Aug. 01--"Fruitvale Station" is a polished and confident film from first-time director Ryan Coogler, who also wrote the screenplay. It's a powerful piece of filmmaking that is full of raw energy -- a movie that will stay with you long after the closing credits roll.
"Fruitvale Station" is based on the true story of Oscar (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old who was involved in an incident with Bay Area Rapid Transit officers in the early morning of Jan. 1, 2009 -- an event that sent shockwaves throughout the community and entire country.
The film follows Oscar through the day leading up to this event, showing a man trying to provide a better life for his girlfriend (Melonie Diaz) and young daughter while trying to make amends for past indiscretions.
Coogler's film has been compared to "Boyz n the Hood," the 1991 directorial debut of John Singleton. Those comparisons are justified, with both films capturing the struggles of urban life and how one action can have serious consequences.
But "Fruitvale Station" has a little more impact, with the real-life story providing an emotional backdrop to connect with the audience.
Coogler's directorial work is simple, with the camera serving as a window into the life of a genuinely good, but ultimately flawed, person. The tragedy in the film is that the audience gets to see glimpses of promise for a better life for Oscar and his family, only to see that promise come to a crashing halt in an instant.
"Fruitvale Station" is the type of film that doesn't rush the story and at times could feel a little slow to some audiences. But it all builds to that one moment, which leads to a final 20 minutes that is as devastating as any film in recent memory.
It's powerful, tragic and in a way a thing of beauty. It's also one of the best films to date in 2013.
Opening this week
Another small summer release, "The Way, Way Back," (B) makes its debut in Bowling Green this weekend. It's a predictable coming-of-age film that works thanks to a really good cast.
"The Way, Way Back" follows Duncan (Liam James), a shy 14-year-old who is spending the summer at a beach house with his mother (Toni Collette) and her overbearing boyfriend (Steve Carell).
Duncan is having a hard time fitting in until he is befriended by Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manager of a water park, who helps Duncan find himself in a summer that will forever shape his future.
"Way, Way Back" is essentially a cross between "Adventureland" and "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" with a lot of elements from both movies. The familiarity is easy to take, however, because the film is full of so many good actors.
Rockwell is really good here, a likable kind of guy you would like to hang out with.
Carell is solid playing a character who is slightly darker than Carell usually plays. Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb and Maya Rudolph also have some good moments.
Sure, the story is predictable, but it is enjoyable, with a sweetness that just makes it all easy to take.
"The Way, Way Back" is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material and opens Friday at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12.
-- To get sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton's thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at mcompton.wordpress.com or his Twitter page at twitter.com/mcompton428. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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