Tag Archives: David Gordon Green

Tricks and Treats

Halloween Kills

by Brandon Thomas

Confession time: John Carpenter’s Halloween is my favorite movie of all time. After years of okay to terrible sequels, I was more than a little shocked when David Gordon Green’s 2018 legacy sequel turned out as well as it did. By slavishly adhering to Carpenter’s original mythology, Green made something that fit nicely alongside the 1978 original.

Halloween Kills is still Green doing his best Carpenter impression, but it’s Carpenter dialed to a brutal, bloody 11.

After a harrowing flashback to the events of Halloween night 1978, Halloween Kills picks up right where the 2018 film left off. Laurie Strode’s house is in flames and The Shape (James Jude Courtney) is trapped in the dungeon-like basement. Unfortunately, first responders don’t know that, and they free the murderous Michael Myers from his burning tomb. As the town of Haddonfield descends into chaos, survivors of The Shape’s original rampage – Tommy Doyle (Anthony Michael Hall, The Breakfast Club), Lindsey Wallace (Kyle Richards, Halloween), and Marion (Nancy Stephens, Halloween), lead a mob through the small town. Recovering in the hospital from her fight with Michael, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer, Adaptation) and granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak, Halloween 2018) try to come to terms with the people they’ve lost. 

Halloween Kills is an astonishingly brutal film. The Shape rampages through scenes like he’s never done before. This brutality will probably turn off a lot of fans who enjoyed the relative tameness of Green’s first Halloween. I’m impressed with how effectively Green handles the on-screen carnage while still keeping The Shape in the shadows and scary. That air of mystery is important and keeps the character from becoming too humanized.

The new cast additions are fun but largely wasted. Hall runs around and shrieks his way through scenes like a kid after too many candy bars. Stephens and Charles Cyphers as Brackett are more or less glorified cameos. Only Kyle Richards manages to make any kind of positive impression. Like the rest, her scenes are brief, but Richards brings a better sense of gravitas and fear to her encounter with The Shape.

Greer is once again MVP and easily walks away with the movie. She carries all of the grief of the Strode women but none of the irrational rage. Curtis is regulated to the sidelines for the majority of the film – spouting off gobbly goop dialogue so nonsensical, it would make the late Donald Pleasence proud. It’s a cynical move that was clearly made so that Laurie and Michael’s final face-off can be the focus of the upcoming Halloween Ends.

The biggest problem with Halloween Kills is that it just moves too fast. Scenes begin and end without a chance for the audience to catch up. The pace makes it hard to simply sit with the new characters and get to know them. Their entire existence is to move the plot forward at breakneck speed.

I sound pretty sour on Halloween Kills, but the truth is that I admire a lot of the chances the film takes. It’s a mean movie that allows The Shape to be bloodier than ever. Kills also points a finger at our heroes and the residents of Haddonfield, as it implicates them as spiritual partners in these murders. This isn’t a deep film, but it is one with more than set pieces on its mind.
Halloween Kills will be divisive. One thing it isn’t, though, is boring.

The Shape of Horror

Halloween

by Hope Madden

Any sequel to an iconic horror—particularly one that introduced a nightmarish, game changing villain—is bound to disappoint in some fashion because our imagination has attached its own terror to the story and the boogeyman that no one else can match.

Though they certainly tried their best with the Michael Myers franchise, to the tune of seven sequels and two reboots preceding this 40th anniversary comeback, Halloween.

Wisely, director/co-writer David Gordon Green and his writing partners Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley ignore all those other films, creating a universe where only John Carpenter’s 1978 original exists.

Jamie Lee Curtis returns to the star-making role of Laurie Strode, Carpenter’s final girl who has spent the last 40 years struggling to recover from the trauma of that Halloween night by stockpiling guns, booby-trapping her home and alienating her family.

She’s not the only character with a one-track mind. Myers’s attending doc, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer) thinks of, studies and devotes himself to nothing else but his star patient.

“You’re the new Loomis,” Laurie Strode quips upon meeting him—exactly what we were thinking. And though Bilginer’s performance borders on camp (and not in that respectable way Donald Pleasance had of overacting), his musings articulate the film’s basic principles. After 40 years of obsessing over having failed to achieve their goals—neither killed the other—Laurie Strode and Michael Myers are as connected as they might be if they were still siblings.

See, that came up in 1981’s Halloween II, so no longer canon.

Green’s direct sequel is, above all things, a mash note to the original. Visual odes continually call back to Carpenter, often in ways that allude to an intriguing about face the film is leading to.

Aside from Bilginer and Andi Matichak—unmemorable as Strode’s high school-aged granddaughter, Allyson—the cast is far stronger than what any of the other sequels could boast.

The humor peppered throughout the film, mainly as dialog between characters about to be butchered, too often undermines the tension being built. But Green, whose style refuses to be pinned down, embraces the slasher genre without submitting to it.

Kills—more numerous and grisly than the first go round—are often handled offscreen, just the wet thud or slice of the deed to enlighten us until the corpse gets a quick showcase. The result is a jumpy, fun, “don’t go in there!” experience reminiscent of the best of the genre.

The film takes it up a notch in its final reel, as tables turn, panic rooms open and cop heads become Jack-o-lanterns. The result is a respectful, fun and creepy experience meant to be shared with a crowd.





Write it Down, Nic Cage Acts

Joe

by Hope Madden

After seven years of exploring the big budget, big star world of Hollywood, filmmaker David Gordon Green revisits his ultra indie roots. He hasn’t returned alone, though. For his newest effort, Joe, he brought with him Hollywood staple and Internet joke Nicolas Cage. And God bless him for it.

As the eponymous Joe, Cage reminds us that he picked up that Oscar for a reason. He dials down the bug-eyed mania of many recent efforts in favor of a textured performance that emphasizes his natural chemistry with other actors, his vulnerability and barely caged rage, and his weirdly charming sense of humor.

Joe’s a good-hearted guy with a lot of issues, a volcano that’s never fully dormant. It’s part and parcel for a sun dappled, visually lovely film absolutely saturated in violence. While Joe bursts into less outright carnage than many films, the pervasive dread that violence could erupt at any second is the very air the film breathes.

In the middle of this modern Wild West atmosphere, Joe befriends a boy in need of a mentor. Gary is played by the increasingly impressive Tye Sheridan. With just three roles under his belt – Tree of Life, Mud, and Joe – Sheridan has proven to be an amazing natural talent. In his hands, Gary’s youthful exuberance is equal parts darling and tragic, given his circumstances. Sheridan’s performance is amazing, and his repartee with Cage is perfect.

Both are helped by an excellent ensemble, many of them nonprofessional actors. One particular stand out is a sinister Ronnie Gene Blevins as the oily Willie. But no one in the film can outshine street performer turned actor Gary Poulter. His turn as Gary’s drunken father offers more layers than anything a seasoned actor has offered yet this year, each one as believable as it is shocking. His performance is stunning, and it elevates the film immeasurably.

The film is not without its faults. Several characters are severely underdeveloped given their ultimate place in the story, and there are times when Cage cannot match the naturalism of the performers around him. The film also suffers from its resemblance to Mud, Sheridan’s 2012 cinematic of coming-of-age poetry.

But Green’s once-trademark touches – meandering storyline, poetic score, bruised masculinity – are in full bloom as he reworks Larry Brown’s novel into his own unique vision of low income Americans’ melancholy struggle. In doing so, he’s reestablished not only his own artistic authority, but Cage’s as well.

Verdict-4-0-Stars

 





The Dreamy Life and Work of Filmmaker David Gordon Green

 

About seven years into filmmaker David Gordon Green’s career, it seemed like he’d found his niche with lyrical, Southern tales that braid poverty with nature, resilience with melancholy. And then he directed the Seth Rogan/James Franco flick Pineapple Express.

I’m sorry, what?

Yes, DGG shook free from that ultra indie aura and dove into Hollywood comedies, and even TV, directing many episodes of Danny McBride’s hilariously wrong HBO series Eastbound and Down. Lately, though, he’s returning to his cinematic roots, as evidenced by his latest effort, Joe.

The filmmaker returned to the Wexner Center of the Arts in March to screen the film, which opens nationwide this Friday. He took a few minutes to talk with MaddWolf.

MaddWolf: The last time I got to talk to you was just before you screened Snow Angels at the Wexner. Now you’re here with Joe. How does the Wex keep getting so lucky?

David Gordon Green: I’ve got some friends there, and the people there are interested in my work. Plus, I always look forward to creative ways to exhibit my movies, not just the obvious ways. So it’s nice to come out to Columbus, show some Eastbound and Down episodes that I worked on, and then present the movie. I enjoy doing that.

MW: Back then, with Snow Angels, you told me you were interested in doing some big Hollywood type movies. You have done that, as well as TV since then. And then you did Prince Avalanche – a delightful, decidedly non-commercial effort. What drives you artistically?

DGG: It just depends how I wake up in the morning, what my dreams were like the night before. I really do work in a kind of whimsical way. I have a great work ethic and I wake up and start working on things. Just as you turn on the radio and tune to a station that you’re feeling, I kind of turn my work efforts to a specific medium that I’m drawn to at that moment. Then I chip away at things until, at a point, something becomes real.

If I’ve got ten things in development – at least in my brain – some of them formally, some of them informally – at a point, something becomes real, and then I really commit to it and give it all my focus and attention. Sometimes that’s radically different from what I’ve just done because I’ve needed that shift in tone or texture or mood in my life.

MW: That kind of sounds dreamy. Is it the greatest thing ever?

DGG: Pretty ideal, I’d say.

MW: Do you prefer one medium to another?

DGG: They all have their advantages. It’s nice to have resources and commercial possibilities, reach a wide audience. It’s amazing seeing a line around the block for a movie you’ve worked on. It’s awesome to have all the toys in the toy chest that you can play with during production, and everyone gets paid.

Other times, it’s nice to make a personal statement and just worry about you and your immediate collaborators. Or, with the opportunities of television, it’s nice to be able to follow a character over a long period of time with some nontraditional arcs of storytelling. It’s very satisfying.

MW: When you set to work on Joe, what made you think of Nicolas Cage?

DGG: When I read the book about 15 years ago, I always imagined Robert Mitchum in his younger days playing the role. When I got serious about making the project, I was trying to think of someone who was a leading man type that was capable of the action and physicality, was capable of the drama and prestige that I was hoping we would shoot for, and also had a sense of humor about him. Cage is the only leading man that has successfully worn all three of those labels as a movie star. He was the first guy I spoke to about it and it was exciting to have him respond to it enthusiastically and immediately.

MW: He has proven in glimpses that he’s among the most talented actors working, but it’s easy to forget that. He’s gotten really strong reviews for his work in this film. What do you think it is about this project or character that brought it out in him?

DGG: He’ll tell you that this role is the closest to who he is of any role he’s ever played. I think it’s that personal investment, that closeness that he had to the role that really brought it to life in a unique way. And as diverse a resume as he has, this is unlike any role he’s ever played.

MW: Tye Sheridan is proving to be an amazing talent. How did he wind up in the project?

DGG: I was a big fan of what he did in Tree of Life. When I saw that, he really popped out at me as the gravity of that movie, the real emotional connection. And then my friend Jeff Nichols was editing Mud and I was helping him out, and we just started talking about it.

Jeff knows the novel Joe really well – Jeff and I worked together as production assistants on a documentary about Larry Brown’s (author of the source novel) life. So he knew Larry, knew I really wanted to find that right young voice, and Tye was coming into the right age. I really liked Tye’s ideas for the characters, and he can improvise really well, which is important to me.

MW: You did not write this one. Gary Hawkins – the documentarian who made the film you mention about Larry Brown – adapted the novel written by Brown. How did this come about? Did the screenplay exist before you were attached?

DGG: I think after Larry passed away, Gary wrote the adaptation as a kind of a tribute to Larry and he sent it to me when it was done. I loved it. I fell in love with it and I thought, well, this is the right time in my life and my career. It’s very ambitious in a lot of ways. I think, for the directorial tools I needed, this was the point I felt confident in it.

I’ve been kicking this around for about four years, I guess.

MW: What was it like filming?

DGG: It was amazing. With someone as seasoned as Nic, and one as young and hungry as Tye, they just complimented each other really well. And then the rest of the cast is mostly nontraditional actors and some street performers and some day laborers that we hired – it was just a fun, eclectic ensemble. We had a really good time. We did go to some really difficult dramatic places, so it’s nice to have people you can trust and have a laugh or a drink with at the end of the day.

MW: What’s next? You going to direct a play?

DGG: I’m just finishing up a movie with Al Pacino and Holly Hunter called Manglehorn. I wrote this with Al in mind, created the character for him. In a lot of ways it was me trying to dig back to some of his early Seventies performances – Panic in Needle Park and Scarecrow – some of the less bravado, more vulnerable roles he’s played. This is 100% Pacino. He’s in every frame, and it was a lovely, wonderful education for me in a lot of ways and inspiration in every way.

MW: Like Cage, Pacino – clearly one of the all time greats – has done some really questionable work over the years. Was it a specific goal for you to put these guys in the position to do great work again?

DGG: Absolutely. They are some of the greatest actors of all time, and rather than trying to rally Channing Tatum or Bradley Cooper to come be in a movie, I thought, let’s find the greats of the greats at a time where they’ll take my phone calls and we’ll go do something that’ll rock the world.





Countdown: Get to Know Sam Rockwell

Between small roles in giant films (Iron Man 2, The Green Mile, Charlie’s Angels) and leading roles in quirky indies that disappear instantaneously, Sam Rockwell has produced some of the best overlooked performances in modern film. Charismatic and versatile, as comfortable in the skin of the sweetheart, weasel, villain or nutjob, Rockwell has a unique presence that adds flavor to every project. But too few people are familiar with him and his work. Here’s your chance to get to know Sam Rockwell.

 

The Way Way Back (2013)

Rockwell commands attention in a Bill Murray-esque role as the off-kilter mentor to a struggling adolescent working at a waterpark for the summer. Though the entire ensemble impresses, Rockwell steals the film with a charming characterization that’s as worldly wise as it is juvenile.

 

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Offering a brilliantly unhinged performance that anchors an equally unhinged film, Rockwell’s peculiar talents are on full display in Martin McDonagh’s good hearted bloodbath. With a supporting cast that includes Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson and Tom Waits, the film should sell itself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bX8AKFY_-I

 

Moon (2009)

This near-one-man-show offers Rockwell the room to prove himself, and he does so with aplomb. Duncan Jones’s SciFi feature manages to openly homage many of the greats while still offering a singular, unique vision. But it’s Rockwell who astonishes with a turn that dives deep and leaves an impression.

 

Choke (2008)

Based on a Chuck Palahniuk novel, Choke follows Victor – a sex-addicted con artist with mommy issues – through some unexpected life turns. Both concept and character are unusual –just the kind of project where Rockwell shines. Hip, damaged, funny, desperate, incredibly flawed yet redeemable, Victor would prove a tough nut to crack for many actors. Not Rockwell.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6WbbzE2qc9k

 

Snow Angels (2007)

David Gordon Green’s family drama offers one of Rockwell’s most nuanced and heartbreaking dramatic turns. So often the glib cat or loose cannon, Rockwell proves here that an intensely personal role is just as comfortable a fit. As the wounded, estranged father involved in a small town tragedy, he hits all the right notes and leaves you breathless.

 

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2007)

George Clooney had the good sense to offer Rockwell his first major lead, and he absolutely nails this fictionalized (or is it?!) biopic of Chuck Barris, part time Gong Show host, part time assassin. Working with a gift of a screenplay by Charlie Kaufman, Rockwell easily inhabits both the peculiarity of the TV personality and the insanity of the government agent fantasy. Whatever the film’s flaws, Rockwell keeps you glued to the craziness.

 

Sam Rockwell..get to know him!





They’re On a Road to Nowhere

Prince Avalanche

by Hope Madden

David Gordon Green is a curious filmmaker. Beginning his career with poignant, Southern independent films, he is perhaps best known for the breakout hit Pineapple Express and subsequent bombs Your Highness and The Sitter. He returns to the world of offbeat indies with Prince Avalanche – a film about as offbeat and indie as any you will ever find.

Alvin and Lance (Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch) spend the summer of ‘88 doing roadwork in an isolated, wooded area recovering from the years-old and miles-wide devastation of a wildfire. They’re just two goofy dorks in blue overalls arguing over their “equal time boombox agreement” and painting yellow stripes, mile after mile, week after week.

Avalanche is as sweetly odd as it is casually gorgeous, the wild beauty of the duo’s surroundings an absurd backdrop to their own screwball behavior. It’s a buddy comedy of the most eccentric sort.

Green’s unconventional approach allows Hirsch and Rudd ample room to breathe, and to develop unique and fascinating characters. Rudd’s peculiar Alvin nicely counters Hirsch’s silly Lance, and their placement in this vast wilderness feels so entirely counter intuitive that their adventure takes on an almost surreal humor. Both actors are a joy in a film that commits to taking you places you’ve simply never been.

Green based the screenplay on Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurossen’s much lauded but little seen Icelandic picture Either Way. The meandering pace he gives the work serves its overall themes, but will aggravate a lot of viewers – particularly those seeking a plot. What we get is a generously documented, lovingly observed character study of two outsiders with little in common beyond their own troubles with human contact.

When Green remains focused on the absurdity of the situation, Prince Avalanche charms the impatient viewer into submission. It’s only when he falls back on his own roots in indie cinema – poetically capturing the languid beauty and rustic living – that the slight production feels tedious.

Still, I cannot imagine a more potent antidote to Summer Blockbuster Fever and its symptoms of FX bloat star dazzle than this spare, offbeat film.

Verdict-3-5-Stars