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Flash Movie Review: Skateland

Though I grew up in a large metropolis, the neighborhood where I lived was pretty much self-contained. Besides knowing everyone who lived on the block, anything we needed was within walking distance from our home. My classmates and I grew up together through elementary school and into high school. It was funny, even with four other elementary schools being filtered in, all of us found a routine that carried us through the four years of high school. One of my friends and I would always meet up in the yearbook office on Tuesday afternoons to sit and catch up with each other. I knew never to go into the 3rd floor men’s bathroom on the far south side of the building because there was a gang of tough boys who hung out there to smoke cigarettes. Not until senior year did we all start to realize changes were coming. A friend of mine had to get a full-time job to help support his family, forgoing college. Some friends were going to out of state universities, others were going to the local city college; it was a scary time for me. I was going away to college and was nervous about living on my own. For a majority of people this was a natural rite of passage, which this dramatic coming of age film tried to show in a small Texas town. Shiloh Fernandez (The East, Red Riding Hood) played 19 year old Ritchie Wheeler. Content managing the local roller skating rink, Ritchie would be forced to look at his life when not only his circle of friends began to change but when his parents announced they were getting divorced. Set in the 1980s, this Sundance Film Festival nominated movie had a great soundtrack. The story started out slow for me, but I eventually found myself being interested in some of the characters. I thought Haley Ramm (Into the Wild, Flightplan) as Ritchie’s sister Mary and Ashley Greene (Twilight franchise, LOL) as Ritchie’s friend Michelle Burkham were a couple of the better actors in this drama. There have been coming of age stories done before, so I looked for this film to do something different; it really did nothing special in my opinion. I will say it was interesting to see teens in a small town going through similar things that took place in my city high school. Maybe I have had a slight prejudice towards small town living, but I did not see a real difference in the manner in which individuals from both ways of living reacted to the same situation. We really are creatures of habit aren’t we?

 

2 stars — DVD

Flash Movie Review: Fruitvale Station

The guards go after the one that is not bloody. This was told to a friend of mine, who was doing one on one work with a prison inmate. The prisoner was told if he got into a fight he should not fight back, for the guards assume the non-bloody combatant was the instigator. I was surprised to hear the guards would act on assumptions before facts; but then, I realized so many people make assumptions solely based on a person’s looks. In grade school when teams had to be formed during gym, I was usually one of the last ones to be picked. I was large and uncomfortable with my size. However, during a game of Bombardment my classmates discovered I could throw a fast accurate ball. For all future games I suddenly was picked much earlier to be on someone’s team. Even today I am sensitive about people who make assumptions. In the scheme of things my experiences were trivial compared to the events in this powerful movie, based on a true story. Twenty-two year old Oscar Grant with his girlfriend Sophina, played by Michael B. Jordan (Red Tails, Chronicle) and Melonie Diaz (Be Kind Rewind, Raising Victor Vargas), decided to take the train into the city to celebrate New Year’s Eve with their friends. It was a ride that would shake up the California Bay Area community. Not knowing anything about this story, I do not know how accurate it was with its portrayal of the events that took place. From a movie standpoint, I thought the acting was raw and real. Michael and Octavia Spencer (The Help, Seven Pounds), who played his character’s mother Wanda, were incredible. Kevin Durand (Real Steel, I Am Number Four) as Officer Caruso was so good he scared me. The hand held filming with its shakiness did not work for me except in the scenes on the train. Overall I thought the story was well presented except for a few parts that seemed unnecessary, like the dog scene. This Sundance and Cannes Film Festival winner could be used as a case study on the effects perceptions and assumptions have on society. There were a couple of brief scenes where blood was shown.

 

3 1/4 stars

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