It’s mid-July and the summer movie season is flying by faster than a speeding bullet train. For those of you on board looking to view something other than superheroic theatrics and intergalactic space battles, we recommend making a special stop to see this weekend’s “Sleeper to See.”
THE MOVIE: Fruitvale Station
THE DIRECTOR: First-time writer-director Ryan Coogler
THE CAST: Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle), Melonie Diaz (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints), Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill) and Academy Award® winner Octavia Spencer (The Help).
THE STORY: Fruitvale Station is based on the true story of Oscar Grant (Jordan), a 22-year-old African-American tragically killed by Bay Area law enforcement on New Year’s Day, 2009. Instead of focusing on Oscar’s headline-making death, however, this film explores the last day in his life, as he strives to be a better son to his mother (Spencer), a better partner to his girlfriend Sophina (Diaz), and -- most importantly -- a better father to his four-year-old daughter, Tatiana (newcomer Ariana Neal).
WHY YOU SHOULD SEE IT: For those of you suffering a bit of superhero-saves-the-universe fatigue, this powerful drama confronts problems facing our real universe, including police corruption. Its star Michael B. Jordan has proven himself a young actor to watch on TV’s The Wire and in movies like Chronicle, but here he steps up to the leading-man plate and knocks it out of the park with a fiery performance that suggests he could be a next-gen Denzel Washington. Equally strong is Melonie Diaz as his no-nonsense girlfriend and Octavia Spencer as his world-weary mother.
THE BUZZ: Fruitvale Station set the film world abuzz when it took home the Grand Jury Prize for Best Dramatic Feature and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic Film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Now, those familiar or unfamiliar with the tragic story of Oscar Grant -- and the numerous videos of his wrongful shooting posted online -- can experience this extended and humanizing look at his life and loves. Oscar 2014, maybe?
IF YOU’RE A FAN OF: Summer may not be Hollywood’s preferred season for heavy drama, but there’s a solid precedent of African-American-themed dramas thriving during the season, including John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood, which debuted on this same weekend back in 1991. Fruitvale also recalls last July’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, which similarly depicted the relationship between a young black father and his daughter.