Martha Marcy May Marlene & Happy Feet Two

Martha Marcy May Marlene
 
Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) is a lost young woman.  Following the death of her mother, she winds up in a cult in the Catskills.  Led by the charismatic Patrick (John Hawkes), the cult consists of about a dozen adults plus a few children and is working towards becoming a self-sufficient farm.  Everyone has jobs they are expected to do but there are also a great number of rules that must be followed without question.  All the rules are set by Patrick who has complete control.  During her stay, Martha, called Marcy May by the residents, is drugged and wakes up being raped by Patrick.  This is considered part of the initiation by all the female members and they all regularly have sex with Patrick and the other men in the cult.  After witnessing a horrific act by one of the cult members ordered by Patrick, Marcy May leaves the cult and contacts her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) to whom she hasn’t spoken in two years.  Lucy picks her up and brings her to the home she shares with her husband Ted (Hugh Dancy).  Conditioned by her life in the cult, Martha’s behavior is odd and sometimes inappropriate, creating tension with her sister and putting a strain on Ted and Lucy’s marriage.  Martha often dreams about her life in the cult and fears Patrick and the others may be looking for her to bring her back to the farm and face unspeakable punishment.
 
The running time on this movie is one hour and 41 minutes.  Watching it felt like an eternity.  “Martha Marcy May Marlene” is a film of all build up and no release.  It’s like riding a roller coaster that’s all uphill and when you finally reach the top, there’s a platform where you’re taken off and asked if you enjoyed the ride.  
 
That’s not to say the acting is bad because it’s not.  Elizabeth Olsen is terrific as Martha.  Her odd behavior doesn’t feel like an affectation.  It has no showy flourishes or wasted histrionics.  Her slow-simmer weirdness is affecting and completely believable.  Sarah Paulson and Hugh Dancy as her confused and annoyed sister and brother-in-law strike the right balance of concern and impatience as Martha never seems to grasp just how strange she is and how much of an imposition she’s causing.  John Hawkes, who was terrific in last years’ Oscar nominated performance in “Winter’s Bone,” is mesmerizing as cult leader Patrick.  Talking to his followers like slow children, Patrick appears to have a real concern for their well-being; however, with each flashback we see just how evil he is.  While never saying it overtly, Patrick sells the members of the cult that he has all the answers to make their lives perfect.  In fact, he’s only feeding his own need for power, dominance and sex.  
 
Patrick’s villainy could have made “Martha Marcy May Marlene” a powerful and frightening film.  Instead, the audience is played with like a cat plays with a mouse.  At least the mouse winds up in the cat’s stomach at the end.  The audience is just left with a cheated feeling as the credits suddenly appear when the film might have a chance to become something.  Every scenario is left hanging in the air, unfulfilled.  Every opportunity for real tension and momentum is ignored and abandoned.  It is a film that goes nowhere filled with great performances.  What a waste.
 
“Martha Marcy May Marlene” is rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content, nudity and language.  We see a stabbing and witness a rape.  Martha is naked on a couple of occasions and some sex acts are depicted.  Foul language is scattered.
 
The film is sold as a thriller but most will find it to be more like a snoozer.  Its premise is ripe with possibilities, all of which were ignored by the filmmakers.  The real critics mostly love the movie.  I do not.
 
“Martha Marcy May Marlene” gets one guitar out of five.
 
Happy Feet Two
 
Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) is now a father.  He and his mate Gloria (voiced by Alecia “Pink” Moore) have a cute and fluffy chick named Erik (voiced by Ava Acres).  Erik doesn’t have the dance floor moves of his old man.  When he tries, he winds up with his head buried in the snow.  Embarrassed by his failure which is compounded by Mumble’s clumsy attempt to make him feel better, Erik hides in a crack in the ice.  He is joined in hiding by Ramon (voiced by Robin Williams) who is depressed because he cannot find a mate.  Ramon announces he’s leaving the emperor penguin colony and will return to the Adele penguins that are his flock.  Erik and two other penguin chicks follow Ramon.  Upon their arrival at Ramon’s flock, they meet an odd penguin that flies!  Sven (voiced by Hank Azaria) is actually a puffin who is a combination preacher and motivational speaker.  Erik is impressed with Sven’s flying and buys into his “if you believe it, you can do it” mantra.  Meanwhile, Mumble has noticed Erik is missing and goes looking for him.  While he’s away, a giant iceberg slams into the area where the emperor penguins live, blocking their access to the sea and cutting off their food supply.  Mumble and the chicks return finding their way blocked by the iceberg.  To keep their family and friends from starving, Mumble and the chicks must discover a way to get everyone out and call on other Antarctic animals for help.
 
The original “Happy Feet” was a joyous celebration of music, dance and tolerance that was brought down slightly with a finger wagging lesson on the environment.  This time, the environmental messages are merely implied, the music and dancing are played down slightly, tolerance is still the lesson of the day but the story telling is abandoned completely.
 
“Happy Feet Two” is much like those TV shows that are focused on disasters caught on video.  As each catastrophe is cleaned up and explained, another occurs that must be dealt with.  From the iceberg to a flock of predatory birds to a trapped bull elephant seal to a sudden blizzard, the film careens from one calamity to the next without really telling a story.  
 
Two new characters are given a parallel storyline that serves no purpose other than putting two big celebrity voices in the credits.  Bill and Will, a couple of krill, are voiced by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt.  Will is tired of being part of the swarm and at the bottom of the food chain so he breaks off with plans on becoming a carnivore.  His buddy Bill reluctantly joins him on the journey.  While these two provide some comedic relief, heightened by the superstar status of their voices, I haven’t a clue why they are in the movie.  They provide no narrative value, often interrupting the above water action as we see what’s going on in their journey.  Maybe these characters were added because they will be cute stuffed plush toys to sell at Christmas.  Whatever the reason, they add nothing to the movie.  Neither does the 3D gimmick.  I wouldn’t have seen the added dimension version, but it fit in better with my viewing schedule.
 
“Happy Feet Two” is rated PG for some rude humor and mild peril.  There is some very mild bathroom humor.  Mumble is chased through the water by a tiger seal and we see a brief confrontation between two bull elephant seals.
 
While “Happy Feet Two” looks amazing and the music will set your toes to tapping, it’s more like a highlight reel than a fully assembled movie.  There needed to be more bits between the disasters connecting us to the characters.  As it is, you’ll feel like you’ve watched a very long trailer.
 
“Happy Feet Two” gets three guitars.
 
This week’s new releases belong to the children.  You’re vote decides to which movie you send this big kid.
 
Arthur Christmas—This year, Santa Claus' son Arthur has an urgent mission that must be completed before Christmas morning dawns.
 
Hugo—Martin Scorsese directs the tale of wily and resourceful boy on a quest to unlock an important secret left to him by his father.
 
The Muppets—A group of friends must reunite Kermit, Miss Piggy and the rest of the gang to stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any movie of his choice currently in theatres.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all movies may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
 
If you have a question or comment, send them to stanthemovieman@att.net.  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.