Prepare to add Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch to the list of superb comedy duos as result of ‘Prince Avalanche’, the mirthful new film from writer/director, David Gordon Green. The humour is ace and the film has a strong emotional backbone that moves you from laughing at the characters to laughing with them.
In the summer of 1988 two road workers, Alvin (Rudd) and Lance (Hirsch) are tasked with doing maintenance on an area of bush land recently destroyed by a fire. Isolation forces an uneasy friendship that results in odd conversations and misadventures.
Not a lot happens in ‘Prince Avalanche’ plot wise, but through Alvin and Lance you witness the birth of a friendship. It’s established that Alvin and Lance’s relationship is one of convenience. They are not only thrown together because of work, but Alvin hired Lance because he is dating his sister. In the seclusion of nature they annoy each other and have hilarious bouts of awkward banter. Alvin’s maturity and respect for the work puts him at odds with Lance’s short attention span and yearning for the city lifestyle. Discussions reveal what motivates each character as well as their interactions with a crazy local truck driver (Lance LeGault in fine form) and a local woman looking for possessions in her burnt out house. It’s touching to watch Alvin and Lane’s forced acquaintance evolve into a genuine friendship. Rudd and Hirsch complement each other brilliantly as they develop an amicable respect for each other and indulge in each character’s dunderhead ways. Almost every word that comes out of Rudd’s mouth raises a chuckle and it’s impressive to see him take the most mundane words and spin them into comedy gold. Hirsch’s youthful arrogance combined with his foolishness makes him a loveable fool and it’s a career best so far for the actor.
Gordon Green lets his two leading men shine and crafts beautiful montages of their merriment that’s complimented by a wonderful score by David Wingo and Explosions in the Sky. These tender artistic flourishes are complimented by the work of cinematographer, Tim Orr, who captures beauty in the ashes. Bubbling beneath this tale of companionship are strong themes of resurgence as the charred forest around the two characters shows signs of regrowth with their new-found camaraderie. Even the dividing lines Alvin and Lance paint onto the road suggests they are laying down the foundations for a bond that will last till those lines fade away.
‘Prince Avalanche’ is a very moving film. It functions on so many different levels of the emotional spectrum that you may find tears of laughter mixed with the sobs of heartache. It elicits a passionate response from subtle and beautiful execution.
The Popcorn Junkie
Before you hit middle age it’s possible to have a Quarter-Life Crisis (QLC). People prone to QLC are usually from Gen-Y and somewhere in their twenties. Despite having money, shelter and employment their life is a great struggle. Lena Dunham has turned QLC into a career with ‘Girls’ and Josh Radnor embarrassed himself with the QLC inspired film ‘Liberal Arts’. For all the whining and complaining of disaffected and entitled young people, ‘Frances Ha’ arrives with a refreshing amount of buoyancy to dance and charm its way through QLC territory.
The optimism of youth gets scrambled with the affairs of adults in ‘Mud’, the latest film from writer/director, Jeff Nichols (‘Take Shelter’). It’s a stripped back approach to tracking the process of growing up, but lacks the faith to see the plan executed to the end.
Today was a five film day. Coincidentally, I was working off five hours of sleep too. It’s always good to keep everything in the theme of the festival. As a result my brain is mush. Who am I? Purple Monkey Dishwasher.
Here’s a quick wrap up of the line up:
‘Cutie and the Boxer’ – Moving documentary about the struggles of an artistic couple who express their feelings for each other and the world around them through their art. My first solid cry of the festival.
‘Borgman’ – A home invasion flick of sorts with light supernatural themes, but your guess is as good as mine when it comes to deciphering this vague and methodical film. One of the weaker sessions of the festival so far.
‘Shopping’ – New Zealand was the setting for this film about a young guy looking for an identity in a teenage wasteland. Brutal in parts with sparks of hope. Features a group of very talented young actors.
‘Downloaded’ – Documentary about the music sharing website Napster. Simple but effective. Fascinating to witness the beginning of a digital revolution.
Frances Ha – Greta Gerwig carries this brilliant film about a twenty-something living in New York City and bumbling her way through life with an infectious enthusiasm. Hilarious and charming with a refreshing amount of optimism for a generation-Y themed movie about a pre-mid-life crisis.
Tomorrow is another five film day with ‘The Attack’, ‘Stories We Tell’, ‘Lovelace’, ‘Pluto’ and ‘Only God Forgives’.
Time to get the appropriate amount of sleep to match the number of screenings.
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When you have a little spare time at a film festival the best thing to do is…see a film. With Thursday’s morning schedule free of festival films it was an opportunity to head to Dendy Newtown Sydney to see Jeff Nichols’ new film ‘Mud’ which is currently in an extremely (almost criminal) limited run in Australia.
‘Mud’ tells the story of two kids who help a stranger (Matthew McConaughey) living in a swampland in America’s south. The kids approach the situation with innocent optimism, and it’s interesting seeing the characters develop in their interactions with the damaged adult characters. McConaughey continues his superb run with performances (‘Lincoln Lawyer’, ‘Killer Joe’, ‘Magic Mike’ & ‘Bernie’) and the film looks fantastic.
The first proper Sydney Film Festival session of the day was ‘Oh, Boy’. Set in Berlin, Germany, and shot in black and white, the film focuses on a university drop out wafting through life. It has a Larry David level of awkward comedy throughout that’s subtle but effective. It has a surprising amount of depth and has a lot to say about the direction less situation of ‘Generation-Y’.
The next ticket waiting to be claimed was for director, David Gordon Green’s ‘Prince Avalanche’ starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, playing road maintenance workers mending an area ravaged by brushfires in 1988. The film is hilarious and instantly became one of my favourite films so far in the festival. The doofus duo are amazing and there is a wonderful tale of friendship woven into the story. The score is also wonderful and matches the kooky montages placed throughout the film nicely. I will gush further about this film at a later date.
Finishing off the day and taking a few years off my life was the slasher/home invasion film ‘You’re Next’. It’s an exhilarating film with lots of effective scares and an ace lead performance by Sharni Vinson. Ignore any comparison this film gets to ‘Scream’ or ‘Cabin in the Woods’ because it’s not in the same league, but certainly the division below. Definitely one to see with a big crowd.
Three good festival films and one decent imposter film makes me a happy film geek.
Tomorrow’s films are ‘Cutie and the Boxer’, ‘Borgman’, ‘Shopping’, ‘Downloaded’ and ‘Frances Ha’.
Follow along on Twitter @popcornjunkies
Nothing says “get into the theatre and indulge in cinema you film geekling” like heavy rain. Umbrellas were out in force for my second day of the Sydney Film Festival, and most of them were left behind in venues, bars and bathrooms. If you have shares in black market brollies, prepare to head to boom-town.
‘For Those In Peril’ was my first film of the day, the début feature film from director, Paul Wright. It’s a visceral tale of grief that tells the story of the sole survivor (George MacKay) of a boating accident who is readjusting to life in a small Scottish village. Based on a this film, Wright is a name to watch. It’s a powerful film that blends seafaring folklore with the raw emotions of losing a loved one.
After ‘For Those In Peril’ I had to eat a few emotions that came to the surface. Only nachos could tame this beast and it was the sustenance needed to prepare me for dessert that was Michel Gondry’s ‘Mood Indigo’.
Gondry holds nothing back in ‘Mood Indigo’ and it’s a creative delight with all his trademark quirks and filmmaking ingenuity. Sometimes it’s so clever it hurts, but going gaga on planet Gondry is always a pleasure.
During the day I dropped by the Sydney Film Festival Hub at lower Town Hall for a ‘meet the filmmaker’ session with Paul Wright and Australian filmmaker, Cate Shortland. It was fantastic hearing both directors speak passionately and honestly about their work and Shortland continues to impress me with her candour and love for the craft. If you haven’t seen Shortland’s ‘Lore’ I strongly suggest seeking it out as soon as possible.
Next on the schedule is ‘Oh Boy’, ‘Prince Avalanche’ and ‘You’re Next’. Also, as a Sydney Film Festival sidebar I’ll be seeing ‘Mud’ which has a limited release in Australia.
A great day overall with a two-from-two strike rate. I hope this trend continues. Now, where’s my umbrella?
Follow along on Twitter @popcornjunkies
I crashed into Sydney like a Kryptonian and was immediately adopted by the Sydney Film Festival 2013. After briefly stopping buy the excellent Festival Hub at lower Town Hall (the volunteers offered to hold my luggage while I saw a film, that place can have all my time) I was off to the State Theater for my first film of the festival ‘Blancanieves’.
Forget the bombastic Hollywood versions of the fairytale Snow White (‘Mirror, Mirror and ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’), ‘Blancanieves’ is one of the best interpretations of the story done as a beautiful black and white film. The tale gets a Spanish makeover and is set in the world of professional bullfighters. The film has barrels of charm despite being a little too self-aware of its own cutesy and results in portions of the film that seem like a parody of silent films. Even though the story is a familiar one, ‘Blancanieves’ is a refreshing and quirky take on the material that’s sure to make your inner child let out a little “sqqquuuueeee”.
For the festival I’ll keep the reviews like my height, short. Next on the schedule is ‘For Those In Peril’ and ‘Moon Indigo’.
Follow along on twitter @popcornjunkies
Multitasking filmmaking maestro, Shane Carruth, proves he is fast becoming the puzzle master of filmmaking with ‘Upstream Colour’. It’s a sumptuous enigma that’s intricately constructed and a beautifully shot film that would make Terrence Malick blush.
Kris (Amy Seimetz) and Jeff (Carruth) get caught in the life cycle of an organism that puts a dent in their lives. The duo and others who come into contact with the creature struggle to make sense of the strange chain of events affecting them.
‘Upstream Colour’ follows the same style as Carruth’s previously directed film ‘Primer’. You are dropped into the situation with no guidance or signposts to the plot. There is no character who dishes out lengthy explanations and there is no scrolling text opener. Carruth’s film is one of genuine discovery and it’s built on beautiful visuals by the director who is also his own cinematographer (writer, actor, producer and composer as well). The film deals with microbiological themes inherent within the life cycle with nature, nothing goes to waste. Carruth uses brilliant sunbursts, lush surroundings, flora bursting with life, and deep green vegetation to amplify these ideas. The man-made structures like buildings and public transport feel cold and disconnected with distinct grey and blue tones. Each frame of the film is packed with imagery that pushes the story forward and it implores you to explore and decipher all the clues. Minimal dialogue ensures eyeballs are always glued to the screen and at full attention looking for that morsel of information that might lead to a Eureka moment. Everything is open to interpretation but nothing is served on a platter for easy consumption. Sometimes it seems as if Carruth has purposely removed a few pieces from the jigsaw puzzle to heighten the difficulty level, and it tightens his firm grip on your engagement with the material and it’s a little suffocating.
Seimetz and Carruth form a unique bond and their onscreen presence together is like watching two kindred spirits navigate bleak terrain. They work incredibly well together trying to make sense of the oddities impeding on their lives and a touching bond develops.
The music soars and has a wondrous tone reminiscent of the soundscapes used in David Attenborough documentaries. It adds to the biological environment at work with different types of organisms feeding off each other.
Thinking caps are compulsory for ‘Upstream Colour’ and multiple viewings are sure to be a requirement to fully embrace the concepts at play; a credit to Carruth’s densely layered storytelling.
The Popcorn Junkie
Men who purchase high performance vehicles are said to be overcompensating for being ill equipped in their pants. ‘Fast and Furious 6′ suffers from the same ineptitude, but overcompensates with crazy action to cover the blemishes.
Special agent Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) pulls Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew out of retirement, with the offer of full pardons, to help bring down a sophisticated gang of thieves.
The magical power of a child’s belief in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and Vin Diesel’s acting ability combined, could not make anything in this film feasible. Director Justin Lin creates a hyperactive fantasy world of sanitised action where none of the violence has any grit. Nobody ever bleeds and when characters die they simply fade into the shadows as if phasing out of a videogame. Lin does deliver an excellent chase sequence using modified Formula-1 race cars blitzing through the streets of London and full credit must go to the team of five editors who worked on piecing together the fast pace set piece. Kudos must also go to the team of editors for having to sit through hours of footage from ‘Fast 6′ without blowing their brains out. Every explosive element is over the top to mask the abysmal plot which involves the bad guys trying to get something in a suitcase that you don’t care about. A scene involving a tank on the loose and a finale which takes place on a never-ending airport runway shatter the suspension of disbelief required to buy into any of the nonsense Lin produces. Some of these moments run so long it’s almost like the action cinema equivalent of water torture.
Much like The Rock’s neck, the cast’s talent is missing. Screenwriter Chris Morgan litters his script with lots of expositional dialogue and characters who punch first and ask questions later. And by “questions” I mean more punching and the occasional flying head butt. Six films into this franchise none of the characters have developed past coming up with new ways to say “we’re taking it to the next level bro”, “it’s all about family bro” and “get the crew…bro”. Everyone is a “son of a bitch” and that’s the extent of Morgan’s gift with writing a conversation. Toretto and his gang are so self absorbed and moronic that throughout the film I was cheering for the antagonists to win. The glorified crooks lack the anti-hero charm of Danny Ocean’s ensemble from the Ocean’s series where so much of ‘Fast 6′ is trying to riff on, and has since ‘Fast 5′ with the heist formula.
To further show the lack of faith Lin and Universal Studios has in the audience’s conception of the difference between film and reality, a disclaimer appears in the credits warning people not to try the stunts in the film at home. Not every action film needs a prompt disclaimer, but ‘Fast 6′ is dim-witted enough to need one.
The Popcorn Junkie
If you want, you can eat an entire chocolate cake, there is nothing stopping you besides a lack of willpower. Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ has the drive, and it’s the equivalent to eating the whole chocolate cake, a box off heavily frosted cupcakes and finishing with a chaser of hot chocolate fudge with edible gold shards on top. It’s cinematic gluttony and Luhrmann does it incredibly well, but he somehow lets this film slip into the cinematic equivalent of a light diabetic coma.