At a time when Terrence Malick was often MIA, there was at least David Gordon Green (“George Washington,” “All the Real Girls”), one of the filmmakers’ too few copycats. Then he started making stoner comedies. The segue into “Pineapple Express,” “Your Highness” and “The Sitter,” although actually often wonderful, is unheard of in film history; it would be like if Michelangelo Antonioni had suddenly turned to Bond parodies. Green’s new “Prince Avalanche” is almost a return to form. Aesthetically it brings him back to the loose, contemplative shooting style of the films that made him a name. It’s still a dude comedy, even if one in shaggy “indie” clothes.
Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch play construction workers spending their summer largely alone repairing a stretch of highway in central Texas destroyed by wildfire. Rudd is comically serious; Hirsch is comically not. They bicker, especially once Hirsch’s sister, whom Rudd is dating from afar, dumps Rudd. Remade from the Icelandic film “Either Way,” this develops into a bros-before-hos comedy, albeit one with funky rhyhms and textures. Both actors (Hirsch especially) do fine work, perched somewhere between caricature and real-life sloppiness. Each character envisions themselves as something they’re not, someone more confident and in control, and the fun of the film is watching them discombobulate, eventually with the aid of drink. It’s a modest lark, both deeper than it has to be and not terribly deep, and its goofier textures are a reminder that, to be frank, Green’s “shameful” stoner comedies are often better than some of his “serious” work.
‘At Any Price’
Ramin Bahrani (“Man Push Cart,” “Goodbye Solo”) is one of the few American filmmakers truly carrying the torch of the neo-realist movements that sprouted up in Italy and elsewhere after WWII. His films dote on the working class, often with non-pros. It’s not particularly odd to see him handling actual names, even if one of them is Zac Efron. But it is strange watching him deal with a more ambitious, often foolhardy narrative. Dennis Quaid plays an ethics-challenged seed farmer whose son (Efron) is a layabout who suddenly gets interested in stock car driving. The script veers madly between Bahrani’s usual, typically perceptive blue collar concerns and go-nowhere subplots he clearly doesn’t care about (namely Heather Graham as a temptress). A last-minute morality lesson shouldn’t have been last minute, but Bahrani, usually all handheld naturalism, proves oddly capable during the actually kinetic racing sequences.
‘Greetings from Tim Buckley’
The late Jeff Buckley was the son of the similarly doomed troubadour Tim Buckley, whom he met only twice. Daniel Algrant’s drama somewhat artlessly jumps between father and son, with Jeff (Penn Badgley), a then-unknown, being summoned to a tribute concert for his dad, peppered with scenes with Tim (Ben Rosenfield), all footloose and fancy-free. Algrant doesn’t lean too much on connections and contrasts, which is a good thing. But he does OD on sensitive singer-songwriter cliches, with Jeff a alternately whimsical and brooding as he hangs with an all-too-susceptible folk music fangirl (Imogen Poots, alert and wonderful as ever). But the real Buckleys were probably this corny, too.