Fruitvale Station

discs header short term 12

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. Short Term 12 Grace (Brie Larson) works at a home for troubled teens, but while she’s fantastic at her job, her empathy for the kids sees her bringing home their pains far too often. Her boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr.) works there too and hopes the two of them can grow as a couple, but he knows her past has led to too much of her heart being cordoned off for the kids. Their situation grows even more untenable when a new girl arrives at the facility. Writer/director Destin Daniel Cretton‘s film is a small wonder. It’s essentially a character piece, a glimpse into the life and love of one woman and the people around her, but it’s crafted and performed so effortlessly that it feels like emotionally rich time spent laughing and crying with friends. There’s a slight misstep in the third act where the film loses sight of its characters in deference to a more conventional narrative, but it’s a minor trespass. Check out Allison’s full review here. [Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, behind the scenes, featurettes, original short film]

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Captain Phillips

It started in January, like many movie-related things do, in a small movie theater in Park City, Utah. The Sundance Film Festival is the traditional kick-off point for new movies, artfully positioned during the first month of the year (which is a damn fine starting point for just about anything), approximately when movie lovers are starting to shake off the stupor of an awards season that’s still not quite done and exactly when the regular box office is flooded with some not-so-good stuff (I’ll be returning to non-Sundance life just as I, Frankenstein opens in theaters, and that does not please me in the slightest). To me, Sundance is the perfect film festival, with a slate that combines known talent, emerging names, and wholly unpredictable new quantities. It’s the place to go to find something new that you can talk about all year, even if it finding the latest diamond in the rough involves plenty of guesswork and keeping your eyes and ears open for good buzz. Which is all a very long way of saying that this year’s big Sundance hit, Fruitvale Station (back then, it was simply known as Fruitvale), was a last minute addition to my schedule, a shoehorned-in selection that I made time for simply because everyone told me I had to make time for it. And that’s why I found myself, in January, in a small movie theater in Park City, Utah, crying my eyes out. It was a new thing, and one that set […]

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2013review_missed (1)

The 13 movies below range from the very good to the great (while the 6.5 that follow are just mostly bad), but the one thing they all share is that they each failed to find an audience during their theatrical run for one reason or another. At least one of those reasons is you of course, but instead of berating you for failing to support the films while they were in theaters and needed your help, we’re hoping to point you in their direction now to atone for your sins. But first, a few qualifications. I’ve excluded movies that played in fewer than 75 theaters since that’s the distributor’s fault, I’m not featuring films that made over $30m, and I’m not including subtitled foreign releases which the masses avoid in general. These are only films that could have had a real chance of making a lot more money than they did, so while I wish more people saw the Jared Leto-led Mr. Nobody, I’m not surprised that it only made $3,600. Finally, I’m also sharing the wealth a bit by skipping movies that will be making our Best Films of the Year list next week. So here are 13 great movies that failed to catch on at the box office but should be sought out immediately on Blu-ray/DVD, streaming, whatever… and 6.5 relatively terrible flicks that you were right to avoid.

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Marquee

As if the summer box office wasn’t already glutted with more than enough blockbusters to last us right into fall, Paramount Pictures has now announced that they’re bringing back two of their most plagued productions for a special studio-specific double feature to end the summer with a bang (or, potentially, a whimper). Paramount is bringing both Star Trek Into Darkness and World War Z back to select theaters for a one-week engagement (August 30th through September 5th) that will, thoughtfully enough, cost moviegoers just the price of one ticket. Both films were troublesome for Paramount in different ways – STID had to live through director J.J. Abrams’ persistent insistence that his film was not a new spin on the classic Khan storyline, only for fans to discover that, well, it was. The Brad Pitt-starring World War Z had its own cross to bear – months and months of reshoots and rewrites that typically spell doom for any film. Neither film has been a true box office bust – STID pulled in nearly $460m worldwide (more than its predecessor), with WWZ making just over $526m worldwide – but is that enough for Paramount? Apparently not. But with Paramount putting together its own double feature to grab the last dollars available from an exhausted (and exhausting) summer, we couldn’t help but wonder what other studios could put together their own second-run double features and, if they did, what we’d actually like to see from them.

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fruitvale 2

To the surprise of many (and the joy of a select few), the Rocky franchise will continue on into its seventh film. Deadline reports that this new Rocky picture, to be titled Creed, will avoid the insanity of putting a 67-year-old Sylvester Stallone back in the ring, and revolve around the grandson of Apollo Creed, Carl Weathers’ character from the original film. But never fear- Stallone will still return, although now solely as a mentor to the younger Creed.

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The Act of Killing

There’s plenty of violence in Hollywood summer tentpole movies. In superhero films and toy adaptations, it’s become something resembling common practice to have a climax that involves the probable off-screen collateral deaths of thousands of nameless civilians. But most Hollywood film violence is of the largely inconsequential, routinely PG-13 variety, with the bad guy inevitably receiving their comeuppance, all of it “tastefully” lacking realism. As if Hollywood’s representations of violence didn’t seem cartoonishly inconsequential enough, in a move approaching self-parody, this weekend saw the major release of a film involving supernatural cops who hunt down perpetrators that are already dead. Early this year, in response to the controversy over the representation of torture in Zero Dark Thirty, I quoted the argument from a friend’s rather great book that “movie violence” is a floating, elusive signifier; it hardly means one given thing, and its possible meanings and potential affects are largely dependent upon a great many intersecting factors. While I stand by this assertion, during the summer more than any time of year, it’s clear that Hollywood film violence can be relatively homogenous: typically passive, unimaginative, unserious, stultifying. But during past few weeks, the limited release/arthouse sector has seen an abundance of films that represent violent actions in myriad ways, using and exploring violence towards varying ends, none of which involve a fleeting moment of utilitarian spectacle.

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Girl most Likely

This week sees the release of Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s Girl Most Likely, a film even the most hardcore of Kristen Wiig fans might not be familiar with, simply because sometime between its bow at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival and its theatrical release, Girl Most Likely sprung forth from the original title, Imogene, like some sort of cinematic Athena-birthing. When it comes to Girl Most Likely, the name change was probably for the best – at the very least, it distanced the production from bad buzz coming out of the festival and gave the dramedy the illusion of being more friendly to a mainstream audience than it actually is. But it’s also a somewhat weird change, considering that the words “girl most likely” are never spoken in the film, despite the fact that Wiig’s Imogene picks up a yearbook at one point in the sort of scene that leaves moviegoers gagging for a jokey nod to the title. Girl Most Likely to do what, Imogene? That will just have to remain unanswered, but even with a shiny new title, Girl Most Likely is really most likely to disappoint at the box office this weekend. Would things have been better under the Imogene moniker? We’ll never know. Changing a film’s title after its film festival premiere is becoming an oddly common occurrence – hit one of the year’s biggest fests and you’re bound to see a film or two that will eventually come to the multiplex with […]

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Fruitvale Movie

Editor’s note: This review of Fruitvale Station originally ran during this year’s Sundance film festival where it played under the shorter title Fruitvale. We’re re-running it now as the film sees a limited theatrical release this Friday. Tragedies happen every day throughout the world, but very few of them ever reach the public eye. The overwhelming majority remain private pains in the lives of the families and friends directly involved. One incident that didn’t stay private was the New Year’s Day shooting of Oscar Grant by a police officer in Oakland, CA, in 2009. Various cell phones caught the shooting on video, and an already racially charged city exploded at the sight of a white officer firing on an unarmed black man. But as is often the case there’s far more to the story than those several harrowing minutes of grainy video footage reveal. For better and worse writer/director Ryan Coogler is interested in more than just that incident. Fruitvale focuses on the last, hopeful day in Oscar’s life, but our knowledge of what’s coming hangs heavy over these 24 hours as we know what he can’t. His interactions with family and friends paint a heartbreaking picture of a man trying to atone for past bad behaviors and plan for the future. That should have been more than enough, but like too many people Coogler can’t help but try to turn the man and his story into a symbol and a rallying cry.

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MoMI2

“Movie Houses of Worship” is a regular feature spotlighting our favorite movie theaters around the world, those that are like temples of cinema catering to the most religious-like film geeks. This week, we have an entry suggestion from filmmaker Justin K. Staley. If you’d like to suggest or submit a place you regularly worship at the altar of cinema, please email our weekend editor. Museum of the Moving Image Location: 35th Avenue at 36th Street, Astoria, Queens, New York City Opened: September 10, 1988 No. of screens: 2 (not including wall space used during exhibitions and installations) Current first-run titles: none, but there is a preview screening and discussion of Fruitvale Station this Thursday

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Pacific Rim

We’re now halfway done with the summer movie season, and thus far, it’s been a good one. This month is the most exciting of the bunch, as July usually is, but June was no slouch. Man of Steel wowed audiences while dividing critics, but best of all, World War Z became the surprise, if modest, hit of the summer. Not only that, director Marc Forster proved the negative buzz wrong with a clever and efficient action thriller. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for White House Down. Shame on me for not including it on last month’s list, because, according to plenty of trusted sources, it’s a boatload of fun. I still haven’t had the time to see it for myself, but it sounds like the type of self-aware, focused blockbuster Roland Emmerich‘s career has been building up to. Thankfully people turned out for This is the End, so Sony has that going for them. Let’s hope none of these must-see films of July meet the same box-office fate as the rocket launcher-wielding president:

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Cannes 2013

The Cannes Film Festival is all wrapped up for another year; the awards have been given out, and pundits are busy working out what’s going to go the distance in the coming awards season, and what will fall by the wayside. In my first time at Cannes, I managed to watch 41 films, including all 20 films In Competition, and have arrived at the 10 films that I feel were the best of show. Put simply, these are ones to watch out for:

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inside llewyn davis 04

Three-hour lesbian drama Blue is the Warmest Color was announced the winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, a choice that many foresaw as likely but not a sure thing. The jury that awarded the honor was led by Steven Spielberg and also included Nicole Kidman, Ang Lee, Christoph Waltz and Lynne Ramsay. For the second place Grand Prix winner, they picked the latest from the Coen Brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis, while for Jury Prize (considered the third biggest deal) they chose Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s Like Father, Like Son. Like Father, Like Son was also recipient of an honorable mention from the Christian-based Ecumenical Jury, whose top prize went to The Past — the star of which, Bérénice Bejo, was named Best Actress by the main Cannes jury. Blue is the Warmest Color also earned multiple honors from the fest, taking the critic choice FIPRESCI Award for the In Competition category. The biggest surprise of today’s announcement seems to be Spielberg and Co.’s naming of Bruce Dern as Best Actor for the new film from Alexander Payne, Nebraska. After the jump, you can find a full list of main jury winners (from the festival website) and other honorees announced over the weekend accompanied by links to our review of the film where available.

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fruitvale 2

The debut feature from Ryan Coogler has been the year’s Cinderella story ever since it bowed at Sundance and scooped the Grand Jury Prize, as well as the Audience Award, for U.S. dramatic film. Received in similarly rapturous terms by critics at this week’s Cannes screening, it would not be surprising to many if Fruitvale Station had the chutzpah to carry itself, or at least some of its esteemed performers, all the way to Hollywood’s awards season. It opens with seemingly authentic camera phone footage — perhaps the very same footage that, as we learn at the film’s end titles, incriminated those involved — of 22-year-old Oscar Grant being accosted by two police officers. We know, even if we remain unaware of the resolution, that things are not going to end well. While in many ways Coogler’s film feels very much like the same redemptive gangster drama we’ve seen so many times, the difference here, ostensibly, is that it’s real. Oscar (Michael B. Jordan) wants to stop slinging dope and get a proper job so that he can support his girlfriend and his daughter, but of course he faces professional hurdles that then impinge on his personal life. In fact, it is really only a familiar drama in as much as it features a character trying to extricate himself from less-than-desirable circumstances. It is Coogler’s riveting approach and the spellbinding performances that make it feel so fresh.

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Fruitvale Station

If you’ve been searching for a fact-based film that will reduce you to a puddle of quivering tears for its final act, you might want to consider taking some time to watch something a bit more light-hearted because, what? are you okay? Emotional health aside, yes, we’ve got a film that’s just the ticket, so get out your hankies now (and, if you’re into that sort of thing, perhaps pull out your early Oscar ballots). Ryan Coogler‘s Fruitvale Station (formerly known as just Fruitvale) was a certifiable hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (the film was so beloved at the festival that our own Rob Hunter’s B- review of the film was considered to be on the contrarian side of things), winning both the audience award and the grand jury prize. Based on the true story of Oscar Grant (played by the thoroughly wonderful Michael B. Jordan), the film traces the unexpected final day of the young man, who was shot by a BART police officer at the Fruitvale station in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2009. While the film takes a few liberties with the true story, it’s one hell of a moving piece of cinema, and it’s rounded out by outstanding performances and a rich filmmaking technique. Yes, it will probably make you cry, but it will be worth it. The Weinstein Company has just released the first poster for the film, which takes a painterly and praise-laden approach to its subject matter, a suitable first look at the soon-to-be-released film. Fruitvale […]

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THE WAY, WAY BACK

The Los Angeles Film Festival has finally rolled out their full lineup for the upcoming summer fest, and it’s packed with a number of Sundance picks, the return of Ryan Gosling and Nicolas Winding Refn, and everyone’s favorite film that hasn’t been released just yet, You’re Next. Basically, you should probably start making your schedule now, because this is easily one of LAFF’s best lineups yet. The festival will open with Pedro Almodovar‘s I’m So Excited (Almodovar is a Los Angeles favorite, as he’s also served as guest artistic director for LA’s other big festival, AFI FEST), close with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash‘s The Way, Way Back, and include special gala presentations in the middle of both Refn’s Only God Forgives and Ryan Coogler‘s Sundance winner Fruitvale Station (formerly known as Fruitvale). Didn’t think you could get a large portion of your awards season movie-viewing out of the way in June? Bummed you missed out on Sundance? You were so wrong. Check out the full lineup after the break.

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Cannes 2013

This year, The Cannes International Film Festival opens on May 15th with a bombastically modern retelling of the Roaring Twenties and closes on May 26th with a South African-set crime thriller on the heels of apartheid. Everything in between looks amazing. The lineup boasts new Winding Refn, Chandor, Sofia Coppola, Miike, Denis, Coen Brothers and what looks like a nice symmetrical career send off for Steven Soderbergh, who’s bringing Behind the Candelabra there 24 years after winning the festival’s top prize with sex, lies and videotape. That means Soderbergh has an opportunity to join the elite group of multiple Palme d’Or winners, and the Coens and Roman Polanski have that potential as well. All others in competition have never won before. Plus, the non-competition films look equally fantastic. Read the full field, wipe that drool away and check to see what kind of deals you can get on plane tickets to France for May.

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published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C
published: 11.18.2014
B+
published: 11.14.2014
B+


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