Bellflower

 

Bellflower

Production Design by Team Coatwolf

Photography by Joel Hodge

Special Effects by Wyatt Glodell

Music by Jonathan Keevil

Sound by Scott Casillas, Chris Terhune & Jason Gaya

Edited by Evan Glodell, Joel Hodge, Jonathan Keevil & Vincent Grashaw

Produced by Vincent Grashaw & Evan Glodell

Written & Directed by Evan Glodell

Sundance Film Festival: January, 2011

US Theatrical Release: Selected Theaters, Fall 2011

 

Cast:

Evan Glodell as Woodrow

Jessie Wiseman as Milly

Tyler Dawson as Aiden

Rebekah Brandes as Courtney

Vincent Grashaw as Mike

 

Production Studio:

Theatrical: Coatwolf

Video: Oscilloscope Laboratories

 

Video:

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Disc Size: BD50

Feature size: ca. 30 GB

Bit Rate: High (30-40 Mbps)

Runtime: 107 minutes

Chapters: 17

Region: All

 

Audio

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

English LPCM 2.0

 

Subtitles: English

 

Extras:

• Behind the Scenes of Bellflower (23:45)

• Medusa Rundown (10:05)

• Crazy Outtakes - in HD (7:55)

• Original theatrical trailer 

• DVD copy


Presentation:

Custom Paper Gatefold Blu-ray case: 

BRD x 1 + DVD x 1

Release Date: September 13, 2011



Synopsis [Oscilloscope]:

Best friends Woodrow and Aiden spend all of their free time building Mad Max-inspired flamethrowers and muscle cars in preparation for a global apocalypse.  But when Woodrow meets a charismatic young woman and falls hard in love, he and Aiden quickly integrate into a new group of friends, setting off on a journey of love and hate, betrayal, infidelity, and extreme violence more devastating and fiery than any of their apocalyptic fantasies.

 

About the Director:

Originally from Wisconsin, Evan Glodell moved to California in his early 20s with a group of close friends to pursue his dream of becoming a filmmaker via their production collective “Coatwolf.”  His credits include directing Cursive’s “Let Me Up” music video, cinematography on horror movie PLACEBO and short film SAVANNA, and conceptualizing and starring in the edgy sitcom BOSS OF THE GLORY for STIM TV.  BELLFLOWER is Glodell’s feature-length directorial debut.


     

 

Critical Reaction:

Rolling Stone 8.0

Here's a movie that starts in your face and, amazingly, keeps coming at you. That's a good thing. Writer-director Evan Glodell's explosive debut feature is a thing of toxic beauty. Glodell plays Woodrow, a young blood with no place to go. So he and his buddy Aiden (Tyler Dawson) obsess over drinking, sex, Mad Max muscle cars, and building weapons of (they hope) mass destruction. The flamethrower they construct is an ideal start for their plan of leaving the world in ashes. Things mellow a bit when Woodrow falls for Milly (Jessie Wiseman), a hot blonde with fantasies to rivals his own. But enough of plot. Bellflower needs to be seen. Of course Glodell goes too far. But the movie he's built is one hot ride. - Peter Travers


     

 

Chicago Sun-Times : 7.5

"Bellflower" is a scrappy indie movie that comes out of nowhere and blows up stuff real good. It also possibly represents the debut of a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, a natural driven by wild energy, like Tarantino. . . The film is essentially a mumblecore rom-com, although that makes it sound too derivative. Glodell is an engaging hands-on director (he built not only the Medusa but also the camera he uses) and an engaging actor. His cast is always convincing. His screenwriting lacks a shade in clarity, but then, so do the lives of these characters. The cinematography, by Joel Hodge, is raw and high-contrast, weathered and full of character, with lots of blood reds. It wouldn't take much work by a designer to make a ripped T-shirt out of the look here. And when the Medusa belches flames, man oh man, people notice. - Roger Ebert


     


The Onion A.V. Club : 4.2

It’s true that mediocrity is the enemy of greatness, but even a movie that puts forth a singular, uncompromising vision can be intolerable in other ways. Bellflower, the first film from writer/director/actor/gadget-creator Evan Glodell looks like nothing else and commits to the audacious idea of melding end-of-the-world fantasies with the misery of a romantic breakup. It is, without a doubt, a striking debut. But it’s also punishingly distasteful and disjointed almost beyond coherence, a repetitive heap of a film that feels disgorged rather than crafted. . .


After a point, Bellflower becomes a film about men who hate women, and it comes awfully close to endorsing their posint of view. Women here are either duplicitous or disposable, and while there’s something to the way the film presents its heroes’ descent into ultra-masculine hobbies and knee-jerk violence as gross overreactions to their troubles with the opposite sex, it doesn’t have a firm enough grasp on its characters, or strong enough actors, to carry those ideas across. Glodell has an eccentric vision, a gift for striking visuals, and some ingenious ideas. But his dreary notion of drama, which ultimately defines the film more than its distinctive look or its flame-spewing car, is almost Tommy Wiseau-like: Characters enter a room and yell at one another, then repeat the process until the bloodshed starts. - Keith Phipps


     

 

LensView:

The Movie : 6

As a glance at the film’s credits observes, Bellflower is something of a group effort, lead by Evan Glodell as Writer, Producer, Editor, Director and Star. But others figure in dual and triple functions as well. Indeed, this is the nucleus of his production company: “Coatwolf.”


Bellflower, among other things, can be viewed as a response to the question the older generation has wanted to know ever since Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Is there anything going on in the hearts and minds of those whose vocabulary is limited to “Awesome” “Dude” “Cool” and selected cultural references?  Unlike Bill and Ted whose excuse was a certain charming, galactic stupidity, the question has more substance when such persons are drunk and sleep deprived most of the time.


     

 

I am usually dismissive of movies who feature characters who spend most of their time on screen in states of altered consciousness, since I believe it tells us nothing about the human condition that we don’t already know. Since perception and behavior is summarily altered, there is no takeaway for the audience beyond what everyone knows already: drugs and alcohol make you do stupid things that you might not live long enough to regret.

 

Well, as I say, I don’t usually get past my feeling about all this enough to enjoy or appreciate a film about the inevitable consequence of a wasted life – which is, in case I haven’t made myself abundantly clear: a wasted life. To cut to the chase: the story would have significantly greater personal impact if everyone in it weren’t slobberingly toasted.  Do these people behave this way because they have nothing else going for them, or are they just drunk?


     


But Bellflower has a little more going for it – on the surface at least. We kind of know how it ends before it gets under way, so the journey is about how did things get so out of control. All the signposts are there: the Medusa muscle car, the veneration of Lord Humungus (more on him in a bit), the flamethrower and not least, how carelessly the characters value their lives.  Everything they do is designed to increases sensation.  They are addicted to sensation, but they’re so wasted on alcohol and deliberate sleep deprivation (interestingly enough, not on drugs so much) that they are unable to process anything and require more and more risk to make any impression. They live their lives on a never ending series of dares, like 8-year old children: the first being who can eat more crickets in one sitting and, like two tough guys from any 1940s movie who become fast friends after a good fight, become lovers after a bug-eating competition.  I mean: where does one go from there!  Glodell’s answer: the apocalyptic love story that is “Bellflower.”


     

 

What catches our attention, what feels familiar, is that Milly tells Woodrow early on that she is likely going to hurt him, that he shouldn’t get involved with her if he knows what’s good for him.  Who hasn’t heard that speech before, and who can resist its beckoning call?  Jason couldn’t, but he had the good sense to tie himself to a mast and demand his crew stuff their ears with wax.  Jason also had the help of Orpheus whose song was even more powerful than the Seirenes.  We mortals all have friends like that, but pay them no mind, sometimes to our eternal regret.  Unfortunately for Woodrow, his one close friend, Aiden, is far too uncritical.  I suppose that’s what we want: someone to be there no matter what and to keep their judgments to themselves.  It may be what we want, but it sure as hell isn’t what we need.


Woodrow and Aiden keep referring to Lord Humungus and Mad Max in the same breath.  They revere Humungus (spelled “Humungous” on the insert card of the movie) and see him as their  idol.  If they could parade around the countryside looking all untouchable and apocalyptic, it would be the height of cool.  (Just to clarify: The original Australian title of the first sequel may have been “Mad Max 2,” but in the States we knew it as “The Road Warrior” - a much better and more meaningful title in terms of Woodrow and Aiden’s not so excellent adventure.)  But on to what almost saves this movie:


     


The final montage of Woodrow “as Humungus” echoes with awesome cool, the final shot of Max in Road Warrior.  The boys’ notion of Humungus as an unstoppable force of nature, “the ayatollah of rock-and-rollah” who has his way with whomever and whatever, does have tragic implications, however, since Humungus meets his end in a fiery head-on collision with a fuel tanker as, in his own way, does Woodrow.  But Humungus has a characteristic not shared by Woodrow or Aiden, or anyone else in this movie: he is intelligent, self-aware and tired of his life.  Woodrow is only tired, but at the very end it is possible that he may have learned something about himself through it all.  He is nothing at this point if not reflective.


This is as bad a place as any to weigh in on the title: Bellflower.  Remind you of anything?  Don’t ruin this by saying “yes.”  A kind of flower, perhaps?  A city in Southern California?  How’s about “Magnolia” - as in the Paul Thomas Anderson film of that name? For if you know your way around town and look closely you might notice that all the events take place more or less on Magnolia Blvd in Burbank.  Glodell is less obscure on this point, but I suspect his reasoning was much the same.  “Cool” “Awesome” Sweet”!  Dude, I worry about you.


     

 

Image: 9/8

Then there is the brutally self-conscious post-processing emulating a Christopher Doyle green-hued, exaggerated color and contrast and some of the oddest selective focusing (starting with the title card itself) I’ve ever encountered. Frankly, I have no idea why Glodell uses this technique, nor why he more or less abandons it halfway through the film.  It’s pointless to talk about blacks and detail since the low and high end of the frequency spectrum are so crushed at the one end and blown out at the other. Noise and grain come and go.  Resolution is irrelevant. (Oliver Stone, what have you done to us!) Other than these peculiarities, I can’t make out transfer issues, but if Oscilloscope's past history is any guide, there are none.


     

 

Audio & Music: 6/8

I am inclined not to fault Oscilloscope for the inclusion of such a lame surround mix.  It is highly unlikely that Bellflower was designed with such am outcome in mind.  In the club and house party scenes near the beginning there is almost no activity in the surrounds to create ambiance. The flamethrower has surprisingly little power.  Realistically recorded or not, this is one place where a punch ought to have been granted.  It should frighten us even if it doesn’t do all that much for the boys. It is only near the climactic end where sound effects have some size and weight.  I agree they should not have wasted opportunity earlier, but to pass over the obvious: I don’t think so.  It turns out, not to my surprise, that the 2.0 LPCM is better in every way.  It has better dynamics; it’s more focused, sharper, clearer, and more powerful. Definitely preferred.  And we should be grateful that Oscilloscope offers the option in LPCM.  The dialogue sounds a bit thin on either mix - sounds like it might be the mikes.  Jonathan Keevil’s music score, which I felt was smart and supportive throughout, is nicely scaled.


     

 

Extras: 5

The twenty-three minute “Behind-the-Scenes” segment is the single feature that speaks to the production: how it came to be despite lack of money, sometimes even a lack of actors; all about the flamethrower; the Medusa car; and how their movie got to Sundance.  It’s a very personal three-year journey for all concerned.  The bloggy filming alternates between the highly processed style of the main feature, raw and natural footage. Not a word about the photography, the sound or the title.


“Medusa Rundown” is an exhaustive piece that details everything about the Medusa Car.  A must for car freaks.  The eight-minute “Crazy Outtakes” is the only piece in HD and, considering how silly these sorts of segments usually are, is worth a look. It’s as much about the production as it was about bits that didn’t work. Crazy Outtakes is edited in a continuous roll, which I rather liked.


     

 

Recommendation: 6

Looks like I come down on the not-so-impressed end of the critical spectrum.  Besides his creation of boring and overzealous characters, I found Glodell’s production design, with its heightened color and contrast and shifting focus within the frame cloying and amateurish, like the director who just discovered the zoom lens and uses without consideration to the narrative.  That said, the performances, especially from Wiseman, Dawson and Glodell himself, breathe something resembling life into his familiar, if pointless characters.  While I can sympathize with the feeling that the end of a relationship seems like the end of days and everything that goes with it, the comparison to Max and Humungous is lost on me.  Through it all Oscilloscope keeps their chin up and their eye on the ball.  You gotta give them credit for supporting young filmmakers.


     

 

 

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

October 22, 2011



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