Perhaps the film I was most disappointed to miss at January's Sundance Film Festival was “Land Ho!,” an Iceland-set road comedy from directors Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens. I've been a Katz fan for some time: his third feature, the Portland semi-noir “Cold Weather,” landed in my 2010 Top 10. (I also interviewed him at that year's London Film Festival.)
So it's nice to see him rising through the distribution ranks: IFC Films taking “Cold Weather” was a step up from the ultra-indie distributors of his first two features, and “Land Ho!” went one better, scoring a deal with Sony Pictures Classics. SPC will release the film in New York and Los Angeles on July 11, a couple of weeks after it plays the LA Film Fest; it also surfaces this month at the Tribeca Film Festival.
“Land Ho!” follows the low-key adventures of a pair of former brothers-in-law, both retired, who travel to Iceland to celebrate one of the men's recent divorce. Camping, carousing and general chasing of lost youth ensue, though it's a safe enough guess that Katz and Stephens have not taken the “Last Vegas” route. HitFix's Dan Fienberg was an admirer at Sundance, describing it as “funny and moving” and “a perfectly cast buddy romp.”
Playing the leads are Paul Eenhoorn, who made such a strong impression last year in Chad Hartigan's “This is Martin Bonner,” and Earl Lynn Nelson, whose previous acting experience is limited to Stephens' last two features. Katz's fellow North Carolina School of the Arts graduate David Gordon Green (whose own new film “Joe” opens Friday) takes an executive producer credit.
Other Sundance premieres scooped by Sony Classics are Grand Jury Prize winner “Whiplash,” “The Raid 2” and Mark Ruffalo crowdpleaser “Infinitely Polar Bear,” so “Land Ho!” is in pretty good company. It'll presumably join Woody Allen's “Magic in the Moonlight” on the company's summer arthouse counter-programming bill.