Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Seven New And Old Indie Titles

Flicks from 2018 new and old are once again up on the cinematic chopping block in time for Thanksgiving – and to keep everyone’s year-end list up to date to boot.  Docs on the damning effects of social media plus fictitious flicks featuring tales set in the old west, teens facing conversion therapy, internet models with doppelgangers, dysfunctional families that somehow work, wolves who hunt humans and South Korean murder mysteries make up the seven flicks dissected in this week’s edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the critical skinny on The Cleaners, The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Cam, Shoplifters, Hold The Dark and Burning all below.

(Gebruederbeetz Film Produktion)

A seriously disturbing and ultra eye-opening doc about the harmful side of social media, The Cleaners is a must see for those who claim internet platforms as mere frivolous fun.  Digging deep into the hidden problem areas of online freedoms, this one follows a group of ‘digital cleaners’ whose wide and at times undefined job it is to censor images and videos from the internet they deem bad. Covering all bases like the toll it takes on those who are forced to view such images (love to see those Google, Twitter and Facebook CEO’s look at all that harrowing stuff day after day!) to innocent artists who have had their work taken down due to lack of knowledge in the area of freedom of expression (all these cleaning operations are located in foreign countries to keep big business out of harms way!) and even the damning effect of taking down vids bravely showing unseen wars posted by folks trying to make a difference, doc helmers Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck boldly go behind closed doors and behind enemy lines to share what folks in power don’t want out – namely the terrible truths.


The Coen Bros. finally take on the anthology game with a wild west flair to mixed movie results.  There are of course cool Coen staples like colorful characters (Stephen Root’s giddy bank teller and Coen regular Tim Blake Nelson’s titular Buster nearly steal the show!) and some meaningful segments (the soulful The Gal Who Got Rattled could have been a movie all to itself!), but besides their western setting these tall tales lack a cohesive nature or even morality play.  (Usually a must for a flick with multiple segments!)  Mixing both the good and the bad – though thankfully minus the ugly – this dusty ballad feels like a majestic ride on a glorious horse that’s sadly missing a saddle.

(Film Rise)

While the subject matter of gay conversion therapy is not new territory, filmmaker Desiree Akhavan’s approach to the material is.  Letting situations and happenings unravel without an overpowering sense of judgment, Akhavan through her various troubled teens instead lets the film play out its controversial story avenues right alongside the audience and it makes for some wonderful, passionate and deeply emotional outcomes.  (Amidst a few stereotypical bits of course!)  Not to mention that this is lead actress Chloe Grace Moretz’s best work to date – it’s one terrific turn that feels incredibly authentic.


Cam features a clever concept – a top cam girl finds that a doppelganger has taken over her online identity – that never quite makes it to five-star status.  There are for sure some creepy bits (her ‘follower” gentlemen callers are an unsettling bunch!), nasty notables (her plan to beat the imposter is bone crunching brutal!) and one inspired lead performance via actress Madeline Brewer, but the film ultimately feels like it can’t go much further than it’s singular story gimmick.  A horror outing comfortable with being a one trick pony, Cam stays firmly in the surface settings alongside its subjects.

(Magnolia Pictures)

The recent winner of the illustrious Palme d’Or, the Japanese import Shoplifters feels like an overly long outing that relies too heavily on twists and turns.  Not that there are not a few tearful and moving scenes in a story of an odd family who make it their life’s mission to take things that aren’t theirs, but such sweet sentiment is few and far between here and in the end is merely masked by story “surprises” to cover what’s lacking.  Long, uneven and hardly worth the top Cannes prize, Shoplifters is a standard cinematic slice of life that’s far from showstopping.


Hold The Dark begins with a bang, infusing an odd tale of a grieving mother enlisting the help of a wolf expert when her son gets taken with the slow and subtle staging by Blue Ruin and Green Room auteur Jeremy Saulnier.  Problem is the second half of the film storywise goes into weird and eventually mythical movie territory that all but grinds Saulnier’s savvy style to a screeching halt – not exactly a match made in heaven.  (Brutal barn scene not included!)  What has made Saulnier’s work so memorable thus far has been giving normal a nuanced kick of nitroglycerin – Hold The Dark is a rare oddity that gets kneecapped by it.

(Well Go USA)

On the opposite end of the story spectrum, Burning is a film that has an incredibly slow start whose second half surprisingly kicks things up a notch.  Meaning the film struggles in the first half in revealing its hand and ultimately deciding what it wants to be.  (Is this an unrequited romance, a drama with character conflict or a simple slice of life?)  But when the second half finally reveals itself, that’s where things finally get really good.  Mystery, suspense and shocking surprises do eventually run rampant – just wished it could have gotten there sooner.


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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