David Gordon Green

Nicolas Cage in JOE

Editor’s note: Our review of Joe originally ran during last year’s TIFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens theatrically. Our long national nightmare is finally over – director David Gordon Green has returned to making the types of films that put the indie filmmaker on the map in the early aughts with his Joe. Combined with this year’s earlier effort, the drily amusing Prince Avalanche, Green has successfully managed to put the memory of his broad comedy busts like The Sitter and Your Highness behind him, and fans of vintage Green should be quite satisfied with his latest Southern gothic. Starring Nicolas Cage as the eponymous Joe, an ex-con who makes his living by poisoning whole forests so that they can be deemed sick and subsequently be cleared for the replanting of heartier, more sellable trees. Joe employs a large crew of locals, all of whom seem to like him very much, and he’s a fair, reasonable boss. Off the clock, however, Joe struggles with restraining a powerful, almost insatiable anger, and he tries to keep it at bay through alcohol and simply staying home. The arrival of a young drifter who comes begging for a job up-ends Joe’s tenuous personal peace, and their sweetly parental relationship threatens to change things for both of them. Sounds sentimental? It’s not. Not even a little bit.

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Joe

David Gordon Green is one of those writers/director/producers who are just all over the place thematically, and not in a bad way. He’s gone from dramas like 2003′s All the Real Girls and 2000′s George Washington, last year’s indie comedy Prince Avalanche, to straight up silliness like Pineapple Express and Your Highness. It takes a unique mind to work between Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd learning life lessons on the side of rural highways to Danny McBride wearing a Minotaur dick around his neck. Green is returning to darker stomping grounds with his latest project however, with Joe, a Toronto International Film Festival standout from last year that was snatched up by Roadside Attractions. Based on the novel by Larry Brown, Joe tells the story of ex-con Joe Ransom (Nicolas Cage), and his unlikely mentorship of an abused and abandoned fifteen year-old named Gary (Tye Sheridan) in rural Mississippi. You can check out the international trailer below.

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Consider it a bit of a Goldilocks problem (too hot, too cold, too serious, too funny nothing just right). Filmmaker David Gordon Green first made waves with serious, sensitive fare – from George Washington and All the Real Girls to even the tensely wrought thriller Undertow – before veering off into studio comedy territory with Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and The Sitter. The returns on such properties were literally diminishing: while Pineapple Express made over $100m at the box office, Your Highness didn’t crack $25m and The Sitter just missed out on $35m. Yet money wasn’t the problem with Green’s funnier stuff, it was that it just didn’t seem nearly as good as his dramatic projects, laughs aside. Green married his apparently warring aesthetics with last year’s little-seen Prince Avalanche, a funny and clever film that’s also very much about fraught interpersonal relationships, but his interest in full-out comedy has seemingly dipped to an all-time low. Is David Gordon Green done with big studio comedies? And is that actually – gasp! – a mistake?

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David Gordon Green‘s Prince Avalanche is a small, simple film with a pair of recognizable faces in Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch. It wasn’t seen by many people in theaters, and that’s a real shame because it remains one of the year’s best films. Audiences will get a second chance starting next Tuesday though when it comes to Blu-ray and DVD. It’s the story of two men, Alvin and Lance, who discover a friendship and some unexpected self-realizations during an isolated summer spent working rural back roads after a devastating fire. They have nothing in common but loneliness, and while that sounds like a setup for drama the film finds joy in their conversations, disagreements, and personalities. After four acclaimed indie dramas and a mixed-bag of three studio comedies, this is easily Green’s best and purest film in years. Don’t let that scare you off though… it’s also incredibly funny. Keep reading to see what I heard during David Gordon Green’s commentary for Prince Avalanche.

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hunter

As excited as we all already were that David Gordon Green is getting back into making indie dramas with this year’s Prince Avalanche and Joe, and his upcoming project, Manglehorn, some new news has come along that has made the idea of getting to see Green moving back toward doing heavier material look even more promising—soon we’re going to get to watch the results of him directing Holly Hunter in a featured role. Today it was announced [via Deadline] that Hunter has taken the female lead in that upcoming, Al Pacino-starring drama, Manglehorn, which we’ve already heard a little about. Plus, in addition to Hunter’s involvement, the same report also says that Argo’s Chris Messina and Spring Breakers director Harmony Korine have joined the film in supporting roles. That’s a really talented but fairly strange ensemble that’s been put together there. Perfect for David Gordon Green.

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Prince Avalanche

One way to describe the tone of Prince Avalanche, the new film by director David Gordon Green, is that it feels like a mash-up of Terrence Malick and Judd Apatow. There is the meandering, minimalist plot and reverence to nature that are staples of Malick’s work, but there’s also a central bro-mance between characters played by Emile Hirsch and Apatow staple Paul Rudd. However, to invoke Malick and Apatow is really just another way of saying that Avalanche is a meeting between the old and new David Gordon Greens. It may be Green’s most autobiographical film yet, but not in the usual ways. Through its mix of styles and an ingenious central metaphor, it serves as a meditation on the young director’s career, particularly the odd choices he has made from 2009 to 2012. It’s been a wild, frustrating ride for those of us who fell in love with Green’s early work. George Washington and All the Real Girls were little-seen but beloved by critics and festival-goers. For a while, simply being a fan of Green was like a secret password among young filmmakers. Among established critics, he earned comparisons to Malick for his use of voice-over and preference for improvisation with both camera and dialogue. His third film, Undertow, was actually executive-produced by Malick, although it received less notice that his first two. His fourth, Snow Angels, a tense domestic drama featuring an outstanding performance by Sam Rockwell, was barely seen at all. Perhaps frustrated that his dramas were failing to resonate, Green’s career took an odd, sharp turn. Instead […]

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A funny thing happens when you Google David Gordon Green. Buried down under the first page of hits for “David Gordon Green director” is a related search for “what happened to David Gordon Green” which, once clicked, spits out a litany of links to articles with titles like “Whatever Happened To David Gordon Green?” and “What the Fuck Happened to David Gordon Green?” As a fan of Green’s earlier works, I understand the sentiment – it’s hard to conceive that the filmmaker who made dramatic, nuanced works like George Washington and Undertow also made The Sitter and Your Highness. What the fuck indeed. But even the existence of something like Your Highness (a film I keep hoping to like, or at least to forgive) and The Sitter (a misfire in every way) shouldn’t stop a cinephile’s admiration and appreciation of David Gordon Green, because you can still always watch his hands-down, no-contest, modern classic gem of a movie, All the Real Girls.

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Editor’s note: Rob’s review of Prince Avalanche originally ran during this year’s Sundance Film Festival, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release this weekend. There are two David Gordon Greens. But this is news to no one, so I won’t bother breaking down the differences between the Green who directed the bleak, dramatic and emotionally oppressive Snow Angels and the one who made The Sitter, but let’s all just acknowledge the massive rift in quality, character and narrative and move forward from there. His first move away from serious dramas, Pineapple Express, was surprisingly funny and exciting, and Your Highness was a highly inconsistent mix of chuckles and misfires, but by the time The Sitter hit theaters in 2011, even his most ardent and highest supporters were silently slinking away. Hopefully they booked a return trip, though, as Green’s latest film, Prince Avalanche, is one of his best and manages a fantastic blend of big laughs and affecting characters with an honest look at an unlikely friendship between two very different men.

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It’s been a rough few years for David Gordon Green. The once revered indie darling began to explore new territory as a filmmaker, making studio comedies with mixed results. Pineapple Express was met with a lot of love, but his two followups Your Highness and The Sitter were either dismissed or outright loathed. For those that shook their heads at his recent output, Prince Avalanche will be a welcome return to form for the director, and not only because it’s free of the studio system and a large budget. For Green, it’s a logical extension to the more under-the-radar work he’s been doing lately. The movie (which stars Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd as two sparring highway road workers) didn’t get a major press release when it began filming, it’s presented a low profile marketing-wise, and according to Green, there’s a reason for that.

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avalanche

If you’ve been dying for David Gordon Green to stop making broad studio comedies and go back to making more interesting and unique projects like he did earlier in his career, then the new trailer for his upcoming indie dramedy Prince Avalanche is likely going to be a real treat for you. Because man does it look weird. The movie is a remake of an Icelandic comedy called Either Way, and basically it just involves Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch playing a couple of eccentrics who are forced to spend way too much time together while spending the summer painting lines on a long stretch of isolated roads. In many people’s hands that sort of non-story could potentially bore, but when it’s being handled by actors as charismatic as Rudd and Hirsch and it’s being shot by a filmmaker with an eye for photography as strong as Green’s, there’s really no need to worry. As you’ll see if you click through and watch the ad.

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pacino

What is Casting Couch? It’s one stop shopping when it comes to casting news. It’s even better than shopping though, because it’s free. Today you can pay no money to find out what Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass are teaming up on, as well as what Bill Hader’s first post-SNL gig might be. It looks like David Gordon Green’s turn back toward directing more dramatic movies again is starting to stick. THR is reporting that his next project is going to be a drama called Mangelhorn that’s about an eccentric man who’s trying to come to terms with the fact that a past crime has cost him the love of his life. More than that though, Mangelhorn is a drama that’s going to be employing one of the most celebrated dramatic actors of all time, because the trade’s report also says that Al Pacino has been attached to the lead role. Hopefully this will wash the taste of Dunkaccino and Your Highness out of all our mouths.

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Yes, that headline comes with a caveat. While fans of David Gordon Green‘s early work have bristled at his turn into more mainstream comedies (count me as one of those bristlers), the filmmaker has never denied that said comedies (like Your Highness and The Sitter) are more in line with his personal tastes and preferences. So, no, while Green might be “returning to form” after his comedic outings, that form is really the one we made for him. Let’s not fence Green in. But let’s also not try to hide our glee when he starts work on the type of film that sounds like it will fit in quite neatly next to Undertow and All the Real Girls. That possible next film? Manglehorn. What’s a “manglehorn”? Only a love story with a dark twist that could star Al Pacino. Not too shabby, eh?

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Filmmaker David Gordon Green (thankfully) shied away from his recent spat of studio comedies (like the wonderful Pineapple Express and the dismal The Sitter) for his latest feature, a lo-fi affair starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch that’s based on, of all things, an Icelandic comedy titled Either Way. It does not get more lo-fi than that. The film centers on a pair of highway repairmen who are stuck spending the summer, well, repairing highway and hanging out with each other – so it’s too bad that they don’t like each other so much. Straight-laced Alvin (Rudd) is more concerned with doing his work and relaxing in the woods, while oddball Lance (Hirsch) is interested in…well, slightly different pursuits. It’s a bit more complicated than that, as the two also have a personal link that guarantees that even surviving the summer together doesn’t spell the end of their relationship, but Prince Avalanche certainly looks an unexpectedly amusing slice of life. Let’s do some highway repair with Rudd and Hirsch after the break.

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SA/BLEAK

While the 2013 Sundance Film Festival is in full swing this weekend, we thought it would be fun to look back a decade and remember the best films of the 2003 event. The award winners that year include American Splendor, Capturing the Friedmans, All the Real Girls, My Flesh and Blood, The Station Agent, Stevie, Thirteen, A Certain Death and Whale Rider. And other major movies premiering at the fest include The Cooler, The Shape of Things, Tupac: Resurrection, Pieces of April, The Weather Underground, Northfork and the Bob Dylan disaster Masked and Anonymous. The U.S. also got its first look at 28 Days Later, In America, Bus 174, Bend It Like Beckham, Laurel Canyon, The Secret Lives of Dentists and Irreversible. To commemorate such a great Sundance (which spotlighted some filmmakers returning this year, like David Gordon Green and Michael Polish), we’re spotlighting some of our favorite scenes from some of the movies listed above. Not all have quality clips online, though, and it would be too much to include bits from all those works we love from the 2003 program, so feel free to add your own favorite moment in the comments below.

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In news that’s so bizarrely in line with two of my greatest cultural interests that it’s frankly eerie, Deadline Hollywood reports that Sony Pictures is currently in negotiations to launch a new Little House On The Prairie feature film that would be helmed by David Gordon Green. The outlet reports that the deal is not done yet, but that it’s currently being working towards. Which is awesome, because Little House On The Prairie is awesome and Laura Ingalls Wilder is so, so awesome that she ranks as both my first female heroine of literature and my favorite female heroine of literature. If you’re not familiar with the Ingalls family –well, first of all, what’s wrong with you? Second of all, they are wonderful. Wilder penned eight books about her life growing up in the 19th century American West, a series that was published between the years of 1932 and 1943. Wilder’s life was rich and fascinating, particularly because she and her family moved so extensively around the burgeoning states, first in Wisconsin and on to Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, South Dakota, and Missouri, and their trials and tribulations and successes serve as a wonderful microcosm of life during that time period. If there was something to be experienced in the 19th century, the Ingallses experienced it. The Little House books are truly enduring literature.

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File this one under “things we never knew wanted to happen, but thank God they are,” as THR reports that David Gordon Green will direct Nicolas Cage in Gary Hawkins‘ adaptation of Larry Brown‘s novel, Joe. Cage will star as the eponymous Joe, “an ex-con who becomes the unlikeliest of role models to 15-year-old Gary Jones, the oldest child of a homeless family ruled by a drunk, worthless father. Together they try to find a path to redemption and the hope for a better life in the rugged, dirty world of small town Mississippi.” The “gritty” Southern tale sounds like a return to form for the director, who started his career with such similiarly gritty films like George Washington and Undertow before making the move to more mainstream comedic fare like Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and The Sitter. If this signals a sea change or a happy medium for the filmmaker, we’ll gladly take it (we couldn’t take another Sitter, to be honest).

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Five years ago, it looked as if Robert Zemeckis‘ interests as a technologically forward-thinking filmmaker would just lead him to the continued creation of terrifying motion captured animated films that pose as being “family-friendly” while actually being nightmare-inducing. If Zemeckis’ new bag is just doing live action films that contain the word “flight” in their titles, I’d say that’s a vast improvement over the former. Now THR reports (via ComingSoon) that Zemeckis will help Fox develop their Taking Flight: The Hunt for a Young Outlaw, a true crime drama about the exploits of the teen “Barefoot Bandit,” cult hero and criminal Colton Harris-Moore. Filmmaker David Gordon Green was originally developing the project, but my favorite director who continues to break my heart with every subsequent project has “turned his attentions” to his remake of Suspiria (which, incidentally, will begin shooting next month). Zemeckis has not yet signed on to direct, but is working on this as a “potential directing vehicle.”

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We learned not too long ago that David Gordon Green has made a movie that’s so low budget and has so much indie cred, nobody even heard about it until it was already finished shooting. It’s called Prince Avalanche, it stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as a couple of road workers painting the lines on isolated and little used roads, and it’s a remake of a 2011 Icelandic film called Either Way. Since most everyone is in agreement that the David Gordon Green who makes small, experimental films is the best David Gordon Green there is, said news was generally accepted as being good news. But things get even better. Now there’s word that this new film will be bringing back memories of Green’s earlier, indie-r work even more so than we may have imagined. Consequence of Sound is reporting that Austin, Texas band Explosions in the Sky have agreed to make some time to score the film once their current tour wraps up in August. The guys from Explosions in the Sky and Green have all known each other for quite a while, as he’s already used a bunch of their music in his earlier works All the Real Girls and Snow Angels.

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While we were all busy lamenting the fact that David Gordon Green has given up making interesting indie films in favor of dumb comedies and arguing about whether or not his remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria is a good idea or sacrilegious, he went and made a new movie without even telling us about it. The nerve! And turns out, not only does it sound like his new film is going to be a return to smaller, more interesting storytelling, but it’s also going to be a preview of what it looks like when he takes a foreign film and adapts it. Green’s new project is called Prince Avalanche, but it’s a remake of an Icelandic film from 2011 called Either Way. In the original, two men played by Hilmar Guðjónsson and Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson spend their summer painting lines on the roads that stretch into remote parts of northern Iceland and end up meeting danger and experiencing personal growth. In Green’s remake the two men are played by Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, and apparently they’re going to be painting lines on roads that exist somewhere that looks a lot like Austin, Texas; because Twitch confirms that the film was shot there last month.

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David Gordon Green has been talking about helming a remake of Dario Argento’s warped ballet-academy-turned-witch-coven horror movie classic Suspiria for so long that it started to sound like a project that was never really going to happen. But then, a little over a month ago, a press release came out officially naming it as the director’s next project. Suddenly the idea that there was actually going to be a new take on Suspiria coming our way looked a lot more likely. And now that the first round of casting on the film has been completed, cold hard reality has set in. Variety reports that the film’s lead role, that of a young student from America who travels to a well-respected, European ballet academy, has gone to Isabelle Fuhrman. At only the age of 15, Fuhrman is an actress still at the very beginning of her career, but many people might already know her as the creepy little girl in Orphan, or for playing the side character of Clove in this year’s smash hit The Hunger Games.

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