Review: Land Ho! 

****
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Labor Day is just around the corner, but there's still time to squeeze in a vacation. Land Ho! invites you to join a couple of old friends on a road trip through beautiful Iceland. The scenery is gorgeous, the mood is upbeat and your traveling companions are interesting fellows.

The big revelation about the film is that it has no big revelations. Late in the proceedings one of the main characters reveals a fact about his life that may alter your perception of him, but it doesn't qualify as a big revelation. The bottom line is that the film barely has a plot, and in this case that's a good thing. During the press screening, I caught myself tensing up as I waited for the inevitable MAJOR DRAMATIC MOMENT to occur. But it never did. The filmmakers had the nerve to let the movie just happen.

Road trip movies work if the characters work, but filmmakers usually feel compelled to slather some plot line onto the travels. One of the characters has a fatal illness. One of the characters is being chased by the mob. One of the characters zzzzzz...

Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz wrote and directed the film. Kudos to them for realizing that engaging characters, visually arresting locations and a few groovy tunes (hey, it's Big Country!) would be enough for a good time.

Mitch (Earl Lynn Nelson) and Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) are retirees, longtime friends and former brothers-in-law. Both of them are single now. Colin's wife died and Mitch's spouse divorced him. The estranged friends meet up at Mitch's Kentucky home and before you know it, Mitch has convinced Colin to join him on a trip to Iceland. The agenda? Good times.

Paul Eenhoorn is a respected independent film actor from Australia. His character Colin is reserved and well-mannered without being fussy about it. He's the kind of guy who is willing to join in the fun, but generally requires a little nudge first.

Mitch is the man who provides the nudge. A former doctor, he's one of those people who says whatever he wants regardless of the circumstance. If a crude, obvious sexual observation is in the air, he's the one who will voice it. Some of his remarks make others uncomfortable, maybe even annoyed, but they stick with Mitch because it's clear his intentions are positive. Oh, and he's a pothead too. Actor Earl Lynn Nelson is a surgeon in real life and Martha Stevens second cousin. He's a natural and quite a find.

Early in the trip the men spend some time with Mitch's cousin Ellen (Karrie Crouse) and her friend Janet (Elizabeth McKee, Aaron Katz's wife). The encounter doesn't feel manufactured — it's just another engaging part of the trip.

So there you go. Land Ho! doesn't feel written. It feels like it occurred and we are lucky enough to get to watch. It's a low-key delight, a little movie that doesn't aspire to hipness, as evidenced by the exclamation point in its title. What a treat.

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What others are saying (4)

New Times San Luis Obispo Review: Land Ho! Ken Korman on a spirited indie road movie about two old fellows who travel across Iceland by Ken Korman 08/25/2014
SF Weekly "Land Ho!": Older and Wiser in Iceland by Jonathan Kiefer 07/23/2014
Portland Mercury Encounters at the End of the World Director Aaron Katz on Iceland, weirdness, and Land Ho! by Erik Henriksen 08/13/2014
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Gambit Review: Land Ho! Ken Korman on a spirited indie road movie about two old fellows who travel across Iceland by Ken Korman 08/25/2014

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Ed Johnson-Ott

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