Friday, July 12, 2013

Two at the Four Star

I saw two films in April & May at the 4 Star Theater.

42 starring Chadwick Boseman & Harrison Ford; directed by Brian Helgeland; (2013) - Official Website
The Place Beyond the Pines starring Ryan Gosling & Bradley Cooper; with Eva Mendes & Ray Liotta; directed by Derek Cianfrance; (2013) - Official Website

42 refers to the Jackie Robinson's uniform number.  The city of Schenectady (New York) is derived from the Mohawk word which means "the place beyond the pines."  General Electric was founded in Schenectady and having done business with GE, I know the zip code for their facility in Schenectady is 12345.

42 was a biopic of baseball player Jackie Robinson.  Robinson, of course, from Major League Baseball color barrier in 1947 with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  He had to endure blatant racism from the fans, his opponents and even his own teammates.  Robinson was selected by Dodgers GM Branch Rickey because he felt Robinson could hold his temper.  If Robinson lashed out, Rickey felt it would set the cause of integration of baseball back by several years.  Robinson was given strict order not to retaliate or complain.

All this I knew before seeing 42 and I didn't gain any new knowledge from watching 42.  Honestly, Chadwick Boseman's by-the-numbers portrayal of Robinson didn't really add much to my knowledge or the film.  As far as biopics go, 42 was plain vanilla with very little "value added."  Unimaginative and plodding, I find the film to be a bore which is a shame given that Robinson's story is so interesting. Christopher Meloni as Leo Durocher and Alan Tudyk as Phillies' manager Ben Chapman added some flashy scenes.  Durocher was suspended before Robinson's inaugural season for associating with known gamblers.  Durocher lived a colorful life.  He was having an open affair with actress Laraine Day who was married at the time.  Chapman was blatant racist and shouted taunts at Robinson when the Phillies played the Dodgers.  His vitriol was so severe that he was forced to apologize to Robinson.  Tudkyk's scenes were among the most powerful in the film.

The Place Beyond the Pines has been much discussed.  I'm feeling a little fatigued after so many consecutive days of posting to this site.  Gosling plays a bank robber, Cooper plays the cop who shoots him and the film follows their lives as well as their two sons a decade and a half after the shooting.

Gosling is getting a lot of praise for his performance.  His character reminds me of the role he played in Drive.  Nice performances all around.  Ray Liotta shows up again. He's been in a number of films recently - The Place Beyond the Pines, The Iceman and Killing Them Softly.  He's become the "go to" guy when casting directors need an older, shady cop/gangster.

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