42

42-poster

 

Sports holds in its annals some of the most inspiring events in human history. The story of Jackie Robinson stands on its own as a story of immense courage, and illustrates how one person truly can make a change, and see that change through much tribulation.

Brian Helgeland (A Knights Tale) does not have a Directorial resume to stand up to any big-time Hollywood Director, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Taking on a project like this, and telling the story of such an important individual is, in my opinion, a gutsy move. But Helgeland handled it well. He created what may very well be the best picture of the year so far. The story follows, of course, Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) who plays baseball in the negro leagues. He is recruited by Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), an executive for the Brooklyn Dodgers, to try out for the Montreal Royals, a farm team to the Brooklyn Dodgers. He makes the team and is eventually picked up by the Dodgers after he proves himself. Along the way, Robinson proposes to his girlfriend, Rachel (Nicole Beharie) who accepts. Robinson faces immense opposition as he is the only colored player in a league of white men. Branch sticks with his guy, offering encouragement when needed. Eventually, Robinson comes to gain the respect of his teammates, and is key to their clinching the National League Pennant for the 1947 season.

I could name a few sports films that I like better than this, but rest assured that “42” deserves some respect. Harrison Ford is on top of his game (no pun intended) in his role as Branch Rickey. He has a few really key scenes in the film that are crucial to the growth of Robinson in becoming the player he was. Boseman, who has done a lot of work in television, and is a relatively unknown actor was wonderful in his role as Jackie Robinson. He really embraced what Robinson was all about. The emotion that he displays on screen, especially when he was being harassed by Manager Ben Chapman (Alan Tudyk) of the Philadelphia Phillies was gripping. Robinson was not only superhuman in the way that he played the game, but he was superhuman in how he handled the opposition he faced in becoming a part of the game. Beharie is perfect in the role of Rachel Robinson. She didn’t take the role over the top, which I feel like she easily could have done, given the circumstances her character is put in. She is a solid support system for her husband, who looks to her regularly for support. Andre Holland who plays Wendell Smith, a reporter out of Detroit plays a crucial role as well. He asks Robinson at one point if he knows why he has to sit in the stands with his typewriter on his lap. He states that it is because he is not allowed in the press box because of the color of his skin, and reiterates to Robinson that he is fighting for a lot more than just himself.

I found it interesting that the number 42 is the only number ever to be retired in Major League Baseball. Robinson deserves the recognition that he has been given. He changed the game of baseball, and helped propel forward equality amongst human beings, a battle that is still being fought today. This was a wonderful film that should not be missed, whether you are a fan of baseball or not. Well done.

 

– David B. Harrington

Evil Dead (2013)

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The poster for this film very boldly states that this is “The most terrifying film you will ever experience”. I don’t know that my horror education has led me to believe that this is the most terrifying film I have ever experienced, but it may very well be the goriest. Fede Alvarez leaves very little to the imagination in his 2013 revamp of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead”. The film follows five friends who join one another at a remote cabin where one of them is trying to kick a drug habit. Her brother, who hasn’t been around much over the years, comes out as a part of the group to help her out. She literally throws her stash down into a well and declares that she is going cold turkey. She quickly acts out, and her friends think that she is experiencing withdrawals from the drug addiction, but the soon find out that it is much more than that. An ancient book of evil has been unearthed, and the five at the cabin soon face that evil head on when one of the five summons the evil by reciting some of the book’s contents.

I grew up on classic horror. Aside from the older Bela Lugosi section of the genre, my education came from Kubrick, Craven, Carpenter, and Raimi just to name a few. I don’t know that there is a lot of originality left in storytelling and filmmaking, as much as there is re-inventing. That is what takes place here. This film does not have as much of the campy feel that its predecessor boasted, but rather displays more of a shock factor, and a somewhat more well thought out story. There are several scenes in this film that will leave even the most seasoned horror fan questioning if they should have eaten just before viewing it. Alvarez wanted to stay away from CGI and give the viewer a lot more intense, realistic experience. I shudder when I say that he achieved that at a very high level. I am going to stay away from spoilers in this review, and let you (if it’s your thing) go see this for yourself.

My cousin (whom I went and saw the film with) offered up a really interesting interpretation to the story. Mia (Jane Levy) who is kicking her drug habit, shows all the signs of addiction to her drug. She shows signs of hope, and definite signs of withdrawal, and throughout the film we see this progression through her desired change. As a part of the process (as with any drug user trying to kick the habit) she literally faces her demons, and has to conquer those before she can truly be free. It makes perfect sense if you watch the film from this perspective. The original film does not take this approach, and we don’t get a lot of backstory on this book of evil like we do this time around. If you are a fan of the original, there is a fun tidbit to wait for after the credits.

While I appreciate some of the elements of this film, including a new way to present this story, I don’t know that I can say I liked it. It’s akin to a really bad car accident in that what you are seeing is making you sick, but you can’t look away. This one belongs to the die hard horror film addicts. And that is just fine.

 

– David B. Harrington