Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Four New Indie Titles

A group of four indie hopefuls out this week that can hopefully take the big budget edge off a new Spielberg outing that will more than likely dominate the box office.  A two-part doc on the enigma that was Gary Shandling, a tale of science infused into family, the effects of back baggage mixed with wine and insight into China’s place in the stock market are all dissected in this week’s edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the concise opinions on The Zen Diaries Of Garry Shandling, Birthmarked, Back To Burgundy and The China Hustle below!

(HBO Documentary Films)

When a doc that runs multiple hours in many parts the thought more often than not is ‘too much’, but in the case of Judd Apatow’s two-part, over four-hour dissection of the life of famed comedian Garry Shandling the phrase that comes to mind is ‘more please.’  Taking on every facet of the late great funnyman’s existence, Apatow leaves no stone good (Larry Sanders fans get the grand look back they always wanted!), bad (Garry’s failed relationship with Linda Doucett, the lawsuits involving Brad Grey and phone tapping trials are put front and center!) or ugly (the death of Garry’s brother early on had a long lasting effect on him) unturned to give one impressive and unapologetic look at both the madness and genius of the man who made us laugh on a different and deeper level.  Plus Apatow cleverly constructs his doc with everything from Shandling audio to personal writings (that give new meaning to the term candid!) and of course a cavalcade of interviews with those who knew, loved and at times hated Garry, to thoroughly tell the tale.  A no-holds-barred look at the price of comedic perfection and the toll it takes, this five-star examination of Shandling is not unlike the way the comedian prided himself on being – real.

(Vertical Entertainment)

Even though this quirky comedy involving two in-love scientists who decide to raise three kids to be the polar opposite of their lineage as a research project does have some over-the-top-bits and a pinch of schmaltzy stuff, there’s a whole lot of worthwhile things in Birthmarked.  Love the created characters, chemistry and comedic timing of lovable leads Matthew Goode (best work yet!) and Toni Collette, the obtuse story situation that gives way to hearty laughs and the surprising sweetness that the film eventually finds.  So while not breaking any new movie ground but still an enjoyable flick, check this one off as an entertaining experiment that succeeds.

(Music Box Films)

There are definitely some terrific character scenes and melancholy moments within the wine loving Back To Burgundy – problem is the time it takes to get there.  Meaning I dug the tale of three very different siblings reuniting in the family vineyard where they grew up (there’s some truly wondrous shots and sequences of the entire wine making process!) to help their ailing father, but there are some very wide and unneeded pauses between such sensational scenes that almost kneecap the film’s cinematic beauty.  Like a collectable vintage wine one pauses in opening, sometimes you gotta uncork that sucker and drink up.

(Magnolia Pictures)

The good news about the doc The China Hustle is that there’s nothing seemingly new to add about the vast Wall Street heist of using companies from China that don’t exist to play the market, but the bad news is it’s nothing new.  Disgracing common decency, most of the high players involved and questioned here admit nothing, continue to make excuses and go about business as usual minus a moral conscience or a care in the world.  The fact that this doc will most likely not have an effect in terms of ending the wrongdoing speaks to the state of the rich and poor in the US today – people in power don’t care.  Don’t get me wrong, I applaud those who are diligently trying to hold up the mirror to such scams – including the makers of this doc and good guys still shouting like Dan David – but if everyone in power knows, sees and puts up with the repulsive reflection presented, showing it to the average movie-goer like me merely feels like being bamboozled all over again.


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 – Four New Indie Titles”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth l

    Loved the Shandling Doc!