Tag Archives: tye sheridan

Entertainment (Sundance 2015)

7 Feb

What is the difference between Courtney Love and the American flag?

This is one of the many questions comedian Neil Hamburger (Gregg Turkington) asks his audience in the anti-humor film Entertainment. Written by Tim Heidecker from The Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Joband directed by Rick Alverson (The Comedy), the film follows an aging comedian as he stumbles his way across an increasingly surreal landscape. He crosses paths with a number of bizarre characters played by Michael Cera, Tye Sheridan, and John C. Reilly.

Entertainment as a film acts a metaphor for Hamburger’s comedic routine, which is ironic considering the film defies every single notion its title implies. The audience is forced to watch Hamburger perform his off-color and sad jokes in front of an unimpressed audience at a series of late-night bar shows. The pain and awkwardness of these shows only becomes subsided by incredibly lengthy takes of Hamburger wandering around some deadbeat tourist attraction or making creepy phone calls in an effort to reconnect with his estranged daughter. It’s as if Alverson and Heidecker were purposefully trying to make something that would not only offend their audience, but drive them to a near-maddening boredom as well.  If so, they completely succeeded; I counted 28 walkouts within the first hour of Entertainment’s running time – and this was at a private screening reserved for the press.

Despite what some reviewers will say, I don’t believe there is a such thing as a “good B movie”.  A film is a terrible one regardless of what the artists’ intentions may be. So what if they succeeded in making a bad film? it’s still just a bad film. The characters here are so excruciatingly annoying and the narrative is so bizarrely infuriating that it’s hard to see any redeeming qualities in Entertainment at all. While general audiences should loath this film with disdain, those few individuals familiar with and fans of Neil Hamburger’s style will surely have a new cult favorite on their hands. Heaven help them.

Rating: 1/10 

Similar to: Gummo (1997), Escape From Tomorrow (2013), The Comedy (2012)

Last Days In The Desert (Sundance 2015)

5 Feb

Ewan Mcgregor plays the characters of Satan and Jesus in this Biblical adaptation of Matthew 4. If you recall from Sunday School, this is the part in the New Testament where Jesus fasted for 40 days and becomes tempted by Lucifer to use his godly powers to feed himself. Directed by Rodrigo Garcia, and shot by the Academy Award winning Emmanuel LubezkiLast Days In The Desert is a magnificent display of one man’s search for meaning and spiritual fulfillment. Unfortunately, the audience is left searching for meaning as well, as the plot of the film becomes so thinned out it is lost in the vivid details of the desert scenery, proving Last Days to be nothing more than an exercise in style over substance.

The film starts with Jesus wandering majestical desert scenery after a long prayer. “Father, where are you?” he asks, questioning his role in God’s mighty plan. After a few surreal encounters, our wanderer stumbles upon a small unnamed family who has just left Jerusalem in order to excavate nearby rocks. The family is lead by a patriarchal figure played by Ciaran Hinds, who dying wife (played by Ayelet Zurer) and questioning son (Tye Sheridan) come to Jesus in the middle of a crisis. Jesus decides to try and help this family, as a way to resolve his continuing annoyances from the Devil and reconcile with his Heavenly Father. Sheridan and Hinds’ characters are also in the midst of a father-son dilemma; the older wanting to stay secluded from society in the desert, and the younger wanting to go and learn a trade in the city.

There are few cinematographers working today who have quite the legacy of Lubezki (Google “best cinematography” and you will get at least three of his films on the first page), and his brilliant eye works wonders for the desert scenery. Long, empty, and distant shots of towering sand dunes are contrasted with busy close-ups of desert wildlife. With such few characters to work with, Lubezki is left with the daunting task of using nature to evoke emotional responses. We see a bloodthirsty pack of wolves, violent rivers, sinister insects, and jagged cliff sides.

While it does look grandiose and vivid, the content and story of Last Days In The Desert remain hollow and frustratingly empty. Though the film clocks in at 98 min, the extreme long shots and lack of dialogue make it feel more like 150. Garcia never gives the audience enough substance to chew on, and that could be perhaps the his biggest sin here.

Rating: 5/10 

Similar to: Wings of Desire (1987), Days of Heaven (1978), Clean Shaven (1993)