Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

September 7, 2013

Four summer movies from off the beaten path

By Ryan Maddux and Andy Stuckey
Daily News

---- — The summer is much more than Superheroes, sequels and reboots. In our end of summer wrap we take a look at four films that didn’t involve buildings getting toppled.

Ryan: In 2011 the combination of Nicolas Winding Refn (director) and Ryan Gosling produced the best film of the year, Drive. Hoping to recapture that magic I watched their latest indie drama, Only God Forgives (R). In Only God Forgives, Gosling stars as a Bangkok drug dealer who seeks retribution against those responsible for his brother’s untimely death.

Drive was a very deliberate movie and that plodding pace didn’t sit well with every moviegoer. It might not have seemed possible, but Only God Forgives takes that deliberate pace to a whole other level. The movie only clocks in at 89 minutes but it feels like twice that with a pacing that defies cinematic logic. To say this movie moves at a snail’s pace isn’t capturing the full lack of energy of this movie. It’s not a complete bore, with Kristin Scott Thomas delivering an against-type of performance that is noteworthy, but its hard to argue that Only God Forgives isn’t a disappointment. Final grade: C.

Andy: The film The Spectacular Now (PG-13) is a teenage coming-of-age story about a reckless, directionless high school senior who falls for a girl who changes his perspective. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley star in this latest film from the writers of (500)Days of Summer. James Ponsoldt directs.

If the summary of this movie’s plot sounds a bit trite, that is because it is. The writing credits and the actors involved lead you to believe that this movie is going to be a little more than it seems, but it actually ends up being almost exactly what it sounds like.

That is not to say that it is not a good movie. It in fact gives mature treatment to the lives of these teenagers in a quite refreshing way. The biggest shortcoming of the film is that Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) is such a compelling on screen-persona that it becomes disappointing that the movie is from the perspective of the male lead instead of her. Woodley is a rising star in Holywood, and watching her work her craft here is worth the time invested, even if moments with her off screen feel too uneven. Final grade: B.

Ryan: The line between just friends and boyfriend-girlfriend is explored in the indie dramedy, Drinking Buddies (R) starring Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston.

Drinking Buddies is a breath of fresh air in the summer movie season. The movie is not without issues—admittedly the stream of consciousness narrative does get stale from time-to-time. But the film succeeds in being an anti-romantic comedy—not in terms of being dark and gritty but more so in turning the conventions of the atypical romantic comedy on its head. If this story was produced in the typical Hollywood rom-com fashion, it would have made for a completely different and far less interesting movie.

Also of note, Olivia Wilde finally delivers a performance worthy of her classic Hollywood looks. Performances of this ilk are often over-looked and that would be a disservice to Wilde. She’s simply great in this movie. Final grade: B.

Andy: Making the rounds on the documentary circuit this summer was the Rock-doc, A Band Called Death. The film chronicles the formation of a band by three teenage brothers in early ‘70s Detroit. The brothers played an uncompromisingly loud style of rock-n-roll that seems commonplace today, but was virtually unheard of during that time period. In short, the film argues, these three teenagers from inner-city Detroit invented Punk Rock several years before The Ramones had even been heard of, but their circumstance and unwillingness to change the band name kept them from getting signed. Hence, they were forgotten until this documentary unearthed their music for the masses.

A Band Called Death is an amazingly compelling story. Any fan of rock history should see it, as it is a real life version of the common rock myth that the best music being made frequently goes undiscovered.

Unfortunately, directors Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett put the film together in a way that focuses too little on the gripping story of Death’s recording, music, and subsequent disbanding, and focuses too much on the contemporary nostalgia of looking back at a band from 40 years ago. The power of the story overcomes many of these choices, earning A Band Called Death a final grade of B-.

Only God Forgives, Drinking Buddies, and A Band Called Death are all currently available via video-on-demand.

The Spectacular Now is in theatres in select cities, including Indianapolis and Cincinnati.