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June 2011


Dark Arc (Gravitas Ventures) — Pre-and-post dissection of Dark Arc makes calling it “Lynchian” just too easy. There’s a dark comedy nature here that owes so much to surrealism, but also appreciation of film, photography and repetition. Ed meets a non-sexual escort that will help him creatively—the first project of which involves snapping a photo of her in his mind and then the same photo with a single pink blot. We shift back to find the escort and Viscount Laris, the type of dude who is royalty and destroys all original art that he creates moments after it is finished. It’s slow to get into, but eventually you fall into the tics and visual odes Dan Zukovic has in mind (personal favorite being a make-out scene that turns into a whitebread family driving past and cutting to a snake woman and man with paper machete creature mask). Calling Dark Arc a “three-way love story” is a misnomer, since you need to redefine love before you jump into this. (John Lichman) (Available on Cable Video On Demand)

Lucky Life (Film Movement) — It’s perhaps not a surprise, though it remains a tad disappointing, that Lee Isaac Chung’s follow-up to his excellent debut Munyurangabo flew under the radar of just about everybody. That’s what you get for making a sincere, understated drama about a group of young friends who are thrown for a loop when one of their good buddies is diagnosed with cancer. One weekend, they reconnect at a beach house on the Outer Banks, and while they don’t spend much time addressing the situation, Chung’s slowly moving camera keeps it in the forefront of our minds. Lucky Life isn’t flashy, and it threatens to wear its themes too loudly on its sleeve, but Chung exhibits a refreshing measure of restraint that makes it nonetheless linger. (Available on Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Bresnan, RCN, Brighthouse, etc.)

The Trip (IFC Films) — It’s strange to me that everyone seems to be focusing solely on the “impressions” and “hilarious riffing” that takes place between Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they make their way through the Northern England countryside on a for-hire restaurant tour, for Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip is perhaps most affecting as a portrait of the type of narcissistic comedian that makes me wonder if we really need another movie about this subject  (clearly, Coogan isn’t stretching much here, which makes it hard for me to be “won over” by his “charm”). Granted, that aforementioned riffing speaks directly to Winterbottom’s point, but still. The Larry Sanders Show probably did this the best, and The Trip‘s companion piece Tristram Shandy did it with more flair, but there are definitely worse ways to spend 90 minutes than with a lark like this, which greatly benefits from Michael Nyman’s lovely piano score (but recycling the Wonderland theme? Really???). (Available starting June 22 On Demand)

The Wave (Sundance Selects) — Dennis Gansel’s smart 2008 drama has finally found a home in America. It’s about time. Hollywood should take note of a movie like The Wave, which is first and foremost a work of entertainment, but which also has a brain behind it. The great Jurgen Vogel (The Free Will) plays a high school teacher whose creative approach to teaching his students how a totalitarian government operates quickly spins out of control. By the time he tries to pull the plug on his lesson, it’s too late. It would be nice to see an American filmmaker combine entertainment and smarts the way Gansel does with The Wave, or perhaps that’s just too much to ask anymore. That’s what world cinema’s for, I guess. (Available starting June 8 On Demand)


Monkey Warfare (Film Movement) — It has been way too many years since I first saw Reg Harkema’s charming comedy about romance and revolution, but in a blog post from way back then I wrote: I loved it. Don McKellar’s performance made me feel like I was watching Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye. Charisma for days. And the fact that they shot this film on the Panasonic DVX-100A is incomprehensible to me. Granted, they used 35mm lenses, but I still can’t believe it. Now that it’s 2011, that DVX talk is quite humorous, but I stand behind my admiration for such a cinematic low-budget Canadian production. To be honest, the only other thing I remember about Monkey Warfare is that Harkema uses some old Leonard Cohen, but if these vague memories are to be trusted, it’s about time this film has been made available to us in the States. (Available on Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Bresnan, RCN, Brighthouse, Verizon, Charter, etc.)

Troll Hunter (Magnolia Pictures) — With Troll Hunter, Norwegian director Andre Ovredal delivers an electrifying and hilarious thrill-ride that feels like an instant mockumentary classic. But that’s the problem. To call Troll Hunter a mockumentary is to belittle it somehow, for while it certainly fits within those storytelling parameters—i.e., it’s photographed from the video camera perspective of a group of students who convince a gruff poacher to let them follow him around in the gorgeous Norway wilderness—it is so much more than that. In fact, Troll Hunter plays just as convincingly as a straight-up monster movie (ala The Host), albeit a much funnier one (and even though it takes some time for those monsters to appear). To be honest, it would be best to watch Troll Hunter in a jam-packed movie theater with an eager audience, but if you can’t wait, or it looks like it isn’t coming to your city after all, be sure to take the plunge and watch it at home. While it might not be as raucous an event on the small screen with only a few folks in the room, the exhilarating thrill of the achievement cannot be denied. This is a fun movie. (Available On Demand everywhere)

Avant-‘Tarde of the Month

Certifiably Jonathan (Gravitas Ventures) — Jonathan Winters is an extremely funny man and we know him best from Mork and Mindy, It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World and his stand-up prop work. But this scripted “documentary” that finds Winters being met by the director, then trying to get a painting (he really does this) into MoMA and recognized by critics, is such a fascinating train-wreck. At first, one assumes this is an earnest portrait of an aging comedian and an early cameo from Robin Williams shows an honest rapport. Then the art stuff starts and things begin to feel like they’re getting faker and faker until, at a gallery show, someone steals one of the paintings (“His favorite,” the director intones. “My favorite,” Winters follows up a minute later) and the poor secretary at the gallery is clearly reading her lines. Then, Winters loses his mojo because a shaman bit him in a men’s room, so he can’t paint, so MoMA won’t take him, so he starts having more cameos (Jimmy Kimmel and Sarah Silverman—a weirdly dated reference, but still—Rob Reiner, etc). But the biggest WTF moment ever: a smash cut to a black room where a seance is taking place between Winters and THE ENTIRE ARQUETTE FAMILY. They’re trying to channel their father, Lewis, and then each—Rosanna, Patricia, Alexis, David—do an impression of him. And yet, this is topped when Winters tries to hang himself in MoMA—but it isn’t MoMA, it’s the most horrifying use of green screen ever—and stops when Robin Williams appears doing racist jokes. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Williams deliver, “Chy-knees RET RAUNT SUCKY SUCKY.” (JL) (Available on Cable Video On Demand)


Filmmaker Magazine’s June VOD Report

On Demand Weekly’s June On Demand Preview


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Michael Tully was born and raised in Maryland and now lives on Tennis Court in Brooklyn. His most recent narrative feature, Septien, world-premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and was picked up for distribution by Sundance Selects. In addition to directing Cocaine Angel (2006) and Silver Jew (2007), he is also a proud alumni of Filmmaker Magazine's annual "25 New Faces of Independent Film" club (2006). Visit his indieWIRE blog Boredom at its Boredest——for more sporadic personal updates.

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