Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Kara Hayward, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton
, Jared Gilman, Frances McDormand
, Jason Schwartzman
, Harvey Keitel
Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two 12-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As various authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is brewing off-shore - and the peaceful island community is turned upside down in every which way. Bruce Willis plays the local sheriff, Captain Sharp. Edward Norton is a Khaki Scout troop leader, Scout Master Ward. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand portray the young girl's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bishop. The cast also includes Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Bob Balaban; and introduces Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as Sam and Suzy, the boy and girl.
$522.996 thousand on 4 screens.
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1
English Descriptive Video Service
Runtime: 94 min.
Release Date: 10/16/2012
• “A Look Inside Moonrise Kingdom” Featurette
• “Welcome to the Island of New Penzance” Featurettes
• “Set Tour With Bill Murray” Featurette
• DVD Copy
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Moonrise Kingdom [Blu-Ray] (2012)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 8, 2012)
Indie legend Wes Anderson returns to the screen with his first live-action flick in five years via 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom. Set in 1965, the film takes us to the tiny, remote New England island of New Penzance, where we meet its inhabitants.
The film focuses mostly on two early adolescents named Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) and Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman). She lives with her family on New Penzance, while he’s a ward of the state who spends time on the island as part of a scout troop. He doesn’t fit in with the other boys, so he and Suzy – who he got to know as penpals – run off together. We follow their adventures, the attempts of adults to find them, and other interpersonal complications.
I saw Kingdom theatrically, and when I view something on the big screen, I usually like to chat about my experience on the various Internet forums I frequent. In this case, however, I avoided the topic. I encountered uniformly positive remarks about the film and just wasn’t in the mood to have to argue with strangers about.
Normally I don’t shy away from such debate, so why did I stay on the sidelines for Kingdom? Mostly because at this point in Anderson’s career, I tend to think that if a viewer doesn’t like one of his films, that viewer is partly to blame. Anderson has made enough movies over the 16 years since he debuted with Bottle Rocket that an alert filmgoer should know what to expect. Anderson virtually never veers outside of his comfort zone; his movies tell a variety of stories but do so in pretty much the same manner every time. As such, if I don’t like Anderson’s work, to some degree that’s a “shame on me” situation, and I didn’t feel like arguing the subject with more devoted Anderson buffs.
Despite that factor, I still think Kingdom deserves criticism because of the way Anderson expresses his usual MO. While I could never claim to be a big Anderson fan, I’ve enjoyed his prior work. I’ve reviewed four of his six earier films, and I liked all of them. Granted, only 2007’s animated charmer The Fantastic Mr. Fox received an enthusiastic endorsement from me, as I gave more mixed marks to 1998’s Rushmore, 2001’s Royal Tenenbaums and 2004’s Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Though I wasn’t fully satisfied with those last three, I did like them and recommend them. At the very least, those reviews should shield me from accusations that I simply don’t care for Anderson’s work or style.
So what goes wrong with Kingdom? It has all the same ingredients as the other movies – awesome cast, low-key introspective feel, whimsical/off-beat tone – so why does it almost wholly leave me cold?
The main problem stems from Anderson to control his desire to be the King of Twee. In the past, the director always walked a fine line between simple quirkiness and excessive preciousness; he occasionally crossed it, but he remained on the right side enough of the time to keep his movies enjoyable.
In Kingdom, Anderson crosses the line repeatedly. He crosses it, stomps on it, and then urinates all over it. He so heavily embraces his trademark sense of delicate irony and fey charm that Kingdom often across as self-parody. Virtually all Anderson films embrace a certain sense of unreality, but here, those choices become unbearable. Anderson creates such a cloying little universe that it alienates the viewer – or this viewer, at least.
Anderson seems much more concerned with art direction than story, characters or anything else. He appears totally focused on making sure that everything’s “just right” in terms of visual design and camerawork that he forgets he needs to tell an interesting tale about intriguing personalities. Add to that an overwhelming level of self-indulgent quirkiness and matters go south quickly.
I’ve never quite understood Anderson’s affection for deadpan, understated performances, but in the past, that style didn’t harm his movies too much because he recruited such stellar actors. Of course, we continue to find a plethora of talents here; with Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban, Bruce Willis, and Jason Schwartzman in tow, the film boasts an amazing cast of adult actors.
Unfortunately, most of the film concentrates on its younger performers; in addition to Hayward and Gilman, we spend a ton of time with other adolescents. Across the board, the young actors are mediocre to terrible.
They simply lack the life experience to overcome Anderson’s direction. At no point does it appear that any of them created character choices on their own. I get the impression that Anderson told Gilman, Hayward and all the other kids exactly what to do and they just mimed his instructions.
And mimed them badly. Again, when Anderson wants adults to play low-key and understated, they still bring out some sense of personality and emotion. The kids can’t, so they just come across as lifeless and flat. Suzy and Sam are one-dimensional, monotone characters who never vaguely threaten to endear themselves to the audience.
Maybe that’s what Anderson wanted. Maybe he preferred a pair of less-than-wholly-lovable kids to counteract the usual preening, mugging Hollywood over-actors.
And that’s fine, but he could better strike a balance between hammy broadness and this. It’s simply tough to watch Gilman and Hayward because they’re so one-note. There’s no heart to their performances; they come across as robotic and stiff, which seems strange for a movie about passionate young lovers. When I was 12, if I’d run off with some cute girl, got to see her in her underwear, made out with her and groped her chest, I think I’d be a little more enthusiastic than flat-line Sam!
Anderson films always suffer from a certain clinical coldness, as they seem so concerned with their arty affectations that they detach us from emotions. As I noted, the quality of the actors and the general cleverness of the storytelling overcame that issue in the past, but here it becomes a major problem. Moonrise Kingdom lays a massive egg, as it lacks any sense of charm and simply becomes grating and phony.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus D
Moonrise Kingdom appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Shot Super 16mm, Kingdom looked good for that format but nonetheless suffered from the stock’s limitations.
Most of the concerns stemmed from iffy definition. Close-ups looked fine, and most wider exteriors showed decent detail. However, when we got interiors that went even vaguely broad, they tended to appear soft and mushy. I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and edge haloes failed to manifest themselves. Due to the film stock, grain was more noticeable than usual for a modern movie, but it wasn’t as heavy as expected; the grain seemed natural and unobtrusive. I saw no signs of print flaws.
In terms of colors, Kingdom went with a fairly yellow palette to match the autumnal setting. Some brighter hues emerged, though, and the tones tended to be pretty full and rich. Blacks were reasonably deep and dense, while shadows were acceptable; they could be a little murky, but that wasn’t a serious issue. Objectively, this wasn’t a great image, but given the restrictions of the source, I thought it deserved a “B”.
Due to its status as a low-key character piece, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Moonrise Kingdom didn’t get many opportunities to shine. Nonetheless, it offered a perfectly acceptable soundscape that occasionally delivered more dynamic material. Music filled out the spectrum well, and the general sense of environment worked well. Occasionally the soundfield came more actively to life – such as on the water and especially during the storm that capped the story – and those moments opened up the tale in a compelling manner. Much of the movie remained low-key, but the mix suited the material.
Audio quality was satisfactory. Music fared based, as the score and songs appeared vibrant and full. Effects usually stayed subdued, but they always came across as accurate and showed good punch when necessary. Speech sounded crisp and distinctive. Nothing here really impressed, but the soundtrack was worth a “B”.
The Kingdom Blu-ray lacks substantial supplements. A Look Inside Moonrise Kingdom runs a mere three minutes, seven seconds as it provides notes from writer Roman Coppola and actors Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, and Tilda Swinton. They tell us about the story and characters as well as the work of director Wes Anderson. This becomes a basic advertisement; you’ll learn virtually nothing about the production from it.
We find four short clips within Welcome to the Island of New Penzance. These fill a total of six minutes, 11 seconds and focus on the actors. Across these, Balaban narrates as we see shots from the set and learn about Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and Wes Anderson. I could live without the bland matter-of-fact tone used for these snippets – which emulates Balaban’s character from the movie – but at least we actually get a smidgen of information here, mostly via material from the locations. The pieces are lackluster but watchable.
Finally, we find a three-minute, nine-second Set Tour With Bill Murray. He tells us some anecdotes and shows us some locations, though mostly he just makes low-key jokes. These are actually pretty funny; we don’t really learn anything here, but at least the clip’s entertaining.
The disc opens with ads for Anna Karenina, Snow White and the Huntsman, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, ParaNorman and Rosewood Lane. No trailer for Kingdom shows up here.
A DVD Copy of the film also comes as part of the package. This provides a retail product with the same extras found on the Blu-ray.
If you want to see an utterly passive, passionless – but super-quirky and twee – tale about young love, Moonrise Kingdom will be for you. As for me, however, I found it to offer a slow, overly affected and dull experience. The Blu-ray delivers generally good picture and audio but lacks substantial supplements. I’ve enjoyed prior Wes Anderson films, but this one leaves me utterly cold.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3333 Stars
| Number of Votes: 18