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Tribeca Film Festival 2013: Deep Powder

The film is a serviceable, if unremarkable, tale of doomed, cross-class love and criminal activity set against the remote backdrop of a New England mountain town.

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Based on a 1984 New York Times article, Deep Powder, Mo Ogrodnik’s first feature since 1996’s Ripe, is a serviceable, if unremarkable, tale of doomed, cross-class love and criminal activity set against the remote backdrop of a New England mountain town. In the 1981-set narrative, fashion-model handsome Shiloh Fernandez plays Danny, a 20-year-old ski-lift operator under constant pressure from his single mother to go back to school. His customers are mainly arrogant, privileged kids from a prestigious local boarding school who frequently belittle him and display little regard for his solid working-class credentials. One fateful day, he makes lingering eye contact with Natasha (Haley Bennett), a pretty, blond-haired, blue-eyed dreamer. This look—a convenient cinematic shorthand—signifies a kind of love at first sight, and after Danny has returned Natasha’s lost wallet without stealing any money, they embark on a sweet affair. What Danny doesn’t know is that Natasha is a member of a secret society, the Deep Powder Alpine Country Club, which makes an annual run to Ecuador, a tradition funded by the club’s alumni who use the yearly sojourn to score an allotment of top-grade cocaine. Natasha is selected to make this year’s run, while wrong-side-of-the-tracks Danny—smitten, socially frustrated, and tempted by the promise of fast cash—is lined up by his new love to partner her on the journey, which, unsurprisingly, ends disastrously.

Even though the film is based on a true story, Ogrodnik still has work to do in crafting a convincing psychological landscape upon which to unfurl the characters’ risky, if not completely brainless, actions—and she succeeds to a degree. The region’s class divisions are sharply drawn, and character motivations are fairly well articulated; Ogrodnik makes it easy to see why hemmed-in nice-guy Danny might be tempted by the promise of social mobility, while Natasha has a tragic homelife of her own (a mother lost to suicide; a cold, distant father), and a wild, willowy streak. The wintry environs, captured with a clinical digital chill, are expansive, but uniform and glumly claustrophobic at the same time, providing an aptly ominous backdrop. Ogrodnik isn’t really interested in portraying the rich kids as anything more than spoiled assholes en bloc, but the actors in question (Josh Saladin’s Kaz is especially odious) do a solid job in nailing just that vibe, directing our affections, perhaps a little manipulatively, toward our putative outlaw pair.

Unfortunately, in opting to structure the film around a clichéd teen-love movie framework, Ogrodnik circumvents engagement with the story’s inherent darkness; it’s as though she’s scrupulously ensuring her film will play comfortably as a cautionary tale with a younger crowd. Its most intriguing questions (among them: is Natasha actually a manipulative sociopath?) go largely uninvestigated in favor of pat conclusions. Worse still, Ogrodnik exhibits a fondness for the cheesy love scene reminiscent of Nicholas Sparks adaptations—soft-focus affairs lit and shot like fashion commercials, and scored with twinkly acoustic lilts. Both Fernandez (likeable) and Bennett (only a little Manic Pixie Dream Girl-ish) give respectable performances, but neither locate an inner pain deep enough to evoke anything stronger than vague twinges of empathy from the audience. The director’s one major flash of formal invention is to occasionally intersperse the narrative with after-the-fact VHS interviews with friends and family who offer vague, Rashomon-lite ruminations on the incidents and characters involved. But a distancing device isn’t necessary with such a slim story, and the interviews only serve to make explicit subtext that’s already apparent (Natasha’s a little off the wall, Danny was impulsive, etc.).

The end result, though well-intentioned and hardly disastrous, doesn’t hit as hard as it should, even if it does bear merit as a solemn comment on America’s intractable, if rarely acknowledged, class system. However, its title, a double-edged pun on snow and cocaine, is perhaps the riskiest thing about it.

The Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 17—27.

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Let Your Sanity Go on Vacation with a Trip to the Moons of Madness

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

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Moons of Madness
Photo: Rock Pocket Games

The announcement trailer for Moons of Madness opens with an empty shot of the Invictus, a research installation that’s been established on Mars. The camera lingers over well-lit but equally abandoned corridors, drifting over a picture of a family left millions of kilometers behind on Earth before finally settling on the first-person perspective of Shane Newehart, an engineer working for the Orochi Group. Fans of a different Funcom series, The Secret World, will instantly know that something’s wrong. And sure enough, in what may be the understatement of the year, Newehart is soon talking about how he “seems to have a situation here”—you know, what with all the antiquated Gothic hallways, glitching cameras, and tentacled creatures that start appearing before him.

As with Dead Space, it’s not long before the station is running on emergency power, with eerie whispers echoing through the station and bloody, cryptic symbols being scrawled on the walls. Did we mention tentacles? Though the gameplay hasn’t officially been revealed, this brief teaser suggests that players will have to find ways both to survive the physical pressures of this lifeless planet and all sorts of sanity-challenging supernatural occurrences, with at least a soupçon of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmicism thrown in for good measure.

If you dare, ascend into the horrors of the Martian mind and check out the trailer for yourself.

Rock Pocket Games will release Moons of Madness later this year.

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Watch: Two Episode Trailers for Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone Reboot

Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes.

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The Twilight Zone
Photo: CBS All Access

Jordan Peele is sitting on top of the world—or, at least, at the top of the box office, with his sophomore film, Us, having delivered (and then some) on the promise of his Get Out. Next up for the filmmaker is the much-anticipated reboot of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, which the filmmaker executive produced and hosts. Ahead of next week’s premiere of the series, CBS All Access has released trailers for the first two episodes, “The Comedian” and “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet.” In the former, Kumail Nanjiani stars as the eponymous comedian, who agonizingly wrestles with how far he will go for a laugh. And in the other, a spin on the classic “Nightmare at 20,0000 Feet” episode of the original series starring William Shatner, Adam Scott plays a man locked in a battle with his paranoid psyche. Watch both trailers below:

The Twilight Zone premieres on April 1.

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Scott Walker Dead at 76

Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde.

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Scott Walker
Photo: 4AD

American-born British singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Scott Walker, who began his career as a 1950s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, has died at 76. In a statement from his label 4AD, the musician, born Noel Scott Engel, is celebrated for having “enriched the lives of thousands, first as one third of the Walker Brothers, and later as a solo artist, producer and composer of uncompromising originality.”

Walker was born in Hamilton, Ohio on January 9, 1943 and earned his reputation very early on for his distinctive baritone. He changed his name after joining the Walker Brothers in the early 1960s, during which time the pop group enjoyed much success with such number one chart hits as “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore).”

The reclusive Walker’s solo work moved away from the pop leanings of the Walker Brothers and increasingly toward the avant-garde. Walker, who was making music until his death, received much critical acclaim with 2006’s Drift and 2012’s Bish Bosch, as well as with 2014’s Soused, his collaboration with Sunn O))). He also produced the soundtrack to Leos Carax’s 1999 romantic drama Pola X and composed the scores for Brady Corbet’s first two films as a director, 2016’s The Childhood of a Leader and last year’s Vox Lux.

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