Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Seven Indie/Two Studio Titles

Since last week saw such few releases, I held onto the reviews plus added some already out selections to make this weeks crop truly a hodgepodge movie assortment.  Not to mention that there are a massive nine films covered – seven indie titles and two big budget studio flicks.  (I see the big titles too, just don’t usually review them – but when in Rome!)  Groups of people all deciding to live together and the consequences, brides ‘not-to-be’ taking drastic actions, old fairy tales with a new caustic comedic twists, issues of trust in a world gone mad, alien abductions from a famed forest, the effect of constant bad luck on one woman’s life, a doc on the hidden world of UFO’s and two studio pictures dealing with aliens and overbearing moms all make up the flicks covered in this weeks Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the skinny on The Commune, The Wedding Plan, The New Adventures of Aladdin, The Survivalist, Beacon Point, A Woman’s Life, Unacknowledged, Alien: Covenant and Snatched below!

(Magnolia Pictures)

This superb Swedish throwback to involving and ever-evolving dramas like The Big Chill provides both quirky comedy and deep drama on a level that lingers long.  A cautionary tale of a wife who decides that her humble husband isn’t interesting enough and convinces him to open their inherited home to a gaggle of various friends and unknown oddballs to build a community, the results of which prove to be both joyous and damning, The Commune thankfully isn’t afraid to explore the tough stuff.  Boldly tackling everything from extramarital affairs to losing one’s virginity all with five-star fervor, the film and it’s wealth of well defined characters passionately prove that safety in numbers may be illusion, but cinematic satisfaction is not.

(Roadside Attractions)

An Israeli film with a formulaic premise – after her fiancé decides to call off the wedding Orthodox Jewish gal Michal decides God will provide her with a significant other and sets a date anyway – that thankfully feels anything but, The Wedding Plan is one pleasant surprise.  What could have been a simple set up for cheap laughs and silly scenarios proves instead to be a compelling, engrossing and wonderfully moving examination of faith and love. But ultimately The Wedding Plan is anchored and elevated by the fantastic work by stunning leading lady Noa Koler who provides the all the passionate prerequisite elements to raise the film well beyond it’s meager means – her work makes the movie cause for celebration.

(Under The Milky Way)

The well known story of Aladdin, but given a veil of grade-B cheddar and blended with a Zucker Brothers sensibility, this zany and spirited update is a breathe of fresh comedic air.  (Leave it to the French to find the funny!)  Coming at the material with a go-for-broke style, the film uses everything from hilarious music videos (the arrival of “Prince” Aladdin is both toe-tapping and snicker inducing!) to savory sight gags (more than one poor dupe ends up taking a palace swan dive!) and even tasteless humor (impotence finally gets it’s funny due!) to create a sinfully boisterous flick that maybe your mother won’t enjoy.  (There is a hopeful message by the end though!)  Nothing new about this one – great comedy is timeless.

(IFC Midnight)

An absorbing drama that does so much with so little, The Survivalist takes heavy-handed issues like trust, safety, love and loneliness and plays them out in one all-consuming contained space.  A single gent who harbors deep back baggage and kills to keep his remote cabin area free from complications during an obvious post apocalyptic time finds himself face to face with a mother and daughter in need of help.  Can he trust them?  Is life better in the company of others and ultimately do complications outweigh desolation?  The Survivalist may not answer all questions presented, but being a movie that makes one think serves up some serious cinematic solace.

(Uncork’d Entertainment)

A film that’s part Shoot to Kill, part Fire in The Sky and all with a Blair Witch style forest fear involving a group of hikers on the Appalachian trail, Beacon Point is a familiar flick that ultimately fails to deliver.  Meaning we never get fulfilling arcs and answers on anything from the motivations behind Jon Briddell’s troubled troupe leader to the story behind the films query seeking outer beings. High on promise, but low on delivery, Beacon Point is a flawed flick that sadly strays from the path and never finds its way back.

(Kino Lorber)

While lovingly shot and harboring some meaningful acting, A Woman’s Life is an exercise in film futility.  Meaning going on the adventures of a initially hopeful and spirited 19th century woman who finds herself brow beaten (her husband like to play the field!) and plagued with a life of sheer bad luck (even her scheming son provides little sanctuary!) proves to be tough to take.  (Hats off to lead actress Judith Chemla who makes us feel every painful moment!)  Important but impossibly indigestible, A Woman’s Life is one difficult row to hoe.

(The Orchard)

A detailed doc on all things UFO related Unacknowledged surprisingly never suffers from a lack of believability.  From first hand accounts of former government officials to film and document evidence, there’s no question that such alien accounts are real and on that note Unacknowledged gets its point across.  Problem is as an engaging doc the movie savvy here is seriously missing, with the films’ talking heads tone growing tired over its one hundred minute running time.  A PBS style special that should have been trimmed to a tight one-hour running time, Unacknowledged needs to acknowledge a genuine lack of luster.

(20th Century Fox )

Permanently tainting his original five-star masterpiece and making the subsequent sometimes sub-par Alien sequels (Aliens not included of course!) seem surprisingly satisfying, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus was a big budget bore fest to say the least.  Is his follow up and self-proclaimed cinematic apology in the form of Alien: Covenant any better?  Hardly.  Redeeming nothing and only answering the question if this franchise should be put to bed, Scott rehashes not only his own work (the original Alien suspense only works if we don’t know what’s going to happen sir!), but everyone else’s (add some action ala Cameron, bleakness via Fincher and press putrid puree!) for a flick that even unapologetically craps on its own creators legendary lore.  (Watch the alien chest burst out – now with arms, a body and dance moves!)  Ridley – please stop.

(20th Century Fox )

If laughing once makes for a killer comedy, then Snatched takes the clowning cake.  Pitting a trying-way-too-hard Amy Schumer (she even dons a breast to bring home the humor – yuck!) alongside a neutered Goldie Hawn (not her fault – give the gal some funny lines dammit!) as an uninspired mother/daughter team for a situation comedy that should never have gotten past the sitcom stage, writer Katie Dippold’s sub-par script phones in one lame laugh after another for embarrassing outing that screams fast paycheck.  Look, when even seasoned helmer Jonathan Levin (he of Warm Bodies, 50/50 and my personal favorite All The Boys Love Mandy Lane!) can’t steer winning work from these two normally talented dames, you know there’s trouble in putrid picture paradise – avoid like the plague.


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.

4 Responses to “Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Seven Indie/Two Studio Titles”

  1. Aaron Neuwirth

    Vinterberg did The Commune? I need to see this!

  2. Jason Coleman

    The man behind The Hunt strikes again!

  3. Brian White

    Your last two cracked me up!
    I seemed to like Alien Covenant more than most, but i completely agree with your arguments too. I loved Prometheus so I can’t help myself.
    Now Snatched. I could never bring myself to sit through. Amy Schumer disgusts me. LOL

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    Reviews are actually pretty high on Covenant (surprisingly)