Monday, April 29, 2013

42 (2013)

Rated: PG-13

Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie

Director: Brian Helgeland

Genre: Biopic 

To understand the institutionalized racism that existed in the United States prior to 1964, one must  appreciate the value of travel and education. During this shameful period in America's history, there were many whites--most notably in the south--who hadn't so much as popped open a book  or even traveled outside their home county.  Through education we learn about other cultures. Through  travel we are exposed to other cultures. The more we learn about and are exposed to other cultures, the more tolerant we usually become.  So--especially if you were born subsequent to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964--and still find it difficult to comprehend just what the HELL was wrong with people back then... the answer is that a good many of them were just rubes...and dumber than a stick.

It is said that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Unfortunately, ignorance WAS  the law during that era, and that's what Jackie Robinson came up against as  the first black   player to break the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947. 

42 is  a straightforward, feelgood rendering of the young Mr. Robinson's career, starting from his stint in the Negro Leagues,  up to and through being tapped by Branch Rickey-(Harrison Ford) -president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers--to join the team.  And  the rest, as they say, is history.  

It's not really a baseball movie--it's a film about triumph over adversity--and as such, with Mark Isham's stirring  music score that never lets up, the movie had the audience blubbering and sniffling all the way through. Why do people cry when they are feeling uplifted? That's beyond the scope of this review and beyond my pay grade!

42 pulls no punches in showing you much of the ugly harassment Jackie Robinson  (Chadwick Boseman) endured,  not only from fans and opposing teams, but from his own teammates as well. And then one of his teammates finally grows the balls to confront a manager who is spewing the "N" word from the opposing dugout, and we are off again feeling around for that second box of tissue. 

Newcomer Chadwick Boseman should be able to parlay his competent performance here into another major role somewhere.

Harrison Ford obviously studied Branch Rickey's folksy speech affectations, but he lays it on a bit thick here, and comes off as playing a character rather than being the character. Still, the innate decency of a man who was willing to take a stand and stick to his guns--changing societal attitudes forever--shines through.  

42 is no more or less than what I expected to see going in--the canonization of Jackie Robinson--but hey, the guy deserves it. That doesn't mean, however, that a movie as predictable and emotionally manipulative as this one deserves the highest grade.

I'm giving it a "B" for baseball!  

Grade:  B

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Rated: R

Stars: Ryan Gosling,  Bradley Cooper,  Eva Mendes,  Ray Liota,  Ben Mendelsohn,  Dane DeHaan,  Emory Cohen

Director: Derek Cianfrance

Genre: Drama

The first thing you should know about The Place Beyond The Pines is that it's too long.  Just in case you have a hairdresser appointment later in the day--you're going to have to furtively call on the cell phone you're not supposed to use in the theater and reschedule it. That's how long the movie is. 

But you get Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in the same film, so quit yer bellyachin!  These are two leading men, so ya gotta they gonna work this?  No problem--the first half of the movie belongs to Gosling,  and the second half belongs to Cooper. Probably the only way the two of them would agree to being in the same film together. 

So when I say The Place Beyond The Pines is essentially presented in two acts--and if you want to get technical, three acts--you can begin to understand why it's too long. The end of the first act is disconcerting, because you start to think it's the end of the movie, and you're saying, well, that was kinda short! Then you realize (if you are me) that the first part is a prologue  to the rest of the movie, which then takes off in another direction. So you hunker down for the rest of it, not knowing until near the end how it is all connected. And it is all connected...the movie just takes its time getting there.

The reason I'm speaking in generalities is because you can't go that far in describing the plot without giving too much away. But I'll give you this:   Luke (Gosling) is a motorcycle stunt driver working for the carnival.  One night after the show he is approached by former one-night-stand Romina, (Eva Mendes) who clues him in that he is now a papa. Instead of moving on with the carnival, Luke decides to hang around  and try to become  a presence in his son's life, which will be difficult because Romina is living with another guy. This is the first stupid thing Luke does. The second stupid thing is he becomes a bank robber to get some cash to lavish upon Romina and the boy. For a while it's easy money because Luke goes zoom zoom on his bike and gets away fast. But it's incredible just how stupid this guy is, and he is going to meet his match in young cop Avery Cross (Cooper). Avery also has a young son, and that is going to factor significantly into the rest of the plot .

 Fast forward fifteen years, and A Place Beyond The Pines becomes Avery's story. He has parlayed being a hero cop into a burgeoning political career for himself.  But kids are always acting out and embarrassing the folks, and Avery's teenage son, A.J., (Emory Cohen, as a young Brando type--he's one to watch) and Luke's teenage son, Jason, (Dane DeHaan) are going to carry forth the connection between Luke and Avery by proxy. looka've already made me tell you more than I wanted to.  STOP TAKING ADVANTAGE OF ME !    

Notable performances from Gosling and Cooper, but director Derek Cianfrance must have gotten so caught up in the intricacies of the plot that he forgot a few minor details--like aging the adult characters a little after that fifteen year skip forward. They all look the same. He DID remember to age the two boys--because...uh...they were just toddlers in the beginning--so that was some clear thinking there. 

Anyway, the  main thing I took away from The Place Beyond The Pines is that stupidity runs in the genes, and it often passes down through the generations. 

Oh, and did I mention it's kinda long?

Grade:  B--