Ryan Coogler

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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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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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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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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