New York Stories – To The Wonder / Evil Dead / Mud

ToTheWonder1

By Glenn Dunks
April 23, 2013

There’s a wide world of cinema out there, and Quickflix’s Glenn Dunks is on the ground in New York City bringing you the titles that will soon be seen in Australian cinemas, and eventually available on home entertainment.

The Manhattan Report: Walkouts in Terrence Malick, hoots of gore approval in a horror remake, and stony appreciative silence in the new Matthew McConaughey vehicle: you get all sorts of reactions over here. I have been neck-deep this past week in Tribeca Film Festival screenings, but the rest of the movie world continues to spin. So, while I was watching Emma Roberts working a porn shop and writing poetry (it’s called Adult World and it’s excellent!) most of the nation was watching Oblivion. I win this round. We’ll be discussing Tribeca titles in the next edition, but for now…

To The Wonder: Exhibiting a level of productivity never associated with Terrence Malick, his second film in as many years plays like a boutique sequel to his last, Oscar-nominee The Tree of Life. While they share much in common – like winsomely photographed images of nature and sunlight filtering through sheer curtains, a sprawling collage style of editing, and an ethereal quality (hell, this one literally reappropriates footage from The Tree of Life, that’s how much they share) – the end products couldn’t be more different. Where Malick’s last flick spanned from the dawn of time, To The Wonder takes a more intimate look at a fragile relationship.

It stars Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko as lovers who move from France to Oklahoma. Rachel McAdams appears as a fleeting love interest, while Javier Bardem plays a solemn priest on the fringes. With only his sixth feature – and a seventh supposedly on the way next year – Malick finds himself returning once again to the vast surrounds of America’s south. The region is no longer promising and prosperous like it was in Malick’s Days of Heaven, but rather a desolate wasteland of contaminating factories and barren farmland. This hymn to a dying prairie requires patience, but magnetic imagery lends the auteur’s most minimal work a sense of pathos and, yes, wonder. (No Australian release date at this time.)

3.5/5

EvilDead

Evil Dead: In the grand scheme of horror remakes, at least Fede Alvarez’s extreme revamp of Sam Raimi’s 1981 classic takes the famed property in a different direction. Most notable is that screenwriters Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues (plus an uncredited Diablo Cody!) have added extra back-story and changed their lead’s gender; Jane Levy’s Mia replacing Bruce Campbell’s Ash. Unlike the original, this nastier, darker Evil Dead comes financed by a Hollywood studio, so there’s more money to splurge on 300,000 litres of fake blood and guts. One last big difference: the remake isn’t good.

What made Raimi’s pioneering video nasty so effective was the sly winks to the audience. This newfangled edition is played so straight it’s hard not to baulk when a character reads from a book bound in barbed wire and sprawled in blood stating “DO NOT READ!” Or, when another wades into waist-deep water with a possessed demon chick on the loose. And then there’s the tired adherence to ancient horror clichés of race, gender, and intelligence (basically: don’t be a smart, black woman!). The gore is deliciously grotesque, but the rest is a hunk of reheated garbage. (In select Australian cinemas from May 9.)

2/5

Mud

Mud: The second of last year’s Cannes titles to feature Matthew McConaughey, the American south, and a love story between a bad boy and a gussied up bottle-blonde (Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy being the first) is Mud. This is Jeff Nichols’ third picture and his first since breaking out with Take Shelter. Comeback kid McConaughey plays Mud, a criminal runaway whose friendship with two adventure-seeking young boys in Arkansas helps to reconcile him with a lost love (Reese Witherspoon).

Gloriously shot in 35mm and bathed in rich golden hues – not to mention an affecting soundtrack – Mud is a triumph of atmospheric tension. Everybody involved is working at the highest calibre, even if what they’re given to work with isn’t always particularly much (such as Reese Witherspoon, who we welcome back from the This Means War wilderness despite a nothing part). Most impressive is young Tye Sheridan, who manages to outshine bonafide A-listers and long-time character actors (Michael Shannon, Sarah Paulson, Sam Shepard) alike. It certainly makes forgiving the movie’s miscalculated ending much easier. (No Australian release date at this time.)

4/5

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