There are four new releases hitting Australian cinemas tomorrow - The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, Chronicle, directed by Josh Trank, Man on a Ledge, directed by Asger Leth, and Martha Marcy May Marlene, directed by Sean Durkin. I have now seen three of these releases, with the exception of Man on a Ledge (which I'm pretty sure I won't end up seeing), and it is a strong line-up. It has been a while since I saw Martha Marcy May Marlene, but I saw it at both SFF and MIFF - and it is one of my favourites from 2011. The Artist I watched the other night - and it is a delight. It looks to be the likely Oscar winner at the end of the month, and that's fine with me. Chronicle took me by surprise. It is a clever premise, and features some really inventive camera operation, and impressive visual effects. Well worth a look.
The Artist - Hollywood 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), it seems the sky's the limit - major movie stardom awaits. The Artist tells the story of their interlinked destinies. 10 Oscar nominations. Winner of Best Film at the Producer's Guild of America, Best Director at the Director's Guild of America, and Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. It is delightful. Check it out.
Chronicle - Three high school students make an incredible discovery, leading to their developing uncanny powers beyond their understanding. As they learn to control their abilities and use them to their advantage, their lives start to spin out of control, and their darker sides begin to take over. Has received strong early reviews and rightly so. It gets a little bit unjustifiably silly near the end - but most of the film is entertaining, and visually impressive. Not so much a 'found footage' film, but the filmmakers are intent on having everything captured on a device by the characters themselves, which is innovative, if a little problematic. The third option this week - but still a strong one.
Man on a Ledge - An ex-cop and now wanted fugitive (Sam Worthington) stands on the ledge of a high-rise building while a hard-living New York Police Department negotiator (Elizabeth Banks) tries to talk him down. The longer they are on the ledge, the more she realises that he might have an ulterior objective. The film's title is enough to turn one off, I think. I have heard some pretty negative responses to this film - 'contrived', 'ludicrously plotted', 'Sam Worthington sounds Jamaican'. No thanks.
Martha Marcy May Marlene - Powerful psychological thriller starring Elizabeth Olsen as Martha, a young woman rapidly unraveling amidst her attempt to reclaim a normal life after fleeing from a cult and its charismatic leader (John Hawkes). Seeking help from her estranged older sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy), Martha is unable and unwilling to reveal the truth about her disappearance. When her memories trigger a chilling paranoia that her former cult could still be pursuing her, the line between Martha's reality and delusion begins to blur. This is a very unsettling film - but it is brilliantly shot and edited, and features exceptional performances from Elizabeth Olsen (I think it is her first film, and she was an Oscar contender) and the always-excellent John Hawks. A doozy of an ending.
Weekly Recommendation: Definitely see The Artist and Martha Marcy May Marlene. Both are polar opposites - one a 'feel-good', the other a 'feel-bad', but both are engrossing in their own way. If you're up for another film this week, then give Chronicle a go.
I get chills watching this trailer...every time.