We’re getting nearer and nearer to the time of year when Oscar-bait films are released, and we may have the first one with Fruitvale Station (82), which may get the indie slot that has been occupied by Precious and Beasts of the Southern Wild. The story of a black man shot by police, which has a special resonance given a certain verdict announced tonight, it may get a lot of mentions during awards season. A. O. Scott: “Even as it unfolds with a terrible sense of inevitability, “Fruitvale Station” is rarely predictable. The climactic encounter with BART police officers erupts in a mood of vertiginous uncertainty, defusing facile or inflammatory judgments and bending the audience’s reflexive emotional horror and moral outrage toward a necessary and difficult ethical inquiry. How could this have happened? How did we — meaning any one of us who might see faces like our own depicted on that screen — allow it?”
Multiplex offerings vary from Grown-Ups 2 (20), which proves H.L. Mencken’s point that you won’t go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, and Pacific Rim (65), a big monster/robot movie from Guillermo Del Toro. I didn’t see Grown-Ups, which I would consider a form of torture, and I imagine this is no improvement. Andy Webster: “This is pap, plain and simple: scattered raunch-lite devoid of emotional resonance. At best, it sells itself on the spectacle of a TV show’s cast reunion — and even then it disappoints.”
As for Pacific Rim, I heard an interview with Del Toro where he articulately talks about his love of Japanese monster movies. I wonder, though, if that comes across in the film, which some are calling pretty dumb. What happened to the Del Toro who made The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth? Scott: “If you walk in expecting subtlety, or even novelty, you may find yourself more tormented than entertained. But “Pacific Rim” is also a reminder — either just in time or much too late — that this kind of movie can and should be fun.”
Other films this week include Crystal Fairy (66), a drug-infused road movie about two American in the Chilean desert, Viola (90), about bohemians in Buenos Aires, The Hunt (78), starring Mads Mikkelson as a teacher suspected of being a pedophile, and a movie that sounds absolutely dreadful, The Hot Flashes (36), starring Brooke Shields and Daryl Hannah in a tale of middle-aged women forming a basketball team.