Wednesday, November 23, 2011

3 brief 2011 reviews: The Descendants; Margin Call; Martha Marcy May Marlene

The Descendants (2011)
Director - Alexander Payne
115 Min; R
Matt King - George Clooney

Director Alexander Payne is responsible for two movies I love (Election and Sideways) and George Clooney has proven to me to be good at the roles he selects, so I was pretty sure this film would be decent at least and I was not disappointed.

Shot in Hawaii, the film tells the story of Matt King, a man who has the sole responsibility of signing on the dotted line to sell off a pristine chunk of Hawaiian coast line property that has been handed down via trust through generations to he and his cousins (the property is worth millions.)  He is easy going and willing to do whatever the majority decides as far as a sale goes.  That is, until turmoil takes over his life.  Along with his comatose wife and two daughters, King must navigate a myriad of issues that takes him and everyone around him on a roller coaster ride of emotions.

It would be easy for me to nit pick or try to come up with reasons to not love it, but this is truly a great movie going experience and I am on board with saluting everyone involved with this film.

***** out of 5

Director - J.C. Chandor
107 Min; R
Sam - Kevin Spacey
Will - Paul Bettany
John - Jermey Irons
Peter - Zachary Quinto
Seth - Penn Badgley
Sarah - Demi Moore
Eric - Stanley Tucci

I'm no expert on the financial crisis of Wall Street the last few years, but for my money this is a damn good film to sit through and let it wash over you like a fog.  An all-star cast that features very strong performances by Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Irons power this film about a single 24 hour period as a single New York City trading company decided how to handle the news that the entire world is about to realize how fucked we all will be.  The decisions they make will have a lasting impact but nothing they do will help to curb what is coming.  I have no idea how accurately portrayed the scenarios are, but it's not a documentary, and I thought it was really well done.

**** out of 5

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)
Director - Sean Durkin
102 Min; R
Martha - Elizabeth Olsen
Patrick - John Hawkes
Lucy - Sarah Paulson
Ted - High Dancy

Who knew the twin girls from Full House had siblings? Well they have at least one sister names Elizabeth Olsen and she does a really good job at portraying a troubled young woman with a past who has no where to go.  Interweaving story lines from 2 years ago to the present we learn that troubled young Martha left home and came to find herself in an upstate New York cult ruled by Patrick, in yet another solid performance by John Hawkes, only to realize she needed to leave.  The only person she knows is her estranged older sister Lucy who is now married to a wealthy architect, and the two take her in at their lake cottage.  What unfolds is a story about what happened to Martha, why she became Marcy May and Marlene, and ultimately where she will go from her predicament.

I have some complaints, but overall it was a good watch and I'd be happy to say you should see it.  Not perfect, not the best ending ever written, and not exactly a lot to think about after, but a psychological film with some good performances that doesn't make you sleepy - that's good enough for me.

**** out of 5

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