This ‘Kingdom’ is full of childlike wonder

All the trailers for Moonrise Kingdom had a dreamlike, trippy quality to them. The music, especially, made me feel like I was either on some happy drug or had found Narnia in the 60s. My mom asked me to repeat the title to her three times when I told her what movie I was seeing, and she was still confused. So was I. When my best friend said “I need some creativity! Can we please see Moonrise Kingdom?!” I had no idea what to expect, but I was intrigued, so we went. This is definitely one of those movies that divides people, simply based on whether you buy the idea of such a kooky world. You’re either completely turned off, or want to know more. From the very beginning, it’s obvious this movie is not your normal time at the cinema. Yet it still displays so many of the lovable movie elements through these awkward and silly and sweet characters.

At the heart of the movie are Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), two teenagers who run away to be together. Sam is an ex-boy scout, so he knows how to camp and hide their tracks. Suzy is a depressed young girl, but she seems at peace with Sam, and loves her books. She reads out loud at night until Sam falls asleep. Sam and Suzy’s departure sets off a hunt along their island of New Penzance. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) reports Sam’s disappearance to the police, and Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) begins the search. After discovering Sam is an orphan, and that his latest foster family does not want him back, they seem to soften towards his circumstances. Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) soon discover that their daughter is missing. After finding a box of letters Sam and Suzy traded for a year, they connect the dots.

The search for Sam and Suzy and the kids’ interactions with each other and the adults makes the movie sweet, funny, silly and awkward all at once. Sam’s fellow boy scouts are a great group of kids who lighten the movie considerably. There is a subplot with the adults, but it’s not entirely necessary aside from giving them more scenes. I love the adult actors, but the kids are undeniably and rightfully the focus. Sam and Suzy are two messed up kids, for different reasons, but they connect. And that connection keeps them going, so much so that they try to run away, even though both seem to know their time is limited. Yet they keep trying, and their scenes are filled with genuine awkwardness, friendship, and young love.

This movie was written  and directed by Wes Anderson,  known for The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Unlimited, and Fantastic Mr. Fox. He clearly has specific visions for his films and sticks to them, no matter what. This is a sweet comedy underneath all the other stuff. But the other stuff is also entertaining. The score is one of the best things about this movie. It’s the perfect silly, otherworldly tone for this dreamlike movie.

Moonrise Kingdom is not for everyone, but the nice thing is, you can tell just by the trailer whether or not it’s for you. For those who are curious, it’s a sweet, lighthearted movie for the summer that will leave you with a smile on your face for some time.

Bring on the fairytales

When the casting for for Snow White and the Huntsman was announced over a year ago, I was very intrigued. Charlize Theron, I had no doubt, would have a blast as the evil queen. But Kristen Stewart? I was curious to see how this would work. I do believe Stewart is capable of good work, as she’s shown in other movies – the Twilight series not included. It’s an unfortunate part of her resume that I hope she can get away from eventually, because I do believe she can do more than that. But besides that, I was pretty happy with the casting. I can’t get enough Chris Hemsworth, and the dwarves made up of Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, and others? Awesome. Then this poster came out, showing an obviously darker version of the tale. Again, I was totally okay with that. Snow White is not really one of my favorite princesses, so I was happy to be interested and excited for this version, because I hoped it might make me enjoy the tale more.

Then the teaser trailer came out, and I was really pumped. On top of Theron’s crazy queen riddles and the awesome music, it looked like a solid tale. And when I finally saw it last night, I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. I got pretty much what I expected, and was even surprised by a few parts. The movie makes for a really awesome trailer, that’s for sure. At a little over 2 hours, it sometimes feels a bit too long, but picks up pretty quickly again. Sometimes, the music was a bit too much, but that was my main complaint. Like, I don’t need to hear a sad story and then be overwhelmed with violins. I’d like to feel sad because of the story, not because the music tells me I should be…if that makes sense. But overall, it’s good entertainment, and if you liked the trailer, I think you get what you want.

I really enjoyed this movie because it blended so many different stories. Lord of the Rings was the most prominent influence, but they really took the elements of the original fairytale and incorporated them into this epic fantasy. The dark forest and the rotten apple were updated particularly well. The addition of the Huntsman, as well as Prince William, also serves the story well, as Hemsworth becomes the anchor for both Snow White and the audience.

The story begins with Queen Ravenna (Theron), who retains her beauty by taking the hearts of others. Her rule started after she married and subsequently killed Snow White’s father, locking Snow in a tower for her early life. Snow’s childhood friend William escaped and has been fighting under her banner ever since (see where this is going?). Ravenna learns from her tricked-out mirror that she needs to take Snow White’s heart and she’ll never have to worry about aging again. She sends her super-creepy brother Finn (Sam Spruell) to get Snow White, but she escapes instead, and despite giving chase, Finn and his cronies lose her to the Dark Forest. Since the queen’s powers are useless there, she gets the Huntsman (Hemsworth) to go after her by promising to use her powers to resurrect his dead wife. So he goes after Snow White, but eventually ends up helping her. Along the way, she encounters more fantastical creatures, and of course, her dwarves.

One of the things I liked about this movie was that they did focus more on Snow White’s innocence versus the Queen’s corruption, and they showed it through different scenes in the movie. Snow was inexperienced and made mistakes, but she also was able to feel  compassion for others, and that showed even in the movie’s final scenes. Stewart did a fine job with what she was given, and she toned down the eye twitching/lip-biting/hair-combing a lot. Hemsworth is great as the Huntsman. Sure, the trailer makes him out to be a medieval Thor, and it’s true in the action scenes. But he is also inherently likable, and that only adds to his performance and character backstory. Theron is just having a ball playing Ravenna. Sometimes, it goes slightly over the top, but even then she reins it in and it’s okay. It was also nice to see a Prince who did not just swoop in at the end, but was consistently badass throughout. I mean it’s hard to compete against medieval Thor, but he tried admirably. And his childhood connection with Snow White was still sweet.

The movie is also gorgeous to look at. The effects are really, really cool and definitely add to the tone of the movie. One of the most memorable scenes comes as Queen Ravenna returns from a venture outside the castle, but is using her magic to do so, appearing to turn into a flock of ravens. But her landing in the throne room is gross. She crawls out from a dark, inky mire of feathers while birds flop and twitch around her. It’s definitely one of the film’s better and darker moments. But there are also unexpectedly light moments, including one dazzling scene showing what Snow White’s rule could be like. It’s a reminder that this is, after all, a fairytale.

Overall, I liked how the fairytale elements and the cast came together in the movie. While it is a bit unevenly paced and maybe a bit too musically timed, it is still a really cool retelling of a fairytale, with some pretty awesome special effects. And I could always use more fairytales.

Bonus points for the awesome Florence and the Machine song in the credits!