• Martha Marcy May Marlene (****). Elizabeth Olsen makes a searing impression in her big screen debut as Martha, a young woman trying to adjust to the real world after fleeing a cult in upstate New York. It’s an identity crisis in the extreme as her past and present blur and her old life comes back to haunt her new. Unable to articulate exactly how she’d spent the last two years (the audience gradually learns of her experience through flashbacks), her already rocky relationship with her older sister (Sarah Paulson) fractures and Martha risks losing the one lifeline she might have back to a normal life. This is a difficult film to watch because Martha is not an easy character to warm up to, but Olsen throws herself into the role and her performance alone is something to see. John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone) co-stars as the creepy cult leader. (NY, LA)
  • Oranges and Sunshine (****). Emily Watson and Hugo Weaving shine in this true-life drama about a Nottingham social worker who uncovers a government program involving the forced deportation of lower class children to Australia. The story, particularly that of the children who have now grown into broken, disconnected adults is a powerful one and Jim Loach (son of Ken Loach) has the good sense not to pull anything fancy. (review) (NY, LA)
  • Paranormal Activity 3 (** 1/2). The third time is not a charm for the Paranormal Activity franchise. To be fair, #3 delivers in exactly the same way as the previous two films with a couple of new wrinkles, characters and an expanded mythology, and maybe that’s enough for you. Me? I’m finally getting bored with the whole conceit. (mini-review) (Wide)
  • Le Havre. Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki’s latest deadpan comedy has been met with pretty much universal praise since its debut at Cannes. Rather than butchering a summary myself, here’s the official one: “In this warmhearted portrait of the French harbor city that gives the film its name, fate throws young African refugee Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) into the path of Marcel Marx (André Wilms), a well-spoken bohemian who works as a shoeshiner. With innate optimism and the unwavering support of his community, Marcel stands up to officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation. A political fairy tale that exists somewhere between the reality of contemporary France and the classic cinema of Jean-Pierre Melville and Marcel Carné, Le Havre is a charming, deadpan delight.”  (LA)
  • Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey. This documentary about the man behind the Sesame Street Muppet beloved by small children everywhere got raves at Sundance. Since the character came along long after I was a Street regular, I’ve always found him more than a little irritating, but I appreciate the gentle spirit in which he was created. (NY. LA 11/4)
  • Margin Call. Set on the eve of the 2008 financial crisis, Margin Call is a fictional mystery thriller about bottom rung financial analyst who uncovers secrets that could bring down his powerful Wall Street firm. Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Paul Bettany, Zachary Quinto, Simon Baker and Penn Badgley star. (Limited)
  • Revenge of the Electric Car. 5 years ago, Chris Paine made the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? to find out how electric vehicles went from promising future technology to scrap heap as the price of gasoline bottomed out. Since then, the cost of gas has gone back up and suddenly car makers are getting renewed religion. The electric car is back, baby. (Limited)
  • The Three Musketeers. Second stringers Logan Lerman, Matthew MacFadyen, Luke Evans and Ray Stevenson play the Three-Going-on-Four Musketeers in yet another retelling of Dumas’ classic, this time with plenty of 3D pyrotechnics to distract you. Mads Mikkelson and Christoph Waltz threaten to liven up the proceedings. Oh, there’s also Milla Jovovich and Orlando Bloom. Keep in mind if you pay money to see this, it’ll only encourage them to make more. (Wide)
  • Johnny English Reborn. Rowan Atkinson returns as the bumbling not-so-super secret agent. Black Adder seems so long ago now, doesn’t it? (Wide)
  • Klitschko. Meet Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko: Brothers, multilingual PhDs, world champion boxers. Meet them or they will bash your face in with their huge fists. (NY)
  • Norman. A dark comedy about a teen coping with the death of his mother and a father dying of stomach cancer. Somehow he’s involved in a lie that leads people to believe he’s the one about to die and he runs with it as a cover for a potential future suicide. (Limited)
  • Paul Goodman Changed My Life. A documentary about the poet, essayist, playwright, psychotherapist, openly bisexual husband and father, and author of the counterculture cornerstone Growing Up Absurd.  (NY)
  • Retreat. This thriller stars Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton as a couple vacationing on a remote island. It’s paradise until Jamie Bell shows up with the news the rest of the world is succumbing to a deadly virus. Buzz kill! (Limited)

One Response to “Weekend Forecast: Plenty of indie goodness”

  1. We have tickets to see “Martha Marcy May Marlene” tomorrow night at the Angelika. Nice to see your solid report. Great to hear about the performance of Elizabeth Olson. John Hawkes was excellent in “Winter’s Bone”.

    I look forward to “Oranges and Sunshine” too, though a time slot is still uncertain.

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