MOVIE REVIEWS: Smurff 2 & Fruitvale Station

The Smurf’s 2: Turns Paris Blue


           by Sandra Olmsted

Those delightfully blue creatures are back, and they’re taking Paris by storm. While Smurfette (voice of Katy Perry) mopes because she’s convinced that all the other Smurfs forgot her birthday, Gargamel (voice of Hank Azaria) needs the secret of creating Smurfs to save his career as a magician and creates two Naughties, pale unSmurfy critters.

He hopes to use them to get Smurfette who holds the secret of turning non-smurfs into Smurfs. Gargamel only wants Smurfette’s secret so that he can turn his Naughties into Smurfs and suck the Smurfiness out of them to power his magic show. His naive Naughties, Vexy (voice of Christina Ricci), a pale-skinned, punk-rocker version of Smurfette, and Hackus (voice of JB Smoove), who is none too bright, kidnap Smurfette, which, of course, brings all the Smurfs running to the rescue.

When Papa Smurf (voice of Jonathan Winters, in his final film role) and the Smurfs hit Paris, its amusing excitement in the City of Lights. For those who enjoyed the high jinx of the first big-screen adventure of the world’s favorite blue creatures, The Smurf’s 2 will be a delight. Returning director Raja Gosnell respectfully updates the original Smurfs of Belgian illustrator Peyo and adds just enough wit and humor to keep parents entertained.

The positive messages of the Papa Smurf still resonate: “It doesn’t matter where you came from. What matters is who you choose to be.” The live action and animation are again seamlessly interwoven, and the post-production 3D is well used but not spectacularly done; however, Paris is gorgeous through the lens of director of photography Phil Meheux.

The pitch-perfect vocal performances from Jonathan Winters, who passed away in April, joins the voices for returning and new characters, including Narrator Smurf (Tom Kane), Clumsy (Anton Yelchin), Grouchy (George Lopez) and Vanity (John Oliver), who team up with old friends and humans Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris) and Grace (Jayma Mays).

Stay for the credits because there’s one more scene at the end!  From Sony Pictures Releasing and presented by Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation, The Smurfs 2 is rated PG for some rude humor and action  and runs 105 minutes.  This delightful bit of blue nostalgia opened July 31. More of Olmsted’s reviews are available at www.theconematicskinny.com.

 

Smurffett is the voice of Katie Perry

Fruitvale Station: Emotion Writ Large


               by Sandra Olmsted

Writer-director Ryan Coogler, just 26, has taken a story ripped from the headlines and turns it into a deeply moving film that captures the flawed nature of human beings and evokes emotions ranging from sorrow to outrage because of the murder of Oscar Grant, 26, at Fruitvale Station in San Francisco on January 1, 2009. The film follows Oscar (played with sensitivity and humanity by Michael B. Jordan) for the last 24 hours of his life.

On his final day of life, Oscar tries to convince his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) that he wants only her despite some possible infidelity, promises his sister help with her rent, proves to be a great dad to his four-year-old daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal), and picks up seafood for his mother’s birthday party. Oscar also helps a young white women, Katie (Ahna O’Reilly), with a recipe for a fish fried despite the fact that her initial reaction is to shrink away from him because he is a young black man. Oscar persists and puts Katie on the phone with his Grandma Bonnie (Marjorie Shears), and eventually Katie see Oscar for the nice young man is.

During the course of the day, Oscar also tries unsuccessfully to get his job back and to save an injured dog. He also decides to stop dealing drugs. Coogler’s script uses a non-chronological structure and, in a nod to the documentaries that usually tell these true life stories, starts with cell phone footage of Oscar’s murder at the hands of overzealous police. Coogler’s film also moves fluidly through time to include events in Oscar’s life, such as his mother Wanda (Octavia Spencer) visiting him in prison New Year’s Eve 2007. There’s the family dinner to celebrate Wanda’s birthday, and then Wanda convinces Oscar to take public transit to New Year’s Eve events downtown. Would Oscar’s resolution to get his life together have borne for fruit? Sadly, Wanda, Sophina, Tatiana, and Grandma Bonnie will never know.

Although some will find the emotional tenor of the film manipulative, I found Coogler’s film to be an emotionally honest portrayal that may or may not exaggerate the events in Oscar’s final day when Coogler reveals the events that stole Oscar’s life. While the events may or may not be accurate, the emotions are exactly right. I am not a fan of tearjerkers, and Fruitvale Station is not a tearjerker. The viewers might want ot grab a few extra napkins for the tears they should shed, if not for Oscar, at he very least for those who loved him.

The performances are exceptional, and Wanda is wrought from motherly emotions from indignation and tough love to grief and guilt by Octavia Spencer. Spencer has just the right chemistry with Jordan, and both their performance are certain to get Academy Award consideration. The rest of the extended Grant family is portrayed perfectly by a number of very talented African American and Latino/Latina actors and actresses, who are directed with a light but steady touch by Coogler, who should also get Academy consideration.

Whatever criticisms that one might have about the topic, the theme, and/or the artistic merits of Coogler’s debut film, the emotions, and film is about emotion, are raw and connect the viewer to the fate of Oscar Grant, the good son, great dad, wannabe husband, and flawed human being, who suffered a terrible injustice. Coogler’s script and film beg the audience to see beyond skin to the person and the content of the man’s character. Where protests and riots fail, perhaps art can succeed.

Fruitvale Station, released by The Weinstein Company, runs 90 intense minutes and is rated R for some violence, language throughout and some drug use. Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, which has already won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival, is in theaters now.  More of Olmsted’s reviews can be found at www.thecinematicskinny.com

 

 

 

 

 



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