Lots of high-profile indie releases opening in theaters this week, including Sean Durkin's deeply disquieting "Martha Marcy May Marlene," Aki Kaurismaki’s endearing “Le Havre” and the lovable documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey."
"Martha Marcy May Marlene"
Appearing fragile and terrified from her first scene until her last, Elizabeth Olsen brings an alarming quality to writer-director Sean Durkin’s quietly unsettling “Martha Marcy May Marlene.”
The Playlist: A+
“Martha Marcy May Marlene” is superbly acted and assembled, but it is also entirely terrifying, and deeply disquieting, building a mood of paranoia with both intense, brutal transgressions and small, creepy touches of tone.
Writer-director Sean Durkin’s feature, which earned him a Best Director prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, has a lot going for it aside from this striking performance by Elizabeth Olsen.
"Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey"
At the heart of Kevin Clash’s vision is a conflict between living life to the fullest and trying to control it with one hand, ample felt and a pair of plastic eyes.
The Playlist: B
The only real disappointment is wondering why Jim Henson hasn’t gotten a doc of his own this good.
The Playlist: A
Easily one of Kaurismaki’s best films to date, he has created a political crowdpleaser, a film that’s broadly appealing with an undercurrent of seriousness.
With its bouncy soundtrack, deadpan humor and good-natured disposition, Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki’s “Le Havre” is an endearing affair.
If the story outline seems simple, it is; this movie is all about attitude and style.
"The Catechism Cataclysm"
The Playlist: B
The new film from director Todd Rohal spends a good majority of its scant 75-minute runtime stymieing conventional thought, trafficking in casual blasphemy to depict a metaphysical journey into hell for a protagonist heavily under-equipped to deal with such trauma.
“Catechism” plays like a singularly wacky, surrealist sketch comedy—wildly entertaining, invariably random and delectably strange.
"The Three Musketeers"
The Playlist: D+
Yet, for all the gadgety weapons, battle ready airships, cleavage plunging dresses and outlandish facial hair, “The Three Musketeers” is a dreary bore.
The Playlist: B
It’s topical certainly, but there is a tremendous human story here too about how the chase for everyone’s piece of the American dream led to the mess we’re in today.
The film itself has many good qualities, and an exceedingly strong cast, but it’s a bit dry.
The Playlist: B+
On paper, this sounds like a recipe for an indie disaster, an over spiced stew of emotional button pushing and manipulative plot elements, but it’s the understated script by Talton Wingate and the confident direction of Jonathan Segal that turns “Norman” into something much, much more.
The pressure is on, but none of the young subjects followed by first-time documentarian Anne Buford in “Elevate” know if they can deliver.
"Oranges and Sunshine"
How often have we seen well-intentioned movies become sanctimonious and lose their dramatic edge? No such accusations can be leveled at Jim Loach’s "Oranges and Sunshine," an impressive film that documents an astonishing but little-known story.