Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Five New Indie Titles

Two very full film fests are hitting hard and fast in June (comprehensive coverage is the motto!) so no time like the present to get to the weekly array the lesser known film fare for those seeking smaller cinematic selections.  Examinations of former beleaguered British Prime Minsters, sisters with a desire to seek out the truth, spiritual sci-fi stories and two father/son tales – one involving vampirism – grace the themes via this weeks colorful crop of Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the critical skinny on the five films Churchill, Past Life, Dean, 96 Souls and Aaron’s Blood below.  

(Cohen Media Group)

Taking place in the latter days of famed British Prime Minister Winston Churchill just before the infamous D-Day landings, Churchill is a film that is very much a character study.  Meaning folks who are looking for big battles, waves of war and cinematic spectacle are going to be somewhat disappointed.  But for those looking to see a layered, carefully constructed performance of the infamous PM in all his bitter passionate glory, Churchill contains lead work of true character mastery.  Seasoned actor Brian Cox, flanked by the nurturing and equally impressive Miranda Richardson as his weary wife, embodies the spirit of a complicated man who believes in his own abilities when others don’t and it’s a wonder to watch.  No need for a myriad of scenes involving beach ridden mayhem – Cox provides all the fireworks.

(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

A tale of two sisters who after a strange incident decide to look deeper into their father’s mysterious background, Past Life has plenty going for it.  The acting is good (Nelly Tagar and Joy Rieger make two wonderfully distinctive siblings!), the story compelling (who is their father..and what did he do?) and the pacing perfect.  But in the end it’s the taut Hitchcock like staging by Israeli filmmaker Avi Nesher that makes this one a standout.  His work flows and affects – the signs of a master craftsman – so even when events are revealed and prove somewhat disappointing, the audience is in too much awe to care.

(CBS Films)

While story wise Dean feels all-too-familiar in dealing with both family relationships (Demetri Martin and Kevin Kline play an estranged after a tragedy father and son!) and casual ones (Martin and quirky Gillian Jacobs start a romance after an awkward meeting!) I still dug some of the more somber and real moments of Dean.  Problem is the on-screen charm and wry wit of Martin (who also wrote and directed this one!) as Dean never bowled me over and came across as somewhat smarmy throughout – a turn off for a lead character for sure.  (Though the toons he draws are clever!)  So while there are some good sides to Dean, the movie and the character seemingly have much more to learn.

(Gravitas Ventures)

96 Souls has an interesting premise involving a biochemist that through a lab accident is able to see things like heat signatures, fragrances and more importantly alternate version of people’s true selves.  It’s a set up that could have gone by way of a comedy, a horror or even a psychological thriller, but the film seems to want to have it all and then some.  So the outcome is some very effective bits (the scenes between lead man doctor Grinnell Morris and homeless gal Toyin Moses are the best in the film!) mixed with goofy ones (Paul Statman’s project stealing heavy Dr. Clayton Redfield has about as much subtlety as G.W. Bailey in Mannequin!) for a flick unsure what it wants to be – harboring too many souls can make for uneven cinema.

(Gravitas Ventures)

Again, another great movie premise, a father/son story complicated by the fact that the timid hemophiliac son is becoming a vampire, that can’t sustain its own originality.  Meaning the opening of the film dramatically draws you in through relatable issues like bullying, religion and complicated family tragedies and then never really uses them to maximum effect during the darker more fantastical moments.  Low budget issues aside, Aaron’s Blood is simply a vamp picture without a bold bite.


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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