So the Low-Down has returned after missing last week but in lieu of our missed episode and the large abundance of exciting news from the San Diego Comic Con we have gone ahead and made a longer than normal episode to make it up everything. So check it out below and be sure to like and subscribe if you dig what you see!
This past week I found an opportunity to get to see the new Wes Andersen movie, Moonrise Kingdom and let me tell you that I was not disappointed
What it is: Moonrise Kingdom is more or less a love story between two 12 year olds and their adventure as they combat the challenges and hardships they are faced with. The movie is of course directed by the always fantastic Wes Andersen and features an absolutely incredible cast including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton on top of being narrated by Bob Balaban in addition to having cameos from Harvey Keitel and Jason Schwartzman.
Why I love it: I have said this before but allow me to reiterate: yes I am from Portland and yes I love my Andersen films but no I am not a hipster. The reason I love Wes Andersen isn’t because he is hip but rather he is simply a great director. He has an incredible cinematographic style which he uses to tell great original stories full of deep, unique and all around amazing characters. Moonrise Kingdom only serves to further validate this opinion.
Let me start by addressing the film visually. The movie is clearly an Andersen film due to characteristically centered and geometrically structured shots that helps give his films that Andersen style. On top of the assortment of classic Andersen shots are some beautifully composed scenes that made my inner cinematographer absolutely giddy. While I do love Andersen’s style it was a nice twist to see these gorgeous shots seamlessly sewn into the tapestry of familiarly composed scenes. The second visual aspect of the film really worth mentioning are the visual effects. Admittedly they are nowhere near being cutting edge but that was not the purpose they were meant to accomplish. The special effects once again deliver a large dose of Andersen flavor but in new and exciting ways. The effects were actually some my favorite I have seen in any movie ever. They were very well done, poorly done effects if that makes any sense at all. They seemed low budget but done with a large budget. They felt cheesy and campy but in the absolutely perfect way.
A lot of the campy-ness of the effects might be from what they were used for. The special effects were most abundant in scenes or moments that were completely unnecessary for the film. All of these moments were much like Halo Reach’s assassinations in the sense that while they do not enhance or better the movie/game they are an absolutely awesome addition which ultimately makes the respective piece of media better. I understand this is kind of contradictory so let me refer to an example from the film. So at one point in the film one of the main characters, Sam, is struck by lightning. There is maybe 30 seconds of build up to this and he gets up immediately afterwards and it is as if it never happened in the first place. No characters are really developed –with the exclusion of us seeing that Sam is a tough kid, a point which was already pretty clear—and the plot is not furthered by these events. But with that being said this short and brief scene is absolutely awesome and one of the most memorable of the film. While the scene isn’t necessary or really that important it really is just an awesome and bad ass scene that ultimately makes the film that much better and that much more enjoyable.
One of the things that have become a staple of Andersen’s films is the quirky and unforgettable characters. As I have mentioned already the film has a rather large and impressive cast but not a single actor really outshined the others. It’s not the case that no actor really shined but really that they all did equally. Every single character was motivating and deep and you found yourself relating to and caring about every single one of them. After walking out of the theater I found myself pondering which of the films many characters was my favorite and as soon as I settled on one I would remember a glorious moment from another. While everyone was fantastic it was Murray, Norton, and Willis who really stole the show. For each of these actors I am hard pressed to think of a movie where they had done a better job. Each of these three actors’ respective portrayal of his character was one of highlights of the movie for me.
Now this brings me to my small complaints about the film. We have seen Andersen do films with large casts like this before and he did an excellent job of spending a good amount of time developing each character. The Royal Tenenbaums for example did a great job letting us understand and come to love each member of the family. Moonrise Kingdom did not do as great of job with this as I would have hoped for. After it was finished I found myself wishing we had been given more time with all of the side characters. I hadn’t got enough of Norton or Willis or Murray or any of the other fantastic characters when the credits had started to roll. Throughout the film we mainly follow Sam and Suzy’s young love and are only shown brief glimpses of what has been going on in all of these side character’s lives and their relationships with one another, but unfortunately glimpses are all we are really given. We are told and shown that something is going on there but this small sample is all that we are shown.
This was probably my single biggest complaint about the film and I have been pondering and considering this ever since leaving the theater and after much thought I realize this is actually much less of a negative than I had originally concluded. As much as I wanted to see more of these other characters they were not the focus of the film. They are brilliant and intriguing details of the story but ultimately small details. As many of you remember The Darjeeling Limited was preceded with a ten minute short titled Hotel Chevalier that was perhaps one of Andersens best works. Hotel Chevalier demonstrated that Andersen is capable of creating beautifully deep and intriguing characters and relationships in short amounts of time. It showed us that there is so much more to every character than what we are given on the screen. We can’t always be spoon fed every single detail, some of it needs to be inferred and we might need to read between the lines. The phenomenal side characters reminded me a lot of this. While we aren’t given much of these characters there is still so much there to infer and so much left to be filled in by us, the viewers. After coming to this conclusion I realized that Moonrise Kingdom was essentially a film about two young lovers intertwined with half a dozen short films portraying the rest of the cast which really in all honesty is not a negative. There is so much more there than what we are shown if only we look a little harder.
My only other complaint about the film is another one which I concluded was ultimately incorrect. In the first half of the film we see Sam and Suzy alone adventuring across the island. While it was cool seeing them travel I found that the interactions between the two were incredibly awkward. At first this drove me crazy. I thought less of the film due to the awkwardness that accompanied the two central protagonists being together. We see both children interacting with other people prior to them being alone with one another at which point they are not the least bit unnatural. Admittedly this effect lessened as the film progressed but none the less the second the two of them were alone it became a bit uncomfortable. At first I held this against the film but once again after further consideration I realized my miscalculation once again. The awkwardness and discomfort that arises when the two are together is not the result of poor acting or casting but rather a brilliant portrayal of young love, because you have to admit, young love can be quite awkward. These two realistically portrayed the true and uncouth nature of love at that age and how we all honestly acted in that same situation. Those two weren’t doing a poor job but an astounding one delivering to the audience a dash of true and honest emotion.
Moonrise Kingdom is an incredible movie. The all-star cast gives us one of the best character rosters I have ever seen and the film in its entirety is charming, heart-warming, witty and real. I have tried incredibly hard to find something bad to say about the film but every negative I can think of I find myself being able to justify. This is one of those movies that literally everyone can appreciate and because of that I recommend it to absolutely everyone. Moonrise Kingdom is definitely one of my favorites of Wes Andersen’s.
I give Moonrise Kingdom a 4.5/5. Now go watch this movie while it is still in theaters. You won’t regret it.
With all of that being said, what did you guys think of the film? How do you think it compared to his other work? Did you think Suzy and Sam were awkward together or am I just kind of crazy? Leave your thoughts in the commenst below!
With the recent release of The Pirates! Band of Misfits my mind has been wandering back to days spent watching Wallace and Gromit and classic Disney movies. Despite being a genre that gets overlooked and not taken seriously due to their tendency to be family oriented stories, animated movies make up some of my favorites of all time. Here is a list of my top ten favorites, many exhibiting the fact that they all aren’t geared solely at kids and if they are it is in no way a bad thing.
10. A Grand Day Out with Wallace and Gromit (1989)
Every time I find my self eating cheese and crackers I can’t stop myself from thinking about Wallace and Gromit and how I wouldn’t ever have to worry about running out of cheese again if I were able to get to the moon. Wallace and Gromit have always been one of my favorite duos so forgive me if this entry in the list is particularly subjective. This cheese loving team provides some incredibly witty and original stories and fantastically well done clay-animation. All of Wallace and Gromit’s early movies are fantastic (The Wrong Trousers just barely missed the list) but A Grand Day Out is too classic and too fantastic not to be on here.
9. Monster’s Inc. (2001)
This is another childhood favorite of mine. I remember seeing it in theaters and being amazed by the creative and heartfelt story and after watching it again recently still finding myself equally amazed. Pixar has always impressed me when it has come to telling original stories in a world of constantly regurgitated tales. Following and explaining the monsters that lurk in your closet and under your bed, Monster’s Inc. tells the story of two monsters, Mike and Sulley, as they go about their business and as they deal with the true monsters: humans. Every time I watch this movie I find my lip quivering when Sulley puts that last piece of wood in the door, no matter how hard I fight it. With the prequel, Monster’s University set for release sometime next year you can be sure to be seeing Mike and Sully’s face on the silver screen once again.
8. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
Miyazaki is one of the masters of animation. The worlds he creates are always so spectacular and magical, and the setting for Howl’s Moving Castle is no different. Miyazaki isn’t just fantastic at creating worlds but his characters are always deep and strongly developed and he is well-known for writing strong female protagonists. Howl’s Moving Castle follows my all time favorite Miyazaki lead lady, Sofi, as she becomes cursed by a witch and how she seeks out Howl, a wizard powerful enough to set her free. While all of Miyazaki’s film are phenomenal, Howl’s Moving Castle has the perfect balance of action and magic and rich characters and story to satisfy all audiences while not disappointing a single one.
7. Up (2009)
So Pixar is notorious for it’s heart wrenching endings and Up is notorious for instead starting on such a terrible note. In those first ten minutes of the movie, Up tells one of the best love stories of our time, better than most love stories told over the course 2 hours or more. While telling such a beautiful short story it quickly comes to a heart breaking end, leading to the movie starting on a down note, perfectly setting the mood for the next scene. You really understand Carl as a character at this early point and why he is a such a grumpy old man making you feel attached to this character you normally wouldn’t. But from there it only goes up (no pun intended) and continues on to tell the story of an amazing adventure while also building some of best and richest characters Pixar has ever made.
6. The Animatrix (2003)
As I have written about before, The Matrix is one of the favorites of all time and The Animatrix is my favorite addition to the series. For those of you unfamiliar with the film, The Animatrix is a collection of nine short stories pertaining to the Matrix. All of these stories build on the already brilliant Matrix universe, expanding it by exploring the corners of the world that the trilogy doesn’t shed light on. Each short has a different artist which gives the collection a really eclectic style making it feel kind of unreal working perfectly with several of the stories underlying themes of existentialism. Regardless of your feelings towards the later 2 films in the series if you enjoyed the first movie you will definitely love The Animatrix.
5. Akira (1988)
This is a movie I only recently discovered while searching for the best sci-fi movies. While only recently discovered, it is one I immediately fell in love with. The story takes place in Neo-Tokyo and follows a bike gang as one of the members encounters a strange boy and soon discovers he has great power. This is one of those movies that the plot is hard to describe without making it sound weird or without giving away too much of the plot. All in all it is not only one of the best animated movies I have ever seen but also one of the better sci-fi ones as well. The movie is almost 25 years old now so some of the animation is a little cheesy but the story more than enough makes up for that.
4. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Everyone knew this was going to be on here somewhere. The Toy Story series is obviously a fantastic one but it has always held a special place in my generation’s heart. We watched Andy open Buzz as a kid at the same age and then heading off to college as he did the same. This emotional connection to the story only heightens the already phenomenal conclusion to a phenomenal series. I know there was so much doubt about this movie prior to its release, retreading on such a beloved series but after watching it all doubts immediately vanished. The fear that Toy Story 3 was simply an attempt for Pixar to make some more money was abolished after seeing the absolutely perfect conclusion to one of my all time favorite series. Many movies and series will have great endings but few have that absolutely perfect one that Toy Story 3 has.
3. Princess Mononoke (1997)
Hayao Miyazaki has an interesting approach to character design and the allotment of negative and positive qualities. He never tries to write a purely evil character or force but always tries to write characters with both positive and negative qualities. He makes the motivation of every antagonist clear leading to more believable and relatable characters, heroes and villains alike. This duality approach to design while apparent in all of his films is most clear in Princess Mononoke. This fantasy adventure story follows Ashitaka as he investigates the origins of a demon who attacked his village and alleviate the curse it laid upon him while it was at it. The film proceeds into a thought-provoking battle between the preservation of nature versus progress and industrialization with gods, demons, samurai and action in between. While all of Miyazaki’s films are amazing Princess Mononoke sits above the others and is hands down my favorite from the director.
2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
Yes I am from Portland and yes I love Wes Andersen. No I am not a hipster. Andersen is just a fantastic director who makes great movies and his first delve into animation is no exception. Fantastic Mr. Fox is Andersen’s take on the Roald Dahl original and is absolutely fantastic (pun intended). Andersen takes the already brilliant story and combines it with his quirky style, an amazing cast, and a stunning soundtrack into a cinematically stunning, feel good film. This charming, heartwarming and clever story is delivered perfectly by George Clooney, Bill Murray, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe and Michael Gambon. While being a clay-mation movie it is still able to capture some shots that the cinematographer in me gets excited about such as the scene where Mr. Fox and his wife are talking with the water gushing past them in the background – gives me shivers every time. If there is one thing Wes Andersen does well, it’s style and style is definitely not lacking from this fantastically quirky film.
1. The Incredibles (2004)
I absolutely love this movie. So it’s clear that Pixar does animated movies well but with The Incredibles it showed the world hat it could also make an awesome and original super hero movie. Pixar created its own universe of super heroes and came out with its own movie that rivals most other super hero movies out there. The thing they do incredibly well is tell a sweet super hero story while at the same time presenting and telling a great family story. They blend the two together so well that neither side is weakened by the other producing an amazing super hero movie which just so happens to also be a great family film. While not being nearly as dark or gritty as the Watchmen, the story I have always felt was an inspiration to The Incredibles, it still has all of the action, super heroes, gadgets, and powers which makes the former and the rest of the genre so exciting, as well as being heart warming on top of it all. When asked about my favorite super hero movie a handful always come to mind that I have to decide between and The Incredibles is always among them. Not only is The Incredible a great animated movie, and not only is it a great super hero movie, it is just a straight up great movie. One of my all time favorites. With a sequel currently in the works I couldn’t be more excited.
So that is my list of my top 10 personal favorites. Sorry for the lack of variety but Pixar and Miyazaki are just the kings of the genre. Also I would like to apologize for the lack of any DreamWorks or Disney movies showing up on the list. Both are some of the top dogs as far as animated movies go but neither of them were able to compete with Studio Ghibli and Pixar and the others on the list, but admittedly How to Train Your Dragon, Beauty and the Beast, and Alice in Wonderland were all very close to making the list and just barely missed it.
So what are some of your guys’ favorites? Tell me about them as well as your own personal lists in the comments below or email ‘em to us at email@example.com!
How to Train Your Dragon
Alice in Wonderland
Beauty and the Beast
A Scanner Darkly