Review: Land Ho!


Land Ho!

Filmmakers Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens, who have teamed up for Land Ho!, have individually premiered all of their previous features at SXSW Film Festival. They're each known for films where characters are deep in exploration -- about themselves but also perhaps, a mystery (Cold Weather, Passenger Pigeons) or even a landscape (Brooklyn in Quiet City, Kentucky in Pilgrim Song). In Land Ho! (which premiered at Sundance this year), the same type of exploration takes place -- this time in Iceland -- with two primary characters who are gentlemen in their retirement years. It's a change for Katz, whose characters are usually in their late teens/early twenties.

No matter what the age of the characters, however, Stephens and Katz sustain the audience's interest in the type of story that sounds terribly slow and dull when explained in print, but is very rewarding as it unfolds onscreen. Two retired brothers-in-law, Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn), couldn't be more different. Mitch is a brash New Orleans doctor who loves talking to people -- and he has no filters -- smoking pot and unabashedly admiring women. Colin is a quiet, thoughtful Australian, frequently embarrassed or annoyed by Mitch. The two embark on a trip to Iceland together, beginning in Reykjavik and heading to less populated locales.

The focus of Land Ho! is the relationship between the Mitch and Colin, and how they affect one another, and where that leads over the course of the movie. The chief entertainment value is Mitch's dialogue, which is often outrageous and eye-opening (I had never heard steak compared to the female anatomy before). Of course, the film's best moments occur when he's not that way, but the conversation is never dull.

Nelson is in fact a New Orleans doctor, cousin to co-director Stephens, and this is only his third film role. You'd never know it. Eenhorn is an experienced actor (This Is Martin Bonner) whose understated performance complements Nelson's perfectly. And both are assisted by Iceland itself -- the landscapes once they leave the big city are striking and gorgeous. Remember all that gorgeous scenery in last year's The Secret Life of Walter Mitty? Well, this time it has an equally lovely and much more subtle story to work with.

Land Ho! is the kind of movie I always hope to see from Alexander Payne, if he actually seemed to like and respect any of his characters. I hope it has the kind of long run at the Arbor that is usual for Payne's movies. Even if you're not a fan of that theater (the only place in Austin where it's screening), take a chance on Land Ho!. Slow down for 90 minutes and enjoy delightful characters, a fascinating landscape, and an engrossing movie.

Austin connections: Producer Christina Jennings lives in Austin and graduated from The University of Texas in Austin. One of the film's executive producers is Central Texas filmmaker David Gordon Green. Aaron Katz was a member of the 2014 Austin Film Society Grants jury.

so you like the movie Land Ho

so you like the movie Land Ho and the Arbor is the only place playing it but you are still going to hate on the Arbor. Doesn't make much sense.


Because a) the sound and picture quality are often inconsistent and b) the audience is often noisy. Got to hear someone snoring when I saw Love is Strange there last week.