Sunday, September 23, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

This film's reputation had preceded it by the time I got to theater. Before I even knew what it was, I was hearing rave reviews about "Moonrise Kingdom" from multiple sources. I probably would have seen it at some point, mainly because of the star-studded cast this movie features. Rarely does a movie have such talented actors as Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, and Edward Norton on screen at the same time. I was also intrigued by director Wes Anderson, who has a distinct and slightly quirky sense of humor that I really gravitate towards. The two stars of this show, however, are newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, playing Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop respectively.

This movie at its heart is a love story between two "disturbed" twelve-year-olds (Sam and Suzy) who plot to run away together to a cove on the little island they inhabit. Sam has just resigned from the Khaki Scouts and  "flew the coop" during morning inspection at Camp Ivanhoe, much to the chagrin of his scout master, Randy Ward (Edward Norton). While Randy and the police captain (Bruce Willis) create a search party for the MIA Khaki Scout, Sam embarks on a journey to meet Suzy at a predetermined neutral location. Together, they brave the difficulties of dehydration, a ravenous scout troop on their tail, as well as the complications of ear-piercing. Once they are caught by Suzy's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), the question becomes "what will happen to Sam?" Sam is an orphan, which Suzy thinks sounds exciting as many of the books she loves feature an orphan protagonist. He sets her straight, however, saying "I love you, but you have no idea what you're talking about." Later, after reflecting on their sin of ostracizing Sam, and with the fearful possibilities of his "brain getting cut outta him", the scout troop plans an escape of the disenfranchised youth in order to reunite him with his star-crossed love.

I could probably go on for pages and pages quoting the many funny lines in this film. In a way, I almost wish I could take this film scene-by-scene and describe how great it is to you. While that would be fun for me to relive the movie, it's much better for you to just see the film for yourself. This is a hilarious, wonderfully old-fashioned exploration of youthful shenanigans that everyone can enjoy. There are a lot of great characters in this film, which could have over-complicated the story and taken away more than it added. Thankfully, good writing allowed for each storyline to be featured in a way that was satisfying and provided good explanations that justified each character's inclusion in the plot. This is a movie I think will need to be experienced multiple times to fully appreciate, but I left the theater wishing I could remember every line of dead-pan delivered dialogue.

There are so many things I love about this film, but there are also a few things that kept it from being a wholly enjoyable experience for me. These are small caveats, and probably won't offend others as much as they did me, so take them with a grain of salt. There's a scene where the two kids are spending time on the beach  and they start to... "explore" each other that I thought could have been cut. It's a little inappropriate and I didn't feel like it belonged in this movie. Another part is when a dog is needlessly killed during an otherwise amusing scene. While the aftermath provided a pretty funny line, it was a little hard to see as a dog-lover. Also, there's a scene of underage drinking that kind of annoyed me. All in all, the combination of these scenes is less than five minutes, and I didn't let it taint my overall enjoyment of the film.

This is a great movie, and were it not for the little things that bothered me I would have had no hesitation in recommending this film. It's a hilarious diversion with some pretty great line deliveries, an imaginative score and brilliant camera shots that almost always made me smile if not laugh out loud. I give this movie a strong three and a half stars.

MOONRISE KINGDOM is rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What To Expect When You're Expecting

This is a hard review for me to write. I know Lara's not going to like what I have to say... particularly since just looking at this poster makes me want to groan. As you can probably guess, this movie isn't from the genre that usually hits my sweet spot. I'm not the biggest fan of romantic comedies, particularly when it deals with subject matter that alienates my gender so completely. I'm not saying that every movie has to be entirely accessible for the husbands of the girls these movies are really meant for, but I would like to enjoy it on some level. I don't hate rom-coms. In fact, there are plenty that I actually enjoy. "While You Were Sleeping", "You've Got Mail", and even "The Switch" are examples of fun rom-coms that I can have fun with, while I would classify "(500) Days of Summer" as possibly my all-time favorite in the genre. Unfortunately, "What To Expect When You're Expecting" isn't that kind of movie... not even a little.

This movie is designed as the ultimate manifesto to pregnancy, showing different types of experiences that women often go through in an exaggerated and "comedic" way. It takes the template of an ensemble comedy, melding together various storylines in a rather clumsy, haphazard way like the recent "Valentine's Day" or "New Year's Eve" films. One woman is the uber control freak (Cameron Diaz) who is a host of a reality weight-loss TV show (an obvious play on Jillian Michaels from "Biggest Loser"). Another story is that of a woman who's greatest desire is to be a mother and experience pregnancy (Elizabeth Banks). She writes children's books about breast-feeding and can't wait to have a baby herself as soon as possible. The instant she gets pregnant, however, her father-in-law (Dennis Quaid) informs them that his trophy wife (Brooklyn Decker) is pregnant as well. Then, a young teenage girl (Anna Kendrick) gets pregnant after a "romantic" night with a high school crush. Meanwhile, an infertile photographer (Jennifer Lopez) plans an adoption from an African village with her slightly overwhelmed husband. To try to cope with the stress of it all, he is encouraged by his over-eager wife to start assimilating with the other husbands in the neighborhood who take daily strolls through the park with their kids (Chris Rock and co.). Each prospective mother goes through their own issues until they all conveniently wind up at the same hospital at the same time for the laborious (pun intended) climax.

There are a lot of different stories going on in this film. Clearly the movie wants to depict every single aspect of pregnancy from every angle imaginable (hence the title), but I would argue that it gives the short shrift to each of them by combining them in such an unsatisfying way. None of the characters feel fully developed and the only one I even care about (Elizabeth Banks) is probably due more to the actress playing her than the story arc she's given. Like I've already admitted, however, I am not this movie's targeted demographic, as evidenced by the fact that my favorite part of the movie was the Dwyane Wade cameo at the beginning. Every single joke in this movie fell completely flat for me, while Lara laughed at almost all of them. At one point she even asked me to leave because my lack of interest was starting to annoy her. I stuck it out, however, and was amazed at how much she ended up enjoying the film. She was so touched by the finale (spoiler alert, the pregnant women give birth) that tears were streaming down her cheeks by the time credits rolled.

I guess what that means is that I recommend this movie for women that are even remotely interested in pregnancy or motherhood. People like me, on the other hand (of the male gender), I advise to stay as far away from this film as possible. I say "as possible" because I know some of you won't be able to avoid this. If your significant other wants to see this movie, try to think of a polite way to get out of it... such as a sudden pile of homework you've been neglecting and really have to finish (trust me, it'll be more fun than this movie). In the end, I can't completely condemn it as it undoubtedly struck a cord with it's intended audience. I give "What To Expect When You're Expecting" a generous two stars.

WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, thematic elements and language.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

It has seriously been Jeremy Renner's time lately, hasn't it? The first time I ever heard of him was for his Academy Award nominated performance in "The Hurt Locker". Since then he was nominated for another Oscar for "The Town", starred alongside Tom Cruise in "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol", and assembled with the rest of the group as Hawkeye in "The Avengers". With all of the credits listed above, it's clear to see that Renner is a star on the rise, but I was still somewhat skeptical of another Bourne movie with him at the helm rather than Matt Damon. When I initially heard about the project (about a year and a half ago), I assumed he'd be playing the titular character of Jason Bourne, which definitely irked me. I am a fairly big fan of not just the Bourne movies, but of Matt Damon who I think is incredibly talented and charismatic. Whenever he's on screen you automatically root for the guy. So how was somebody else going to come into the franchise that really launched Damon's superstardom and take it in a new direction? Well, by taking it in a  new direction...

Jeremy Renner plays Aaron Cross, a special ops agent for a secret government program called "Outcome". The movie starts out with Cross in a frozen wilderness, evading wolves and climbing mountains, all the while taking mysterious blue and green pills. Meanwhile, thanks to Jason Bourne's presence in Manhattan, one of the directors of Outcome (played by Edward Norton) is busy trying to keep the program from being shut down. However, due to the debacle, he is ordered to terminate their work - which means eliminating each of the Outcome agents in one fell swoop. They accomplish this through the blue and green pills (a requirement for each agent), switching them out during their routine physical for a poisonous version which kills each of them in turn. Thanks to his solitude, Aaron is able to evade the extermination and teams up with a doctor that developed the drug (Rachel Weisz) who is also being hunted down. Aaron has run out of the medicine and must find a way to restock before something terrible happens.

As you might be able to tell from the plot summary, this story and "The Bourne Ultimatum" take place simultaneously, though Matt Damon does not make an appearance. Not only did this movie experience a change of lead actor, but also of director. Tony Gilroy, who wrote the previous three installments, has stepped into the director's chair along with his typical writing duties. As such, this movie is steeped in Bourne culture, and viewers will enjoy and understand this movie exponentially more if they've seen the original trilogy. Having said that, this is a very different Bourne movie. It has the basic structure and formula (special agent evading the authorities with a love-interest in tow), but a slightly different tone. Gone are the edge-of-your-seat chase scenes that were replete in the previous three, replaced by a more intellectual puzzle. What are these pills? Why is Aaron so dependent on them? The story isn't as action packed (perhaps Gilroy didn't have the confidence of Paul Greengrass), but I wouldn't necessarily call that a bad thing.

Overall, I can't really discuss the movie too much without going into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that this is a worthy chapter into the Bourne cannon. The movie does a great job of breathing fresh life into the franchise (though it ended on a great note with "Ultimatum"), and excites me about the possibilities of future sequels. There has been talk of a Damon/Renner team-up, which I would absolutely love. If you are a fan of action movies, particularly the Bourne series, check this movie out either in theaters or when it comes out on DVD. I debated going three stars, but eventually decided to give "The Bourne Legacy" three and a half stars.

THE BOURNE LEGACY is rated PG-13 for violence and action scenes.