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Set on an island off the coast of New England in the 1960s, as a young boy and girl fall in love they are moved to run away together. Various factions of the town mobilize to search for them and the town is turned upside down -- which might not be such a bad thing.
For more about Moonrise Kingdom and the Moonrise Kingdom Blu-ray release, see Moonrise Kingdom Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 3, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Jason Schwartzman
Director: Wes Anderson
» See full cast & crew
Moonrise Kingdom Blu-ray Review
"Jiminy cricket, he flew the coop!"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 3, 2012
In what has become a strange, distressing trend of late, filmmakers are being labeled one trick ponies when they're anything but. Take director of the morose precocious, Wes Anderson. A small but very vocal minority continues to insist Anderson has stalled out; grown stagnant as an artist. "It was a great film and all," they concede. "I just wish he'd do something different for a change." Something different, like say following a heist comedy with... a pithy but poignant coming-of-age tale, a dysfunctional family dramedy, a darkly funny deep-sea adventure, a cross-country road trip with three bickering brothers traveling through India by train, a stop-motion animated adaptation of a beloved Roald Dahl children's book with a uniquely seasoned spin and, most recently, Moonrise Kingdom, a wry look at love through the eyes of youthful idealism and wounded skepticism? Granted, there's an audience that will never feel at home in Anderson's quirky, storybook worlds; never find room in their hearts for his withdrawn characters, or be swept away by his style. But whenever "I wish he'd do something different" is uttered, it stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of how dramatically different Anderson's films actually are. What's really being said is "I wish he would do something for me," which amounts to someone discarding a Picasso and huffing "why not paint something pretty?" It's one thing to criticize a filmmaker for making the same film again and again and again, ad nauseum. It's another to ask an artist to forsake the things that make his art his art.
But I digress. Moonrise Kingdom is all at once a subdued, hilarious, heartbreaking, thoughtful, unexpected, lovingly crafted, deceptively minimalistic, tactfully complex and, ultimately, tough-to-pin-down dramedy; a film as easy to dismiss at face value as it is easy to embrace for its finer qualities, many of which only become apparent with multiple viewings. It isn't Anderson's best, as some contend -- its young actors aren't as strong as those in Rushmore, its adults aren't as comfortably grounded in their idiosyncrasies as those in The Royal Tenenbaums -- but it is a more refined, perhaps even more personal film far removed from the director's early canon. Will it convert the uncoverted? No. Will it delight the Anderson fold? Undoubtedly.
Need a bead on Moonrise Kingdom? Look no further. A storm is brewing in New Penzance, an isolated island off the coast of New England with no bridge to the mainland and no connection to the outside world beyond a single switchboard maintained by a local telephone operator (Marianna Bassham). Fearless twelve-year-old orphan Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) resigns from his Khaki Scout troop to run away with the love of his life: Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), a disillusioned preteen recluse desperate to escape her hapless father Walt (Bill Murray), adulterous mother Laura (Frances McDormand) and three younger brothers. When the two young lovers disappear, Walt and Laura, scout master Randy Ward (Edward Norton), Sam's ragtag troopmates, and police captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) converge on Sam and Suzy's last known whereabouts and begin a search; one that soon attracts the attention of Khaki Scout commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel) Khaki Scout chaplain Cousin Ben (Jason Schwartzman) and, eventually, aptly named social service agent Social Services (Tilda Swinton, whose every character should be named after a public service sector). Will, oh will young love prevail?
Whether by naiveté, folly of youth or wisdom beyond (or within) their years, Sam and Suzy's unshakable devotion and determination is the stuff of care-free, cinematic dreams. Their love isn't born out of fickle teen attraction or hormone-starved passion -- the fact that they're twelve, as opposed to thirteen or older, is key -- nor does it burn out or fade at the first sign of trouble. (Or really any sign of trouble. If anything, it only intensifies.) There's such an innocence to their impulsiveness, however reckless, and such a sweet sincerity to their flight and affections, however mismanaged, that it's difficult not to root for the runaways, even when their liberation causes grief and panic among their caretakers. Alone in the wilderness, away from those who either refuse to understand or are ill-equipped to do so, they find exactly what they're looking for; exactly what they've been longing for since they began exchanging letters a year before. Reliable companionship, nothing more. It's a pure and powerful desire; romance at its most distilled, safety as only a child robbed of security from an early age can see it. Sam and Suzy are Romeo and Juliet, Bonnie and Clyde, Annie and Alvy, Jack and Rose. Or all of them, for that matter, save a crucial difference: Sam and Suzy's fate is in the hands of Wes Anderson, which all but assures us that their relationship isn't doomed to tragic end.
Those tragic endings -- those failed relationships -- have already come and gone for the adults of New Penzance. There's a thick weight in the air around town; a palpable melancholy that hangs between the broken hearts and shattered dreams of every island denizen, dysfunctional family and deadly serious scout troop. Every wounded warrior, young and old, wears their quirks and ticks like badges of honor, and there's a prevailing gee willikers aloofness that, for the better part of the film's first act, reads as little more than silliness. Fortunately, what begins as an off-kilter comedy of errors perpetuated by woefully inept grownups soon becomes something else entirely. It begins with Randy (meek and selfless as a straight arrow could be), soon infects lovelorn Captain Sharp (a weary shell of a slow-witted policeman who develops a particular empathy for Sam), eventually warms the hearts of the wartorn Khaki Scouts (even in the wake of a bloody battle that ends in death), creeps into Cousin Ben (who, despite some rapidfire reluctance, rallies behind the kids and their love, regardless of their ages), and even starts to work on Walt and Laura (who abandon pretense after God knows how many years upon realizing their daughter may have stumbled onto the real deal). Social Services is impervious to such base emotions, of course, but even she relents in part. And the local operator fielding every call between the island and the mainland? Keep your eyes on dear, quiet Becky.
That said, a casual moviegoer would have a hard time attributing Moonrise Kingdom to anyone other than Anderson, especially when his patented style is pushed to such occasional extremes that it borders on self-parody. (Straight-on closeups piled on top of straight-on closeups of... straight-on closeups. Megaphones, a nosy narrator, eye patches, towering tree houses, lightning strikes, kids behaving as adults in miniature; all endearingly Anderson, all things those who aren't in on the joke tend to loathe.) None of it suggests Anderson isn't evolving, though. This is the work of a deft touch. A confidence that exalts in the light comedy of it all and stirs within the dark drama. An ease that allows co-writer Roman Coppola's simple story and effortless script to unfold simply and effortlessly, without the need for copious subplots or ungainly contrivances. If I have any gripe it's that Gilman and Hayward are a tad too wooden at times. It's easy to forgive -- both are making their feature film debut, and both are given little wiggle room with their characters -- but there's a difference between the purposefully stilted delivery of a veteran like McDormand or Norton, crafted to Anderson's precise specifications, and the stilted delivery of two preteen Hollywood newcomers. It works in large part, sure, but every now and then Gilman and Hayward run into a wall. No matter. Moonrise Kingdom is a magnificent film and another worthy entry in the Anderson canon. It isn't as essential as Rushmore, as funny as Tenebaums or as wily as Mr. Fox, but it exudes a gentle ease and sophistication all its own.
Moonrise Kingdom Blu-ray, Video Quality
Universal presents Moonrise Kingdom via a delicate 1080p/AVC-encoded presentation as faithful to Anderson's intentions as it is true to cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman's sumptuous summer photography. Colors, yellowed and sun-baked to stylized perfection, are both beautifully skewed and achingly subdued, skintones are carefully saturated, and black levels are satisfying throughout. Much of the Super 16mm image is soft and unassuming, yes, but only by design. Even then, subtly resolved textures await those willing to peer more closely, edges are nicely defined (not to mention free of significant ringing), and the film's dusty veneer of grain is intact, consistent, and rarely amounts to any sort of distraction. (A deep blue nighttime rendezvous between Laura and Captain Sharp is problematic, one of the only examples that come to mind.) The encode, meanwhile, holds its own, without any notable artifacting, banding, aliasing or crush that might undermine the integrity of Yeoman's photography. Moonrise Kingdom isn't as crisp as the Blu-ray presentations that grace some of Anderson's other films, but it's no less impressive, so long as your expectations are properly adjusted.
Moonrise Kingdom Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It never occurred to me that Moonrise Kingdom would be such a lossless standout. While by no means an aggressive or bombastic mix, Universal's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track presents the film's surprisingly immersive sound design flawlessly and with great care. Dialogue is perfectly intelligible at all times, entrenched in the relative realities of New Penzance, and given leave to make its way around the entire soundfield. Voices travel across open fields and glance off of seaside rocks; quaint New England forests envelop Sam and Suzy while battened island churches are filled with worry and unease issued from every direction; storms roar, winds howl, rain pours, thunder cracks, floods surge... and yet, not a moment earlier, waves lap against a small dock, leaves swirl along the ground, and branches quake. through it all, the rear speakers are active and alert, defying indie convention with a wholly engaging, altogether engulfing soundfield, humble as it often is. LFE output works magic all its own, finding and exploiting new low-end opportunities around every bend (particularly in the third act, when something resembling all smalltown hell breaks loose). And dynamics? Terrific. Directionality? Precise and effective. Pans? As smooth as anyone could hope for. Ultimately, strong as its video transfer may be, Moonrise Kingdom's lossless track walks away with the AV presentation.
Moonrise Kingdom Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Moonrise Kingdom only offers a trio of three-minute featurettes: "A Look Inside Moonrise Kingdom," "Welcome to the Island of New Penzance," and a "Set Tour with Bill Murray." Very disappointing.
Moonrise Kingdom Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Critically hailed and enthusiastically received, Moonrise Kingdom captures the intensity and clarity of young love, pits its preteen rebels-with-a-romantic-cause against the world, and runs with it. It only helps that Anderson is as cool behind the camera as ever, his ensemble represents a full spectrum of exciting talent, and the ease with which the seemingly simple story unfolds is as tangible as the perfect storm of indie quirks brewing within the sleepy seaside town of New Penzance. Universal's Blu-ray release is just as good, so long as a near-barebones supplemental package isn't the sort of thing to send you scurrying away. With a lovely video transfer and unexpectedly engaging DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, Moonrise Kingdom deserves your attention, or perhaps even your unwavering devotion.
Moonrise Kingdom: Other Editions
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Moonrise Kingdom Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: October 16-23 - October 13, 2012
This week on Blu-ray offers up an eclectic cross-section of HD entertainment. First up is Moonrise Kingdom, director Wes Anderson's first live-action film since 2007's The Darjeeling Limited. A melancholy, funny tale of young love on a (fictional) island off ...
• Moonrise Kingdom Blu-ray - August 14, 2012
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has officially announced that it will release Focus Features' Moonrise Kingdom as a Blu-ray Combo Pack on October 16th. Directed by Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums), Moonrise Kingdom had its world premiere at the ...
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