With his good looks, Liev Schreiber (TV's Ray Donovan) seems born to play an astronaut. In Magnet Releasing's The Last Days on Mars, he finally gets the chance. As chief systems officer Vincent Campbell, he's part of Aurora's six-month mission on the red planet with only 19 hours left to go before heading home. What could go wrong?
According to The Slumber Party Massacre, young women love to have group sleepovers so fun that the girls don't have the good sense to leave the house when their party is crashed by the arrival of a drill-wielding serial killer.
We vilify people for bad behavior in real life, yet celebrate it in our entertainment, particularly on the small screen. When the results are as strong as the current crop, all new (or new-ish) to DVD and/or Blu-ray, why question the disconnect?
Prior to his Spider-Man trilogy, director Sam Raimi cut his superhero-movie teeth on 1990's Darkman, a character of his own creation. Although it's clearly not the most polished of his works, the summer sleeper plays even better as the years tick by. Look no further than Shout! Factory's colorful re-release on Blu-ray.
Someday, celebrity cyclist Lance Armstrong may regret hiring Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney to document his 2009 "comeback," but I doubt it. As The Armstrong Lie demonstrates time and again for two mostly gripping hours, the athlete is still unable to tell the whole truth and nothing but.
Community ranks as key on the list of basic human needs. After water,
food and shelter, our need to connect with others drives and defines us.
Writer/director Sean Durkin’s unsettling “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” now showing at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, explores the dark side of that need for human connection: the giving up of identity and individual will to be included. Those offering that extreme Faustian bargain are most often men, and quite often powerhungry to the point of psychosis: Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson.
Like those infamous figures, Patrick (a pitch-perfect, pitch-black John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”) is a mesmerizing patriarch. This charismatic spider man sits quietly at the center of Durkin’s film, a sinister webmaster luring into his sticky threads those looking for safety, surety ... something. Using strategies of isolation, sexual domination, drugs and, above all, fear, Patrick renders his acolytes unable to see beyond the twisted version of reality he provides. Community becomes cult; believer becomes brainwashed.
Durkin explores Patrick and his community primarily through one individual, she of the title’s many names. Played with depth and subtlety by Elizabeth Olsen in her first starring role, this young woman was born Martha, renamed Marcy May by Patrick as part of the identity-stripping necessary for total allegiance, and required to use the phone-alias Marlene to snare more innocents and deflect information seekers.
Brace yourself. The film begins with Marcy May running away. We don’t immediately fully understand what she’s fleeing, but as she settles into her attempt to rebuild her connection with the one she runs to, her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson, “The Spirit”), we see through flashbacks her innocent-seeming beginnings with Patrick and the twisted events that unfold during her stay on the isolated farm serving as his base.
Lucy, who helped set Martha on the path to Patrick when she did not take her younger sister in after their parents’ deaths, clearly is not emotionally capable of giving Martha what she needs. Martha clearly is deeply damaged. Patrick clearly refuses to allow anyone the freedom to leave his clutches. A trifecta of trouble, to be sure.
The film builds a powerful sense of foreboding through Martha’s flashbacks to life as Marcy May as she attempts to break free of Patrick’s emotional and mental grip. Brace yourself for an ending that brings past and present together with a jolt, and offers little in the way of relief from tension: Durkin provides no neat, tidy ending.
However, he does provide a powerful, if occasionally heavy-handed, emotional journey through a dystopian world defined by the soul-crushing evil resulting from the ideal of community corrupted.