"Martha Marcy May Marlene" Starring Elizabeth Olsen


While Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen got fame and fortune for being cute child actors with minimal talent, their younger sister Elizabeth has proven to be the "real" actress in the family.  Making her film debut in writer/director Sean Durkin's magnificent and creatively titled "Martha Marcy May Marlene".  Lizzie shows her sisters how its done by giving one of the best performances by a lead actress in 2011.  While being recognized by critics and film festivals across the country, when the Oscars came around the Academy was apparently not interested.  This is however not surprising seeing how out of touch and irrelevant the Academy Awards have been over the past decade.  

This film is about a young woman's return to "normal" society after spending two years in a cult.  Martha is a regular girl who has dealt with her share of hardships. Her parents are no longer around and she has little contact with her only sister. Looking for a new family and a place to belong she is taken in by a seemingly friendly commune in the Catskills, lead by charismatic leader Patrick (John Hawkes).  The story opens with Martha leaving the compound and calling her sister at a pay phone.  She is brought out to a spacious vacation home where she tries to mentally and physically free herself from compound life.  Things happen that trigger flashbacks and we get to see what life on the cult was like.

Upon Martha's arrival to the compound, she quickly makes friends with another girl and is introduced to Patrick who renames her Marcy May.  She goes through a systematic destruction of her old identity and free will and reluctantly becomes one of Patrick's followers. He has recruited this group of drifters and damaged souls seeming for no other reason than he like the feeling of power.  The members in turn look to him as their savior.

After leaving the compound Martha seems to be more lost and alone than ever.  She is in a constant state of paranoia that the cult if after her.  Her sister and her sister's husband try to make sense out of her disappearance but can't get much information out of her except for a bunch of strange outbursts.   Martha and her sister are very different people and have never been that close.  Although they try to help her, Martha is obviously in need of professional help. The feeling and atmosphere of the film is a combination of eerie creepiness and melancholy.  A psychological drama taken to another level by all of the people involved.  The Blu-Ray is loaded with special features including a commentary track from writer/director Sean Durkin.

"Jeff Who Lives at Home" A Duplass Brothers Movie

*Contains Some Spoilers, but was made in the USA*

 From Indie writer/director brothers Mark and Jay Duplass comes to the movie that was my favorite film of the 2011 Austin Film Festival and is now available on DVD and On Demand.  This quirky comedy stars Jason Segal and Ed Helms as two very different brothers who are brought together by fate and strange circumstances.

Jason Segal is Jeff, a stoner who lives in his mom's basement.  He strongly believes in fate and that everything in the world is somehow connected and has a purpose.  While sitting on the couch gettin' high he gets a wrong number phone call from a guy asking for "Kevin".  Jeff lets him know that nobody named "Kevin" lives there.  He is then berated by a bunch of angry expletives and hangs up.  This begins Jeff's journey through the film.  He sort of reminds me of another famous slacker named Jeff, "The Dude, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing"  I'm talking about one of my all-time favorite movies "The Big Lebowski"  Although this Jeff does have his own style, their outlook on life is quite similar.  His mother Sharon is played by Susan Sarandon, an office worker looking for something more in her life as she is starting to feel her age.  She ends up finding excitement in the form of a secret admirer.

Ed Helms plays Jeff's older somewhat more successful brother Pat.  He is married to Linda (Judy Greer) and has just bought a Porsche without consulting her.  Needless to say after dropping this bomb their relationship in walking a fine line.  Since they live in an apartment and don't have any kids, Linda suggests that it would be easy to go their separate ways.  Over the course of the film, with Jeff's help, he rediscovers his love for her and what he really wants out of life.  Finding your place and connecting with family is a big theme in this seemingly dopy comedy.

Taking place over one day Jeff has one job to do.  Take the bus to Home Depot and buy a bottle of glue to fix a kitchen cabinet.  On the bus, he is distracted by a guy wearing a basketball jersey with the name "Kevin" on the back.  He thinks this is a sign and follows the guy only to get mugged in the end.  This does, however, lead him to Pat who is spying on his wife.  She is having lunch with another man and Pat thinks she could be having an affair.  The movie revolves around the brother's relationship and their misadventures.  The Duplass brothers have a unique way of making movies that are very real and heartfelt.  Although not much seems to happen in the course of the story, you can't help but feel like you been on a journey of discovery with these characters. 

"Tyrannosaur" It Rex the Competition ;)

*May contain spoilers, so wear a helmet*

English Actor Paddy Considine starred in one of my favorite movies of 2002 called "In America" about an Irish family's move to New York City.  Now ten years later Considine has gotten behind the camera to direct his first feature called "Tyrannosaur"  It's a brutally emotional punch to the gut, that will have you thinking about it for days.

Peter Mullen plays Joseph an angry, rage-filled older man who in the first scene, after being tossed out of a bar, kicks his dog a little too hard and kills it.  Joseph is extremely lonesome after the death of his wife (and now his dog) he spews his anger and hates to everyone he comes in contact with.  Every little annoyance seems to send him into a rage.  He is however friendly with the neighbor boy who lives with his mother and thug-ish boyfriend.  Joseph is unemployed and after mouthing off to the welfare office and smashing their front window he has a sort of panic attack.  He seeks refuge in a Christian charity shop.  This is were we meet Hannah played by Olivia Colman.

Hannah is warm, caring, and offers to pray with him.  Joseph just gives her the usual mouthful of insults.  Hannah lives in a very nice part of town in a big house with her husband James.  We find out that all is not right in her seemingly perfect and easy life.  James is fiercely controlling and an angry drunk.  While Joseph uses his words to hurt people, James uses his fists. 

Joseph starts to hang around Hannah's shop and little by little they start to form this weirdly intense relationship.  It's not a sexual one, but they really connect in a real deep down primal way.  They are both extremely damaged people, who are reaching out for someone to bond with.  When James stops by the shop and sees his wife help Joseph try on a suit, he becomes enraged.  Unlike Joseph, though he never shows this side to anybody but Hannah and it's no different here.  He promises that he will get her when she gets home.  The things James does to his own wife are quite disturbing and Hannah does something that is equally unforgivable in the eyes of the law. 

Joseph is a very complex man and although his introduction is quite jarring and violent we begin to see that he really is an honorable man deep down, but he puts up such a hard front that its hard for anybody to see it.  The ending of the film really makes you question what is right and what is wrong.  It's not really a happy ending or is it?