Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Seven New Indie Titles

Back from vacation and ready to do movie battle with a multitude of indie outings, it’s time to dissect some smaller film fare for you fans.  Taking on seven cinematic hopefuls this week with a wide range of genres and effectiveness.  (According to yours truly anyway!)  Romances during war time, horror houses with many sinister stories to tell, careful character studies, moms with moxie, gun-toting gals, shocking real-life racial events and a hundred year old werewolf legends make up the flicks covered in this edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the critical skinny on the flicks The Last Face, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories, Columbus, The Bad Mother, House on Rodeo Gulch, Detroit and Lycan below!

(Saban Films/Lionsgate)

Sean Penn’s films as a director have always had their fair share of ups and downs, but thankfully there’s usually something memorable within the work.  Be it the pitch perfect performances in The Indian Runner or the slow and low moody tone via The Crossing Guard, there’s cinematic nuggets of gold to be found in Penn’s pictures.  In the case of his latest The Last Face it’s the turbulent and passionate relationship between his two leads Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem who play unlikely lovers during war time in Liberia.  Yes, the romance takes a while to reveal itself, the wealth of scenes involving sinister war atrocities makes any romance seem a tad trivial and out of place and the dialogue is at times laughably bad (Jean Reno deserves better!), but for my movie money there’s no two better actors who, when left to their own glorious acting devices, can fake honest emotions this good.

(Dark Cuts)

While certainly not up to Creepshow standards when it comes to being a memorable horror anthology (though better than Creepshow 3 at least!), Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories does have some noteworthy naughty bits worth checking out.  So even amongst an opening that feels out of step with the whole ‘strange story on every level of a haunted house’ theme and some clichéd kills (trick or treat indeed!) there’s also a great segment about a nefarious bathtub, a cautionary tale on the dangers of Christmas caroling and a five-star final sinister story involving an elders bloody birthday that’s right out of the tasty Tales From The Crypt fun bag.  So even with both good and bad these volumes have more than enough savory sinful stories to provide some bloody satisfaction.

(Superlative Films/DOF)

While at times I found the staging and execution of Columbus slow just for slow sake, I couldn’t help but fall in love with some of the honest and quieter moments within the film where characters just talk.  Of course it helps that the two notable ladies in the film make up the current younger (my personal favorite Haley Lu Richardson!) and older (indie queen Parker Posey!) generations of exceptional acting, which in turn thankfully brings up the game of Star Trek alum John Cho who gives a pretty ‘performance safe’ turn as the angst ridden middle-aged male lead.  With plenty of long spaces both earned and not earned, Columbus nevertheless still casts a cinematic spell that sticks.

(Random Media/Pollinator Films)

The Bad Mother is a hard review to write in that the comedy within the film frankly isn’t all that funny, but lead gal Sarah Kapoor is way too engaging to ignore.  (Get that gal a great script with a riveting role ASAP!)  So while her work as a writer and co-director of this tale of a mom who dreams of going back to work and having it all is uninspired, it’s by contrast Kapoor’s charismatic and magnetic on-screen acting that saves The Bad Mother from merely being bad bargain bin fare.

(Scherer Entertainment)

House on Rodeo Gulch is a flick that takes a done to death Scooby-Doo haunted house premise and wisely adds an ass kicking female angle that could have made it a hidden indie gem.  Problem is fetching, feisty and gun-toting markswoman Megan Jay Simrell is utterly wasted here, not given much to do and even her scenes of tough girl pull the trigger payback all feel somewhat watered down.  No question Simrell has spirit and strength of a badass – she just needs a story to match.

(Annapurna Distribution)

Mired in uncomfortable moments that never end, Detroit is the most taxing time I’ve had at the movies this year.  Taken from an untold real life story of racial events during the Detroit rebellion there is so much emphasis put on the harrowing aspects there is little room for anything else.  The performances range from reactionary (most spend their time facing a wall) to ineffective (never bought Will Poulter as an on-the-edge racist cop for a minute) to frustrating (John Boyega’s sullen security guard is one conflicting character), other than being hand held any signature style of Kathryn Bigelow is utterly MIA (it’s the whole reason I went to see this one!) and there’s no story satisfaction except that the picture merely exists.  So while Detroit is a terror tale that definitely needed to be told, it’s a film I will never watch again.

(Parade Deck Films)

Loved the premise of this one with a nod to Blair Witch lore by having a gang of teens hit the woods to tackle the urban legend of Emily Burt, the ‘Talbot County Werewolf.’  Problem is this one is chocked with bad high school stereotypes (the insecure beauty, the charismatic geek, the uptight jock!) and has little in terms of cool haunting happenings.  So what you get is a disappointing mix of bad gore, lame scares and a seriously wasted NYPD Blue alum Gail O’Grady who could have been the wacky Karen Black ala Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses of the piece.  Wasted opportunities galore, Lycan lacks 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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