Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Five New Indie Titles

A handful of indie flicks counter the big budget Guardian weekend to varying results.  (There’s yet another five-star flick this week – no great cinema!)  Artists who push the creative line, bad guys gone good, fancy meals complete with a side of guilt, military men leading multiple lives and an ode to all things mom covers the crop of this weeks smaller film hopefuls.  Check out the Encapsulated Movie Reviews of Burden, Black Site Delta, The Dinner, The Shadow Effect and Mom & Me all below.



(Magnolia Pictures)

Not knowing of artist Chris Burden and yet passing his work on a daily basis (his lamp post piece is a permanent outdoor fixture at LACMA in LA!) makes me a tad ashamed, but this fabulous five-star doc serves as an entertaining tool to school the uninitiated like myself.  A rebellious and super creative art force that began his out-of-the-box art as far back as the early 70’s, Burden bucked the status quo and truly challenged what art could and should be.  From lighter first starts like putting himself in a 2×2 locker for five days, getting shot and nailing himself to a car to later more darker fare like hijacking a TV station by threatening the host with a knife and making a public confession of adultery, the bold Burden was considered a genius by some, a wacko by others.  (My take – way too creative to be dismissed!)  But this all encompassing doc goes the extra mile with archival footage, talking to all those involved (even his first wife speaks – but not on camera!) and finally getting interview time with the illusive man himself.  And while Burden speaks little about the artistic and personal events in his life, it’s the subtext within the silence – not unlike his art – that speaks volumes and makes Burden both the man and the doc undisputedly brilliant.

(XLrator Media)

A cross between Assault on Precinct 13 and Con Air, Black Site Delta involving a gang of bad military convicts who find themselves having to become good guys against a bunch of drone stealing mercenaries definitely walks familiar film territory.  But within the multitude of clichés (there always has to be a good-looking serial killing deviant character!) and typical tropes (the man in charge is a rich spoiled cocaine sniffing egomaniac – go figure!), Director Jesse Gustafson surprisingly makes a flick that’s fun.  And that along with a cool chemistry between lead man Cam Gigandet (some of his best work here!) and hard-as-nails hottie Teri Reeves (whose vicious vixen Vasquez is a female force to be reckoned with!) makes Black Site Delta escapist entertainment that’s oh-so enjoyable.

(The Orchard)

This mixture of fine dining dinner courses matched with harrowing story events has a very cool and clever premise.  Not to mention that everyone present for the fabulous feast – a somber Steve Coogan, an ever-solid Richard Gere, a cunning Laura Linney and a refined Rebecca Hall – brings serious acting A-game to the festivities.  The problem though lies directly in The Dinner’s flawed pacing, which may work in a novel form (the film is based on the book by Herman Koch), but helmer Oren Moverman’s mixing of scenes past and present makes for one slow and discombobulating flick.  So captivating dramatic moments filled with tension and fine wine are matched with scenes that simply bring the work to a screeching halt and the result is the film is always well below its potential.  Like a five-star meal served with little attention to detail, The Dinner lacks quality cinematic customer service.

(Momentum Pictures)

The second Cam Gigandet outing this week (and again he’s pretty decent here!) sees the actor playing a humble small town husband who may have a secret hidden life as an assassin even he doesn’t know about.  (Think The Manchurian Candidate meets A History of Violence!)  Sadly it’s mostly a paint-by-numbers affair complete with shady characters (Michael Biehn’s dark sheriff screams bad guy!), plot driven people (Jonathan Rhys Meyers playing the local doctor all but guarantees a sinister hidden agenda!) and a story that never goes above and beyond it’s inspired by predecessors. Bargain bin fare that’s eclipsed by great works that came before it, The Shadow Effect is appropriately titled.

(Uncork’d Entertainment)

A doc dealing with the sensitive subject of moms and their protective sons is a mixed bag for sure.  On the up side there’s a real deep dramatic effect when the films’ subject get raw and real about their feelings towards the person who gave them life.  But on the down side director Ken Wardrop injects an unneeded dramatic device of a radio DJ talking to each of the interviewed subjects and it definitely trivializes the seriousness of the subject.  A rocky relationship between sincerity and style, Mom & Me unfortunately mirrors the stormy saga between parent and child to a tee.


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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