A few weeks ago saw Selena and me haunting the Cameo, the very bestest movie theatre in town for three movies this week: Moonrise Kingdom, To Rome with Love, and The Dark Knight Rises. I’ve spent a little time thinking about what the heck ties these three very different movies together, but I realized today that they all reflect or remind me of childhood experiences or interests. I typically go for entertainment that provides some sort of escapism from my day to day, so this combined with the velvety fog of nostalgia made for an enjoyable week at the movies.
Moonrise Kingdom continues a winning streak by Wes Anderson who has entered a more joyous period of his work (I include Fantastic Mr. Fox with this trend). There is still a lot of angst and family issues going down (the one main protagonist is an orphan who finds a father figure!), but there is a real energy and vibrancy to the proceedings that just put a big grin on my face. That paired with the great design, great deadpan performances (Bruce Willis is STELLAR), and a great soundtrack (as usual) made this the best viewing of the week.
One of the main elements that deeply evokes my childhood is the presence of the Boy Scouts of America analogue, the Khaki Scouts. Anderson loves settings and environments that have rigid design, and his shooting technique regularly creates doll house-esque cut aways of the locations which all lends itself nicely to the elaborate camping locations. Also here is the casual brutality of boys of a certain age. This took me right back to my weekly meetings, which regularly featured bone-crunching rounds of ‘touch’ football and the ‘delightfully’ titled rugby variation, Smear the Queer.
It is important to note too that the boys do bond in the end and save the day for our young lovers (did I mention them?), and form a solid crew of misfits. This is really the story of my own childhood group of surly brothers in arms; things started rough, but got so much better as I got older and more proficient at games like Capture the Flag. I have fond memories of being at camp up at frosty Camp Daniel Boone, plotting with my cohorts over creating a un-spirit stick award we would win for not giving a damn about correct dress and failing to sing songs with everyone else at the start of the day. That and constant card playing…oh and exploding every container of bug spray in the campfire at the top of the week. Truly good times!
Next up was To Rome with Love, the new Woody Allen feature which does a great job of hitting all the postcard locales in city. I had really loved his last feature, Midnight in Paris, and I have to say in relation, Rome was a bit disappointing. That said, I did enjoy the movie, and liked the intercutting between the short stories. I particularly liked the story with Roberto Benigni who becomes an instant celebrity, and the insane shower/opera story with Allen himself, both for their sheer absurdity. Alec Baldwin had the best performance in the movie acting almost as Greek chorus (soloist?) for Jessie Eisenberg, who is navigating the realm of infidelity. I really liked how Baldwin would at first seem present in the scene with the other characters for the sole purpose of interacting with Eisenberg’s internal monologue, only to be called out by other characters in the scene. It was a delightfully bizarre touch. Having visited Rome back in high school for a very formative trip, it was really wonderful seeing all the great Roman locales spotlighted in the movie.
The Dark Knight Rises closed out the week of good movies, and for anyone who knows me as a Batman fan, it was a big deal for me to see right away. Batman has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and the combination of the Tim Burton films, the incredible animated series in the 1990’s, and my beloved Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told book were the one-two-three punch who made me a life-long fan of the character. Christopher Nolan’s movies have presented a version of the character that I enjoy, but have not completely loved, but I was still very excited to see the finale to his vision of the character.
Coming off of The Dark Knight, which was brilliant movie, expectations were high going into this one, and by and large I was not disappointed. I know folks have had quibbles with a few plot points, but nothing really seemed out of order in a way that bothered me. I wasn’t crazy about Bruce disappearing for 7 years after Harvey Dent’s death, but again, this was not out of character for this version of Batman. Nolan has emphasized over and over that Bruce is not entirely at ease with his mission, and still desired to have a life with woman he loved, Rachael. It was logical for him to sulk out of the public eye once he had lost this dream….crappy, but logical.
All of the performances were uniformly great, with Anne Hathaway being a real standout as Catwoman (and actually playing the Catwoman character of the comics, not the strange supernatural variation that other movies locked onto), and Tom Hardy giving a frightening and delightfully malevolent performance as Bane. I also really like Joseph Gordan-Levitt, who was fantastic as tough cop John Blake…he had a very enjoyable character arc in the movie. The story was pretty solid, I really enjoyed the slow build of Bane’s plan in town and I really liked the interlude in the impossible prison that Bruce is trapped in the final act. The Hans Zimmer soundtrack also helped make thing INSANELY EXCITING; those chanting prisoners have been in my head for weeks!
I do regret that this version of Batman seems to solely rely on brawn and technology, but it was pretty impressive that Nolan really did conclude his vision of the character. Hopefully the live action movies are rested a while for Bats; I am looking forward to the next iteration, but let’s take some time off!