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Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Eight New Indie Titles

Making up for last week’s small cinema windfall, I’m pounding the movie pavement and taking on a massive eight indie flicks for full film examination for the fans.  Via online screeners, sample home product and even shelling bucks out of pocket (I’m a film freak who puts his movie dissection money where his mouth is!), I’m upping the ante on lesser known features and there is something for everyone.  Snowy murder mysteries, jailhouse tales, stalker stories, shark infested sagas, time travel adventures, ice cream killer yarns, odd man out fables and head in the freezer flicks all get covered ala this week’s Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the critical skinny of Wind River, Shot Caller, Ingrid Goes West, Open Water 3: Cage Dive, Fate, The Ice Cream Truck, Lemon and Bluebeard below!

WIND RIVER
(The Weinstein Company)

In his third damn fine written feature sensational scribe Taylor Sheridan of Sicario and Hell Or High Water fame (who also takes on the directing reigns this time around!) spins a murder mystery yarn set on a snowy Indian reservation where the moody and sullen characters are equally as fascinating as the well woven story itself.  A sweetly slow detective tale with all the torrid trimmings, Sheridan like filmmaker Jeff Nichols unfolds his harrowing tale with poignant precision and gets damn fine work out of both leads Elizabeth Olsen (playing a green FBI gal!) and Jeremy Renner (doing his big back baggage thing!) to boot.  Infusing both ‘speaks volumes’ silence and seriously loud surprises as well, Wind River is a first-class film that flows just right.

SHOT CALLER
(Saban Films/Lionsgate)

Another familiar tale of a man adapting and trying to survive life behind bars that’s given serious street cred via the transformative performance by lead man Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.  Playing a former clean cut finance yuppie with a wife (a more somber Lake Bell – good show!), kid and high-price life who is found negligent in the death of his friend and is forced to turn into a badass gang thug to survive, Coster-Waldau’s work is a force of nature to watch.  Plus his ambiguous turn is so reserved and nuanced that we’re never sure of the characters intentions from one moment to the next – that’s what makes wonderfully wicked work worth watching.

INGRID GOES WEST
(Neon)

A timely flick that dares to dabble in the arena of social media and all it’s disturbing ‘getting personal’ pitfalls, but with some surprisingly hilarious and humbling results.  The ever-odd Aubrey Plaza is pitch perfect as disturbed gal Ingrid who sets her Instagram sights on Elizabeth Olsen’s chic photographer for a fake friendship.  And while it’s Plaza’s off beat character quirks and wacky hijinks that take center stage here, it’s the supporting cast including Billy Magnussen as Olsen’s slimy brother Nicky, Wyatt Russell as her disenchanted artist boyfriend and especially Straight Outta Compton alum O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Plaza’s Batman loving suitor that adds extra memorable meaty flavor to Ingrid’s jerky journey that speaks to the stalker in all of us.

OPEN WATER 3: CAGE DIVE
(Lionsgate)

Moving far away from the found footage realism that only slightly permeated and elevated the original Open Water, this third installment feels a little too well rehearsed to be seen as spontaneous cinema.  Not to mention that the predictability factor and the films affinity for dumb human error are both at an all time high.  (Never good when dealing with characters we have to care about!)  The only saving grace here are a few scary shark sequences out at sea, but after an over-saturation of fish fright flicks even that grows tired.  A not-so-great third outing with missed opportunities as far as on-land effectiveness, this corny cage dive just can’t stay afloat.

FATE
(Self Destruct Films)

Problem with time travel flicks is we’ve already seen them at both their high budget (see Back To The Future!) and low budget (Nacho Vigalondo’s tasty Timecrimes!) best and the B-movie feeling Fate simply has nothing new to add.  Man gets motivated to time travel to save the woman he loves – bad guys in tow.  It’s a scenario seen a thousand times and when you throw in the sub-par CGI here it doesn’t get any better.  What is good though is the natural chemistry and turbulence between not-meant-to-be lovers Daniel Bonjour (he of The Walking Dead fame!) and Anne Clare Graham that proves that even in the face of shiny effects, film fate in this case smiles on man more than machine.

THE ICE CREAM TRUCK
(Uncork’d Entertainment)

The potential of The Ice Cream Truck at the offset seems like score for the female fright flicks with the picture being written and directed by gal Megan Freels Johnson and the story taking place from the perspective of Deanna Russo’s alluring lonely housewife Mary.  Problem is the film is two different stories entirely – a killer ice cream man and a hot young college kid out to score a cougar – neither of which fully expand and explore the many fascinating facets of Russo’s lustful Hausfrau who proves the most interesting thing here.  The Ice Cream Truck aside Johnson seems to have the skill to tell a tasty terror tale – she just needs to pick the right film flavor.

LEMON
(Magnolia Pictures)

The wry and dry humor of Brett Gelman’s boorish manchild Isaac may be hilarious music to the ears of some, but not me.  A second rate stab at Todd Solondz territory (minus the biting wit!), this unfunny and uninteresting tale of an acting teacher and sad sack who walks through life almost emotionless and directionless feels like a mix of bad improvised skits that go nowhere.  The only time this turkey comes to life (and not the Michael Cera bits – yipes!) is during the scenes involving Isaac’s wacky family (see Rhea Perlman, Shiri Appleby, Fred Melamed and the rock solid Martin Starr!) who provide the much needed laughs the flick is lacking.  True to its name, this is super sour cinema.

BLUEBEARD
(Well Go USA)

Normally thrillers coming out of South Korea have signature style or at least a skilled take on the unexplained.  Bluebeard thought is a foreign version of America’s bargain bin fare, complete with a story that’s convoluted (are the butchers downstairs killers?), scares that are always a product of bad dream fake-outs (it’s like spice in a dish – use sparingly!) and twists and turns you can see coming from a mile away.  Plus at an almost two hour running time Bluebeard forgets the cardinal creepy movie rule – keep suspense short.

 

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I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

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