Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Wes Anderson, I've missed you.

His 1998 film, Rushmore , is one of my all-time favourite films.

Follow-ups The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou just didn't do it for me.

But The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom are a welcome return to film for a very talented American filmmaker.

Sam (Jared Gilman) is the odd man out with the Khaki Scouts. His troop has set up camp on an island near New England. Sam, cared for by a foster family, isn't making any friends with his peers. He decides to break out - his form of escape offers an early hearty laugh in this 2012 release. Sam's goal is to meet up with Suzy (Kara Hayward), a young girl he met earlier during a production of British composer Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde.

Suzy, always outfitted with a pair of binoculars, is on the outs with her family too including parents Mr. and Mrs. Bishop (Bill Murray, Frances McDormand).

Their running away sparks a major search led by the head of the island's police department, Capt. Sharp (Bruce Willis) with Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) at his side. Turns out Sam's foster family doesn't want him back. Institutional care is next with Social Services (Tilda Swinton) dispatched to pick Sam up.

There's so much to enjoy in Anderson's film - a killer soundtrack, great dialogue (Suzy: "I wish I was an orphan. Most of my favourite characters are.", Mr. Bishop: "Our daughter has been abducted by one of those beige lunatics."), intriguing set up of scenes with action in the background to also watch.

What's uncomfortable in Moonrise Kingdom is the romantic side of Sam and Suzy's relationship. These kids are tweens and they're French kissing and sexual touching. That creeps this film fan out.

Anderson and Roman Coppola received an Academy Award nomination for the screenplay.

Overall, there's lots to enjoy and I look forward to watching the background of scenes on a second viewing, but I'll skip through Suzy and Sam's romantic interlude. Gross.

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: Jason Schwartzman, star of Rushmore, appears as Cousin Eddy in Moonrise Kingdom. He and co-scriptwriter Coppola are cousins.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941)

I trust the book is better than this movie.

Robert Louis Stevenson published The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1886.

Several film and television versions of his horror novel have followed including a 2016 effort with Gianni Capaldi and Shawn Paul Piccinino.

The premise of director Victor Fleming's 1941 feature is interesting.

Dr. Henry Jekyll is working on a potion that will eliminate the evil in people and magnify the good.

The British medical community isn't impressed with his work. "Your ideas are not normal," argues Sir Charles Emery (Donald Crisp), father of his better half. Jekyll contends his peers side with the status quo because it what keeps them making money.

"Sometimes we have to gamble," he explains.

Jekyll decides to try the elixir on himself. Instead of being a better person, Jekyll turns into a nasty piece of work. "Can this be evil?" he asks after chugging back his first serving of his concoction. It's about the best scene featuring Jekyll's bad side.

He forgets about his soon-to-be wife, Beatrix Emery (Lana Turner), and sets his sights on good-time tavern worker Ivy Peterson (Ingrid Bergman). Ivy tried to seduce the much nicer Dr. Jekyll after he came to her rescue during a late-night assault. He, mostly, rebuffed her advances then. With this jolt of evil running through his veins, he wants her. His physical transformation when he becomes Mr. Hyde means Ivy doesn't know the two men are, in fact, the same.

Hyde is terribly abusive, keeping her confined to their love nest and verbally and physically abusing her. As Jekyll keeps downing his potent brew, his behaviour worsens and, eventually, he loses control as to when he'll be transformed.

This film works for me for about the first hour. But once Hyde appears, time slows and this film drags. We don't see Jekyll struggling with his decision to opt for evil.

Sitting through this film was a tough go. It took too much work to get scared.

RATING: 4/10

FUN FACTS: The film was nominated for three Academy Awards for cinematography, editing and musical score.

Peter Godfrey, who appears as Dr. Jekyll's butler, only appeared in 13 films between 1933 and 1948. He spent more time directing feature films and television episodes. One of his big screen credits is that hagen girl
with Shirley Temple and Ronald Reagan.

Victor Fleming also directed Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Edge (1997)

Hurray for films that make audiences think.

The Edge is a thinking person's action/adventure film.

This 1997 effort from director Lee Tamahori is straight-forward in its plot.

Very successful businessman Anthony Hopkins (Charles Morse) and his wife, Mickey Morse (Elle Macpherson), arrive at a remote lodge so he can celebrate his birthday and she can model with photographer Robert Green (Alec Baldwin).

Screenwriter David Mamet (The Verdict, The Untouchables) isn't exactly subtle in setting up where The Edge is headed. Lodge boss Styles (L.Q. Jones) mentions how planes can encounter trouble when they fly into the path of migrating birds. Oh, and some bears have a taste for human flesh. Add to the scenario the inkling Charles has that his wife and shooter Bob are having an affair and voila, the stage is set for the rest of this two-hour film.

A float plane carrying Charles and Robert does crash. They, and another survivor, are hunted down by one very large bear. Charles has more pressing concerns, ie. how they'll get back to the lodge without being killed, but still expects Robert wants to kill him so he can be with Mickey.

Charles just isn't rich. He's smart too - and an optimist. Charles remembers what he reads about outdoor survival and what dooms those who die in the bush. The killer bruin (Bart) is a tough cookie. He's big, mean and ready to kill. But Charles isn't about to give up and opts to battle back against the bear.

Beautiful scenery, some healthy tension when Bart is on the prowl and Charles' ingenuity make The Edge a keeper.

RATING: 8/10

FUN FACTS: The Edge was the second last screen role for Bart the Bear. The imposing bruin appeared in 17 productions, beginning with Windwalker in 1980. He died in 2000 at age 23.

Television audiences may remember Harold Perrineau from his role as Michael Dawson in Lost.

I didn't know this. Elle Macpherson was Julie Madison in Joel Schumacher's widely panned Batman and Robin.