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Review: Moonrise Kingdom and The Expendables 2

By September 5, 2012No Comments

Moonrise Kingdom posterWes Anderson may be the cur­rently work­ing dir­ect­or least suited to using 3D. His scenes are often flat tableaux with his char­ac­ters spread out lat­er­ally across the screen. If he was telling the story of Moonrise Kingdom 1,000 years ago it would be a tapestry, like Bayeux, and I think he’d prob­ably be OK with that.

That visu­al style suited the pup­petry of the delight­ful Fantastic Mr Fox but this new film pop­u­lates the flat, the­at­ric­al, planes with liv­ing, breath­ing human act­ors – not just act­ors, movie stars (includ­ing Bruce Willis and Ed Norton).

The story is also pure Anderson – out­siders find­ing their own path in the face of the dis­ap­prov­al or simple incom­pre­hen­sion of oth­ers. Our old-before-his-time hero for this film is Eagle Scout Sam Shukowsky (Jared Gilman): orphan and out­cast, water­col­our­ist and pipe smoker.

The time is 1965 and the place is an island off the coast of New England. Shukowsky has fallen in love beau­ti­ful young mal­con­tent, Suzy (Kara Hayward) whose par­ents just don’t under­stand. They make a pact to meet in the middle of the island to start an ideal­ist­ic – and, frankly impossible to main­tain – new life.

The two dis­ap­pear­ances spark a “scout-and-girl” hunt led by the island’s only police (Willis) and the naïve but ded­ic­ated scout mas­ter Norton. This is twee Anderson, witty, warm and endear­ing (if you are me) or glib and annoy­ing (if you are one of the people who did­n’t like, say, The Royal Tenenbaums). Despite it’s daffi­ness there’s a real warmth to the kids’ rela­tion­ship and the sup­port­ing cast are either reli­ably aligned to type (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton) or sat­is­fy­ingly against (Willis).

The Expendables 2 posterTalking of Willis, he plays a mock­ing ver­sion of his wise­crack­ing tough guy per­sona in The Expendables 2, a rap­idly deployed follow-up to Sly Stallone’s sur­pris­ingly effect­ive hit from 2010. In fact, every­one involved is deli­ciously prick­ing their per­so­nas: Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme and Norris all send them­selves up good and prop­er in a film that – dir­ec­ted by Con-Air’s Simon West rather than Stallone him­self – is bet­ter shot than it has a right to be although there’s too much digit­al blood for my liking.

Our team of age­ing mer­cen­ar­ies have been called into action one more time – to res­cue the con­tents of a crashed safe some­where in Albania, the con­tents of which hold the key to glob­al nuc­le­ar non-proliferation. Standing in their way is Jean-Claude Van Damme and his array of idio­syn­crat­ic line read­ings. The scene is set for a tumul­tu­ous cli­max when Balkan rivers will run black with hair dye and our 80s megastars will swap catch-phrases with a nod and a wink.

This edi­tion of The Expendables is tight­er and more enter­tain­ing than the ori­gin­al, still per­fect fod­der for those of us who remem­ber when action movies had campy wit as well as explo­sions, when shots were held for more than a frac­tion of a second and the cam­era – for the most part – stayed tied down. Be pre­pared for a third edi­tion which I think should be called The Expendables 3: Botox Squad.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on Wednesday 5 September, 2012.

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: If you look back on the pre­vi­ous Telluride Diary entries, you’ll see that both these films were viewed on the US trip rather than in Wellington.