Three new movies instead of eight? And one I’ve already seen? Yes, I can handle that.
Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station got my attention back at Sundance where it won the Grand Jury Prize for drama and the Audience Award. It since went on to win the Avenir (or “future”) Prize at Cannes, officially labeling Coogler as an up-and-coming talent for his feature length debut. Based on a true story, the film looks at the final day in the life of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who was shot to death by a police officer on the titular BART station’s platform. Though the ending is a foregone conclusion, signs point to a rich journey there along the lines of a fact-based tragedy like Malcolm X. Michael B. Jordan, who’s consistently done great work in TV (The Wire; Friday Night Lights; Parenthood) and film (Chronicle), stars as Oscar alongside Octavia Spencer (The Help), Melonie Diaz (Be Kind Rewind), and Kevin Durand (Keamy from TV’s Lost). I have high hopes for this one and have a feeling they will be realized.
Also making their directorial debuts are Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, following up their Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Descendants with the coming-of-age dramedy The Way, Way Back. Liam James (TV’s The Killing and young Shawn in flashbacks on TV’s Psych) plays Duncan, an introverted 14-year-old forced to spend the summer with his mom (Toni Collette) at the beach house of her insensitive boyfriend (Steve Carell). While the adults behave badly, Duncan wanders over to the local water park where he finds his place alongside Owen (Sam Rockwell) and the park’s other goofy employees (including Faxon and Rash). Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, AnnaSophia Robb, Amanda Peet, and Rob Corddry also star, but while the cool quirk factor appears off the charts, it’s sadly more lukewarm than I’d hoped. Look for my review
on Friday this weekend.
Four years after the tepidly received X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Hugh Jackman continues his spinoff franchise in The Wolverine. Directed by not-a-debut-filmmaker James Mangold (Walk the Line; 3:10 to Yuma), the movie sends the most popular mutant to modern day Japan where, according to the press release, he “faces his ultimate nemesis.” Word out of Comic-Con last weekend is that the latest Marvel flick is surprisingly good and references all sorts of classic cinema, which could make for a pleasant surprise. Apparently, there’s also a sneak peak of Bryan Singer’s X-Men: Days of Future Past after the credits, so be sure to hang out if that’s your sort of thing.
Fleeing the Scene
Monsters University is outta here, as are One Week Wonders Fill The Void and Dirty Wars, neither of which I have written up. I’ll get on that.
It’s also worth noting that come Friday, Only God Forgives gets scaled back to a lone 1:45 daily show. If that time doesn’t fit your schedule but you still want to see a beautiful, disturbing film that’s one of the year’s best, see it while you still have options.
Danny Boyle’s mind-bender Trance and Sally Potter’s Cold War coming-of-age drama Ginger & Rosa are both excellent choices. Both are probably at the back of my Top 20 of the year so far, which speaks to the caliber of films to come along since April.
On Netflix Instant
The hilarious and touching French buddy comedy The Intouchables is your best new streaming opportunity. I’m also keen to revisit Intolerable Cruelty as it currently stands as my least favorite Coen Brothers film. (Other than Geoffrey Rush singing “The Boxer” and a tragicomic mix-up involving an asthma inhaler and a pistol, I don’t remember much about it.)
Of those I haven’t seen, Harold Ramis’ dark comedy The Ice Harvest is most intriguing. The film flopped despite a cast that includes Billy Bob Thornton, John Cusack, and Oliver Platt, yet has its supporters. Also of interest are Rubberneck and Red Flag, each starring and written/directed by Alex Karpovsky (Girls; Sleepwalk With Me). Neither have received great reviews, but I’m usually intrigued by artists who wear three or more hats for a film and may end up checking them out. No promises, though.