the story – he could have used for plot. Instead, what we get are a bunch of vignettes and standalone scenes that don’t drive the narrative forward one bit. In the opening scene, every piece of information about the marriage of the protagonists (played by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) is given to us. It’s a wonderful scene (though probably the raunchiest of the entire film) and it tells us all we need to know, while making us laugh and feel. But after that, everything else is pointless. You might as well fast-forward to the last 45 minutes (which I thought were pretty good, all things considered). Of course, all of this would be forgiven if the scenes were consistently funny.

I’m a huge fan of Apatow. What he accomplished with Knocked Up, Superbad, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and even Funny People set standards for the modern comedy. He was able to use the films as a bounce board for relevant and poignant messages. Unfortunately, This is 40 never feels like that. With an unmerited running time, “over-indulgence” is the word that comes to mind. This is 40 is too good for a plot. Or so they’d like you to think. 

But – if you’re not holding Apatow movies to an Apatow standard – this is still a far better comedy than everything else being made today. 

 

Arbitrage | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2012 at 6:52 PM

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Arbitrage

(2012, US, d. Nicholas Jarecki)

Arbitrage isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. A thriller set in the financial world of Wall Street, it follows billionaire Robert Miller as he tries to sell his hedge fund for a major profit. However, one mistake in his personal life and everything starts to fall apart. When Miller is driving in the middle of the night with the woman he’s having an affair with, he closes his eyes for a split second and loses control of his car. The resulting accident leaves the woman dead, and Miller, far more concerned about closing the deal at work, is worried the purchase won’t occur if he’s linked to a crime. So he begins making calls.

The film concerns itself with Miller’s many attempts to hide the truth, while on the precipice of selling his company. Arbitrage begins with Miller coming home to a family birthday dinner after a long day of work. While speaking to his family, he announces that it’s taken 60 years for him to realize what’s really important in life: the people around him. He seems genuine when he says it, but I guess that’s what happens when lying is just part of your profession. It’s never clear whether anyone at the table actually believes those words – maybe it’s just Miller convincing himself that his family is loved and taken care of. But the plot that soon follows this scene demonstrates just how insincere he was. 

Arbitrage is much less of a thriller than it is a character study. Miller’s hedge fund is also operated by his family: his daughter (the talented Brit Marling) plays a huge role and even his less talented son has a solid career laid out for him. This is an easy way for director Nicholas Jarecki to infuse the message of the film here. With his own career, Miller is forced to choose between family and profit, often with interesting results.  

The film reminds me a lot of last year’s Margin Call – a quiet thriller set amidst the 2008 housing market crash. I wasn’t as big of a fan of that film as the critics were, but what I thought really made this film stand out was that it was about one man. In Margin Call, we never got close to too many people – because in the brief time we were introduced to them, each of them was making morally ambiguous choices on a grand scale. In Arbitrage, we meet one man. And even though he makes the same choices as his counterparts, we’re able to sympathize with him.

This, in large part, is due to Richard Gere. Gere, in one of his best performances of his career, is less of the best actor to play the part than he is simply perfectly cast. His cool, collected self is the perfect matte to throw the film’s chaos at. He’s easily believable as a guy who we all love or love to hate – but more importantly, the way Gere is able to track his character’s downfall is impressive. Miller isn’t the guy to wear his heart on his sleeve, yet Gere – rarely relying on dialogue – is able to convey a strong sense of character simply through his eyes. During the climax of the film, look at his face and you’ll finally get a true sense of what the man has sacrificed to get into the position he’s in by the end. Whatever that position may be.

Arbitrage‘s biggest fault lies in the pacing of its first act. The film takes 30 minutes to get into the plot and none of the information I was being given felt strong enough or relevant enough to carry us through that time. It’s easy to get turned off here, but if you’re willing to stick through it, Arbitrage proves to be a very intelligent and calculated – albeit anything but novel – adult drama. 

Jack Reacher | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2012 at 3:03 AM

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Jack Reacher

(2012, US, d. Christopher McQuarrie)

Let me preface this by saying that I’m probably the biggest Tom Cruise fan I know. In my opinion, not only does he elevate all the material he’s in, including the actors around him, but he commits to the role like very few actors today. In an age where irony is cool, Cruise stands out by believing every single word that comes out of his characters’ mouths.

Meet Jack Reacher. Marketing campaigns tell us he is the law. When the justice system won’t prevail, Reacher can be sure to carry out his own sentences. That’s not really the case in this film. In Jack Reacher (originally titled One Shot – a far better title – after the book of the same name), Reacher is summoned by forces beyond his control. And it’s really only his curiosity that keeps him going. 

Don’t worry, though. There are plenty of Hollywood one-liners and Cruise moments to keep you satisfied. 

Not having read the book, I didn’t go in with any preconceived notions about how the title character should look. Fans of the book were outraged when it was announced Cruise had been tapped to play the lead, given the character in the novel was a huge man and Tom Cruise is a little smaller. The only preconcieved notion I went in with was that the film wasn’t receiving fond reviews from critics, but was receiving an outpouring of love from audiences (The film is currently sitting on an “A-” rating at CinemaScore). After having seen the film, I’m going to stand with the audiences. 

Here’s the thing: Jack Reacher has its gaping problems. The story is underdeveloped, a few logic questions and the whole film starts to fall apart, and McQuarrie is never able to establish a consistent tone throughout. The characters feel like sketches from every action film in the past (seriously Werner Herzog?) and the set pieces are clearly recycled from better films.

Yet for some reason, it was enjoyable. Maybe it was a breath of fresh air from the awards contenders. Maybe it was just Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise. 

Jack Reacher isn’t an action movie. It’s a mystery. And despite the sometimes ridiculous lines Cruise is forced to speak, it works. And though the film never gets any better than its first 12 minutes – which, if I may, are quite the doozy – I was actively engaged in figuring out what was going on. 

Take this all with a grain of salt. At the end of the day, this is another run-of-the-mill action film. And considering the last few Cruise films, this does feel like a backwards step towards conventional. But again, I’m a huge Cruise fan. And if you’re looking for a time-killer this holiday season, this may be the one. 

 

Zero Dark Thirty | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2012 at 5:11 AM

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Zero Dark Thirty

(2012, US, d. Kathryn Bigelow)

“Based on a True Story” is a tired and ineffective marketing strategy. Even when a story is true, audiences never really pay attention to whether or not a film was a true story. It’s only in a conversation 15 minutes after you’re back in the car on the way home when someone in the back raises his voice and asks, “Wait. Wasn’t that a true story?”. And with the number of found footage movies entering the market, nobody even believes that line anymore. 

Zero Dark Thirty is the exception. 

Every single moment of this film feels real. And even when we’re listening in on top-secret meetings or watching deep cover CIA operatives in the Middle East, you will not be able to stop thinking: “Oh my God. This is a true story”. 

In fact, I think that’s one of the reasons why this film was so effective. When the trailer was first released, I could hear moviegoers grunting. They already made a movie about getting bin Laden? Psh Hollywood. It’s hard to not get to that conclusion. After all, it was only months after the incident in May of 2011 when Zero Dark Thirty was green-lit. Talk of a movie began the next day.

But when Kathryn Bigelow (Academy Award winning director of The Hurt Locker) is the one helming it, you should pay attention. The crafmanship achieved throughout this film only makes the brief timeframe between bin Laden’s death and the movie’s release feel more powerful. For once, a move like doesn’t seem financially motivated. It feels…necessary. 

Zero Dark Thirty is one of the most intense movie-going experiences I’ve ever had. One of my favorite films of the year, it’s ability to objectively portray not only a seriously complex issue but also a morally ambiguous one was incredible. Its discerning camera never shies away from exposing a harsh reality, even if it’s about the American people (one big difference between Argo – another action film based on a real life political event). 

Zero Dark Thirty, if I haven’t made it clear enough, is about catching Osama bin Laden. It begins on September 11th, 2001 and ends on May 2nd, 2011 – the day after bin Laden was killed.  It follows Maya (Jessica Chastain), a CIA operative working in the Middle East with the sole task of capturing bin Laden. 

The film’s timeframe perfectly captures its most basic emotion: frustration. For ten years, Maya follows lead after lead, name after name, and investigation after investigation – searching for the tiniest lead to bin Laden. But nothing works out. And for 2 and half hours, the audience is as frustrated as Maya. No lead is small and things to start to feel as if they may go somewhere but they don’t. This is not an insult – it’s an incredible feat for Bigelow to achieve while keeping audiences as gripped as ever. 

I was enthralled. Every single person watching this movie knows what will happen at the end, but the film is created so well, it doesn’t matter. We still fear for 2 whole hours.

But the only thing that’s better than the first 2 hours of the film are the last 30 minutes, which showcase the true potential of American power. Watching the special forces unit prepare and attack the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was unlike watching any action scene before. It felt real. It felt visceral. I had goosebumps the whole time. 

Bigelow’s only fault with Zero Dark Thirty is that during these last 30 minutes, she loses track of her protagonist. During the strike, I wanted to see what Maya was thinking; what she was doing. The entire film follows her obsession in catching the man and the climax features barely anything of her at all; the film was far more interested in showing the strike itself. But this is only a small fault. Because the strike, as mentioned earlier, is one hell of American cinema. And most importantly: it works.

A gripping procedural anchored by a powerhouse and subtle performance by Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty is intense, risky, relevant, and moving.

If only more people like Megan Ellison (the film’s financier) existed in the world-

 

 

 

Moonrise Kingdom | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2012 at 3:09 AM

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Moonrise Kingdom

(2012, US, d. Wes Anderson)

Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s most universally relatable film. To the ardent fan, there’s nothing really different in tone, pacing, dialogue, and style between this and the rest of his films, but there is one element that changes it all up: children. And it makes a huge difference.

Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of 12 year old Sam Shakusky (played by Jared Gilman) – a summer camp runaway who attempts to make it on his own with the love of his life: Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). The only problem is that Shakusky lives on a very small, but geographically eclectic island called New Penzance. 

I have to admit: I’m not a huge fan of Wes Anderson. For me, his films have never invited me in. They’ve always depicted a foreign world or a world through strangely tinted lenses but never allowed the audience to immerse themselves in it and to feel with the characters. That’s why Moonrise is Anderson’s best film: it invites the audience to see the world through the eyes of its protagonists.

Much like he does with his other films, Anderson pours a lot of psychological trouble onto these characters. But even though the way they talk and behave mirrors those of the director’s other notable characters, here it makes sense. Here’s it’s touching; even heartbreaking. The journey Shakusky makes with Suzy is filled with revelations and honest humor – a difficult balance to strike when a film is spearheaded by children.

As Shakusky continues on his romantic getaway, the rest of the islanders begin a large-scale search and rescue operation. These islanders (cops, parents, camp counselors, a random narrator, scouts, and everyone in between) are played by Anderson regulars. And again, when children are introduce in the mix and these actors are pushed to the background, they really shined like they never have in Anderson’s films. With the likes of Bob Balaban, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, and Jason Shwartzman, Moonrise Kingdom is filled to the brim with star power (and star talent). 

Let me be clear though. In no way is Moonrise Kingdom a departure from Wes Anderson’s films. In fact, it fits right into his anthology. I’ve always considered the mark of an auteur by his ability to convey a consistent, personal tone and in that regard, Anderson is among Hollywood’s best. Even though I don’t always like what he puts out.

For me, Moonrise Kingdom was just a film that worked. Funny, touching, and very quirky, the 96 minute film will be over before you know it.