“42″ My rating: B (Opening wide on April 12)
128 mintues | MPAA rating: PG-13
The race-redefining rise of Jackie Robinson from the Negro Leagues to the long-segregated majors is the best American sports story ever.
So I wish I could report that the new movie “42” is among the greatest sports movies ever.
Oh, it’s not a bust. Newcomer Chadwick Boseman gives a star-making performance as the young Jackie and the picture establishes an authentic sense of time and place. It shows all the racist b.s. Robinson had to put up with as the first black man to play in Major League Baseball.
It’s just that this effort from writer/director Brian Helgeland (whose resume runs from penning the screenplay for “L.A. Confidential” to directing the brutal noir thriller “Payback”) is is generally effective but rarely inspired. It’s so sincere and straightforward that artistry hardly figures into the equation.
Helgeland clearly wanted his movie to bring Robinson’s story to a younger generation that most likely never heard of the Dodgers’ No. 42. He hasn’t dumbed things down, exactly, but it’s a conservative approach — more a teaching moment than a fully-committed cinematic immersion.
The movie does a good job of delivering the sailiant points of the Jackie Robinson legend, but overall it’s a cautious movie, one that goes out of its way to be nonthreatening, to hold the young viewers’ hands, to guide them through a world they are ignorant of or have avoided learning about.
The film boils down to a conspiracy between two men.
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Posted in Popcorn movies | Tagged Branch Rickery, Brooklyn Dodgers, Harrison Ford, Jackie Robinson | 5 Comments »
“TRANCE” My rating: C- (Opening wide on April 12)
101 minutes | MPAA rating: R
Danny Boyle is like that little girl with the curl. When’s he’s good (“Trainspotting,” “Shallow Grave,” “28 Days Later,” “`127 Hours”) he’s very good.
And when he screws up – as with “A Life Less Ordinary” and now “Trance” – he’s awful.
“Trance” is a crime thriller so overthought and overwrought that it no longer makes any sense.
It begins with London auction house underling Simon (James McAvoy) attempting to save a precious Goya painting from a gang of crooks who have taken over the premises. In the process he gets banged on the noggin and awakens with no memory of what he’s done with the painting.
This is particularly galling to Frank (Vincent Cassel), the creepily threatening chief robber. You see, Simon was in on the caper and was to have delivered the painting for a fat cut of the proceeds. And now we’re supposed to believe he forgot where he put the goods?
After yanking out all of Simon’s fingernails, Frank is forced to admit that this may be a genuine case of amnesia. He sends Simon to hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson), hoping that she can unlock the secrets in her patients’ skull.
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Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Danny Boyle, James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel | Leave a Comment »
“THE SAPPHIRES” My rating: B (Opens April 5 )
103 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
Even with its flaws “The Sapphires” is a charmer. Heck, the flaws even make it more loveable.
This Down Under comedy from Aussie TV director Wayne Blair is based on real events: In 1968 a quartet of aboriginal women went on tour in Vietnam performing soul music for American troops .
“The Sapphires” (that’s the name they gave themselves) isn’t a terribly polished effort…and that’s a good thing. There’s a slightly ragged, hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-show quality to the proceedings. Most of the performances are low-keyed and unforced – borderline nonprofessional, in fact – but that only makes the experience more realistic.
And if the filmmakers display an occasionally heavy hand in serving up some social issues, at least the movie has more on its mind than just chucking us under the chin.
Best of all, at the center as the group’s hustling manager is Irish import Chris O’Dowd, a master of drollery who steals his every scene.
Even in a cast heavy with comedy talent, O’Dowd stood out in 2011’s “Bridesmaids” (he was the funny/sweet and wholly original state trooper who stalked Kristen Wiig’s character). In “The Sapphires” he cements the deal.
As Dave Lovelace, a pop music fanatic and all-around reprobate, he’s a slacker before there was a name for them, a deep pool of generally useless musical trivia, and an earnest romantic when the right woman comes along.
He does all this without even trying.
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Posted in Popcorn movies | Tagged aboriginees, Australia, Chris O'Dowd, soul music, Vietnam War | Leave a Comment »
Elle Fanning, Alice Englert
“GINGER & ROSA” My rating: B- (Opening April 5 at the Glenwood at Red Bridge)
90 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
When confronted by someone of fierce political and social commitment – particularly if their bent is way to the left – I always wonder if they’re really that dedicated to the cause or whether the cause fills some desperate void in their life.
You don’t have to wonder for too long in Sally Potter’s “Ginger & Rosa,” a film about an impressionable and innocent London teen who converts her anger and anxiety over personal betrayals into a righteous anti-nuke crusade.
The girls of the title are among the first of Britain’s post-war baby boomers. It’s 1962 and Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert, daughter of director Jane Campion) are coming of age beneath the threat of nuclear annihilation.
On one level they’re just regular kids who listen to rock ‘n’ roll, giggle conspiratorially, dream about boys and shrink their new blue jeans by wearing them into the bathtub.
On another level, though, the two young friends are nascent radical activists, terrified of dying in a radioactive mushroom cloud and determined to do something about it.
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Posted in Art house fare | Tagged alessandro nivola, ban the bomb, Elle Fanning, nuclear disarmament, sally potter | 4 Comments »
Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Malina
“LORE” My rating: B (Opening May 3 at )109 minutes | No MPAA rating
You’re born into a world of privilege and comfort. You grow up thinking you’re superior, that you’re entitled to all the good that comes your way.
And then it ends. Abruptly and forever.
That’s the situation facing five German children in “Lore,” Cate Shortland’s quietly devastating tale of siblings struggling to survive in the last days of World War II.
From the time of their births Lore (Saskia Rosendahl), Liesl (Nele Trebs), Gunther (Andre Frid) and Jurgen (Mika Seidel) have lived a blessed existence as the children of a high-ranking Nazi official.
Now their father (Hans-Jochen Wagner) has returned to kiss them goodbye. The war is lost. The Americans, Russians and British are advancing and Papa’s work in the concentration camps makes him a marked man. Continue Reading »
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Sam Riley as Sal Paradise/Jack Keroac; Garrett Hedlund as Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady
“ON THE ROAD” My rating: B (Opens March 29 at the Glenwood Arts)
124 minutes | MPAA rating: R
“That’s not writing. It’s typing.”
Such was Truman Capote’s withering critique of Jack Keroac’s “On the Road.”
Having long assumed that Keroac’s stream-of-consciousness beat odyssey was unfilmable, I was pleasantly surprised by Brazilian director Walter Salles’ intelligent, sensitive and evocative new screen adaptation.
Not that it’s going to please everyone. Like the novel, the film lacks anything like a conventional plot, being a series of episodes experienced over several years and a half-dozen cross-country treks by its protagonist, wannabe writer Sal Paradise.
But Salles, who has given us the Oscar-nominated “Central Station” and “The Motorcycle Diaries” (about the early travels of the young Che Guevera), finds a narrative and visual style that mimics the book’s pleasant ramblings and heartfelt rants. It’s not perfect, but it’s about as good a screen version of this controversial American classic as we’re likely to see.
In large part that’s due to Garrett Hedlund’s superb (I’m tempted to use the word “monumental”) portrayal of Dean Moriarty, the womanizing, overindulging, incredibly charismatic figure based on Keroac’s real-life friend Neal Cassady.
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Posted in Art house fare | Tagged elizabeth moss, garrett hedlund, jack keroac, Kirsten Dunst, kristen stewart, viggio mortensen | Leave a Comment »
“SPRING BREAKERS” My rating: C+ (Now playing wide)
93 minutes | MPAA rating: R
I’m going to give filmmaker Harmony Korine the benefit of the doubt and argue that his college-coeds-on-a-grand-Florida-debauch epic “Spring Breakers” is more than just exploitation, that behind its lurid face it has some serious stuff on its mind.
At least for now. That could change.
This spring break yarn, told with jittery methhead editing, blaring rap and a veritable cornucopia of pulsating navels and breasts, begins with four childhood friends – played by Disney Channel veterans Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson (of ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars”) and Rachel Korine (the filmmaker’s wife) – sitting around their nearly empty college campus and grousing because they haven’t enough money to go on spring break to Florida.
(For the record, their campus has palm trees, so it’s not like they’re stuck in some icebound New England hellhole or anything.)
Three of these young women, whose names I never caught (names aren’t important here…nor is character development or common sense), decide to make a quick buck by disguising themselves in ski masks and matching pink sweatshirts and robbing a local all-night restaurant with realistic-looking squirtguns. They really get into the deception, threatening and abusing diners like veteran psychopaths.
Evidently all those first-person-shooter video games are paying off.
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Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Harmony Korine, Selena Gomez, Spring Break, Vanessa Hudgens | 5 Comments »