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Posts Tagged ‘Merritt Wever’

Matt Smith as Charles Manson

“CHARLIE SAYS” My rating: B-

104 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The murderous Charles Manson family has been the subject of countless films, TV shows and documentaries. “Charlie Says” approaches the yarn from the point of view of one of his “girls.”

Written by Guinevere Turner and directed by Mary Harron (the same team who brought us “American Psycho” nearly 20 years ago), the film is less about Manson (portrayed here by “Dr. Who” veteran Matt Smith) than about Leslie “Lulu” Van Houten, a runaway teen who wandered into Charlie’s harem at the Spahn Ranch (a Western movie set just outside L.A.) and ended up a convicted killer on Death Row.

Lulu is portrayed by Hannah Murray, a Brit actress best known on these shores as Samwell Tarley’s wife Gilly on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Her role on GOT doesn’t begin to suggest the depth of her work here, in which her character evolves from moon-faced innocent to blood spattered loony who repeatedly stabbed one of the family’s victims.

In the “present” (about 1973) we find Lulu, Patricia “Katie” Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon) and Susan”Sadie” Atkins (Marianne Rendon) occupying separate cells in a California prison.  The state has recently outlawed executions,  but the three women are considered too dangerous to join the rest of the prison population, and so can look forward to living their lives alone own Death Row, able to call to one another but only rarely actually seeing  their comrades’ faces.

Enter a grad student (Merritt Wever) who convinces the prison administration to allow her to hold classes for the three.  During these sessions — ostensibly about women’s studies and other topics — the inmates talk about their lives with Charles Manson.  These scenes unfold in flashbacks.

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Steve Carell

“WELCOME TO MARWEN” My rating: C-

116 minutes | MPAA rating:PG-13

In 2000 cross-dressing artist Mark Hogancamp suffered a barroom beating that left him in a  coma.  When he awoke he  could remember little of his previous life and could no longer draw.

Unable to afford therapy, he found an artistic and healing outlet by building a 1/6-size World War II Belgian village in his yard, populating it with G.I. Joes and Barbie dolls, and telling elaborate melodramas of Nazis and freedom fighters captured in striking photographic images.

Sounds like a story ripe for cinematic adaptation…and, indeed, Hogancamp was the subject of the excellent 2010 documentary “Marwencol” (that was the name of his miniature town).

Now writer/director Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump,” the “Back to the Future” series) has given us a feature film with Steve Carell as Hogancamp…and it proves one movie too many.

“Welcome to Marwen” has its heart in the right place, but it just doesn’t work.

If Zemeckis and co-writer Caroline Thompson (“Edward Scissorhands,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Corpse Bride”) had simply stuck to Hogancamp’s day-to-day life they might have had something.

Instead they devote half the film to animated fantasy sequences set in Marwen.  Here Hogancamp’s toy alter ego — a downed American pilot named Hogie — and his all-woman crew of resistance fighters take on nasty Germans.

There are violent shootouts and unsettling scenes of torture. Our knowledge that these are dolls being blown apart makes it a bit more  bearable, while their dialogue — thick with Saturday matinee cliches — is initially  amusing.

In the real world the traumatized Hogancamp must deal with all sorts of issues.  He’s expected to attend the sentencing hearing for the five men convicted of beating him. He has a big photographic show planned in NYC, but may be too rocky to attend. And he’s always having to explain his obsession with women’s footwear (he has more than 200 pairs of ladies’ shoes in his closet) and his need to drag behind him a toy jeep containing the Hogie and girl gang dolls (think of them as a sort of service dog).

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