Thursday, May 24, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson is known for combining dry humor with flawed characters that become the hero of the melancholy story.  His films are known  for their cinematography and soundtracks featuring folk and early rock music.  Wes Anderson frequently works with many of the same actors and in Moonrise Kingdom he doesn't deviate from his comfort zone by working with his writing partner Roman Copala along with actors Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman.

The film is about Sam (Jared Gilman), a 12 year old orphan, who runs away from Camp Ivanhoe where his Khaki Scout troupe 55 is preparing for the Great Khaki Scout Hullabaloo.  Sam runs away with Suzy (Kara Hayward), the melancholy daughter of a local family (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand).  Together they plan to live happily ever after at mile 3.5 (better known as Moonrise Kingdom) of the ChickChaw Territory on the Island of New Penzance.  Upon discovering the missing children a local search party led by the Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), the Khaki Scoutmaster Randy Ward (Edward Norton), and Suzy's parents fan out to find them.  Mayhem ensues.  Social Services (Tilda Swinton) gets called in to bring order to the mayhem that has been created. 

Moonrise Kingdom debuted at the Cannes Film Festival to amazing reviews and you can expect the attention to continue to grow for this film.  The performances from the ensemble cast are excellent; going against type cast for some (Edward Norton) and with the type cast (Bruce Willis).  Bill Murray and Francis McDormand portray a broken marriage with the brilliance we have come to expect by them.  Harvey Keitel makes a small appearance as the Khaki Scout leader at the Hullabloo at the climax of the story.  All the supporting characters have a purpose for being there. The actors deliver and the love story between two teenagers is at moments convincing and at moments funny.  The best for me was the narrator Bob Balaban who comes into the story at the critical time.

This is a brilliant script, which is to be expected from Wes Anderson, and is an early nominee for best original screenplay. I cannot say enough positive things about this film without giving away the story any more than I have already discussed.  If you are a Wes Anderson fan and have seen any of his other films (Rushmore-1998, The Royal Tenenbaums-2001, The Darjeeling Limited -2007, or Fantastic Mr. Fox-2009) you will enjoy Moonrise Kingdom.  This is a 5 Quack film and also an early nominee for best film.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

2012 DC Outdoor Film Festivals

Watching movies under the stars in the DC area is a summer tradition. We have several options of when/where to watch movies. When the weather agrees with us they can be a lot of fun, so grab your friends, some beverages and snacks to enjoy during the movie. This might be the only time that it is okay to Quack during the movie...

The image attached is a schedule I put together for the major outdoor screenings.

Crystal Screen: Summer of Romance (Mondays at 9pm) located near the Crystal City metro at 18th and South Bell Street.

Bethesda Outdoor Movies (Tuesdays at 9pm) Woodmont Triangle, the corner of Norfolk and Auburn Avenues.
NoMa Summer Screen: End of the World (Wednesdays at 7pm) shown in a lot on L St. NE, between 2nd and 3rd streets.

Capitol Riverfront Front: Treasure Hunting (Thursdays at 8:45pm) at Tingey Plaza located at 100 Tingey Street SE.

Hirshhorn Summer Camp: Baby Kamp (Thursdays at 8 PM) not outdoors per se but frolicing at the mall afterwards. Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum, Ring Auditorium. 7th Street at Independence Ave. SW

Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival: Election Night (Fridays at 8pm) two blocks from the Rosslyn Metro.

National Harbor: Movies on the Potomac (Fridays and Sundays at sunset) 

The U Street Movie Series is a new addition to the scene with a film the last Wednesday of the month. 
  • June 27: DC Cab
  • July 25: Protocol
  • August 22: The American President
  • September 26:  The Pelican Brief
Finally, the folks involved with the DC Screen on the Green released their schedule.  I believe they had difficulties in planning because of the current rehabiliation project on the National Mall. 
  • Monday, July 16: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Wednesday, July 25: It Happened One Night 
  • Monday, July 30: From Here to Eternity
  • Monday, August 6: Psycho
Check the blog regularly for movie reviews to help plan your week ahead for indoor and outdoor films.  "LIKE" the blog on facebook.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Men in Black III

Barry Sonnenfeld returns as the director for the third installment of the Men in Black series along with the familiar lead characters of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones).  Most that go to see this film will already have an idea of what to expect.  Whether it be from the previous films, cartoon series, or comics this film is expected to deliver.
We begin by learning who Boris "The Animal" (Jermaine Clement), who breaks out of the Lunar-MAX prison on the moon's surface and is the last of an alien species that has a 40 year old grudge with Agent K.  The story then jumps right into the ongoing dysfunctional relationship between MiB partners Agent J and Agent K.  Immediately reminding the audience of the neuralizer and resulting witty excuses that Agent J tells the witnesses.  Apparently any large metallic object that falls from the sky is a result of not turning out cell phones off when we are flying.  Also, if anyone ever flushed a child's goldfish it will come back as a giant alien and attempt to eat you.

The evil plan of Boris "The Animal" is to go back in time and kill Agent K resulting in a modern day end of the Earth scenario.  To avoid the apacolypse, Agent J must travel in time to 1969, to stop an alien from assassinating the younger Agent K (Josh Brolin) and altering the timeline.  The story really takes off from here with a few obvious time travel cliches helping along the way that should remind the audience of "Back to the Future" (1985).  With a film like MiB now involving time travel it gives them the opportunity to play with history (or theory) and try to re-explain the reasons for such things as the first manned spaceflight to the Earth's moon which launched from Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969. 

The performances from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are exactly what the audience can expect.  However, it is interesting that this is the third time that Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones have worked together having previously shared the screen with "In the Valley of Elah" and "No Country for Old Men" in 2007.  Having worked closely together it can be easier to copy and impersonate someone and it comes as no surprise that Josh Brolin is completely believable as a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones. 

Of course the story is about Agent J and Agent K, but the scenes are stolen by Jermaine Clement, and Michael Stuhlbarg (Griffin).  Jermaine Clement is probably best known for his New Zealand import character from "Flight of the Conchords" who is quirky and lovable, but also known for his voice work.  Michael Stuhlbarg plays Griffin who is an alien that has the ability to see the future and the various outcomes.  It comes as little surprise that Michael Stuhlbarg stands out as any fan of "Boardwalk Empire" is familiar with his performance as Arnold Rothstein.  Other guest appearances in the film include Bill Hader of "Saturday Night Live" giving a fresh MiB background story to the character of Andy Warhol.

To the fans of the MiB franchise you will see Mannix (MiB 2 in 2002) selling from a food cart; the worms all packed and ready to leave Earth; and everyone's favorite talking dog Frank (MiB in 1997) on a Coney Island billboard.  The film remains entertaining and while I wasn't a fan of MiB 2, this could be an attempt at rebooting the franchise and could be fun to see what other time related issues Agent J and K could resolve even though time travel is a tired concept.  While Will Smith has been a box office hit for July 4th, this film could be an attempt at hitting the box office for Father's Day as it has been so long between films it could have a new generation of fans due to the successful cartoon series.  The film returns to its roots and gives audiences the chance to relive much of what they first enjoyed – a smart, sci-fi, buddy comedy that embraces everything weird and wonderful about the unknown universe. 

The 3D effects only worked for me in one scene that involved lasers, but it is still worth 3 Quacks and if you are looking for something to see in the theater you could do a lot worse.  Who knows this could be ytour new favorite moment in human history.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dark Shadows

In “Dark Shadows” we’re treated to Tim Burton’s re-imagining of the TV cult classic from the early 70’s.  As with most of Tim Burton's films, the usual friends Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter come along for the cinematic experience that reintroduces a new generation to the town of Collinsport, Maine.

Tim Burton brilliantly begins the film with the character background of Barnabas Collins using a voice over provided by Johnny Depp.  In the year 1752, Joshua and Naomi Collins, with young son Barnabas, set sail from Liverpool, England to start a new life in America to escape the mysterious curse that has plagued the Collins family name.  Two decades pass and Barnabas (Johnny Depp) is a rich, powerful playboy, until he makes the mistake of breaking the heart of Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), a witch, who curses him and turns him into a vampire and buries him alive for two centuries.
 Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.  The family is lead by siblings Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeifer) and Roger Collins (Jonny Lee Miller) with their children Carolyn Stoddard (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz) and David Collins (Gulliver McGrath), respectively.  Also in the house is Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter) who is a psychiatrist intending to help David Collins who is coping with the recent loss of his mother; the young and beautiful Victoria Winters (Bella Heathcote) who is answering a newspaper advertisement for a nannie position; and the drunk house hand Willie (Jackie Earle Haley). 

It may go unnoticed by some, but Seth Grahame-Smith is the writer of the screenplay and also wrote the novel "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter", which comes to theaters June 2012.  Seth Grahame-Smith has an interesting way of writing the vampire that is different than the cliches used over the years.  He finds a way to make the vampire a compassionate character, which is much like the original Barnabas Collins portrayed by Jonathan Frid.

"Dark Shadows" is a very entertaining film that pays honest respect to the original series and could possibly even be a possible sequel for Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.  The Gothic television soap opera was wildly over-the-top in its day, and this new movie seeks to outdo that camp, with clever writing and crashing waves against the rocks to reflect the change between scenes.  The film brings an endless parade of sight gags and cultural references to the decade many of us have forgotten.  For the new generation and the old, this is a 3 Quack film that will visually impress.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

People Like Us

Who is Alex Kurtzman?  Is he the writer of Transformers, "Star Trek" and "Fringe", or is he something altogether different?  "People Like Us" is a sample of his softer side and a more creative writing style that doesn't require explosions, fight sequences, CGI or 3D special effects.  He knows how to write a character in such a away that you want to cheer for them, even when you know they are a jerk.  The problem with the rest of his resume is that he hasn't really needed to use his character development and writing skills as those would be secondary elements to the films he usually works with.  With the resume that Alex Kurtzman has, it might be surprising that this is actually his debut film as the writer and director. 

The story is a surprisingly fresh twist on the son trying to overcome the dysfunctional family and disapproving father.  The story begins with us being thrown into the shit storm that is the life of Sam (Chris Pine) who works as a barter system trader, which requires a unique skill in manipulating and taking advantage of his customers to make a profit.  He is dedicated to his job to a point that he ignores his family and loved ones.  This leaves him to be absent from his parents Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer) and ill father prior to his death.  Upon returning home to his family home, after missing the funeral of his father, he is given a large sum of money to be delivered to the half-sister Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew he had.  The story develops around this element as the relationship between Sam and Frankie grows and becomes awkwardly ambiguous.  Sam's girlfriend Hannah (Olivia Wilde) is yet another story arc that while important never gets properly developed.

The smaller roles of Jon Favreau as the asshole boss at the Barter and Trading company; Mark Duplass as the downstairs single neighbor with an attraction towards Frankie; and Phillip Baker Hall as the attorney that has to deliver the message from Sam's father each provide a nice compliment of edginess and softness to counter the tense situations of the film. 

For me this is a film that deserves 4 Quacks and reminds me of some underrated films from the past year.  On an emotional level it reminded me of "Friends With Benefits" and "The Music Never Stopped".  The writing and performances are all well done.  I anticipate this film not having a long life in the theater, but hopefully you will all mark you calendars to look for "People Like Us" on June 29th.  If you miss it in the theaters, be sure to add this to your Netflix account or hunt it out at Redbox.  You will not be disappointed. 

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