Snippet Reviews (Multiple Films)

Martha Marcy May Marlene (***)

Helmed by a powerful lead performance by Elizabeth Olsen, Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene dribbles right on the edge of thriller and suspense without coming off gimmicky.  Olsen evokes and drowns herself in her character keeping the questions right on the surface and not losing sight.  Though the film’s narrative never fully develops and fails to explore the deepest parts of this cautionary tale, the full commitment from the directing style and its performers transform a seemingly A-typical story to something new and dynamic.  Co-star John Hawkes shines once again in a new villainous and demented turn which remains one of the great supporting male works this year.  A notation for Hugh Dancy is worth mentioning in a presumably vacant character but effective and taunting performance.

It’s one of the great independent works in 2011.

Moneyball (***½)

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill create one of the best on-screen chemistry between two actors this year in Bennett Miller’s fabulous sophomore effort Moneyball.  Delving into and bringing a fresh take on a sports film, Miller along with writers Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, and Stan Chervin achieve a well balanced story full of laughs, drama, and heart.  Pitt brings one of his best interpretations of a character to life hosing in on the insecurities while bleeding out the confidence and sure-fire wit.  Hill delivers his best performance of his career and one of the most surprisingly brilliant turns this year.  He even manages to steal scenes from co-star Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is just as good as ever, and have the viewer hone in on his wonderful acting portrayal.

Miller’s direction should be applauded and recognized as going just as ferociously and heavyhearted into this film as he did with his directorial debut, Capote.  This is the best baseball film to hit the screens since Field of Dreams.

J. Edgar (**)

It’s hard to believe that Clint Eastwood, the man responsible for bringing such acclaimed hits as Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, and Letters from Iwo Jima, has fallen so far back in his directing style and bring such an uninspired and daftly work that is J. Edgar.

Presenting Leonardo DiCaprio in one of his weakest portrayals yet is a hard venture for such a talented actor.  While DiCaprio nails the mannerisms and in some ways, captures the pain stricken tortured soul persona of Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, he cannot elevate the limp and uncertain material written by Academy Award winning writer Dustin Lance Black.    Armie Hammer as the close “friend” Clyde, delivers a best-in-show performance while maintaining a calm and believable work at all times.  Even the great Judi Dench as the overbearing mother is a casualty to Eastwood’s repetitive and sluggish direction and Black’s flimsy words.  Naomi Watts remains on the outskirts of the film feeling unnatural and unneeded.  Solid art direction and costumes are not enough to save the film from its inevitable demise.

J. Edgar remains and will be remembered by many as the most disappointing delivery by a veteran director from 2011.

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