THE WALL (2017)

May 11, 2017

 Greetings again from the darkness. When a director’s filmography includes “big” action movies like Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, and The Bourne Identity (the original), the last thing we expect is a stripped-down war movie whose camera focuses on a single character for most of the run time. Director Doug Liman certainly understands how to use the camera in creating tension and stress, yet while he and writer Dwain Worrell seem so intent on proving the confusion and futility of war, they seem to forget that a thriller needs either a hero to cheer or a villain to jeer.

It’s late 2007, and the war is winding down as rebuilding efforts are underway. Hulking Staff Sergeant Matthews (John Cena) and his fellow soldier Isaac (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) have been perched and camouflaged on the side a hill for more than 20 hours as they carry out reconnaissance on the site of an under-construction oil pipeline. All they have seen is the remains of a massacre – 8 bodies with no signs of life. Peering through his malfunctioning scope that once belonged to a now-dead friend, Isaac (known as “Ize” – get it?) and his training thinks something doesn’t seem right. When Matthews deems the site safe, he heads down to check it out. Of course, all heck breaks out and soon enough, an injured Isaac takes shelter behind a teetering stone wall. It turns out a sniper, more patient than the American soldiers, had been biding time for the moment.

The first eight bodies are construction contractors and a security detail … none of which matters to the sniper. The hook here is that the sniper hacks into Isaac’s radio and seemingly wants to chat it up, rather than finish him off. We never see the sniper, and neither do Matthews or Isaac … but we do hear him plenty. Laith Nakli voices Juba – known to American soldiers as the Angel of Death, responsible for dozens of US casualties. The film spirals into a psychological game of chess – or, more fittingly, the torture of Isaac. This isn’t the war we’ve come to expect in movies. Isaac’s situation seems hopeless, and banter with the man responsible never strikes him as a worthwhile pursuit.

The biggest issue here is that Juba seems the most interesting character, and not only are we never provided a way to connect with/hate him, we don’t even get enough backstory to bond with Isaac. Plenty of obstacles are thrown at Isaac: blowing sand, lack of drinking water, skittles for sustenance, blazing sun/heat, radio issues, and a brutally painful knee wound courtesy of Juba. The success of the movie depends on two things: Aaron Taylor-Johnson selling us on Isaac’s predicament, and the radio dialogue between he and Juba. The former is fine, but the latter falls short.

Better sniper movies include American Sniper and Enemy at the Gates, while more effective (mostly) one-character thrillers include Locke, Buried, and 127 Hours. The film makes excellent use of sound, but the little jabs at American ideals grows old quickly (such as asking who is the real terrorist). A different approach to a familiar topic deserves a chance, but while Juba only misses on purpose, the efforts of Mr. Liman and Mr. Worrell miss the mark by not engaging the viewer with the character(s).

watch the trailer:

 

 

 


WITCH-HUNT (2017)

May 9, 2017

USA Film Festival 2017

 Greetings again from the darkness. There may not be a mass-market audience for ultra low-budget supernatural horror-thriller-comedies, but that doesn’t stop writer/director Philip Schaeffer and his cast of seven actresses from delivering a rollicking good time.

Best viewed late at night and preferably with a group of friends smart enough to enjoy a bit of satire, and not so pseudo-intellectual as to be unable to cut loose and possibly even create a new drinking game (not that such uncultured and unruly behavior would be encouraged). In fact, just keeping up with one of the character’s propensity to shift from red to white wine and back again requires somewhat of a clear head and attention span.

Five ladies gather in clock-filled home to play a board game that could be named “Who is the Witch?” The clocks don’t really matter, but do make for interesting set pieces and might also play into someone’s unconventional drinking game. The birthday girl (Robyn Purcay) who receives the game as a gift is very excited to play, while the emotions of the others range from ‘OK, I’ll play along’ to utter disdain (from the striking Abby Eiland).

The movie is divided into the different rounds played during the game … with each of the five participants getting special attention during a particular round. Additionally, the story has an external structure thanks to a late night strategy session at a book publishing firm. Of course, the story doesn’t really matter. What matters is the periodic creepiness and abundance of humor stemming from the conversations of wine-guzzling, long-time friends who share a clouded and traumatic childhood memory.

Other than the aforementioned Ms. Eiland and Ms. Purcay, the other actresses involved here are Melina Chadbourne, Erin Curtis, Lillian Olive, Suzanne Blunk and Trisha Miller. Each brings their own style to the fun, and special mention goes to cinematographer Olivia Kuan, whose camera work provides the necessary claustrophobia and unease necessary to keep viewers guessing.

 


VOICE FROM THE STONE (2017)

April 29, 2017

USA FILM FESTIVAL 2017

 Greetings again from the darkness. A painful death bed scene and a teary-eyed child saying goodbye to their beloved caregiver kick off this film that immediately downshifts to a deliberate pace after those two emotional peaks. The first feature from director Eric Howell is adapted by Andrew Shaw from Silvio Raffo’s novel, and it excels in delivering atmosphere and visual unease created by the stunning setting of a fogged-cloaked Tuscan castle that is itself a key character in the film.

Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”), and those expressive eyebrows of hers, stars as Verena, a rehabilitation nurse who specializes in helping traumatized children. Verena is spunky and confident as she arrives at the Gothic-esque home of artist/sculptor Klaus (Marton Csokas) and his son Jakob (Edward Dring). It’s been more than 7 months since the death of his mother (Caterina Murino, Solange in Casino Royale), and also since young Jakob last spoke even a single word. Verena expects to succeed where other nurses have failed.

1950’s Tuscany is beautiful despite, or maybe because of, the dreary and minimal natural lighting and the mysterious elements of the ancient castle and surrounding forest and stone quarry. It’s also a bit creepy and that allows the measured pace of the story to work – it comes across as we are going through the slow process with Jakob and Verena. Well, it works until it doesn’t. The character shifts for Verena and Klaus occur too abruptly – almost as if pages in the script were skipped. Both transformations seem out of place with the film and are jarring to watch … and not jarring in the way that we expect from a suspense thriller.

Most won’t be surprised at where the story goes, but just in case, no spoilers will be discussed here. It should be enough to state that the look and feel of this one should appeal to those who enjoyed such films as The Others, Rebecca, The Sixth Sense, Crimson Peak, and the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. The execution of the story might not be at that level, but the atmosphere and mood certainly are. Oversized sculptures, life-sized portraits, an untouched death bed, and even a grand piano allow for more texture than any cheap jump-scares.

Gothic, romantic, supernatural suspense thrillers are pretty tough to pull off, but even getting close allows for some cinematic viewing pleasure. As an added bonus, the lovely score from Michael Wandmacher never screams at us, and Amy Lee (Evanescence) delivers a beautiful and fitting song “Speak to Me” as the film ends.

watch the trailer:

 


THE LOST CITY OF Z (2017)

April 20, 2017

DALLAS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2017

 Greetings again from the darkness. We aren’t likely to watch a more beautiful or expertly photographed film this year. Director James Gray’s (The Immigrant, We Own the Night) project looks and feels like a throwback to days of epic filmmaking, and cinematographer Darius Khandji (Se7en, Evita, The Immigrant) fills the screen with green and gold hues (similar to Out of Africa) that deliver both a sense of realism and a touch of romanticism. The minor quibble here is with the emphasis on the biographical rather than the more interesting and compelling and adventuresome expeditions to the “new” world.

Our true to life hero (and the film’s portrayal provides no other description) is military man and explorer Percy Fawcett played by Charlie Hunnam. Based on the book by David Grann, the film divides focus into three areas: the stuffy, poorly lit backrooms of London power moguls; the 1916 WWI front line where Fawcett proves his mettle; the jungles of Amazonia wherein lies Fawcett’s hope for glory and redemption. It’s the latter of these that are by far the most engaging, and also the segments that leave us pining for more detail.

The three Fawcett expeditions form the structure for the quite long run time (2 hours, 21 minutes). In 1906 the Royal Geographic Society enlisted Fawcett for a “mapping” journey to distinguish boundaries around Bolivia in what had become a commercially important area due to the black gold known as rubber. Fawcett was not just a manly-man, he was also obsessed with overcoming his “poor choice in ancestors” and gaining a position of status within society. Using his military training and personal mission, that first expedition (with help from a powerful character played by the great Franco Nero) was enough to light Fawcett’s lifelong fixation on proving the existence of Z (Zed) and the earlier advanced society.

Back home, Fawcett’s wife Nina (Sienna Miller) shows flashes of turn-of-the-century feminism, though lacking in judgment when she suggests a ridealong with her husband on his next expedition. Although the couple spends little time together, given the years-long trips, they do manage to produce a hefty brood of kids, the eldest played by Tom Holland (the new Spider-Man).

1912 brings the second Amazonia expedition, the one in which renowned Antarctic explorer James Murray (a snarly Angus Macfayden) joins Fawcett and his by now loyal and expert travel companion Henry Costin (a terrific Robert Pattison). The trip proceeds as one might expect when an ego-driven, unqualified yet wealthy passenger is along for only the glory. Murray’s history is well documented and here receives the treatment he earned.

It’s the third trip in 1925 that Fawcett makes with his son that will be his last, and the one that dealt the unanswered questions inspiring Mr. Grann to research and write his book. It’s also the segment of the film that leaves us wanting more details … more time in the jungle. With the overabundance of information and data available to us these days, the staggering courage and spirit of those willing to jump in a wooden canoe on unchartered waters and trek through lands with no known back story, offer more than enough foundation for compelling filmmaking. It’s this possibility of historical discovery that is the real story, not one man’s lust for medals and confirmation. More jungle could have elevated this from very good to monumental filmmaking.

watch the trailer:

 


FREE FIRE (2017)

April 19, 2017

 Greetings again from the darkness. Searching back through more than a decade of film reviews, I can confirm that the phrase “slapstick shootout” has not previously been part of my movie lexicon … which is a relief since it could never be more accurately placed than in description of this latest from the husband and wife filmmaking team of director Ben Wheatley and writer Amy Jump (prior works include High-Rise, Kill List and a few others). The zingers are plentiful – both in bullets and dialogue. It’s unlikely you’ve ever laughed as much during such a violent/gory/graphic assault on the senses (especially auditory).

Set in 1978 Boston, which allows for added humor via music, attire, hairstyles and vehicles, the basic premise is a meet-up for the deal between an IRA faction and a gun-dealer, with the brokers and “muscle” of each side along for the ride. When cases of AR70’s are presented instead of the ordered M16’s, the deal gets a bit shaky until cooler heads prevail. That is until one of the gun-runners recognizes an IRA guy as the one who disrespected his 17 year old cousin the night before. It’s at this point that the film cranks to a frenzy that would make the Mayhem commercial guy proud. It’s the visual definition of a cluster.

A stand-off and shootout occurs (with side deals and betrayals) over the next hour and yet the early comical dialogue somehow becomes next level great despite bullets whizzing through a terrific setting in an abandoned umbrella warehouse. Unlike in some movies, these bullets inflict pain (and the subsequent cries and wails). The characters continue to banter and threaten one another, all while dragging their lead-induced injuries across the dusty floor between various forms of protective shields strewn about the warehouse.

Normally I would concentrate on the major characters, but most everyone involved in the deal-gone-bad has at least a couple of memorable lines and moments. The gun-runners are led by Sharlto Copley as Vernon, a cocky, mouthy South African whose dialect sounds an awful like New Zealander Murray in the classic TV gem “Flight of the Conchords”. In a movie that seems impossible to steal, Copley comes the closest and his Vernon would make a perfect Halloween costume and annoying party guest. His cohorts are Marion (Babou Cesay), Gordan (Noah Taylor, Max 2002) and Harry (Jack Reynor, Sing Street, 2016). The IRA group is led by uptight Chris (Cillian Murphy), Stevo (a hilarious Sam Riley, Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), Frank (Michael Smiley) and Bernie (Enzo Cilenti). The two deal brokers are the ultra-debonair Ord (Armie Hammer) and the lone female Justine (Brie Larson). It’s a terrific cast having a ridiculously good time with a creative and rollicking script.

Know going in that the film is a very hard R-rating for violence, drug use (in the middle of the shootout), and a bounty of flowing F-words. It’s neither for the faint of heart nor those who take their standoffs too seriously. Director Wheatley employs a vast array of unusual camera angles to ensure the action never looks boring, and his use of secondary and tertiary sound (especially with dialogue) is expert and dizzying at times. Don’t expect too many layers or sub-plots. It’s simply a shoot ‘em up romp capitalizing on black comedy to the nth degree. John Denver might not have approved of the use of his song, and just remember, “We can’t all be nice girls”.

CAUTION: this is the RED BAND trailer and is NSFW or Kids:

 

 


DIFF 2017: Day Six

April 8, 2017

The Dallas International Film Festival runs March 31 – April 9, 2017

 It’s hump day Wednesday and I’m feeling a bit refreshed after only two movies yesterday. Flashing the wisdom that should accompany my age, I have followed up two-for-Tuesday with another two movie day today. Both films are narratives, so my documentary addiction is on hold until tomorrow. Below is a recap of the two films I watched on Wednesday April 5, 2017:

 

BUSTER’S MAL HEART

A film festival wouldn’t be complete without at least one mind-blowing avant-garde cinematic experience. I’m not the kind that needs every ending neatly bow-wrapped, and I often enjoy having conventional story structure challenged and even dissolved. Writer/director Sarah Adina Smith seems to thrive in such an environment in this twisty psychological thriller covering three timelines (one of which may be a dream) … or a split personality … or two/three men from one … or some combination … or something else entirely that I might have missed. (I’m not too proud to admit this distinct possibility).

When a filmmaker bravely dives into the bizarre, casting becomes crucial. Ms. Smith nails it with Rami Malek, DJ Qualls and Kate Lyn Sheil. Thanks to the popularity of TV’s “Mr. Robot”, Malek is now a leading man – albeit a tad unconventional. Here he plays Jonah, a struggling family man with a wife (Ms. Sheil) and young child. Working as a night Concierge at a hotel, Jonah tries to make the best of the lack of sleep and minimal contact with his family. In addition to Jonah, Malek plays Buster, a slippery and hirsute mountain man who negotiates his way through the Montana mountains by hanging out in the multi-million dollar vacation homes vacated by their owners for the snowy winter months.

The film bounces between 3 periods for Jonah/Buster: the elusive mountain man running from the law, the bleak nights of the family man, and a dream-like sequence where he is adrift at sea in a row boat. Throughout the film, references to “sphincter” and multiple proclamations that “The Inversion is coming” lead us to believe there could be a sci-fi connection or an apocalyptic ending headed our way. Instead, it’s “the belly of the whale” that might unlock the mystery or mysteries serenaded by the thunderous techno-bass bass. It’s a head-scratcher for sure, but one that manages to keep us engaged despite our whirlwind of theories and uncertainly.

 

KATIE SAYS GOODBYE

The latest exciting new filmmaker to burst on the scene is writer/director Wayne Roberts, whose wonderful indie is my favorite narrative of the festival so far. Of course there will be those who decry yet another film exploitation of women as a victim of society. However, there is definitely another way to view the story of Katie, the good-hearted dreamer played beautifully by Olivia Cooke (“Bates Motel”).

Initially, Katie’s unflappable optimism seems unlikely, if not impossible. She walks miles to work along a dusty highway. She lives in a trailer park with her deadbeat mother (Mireille Enos), whom she supports both financially and emotionally. She works double-shifts as a waitress at a truck stop, where she’s known to toss in a couple extra bucks when a particularly frugal customer stiffs the other waitress. She also works a side job as a prostitute for locals and a regular trucker named Bear (Jim Belushi). Despite a life filled with *stuff*, Katie doggedly pursues her dream of saving enough money to move to San Francisco and become a hair stylist. Of course, she has to save enough money for her trip AND for her mother to live on. Her dream seems lofty, yet almost achievable.

When Katie falls for Bruno (Christopher Abbott), the new guy in town, she tries her best to fall in love and pull him into her dreams for a better life. It doesn’t take long before Bruno is made aware of Katie’s side job, and her fantasy world begins to crumble. On a daily basis, Katie happily (of course) drinks up the truck stop wisdom of diner owner Maybelle (Mary Steenburgen), who spouts such gems as “A man with a smile will hurt you”. Good intentions abound here, but we realize … even if Katie doesn’t … that the reality of people’s self-interest is the immovable object that so often tears down the dreamers of the world.

As with much of life, one’s enjoyment of the film is likely contingent upon the perspective you bring. A caustic, cynical view will have you waving off Katie’s lot in life as exploitive movie-making; while those who can share even a spoonful of Katie’s spirit, will find themselves rooting exuberantly for her dreams to come true … or at least to sustain her refreshing outlook on life and people.


DIFF 2017: Day Three

April 4, 2017

The Dallas International Film Festival runs from March 31 – April 9, 2017

 This was my first 5 movie day since last year’s festival, and it comes on the heels of the four from yesterday. Sometimes a film festival can be an endurance challenge, but the Dallas International Film Festival offers such a diverse selection of films, it feels like a mistake to miss an opportunity to view unique films, some of which might struggle to get distribution. Below is a recap of the five films I watched on Sunday April 2, 2017:

SCORE: A FILM MUSIC DOCUMENTARY (documentary)

Admittedly, this is one of the films that jumped off the schedule when first going through the programming for this year’s DIFF. The magic of music in movies has always fascinated me, and many movies and their scores are so inter-connected that you simply can’t think of one without the other: Jaws; Star Wars; The Magnificent Seven; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly; Psycho; Gone with the Wind; James Bond; Batman; Titanic; Chariots of Fire; Jurassic Park … chances are, just reading that list caused you to hear the themes!

Director Matt Schrader, in his directorial debut, takes us back to the beginning to explain that silent films weren’t ever really silent. There was invariably live or recorded musical accompaniment to help muffle the sound of the projector. But it was Max Steiner’s score for King Kong in 1933 that really changed the game. His music transformed the film from schlocky special effects B-movie into a tense, thrilling cinematic experience.

This is so much more than a history of important and beautifully written scores. Director Schrader interviews most of the well-known film composers working today. He gains insight into their writing process, commentary on the ground-breakers who came before them, and a look at how technology, new instruments, new styles, and a different approach are always in the works.

Some of those interviewed include Rachel Portman (the only female included here), Randy Newman, Danny Elfman, Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor, and Thomas Newman (son of Alfred). There is also a well-deserved segment reserved entirely for the great John Williams, and we get reminders of the revolutionary composers like Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of the Apes, Chinatown) and Bernard Hermann (Psycho), as well as Henry Mancini (The Pink Panther), Monty Norman (Bond), and Ennio Morricone (westerns). A quick segment that proves quite entertaining is Mark Mothersbaugh (formerly of Devo) telling the story of how he used a toy piano for the score of Rugrats, but somehow no longer has possession of the little piano anymore.

Oscar winning composer Hans Zimmer is a recurring voice throughout and provides some structure to the numerous interviews and segments. It’s pretty funny to see this highly accomplished, world-renowned composer in his early days as a keyboardist for The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” (the first video played on MTV). More importantly, Mr. Zimmer discusses the insecurities and pressures that go along with the job, and how change (such as his aggressive sounds) isn’t always welcomed openly.

The technical aspects of creating the score are certainly not ignored. We get a glimpse inside Abbey Road Studios, and how thrilling it is for the composer to hear the live orchestra bring the music to life that first time. It also serves as a reminder that film composing employs a significant number of the live orchestral musicians working today, and that we all hope technology doesn’t replace that imperfect beauty of the real thing.

If there is a disappointment in the film, it’s that the recently deceased James Horner seems woefully short-changed, with only a brief post credits segment featuring director James Cameron who, as usual, spends the time talking more about himself than the impact of Horner. Adding a scientific perspective was a nice touch. Hearing that our brains respond to movie music in a similar manner to chocolate and sex made a great deal of sense; as I’ve often wondered if film scores are more manipulative or complementary in nature. This documentary is a must for movie lovers, and on a personal note, made me miss my friend Adam very much. He would have certainly enjoyed this one and had a great deal to say about it.

 

THE SECRET LIFE OF LANCE LETSCHER (documentary)

Most documentaries with an artist as the subject offer little more than a retrospective of the work. It’s rare that we get to explore the mind and creative process in a way that brings us a little closer to their world, while also magnifying the gap. This is Sandra Adair’s first foray into directing, though she is an Oscar nominated Film Editor (Boyhood), and she works wonders in getting Lance Letscher to open up and share his ideas, insecurities and reactions.

The first question we might ask is, why does he do this? Working in solitude with an Exacto knife and surrounded by piles of books, album covers, board games, signs and magazine pages, Mr. Letscher creates some amazingly detailed collages out of everyday materials – most of which have been discarded by previous owners.

Much of the film revolves around a commissioned project for a large outdoor piece to hang on the building that houses a book store on South Congress Avenue in Austin. Having not typically worked with metal, Letscher lets us in on some of the frustrations he has – which leads to a form of artistic procrastination. When things do finally click, it’s enthralling to see how quickly his vision comes to life.

Also fascinating is seeing how his right brain and left brain work in conjunction to create these diagrams of thought. He claims his subconscious mind is responsible for much of his creations, but we slowly come to realize Letscher is a rare blend of art and engineering. This blend results in such unusual projects as gliders/planes and motorcycles, in addition to his customary collage work.

Director Adair does not limit the framework to art. We get to know part of what makes Letscher the man tick. He jokes about his childhood nickname “Trance”, while later coming clean on his father’s depression and suicide – and how that has impacted him as a father, husband and artist. He acknowledges his tendency to take the “path of greater resistance” even during the process of layout-revision-glue-press. The use of music and intimate camera work create a polished documentary on a man who is doing more than keeping Austin weird – he is keeping it beautiful and interesting.

 

A BAD IDEA GONE WRONG

With all of the documentaries I have scheduled during the festival, it was important to mix in a comedy here and there. This little indie shot in Ft Worth is directed by Jason Headley and stars Matt Jones (“Breaking Bad”), Will Rogers, and Eleanore Pierta. It’s a pretty humorous look at a couple of bumbling house burglars with different objectives, who find themselves in what looks like a no-win situation.

Mr. Jones has a certain stoner quality that makes most everything he says seem like a punchline – even when it’s kind of brilliant. Mr. Rogers captures the essence of guy who is stuck holding on to a past relationship and being unable/unwilling to let go. He finds meaning to seemingly innocuous details that lead him to believe his ex-fiancé still pines for him.

The real fun begins when these two doofuses manage to set the house alarm that effectively locks them in the house they are robbing. Oh, and then they stumble on sleeping Darcy, the housesitter/pet taxi driver who may or may not be as welcome in the home as are the boys themselves.

Niagara Falls and a hide-a-key rock are key players in this comedy that’s good for a few laughs, while also providing a bit of romance-under-stress.

 

BERLIN SYNDROME

A well-made intense, suspense-filled thriller is about as much fun as one can have watching a movie. Director Cate Shortland (Lore, 2012) delivers just that with this hostage-psychopath saga based on the novel from Melanie Joosten. It also features a best-yet performance from Teresa Palmer.

Clare (Ms. Palmer) is touring Berlin alone (with her camera and backpack) as she seeks life experiences away from her Australian homeland. She spends her days enjoying the culture and architecture of the city and one day crosses paths with Andi (Max Riemelt). He charms her through broken English and they end up with a passion-filled evening. Of course, thanks to the film score, we know something is rotten in Berlin – and in particular with Andi. His innocent looks mask a true psychopath, and he ends up imprisoning Clare in the remote apartment while he goes about his daily life as a teacher. In fact, his outside-the-apartment life could have used a bit more definition. How does this guy fit in? We get only glimpses.

If this sounds like Brie Larson’s Room without the kid, you would be on the right path. The difference being, Clare has only herself to think of – along with survival and escape. In Room, the mother had the well-being of her son to consider. This makes for a more mano y mano situation – a true battle of wits. It’s brutal to watch at times, and is one of those films that forces you to ask, what would you do? At what point do you give up hope of escaping and concentrate on making the best of a situation? The frustrations and anger are palpable, and it shows how difficult it is to use rational thought when combating psychotic behavior.

 

MUSTANG ISLAND

This low budget Texas indie from director Craig Elrod is based on his 2014 short film Molly. The unorthodox pacing and deadpan delivery provide some quirky and funny moments, in spite of what seems to be a film full of sad characters.

Bookend close-up shots of the two female characters who are key to the story open and close the film. What happens in between probably seemed kind of lame on the written page, but actually works in the hands of a cast that executes most every scene.

Macon Blair plays Bill, and when we first see him, he’s crying while driving his car right into a parked boat. Bill’s a bit of a sad sack and there isn’t much grace to how he handles Molly (Molly Karrasch) breaking up with him. In fact, he’s a bit irrational when he talks his brother John (John Merriman) and simpleton friend Travis (Jason Newman) into tracking Molly to her family beach house on Mustang Island.

Of course, Molly isn’t there, so the boys break in and make themselves at home. What follows is more wrecks, a stolen truck, and an encounter with a bizarre and hilarious “Dance Party” dude (Byron Brown). More importantly, a connection between Bill and a local waitress named Lee (an excellent Lee Eddy) helps him forget the original reason for the trip … at least until Molly shows up!

The movie is plodding at times, but the good parts make up for it – provided you are a fan of deadpan humor and offbeat pacing. Shot in Galveston rather than Mustang Island, the local feel of the beach community is evident and crucial to the tone of the film – as is the spot on score from composer Benjamin Prosser.