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I was very moved by Ryan Coogler‘s film Fruitvale Station when it played Sundance under the title Fruitvale. Michael B. Jordan stars as Oscar, a young man detailed by police at an Oakland, CA BART station after a brawl on a train early on New Year’s Day. The night ended in tragedy, and the cell phone cameras carried by many witnesses documented an almost inexplicable display of police force.

The film succeeds by drawing a portrait of Oscar as a troubled young man with ambitions rather than pretending he was a saint. Jordan’s performance is impressive and he displays an incredible ability to express himself in bursts of energy without going outside the tone that Coogler generally strives to maintain. This first trailer gives you a good look at all of Oscar’s characteristics, from his serious problems to his best moments. It comes right up to the line of showing precisely how the night ended, and is a good primer for the film. Read More »

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Sundance Fave ‘Fruitvale’ Sets Summer Release

Fruitvale

Briefly: Every year at the Sundance Film Festival, there are a few films that come out of seemingly nowhere to blow everyone away. This year, one of the favorites was Fruitvale, from first-time feature director Ryan Coogler. The fact-based drama starred Michael B. Jordan (Friday Night Lights, The Wire) as Oscar Grant, a young Oakland man tragically killed by BART police officers on New Year’s Day 2009.

The Weinsteins quickly scooped up the Grand Jury Prize winner and set it for an October 18 release, but now they’ve bumped up the opening to July 26. Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and James Mangold’s The Wolverine are slotted to open on the same date. Click here to read Russ’ Sundance review of Fruitvale.

Any film fan should make it a point to attend the Sundance Film Festival at least once. Words can hardly describe the beauty of Park City, the camaraderie of the attendees, the smooth running machine that plays dozens of movies a day on screens all over town. And those movies. Oh, those movies. Some of the best films of the past 25 years have debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. The list has been well-documented and 2013 is likely to add at least a few to that incredible legacy.

At this year’s festival, I saw 34 movies. Not a staggering, superhuman number – remember I have to eat, sleep and write about these things – but a number to be proud of none the less. I saw comedies, dramas, foreign films, Hollywood films, sports films, happy films, sad films, black and white films, sex films, kids films. You name it; one of the movies I saw fits nearly any description you can muster.

I’ve picked my ten favorite films of the festival, with an asterisk. Though I saw 34 films, I missed probably 100 others, so this isn’t by any means definitive. But out of the movies that I thought looked interesting, or were buzzed about on the streets of Park City, these were the ten that I most enjoyed. Read More »

If a movie can be both gentle and scathing, Fruitvale is it. In this simple but stunningly effective film, first-time feature director Ryan Coogler responds to the shooting death of a 22-year old Oakland man at a BART station on New Year’s Day 2009. The writer/director recreates the horrific action in a straightforward manner that is largely free of hyperbole and excess emotional manipulation. The climax of the film is one of the most powerful sequences you’re likely to see on a movie screen this year. Read More »

Have you been following our coverage of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival? It’s been a crazy six days so far and with five days to go, who knows what great films are left to discover or get on your radar. So far, we’ve reviewed (or at least discussed) nearly 20 different movies that you will be talking about later this year and have plenty more on the way. Some of the highlights include Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, Zal Batmanglij and Brit Marling’s The East, Michael Cera in Crystal Fairy, the horror sequel S-VHS, Richard Linklater’s incredible Before Midnight and the controversial Escape from Tomorrow. Click on each of those for the reviews.

We also reviewed such buzzed about films as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon’s Addiction, the star-studded comedy The Way Way Back, and James Ponsoldt’s teen drama The Spectacular Now, all of which have been picked up for distribution. For everything else we’ve written so far, click on this link.

The latest films picked up for distrubution include Toy’s House, about a group of kids who run away from home and build a house in the woods, the tense real-life thriller Fruitvale and the Jack Kerouac/Daniel Radcliffe film Kill Your Darlings, the real life porn story Lovelace, David Gordon Green’s Paul Rudd/Emile Hirsch comedy Prince Avalanche, among others.

After the jump, read who picked those films up and which others you’ll be seeing in theaters soon. Read More »

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