Encapsulated Movie Reviews – Six New And Old Indie Titles

Back with more films from 2018 new and old counting down to the end of the year and those highly anticipated Top Ten lists.  This week sees three new outings, an exclusive single night director’s cut and a couple of notables that film folks have been chatting up all on the critical chopping block.  Tales of unlikely friendships, aging hitmen, Christmas tales with bite, the damning cycle of abuse, killing in five parts and a murder mystery hatched out of self preservation all make up the six flicks covered via this week’s Encapsulated Movie Reviews.  Check out the short opinions on Green Book, Asher, All The Creatures Were Stirring, GeminiBack Roads and The House That Jack Built: Director’s Cut below.

(Universal Pictures)

While there’s no denying the acting and story prowess of Green Book, it is nevertheless a film that hits some familiar tropes.  From the power of change (varied racist characters learn some much needed tolerance!) to feel good bits (there has to be a Christmas family scene somewhere!), helmer Peter Farrelly makes sure all his dramatic ducks are all in line.  But it’s the engaging nature of the real life tale (wise guy becomes a driver and protector of a refined African-American musician) and the solid performances by leads Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen (has that guy ever met a role that wasn’t thoughtful?!) that gives this one a more than watchable green light.

(Momentum Pictures)

Yes, Asher has a premise we’ve seen a hundred times (aging hitman at the tail end of his career!), stereotypical story layers (there’s even a young protégé looking for higher power!) and even the soft stuff (his hardened heart is wooed by a woman!), but there’s just something so utterly engaging about the somber work of lead man Ron Perlman as the titular Asher that all is forgiven.  Using a quiet charm that harks back to the old days of Steve McQueen bravado, Perlman is a performer that does so much with so little – Asher should be happy to make his acquaintance.

(RLJE Films)

A mix of Christmas stories with reindeer bite, this low-budget anthology outing thankfully has just enough gore gifts to make a genre fan joyful.  And while story morals tend to be more ambiguous here and some themes not fully developed, it’s the use of great actors (Jocelin Donahue alert!) and cool holiday themed horrors (how about a killer game of Secret Santa kiddies?!) that keeps this one hung firmly by the chimney with carnage care.  Creepshow with a B-movie vibe and look, All The Creatures Were Stirring is like a year old fruitcake Grandma gave you – good and bad.


Brick for the entitled LA crowd, Gemini is a flick that starts off well enough.  It wisely takes a seemingly smaller character of a ho-hum personal assistant and puts her into the lead detective hot seat when her Hollywood starlet boss ends up dead and she fins herself the prime suspect.  What plays out is an odd suspense story with standout actress Lola Kirke captivating as the bumbling side girl turned amateur sleuth.  Problem is the initial idea not only gets watered down with far too many uninteresting side players, but also by a third act that feels utterly forced and tacked on.  A great idea that never quite pays off, Gemini is a murder mystery in search of an ending.

(Samuel Goldwyn Films)

I recently read that this film was originally going to be helmed by sensual movie master Adrian Lyne, but even under his watchful eye the disturbing sexual abuse tale Back Roads would have been a tough sell.  As is in the hands of lead actor Alex Pettyfer (who is also directing!) combining the story of a sensual forbidden relationship between a brow beaten young man and a married family friend all under a thick veil of family incest secrets makes for one awkward and distinctively unsexy outing.  Everyone does what they can here to bring some earnest and passionate on-screen work to their various turbulent roles, but the themes are so bleak, so pervasive and so kneecapping that any ray of light or love get lost down a very dark rabbit hole.

(IFC Films)

It’s easy to see the black comedy spirit within Lars von Trier’s serial killer outing The House That Jack Built, but there’s also a mean spirited nature that ultimately overshadows any and all clever content.  Meaning seeing a geeky but intense Matt Dillon bumble his way through five featured kills here isn’t without comical bits (the dragging of a corpse by car from the murder scene to his collection room is wickedly wacky!), but the harsh moments (the unflinching killing of kids in full graphic detail) and ever-present misogyny all but overtake anything positive here. Not to mention that von Trier eventually goes off the deep end with obtuse imagery and imaginary characters that fully take the viewer out of the movie’s more somber mindset.  (Although it could be the over-indulgence of the one-night only Director’s Cut!)  Using shock for its own sake, the film foundation of this house is rocky at best.



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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