Smile Politely

What to Watch: August 5-9

Summer is winding down, people. Around this time, with school about to start and vacations coming to an end, studios usually resort to dumping whatever burnt, undigestible popcorn is left in the bottom of their respective buckets. And yet, this time around, there might just be some quality buttery goodness to enjoy.

From an inspiring music documentary to a gripping foreign thriller, from a socially-aware fantasy epic to an adrenalized buddy-movie shoot-em-up, there should be something for everyone. And for just a couple more days, Fruitvale Station is playing. Get on that.

Fruitvale Station (Savoy 16 IMAX): This film revolves around a day in the life ofstruggling family man, Oscar Grant, whose train ride on New Year’s Eve 2008 took a disastrous turn before dawn broke on New Year’s Day.

Why to Watch: Michael B. Jordan gives a completely natural and heartbreaking performance as Oscar Grant. He is not seeking to be loved or understood or even accepted by the world at large; he just wants to provide for his girlfriend and their daughter. The other performance that will likely move audiences is Octavia Spencer as Oscar’s mom. She may seem firm or bitter when you meet her, but this has to be the most organic portrayal of a mother and her relationship to her son that I have seen put to film in some time. Spencer may have won an Academy Award for her work in The Help, but in Fruitvale Station you learn how brightly she can actually shine as the guiding influence in Oscar’s life. See this film.

Showing through Wednesday, August 7, @ 11:10 AM, 1:15 PM, 3:20 PM, 5:25 PM, 7:30 PM, and 9:35 PM.

20 Feet from Stardom (The Art Theater Co-Op): This movie shows audiences that the legendary singers we love didn’t just have “help;” they had men and women behind them with equal talent, equal ambition, and equal heart.

Why to Watch: Until recently I never thought of background singers as more than a very polished-sounding trio or quartet of call-and-response artists. This perception was not only incorrect but also an insulting reduction of the capability of backup singers. Case in point: when I heard Judith Hill (who recently competed on NBC’s The Voice) sing with Michael Jackson. While I feel there is no male who can sing like the King of Pop (sorry, Ne-Yo…), Hill held her own against him. These singers were (and are) artists in their own right, creating signature harmonies that made so many legends in the music industry. This film will be music to your ears.

Showing August 5 & 7 @ 7:30 PM.

The Hunt (The Art Theater Co-Op): Opening August 9, this film features Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen as a teacher accused of assaulting a young child, causing his whole town to turn brutally against him.

Why to Watch: Since his appearance as the villain in Casino Royale, Mikkelsen has been a pretty mesmerizing screen presence. He’s a hard actor to classify, but there has always been something… unsettling about him. Perhaps that is the beauty of casting him in a role like this: a man who seems wrong somehow, who is put in the position of having to clear his name. The outcry of the townspeople, the insidiousness of rumors, and the power of Mikkelsen’s presence make this one worth watching.

Showtimes TBA. Check the Art website for more info.

2 Guns (Savoy 16 IMAX): Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg play undercover law enforcement agents who have become targets for criminals and their own government.

Why to Watch: It almost sounds like too much plot for one film, but the idea of Denzel and Marky Mark trading wisecracks and bullets in a big, crazy action movies is too good to resist. Each actors plays a good guy pretending to be a bad guy who believes that the other good guy is actually a bad guy. (Everybody with me?) After having been partners in crime, the two must team-up against their criminal contacts and the government agencies that sent them undercover in the first place.

Showing @ 11:45AM, 2:15 PM, 4:45 PM, 7:15 PM, and 9:45 PM

Elysium (Savoy 16 IMAX): Neill Blomkamp’s big-budget follow-up to the rivetingDistrict 9 is another action-packed sci-fi metaphor for social injustice.

Why To Watch: In addition to this film’s science-fantasy action sequences (metal exoskeletons riveted right onto people’s bodies…?) and A-list cast (Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley, and Jodie Foster), Elysium features a solid and compelling story of future one-percenters living in a floating paradise while the less fortunate literally work themselves to death on a sweltering, ruined Earth below. Matt Damon made himself one of the most bankable actors in the world in the smart, action-packed Bourne films; now he brings his proven brains and brawn to an epic, futuristic tale that will take its rightful place in the IMAX theater of the Savoy 16 on August 9.

First showing Thursday, August 8 @ 10:00 PM. Thereafter, check the Savoy 16 website.

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