Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Five New Indie Titles (And One Short!)

Back with the skinny on smaller film fare, it’s time once again to round up the indie animals and see if they are up to the cinematic excellence challenge.  Tales of 80’s romance, gambling and bookie action on the down-low, being trapped with family dysfunction for the holidays, fighting for life with the help of baseballs, mirror images with nefarious intentions and male and female relationships gone awry make up the slew of five feature films and one short covered in this edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the short opinions on Cruise, All Square, Await Further Instructions, Knuckleball, Look Away and Punching Bag below.

(Vertical Entertainment)

A decent homage to romance in the 80’s from a lessor known perspective, this tale of a shallow slick Italian kid from Long Island romancing a Jewish gal from long Island is filled with rare and original decade delights.  From acid washed jeans and casual Friday night hookups to obscure but catchy musical selections (how about a little Pretty Poison Catch Me (I’m Falling) anyone!?), the thing that works best when stereotypes sometimes spring up is the simple yet effective staging via helmer Robert Siegel – he makes Cruise cool.

(Vertical Entertainment)

A typical tale of a low-level bookie scheming, being taught a lesson and eventually trying to do the right thing, what elevates All Square well above the familiar film fray is the engaging apathy of its wry-witted lead.  As the hapless hood who comes up with the idea of opening bets on local little league games to get parents to pay up, lead man Michael Kelly injects just the right amount of everyman cynicism – even in his effective voice-over narration – to turn All Square into a decent outing that isn’t afraid to pony up.

(Dark Sky Films)

While staging and pacing within Await Further Instructions are big immediate issues, there’s also fortunately just enough odd intrigue to make the film worth watching.  Meaning the tale of a dysfunctional family who gets together for a turbulent Christmas and thanks to a metal barrier find themselves trapped inside a single house for the holidays does have some stereotypical kin characters (the attitude ridden sister, the surly grandfather, ect.) and takes time to get to the answers behind its X-mas ambush.  But once it does, Await Further Instructions comes to cinematic life and within a scary sci-fi story frame poses some serious questions about life, faith and family.  A terror tale with some original ideas to share, this one proves that creepy things do come to those who await.

(Freestyle Digital Media)

Knuckleball feels like two separate films, both decent in their own right, but together feel like a tad congested.  The first is a lovingly layered movie drama involving a young boy being dropped off with his old school grandfather – played with boorish brilliance by the iconic Michael Ironside – and the eventual connecting of two totally opposite family archetypes.  The second is a horror flick about using cunning to escape a madman out to do bodily harm, which is less effective but still solid.  Together though it’s an odd combo that definitely feels like one should have paid more attention to careful narrative combining.  But with each side of the story coin engaging in its own way, Knuckleball however discombobulating has just enough power in its pitch to make the game good.

(Vertical Entertainment)

While the premise of a forceful and more deadly mirror image coming to life for one traumatized teen is a fascinating one, Look Away is a case of missed movie opportunities.  Not much is done in the area of not only highlight the horrors of said behind the reflection doppelgänger (amidst stereotypical youthful payback!), but even less so in explaining dark matters on a much desired psychological level as well.  (Plus when the most unsettling thing within a genre outing is the lead teen’s utter unneeded abundance of full frontal nudity there’s trouble in creepy cinema paradise!)  A terror tale lacking on the scary stuff, Look Away is aptly titled.




Being a guy who grew up geek, I fully related to this comical short that sees a dorky guy playing punching bag to a group of disillusioned women at his buff brother’s karate dojo.  And while the themes are timely and comedy ever-present (though at times seriously over-the-top!), I couldn’t help thinking that this is a story that’s been told before.  But ultimately it does make me excited to see what this short’s helmer does next – Jamie Anderson is one interesting filmmaker to watch for.


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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