Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Eleven New Indie Titles (And ‘The Meg’!)

For those looking for an abundance of Indie outings your movie ship has come in!  This week sees a massive and groundbreaking eleven smaller flicks dissected below – and one studio movie just for fun – to keep fans up to date on smaller film fare.  (Told you I was gonna make up for mere trio of flicks covered last week!)  Tales of possible killers next door, cloning for all the wrong reasons, an African-American cop messing with the ku klux klan, seven horror shorts squeezed together for a maximum single terror serving, demonic possession that runs in the family, trust in a post apocalyptic world, cops trapped inside a mazed gun-ridden drug den, coming of age in farm country, cybercrimes stopped by cybercops, learning to live life without cancer, being kidnapped alongside ones number one fan and a big budget killer fish flick (whew!) make up the eleven Indies and single big budget outing via this edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the critical skinny on Summer of 84, Elizabeth Harvest, BlacKkKlansman, Blood Clots, Along Came The Devil, What Still Remains, Buybust, The Swan, Ghost Source Zero, Hope Springs Eternal, Pretty Bad Actress and The Meg all below!

(Gunpowder & Sky)

The gang behind the ever-entertaining Turbo Kid take a stab at 80’s retro with this Goonies meets Rear Window outing and the outcome is nothing short of being totally awesome.  Mixing all the things we love about the era – from the synthesized score to the saucy un-PC banter – alongside a riveting murder mystery with seriously lingering consequences, this one goes well beyond simply being nostalgic and into great film territory.  (Light and dark moments co-exist with movie melding ease!)  Plus with quirky kids, a formidable foe and twist and turns that no one will see coming, Summer of 84 is five-star ride that’s righteous.

(IFC Films)

A complex flick that ultimately scores more in style than story, Elizabeth Harvest is a great lesson in the power of visual prowess.  Meaning even when the film goes beyond its initial interesting story of a newly wed gal searching the house of her secretive hubby and finding some sinister surprises into overly-complex and at times obtuse territory, Venezuela helmer Sebastian Gutierrez keeps his film looking so lush that any inane movie moments are frankly forgiven.  And with a killer cast that includes the likes of Ciarán Hinds, Dylan Baker, newcomer Abbey Lee and of course regular Gutierrez muse Carla Gugino (Judas Kiss and Elektra Luxx are best in show!), Elizabeth Harvest keeps its notable noir looking good.

(Focus Features)

Based on a true story of an African-American cop who infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan and filled with equally light and dark moments that push the status quo in dealing with racism and bigotry, BlacKkKlansman would have been the perfect script to hand Spike Lee back in 1989.  Problem is in 2018 Lee has long left behind the ability to seamlessly blend hilarious comedy and deep drama like he did so aptly in the the five-star Do The Right Thing and as a result this outing feels discombobulating.  Not that there are not both memorable funny (watching lead John David Washington mess with KKK leader David Duke – a hammy Topher Grace – is classic!) and somber (the initiation of Adam Driver’s undercover cop into the organization is revoltingly real!) bits abound, but Lee does dark with such a heavy hand that any comedy feels out of place and as a result their fusing here proves awkward.  A timely and savvy story that never reaches its full potential, BlacKkKlansman is ultimately uneven.

(Hewes Pictures)

While mixing seven seemingly unconnected and very different horror shorts together for a single feature film experience is not exactly seamless here (the anthology purist in me still adores a good wrap around story!), there is more than enough movie mayhem fun to warrant a watch.  Love the dark irony of Still (taking the whole human statue performance under pressure to a whole other level!), the sassy nature of Blue Moon (sex with strangers can turn sinister!), and the quick quirk of Time To Eat.  (What could that REALLY be being served up for dinner fright fans?!)  But best in show here is by far the Roger Corman-esque movie stealing work of helmers Patrick Longstreth and Robert McLean – their five-star fun Hellyfish needs to be a full length feature treatment STAT.

(Gravitas Ventures)

While we’ve seen cinematic demonic possession and exorcism flicks ad nauseam by now, there’s just something about the twist and turns abound Along Came The Devil that remains captivating.  Be it the convincing turn by teen victim Sydney Sweeney (she certainly gives Linda Blair a run for her possessed money!) or the somber work by Bruce Davidson as a reverend with little faith and a ton of secrets, there’s something that elevates Along Came The Devil slightly above the frightful film fray.

(Gravitas Ventures)

While What Still Remains is a decent post-apocalyptic tale that’s all too familiar, there’s enough performance moxie within the work of the leading lady to make this one more than memorable. Meaning a story of a single gal forced to fend for herself in a desolate post-viral outbreak world fighting against everything from feral wood folks to cult communities is not new territory, but the turn by actress Lulu Antariksa as a teen forced to come of age under harrowing conditions is a real showstopper.  Not that there aren’t other notable performances (who better to play wide-eyed cult leaders than Jeff ‘Out of Bounds’ Kober and Mimi ‘The Rapture’ Rogers!), but after all film familiarity has been stripped away, what still remains here is the wonderful work of a woman to watch for.

(Well Go USA)

Buybust is like The Raid films on acid and as a singular movie experience it’s both a blessing and a curse.  On the up side there’s a ton of visceral action that would make John Woo blush, plus a tasty turn by kick ass leading lady Anne Curtis as a seemingly cursed cop trapped inside a slum in Manila taking on both criminals and local residents alike.  Down side is Curtis never goes quite solo until that last section of the film (she’s part of a anti-drug enforcement team that refuses to die!) and there’s so much hand-to-hand mayhem happening that it starts to become a mind numbing experience.  (There’s not a lot of differentiation in the fight work and choreography – something by contrast Raid helmer Gareth Evans excels at!)  Proving that quantity over quality isn’t always a lock in the action arena, Buybust is an all-can-eat movie affair that simply overindulges.

(Synergetic Distribution)

Once again, The Swan is an equally sweet and sad coming of age tale about a nine-year-old girl sent to the countryside to work and grow that fans have seen before.  But amidst the recognizable premise there’s some seriously savory visual storytelling within this Icelandic import that makes it stand out.  Working with an ample eye, filmmaker Ása Helga Hjörleifsdótirr can stage the character stuff hands down, but it’s her attention to image detail that adds life to a familiar fable.  Not that Hjörleifsdótirr doesn’t get the most from her ample cast (young wayward gal Gríma Valsdóttir has a seriously soulful quality!), but it’s the films desire to make the most out of moving pictures that turns out to be the swan song.

(Sony Pictures)

A middle of the road action outing that follows a group of tough soldier cyber cops working to take down both humans and robots dabbling in various cybercrimes.  This one has just the right amount of style, action and mayhem to keep the carnage crowd interested, but never quite takes its interesting low budget tone and visuals to anything above a mediocre level.  (Badass robot gal Emily Dennis is all but wasted!)  Though did dig the chemistry between long lost loves Joe Barbagallo and Jean Goto hinted at throughout the film – romantic back baggage goes a long way.

(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

Very safe take on the subject of cancer with lead gal Mia Rose Frampton playing a teen getting attention because she’s dying of the big c who suddenly finds herself in remission and decides to hide it to stay popular.  (Think Can’t Buy Me Love for the next generation!)  Typical tropes, lessons learned and utter predictability run rampant, though all in an engaging and easy to swallow pill thanks to the affable turn by Frampton – her work puts spring in this simple story’s step.

(MVD Entertainment Group)

A low budget comedy that mixes seemingly somber themes like extreme fandom and kidnapping with a colorful cast and surprisingly scores more often than not.  Taking a so-so story and giving it moments of moxie, it’s the actors here that add funny fuel to the fire.  Heather McComb as an ailing former child star, Jillian Bell as her flighty assistant, Danny Woodburn as her caustic agent and especially Stephanie Hodes as McComb’s number one fan (never good!) all bring wacky wit to a sitcom type script – it’s the players within Pretty Bad Actress that score all the touchdowns.

(Warner Bros.)

Not as enjoyable as it should be, The Meg is a film that takes itself a tad too seriously.  Not that there aren’t a few funny moments both intentional (Rainn Wilson takes on the role of resident wisecracker!) and unintentional (the hammy dialogue had the audience laughing – and not in a good way!), but The Meg seemingly wants to be a scary sea experience – almost an impossibility for a flick about a creature the audience never fully buys.  Biting off more drama than it can chew, The Meg should have put tongue firmly into shark cheek and smiled wide.



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.

1 Response to “Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Eleven New Indie Titles (And ‘The Meg’!)”

  1. Brian White

    I can’t wait for August 24th so I can check out the Summer of 84 in 4K!