Land Ho! Blu-ray Review
One of the major drawbacks of divorce is that sometimes you can’t hang out with the same friends anymore. Mitch (Nelson) and Colin (Eenhoorn) were good pals, married to sisters. When Mitch and his wife divorced he felt awkward being around. Even when Colin’s wife passed away, Mitch couldn’t bring himself to attending the funeral. Which is why Mitch is ecstatic that Colin is coming to visit. Lonely after his wife’s death, Colin rushed into a second marriage which has now ended in divorce. But Mitch has a surprise for his friend. They’re about to embark on a trip to Iceland!
Well written and directed, LAND HO! is a smart, small film that manages to get across the various emotions we all deal with in life in an honest, yet sometimes humorous, way. Mitch is a surgeon who still enjoys wielding his scalpel. Colin was at one time a prestigious Orchestra-level French horn player who gave it all up to become a banker. This is just one of the many sadness’s in his life. Where Mitch is all gung-ho and cheerful, Colin is cautionary. Yet it’s still easy to see how the two originally became friends and why they continue to be. Mitch likes bawdy humor and is probably the only person to ever drop a CADDYSHACK reference while bathing in hot springs. Colin is much quieter, though it’s clear that he appreciates his friends take on life. You actually feel bad for these two that they allowed something…anything, really…to keep them apart. Their affection for each other is genuine.
The film is beautifully shot. The various Icelandic locations jump off the screen like a video created by the local tourist board. From the lush meadows to the snow packed hills, the country is truly a star of this film. The script is smartly conceived, giving each character a strong story. Besides our two travelers we meet Mitch’s cousin and her traveling companion (Karrie Crouse and Elizabeth McKee) as well as the beautiful Nadine (Alice Olivia Clarke), who photographs the two gentlemen while they relax in the hot springs and takes a liking to Colin. Their moment together is genuine and doesn’t feel like it was “tacked on” last minute. These are fully realized characters who express their emotions freely. All of the performances are spot on with not a false note among them.
The direction is equally strong. Usually it’s hard to get a clear vision with multiple directors but, since Katz and Stephens, the pair behind the camera, also wrote the film, it’s obvious that they were on the same page during filming. The story flows well with the actors given the opportunity to be “natural.” Never did I think “well, it’s obvious that guy’s acting.” Which is hard to say for many films these days. Technically the film is also well done, with credit going to the trio of cinematographer Andrew Reed, the film’s editor (and co-director) Katz and composer Keegan DeWitt, whose score neatly accompanies, and compliments, the action on-screen.
Video: Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the images jump off the screen. The colors are bright and vibrant, making even a dinner plate covered in fish seem exciting!
Audio: Presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the film is “quiet” but in a good way. The sounds of the countryside (birds, water, etc) are nicely mixed in with the dialogue so that one never overlaps the other. The process is also used in the French audio while the Spanish channel is in Dolby Digital 5.1
Audio Commentary: Writers/Directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens are joined by co-stars Earl Lynn Nelson and Paul Eenhoorn on an incredibly sharp commentary track. Nothing is off limits and it’s obvious that the foursome enjoy sharing some time together again.
Los Angeles Film Fest Q&A (13:27): The quartet above are joined by actress Elizabeth McKee in answering audience questions after a screening of the film.
Deleted Scenes (12:17): Three deleted scenes and an alternate beginning, which really neither help or hinder the film. However, the one called “Balls” is pretty funny, featuring Earl Lynn Nelson figuring out just the right nuances to give the word.