Friday, September 2, 2011

Worth Mentioning - A Story from Before We Can Remember

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

This week, Cody talks about The Tree of Life and more, while Jay recommends A Horrible Way to Die.


The latest film from popular auteur Terrence Malick, which is just the fifth he's made over the course of thirty-eight years, is pure arthouse eye candy.

The Tree of Life had one of the best trailers I've seen, and the two hour plus film delivers on what the trailer promises - a ponderance of existence full of beautiful images, wonderfully shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.

The approach the film takes is not traditional at all, the average viewer who shows up just to see a normal drama starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn will not get what they expect. This doesn't go over well with some of them, as evidenced by this notice that was put up in a theatre in Stamford:

The first forty minutes are the litmus test during which viewers will decide whether they're taking this ride or not. The first reel is made up of characters in mourning, with much attention paid to the environment surrounding them. The second reel begins with a long sequence showing astronomical images, over which opera plays and we hear some voiceovers. Then, we see the Big Bang... The birth of life on Earth... Dinosaurs...

Roughly forty minutes into the movie, it settles into the story of a family in 1950s Texas. A sensitive son mentally tormented over the question of whether he's good or bad, his younger brothers, his tough love father and sweetly caring mother. It sticks with this story until returning to the abstract in the final reel, but it's still not completely straightforward. The 1950s story are the memories of a man looking back from modern day and it plays like memories, fragmented and scattered.

When windows are shown totally blown out with light, the look of the film even matches something from my own memories, many of which seem to feature bright sunlight blasting through white curtains. Just the sheer number of small, everyday sort of moments captured in this movie is enough to astound me. How do you plan these moments? How much of it is planned? How do you catch them without just filming the actors actually playing house for several months?

It is a very beautiful film, in look and idea, and is kind of inspiring. It reminds me that you don't always have to follow the standard rules when telling a story or making a movie, sometimes amazing things can be found outside the box.


On the opposite end of the spectrum from Malick when it comes to quantity of films is Luc Besson, who when not directing his own films like La Femme Nikita and Leon: The Professional is writing/producing films including Taken, the Transporter trilogy, the French Taxi series, etc. Besson has produced around 100 movies, primarily in the action genre and most seeming to share a certain style and sensibility.

His latest writing/producing credit is on Colombiana, which retreads some familiar Besson territory - a young girl witnesses the murder of her parents by a criminal organization and is raised to be a vengeance-seeking assassin - but it also delivers fun in the usual Besson way and gives an ass-kicking lead role to Zoe Saldana, who is pretty great. Or pretty and great. And her character is such a bad mama jama that she buys a Xena: Warrior Princess comic in 1992, three years before that show even started.

Many writers know the frustration of having an idea and then seeing projects pop up all over the place with uncomfortable similarities to their idea. Colombiana is one of those cases for me, because it shares some character elements with a script I wrote in 2007. (Not accusing anyone of theft, no one has seen that script other than myself and Jay Burleson.) But I'll work it out, and since one of the inspirations for my script was Leon: The Professional, I can't complain too much.

SEX DRIVE (2008)

The story follows Ian, a young man who's been corresponding online with a beautiful girl who lives in another state. When the girl brings up the possibility of them having sex, virgin Ian decides it's time to go meet his online pal. He steals his jackass older brother's 1969 GTO Judge and hits the road with his friends Lance and Felicia.

Shenanigans ensue featuring angry husbands, car thieves, gloryholes, and Amish girls on their rumspringa.

Sex Drive is a typical teen sex comedy, but it's also a movie that I enjoyed much more than I was expecting to, as it's carried by fun characters and performances.

Jay's mention:

I'm back with a mention after missing out last week as I was busy preparing for and attending the 13th Annual Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, AL. More about that soon!

This week I want to give the heads up on A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE, which will be available on September 6th from Anchor Bay Entertainment!


Directed by Adam Wingard
Starring AJ Bowen, Amy Seimetz, Joe Swanberg, Brandon Carroll, and Lane Hughes

An official selection of the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival, as well as winner of Best Screenplay, Best Actress, and Best Actor at Fantastic Fest 2010, A Horrible Way to Die is the latest from writer Simon Barrett and Pop Skull director Adam Wingard.

The story is centered around Sarah (Amy Seimetz) as she recovers from alcoholism and from a seriously screwed up relationship with ex-boyfriend Garrick (AJ Bowen - The House of the Devil)  who was a very, very unfaithful boyfriend. Only not in the sense that he cheated on her with a willing partner, but instead he murdered a slew of young women on the side. Garrick escapes from prison and Sarah begins to fear that her new life, which includes a new boyfriend (Joe Swanberg), may be in jeopardy. As Garrick leaves a trail of blood across the country in pursuit of her, Wingard reveals their previous relationship through out-of-order fragments that slowly peel away at both of their stories.

The film has garnered mostly praise, mainly for its fresh perspective on the serial killer film. It features AJ Bowen's strongest performance to date. I love him in The Signal and House of the Devil, but he has a lot more to work with here and really shines. All of the acting is solid, and this is my favorite performance from Lane Hughes to date, and I'm not just saying that because he's starring in my next film!

A Horrible Way to Die hits DVD and Blu-Ray on September 6th and you can pre-order it today from!

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