Fruitvale Station (2013)

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The story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who crosses paths with friends, enemies, family, and strangers on the last day of 2008. (IMDb)
Not a huge fan of cell-phone graphics and I suppose in retrospect there might be a couple moments here too on-the-nose, but damn if this isn’t ultimately utterly beautiful and devastating in its execution. Naturalistic dialogue, excellent acting, and gorgeous handheld cinematography subtly portray Black beauty and heart poking their way through the cracks of white concrete (see the b-day dinner) only to be crushed mercilessly by the boot of racist law enforcement in a gut-wrenching final act.
9/10 (Amazing)

 

Onward (2020)

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Two elven brothers embark on a quest to bring their father back for one day. (IMDb)
Hits a lot of the familiar road trip story beats but the Americana x magical fantasy setting is a unique one (gorgeously animated) and provides a good share of memorable moments (most notably Guinevere’s heroism that had me in tears). The real gem of the film though is the last act featuring good ol’ (dragon-conquering) Mom and a completely unexpected, incredible, beautiful, heart-wrenching emotional climax (not the sweet but on-the-nose journal writing flashbacks but the silent view from afar).
7.5/10 (Really Good)

 

The Shape of Water (2017)

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At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity. (IMDb)
Any shallowness or slight weirdness of the central romance is swept away by the film’s superbly engaging storybook feel. Tasteful bits of narration (the ending poem is lovely) bookend a satisfyingly spun (and lovingly scored and shot) fairy tale of charming outsiders (Elisa’s the perfect “strong and silent” protagonist-see her “FU” to Strickland) and menacing monsters (the prejudice of the 50s setting adds an effective dramatic element). Whimsical humour and poignant recurring motifs top it off.
8.5/10 (Amazing)

 

Allegiant (2016)

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After the earth-shattering revelations of Insurgent, Tris must escape with Four beyond the wall that encircles Chicago, to finally discover the shocking truth of the world around them. (IMDb)
A great soundtrack makes things sound epic right from the tense first scene; unfortunately, it never gets substantiated by a story riddled with predictable (and sometimes confounding–see their premature celebration on top of the wall; letting Peter go at the end) characters (you knew David had a bad side), far-fetched revelations (see the genetic experiment) and technology (see the seemingly unlimited surveillance system), and contrived exposition (see the dialogue; Bureau entrance video).
5.5/10 (Poor)

Insurgent (2015)

Beatrice Prior must confront her inner demons and continue her fight against a powerful alliance which threatens to tear her society apart with the help from others on her side. (IMDb)
The second installment looks even better than the first with some really cool scenes from the “sims” in particular. Woodley is solid again and her character’s personal plight remains captivating, while Teller is fantastic as a bad guy/good guy/jerk and Winslet is again a great villain. All of that said, the film’s overload of easy and implausible plot movements throughout distracts from the great characters and prevents it from reaching the same level as its predecessor.
7/10 (Good)