Encapsulated Movie Reviews (Last EVER!) – Twenty-Four New And Old Indie Titles (And One Short!)

Well this is it film fans!  Not only is this officially the last Encapsulated Movie Reviews of 2018, but also the final review column ever for this humble film critic.  That’s right, after a few amazing years right here at WhySoBlu.com this fun filled column, which began on June 24, 2016, will now come to a close and I will be leaving the balcony for good.  And while I still have two magical and beyond the norm filled columns to come (both my Top Five Male/Female Performances of 2018 and Top Ten Films of 2018 both with special celeb guests bonuses are still to come – stay tuned!) the below marks my final batch of Encapsulated Movie Reviews as a film critic for all time.

Hard to believe that a journey that started way back when I was in elementary school has lasted so long.  Newly in seventh grade I walked into the local paper in 1988 – The Kelowna Capital News – with a My Cousin Vinny briefcase I won from a radio movie quiz and got a job as the local film critic.  One more paper (The Richmond News), two magazines (Baacchor Magazine and The 213 Magazine) and four websites later (Joblo.com, The 213.net, Starpulse.com and finally WhySoBlu.com) and my fun hobby for doing film criticism became much more substantial and long lasting than I had ever thought possible.  It’s been a wonderful gift seeing so many amazing movies over my thirty plus years as a critic and film lover (I saw Reservoir Dogs in the theater, kiddies!), especially the last few here at the great WhySoBlu.com.  (I think some of my critic heroes like the late Gene Siskel of The Chicago Tribune and the late Richard Corliss of Time Magazine would be proud!)  So to give a fond farewell in proper film form I’m doubling down for this my final column and boldly taking on a whopping twenty-four features (new and old from 2018 I have caught up on recently!) along with one short for proper cinematic dissection.  Tales of personal regret, gals who break you up, inappropriate student/teacher relationships, rock and roll inspirations, rekindling childhood feelings, dealing with alcoholism and immobility, military heists, fun parks from hell, bears behind bars, money for love, gals paying for the sins of their significant others, family isolation halted, attaining dreams amidst adversity, trees that cause turbulence, the affect of money on relationships, a world where sight is the enemy, love amidst burglary, searching for a rare record, murder in the 1890’s, evil body switching, queens and ladies at war, a hotel with problems past and present, keeping the magic and money around movies alive, the dark side of the web and a short about the importance of imagination all get their final due here on my last ever edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the critical skinny of Destroyer, The Breaker UpperersBlameA Star Is Born, Christopher Robin, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot, American RenegadesHell FestPaddington 2, The New Romantic, Widows, Leave No Trace, Please Stand By, Under The Tree, Crazy Rich Asians, Bird Box, Breaking & Exiting, The Song Of Sway Lake, Lizzie, Between Worlds, The Favourite, Bad Times At The El Royale, King Of Peking, Unfriended: Dark Web and the short film Lacrimosa all below!


(Annapurna Pictures)

By taking the thin layer of dread she so amply wielded in The Invitation and skillfully placing it front and center this time around, helmer Karyn Kusama creates what is most assuredly the cinematic swan song of her already impressive career.  Taking a cue from the disheveled look of Nicole Kidman’s tortured police detective, Kusama manages to sustain a feeling of unease for the entire run time of Destroyer all the while keeping the audience fully engaged – no small film feat for sure.  Plus with a killer co-cast (the likes of Scoot McNairy, Beau Knapp and a very different Sebastian Stan!), a fresh feeling bank heist (it literally puts the viewer right in the action!) and a no-apologies revenge story arc with very little redemption (the best kind!), the five-star Destroyer shows exactly why Kusama is a filmmaking force to be reckoned with.


A film with both a myriad of charm and caustic comedic sensibility, this New Zealand import provides plenty of movie laughs.  Written and directed by leading ladies Madeleine Sami and Jackie van Beek, this tale of a couple of gals in the business of breaking up people has some terrific set-ups (love the various colorful ‘packages’ they provide!), cool cameos (Jemaine Clement pops up as a gamey Tinder date!) and a fun comradery between Sami and Beek that ultimately seals the deal – breaking up is suddenly fun to do.

(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

While this tale of a teacher’s improper relationship with a student has focus on the aging educator, it’s the troubled teens in his life that steal the show.  As the object of his affection and a jealous classmate out to do harm (all under interesting parallels to the play The Crucible!), the captivating Quinn Shephard and Nadia Alexander portray a different sides of the same character coin and it’s their unwavering and layered turns that help elevate Blame above the standard dramatic fray.  I say blame the young ladies for the films watchability – they’re that good.

(Warner Bros.)

This remake of previous outings that came before features some seriously savory acting (Lady Gaga truly brings her honesty A-game!) and toe-tapping tunes, but Bradley Cooper’s Sam Elliott channeling crooner complete with major demons in his past does eventually start to derail on the likeability scale as the film progresses.  (When in a drunken stupor he chastises the very thing that made him fall for Gaga’s ladylove in the first place is where the character lost me!)  And while Cooper does a decent job staging the story, in the end this is a familiar tall tale that hits all the tropes for safety.

(Walt Disney Motion Pictures)

Was pleasantly surprised by the somber and sullen nature of this tale of an adult Christopher Robin who after being forced to go back into the world of Winnie the Pooh finds himself examining his own life choices.  This one does have some cute kid moments (Brad Garret’s low-voiced Eeyore is hard not to love!), but what makes this one truly soar are the quiet and often times thoughtful moments of reflection between lead Ewan McGregor and the iconic honey bear – silence and reflection speaks volumes.

(Amazon Studios)

Fun and quirky outing about a real-life cartoonist who tries to get sober after a life-changing accident that leaves him in a wheelchair.  It sounds a tad dark, but in the hands of helmer Gus Van Sant, as well as the addition of great comedic actors like Jonah Hill and Jack Black, this one veers more into American Splendor wry humor territory then a Waterdance like drama.  (There’s even has a little Udo Kier action!)  Plus seeing Joaquin Phoenix try to tackle being an alcoholic while paralyzed is inspired acting – his character commitment knows no bounds.


Fun but somewhat frivolous action outing that follows a rag-tag group of Navy SEAL’s as they try to commandeer an underwater gaggle of lost Nazi gold from a Bosnian Lake.  Typical tropes via co-writer Luc Besson are present and accounted for in both characters (the team is reckless, whereas their commander J.K. Simmons is a hard ass!) and story (good wins out over evil!) but the flick is nevertheless entertaining fun for those looking for some fluffy escapism – Sunday afternoons need movies too.

(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

So-so genre outing that sees a group of scare loving friends getting more then they bargain for when a horror themed fun park suddenly turns all too real.  Appreciate the slice and dice bits (nothing says love more than a dull bladed guillotine!), the horror homages (there’s a little Tony Todd voice-over and on screen action here!) and attempts at cinematic scares (the quiet moments of stalking are the most chilling!), but the decent Hell Fest sadly never thrills above movie mediocre.

(Warner Bros.)

This second helping in the Paddington series sees the marmalade loving bear behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit with the Brown family out and about trying to clear his name.  Not quite as fun and whimsical as the first film (Hugh Grant is a watered-down villain compared to original vixen Nicole Kidman!), but the film still has it’s charms (the relationship between Paddington and big house tough guy Brendan Gleeson is terrific!) and it keeps this one from being merely a hairy subpar sequel.

(The Orchard)

Dabbling in the world of sugar babies where older men dating younger gals in exchange for ‘gifts’, the clever The New Romantic sadly just can’t escape the creep factor.  Meaning there are plenty of thoughtful characters (lead gal Jessica Barden’s journalist is far from a mindless maiden!), witty writing (this one has much to say in realm of relationships!) and interesting ideas (can there be true intimacy if there’s a currency connection?), but the sleaze factor of older men praying on females in the name of financial gain still feels askew no matter how Cinderella-esque it may seem.

(Twentieth Century Fox)

Being a fan of the slow simmering dramatic style of helmer Steve McQueen, I was ever so curious how it would then mesh with the dynamics of a heist picture.  Does the honesty within his thought out drama add something that has been missing from iconic caper flicks of the past?  Not really.  In fact Widows spends so much time on frivolous side character stuff that has no direct link to the main story (what’s with the whole unneeded Elizabeth Debicki/Lukas Hass tryst thing?!) that it grinds any and all sting related elements to a screeching halt.  (Though Viola Davis’s character chops remain as sharp as ever!)  An exercise in oil and water, Widows is unfortunately a movie mix that doesn’t blend well.

(Bleeker Street Media)

Solid lead turns are what save this story of a father and his thirteen year-old daughter who are caught living in an urban park and are forced to acclimate back into society.  As the troubled but steadfast dad and his trusting and loyal daughter, Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie add a vast amount of wonderful character layers here and take the film much further than the simple story scenario.  An example of the right person for the job, all good things here can be traced back to the actors in question.

(Magnolia Pictures)

An interesting, if not somewhat off kilter tale that sees an autistic woman running away from her caregiver in hopes of submitting a Star Trek script in an LA competition.  The scenario is definitely high concept, as are the standard side characters (this one came from a play!), but there’s just enough engaging stuff via Dakota Fanning’s determined focused dame to hold attention.  So stick with this one – there’s some nuggets of gold for those willing to stand by.

(Magnolia Pictures)

What begins as a tasty tryst between neighbors over an obtrusive tree, sadly turns too dark and somewhat predictable via this Icelandic import.  Loved the caustic spats between ailing neighbors that leads to oddly placed garden gnomes and shocking taxidermy, but the inclusion of needless side stories like a son who has marital and custody issues and an outcome that even a blind man could see coming from a mile away, keeps this flick from being what could have been a sassy cinematic slamdunk.

(Warner Bros.)

Crazy Rich Asians has the same sappy middle of the road story stuff that all other flicks in it’s wheelhouse contain, but it is thankfully elevated via the inclusion of a fascinating on-screen culture not often seen.  Meaning amongst the rags to riches tale of a regular girl and her rich boyfriend there’s everything from the caustic mom (an icy Michelle Yeoh!) to the sassy best friend (the spirited Awkwafina!) to add to story stereotypes, but the setting is so rich with vibrant feeling authenticity (the dumplings scene is so satisfying!) that it makes the ordinary slightly extraordinary – the power of a different time and place.


An interesting concept that soon begins to feel stagnate, Bird Box never quite reaches it’s dramatic potential.  Though not as decisively bad as The Happening, this tale of unseen monsters where sight is the killer of humanity suffers from familiar characters (John Malkovich’s surly gent is A-hole 101!), plot holes and an unsatisfying conclusion that all but derails a story that begins with solid staging.  (Love the dynamic between on-screen sisters Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson!)  A good idea in search of a script, Bird Box is as trapped as its inhabitants.

(Freestyle Digital Media)

A romantic comedy with a twist, Breaking & Exiting at least gets points for originality.  Meaning matching a petty thief who breaks into a house with the female owner who is about to commit suicide is pretty creative love story stuff.  Problem is the film runs hot and cold in the romantic arena, with leads Milo Gibson and Jordan Hinson getting into some believable and not so believable trysts that always threaten to derail each other.  A great idea with problems following through, Breaking & Exiting feels phony.

(The Orchard)

Not really engaged by the story of a son who heads home to his family’s estate to find his father’s missing and rare jazz record, The Song Of Sway Lake has a forced arty feel.  Everything from the picture perfect cinematography to the hammy acting makes sure the film feels just out of relatable reach at all times.  The only saving grace is the unhealthy but ultimately real feeling relationship between lead Rory Culkin and love interest Isabelle McNally – if only their storyline had been longer.

(Roadside Attractions)

A film that seemingly prides itself on being slow and simmering in its depiction of the mysterious happenings around the infamous 1892 murders of the Borden family takes a sad and unneeded turn into the gratuitous simply to stand out.  Meaning the first part of the film that both pits the troubled Lizzie (played with calm cunning by Chloë Sevigny) against her stern family and sees her become physically and emotionally involved with the local live-in maid (a timid Kristen Stewart) builds suspense nicely.  But as the film progresses everything from unneeded full frontal nudity to barbaric brutality is used for shock value and seemingly smashes all careful staging to smithereens.  A film that should have had faith in its ‘less is more’ approach, Lizzie leaves a bad taste.

(Lionsgate/Saban Films)

For those who thought that Mandy was Nic Cage at full nutburger, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  An odd, uneven and completely bonkers outing, Between Worlds features Cage as a mangy truck driver who ends up bedding both a mom who can contact spirits when being strangled (huh?!) and her young daughter who has been taken over by the spirit of Cage’s late wife.  (Figure that conundrum out!)  It’s as wacky as it sounds and features Cage in what amounts to a full-blown loony performance but still with full actor commitment.  (Cage doesn’t even do lunacy half assed!)  A strange cinematic sight if ever there was one, Between Worlds is like a highway crash you can’t take your eyes off of.

(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

After seeing The Favourite I was rather surprised by the large number of positive raving accolades.  Not that there aren’t a few good moments (love it when rival leads Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz verbally spar!), decent performances (Olivia Colman is one complex Queen Anne!) and a director at his most linear (The Lobster and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer helmer Yorgos Lanthimos plays it straight here!), but there have been so many more memorable period films featuring ferocious and fun tête-à-têtes between caustic characters that it makes The Favourite seem downright dour by comparison.  Lacking in the arena of sinful guilty pleasure, Lanthimos’s latest is hardly my favorite.

(Twentieth Century Fox)

With The Cabin In The Woods helmer Drew Goddard subverted expectations by throwing the topes of horror back into fans’ collective faces in the best way possible.  Sadly the same cannot be said about the Bad Times At The El Royale, a character driven suspense flick that even through it’s back and forth in time story structure fails to breath any new life into a tired genre.  Bad guys, bad girls, people who aren’t what they appear to be and power hungry maniacs all fill in the stereotypical blanks here and provide little joy for the audience in terms of something new.  When music is a films only saving grace, a bad time at the movies is all but guaranteed.


Wanted to love this Chinese import about a father and son bonding over their shared love of film, but there’s so much forced movie message going on that the film feels like an afterschool special. Meaning the tale of a projectionist father who loses his way when he begins to pirate films to make ends meat and it ends up causing a rift with his boy is so preachy and predictable that any message of love for film or family quickly gets lost.  An outing that could have been so much better, King Of Peking needs more magic in its movie.

(Universal Pictures)

While the first Unfriended was an eye strain that nevertheless paid off with some solid scares, Unfriended: Dark Web is an exercise in annoyance.  Taking all supernatural elements out of play and replacing them with tangible dark web baddies may have seemed cool on paper, but it’s execution here is about as scary as a Sesame Street on ice.  A mildly interesting idea that scraped by the first time, Unfriended: Dark Web is a sequel that should sleep with the online fishes.



A breathtaking short film that plays out as an examination of one girl’s vivid imagination, the star of the show here is definitely the arresting visual storytelling.  Playing in the same picturesque playground as filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón, filmmaker Tanja Mairitsch creates such an amazing optical experience using lush landscapes and underwater sequences that it all but begs for a feature length version – Mairitsch is definitely one to watch.


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.

5 Responses to “Encapsulated Movie Reviews (Last EVER!) – Twenty-Four New And Old Indie Titles (And One Short!)”

  1. Brian White

    Say it ain’t so Jason 🙁
    While I’m completely honored and humbled to have your long career in reviewing end here I’m going to miss you so much. Like Extreme said it best “More Than Words.”
    You’re departing words left three things with me:
    1. Destroyer is a MUST-WATCH now!
    2. Widows and Bird Cage ain’t all that everyone says they are
    3. And I’m not optimistic about reviewing Bad Times At El Royale

    Thank you so much for all the memories, Jason, and you always have a home here!

  2. Gregg

    Always a provider of solid content, your articles will be missed. Best of luck to you, Jason!

  3. Gerard Iribe

    The Favourite and Bad Times are some of my favorites of the year. I do want to see Destroyer, though.

  4. Michael Coleman

    Having been there from your beginning, this is a bittersweet day. Jason you have become expert in your view of good vs. bad films and I have enjoyed many a recommendation and this final column is typical of your great work.
    I look forward to your next plateau my beloved son.

  5. Aaron Neuwirth

    “Say it ain’t so Joe, say it ain’t so!” Sorry to see that you’re hanging it up, but I look forward to having more discussions and seeing where things take you in your exciting future!