[21 February 2012]
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
Two films that had limited play top this week’s DVDs releases.
“The Way,” Grade A-minus: Emilio Estevez has written, produced and directed a modern day “Wizard of Oz.” But instead of a yellow brick road, these travelers are on the 800-kilometer Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of Saint James. People from around the globe travel to Spain to make the journey for a variety of reasons.
Tom (Martin Sheen) and his son, Daniel (Estevez), have become estranged. Daniel is killed on the first day he tries to walk the Camino de Santiago in the Pyrenees. Tom’s trip to claim his son’s body takes a detour when he decides to make the long walk to complete his son’s journey.
He’s joined by: the heart-broken Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), who says she’s making the trip to stop smoking, really a mask for her real motivation; Jack (James Nesbitt), an author whose writer’s block is just a symptom of a bigger problem; and Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), who doesn’t have the courage to face his eating problems. Their woes might seem diverse, but these four people have more in common than they are willing to admit.
Estevez never hurries the trip, and he finds time to show the beauty of the landscape and the ugliness each hides inside. This slow pace is perfect because it gives all four actors — especially Sheen — the chance to reveal these characters in layers.
“Martha Marcy May Marlene,” Grade B-plus: Elizabeth Olsen turns in a powerful performance as a woman who escapes a cult only to return to a world that, in its own way, is just as controlling and scary. Director T. Sean Durkin magnifies the emotional conflict through a film stripped of all trappings from credits to music. He just lets raw emotions carry the scenes.
Martha (Olsen) has not been in contact with her family in two years. She thought she had found an idyllic world living as part of the “family” created by the patriarch, Patrick (John Hawkes). Martha slowly begins to realize that her life is not her own and has been fully taken over through sexual abuse, intimidation and her own psychological problems.
She escapes and reaches out to her sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), a control freak who believes she’s the emotional universe. Each time Martha seems ready to talk about her ordeal, Lucy manages to bring the focus back to herself.
Durkin creates great tension by hanging Martha between these two very different — but equally imperfect — worlds. He seamlessly shifts between Martha’s two lives, showing scary connections between them.
He’s also shot the film with the kind of haziness that suggests a dreamlike state. That style reinforces a comment by Martha about how there are times she can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s a dream. Any or all of this movie could just be happening inside the fracture mind of the young woman.
Also new on DVD:
“J. Edgar”: Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this Clint Eastwood film about J. Edgar Hoover.
“Tower Heist”: Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy play two men who conspire to rob a high-rise.
“Underdog: Complete Collector’s Edition”: Animated series featuring crime fighting canine.
“Weeds: Season Seven”: Mary-Louise Parker stars.
“Matlock: The Seventh Season”: Andy Griffith continues his court battles.
“The Mighty Macs”: Based on true story of the 1971-72 Immaculata College women’s basketball team.
“Nurse Jackie: Season Three”: Edie Falco’s dark series about a nurse with a big problem.
“Rules of Engagement: The Complete Fifth Season”: Comedy about two very different couples.
“Hazel: The Complete Second Season”: Shirley Booth stars.
“Most Valuable Players”: Theater troupes battle in the “Super Bowl” of high school musical theater.
“Thomas & Friends: Movie Pack”: The three-DVD set includes stories of a new engine and teamwork.
“Barney: Movie Pack”: Barney and his playground friends travel to the Rainforest.
“Unforgiven”: Commemorative copy of Oscar winner being released.
“Bob the Builder: Here To Help”: Bob helps a local stage show.
“Outcast”: A woman must confront her past when a hunter is assigned to kill her son.
“Retreat”: Cillian Murphy and Jamie Bell star in this thriller.
“London Boulevard”: An ex-con looks to make a fresh start with a reclusive actress.
“That Show”: Joan Rivers hosts her first talk show, which aired from 1968-69 on NBC.
“Lawrence Welk Classic Episodes, Vol. 1-4”: Includes fifth anniversary show and a salute to veterans.
“The Fades”: A young man is haunted by apocalyptic dreams.
“Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 1991”: The sitcom features more geriatric antics.
“Last Fast Ride: The Life, Love, and Death of a Punk Goddess”: A look at the life of Marian Anderson.
“Borgia Faith and Fear: Season One”: Tom Fontana series about the Borgia family.