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Prince Avalanche (2013)

Magnolia Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/12/2013

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/8/2013

Movies are a form of artistic expression. Therefore, the term "art movie" sounds redundant. After all, we wouldn't say "art song" or "art painting". But, when you hear "art movie", you know exactly what I'm talking about. These are movies which focus more on visuals and mood than on story. In fact, some of them have next-to-no story, and when they are over, many audience members may be hard-pressed to explain the premise of the film. Some like this sort of minimalist approach, while others find the movies pretentious. Prince Avalanche falls squarely into the "art movie" category. Can it be a film which actually crosses over to impress a wider audience?

Prince Avalanche introduces us to Alvin (Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch), two men who have been given the task of painting lines and doing other maintenance on a lonely strip of Texas highway which wind through an area that has been devastated by a forest fire Alvin fancies himself to be an intellectual and he basks in the quiet of the area and relishes the solitude. Lance is far less refined and sees the job as solely a job. He'd much rather be in town attempting to find female companionship. Obviously, the pair have little in common, save for the fact that Alvin is dating Lance's sister, and Alvin views the job as a way to make enough money for the two of them to take their dream trip to Europe. The drudgery of the job can lead to heated tempers, and as he days wear on, the two begin to reveal their true selves.

Makes no mistake, Prince Avalanche is one of those movies which is going to divide audience. Not because it's controversial in any way -- but because it will be to the liking of some and others will find it to be a complete waste of time. I fall squarely into that second category.

Prince Avalanche comes from Director David Gordon Green, who began his career making small, indie films and then moved into very mainstream Hollywood fare with movies like Pineapple Express and The Sitter (two films which I did not enjoy. I have not seen Your Highness, but I've certainly heard bad things.) Green had stated that his next project would be a remake of Dario Argento's classic Suspiria. At some point, either while waiting to see if the funding would come through, or after he learned that the funding could not be secured, Green retreated to his more artistic roots and crafted Prince Avalanche.

In the extra features included on the Blu-ray Disc, we learn that Green first had the location. He then decided that it would be a perfect spot for a remake of the Icelandic film Either Way. The title came to him in a dream. He took Rudd, Hirsch, and a small crew into the forest and shot the film in a little over two weeks. In other words, this is a true combination of a bohemian mindset combined with an art film. The lack of ground-floor planning and script polishing has allowed Green to create a movie which offers very little substance and wants to subsist solely on visuals and mood.

And this is where the movie is going to divide audience...and not down the middle. Most viewers will find the movie somewhat quirky and charming at first, but they will quickly grow bored with it as they realize that nothing is truly going to happen. It would be inaccurate to say that the movie has no story, as it does. At the outset, we are introduced to Alvin and Lance, and we get an idea of who they are, or more importantly, who they think they are. Through their conversations and interactions, the two begin to truly examine their lives and take note of their own flaws. This actually isn't a bad idea, and the story would work very well as a play. But, as a movie, it fails. We only get 50, maybe 60 minutes of dialogue in the 94 minute movie. The remainder of the film is comprised of montages of the pair working on the road or walking through the woods. There's a truly bizarre scene in which Rudd plays pretend in an abandoned house and we get some moments where the two just ride in their jeep in silence.

It's not unusual for art movies to have quiet passages, sections which rely totally on the visuals, or scenes which simply make no sense. However, the good ones (see David Lynch) offer interesting characters or inventive visuals. We get none of that here. Obviously, Alvin and Lance are quirky in their own way, but they aren't intriguing enough to hold our attention for an entire film. The movie has a few funny moments, most of which were in the trailer, but for the most part, I found myself on the verge of dozing off. I like that Rudd wants to try different parts, but I expected more from him. And as for Hirsch, I found myself constantly distracted by the fact that he's turning into Jack Black.

Prince Avalanche never explains if the road repair is related to the fire on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Magnolia Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 34 Mbps. The image is very, very clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source material. The shots in the forest show excellent depth and it looks like the trees just go on and on. The colors look very good, most notably the yellow lines, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The in-film music, while too wistful for my taste, sounds fine. We some nice stereo and surround effects which take advantage of the forest location, as we occasionally hear various woodland noises coming from the front and rear channels. The truck which visits the guys offers some subtle subwoofer effects.

The Prince Avalanche Blu-ray Disc contains a number of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director David Gordon Green, Set Production Assistant Hugo Garza, and Talent Driver Paul Logan. The Disc contains one DELETED SCENE which runs about 30 seconds, and is a goofy throwaway scene. Green, Rudd, and Hirsch describe the characters and the performances in "Paul & Emile" (7 minutes). "From the Ashes" (9 minutes) is a making-of featurette in which Green describes how the project came together and what the production was like. Here, we learn that the Green had the location before he had a script and that one character wound up in the movie simply because they were there. "Lance LeGault" (5 minutes) is a brief segment where the players reminisce about working with the late actor. We get INTERVIEWS with Rudd & Hirsch (7 minutes) and Green (5 minutes). "AXS TV: A look at Prince Avalanche" (4 minutes) is an EPK for the film. The final extra is a TRAILER for the movie.

Review Copyright 2013 by Mike Long