Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Six New Indie Titles

Even in the midst of a major film festival the Indie outing dissections just keep on coming from yours truly.  (Whew!)  In any case flicks all over the map this week to add a little lesser-known film joy to the movie going experience.  Tales of complicated family woes, docs on decent dudes and old film saviors, a hotel with a hook in everyone, a bank job gone awry and the dark side of a family tree all get the small skinny treatment via the six films that make up this week’s edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Up for examination – Nancy, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Saving Brinton, Middleground, 211 and Hereditary all below!

(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

This riveting and raw feature debut from writer/director Christina Choe is a prime example of why we need more gifted filmmakers who also happen to be female.  The story, which centers around a sad and dishonest gal who upon meeting a couple thinks she may be their long lost kidnapped daughter, never hides from its predictable outcome, but with the infusion of a rich and at times kneecapping emotional core confidently overcomes any and all foibles to stay continually captivating from start to finish.  Not to mention that the killer cast – from J. Smith-Cameron as the broken mother ever searching for her daughter to lead Andrea Riseborough who completely transformers herself to play the damaged Nancy – add even more complex layers of deep human frailty that serve to make Nancy so much more than the sum of its ample parts.  Providing a profound emotional experience without a false note, Nancy and her ultra-talented creator Choe are truly women to watch.

(Focus Features)

A decent dissection of the fascinating human enigma that was Mr. Rogers, what shines brightest in Morgan Neville’s doc is just what a wonderful person Fred was.  From his early years as a ordained minister and educator to his firm desire to teach children without talking down to them and even his impassioned and opinion changing testimony in front of a U.S. Senate committee (thus single handedly saving government funding for children’s television at the time!), the famed sweater wearing host is shown here as a man who was much more interested in giving as opposed to taking. (The sweet scenes with an ailing fan he brought on his show had me in tears!)  A fitting film tribute to a man with a kind mindset that is rarely seen today, Mr. Rogers was the neighbor we all wished we had.

(Barn Owl Pictures)

A doc for both film historians (the rare flicks unspooled here are from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s!) and film fans (seeing the magic these early pictures provide is evident in every frame!) this examination of iconic showman William Franklin Brinton’s collection of films (love seeing both hand painted celluloid and smile educing works of Georges Méliès!), slides and projectors is a movie lover’s dream.  But best in show is seeing the efforts of collector and lead subject Mike Zahs as he takes the lost works and equipment from languishing in his barn shed to being restored and archived at the local university – passionate film preservation melts even the hardest movie heart.

(The Vladar Company)

While I appreciated the almost Lynch-like quality and savory visual style of former Bolshoi Ballerina turned actress and filmmaker Alisa Khazanova, the main problem with Middleground is it gets too bogged down in being weird.  Meaning the clever use of crossing storylines via an ominous hotel and Khazanova’s flair for wondrous dream like imagery gets mired in set ups that don’t pay off and events that all together go unanswered.  Masters of slow and subtle like Lynch and Atom Egoyan always seem to have a plan even if it’s not clearly evident to the audience, but with Middleground both the film and the viewer seem equally lost.  A female filmmaker with obvious potential, Khazanova admirable heightened slice of life style is in need of a final destination.

(Momentum Pictures)

A by-the-numbers action yarn with cop Nicolas Cage and his partner outmanned and outgunned when they happen upon a bank heist.  This one throws in all tropes for good measure – a ride-along kid in the back seat, a hot Interpol agent who knows more than the local heat, even the “just found out we’re pregnant” proud pop put in the crosshairs – but then forgets to make eye candy exciting. (Nic does freak out once though!)  But the ultimate award in wasted work has to go to talented Destined star Cory Hardrict playing a virtually non-existent role as a lawman – the only 211 being committed here is via Hardrict’s agent by not going after quality work the gifted actor deserves.


With the multitude of accolades for the hailed new horror outing Hereditary hitting hard and fast, my stance here is gonna be a tad controversial.  (Though the person I went with had the same verdict!)  As a piece of chiller cinema Hereditary is frequently flawed, painstakingly slow and without  a lot of quality scares.  Meaning the tale of a family torn seemingly apart by some sort of curse is so uneven, mundane and oddly constructed (what was with the banging sound beats over various scenes and dialogue – I initially thought it was muffled music from a theater next door!) that one can’t help but be lulled to sleep.  The only saving grace of the piece is the small amount of visual eye candy and creepy bits, but the trailer contains every single one and provides a much more pleasant and shorter viewing experience.  (Thank goodness I didn’t see it before watching the film!)  A disappointment for this fright fan on every genre level, sadly Hereditary doesn’t hold up to the hype.



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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