Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Five New Indie Titles

In between big budget outings it’s good to know that Indie flicks are still alive and well for the film fan who demands more movies.  This week sees five lesser known flicks hitting the big screen and thanks to continued cinematic diversity in smaller film fare there’s a little something for everyone.  (Well, almost everyone!)  Old school tales of revenge and microchips, righting war history wrongs, youths and their get rich quick schemes, growing up in the gaming era and enlightened females gone mad all make up the works featured in this edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the short opinions on Upgrade, The Last Witness, American Animals, eHero, and The Misandrists below!

(BH Tilt)

What’s most enjoyable about Saw co-creator Leigh Whannell’s action revenge flick Upgrade is just how much damn fun it is.  A true throwback to the cheddar ridden guns and ammo films of the 80’s (it’s the fun of Gymkata mixed with some Bronson Death Wish, a pinch of Black Moon Rising and all with a techno slant!), Upgrade uses old school tropes like the classic cool car chase and far-fetched storytelling to make it’s tale of a paralyzed man made mobile by a smart computer chip a true guilty pleasure.  (The robotic fighting movements of the lead hero are double dipped in funny fromage!)  Plus lead man Logan Marshall-Green, so effective previously in Karyn Kusama’s The Invitation, brings the perfect amount of somber and satire to make this one a great ride.  In fact if not for the film unnecessarily taking itself too seriously at times (must keep the cheese flowing always!) and Whannell seemingly feeling the pressure to deliver a Saw like twist ending (keeping the story simple doesn’t make it bad dude!) this one would have gotten the Roger Corman five-star upgrade salute from me – as is it’s just a four-star fun flick.

(Momentum Pictures)

With performances that are decent but not especially notable (see lead Alex Pettyfer in Elvis & Nixon for a five-star turn!), the true hidden gem within The Last Witness is definitely its well-woven story.  Based on true events, the tale of a reporter who uncovers that a slew of Polish soldiers may have been slaughtered by Russian troops instead of Nazi’s in WWII and tries to prove it makes for a fascinating nail bitter from start to finish.  From the secret backdoor meetings to alliances gone awry, helmer Piotr Szkopiak manages to do what even some scholastic teachers have not – namely make history exciting.

(The Orchard)

Having seen and been ultimately disappointed by Bart Layton’s previous doc outing The Imposter (there’s no ending dammit!), I’m proud to say that his latest American Animals is definitely a step up.  Far from perfect, but unique in its storytelling style, Layton creates a cinematic caper movie that’s part doc (there are interviews with the real-life participants!) and part regular film (actors provide the best on-screen emotions!) where everyone’s recollections are suspect makes for an original movie experience.  And while the film does have trouble in tone both in the scattered meshing of the above as well as light and dark tones (the beginning feels like a Wes Anderson outing but then turns into a Fincher film!), there’s still enough unique to make these animals worth watching.

(level FILM)

While eHero has a totally familiar film formula, I nevertheless still found myself engaged in its wonted wares.  Meaning the tale of an ambitious computer gamer who must overcome fear, insecurity and pride to help his fellow team mates beat the rival bad guy champion (and get the girl – how original!) has just enough cool visual eye-candy (the capture the flag game play is fun to watch!) and chemistry (dug the eye sparks between leads Greg Hovanessian and Chloe Rose!) to keep stock cinematic movie monotony at bay.  Not original, but nevertheless entertaining.

(Cartilage Films)

While I’m certainly not a prude (early John Waters is like crack to me!) and have gushed over controversial material used to maximum movie effect (see The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover on a previous Forgotten Friday Flick!), The Misandrists feels like an empty exercise in throwing shocking shit at the wall and seeing what sticks.  None of the more gratuitous material – male ass licking, lesbian sex, full male and female nudity and even some truly horrifying forced sex reassignment surgery – assist the flimsy excuse for a premise (a secret gang of gals known as the Female Liberation Army are on a mission and have secrets!) and any modicum of social commentary or clever comedy definitely gets lost in the shuffle.  (If it even exists!)  Neither for the tame nor the wild, The Misandrists is a classic case of salacious cinema that’s missing a story.



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.

4 Responses to “Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Five New Indie Titles”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    I dug American Animals, but The Imposter is fantastic!

  2. Jason Coleman

    The finish ruined it for me. Understand it’s a real-life story with no ending, but it’s like sitting through a true crime drama with no payoff.

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    Hey, it worked for Zodiac 🙂

  4. Jason Coleman

    But Zodiac wasn’t a doc – plus style won out over substance in that case!