Fruitvale Station

December 27, 2013

fruitvale-station-movie-review-05162013-165917

I don’t like approaching a film with the idea that there is a fundamental problem with it on a conceptual level, but alas, Ryan Coogler’s directorial debut Fruitvale Station presented me with just that.  Based on the horrific true shooting of Oscar Grant by BART police in the early hours of January 1st, 2009, Fruitvale Station is a last-day-in-the-life account of the victim, a 22 year old African American with a girlfriend, Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and a daughter, Tatiana (Ariana Neal) and hopes of turning his somewhat stunted life around.  It’s a tragedy, of course, and the film even opens with the actual footage of the incident that enraged so many (including myself).  The question is, why this film and why this story? Read the rest of this entry »

olympus-has-fallen-review-header-graphic

That strange phenomena of two films arriving at once that deal with the same subject (think Dante’s Peak and VolcanoArmageddon and Deep ImpactCapote and Infamous) rears its head again in the mindless thriller genre, this time dealing with the oddly specific premise of the White House under siege.  There are dramatically different approaches to what amounts to the same story: terrorists in one form or another have taken over the iconic building, taken the President hostage (or are attempting to), and only One Man can save the day.  It’s Die Hard at 1600, and though I can’t think of a reason why they came along at the same time (other than the opposing views that the White House has been taken over by insurgents, a not unpopular opinion in this country), the Compare And Contrast element of me is tickled.   Read the rest of this entry »

Bastards (La Salauds)

December 2, 2013

bastards_01

Claire Denis is one of my favourite living filmmakers, and while I’ll readily admit she’s not for everyone, she’s developed a distinctive aesthetic and approach that, when in the right mood, can be absolutely enrapturing even when the subject material is queasy or downright repulsive.  In her latest film, Bastards, Denis makes the switch from film to digital with her trusted long-time cinematographer, which is appropriate given the film’s visual insistence on darkness.  It is also her angriest film, I feel, and it’s fascinating to watch her abstract humanistic approach take on something so utterly despicable and hopeless.   Read the rest of this entry »

hunger-games-catching-fire-trailer-1

As surprise box office juggernauts go, you can do a lot worse than The Hunger Games franchise.  Though the first film was flimsy and mostly tacky, there was at least an interesting concept – brutal state repression to protect the wealthiest individuals and the moral backflips one has to do when forced to kill others, and the grotesquerie of Reality Television bloodsport.  None of this is particularly new, and as I wrote in my review of the first entry, it’s too hard to ignore the similarities to Battle Royale, a film which is in every far superior.  Still, a popular film about income inequality that is intent on sowing the seeds of revolution is timely and, for someone with my politics, nothing to be sniffed at.  That said, even though the broad strokes are good, there’s a trouble with the sequel Catching Fire, and though this may just be a symptom of “the middle book” syndrome, it’s hard to get too excited because of it.  Despite Jennifer Lawrence being more than capable in the role, and the fact that this film is an improvement over its predecessor in almost every way, the biggest sore spot is Katniss Everdeen herself.   Read the rest of this entry »