Quick Reviews: Indie Summer Roundup 
Reviews by Mitchell Burns

Movies Reviewed: The Way, Way Back, Fruitvale Station, Blackfish and The Kings of Summer


In a Summer full of Monsters fighting Robots, Lone Rangers and Benedict Cumberbatch playing secret villains, I welcome some indie freshness. The three indie movies I’ve chosen to review are a small batch of movies among a field of Summer indie movies I’ve yet to see. Movies like Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, In a World…, Before Midnight, Short Term 12, Drinking Buddies, Frances Ha and The Spectacular Now are some that I haven’t been able to see yet, but I will. 

Without further ado, here are my thoughts and opinions on four indie movies from the Summer of 2013, some of which may end up on my favorite movies of 2013 list. 

The Way, Way Back
Directed by: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Starring: Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Zoe Levin and Liam James. 

The Way, Way Back is the first indie movie of the summer that I saw, luckily it was or else I probably would have liked it less. The Way, Way Back stars a fairly newcomer, Liam James, in a sea of well-known actors. Liam James plays, Duncan, a quiet 14 year old who is forced go with his mother (Toni Collette), her new boyfriend (Steve Carrell) and the boyfriend’s daughter (Zoe Levin). 


Duncan doesn’t want to go to the cottage, he hates his moms boyfriend, and rightfully so. Steve Carell plays a completely unlikable asshole, almost to the point that it’s difficult to see what Toni Collette’s character sees in him. Despite not wanting to be there, he finds a job he loves at a water park, ran by a loveable screw up named Owen (Sam Rockwell). Rockwell does his typical, hilarious character, and Owen becomes like a father figure for Duncan. The entire cast is wonderful, including the ones I haven’t spoke of yet, Allison Janney as a drunken neighbour, her daughter (AnnaSophia Robb), and Maya Rudolph as an employee at the waterpark. 
This movie is a sweet and heartfelt coming of age movie, it treads familiar paths we’ve seen far too many times but it does so with a great cast and funny performances from Rockwell and Janney. It sweetly tells a story that shows the bonds between mother and son, dealing with a parents new love interest, relationships and the summer. It doesn’t get an A grade from me because of it’s all too familiar territory and predictable moments, but it’s definitely movie that I would re-watch, laugh and be entertained. 


Grade: B+

Fruitvale Station
Directed by: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Durand, Chad Michael Murray, Ariana Neal, Ahna O’Reilly

The thing about this movie is I hadn’t watched a single trailer, or heard anything about the plot before

seeing it. I had heard it was great, and that Michael B. Jordan, best known for his roles in “The Wire” and “Friday Night lights” was great. Fruitvale Station is based on a true story that happened in 2008, and they give away the ending in the first scene of the movie, but even still I will just talk about the main plot points and give no spoilers. 

Fruitvale Station is about a man named Oscar Grant; Oscar is a hard working father to a young girl named Tatiana (Ariana Neal). He’s dating Tatiana’s mother Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and trying to prove himself as a changed man after having quite the troubled past. The entire movie takes place one day, that day happens to be New Year’s Eve, which is also Oscars Mothers (Octavia Spencer) birthday. 
That’s all I will say about the plot. Michael B. Jordan plays Oscar with strength and conviction that you admire his character immensely, that alone makes everything in the movie mean so much more. The director Ryan Coogler not only gets a great performance out of Michael B. Jordan, but Octavia Spencer, Melonie Diaz and even Ariana Neal are all great. 
Fruitvale station is just captivating, most of the movie may come across as almost boring, and I don’t know what it was, Maybe Jordan’s performance, but I was never bored or uninterested. If the end doesn’t leave you in tears, you may want to get a checkup, because you don’t have a heart.

My Grade: A

Blackfish
Documentary
Directed by: Gabriela Cowperthwaite 
Starring: Tilikum, Dawn Brancheu 

Do you remember in February of 2010 when a woman named Dawn Brancheu was killed by a killer whale at SeaWorld? I remember. The documentary Blackfish tells the story of Tillikum, Tillikum is the Bull orca responsible for Dawn Brancheu’s death. Blackfish delves into the world of marine mammals in captivity, specifically Orcas. 


Blackfish rounds up a bunch of  former Sea world trainers, many of whom worked with Dawn and have much experience with the world of Orca training and captivity. Blackfish compiles old training videos, videos of past orca show, and even old SeaWorld commercials. Blackfish is packed full of appalling facts and knowledge, its views may be slightly one sided, never showing the positives of places like SeaWorld, but are there any?
Blackfish is so grim, heart wrenching, and shocking that you will be left with a feeling of complete hopelessness. It’s a must watch, and I can say with complete truthfulness that I will never, ever go back to SeaWorld or any other park with marine animals in captivity. 

My Grade: A

The Kings of Summer
Directed by: Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring: Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullaly, Allison Brie, Erin Moriarty, Marc Evan Jackson, and Eugene Cordero

The Kings of Summer is another coming of age movie in a summer full of them. It follows a 15 year old named Joe Toy (Nick Robinson) who lives with his single Father (Nick Offerman), they’re both struggling to understand each other and live under the same roof since the passing of Joe’s mother. Joe has a best friend named Patrick (Gabriel Basso) whose parents (Megan Mullaly and Marc Evan Jackson) are overbearing and annoying (but funny to the viewers). Joe and Patrick, and another boy they barely know named Biaggio (Moises Arias), run away from home and decide to live in the woods. They build a house and semi-learn to live in the wild. The hardest part for these teens won’t be navigating a world without parents or easily attainable food; it will be learning to live with each other. 


About halfway through the movie I decided I didn’t like it, the second act doesn’t overly work. There were laughs that fell completely flat for me. The Kings of Summer asks you to believe a lot, for example, a kid who can barely build a birdhouse at the beginning, can inexplicably build a pretty great house in the middle of the woods. I found the way these teens act to be occasionally against type or unbelievable. 
The second act is full of montages with indie music playing, and at times the movie leaves you basically watching kids playing in the woods, which would be completely unentertaining if it weren’t so beautifully shot. My Fiancé, who watched it with me asked “Why would these kids run away from home?” and I agreed with her. The kid’s home lives weren’t all that bad but when you’re a 15 year old boy, small things seem a lot worse. 
So, despite all of its problems, I kind of fell in love with the movie again by the third act. There’s conflict and resolution to conflict that is so damn entertaining, truthful and raw that you can’t help but fall in love with it. I connected with Joe during the third act, I understood his pain and I was on board. On top of the drama, the movie is hilarious. Nick Offerman, Megan Mullaly and Allison Brie bring the humor, but it’s the unknown Eugene Cordero who will have you on the floor laughing. By the end I forgave The Kings of Summers faults and found myself kind of loving it. 


My Grade: B+ 

Thanks for Reading,
Mitch Burns, The Hollywood Persona 

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