Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Seven New Indie Titles

Encapsulated Movie ReviewsSince this week’s big budget remake might have some in a ho-hum movie mood, it felt right to insert a little indie help.  So taking titular inspiration off the upcoming weekend western rehash, I’ve braved a whopping seven different feature films – though not all are ‘magnificent’ – to help distract and dissect what else is out there for cinefiles.  (Plus I’ve even added a review of a short at the end for those with a low attention span!)  Sassy seamstresses, controversial docs, fictitious post secondary hazing stories, game show horror and even tech guys run amok keep us cinematically covered this week.  Check out the Encapsulated Movie Reviews of the seven features The Dressmaker, Audrie & Daisy, The Lovers & the Despot, 31, Chicken People, I.T., Goat and the short The Many Sad Fates of Mr. Toledano below!

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(Broad Green Pictures)

One wouldn’t think that a quirky comedy and a dramatic murder mystery would mess well within a single movie, but The Dressmaker definitely defies the odds.  Superbly staged by Director Jocelyn Moorhouse, the film mixes equal parts hilarity (love Hugo Weaving’s cross dressing lawman!) and heartbreak (the deeply dramatic twists and turns are kneecapping!) for one original outing that is deeply satisfying.  Not to mention the film gets amazing performances out of all involved including Kate Winslet in sexy sassy mode, Judy Davis as her crotchety mom, Sarah Snook as a local girl who goes from shy to stunning and even usual lame duck Liam Hemsworth surprises as Winslet’s chemistry ridden suitor.  A wondrous way to pass the cinematic time, this is one fine film in no need of being dressed up.

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In one disturbing doc about young girls sexually assaulted by older schoolboys who are then victimized again by their local towns and communities via online gossip, Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk do something very wise – they let the naysayers hang themselves.  Meaning all the insensitive dolts (should an ignorant town sheriff really be in charge?!), oblivious idiots (the boys in one case involving a suicide by the victim still years later don’t seem to understand what they did wrong!) and purely vicious small townsfolk are given full advantage by the filmmakers to talk and in doing so do more damage to themselves.  But the real heart of the film is in the tales of woe right from those who lived it including deceased Audrie Pott (whose family shares the story) and Daisy Coleman, both of whom suffered long after the initial unspeakable event was over.  It’s in this candid examination and the show of strength followed (no relation, but proud to have the same last name as someone so gutsy Daisy!) where the doc does its deed to heal wounds and more importantly enlighten the unenlightened.

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(Magnolia Pictures)

The sensational story within the harrowing doc The Lovers & the Despot almost seems far fetched and made up – it’s that good.  But sadly for all those involved the tale of a South Korean filmmaker and his lady muse actress being kidnapped, taken to North Korea and forced to make films under the heavy hand of Kim Jong-il is anything but a fantasy.  Told with extreme dramatic precision and nail-biting intrigue, filmmakers Robert Cannan and Ross Adam through interviews and actual ominous audio recordings taken at the time, paint a vivid picture that puts you right inside the insanity.  (Plus actress Choi Eun-hee is fascinating to listen to!)  Intricate, disturbing and way too interesting to ignore, The Lovers & the Despot is the best real life story ever written.

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(Saban Films)

While certainly more darkly amusing than Halloween and The Lords of Salem, but not as five-star foul fun as The Devil’s Rejects, Rob Zombie’s latest 31 has its share of ups and downs.  On the up side there’s a memorable savage slayer in the form of Richard Brake’s white-faced makeup sicko Doom-Head, who is handy with a dull axe and caustic chatter, plus there’s some satire and slapstick amongst the Zombie carnage that proves effective here.  Down side is the story is essentially The Running Man for the Surviving the Game crowd with Zombie’s wife Sherri Moon and gang forced to battle various homicidal players to make it through the night.  (Malcolm McDowell plays the Richard Dawson host role!)  Fun, but been done, 31 features familiar flavors we’ve tasted before but enjoyed.

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(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

This examination of folks who live with, breed and attend Chicken shows with bird bragging rights in mind, begins with an almost abstract Christopher Guest like vibe.  But filmmaker Nicole Lucas Haimes eventually goes beyond the funny façade to reveal the softer side of the folks involved and everything from childhood issues to sheer loneliness begins to emerge.  (Plus love the infectious passion of the participants!)  It does take some time to get to the substance within the story, but when it does is when the film becomes something more than a mere showpiece.  In this tale of the chicken or the egg, Chicken People is at its best when the fans that love the fowl come first.


(RLJ Entertainment)

As a film itself, I.T. is a sub-par update of the already ho-hum flick Fear with Pierce Brosnan playing the William Peterson protective father role and the charismatic free James Frecheville playing the out of control family stalker.  (He makes Mark Wahlberg look like Laurence Olivier!)  Problem is there’s nothing new or notable added to update the plot (well his is an I.T. guy I guess!) and Director John Moore is left with a thriller void of thrills.  Why the two stars?  There’s a single five-star performance mid way into the film in only a handful of scenes that steals the show.  Playing a focused and skilled tech cleaner of sorts, actor Michael Nyqvist adds more quality, chameleon character work and sheer terrific talent in his small turn then this whole film combined (he deserves better!) – bigger doesn’t always mean better.

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(Paramount Pictures)

A fictitious flick that seems to get off more on the display of college fraternity hazing then showing the consequences or aftermath of it, Goat is an exercise in film futility.  Meaning Andrew Neel’s almost void of message movie is so steeped in heinous, unfunny and unfiltered hate via its abuse of young hapless pledges that it’s almost pushing to see how long the viewer will keep watching.  (Is this a horror film or a drama?!)  A sick and twisted build up with only a hair of release or redemption, Goat is godawful.


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(Seftel Productions)

An interesting but also self-defeating experiment that sees famed off beat photographer Phillip Toledano predicting his own dark future with photographs depicting various future downfalls makes for one absorbing short doc.  From the effects it has on his family and loved ones to the intricate details that go into each photo shoot (prosthetics, actors and horrifying makeup abound!) it’s a fascinating look into a man’s struggle with mortality and his unknown future.  My only gripe – this short is too short.

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Goat poster

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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.

3 Responses to “Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Seven New Indie Titles”

  1. NIce Reviews

    I really love reading your reviews. Thanks

  2. Jason Coleman

    Thank you – much appreciated!

  3. Brian White

    Well I now know to avoid Goat at any and all costs. You should review 31 when it comes out on Blu-ray because you enjoyed it a lot more than I despite my undying love for Mr. Zombie. He never really recovered from his Halloween films in my opinion. But 31 is something that a 10-year old could write. With the exception of Doom-Head and one chainsaw accident, there’s nothing to write home about at all with 31. It’s terrible. Amateurish. Just crap! I am so glad I did not invest as an associate producer when I inquired if there were opportunities. So bad. 🙁