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I have to be honest here, I am barely ever compelled to come on the web
and write a review for a movie with a negative thrust. For one thing, I
watch all types of films, even the so-called no budget or low budget
films that other people will stay clear from. In fact, just this year,
I have seen all the Sundance NEXT films, some at the Sundance premiere
in January, and some, like BELLFLOWER, only recently. I feel the need
to clear that first, so that I'm not accused of a negative bias for
ultra small films.
I had heard the buzz of BELLFLOWER at Sundance, and I missed it, and my trip to SXSW was too brief to catch, so, I waited patiently for the theatrical. Up until then, I had read many things about the movie, plenty of positive reviews, and was pretty enthralled by the trailer. I should have been a little more cautious on the get go, seeing that even the trailer was a little fishy. You know, it was extremely light on substance, but full of those great pull quotes from the likes of Peter Travers, the king of whoring a few positive lines for maximum effect. And, of course, the reviews themselves were mostly copies of one another, with a great chunk of prose spent on context based stuff like, "the film cost 17,000", or "they made there own camera's", and even, "he wrote about his own break-up". This stuff is mostly about justification and the press angle, so, I'm not going fault the work on that.
But, lets get to the actual film itself, and how this particular film outright compelled me to come on the web and give my two cents. Basically, the film is in essence, a break up movie. The lead character Woodrow, played here by the director himself is a typical "disaffected" young man, who, along with his best friend spends his days drinking, smoking and with the country boy craftsmanship of building "cool" stuff. They are seen spending time blowing stuff up at the beginning. Soon, they go out to what I assume is a dive bar, and low and behold, a cricket eating contest (in LA mind you), when we meet our lead female, the narrative conflict of the movie. We see Woodrow and soon to be lady friend Milly engage in eating crickets in slow mo, while a "cool" music track plays in the background. This is the essence of the movie. These bits of music video montage scenes are in my mind, the only respectable albeit very thin moments of the film, especially the final moments. They come and go in-between some of the most banal, and base scenes I have seen in years.
After this, Woodrow picks up Milly for a first date, and she proposes they go and eat at the most disgusting restaurant around, and guess what, Woodrow has a suggestion, but its located in Texas. So, what happens next, shoot, they go to Texas. The film carries on in this vein. I can go on, but even writing about it gets tiresome.
Anyways, to shorten this up, the relationship heads south, but for no reason other then the fact that Milly tells Woodrow that she is going to hurt him. And then she hurts him. Yup, thats it, because things go bad in relationships, but the audience is left to just assume things happen. The problem is, we are not lead to care any bit about them. All this heartbreak stuff doesn't add up, when you don't buy any of it. The film then continues to jump ahead and behind after an accident. And then things get violent, but in a pretty safe way. The film basically alludes to everything, and always in an extremely swallow, hey look at me mom kind of way. But heck, they built a "totally sweet ride brah" . With the finale going straight into film school cope out mode. I won't say anymore, so that I don't spoil the twist.
As you can tell, I did not like this movie. It felt as cliché as could be. I did not like the characters, all of whom became increasingly annoying. I did not like the writing. I did not like the acting, which goes into B level and below many, many times. And the visual style gets pretty dang boring after awhile. Note to some reviewers; spend some time on Vimeo, or Tumblr, and yeah, you got the visual aesthetic this strives for. Basically, everybody is doing that anyway, and really, swallow depth of field and especially tilt shift is boring when used for no reason other then, "to look cool". Which apply describes the hipster culture itself. It yells to be looked at, but on closer inspection, you realize that all its desires are superficial. Thats all it knows.
And that sums up the film for me. Everything done for effect, and nothing done to strive for a deeper reading. And thats the issue, because its not even entertaining. In fact, its altogether boring, but in the American style of boring, and not in the European, sophisticated, by design way boring.
I guess maybe its utility is best served as a sort of Hollywood calling card for the troupe, and for that, maybe it succeeds. But for something that I have to pay money to watch, no. And truth be told, if this was for free, I would probably pass as well.
Bellflower is an interesting film because even in it's flaws it kind of
speaks to the kind of film that it is. Unfortunately for me though,
that doesn't mean crap when the flaws are so blatant and intrusive. The
film starts off interestingly, a really in-your-face turn back the
clock montage that takes us to the beginning of our characters, two
wild twenty-something youths who spend their free time (which it seems
is all they have for some untold reason) preparing for their Mad Max
vision of the end of the world. In their mind it's perfectly normal to
spend their time building flamethrowers and tricking out muscle cars,
which is so dumb and idiotic and an absolute perfect depiction of men
at this time in their life.
The first hour takes a relatively standard approach to following these guys, but despite some pretty awful amateur performances and awkwardly obvious pieces of dialogue, it had a certain charm for me. Writer/director/star Evan Glodell gives an aesthetic feeling that was off-putting at first -- the focus falls off every so often, flecks off dirt come up into the lens -- once I settled into it I really began to embrace the tone he was going for. However once the film started to really get a rhythm going it decided to awkwardly jump forward a period of time (you can tell because the main character has a beard now!) it really caves in on itself.
It was going along smoothly but then decided to move the plot forward into more serious territory and then none of it worked anymore. Those bad performances became worse as the scenes progressed further and further into laughably horrendous melodrama with some of the most obvious and artificial character progressions and dialogue stretches I've seen. The film spirals down and down until it gets to it's last two chunks where I was just hoping they would clip the wings off and stop tarnishing the promise it once showed. There's a disastrous fifteen-minute sequence that felt absolutely worthless even before we find out that it actually is worthless, followed by the final act which just nonsensically rambles on for what seems like an eternity.
Ultimately, it felt like this was a premise that would have worked great as a short feature, but in stretching it out to something full-length Glodell really destroyed everything he had going for him. Still, despite ultimately being a failure, I think Glodell shows some promise here as a filmmaker and I'll be curious to see what he does next.
When David Fincher was preparing to shoot Fight Club, he briefly considered dispensing with stars and a big budget to shoot the film guerrilla style on digital video. Had he gone that route, the results would have been something along the lines of Bellflower, an audacious, flame- spewing, spit in the face of everything stale and conventional about modern cinema. Shot on a nothing budget using a camera that director/writer/star Evan Glodell built from odds and ends, Bellflower is a stark critique of characters lost and struggling in the sun soaked wastelands of Southern California. To go into detail would certainly ruin the joy of discovery this brutal movie has to offer. Suffice to say it is a love story like no other, chock full of drunken brawls, flame- throwers, and a muscle car named Medusa (also built from scratch by Glodell). Personally, I think this is one of the most important movies that's come out in recent memory. With a raw, ugly beauty reminiscent of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the sparse immediacy of films like Two Lane Blacktop, and David Lynch's ability to make the banal nightmarish and horrifying, Bellflower incinerates the very notion of narrative filmmaking, redefining it on its own terms. If indie filmmaking is meant to push the envelope, this movie leaves that envelope charred and twisting in the wind.
Just got out of the screening of this movie at the Independent Film
Fest of Boston. Bellflower is a visually stunning movie and is sure to
make help make the career of the star/director and a few other members
of the supporting cast.
The basic premise is that two friends decide to future-proof themselves by creating weaponry designed for ruling a potential post-apocalyptic wasteland. They figure that if Mad Max has taught us anything it is that whoever has the most badass weapons will end up on top.
Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson and Rebekah Brandes turn in impressive performances. I am sure that we will be seeing plenty of Jessie Wiseman.
The film was shot on handmade cameras that the director built which allowed him to create amazing tilt-shift visuals. All of the gadgets featured in the film were also built by the director for the movie. Filming happened over the course of 3 years on a meager budget of only $17,000, an amazing feat.
If this movie is playing at a local festival you need to go see it ASAP. I'm pretty sure that there will be plenty of buzz surrounding the film once it gets a wider release.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We saw a few movies at the Seattle film fest and this was the worst of what we saw. I like the premise a lot but the actual story does not live up to its potential. It was directed amateurishly and worse is the cinematography. I know others like this but I don't get it. I thought the acting was weak and over-the-top in some parts. I really wanted to like this film but after 30 minutes I was so bored I couldn't take it. My wife wanted to leave but I gave this movie every chance and stuck it out. For those who think there's some sort of nuclear blast; there is none. There is Apocalypse or anything of the sort - it's just a character study and a boring one at that.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The premise of this movie is so evocative and brilliant, that what the
director/writer actually gives you is even more of a disappointment.
Don't be deceived by the publicity. This is by no means an apocalyptic
melodrama, full of flame throwing hipsters wreaking havoc everywhere
they go. FAR FROM IT. This is a vapid mumblecore boyfriend/girlfriend
drama with some digressions that barely graze the original premise.
Almost the entire movie consists of the very slow charting of how two
couples find each other, couple, uncouple, recouple, etc. It's
completely generic at that level.
Spoiler alert below!
Also, I totally lost respect for the director/writer when, after finally showing us something shocking and violent - most the main characters murder each other or commit suicide - all this turns out to have just been a revenge fantasy in the mind of Woodrow, and it turns out none of it actually happened. How cowardly.
The movie has great pretensions to rocking our world, but turns out to be entirely timid and conventional. All the expressionist cinematography in the world doesn't make it interesting or original. Skip it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"I just don't need none of that Mad Max bullsh*t!" I gave this film a try on account of several good reviews, but I was seriously disappointed. Far from being fresh, the camera effects were excessive, giving you the feeling a toy camera filter had been added to every frame. The characters were thoroughly unappealing, with no depth. It was hard to find the patience to sit through all the screen time that was devoted to their self-absorbed, hipster fantasies. The emotional response and life and death consequences late in the film seem extremely disproportionate to what caused them- a breakup in a relationship that was boring, shallow, and doomed from the start. The constant hipster fantasy elements attempt to mask what is essentially a very hollow movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
How come after watching this odd fantasy called "BELLFLOWER," I get the
impression the Director/Writer/Star Evan Glodell was on the ground,
back to a telephone pole while inhaling a massive amount of pot upset
he hadn't come up with a title for his film and the movie had been in
the can. He can barely lift his spinning head enough to see the street
sign: 'BellFLower' and he exclaims: "Oh, man, that's it. Dude. It's
art, bro. F'ng art."
I can't explain this trip of a movie's title other than that scenario. It starts off as a dead-weight Mumblecore film, but at least in our reality and slowly transforms into a dark haze as if the audience was just as stoned.
We have two loser BFF's who's obsession with Mad Max, his flamethrowin' dude car and the possibility of an impending apocalypse goes a tad bit far. In fact, we really don't know if either of these adult males work we only know they're pimping their Road Warrior car named Medusa and their flamethrower and they like to hit on girls. One does hook up with one and things go sour from there. Sorta. Kinda.
Admittedly, the film's odd style, jumping all over the place and the dead-end lives you witness leave an impression, but since barely a thing happens worth repeating nor is there any point, it's not recommended.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars
I almost didn't watch this movie because its IMDb plot summary
(something about 2 guys building a monster car in preparation for the
apocalypse) made it sound like Beavis & Butthead vs. Road Warrior. That
couldn't be further from the truth.
True there are a couple explosions, flame throwers, firearms, a few pints of spilled blood, and a super souped-up Buick Skylark 1972 that would make James Bond hop on his tricycle and pedal furiously away. But essentially this is a love story. The apocalypse here is not a literal one but a personal one. Writer/director/principal actor Evan Glodell says he wrote it while in the painful haze of a bad breakup. Indeed, I would say this is one of the best post-breakup films to watch, because it perfectly captures the feeling of emotional desolation, hope & obsession associated with that mixed bag we call "love".
The story centers on 2 friends Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) who, contrary to their pastime of blowing things up, are NOT Beavis & Butthead type morons. They're just a couple of average-to-nerdy 20-somethings who live life one day at a time on the outskirts of LA. They drink a lot of beer. They try to pick up girls at the local bar (unsuccessfully most of the time). And when all else fails, they build the car of their dreams.
Enter Milly (Jessie Wiseman) who becomes Woodrow's love interest. In a very sweet way, Woodrow & Milly develop a charming relationship. But then things get complicated. Very complicated. I'm talking flame thrower complicated. The 2nd half of the movie is a suspenseful, tense, explosive ride that comes to a powerful climax with great, passionate acting.
The story is from Woodrow's point of view, the male point of view. Female characters seem peripheral, and I figured the IMDb demographic would show "Bellflower" to be preferred by males. Surprise: it's evenly split down the middle. Perhaps it's because, even though it's from a male perspective and has a lot of "manly" things like beer, whiskey, guns and cars that slurp a gallon of gas to pull out of the driveway, it's still a very sensitive film that can be appreciated by anyone. It exposes the vulnerabilities of heartbreak, the thrill of obsession, and the nature of friendship. And these things are not gender-specific.
A word about the cinematography: wow. As the story becomes increasingly complicated, the visuals become more expressionistic and hallucinatory. This is the masterwork of Joel Hodge, director of photography. Visuals are often very striking, with heavy color saturation, hazy filters and occasional lens grit, making it a very dreamlike presentation. I read that the cameras they used were mostly home made, scrapped together from cheap parts... much like the car "Medusa" which was actually built for this film. "Bellflower" was nominated for the 2012 Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography, but lost to the blockbuster Academy Award Winning "The Artist".
Another highlight: the music. Beginning with a dark acoustic guitar & vocal piece, the film keeps the soundtrack minimal (no melodramatic symphonies here) and toward the end throws in some powerful trip-hop, industrial house stuff. I didn't recognize any of the bands on the soundtrack, but it felt similar to maybe Jeff Buckley for the acoustic/vocal pieces and Portishead or AWOL Nation for the heavy stuff. Undeniably cool stuff.
"Bellflower" is an artistic, slow moving film that keeps gaining momentum all the way to its roller-coaster finale. There aren't any popular movies I can compare it to. But if you've seen the indie flicks "Entrance" (2012) or "The Tracey Fragments" (2007), or my favorite "Buffalo 66", then you can expect a similar off-kilter approach to filmmaking that makes this a challenging and ultimately satisfying movie.
So, here we are my first review. First of all, you must know I'm a
really BIG watcher but I've never wrote a review for the simple reason,
i never had to. But this time, it's different. Why? Because the
phenomenon of this "3.0" generation really start to exasperate me. In
fact I'm pretty sure all the people that destroy this movie did it on
their smart-phones while "watching" it.
It's amazing how the bad reviews are incredibly long and detailed. And if i put that in parallel with some pretty popular movies for that same generation, the conclusion i come to is that you aren't capable of watching a movie in his "fullness", you just watch a succession of "scenes".
I know, i know, I'm not really talking about the movie, just go read other good reviews if you want to know why it's a f*ck*ng pretty good movie.
I wrote this review only to give you an advice if you decide to watch it: JUST DO IT, it's a real journey. Don't judge it, appreciate it, and do that until the very last moment. At the end, maybe that you will have liked it, maybe not, but at least you won't have lost 2 hours of your life, because it's unique and mesmerizing. Something you won't be able to appreciate if you analyze every seconds of it.
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