Sunday, August 24, 2014

Another Me and Land Ho!

I was originally going to write about a triple feature, but I can't really say much about the third movie and it wouldn't really fit the pattern anyway, so we'll hold that off until TWIT gets posted in a day or two.

Both of these movies, it turns out, are directed by people whose work I had enjoyed before even if I'm not specifically a fan; I recognized Isabel Coixet's name right off the bad for Another Me and at least thought Aaron Katz sounded familiar for Land Ho!, but it took not just trips to IMDB but quick looks back at my reviews for The Secret Life of Words, Quiet City, and Cold Weather to recognize just how much I'd liked their previous work. That's kind of a weird feeling, to be honest - shouldn't that genuine fondness have come back on its own?

I must admit, I recommend Land Ho! much more highly than Another Me, and it's not entirely because it uses the ending I didn't like in A Night of Nightmares a couple years ago. It's an ending a movie has to earn and give a bigger sense of its meaning than this one did.

One other, mildly amusing thing: As I was walking from the T station to the Kendall Square theater, but was still far enough away that it wasn't entirely clear where I was headed, a lady stopped me and mentioned she had just got out of Land Ho! and it was one of the best movies of the year. How the heck did she know what I was up to?

Another Me

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 23 August 2014 in AMC Boston Common #19 (first-run, DCP)

Another Me didn't look like much - a young-adult thriller that likely would have gone straight to video-on-demand but for a slow release week and the fact that the other line on star Sophie Turner's filmography is Game of Thrones - but Isabel Coixet as the person to adapt it to the screen is a strange enough choice to be interesting. Unfortunately, as much as the gamble of putting an art-house filmmaker in charge of a mainstream horror movie could pay off well, it can also turn out as dull and muddled as this one.

A year ago, Fay Delussey (Turner) had a seemingly perfect life, at least until the day that her father Don (Rhys Ifans) is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Now, he's slowly wasting away, her mother Ann (Claire Forlani) is probably having an affair, and a girl at school (Charlotte Vega) is saying she only got the lead part in the school play because their drama teacher (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) feels sorry for her. Her photography is taking a decided turn for the macabre, but that may be fitting - Fay gets the feeling that someone is following her, and people are claiming to have seen her when she knows she was elsewhere.

I must admit, I feel a little foolish for not making the full connection about what's going on until after the movie - adapting a novel by Cathy MacPhail, Coixet has pieced together a few very familiar ghost-story bits into a story that hits upon some of the same themes as her My Life Without Me and The Secret Life of Words. The trouble with that is that it's Don's story, not Fay's, and being in a wheelchair means that he can't be a terribly active participant (although there's probably a pretty creepy horror movie to be made where the focus stays on Don).

Full review at EFC

Land Ho!

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 23 August 2014 in Landmark Kendall Square #9 (first-run, DCP)

There is something to be said for filmmakers (or anyone) getting out of their comfort zone. Both directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens are known for certain types of movies - Katz for some of the better youth-oriented mumblecore to come out while that was a word people used and Stephens for films set in Kentucky. Neither seems likely to make a film following a couple of senior citizens to Iceland, but that''s what they've done working together, and it turns out to be a very good call.

The two men are Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) and Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson), who became friends after marrying sisters but haven't seen each other much since the women left the picture (Mitch divorced, Colin was widowed). Mitch comes to visit Colin in Kentucky, and then springs a surprise on him - he's purchased two round-trip tickets to Iceland, and insists Colin come with him.

Why does Mitch want to go to Iceland specifically? In a pleasantly surprising turn of events, it is simply a matter of him never having been to Iceland and wanting to see the place. Katz & Stephens don't necessarily give the film much Icelandic character in terms of the people - there's nary a subtitle to be found, and almost every character who has a speaking part is also a tourist coming from the United States or Canada (Colin's originally Australian, but he's been in the U.S. for some time), and there's not much play give to how they're in a foreign land but still sticking to their own people. It does provide a fantastic backdrop visually, especially once the guys get outside their nice Reykjavik hotel. The black volcanic sand is a constant reminder that this isn't the average road trip, along with the steam rising from from hot springs surrounded by scrubby greenery. And some shots are just beautiful, with cinematographer Andrew Reed backing off the lo-fi look he used for the films he shot for Katz but not over-emphasizing digital sharpness.

Full review at EFC

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