Indie Snapshot: Fruitvale Station

by Ethan Alter July 12, 2013 5:55 am
Indie Snapshot: <i>Fruitvale Station</i>

The facts are these: just after midnight on January 1, 2009, a 22-year-old black man named Oscar Grant and several of his friends were detained by transit police offices while taking a BART train home from San Francisco to Oakland under suspicion of having participated in a fight aboard the train. While passengers looked on -- many filming the ensuing events with their cell phone cameras -- the suspects and the authorities traded heated words and eventually Grant was held down by two cops, one of whom drew his gun and shot him in the back. (During the ensuing trail, the officer claimed he confused his gun for his Taser.) Taken to a nearby hospital, Grant died of his wounds several hours later. Ryan Coogler's much-lauded Sundance favorite Fruitvale Station (named after the station where the shooting occurred) opens with actual cell phone-shot footage of this tragic incident, before rewinding time to the morning of New Year's Eve and dramatizing the hours leading up to Grant's fateful train ride in a noble effort to contextualize the life of a man who would become famous for the way that he died.

Five Reasons Why <i>Chronicle</i> is 2012′s First Great Comic Book Movie

Between The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises and... um, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, 2012 is shaping up to be the biggest year for comic-book movies in the genre's history. And while those giant-sized blockbusters are sure to provide plenty of F/X-driven spectacle (and, in the case of Chris Nolan's final Batman flick, some potentially provocative political commentary), perhaps the year's most intriguing, creatively ambitious superhero picture is the one that's not based on an established, long-running four-color title. I'm talking about Chronicle, the feature filmmaking debut of director Josh Trank and screenwriter Max Landis (son of John) that Fox is releasing in theaters today with surprisingly little fanfare. Applying the "found footage" conceit that's almost exclusively been used for horror movies ever since The Blair Witch Project to the story of three ordinary teenagers that accidentally acquire special powers, Chronicle has its issues (a complete lack of subtly chief among them) but overall it's a clever, entertaining spin on the typical superhero origin story. Here are five reasons why comic book fans should vote with their wallets this weekend and make Chronicle the year's first big hit.

Red Tails: Up, Up and Away

by Ethan Alter January 20, 2012 5:58 am
<i>Red Tails</i>: Up, Up and Away

Legend has it that for early test screenings of the first Star Wars movie, George Lucas substituted footage of World War II aerial dogfights in place of the not-yet-completed sequences pitting the Rebel Alliance's X-Wings against the Empire's fleet of TIE fighters. Now, three decades later, Lucas has made a full-fledged World War II movie about the Tuskegee Airmen, the celebrated squadron of African-American fighter pilots who defied the prejudice of the times and flew a number of crucial missions in the European theater of the war.

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