Thursday, August 29, 2013


You're Next

Directed by Adam Wingard
Written by Simon Barrett

     The new quasi-slasher, home invasion horror flick You're Next, is an entertaining, self aware film that eventually just becomes formulaic and predictable. I mean, the title gives you everything you need to know when watching the film. There are cheap scares, my wife jumped three or four times during the film and it got me too, but as the film goes on, the home invasion scares and deaths just get boring and three is not much left to go on. It is a film, for the most part, that I liked in the escapist way cinema can be, and definitely horror should be. The film is funny, full of irony and cheap scares throughout, but in the end, it is just another horror film made by a bunch of friends having a good time making movies. Not much else, other than the fun it has playing with the horror genre.
     We begin with sex, obviously campy condition of most horror films, and then the murder of the two individuals partaking in the act. Right away we have two people dying, having sex and being watched, then killed. We learn later on more of their meaning in the film. Then, we see Paul and Aubrey Davison (Rob Moran & Barbara Crampton), driving to their isolated vacation home for an upcoming family get together. They are to meet their four, grown-up children for a weekend of reminiscing and family fun, even though once they meet, they are quite the dysfunctional bunch which will lead to evil consequences later on in the film, but that is all I am going to say about the plot. Three sons -- Crispin (A.J. Bowen), Drake (Joe Swanberg) and Felix (Nicolas Tucci), and one daughter Aimee (Amy Seimetz) along with there significant others -- Erin (Sharni Vinson), Kelly (Margaret Laney), Zee (Wendy Glenn) and Tariq (Ti West). Only, this trip is going to turn out to be one of the worst ones of their lives and, for most of them, their ultimate demise.
     There is only one person that can withstand the soon-to-be attack from three men wearing black jumpsuits, wielding axes, machetes and a crossbow, and wearing a lamb, tiger and fox masks. Erin, who grew up in Australia and has a background of fighting and living off the grid, is the one that stands up to the masked home invaders and shows everyone how to fend off these murderers. The plot goes on, we see family members and guests getting shot by arrows and murdered in ways that I will not write here so it will not spoil the film, but nothing surprising. The best one of the group is Swanberg though. He is kind of the ass-kissing son that just delivers the witty, ironic humor throughout the film. He steals the show when it comes to the acting and comedic factor. It goes good with the film, since it is very aware of its ode to the horror genre motifs, action, B-movie style acting and writing, and the home invasion shtick.
     Director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett, who also worked on both of the V/H/S films, know what they have here. A bunch of mumblecore-ish, independent filmmakers and actors, getting together and playing with all the horror genres and seemingly, having a good time making films. The hilarious turn by actor/director Joe Swanberg, literally, he is the funniest and one of the best things about the film, and also Bowen, who is quite funny as well, are the best parts. You have the one girl with an extensive, combative background in Vinson, who kicks ass throughout and makes all the men look dubious, lazy, scared little idiots. A great, 80s style music in the whole film that will take you back to those movies like Halloween and Friday the 13th, and detailed, if not ridiculously stupid at times, killing of all the people in the house. It is not that subtle and some of the murders are just silly and questionable, but that was fun of the film, even if it is still weird to be laughing at the death of people on screen for cinematic amusement. Our society is very emotionless when it comes to having a scary, good time at the theatre. The biggest problem is that as the film goes on, its just, who's next and how are they going to die. It just became formulaic and boring, even though its a funny and escapist little horror film.
     In the end, You're Next is a fun little romp of a horror movie and nothing more. It original premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and has had quite a wait to it theatrical release two years later. Not meant to be taken to seriously, but by the last half hour it just got boring and nothing more than a bit of a gross out fest. Wingard and Barrett have a made a film that pokes fun at most, if not all, of the classic horror films and techniques, as well as managing to have a fun time doing it. I wish the film would have been a little more or ended a whole lot better, but I still had fun with it. I still believe horror films need a huge revival with something that makes scares based on the suspenseful fears of the unknown, eerie settings and moods, and honest scares instead of cheap ones. Hopefully, it is coming soon, but by whom, I have no idea.

Photo credits by IMDB.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Classic Trailers: BULLITT

     Wednesday's Classic Film Trailers presents another Steve McQueen film, yes, I am on a bit of McQueen run right now, Bullitt. The film, directed by Peter Yates and released in 1968, is about a San Francisco cop, Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen), who is requested to protect a key witness in a senatorial case against the criminal underworld in the USA, mainly out of Chicago. Wealthy politician, Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn), who selected Bullitt to protect his witness, becomes unsure once of his worth once the witness goes missing after being fatally shot under his protection. Bullitt does not care about the politics behind this witness. He just wants to find the man that shot the witness and also shot one of his partners that was on duty. The real fun, and most legendary scene in the film, is the classic car chase scene on the  hilly, San Francisco streets. Bullitt, in his Ford Mustang GT, against the underworld hitmen's Dodge Charger. Classic, classic, classic. The angles, loud engine sounds, screeching tires, straight-forward editing (no slow motion shots) and the camera views, especially when it is from inside the car going down the hills, is some of the most intense car chase visuals I have ever seen and easily one of, if not the best car chase scene in a movie of all-time. Bullitt is good, especially if you love those films of the late 60s and early 70s like I do. The cast is rounded out by Jacqueline Bisset, Simon Oakland, Norman Fell, Don Gordon and a small, supporting performance from Robert Duvall. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

Photo credits by and trailer by YouTube.


     Matthew McConaughey portrays real-life Texas electrician Ron Woodruff, who in 1986 is diagnosed with HIV and began using illegal means of treatment to stay alive. Woodruff is in a life-or-death battle with the medical establishment. He searches out alternative means of treatment and drugs from other countries outside the FDA and DEA's jurisdiction. He begins trafficking these drugs into the country, finding and meeting so many people that are dying from HIV from the lack of available and approved treatments and medicine. Woodruff begins the "Buyers Club" so fellow HIV-infected people can join to gain access to these supplements and treatments and hopefully avoid government interference.
     The film appears to be a standout, award worthy showcase for McConaughey who is due for some awards attention. McConaughey lost 38 pounds to play the part and Oscar loves body transformations. The acting will be solid. The man is on a role and with his supporting turn in Scorsese's upcoming film The Wolf of Wall Street, it appears he is well on his way to plenty of admiration. The big question is whether the film will be good or if the performances will out shine the narrative and direction. The film is directed by Jean-Marc Vallee and costars Jared Leto, another possible awards worthy performance, Jennifer Garner, Steve Zahn and Denis O'Hare. The film will be having its world premiere at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and in select theatres beginning November 1. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

Photo and trailer credits by

Tuesday, August 27, 2013



Written & Directed
Jeff Nichols

     Jeff Nichols' Mud is a true piece of American cinema. A film that exhibits the details of life, love and consequences in small town America. A film that is elegantly paced, atmospherically shot and powered by a great narrative and superb performances. There is hardly a note missed in this backwoods tale. A story that is written and directed by one of the brilliant young filmmakers in the United States. Nichols has continued on with his streak of exceptional films and with Mud, he has crafted a near perfect tale that builds on each scene and word until we are left full of suspense, heartache and intrigue. Oh yeah, Matthew McConaughey is a damn fine actor, but there is a youngster in this film that steals the show.
     Now, Nichols has proven with his previous two features, Shotgun Stories (2007) and Take Shelter (2011), that he is one hell of a writer and director. A filmmaker full of genuine grace and fearless with his narrative style and place. Mud continues his successful streak, telling a story about a man, Mud (Matthew McConaughey), who is on the run and is looking to reconnect with the love of his life, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon). While hiding on an island on the Mississippi River in Arkansas, two young, adventurous boys, Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland), encounter the fugitive, who has taken refuge in an abandoned boat that is stuck high up in a tree. The boys uncover that Mud is on the run from bounty hunters. See, Mud's relationship with Juniper has been rocky from the start, when they were teenagers, and she hooked up with this guy that beat her and caused her to have an abortion. Mud killed this man and the man's family are the bounty hunters trying to find Mud and pay him back with severe retaliation.
     Matthew McConaughey is tremendous in this role and continues his streak of great performances and challenging films since his work in the The Lincoln Lawyer. We first see Mud on the island, chipped front tooth, dirty shirt and jeans, using a found kids fishing pole, with a cigarette in his mouth. Scruffy, sun drenched with a snake tattoo down his arm that goes up his back. This is all he has. He has a pistol. All he needs for protection is the dirty white shirt on his back and that pistol. He speaks in very spiritual tones, a la the thin, short sleeved shirt for protection. Whether the shirt is mere protection from the bugs and sun, or Mud actually believes it has some spiritual context and meaning is undetermined, but Nichols makes sure we are aware of Mud's troubled commitment to try his life anew. He is a man that appears to be searching for a new beginning. A new beginning with his ex-love Juniper and a spiritual fresh start from reality of the consequences of a trouble romance and past. When he encounters Ellis and Neckbone, he uses them to bring him food, help get the boat down, steal parts to get it running again and hand notes to Juniper once they realize she is staying in a hotel in town. Neckbone thinks its stupid and sees right away that Mud is using them cause he is in hiding, while Ellis enjoys the romantic side of him trying to get back with his girl. Ellis is a 14-year old, impressionable boy and is going through his own early stages of seeking out love.
     Nichols brings forth a story that challenges the exploratory curiosities of young boys, as well as the inner and emotional struggles of growing up in a fractured home. The heart of the story revolves around Ellis, who is living in a house boat, where his father catches and sells fish to make a living for his family. His father, Senior (Ray McKinnon) and his mother, Mary Lee (Sarah Paulson), are going through the beginning stages of a divorce and Mary Lee, who has the house in her name, wants to sell it to the state before they come and take it themselves. Ellis seeks out adventure to soften the impact of the pain at home. He sincerely befriends Mud, not only as a friend, but as a father like figure. The interesting parallel is that his best friend Neckbone, who lives with his Uncle Galen (Michael Shannon), does not have the emotional pains has does Ellis. He has not known his parents his whole life. Where Ellis is an idealist and romantic, a hopeful wanderer, Neckbone is a realist and sees through all this spiritual, love bullshit that Mud is going through and portraying. It is a dynamic that sets the two friends apart and really examines the depths of each character.
     As I wrote earlier, McConaughey is brilliant. He is so assured, confident and fully embraces the challenges of a man in search of meaning and redemption. The look, the intensity in his eyes and the honest, falsified relationship with the two boys is never once unbelievable. McConaughey has proven he is one of the finest actors working today, but it is not only him that steals the show. Tye Sheridan is almost perfect as Ellis. The accent, the walk, the hurried rushes of friendship and anger are acted in perfect harmony with the emotional, suspenseful narrative. The scene where he lays it all out and sees through Mud's attitudes and ways is heartbreaking and so truthful. A real actor and talent is emerging with young Sheridan, who was also in Terrence Malick's experimental, euphoric The Tree of Life.
     All of this wonder is mainly credited to the graceful, detailed direction and writing of Jeff Nichols. The man is for real. This film may not be as challenging as his last film Take Shelter, but it is so sound in its narrative and executed to perfection. The film does not once feel long in its two hour plus running time and slowly builds on each moment to a final half hour that is nothing short of absolute brilliance. It is so suspenseful and gratifying. It is a southern tale of friends, thieves and young lives. The setting of the small town in Arkansas settles in with every shot of simpleness and the poverty of life. The area where Nichols has set Mud in shows a world that is almost stopped in time. Working off the land or river, struggling to make ends meet and fighting off demons of the past swarm this narrative and gives it novel-like feel. The clothing, vehicles, junkyards and homes do not give one sense of a world not lived in or that is fake. Appreciate that in a film. Nichols has placed his film deep in southern aesthetics, such as southern morals, customs and traditions, but with a challenging spirit that does not become too socially or politically obtuse. Just watch the scenes with Ellis and his parents and you will see what I mean. The spiritual hope, that is so profound in small town America, is shown through Mud's suggestive, changing ways, but when it comes down to it, we are who we are and the choices we make will determine the direction we lead in life.
    The film contains some breathtaking, surreal cinematography from Adam Stone, who previously worked on Nichols other films. The shots are serene images of small town America. Nothing pretentious or arrogant, but graceful it there depiction of this Arkansas town and the Mississippi River. The shots flow with the film, much like Terrence Malick's work and become a part of the narrative instead of a bunch of pretty images that filter the movie.
     The supporting performances are exceptional as well. Jacob Lofland is great as the cocky, self-assured Neckbone, while Michael Shannon, who was the lead in both of Nichols previous films, gives a comedic balance to edge out the dramatic tone of the film. Both are wonderful. Witherspoon, who has not been in anything of real significance in awhile, gives a wonderful, if small performance as the worn down Juniper. Paulson and McKinnon are great as the divided parents, even though McKinnon really lays on that thick, twangy southern accent. Not annoying, but definitely noticeable. Also, another pleasure is seeing Sam Shepherd play a man that has isolated himself on the river, across from Ellis' home and comes to educate the boys on the true nature of Mud's situation and ways. Shepherd is wonderful in the film.
     Mud is a great film. I first saw this at the 2013 South by Southwest Festival and was floored by its execution. I would have to say it is one of my favorite films of the year and although it is a pretty straight lined film with its narrative, it is executed with brilliance and sophistication that only truly, gifted filmmakers can do. It contains two of the best performances of the year in McConaughey and Sheridan, as well as Lofland. Jeff Nichols Mud is a story about Americana and youth. A story that revels in never being too sappy or over confident, but plays it down the middle with honesty about the lives being portrayed and the consequences of people's actions. A truly remarkable piece of filmmaking by one of the brightest young filmmakers in America.

Photo credits by IMDB.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Film Trailers: DON JON

     Joseph Gordon-Levitt's directorial debut, Don Jon, has been receiving a lot of positive notices since its debut at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. I got to see the film, at a special screening at this years South by Southwest Festival last March and although I was not completely blown away by it or as fascinated as many others were, I still found it to be an assured directorial debut from the actor and a fairly thought provoking critique on the average, run-of-the-mill romantic comedy that has suffocated Hollywood for too long. The film has an outstanding cast with Gordon-Levitt in the lead, playing the guidoish playboy who is addicted to porn. The cast is rounded out by Julianne Moore, Scarlett Johansson, Brie Larson and the best-in-show and truly hilarious Tony Danza. Here is a link to my review, the movie was then called Don Jon's Addiction, from SXSW and here is the trailer. I definitely recommend seeing it, even if it was a little redundant, at times, in my view. Enjoy.

Photo credits by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Film Trailers: PARKLAND

     The new trailer for the film Parkland dropped last week and it appears to be an obviously dramatic account of the events occurring after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The events appear to be taking place significantly around the Parkland Hospital in Dallas. The film, written and directed by Peter Landesman, contains an impressive cast, which includes, Paul Giamatti, Marcia Gay Harden, Billy Bob Thornton, Zac Efron, James Badge Dale, Ron Livingston, Jackie Weaver and Jackie Earle Haley. The film opens on October 4 and will have its world premiere at next month's Toronto International Film Festival. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

Photo credits by and trailer by YouTube.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


     Here is the new trailer for the Coen brothers newest film Inside Llewyn Davis. An absolute must for me this fall. The film will be excellent, as all the Coen's films are. The colors, textures and lighting used by dp Bruno Delbonnel appear to capture the 60s folk-music scene in Greenwich Village. The folk music will be rich and truthful, the writing will be serious, but funny. The acting will be impeccable. The story will not be weighed in annoying nonsense. The Coen's are some of the smartest filmmakers in the world. No, the history of film. Every effort is always a treat. I know I will love this film and the reviews out of the Cannes Film Festival were highly positive. The music is produced by T. Bone Burnett and the film stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, F. Murray Abraham, Adam Driver, Justin Timberlake and the great reunion with the wonderful John Goodman. The film will be released on December 6, 2013 in limited theaters and expand on December 20. Here is the trailer. Enjoy. Yes, enjoy.

Photo credits by rope of silicon and trailer by yahoo.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Classic Trailers: HUD

     Wednesday's Classic Trailers rolls on with one of Paul Newman's finest performances and one hell of a film, Hud (1963). Directed by Martin Ritt, the film is based off a Larry McMurtry novel "Horseman, Pass By" and is a great piece of cinema, delving into a changing America in the mid 60s. The film takes place in a West Texas town and Paul Newman plays Hud Bannon, a stubborn, undisciplined man, who fights against his principled, well-mannered father, Homer (Melvyn Douglas). Hud is a figure of a man that is more interested beer drinking and woman chasing than following in his father's footsteps. He is alienated, but is a symbol of man breaking away from any traditional forms of normalcy or conformity. The law is interpreted in Hud's own way and people should fit into his view of life. Caught in the mix is his young nephew Lonnie (Brandon DeWilde), trying to grow up too fast in this small Texas town and fighting between the ways of his Uncle and Grandfather. Also, there is the housekeeper and cook Alma Brown (Patricia Neal), who gets caught up in Hud's reckless path.
     Newman is at his all-time best. Brooding, arrogant and in complete control. The power in his eyes and delivery is the stuff only a truly gifted, fantastic actor can present. This is the stuff that acting classes should always teach. Absolutely some of the best acting that has ever been put on film! The film also has absolutely breathtaking, wide angle, crisp black-and-white cinematography from legendary lenser James Wong Howe. The Texas landscapes and loneliness of the ranch and the small town are mesmerizing to view. I want this film BluRay so bad to see his cinematography in glorious clarity and preciseness. Hud won three Oscars, Supporting Actor for Douglas, Lead Actress for Neal and Cinematography for Howe. Newman was nominated for Best Actor, Ritt for Best Director and the film was nominated for Best Picture. The film is a treasure and an immensely satisfying look into the changing times in America and the power of one of the greatest actors in the history of film. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

Photo credits by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013



Written & Directed
Neil Blomkamp

     What if there was a livable space station, floating above an apocalyptic Earth, where within seconds, you can lay down in a highly advanced machine that cures and wipes away any disease or ailment that is in or happening to your body? Cancer, gone. Broken arm, fixed. Blindness, cured. This is one of the concepts and plot devices in Neil Blomkamp's latest film Elysium. As a whole, the film is a mixed bag. It has some glorious visuals, ideas and intensely shot action sequences, but also has poorly, underwritten characters, annoying, confusing accented villains, mainly Jodie Foster, who is usually right on in everything she does and editing that takes all the energy and joy out of those action sequences with an unbalanced mixed of slow motion nonsense. Elysium is better than most summer blockbusters, but just because it is an original idea and not a sequel, comic-book film or remake, does not make it something that has to be cherished and given positive assessments.
     Elysium takes place in the future. It is 2154, in a desolate, overpopulated Los Angeles and the wealthiest individuals on Earth have crafted a man-made station, Elysium, to reside in and live a satisfactory life for themselves. On the other side of the coin, Earth is in ruins. It is a dust bowl. There appears to be no future, no sufficient medical care and an almost lawless society, policed by robots. These robots are quite a sight to see. They are very sophisticated in that they act and move much like human beings. One man, Max (Matt Damon), attempts to take on the divisive, polarized worlds that the humans on Earth live in and those on the space station, once he is in dire need of special health treatment. See, the space station Elysium, has that machine that cures all within seconds. The fight is on to not only save Max himself, but help create equality for those on Earth.
     I really do like when we get to see a film that is different than the majority of crap coming out of Hollywood and I had high hopes going into Elysium after the wonder and excitement of Blomkamp's  District 9. It just did not put a hold on me though. It felt has if the film should have been cut down some and had more time for character development and history, not mention the completely cynical approach and look at the future of mankind. The rich, elite, most wealthy people on the planet have basically said, screw anyone who has to work in a factory or go to public school. We are going to live above, literally, like Gods with our clean air, vegetation and fine drink and instead of helping and being responsible for those less fortunate than us, basically say "go away and die." The film's approach is an interesting, highly cynical view of people with and without power, but it is all the little things that truly cause it to fall apart.
     I give a lot of credit to Blomkamp for creating an apocalyptic future that speaks about the quality of life, but the film just was a not succinct enough. Damon, who was good as always, just was not that interesting. His character had little to say and, although he was in and out of jail for stealing cars and was trying to get his life back together with a factory job, I just could not get invested enough into his character to care that much. The acting was good, but just not enough to chew. The little back story that began the film where Max and his friend Frey (Alice Braga) show the beginning of their friendship, which evolves to bigger meanings later in the film, was not enough to get me involved and seemed like an easy way to start the film.
     The bigger problem lies in one of the chief villains of the film, Secretary of Defense on Elysium, Delacourt (Jodie Foster). Foster, who is one of the best actresses working and has been since Taxi Driver, was just all over the place. She speaks many different languages on the station, being that she has to converse with so many of the wealthiest people from all over the planet, but I do not know what was going on with her voice. Her delivery and accent sounded different each time she was speaking in English and was highly disappointing and distracting throughout the whole film. Also, her scheme to take over the leadership on Elysium was poorly guided, executed and not written to be very convincing in its depiction on screen. It seemed like a way to include the other chief villain in the film, the maniacal, sinister Kruger, played by Blomkamp's right-hand man Sharlto Copley.
     The character that was written well, maybe more for his acting, was Copley. He was as villainous as they come. A relentless South African mercenary on Earth that is charged with tracking down Max, who, and this is where the story really gets going, has downloaded the plans and computer program so that Delacourt can take over the presidency on Elysium. It is in his head now. Very sci-fi and futuristic. Max had been hit with severe radiation at the factory he works at and was only given five days to live. He goes to his former thief buddy Julio (Diego Luna) who takes him to a premier hacker and perpetrator Spider (Wagner Moura). Spider, through hefty sums of money, can get people on spaceships that will take them to Elysium, especially those that need the medical care that the wealthy have on the station. Spider wants that program, after he finds out about it when they hijack industrialist John Carlyle (William Fichtner). The race is on.
     Back to Kruger. He is great and there is one scene where his face gets blown off, although his brain is still functioning, where the film, along with its vulgar language, gets its R-rating. One problem with him though is, like with Foster, is that the accent seems to change from scene to scene and is somewhat indistinguishable. Confusing, but Copley was very good at being the films bad guy. I do not want to delve too much more in to plot details, since the film is interesting to see without knowing too much, but I really did love Kruger. Great evil dude that has his own plans as for the future of Elysium as well.
    The editing was also a problem for me. Just show me an action scene like they did back in the 70s. I know with these high speed digital cameras and meticulously detailed CG we can see a robot being blown up and witness every scrap of metal flying off it in a million directions, but come on. Fast paced, well editing scenes. It was distracting, especially since, even though there was a lot of CG, it was not overwhelming like in Iron Man 3. The visuals were astonishing though and the two worlds created by Blomkamp were beautifully crafted. The space station was a joy to look at and the worked-in look of the robots, space crafts and depleted, overpopulated Earth was intense and satisfying.
     Overall, Elysium is a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed some of it, but also found a lot of the film to be a step back for Blomkamp. That is not to say he is not a visionary director, who I am still excited about seeing his future work, but it just was not a solid effort. The cynical nature and view on this futuristic Earth was good, but the little craft things, such as the editing, character development and Foster's accent, took the film in a poor direction, not to mention some of the plot that was good in some areas and bad in others. Blomkamp is a talented filmmaker and I am hopeful for him and his talent. He is someone that is not sticking to remakes and superhero films, but putting new ideas on film. I just wish those new ideas were supported by more details and focus on narrative structure. Hey, Kruger was a badass though.

Photo credits by IMDB.

Monday, August 19, 2013


     The new FRENCH trailer for the hot, 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Palme d'Or winning best film, La vie d'Adele (Blue is the Warmest Color) has dropped and it appears to be quite the film. Not just because of the steamy, ten-minute lesbian sex scene between the two French stars in the film, Adele Exarchopouos and Lea Seydoux or the three hour run time, but because of the classic story of youth growing up in love, pain, honesty and the political and social nature of life. From the trailer, it appears to be so much more than just a film with hot sex scenes, but about the growth of desire and love. Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, the film the was the first winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or to have three recipients of the award. The director and the two main actresses. It was a sensation at the festival and looks to have two amazing performances from Exarchopoulos and Seydoux. The film is based on the 2010 French graphic novel "Le Bleu est une couleur chaude" by Julie Maroh. Here is the trailer. Enjoy and do not be afraid to check out foreign films. They are some of the better films around, especially better the mass audience attracting crap coming out of Hollywood. Sundance Selects will be releasing in limited theaters on October 25.

Photo credits by IMDB and trailer by YouTube.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Film Trailers: FADING GIGOLO

     John Turturro directs, writes and stars, alongside Woody Allen, in his new film Fading Gigolo. Two best friends and booksellers, Turturro and Allen, star as Fioravante and Murray, and they decide to get into the gigolo business. Turturro is the gigolo and Allen is the manager-pimp. The trailer looks funny and dry. They get into money, love and the anger of the local Hasidic Jewish community in New York. Allen looks exceptional good in this and I am excited to see how this film turns out. The film co-stars Sharon Stone, Sofia Vergara, Liev Schreiber and Vanessa Paradis. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Criterion Collection Announces New Titles for November 2013

     The Criterion Collection, the boutique distributor and restorer of classic, contemporary and important films, have announced there upcoming slate of releases for November, 2013. The company announces new releases on the 15th of every month for the films they will be releasing in two and half months. Most of the films are highly coveted and always intriguing. I am not saying they are all perfect pieces of cinema and many believe if it is released by Criterion it is gold, but the films usually have merit in some, if not all, aspects of the filmmaking process. One film might have an interesting back story or history, wonderful cinematography or acting that is truly extraordinary. I look at the releases and know that I am going to find something compelling about them. The collection contains over 650 films and is a crash course in film history. There are films from every decade and from all over the world. I am a geek for the collection and have amassed quite an impressive personal collection myself. The price is usually high, roughly $30 to $40 dollars per film, but the quality is precise and most of the releases contain tremendous and thoughtful supplements that dive into certain aspects of each film. Each film contains documentaries, interviews, visual essays and booklets that contain thoughtful commentary on the film or filmmakers. It is quite an amazing collection and is cineastes dream. Now, on to the upcoming releases.
     Novembers releases present a monumental box set of the classic Zatoichi films. It is a 27-disc box set that contains 25 films that were based on the legendary "Blind Swordsman -- Zatocichi." The first film, The Tale of Zatoichi (1962) to Zatoichi's Conspirarcy (1973). I have never seen any of these films, but most of them are in the Criterion section on Hulu. Another interesting point is that with the November releases, the company is going away with releasing films on Blu-Ray and DVD individually. They will now be dual-format with the Blu-Ray and DVD in one package. At least the price on these are not doubling are anything.

    The rest of the releases include Noah Baumbach's Frances Ha (2013), Charles Chaplin's romantic comedy masterpiece City Lights (1931) and an upgrade of Yasujiro Ozu's classic Tokyo Story (1953). I will be looking to purchase all of these three releases. I have seen the Chaplin and Ozu, and cannot wait to see Frances Ha. I am really excited to dive back into Tokyo Story. The film is elegantly shot, beautifully paced and the differences between the older parents and their two married children in the city. I did not fully appreciate it the first time I saw it and do not think I was ready for what I was watching. The images, writing, acting and directing were all mesmerizing and I cannot wait to see it again.

Release Date 11.26.2013
Release Date 11.12.2013
Release Date 11.12.2013

Photo credits to
Release Date 11.19.2013

     Search out the Criterion Collection's website,, for more information. It is a great place to get a new kind of education on film and film history. There are so many films in the collection and so many different genres, countries and directors to dig in to. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Classic Trailers: THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (1968)

     The original, not the remake. Classic film from Norman Jewison, starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. The film contains some blistering cinematography from the great Haskell Wexler and a jazzy soundtrack from Micahel Legrand. McQueen stars as Thomas Crown, a bank executive who never has enough. Playboy, millionaire, adventure seeker. He hires a group of men, that have never had a clear look at him or cleanly heard his voice, to rob a Boston bank in the middle of the day. The robbery is a success and the police begin there search with the help of insurance investigator Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway). What is really great about the film is that when Vicki meets with Thomas, he tells him straight up she knows he is behind the robbery, but his arrogance and aggressive competitive nature causes him to have no fear and attempt another robbery. The man has it all, but is so competitive and has to prove to himself he can do it. He does not know when to stop. It is almost as if he is bored and enjoys the thrill of it all. The ending, right up to the last frame, is great and left me really enjoying the whole film. And McQueen is a badass, as always.They do not make them like this anymore. Here is the fast paced, fantastic trailer. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Blue Jasmine

Written & Directed
Woody Allen

     How the mighty have fallen. In Woody Allen's newest feature film, Blue Jasmine, the critical observation of a woman's disintegration into alcohol, loneliness, isolation and points where she is social inept are in full force. Allen has presented a film rich in character, but lacking in complete success. That main character, by the way, is an absolute knockout of a performance from the always, I should just say obvious, brilliant actress Cate Blanchett. The film did not completely wow me, but her performance and embodiment of the neurotic standard of all of Allen's films is worth the cost of admission. Blue Jasmine has its underdeveloped supporting characters and secondary storylines, but the scintillating talent of Ms. Blanchett is what is truly worth seeing. 
     Now, any Woody Allen film is worth seeing, just on principle. The man is a legend, even if he does not what to be or will admit his presence as one of the most talented filmmakers of all time. If its an Allen film, I am there. He has been hit or miss pretty much since Sweet and Lowdown (1999), with the exception of Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris. The stories are flat or not as intelligently depicted and scripted as those wonderful works from the late 70s to the 90s. Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Husbands and Wives, Crimes and Misdemeanors, I could go on. Those films are brilliant, engaging stories of intellectuals stuck in the entanglements of love, relationships and life. Also, his love of film and fear of death is presented through those films in wonderfully scripted conversations with the intellect, wit and neuroses of Allen's own perceptions on life. The later films have not been has engaging and Blue Jasmine really is somewhere in between. 
     The story revolves around the personal, financial and emotional demise of Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) who, after her successful husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) loses all of their money, from his dirty schemes and unethical financial moves.  The socialite has to relocate to San Francisco and stay with her polar opposite sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), deal with Ginger's annoying, guidoish boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale) and attempt to get her life in some shape and order. Hal is very Bernie Madoff-esque and Jasmine in the film resembles Blanche DuBois from Tennessee Williams play "A Streetcar Named Desire." Her life is crumbling around her and the relocation with her sister. This really is a tale of a woman on the verge of a complete breakdown and living an opposite lifestyle of what she had become accustom too. 
     The film is told through flashbacks into the excessive world Jasmine and Hal lived in from her present day situations in San Francisco. It works because it shows the glaring differences in lifestyles Jasmine lived in and is currently living in now. This is dark Woody Allen and the best thing about it, and what stands apart from everything else in it, is Cate Blanchett. She is so in control of this role. Jasmine, who changed her name to that from her original name of Jeanette, is an alcoholic goner. Blanchett nails each neurotic tic and move by deglaming heavily and expressing her agony with mascara drenched cheeks and swollen, drunken eyes. She is a very beautiful woman and never once appears to be in good shape since her fall from Park Avenue lifestyle. Blanchett is that believable and honest in this role. She has gone from the highest lifestyle possible, to finding out her husband was cheating the system, cheating on her with other woman and completely draining them of all the money. Blanchett is a tour-de-force and quite simply beyond brilliant. Some of the best acting you will see all year. 
     In one scene, and this is just one of the ones where she is caught talking to herself, she is visualizing a conversation she had with her stepson. The real rawness of her demise is not in her excessive drinking or desire to a confusing search for a new career that goes from finishing college, to interior decorator, to learning basic computer skills, which tells you of her disillusionment or displacement away from everyday society. It is these scenes where she is so lost, neurotic and gone from reality that she talks to herself in public. Allen balances them with humor, but Blanchett's eyes show a woman that is mentally and emotionally remote. That is completely unattainable and unapproachable. She cannot accept the reality of this fall and is unwilling to pick up the pieces. She lives agony and vodka. Perfect acting and writing in these moments, and they are parts of the film that are wonderful pieces of cinema. 
     Blanchett is worth seeing the movie for alone and is an assured Best Actress nominee at the Academy Awards. Hell, she might have already one the award, even though there are still four and half months left of films. She is that astonishing in this film. Allen can direct and write characters for woman like no other. So much life, hurt and neurotic tendencies. When you have Blanchett as your lead and Allen with the pen, it is spectacular to see the two at work. Sally Hawkins is also quite good in the film, but could have had more to chew on I thought. The rest of the supporting players is where the film beings to really falter.
      The films supporting characters are underwritten and are little to be entertained by or interested in. Baldwin is used in the flashbacks and is great at being unlikeable, but is a seen little in the film. The real problem is Cannavale and the romantic interests of the sisters in San Francisco. Cannavale, who can be great, see The Station Agent, is annoying and I cringed every time he was on screen. I believe he was written to be a douche and if that is the full case he was good at it, but I did not care for his all-over-the-place accent and simpleton attitude. Relationships that accumulate with a forceful dentist played by Michael Stuhlberg, on Jasmine and one with Louis C.K.'s character and Ginger, seem to go nowhere and add nothing to the story. It did not bring any depth or comedy to this dramatic story. 
     The one bright spot was Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), Ginger's ex-husband, who won the lottery and invested the money with Hal, losing it all. He is so refreshing in this role. Real acting chops. No funny one liners and cocky attitude. In a scene where he comes across Jasmine and her new boyfriend Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard) in San Francisco, he confesses is disdainful feelings toward her. The way she is using and needing her sister now, but before, when the wealth was there, did not want Ginger and Augie around when they visited New York City. He held his own with Blanchett and was a real joy in the film. 
     I am a huge Woody Allen fan, probably my favorite director, and I have always related to his neurotic and insightful view on life. Yes, insightful. I did not find this film to be a knockout, but as it went along I fell into it and enjoyed the result. I can always find something about an Allen film I like and with this one, it is all about Cate Blanchett. Some times its the story, characters, Gordon Willis' breathtaking cinematographer (especially in Manhattan), acting or a combination of everything. Blue Jasmine is truly about seeing Cate Blanchett in an absolutely mesmerizing performance of a woman in a deep, alcoholic induced life crisis. Magnificent. The writing is good when in comes to the story and the character of Jasmine, but lacking in the supporting parts. Your not perfect always, but, yes, it is a Woody Allen film so you have to go see it!

Monday, August 12, 2013


     I know, a little bit late on this one, but what a film this is going to be. The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring, in their fifth collaboration, Leonardo DiCaprio, tells the cinematic true story of Jordan Belfort, a wealthy, big wig stockbroker in his mid-to-late twenties, and his ultimate demise and fall into crime, corruption and the loss of his multimillionaire status. The trailer is fast paced and definitely has that connection with Scorsese's gangster masterpiece Goodfellas. The Kanye West song fits perfectly as well. Hopes are extremely high and I am usually rarely disappointed with Mr. Scorsese. He is one of the greatest individuals, not only as a filmmaker, but more importantly as a preserver of classic film from the United States and around the world. He is a true educator on the history of film. The Wolf of Wall Street is based on Belfort's autobiography on the events of his rise and fall. The screenplay was written by Terrence Winter, creator, writer and executive producer of the HBO series Boardwalk Empire and writer and executive producer of The Sopranos. The cast is led by DiCaprio and includes Jonah Hill, Matthew McConaughey, Margot Robbie, Spike Jonze, Jon Favreau, Kyle Chandler, Jean Dujardin, Shea Whigham and Rob Reiner. Is this the movie that gets DiCaprio his Oscar? Enjoy.

Film Trailers: THE COUNSELOR

     I am skeptical and intrigued by Ridley Scott's new feature film The Counselor. The skepticism comes from his streak of rather mediocre films over the last eight years. American Gangster was a well-made film but everything else was not that interesting. Prometheus was visually stunning, but the narrative was flat out terrible. The story sucked! The intriguing part is that this is a story from the great writer Cormac McCarthy and appears to be an upscale take on another one of his stories No Country for Old Men. Also, the cast is quite impressive. The in demand Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men), Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, John Leguizamo, Bruno Ganz, Rosie Perez and Goran Visnjic.
     This story revolves around a lawyer, Fassbender, who gets in to deep trouble when he gets involved in the drug trafficking business. The trailer does look enticing and Bardem particularly seems to be off his rockers in the film. The real question is can Scott deliver with all the talent working with him. We shall see. Enjoy.

Friday, August 9, 2013


     The new trailer for George Clooney's latest film The Monuments Men is a little underwhelming, but not by much. That is not to say I am not exciting to see it, but the film appears to be too jokey. I don't know. I understand with two great actors like Bill Murray and John Goodman you are going to have some comedy, but the film appears to be something that is going to be driven for both "Joe Popcorn" and the indie crowd. Other then that, it looks highly entertaining. The film revolves around a group of art historians and museum curators that band together to save stolen art from the Nazis. Director, co-writer, co-star and producer George Clooney as a rather stellar cast, that includes Matt Damon, Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin and Hugh Bonneville. The screenplay is co-written by Grant Heslov, who is also a producer on the film. He and Clooney also produced last years Academy Award Best Picture winner Argo, which this film seems to have a similar tone. Here is the trailer. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Film Trailers: HER

     "A Spike Jonze Love Story." That is how the film is being described and sold. I'm in. Jonze is one of the more visionary auteurs making films today. Well, when he does make a film, which makes each new film an exciting event. By the looks of the trailer, we are going to have another misanthrope, lonely, anti-social individual in search of love and meaning. Joaquin Phoenix looks to be on point and his character, Theodore Twombly, who falls in love with his newly purchased operating system "Samantha" that is voiced by Scarlett Johansson, is going to be an interesting piece filmmaking and storytelling. It looks like another amazing feature from the director with gorgeous lensing by Hoyte Van Hoytema, who also shot the underrated and exceptional Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and will soon be the cinematographer on Christopher Nolan's new sci-fi film Interstellar. The rest of the cast includes Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Chris Pratt. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


     The West. John Ford. And for the first time, two enormous stars were brought together, James Stewart and John Wayne. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) is as close to perfect as it gets. The film intertwines politics and ruthless western law. The change from the gunslinger, shoot outs in the streets to decide who is what, to bringing the law and statehood to the wild west. Stewart plays Ransom Stoddard, an educated lawyer who goes to the small town of Shinbone to bring law, order and rule to the territory. He wants to fight for statehood and rights for the people. He befriends Tom Donovan (John Wayne) who is as old school as it gets. You do not fight with law books and words, but with the gun according to Donovan. When Stoddard's stagecoach gets robbed by the vigilante Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin), Stoddard, the small town and the lawless West is put to the test. Directed by John Ford and also starring Vera Miles, Edmond O'Brien, Andy Devine and Lee Van Cleef, this perfectly constructed Western is at times comical, violent and romantic, and exhibits a legendary director and two iconic actors at the top of their craft. Enjoy.


Drinking Buddies

Directed & Written 
Joe Swanberg

     People drinking beer, dealing with everyday situations, like romance, friendship and, yes, drinking more beer. I do not know if drinking beer is an everyday situation, but it is a good occurrence. It is a simple premise and realistic revolving point for "Mumblecore" founder Joe Swanberg's newest film Drinking Buddies, but it is so much more than that. It is about everyday people going through what all of us go through. Relationships, emotions, friendships and the choices we make along the way. Well, maybe not everyone drinks beer or even craft beer for that matter, but the film is steeped in an honest approach at day-to-day lives. The complications, the fun and the conversations between friends and lovers. This film is not so profound that it makes you think differently about life, but it is a film that felt like it was truthful and pure. Not to mention it contains some fine acting and lots of drinking beer.
     Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) work together at a Chicago craft brewery. They are good friends but also talk a lot and flirt even more. The only thing that seems to keep these two from diving right into a romantic connection is that both of them are in relationships with someone else. Kate is dating a music producer Chris (Ron Livingston) and Luke is in a serious, live-in relationship with Jill (Anna Kendrick). Kate and Luke enjoy drinking together, joking around and the sexual tension is evident with every glance, but they also are soaked in a coat of honesty that grounds them. Being in there late twenties, early thirties, they still exhibit immaturity. These two are on that line between being a grown up and making adult decisions, and spending every night at the pub with friends all night.
     Swanberg has crafted a film that has advanced his style of disillusionment, emotional weight, relationships and that time where you are figuring out in what direction you are going to go with your life. Many of his other films, Hannah Takes the Stairs, Nights and Weekends, and Uncle Kent revolve around these same themes of that barrier, or border, between adulthood and youth, but he bulked it up a bit with more notable actors in Drinking Buddies. This is an accessible film, but most of his films are. The thing that is so interesting and enjoyable about this one is seeing the performances, especially Wilde and Johnson. They look and act like they have been best friends for a long time, and the fact that nothing feels fake or unnecessary between them. It is an honest, realistic story that could have, or has happened, to anyone, in any place. That is what is so good about the film. The fact that it is real and not phony.
     Not to give too much away in plot details, this film brings about sincere, serious choices that these characters must make. I love the fact that Swanberg does not sugar coat any of these decisions and keeps everyone leveled and balanced, but at the same time complex. Jill is an ambitious woman who is ready to settle down, get married and start a family. The issue is, and most guys have gone through this, I know I have, is that she loves Luke so much and wants to spend the rest of her life with him, but is almost having to force him to get going on it. Buy the ring, propose, and get hitched. Luke has to make the decision for the both of them cause she is ready and has already made her mind up. It is time for Luke to grow up and either get married or not. If he his not ready then she cannot force him and must move on with her life.
     Kate is in the relationship with the older, probably late thirties, Chris and he, much like Jill, is looking for something more. Something and someone to possibly settle down with and get a future going. He is not sure if Kate is the right one or not. However, Kate is searching. Searching a lot. She is smart, beautiful and figuring her life out. She wants love but maybe is not sure what kind of love she wants at this moment. Wilde is much like Greta Gerwig in her films with Swanberg. Where is she at and what is she doing? I believe she loves Chris, but also is not sure what she wants out of life yet. She does not want to be alone, but wants to be with someone who wants to be with her as well. She makes ill advised, drunken decisions in the film that upsets Luke, but in the end she chooses correctly and wisely. She realizes the importance of what Jill and Luke have and by choosing the way she does, has grown immensely in her own life. Yes there is an attraction and connection between Kate and Luke throughout the whole film, but is it truly what both of them want? Swanberg delicately writes and directs these moments, that I am sure had plenty of improvisations and ends the movie with a sublime, beautiful touch.
     The performances are perfect in this film. Johnson is funny, sincere and dramatic. It seems so natural for him and in a film like this, his strengths come through in excellent ways. He does not hit a false note at all. He can go from making you laugh one time, to a growing emotion that crawls inside of you and holds on. He shows a lot of depth and range in his portrayal of a man coming to a point in his life where changes and decisions are becoming highly serious adventures. The only minor issue is that throughout the whole film he has a scruffy beard and in the poster is clean shaved. Odd. Livingston and Kendrick are great as well. Solid performances from both and Kendrick has a touching moment towards the end of the film where she delivers with full force and grace.
     The real standout is Wilde though. If there is a film role that will have her break out, hopefully it is this one. That is not to say she does not have credentials already, but this role gives her assured indie cred now. She downplays her beauty by just being one of the guys. She seems so comfortable and natural. She exemplifies the complexities of being a woman searching for what she wants out of life. Wilde has so much emotion and range that there was not a second where I did not believe her playing Kate. She brought so much life and humor to this character. Her decisions and choices were handled so beautifully by Wilde and it was a joy to see her in this film.
     Joe Swanberg's Drinking Buddies is one of the better films I have seen this summer. This time of the year is filled with terrible comedies, superhero nonsense and mega blockbusters that usually fizzle out right away for me. This film is a great alternative. It is an honest portrayal of love, life and growth. It felt so realistic and did not try to put on the emotions to make the audience, well me, feel a certain way. The acting, writing and directing is fantastic and if you are wanting to see a realistic film about everyday life, seek this film out. You will not be disappointed. Did I mention there is a lot of beer drinking in it. Really enjoyable, good film and another step up for Swanberg and his depictions of what it is to be growing up in America. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Film Trailers: ALL IS LOST

     Castaway without the Wilson. No, it has to be better than that and by the looks of this trailer it is going to be. All Is Lost is the new film from writer/director J.C. Chandor, who directed the intense, well-acted drama Margin Call (2011), about key people at an investment bank and the financial debacle of 2008. The film stars Robert Redford, in what reviews out of this years Cannes Film Festival, in an almost wordless film about a skipper out at sea who wrecks into a shipping container and has to find a way to survive. The trailer looks dramatic and any movie that can sustain the attention, suspense and acting credentials for its entire running time with limited, to no dialogue has me highly intrigued. Redford being in it as well is a plus. The guy does not age. Here is the trailer and watch out for Chandor who is one of the best young filmmakers around. Enjoy.

Monday, August 5, 2013


     Is this the biggest picture of the fall? Is this film going to be the huge awards season contender? Is it going to appeal to the critics and Joe Popcorn? In the trailer, it certainly appears to be awards caliber but more importantly, it appears to be an exciting film. David O. Russell, who directed one of my favorite films from last year Silver Linings Playbook, comes with his newest effort American Hustle. The film is a fictional account that revolves around the  ABSCAM events that occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The FBI ran a sting operation that turned into an investigation of political corruption and illegal trafficking in stolen property. The film stars an all-star cast with Christian Bale and Amy Adams, who were in Russell's boxing drama The Fighter,  where Bale won Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars; Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who acted in Silver Linings Playbook, where Lawrence won Best Actress at the Oscars;  and Jeremy Renner. The film looks highly entertaining and surely will contain that dark, humorous wit from Russell, who worked on the screenplay with Eric Singer. Those hair cuts, clothes and accents will definitely be of discussion as well. The 70s our gloriously back in Russell's new film American Hustle. Expectations are high. Enjoy.

Friday, August 2, 2013


Fruitvale Station

Directed & Written 
Ryan Coogler

     Ryan Coogler's directorial debut Fruitvale Station is a tense, emotional stirring, tear-jerker of a story and a fine piece of filmmaking. The true story is based on the life of Oakland, California native Oscar Grant, who was brutally shot and killed at a train station. The film contains a brilliant lead performance from soon-to-be-star Michael B. Jordan. He is in almost every scene of the film and is a commanding presence in his portrayal of Grant. The only minor issue I have, and this is a wonderfully made and acted film, is it is very sympathetic. It lays it on pretty thick but in the end, it is so well made that those faults do not completely ruin one of the finest made pictures of the year.
     Oscar Grant was 22 years old on New Year's Eve, 2008. He has been previously released from prison and is attempting to get his life back in order. He has a tough, loving, religious Mother and a young daughter who he thinks the world of. He has a girlfriend, with whom he had the young girl with and the relationship has its ups and downs, but they love and cherish their girl, and it keeps them together. The couple decides to go out to celebrate New Year's 2009 but a devastating event occurs. Oscar is involved in a fight on the train back from San Francisco to Oakland. He and four of his friends are held by police officers at the train stop. They are in a highly, understandably agitated state and Oscar confronts one of the officers. He is pushed to the concrete on his stomach, handcuffed and then shot in the back by one of the officers. He should not have been shot.
     Coogler starts his film out with real life phone or video footage that one of the passengers took of these actual events. We see Oscar being handcuffed, abused by the police and the screen goes black. The audience hears a gun shot. Coogler has set the stage for what is going to happen. Throughout the films rather short run time, about 85 minutes, we see Oscar (Michael B. Jordan) going through what will be the last day of his life. The audience, either knowing from the opening scene or through reading of the real life events, knows the tragedy that is going to occur. The film is a tribute to Oscar and a call to action against the racism of the police's disillusionment and stupidity, as well as the love he had for his family.
     This film by no means portrays Oscar as an angel. He was previously in jail, for whatever reason is not told. He has bills, a daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal), a girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and is attempting to get his life back in order. We see Oscar trying to get his job back at a local supermarket after he was fired for being late too many times. Coogler shows his immaturity, irresponsibilities and faults. He is a young man that needs to grow up. In a poignant scene we see Oscar, who has not yet told his girlfriend, admit to losing his job. She is frustrated, mad but they have naive hope. Hope that he will turn it around and stop dealing marijuana, and find a career or job that will provide for his family. Young love is wild, messy and usually immature, but when you have a baby girl, you have be responsible for all your actions and accept consequences that go with them. It is a how you react to these challenges that will make or break you and Coogler lets us see that, and we hope, Oscar is going to make a turn for the better.
     The thing that sets this film apart from other films that can be considered emotional draining films, and this one is most certainly that, is that Coogler not only crafted a script that shows the complexity and realities of these characters, but he also cast the correct people in the roles. Actors and actresses that carried and added to the films weighty, emotional story with honesty, and brought the characters true lives to the forefront. There was no phoniness. Jordan is on his way to being a star in Hollywood and most likely an Academy Award nominee this year for his performance here. It is all in his eyes and body movement. Oscar is a man in desperate turmoil, change and Jordan gives him so much depth, feeling and a genuine sense of reality. It never felt fake or untruthful. You can see in every step, speech, hug and look that Jordan truly gave his all for this role and wanted to pay tribute to the man that was the result of a thuggish, senseless murder by the police.
     The rest of the cast is brilliant as well, with Octavia Spencer standing out the most. She played Wanda, Oscar's Mother, and what a performance she gives. In a flashback scene where we see her visiting her son in prison, it was one of the most emotional honest, finest acted scenes I have seen all year. She is brutally truthful with her son once he becomes angry with his mother. He is complaining that she has not done anything for him and he is acting like a young, scared man in prison. She is having a tremendously difficult time telling Tatiana where her father is and how she is handling him being gone. She holds her emotions and walks out, without acknowledging Oscar as she leaves. She declares she is not coming back to this prison anymore and will see her son when he is released. She does not want to see her baby like this again. It is completely riveting and Spencer gives an unbelievable performance. She is the rock in this film. She holds everyone together at the end when Oscar is in the hospital but is completely devastated by the loss of her son. A knockout in this movie. Diaz also holds her own and is honestly compelling. So much range she shows in this film.
     Coogler's film does lay on the emotions pretty thick, but it got to me in that teary eye way. It was a depiction of a man that was by no means perfect, but was hopefully attempting to get his life back together. The dynamic complexity he showed by giving Oscar so much heart for wanting to be with and playing with his daughter, and calling his Mother constantly on her birthday, expressing his love for her showed one side. He countered that with Oscar not having a job and being too scared and immature to not only keep a job with a family but to also continually lie about it to everyone. Yes, the ending is as sad as ever and the two cops, Caruso and Ingram (Kevin Durand & Chad Michael Murphy) are evil people that made a terrible decision, but you feel for Oscar's daughter, girlfriend and Mother. That emotion is unquestionable and Coogler has brought a balanced, fine debut of a film. Hopefully he continues to make films that show his undeniable talent and does not get sucked into to the Hollywood system. A true talent has arrived.
     Ryan Coogler's Frutivale Station is an impactful film. I am not going to say he was blatantly attempting to make any social or political points but if you were not torn up inside emotionally and angry as hell at the actions of the police there is something wrong with you. The story is told so well and for myself, the film never got bogged down since the outcome was already known. Coogler's delicate directing and writing, along with standout performances from Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer, brought respect to Oscar Grant's life. The decisions we make in life will always have consequences, good or bad. We can only hope that we leave enough for our families and friends that keeps our lives going whether we are alive or dead. Oscar was a troubled but loving man that left this earth far too soon. Thankfully these filmmakers have brought to a successful triumph a film that honestly portrays the man.