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

Indies, indies, indies!  Banking on the theory that some good movies do indeed come in small packages, it’s time once again to dig into the lesser-known cinema scene in hopes of finding some gems amongst duds.  (Or at least a flick that entertains and inspires!)  Tales of missing kin, the history behind a classic flick, an angry man seeking a little payback, terror amidst trees, a day in the life of a sassy sports bar, an obsessed fan with dark habits and the violent effects of the falling housing market make up the films covered in this week’s edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  (Plus there’s a savory short film review thrown in for good movie measure!)  Check out the critical skinny on Searching, The Coolest Guy Movie Ever, I Am Vengeance, What Keeps You Alive, Support The Girls, Dead Envy, Arizona and the short film Long Way Back Home below.

(Screen Gems)

Leave it to two former Google employees to write a script that utilizes many different forms of electronic communication as a means to tell their clever kidnapping thriller and actually pull it off.  Just the execution of such a tech heavy task could have been a movie gimmick nightmare, but instead here is handled with such savvy cinematic detail that the result actually adds another layer of excitement to an already thrilling thriller.  And with equally solid work on the acting front with the likes of John Cho as an obsessed father and Debra Messing as the agent assigned to the case Searching uses social media for on-screen suspense and scores.

(Virgil Films)

A cool look back at locations and scenes from The Great Escape, The Coolest Guy Movie Ever is essentially one big DVD extra.  Not unlike the work Sean Clark does via his series Horror’s Hallowed Grounds, this one dives headfirst into locations from the film as they exist now and for a film from 1963 it’s pretty impressive.  (They have to reach for a few, but give them some leeway!)  Plus you got some cool retro interviews with the likes of James Coburn, James Garner and stunt guys, tasty tidbits about the flick (motorcycle guru Steve McQueen was such a good rider he played the parts of opposing characters and thus chased himself!) and even narration by a cast member (the late Lawrence Montaigne who played Haynes!) that provide maximum melancholy memory lane escape that fans will definitely appreciate.

(Lionsgate/Saban Films)

Another revenge seeking piece of cinema about a rough and tumble soldier turned mercenary coming into a small town to avenge a friend and his family who have been murdered.  Fortunately the lead man with an angry plan and former WWE performer Stu Bennett has a real old school 70’s quiet tough guy quality that elevates the mediocre material and gives the flick far more dramatic depth than it deserves.  Sometimes in a ho-hum game it’s the players that make the game exciting – in I Am Vengeance it’s Bennett’s John Gold that brings the bold.

(IFC Midnight)

A fantastic initial premise (which I will not fully detail here!) involving a married lesbian couple celebrating their anniversary at a cabin in the woods – plenty of blood, broken bones and bravado ensue.  Sadly the problem within the framework of What Keeps You Alive lies in the films’ third act, which is inundated with so many long pauses (I can feel the writer throwing everything in for good measure!), improbable moments (no – don’t go back!) and highly unlikely outcomes (someone in the film actually saw the events unfolding like they do?!) that it almost kneecaps what does work – it’s inspired movie moments that keep this one alive.

(Magnolia Pictures)

While there are some tasty turns performance wise, I was a little confused what Support The Girls was ultimately trying to say and be.  Is the film a glaring spotlight on the objectification of women, a comedy about learning to navigate the minefield of mindless men, a story about women sticking together amidst societal chaos or simply a tale of a strong woman learning she has more to offer than simply being second fiddle?  Whatever the angle, it’s definitely the acting work that saves the seemingly directionless script with Regina Hall thoughtfully playing the manger of a local sports bar and Haley Lu Richardson and Shayna McHayle playing her spirited co-working cohorts, but even all these gifted girls can’t make this one cinema to support.

(Random Media)

Sort of a poor man’s Single White Female for the underground grunge crowd, Dead Envy is familiar film on an indie scale.  Not that there are not a few interesting and unsettling movie moments in a tale about a quiet guy (Adam Reeser who plays his role like John-boy Walton with a homicidal side!) who entangles himself in the life of a struggling musician (Harley Di Nardo who also co-writes and directs!), but the clichés and story tropes are so rampant throughout that predictability is all but guaranteed.  (Last few moments not withstanding!)  Somewhat enjoyable but not utterly original, Dead Envy is a thriller on life support.

(RLJE Films)

Arizona is a film with serious genre identity issues.  On the one side I dug the idea of dramatic frustration and eventual violent eruption surrounding folks entangled in the housing crisis of 2009.  But on the other hand Arizona casts Danny McBride as the lead angry antagonist and his comedic asides amidst the chaos here are about as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool.  It’s a shame because lead gal Rosemarie DeWitt playing a real estate gal turned kidnap victim has one truly interesting arc, but never gets to fully shine underneath the shadow of McBride’s unneeded buffoonery. Not funny and watering down all poignancy in the name of trying to get laughs, McBride is the wrong man for this job.




Even simply watching this affecting short, I could have instantly told you who helmed it.  As the maestro behind such slow and simmering works like Shotgun Stories and Mud, Jeff Nichols once again shows here that even on a small scale he knows his cinematic stuff.  Taking inspiration from a song of the same name by the band Lucero (whom Nichols’ brother Ben is a member), Nichols once again lets his visual savvy and desire to show what is not said take center stage that sees a somber Michael Shannon (his main muse!) seeking out his wayward brothers (Scoot McNairy and Garrett Hedlund) for unknown reasons.  Calling this five-star slice of life a short is almost a disservice – Nichols always does so much with so little. (More please!)



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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