42

42 does precisely what it sets out to do: tell the story of a great baseball player who happened to be black and who had to become a great man in order to live his dream and open the door for others to do the same. It’s well-crafted, well-acted, and altogether a very enjoyable movie.

If you haven’t seen it yet, rent it this weekend.

You’re going to enjoy 42 if you liked:
Miracle
Remember the Titans
Big Miracle
War Horse

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released April 12, 2013

Written by Brian Helgeland

Directed by Brian Helgeland

Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Melonie, Alan Tudyk, T.R. Knight, John C. McGinley, and Lucas Black.

Rated: PG-13

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Branch Rickey (Ford) is the boss of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and he knows that change is coming. He wants to embrace that change and force his sport to do the same. He is sure it’s time to integrate baseball, bring Black players onto the field, and start providing same and equal resources to fans.

So he’s looking for an exceptional Black baseball player who is will to- ahem- step up to the plate. His team’s manager/coach, Leo Durocher (Melonie), is leary but will follow orders and he is soon able to buy into the vision.

Jackie Robinson (Boseman) is an exceptional baseball player who is Black. He can run, hit, throw– and he’s got fire and vim. Branch recruits him, to many people’s ire and shock. And Robinson plays all right, but he’s under a lot of pressure. At the same time, he’s romancing a smart, driven woman named Rachel (Beharie) who, after some soul-searching, throws in with Robinson’s journey. The interaction between these two is very, very good.

Now Robinson needs to learn to cope with the constant vile stuff people are saying, awful fans who want him gone, unsupportive teammates, and still play some good ball. And it turns out that playing ball really can bring people together.

Critique

The performances are the biggest highlight of 42. This movie moves slowly, taking its time to savor the outstandingly recreated time and atmosphere of this racially-tense era. It savors the characters too, giving Branch opportunities to show us why he is so insistent on forcing change. It lets us see Leo, the Dodgers’ manager, steadily come to the conclusion that the institutionalized racism he’s surrounded by is patently immoral.

And it lets us watch the journey, certainly somewhat fictionalized and dramatized, that Robinson has to go on from a simple desire to just play baseball to the certainty that he has a role to play and it will take all he has to break through the walls around him. Boseman is, in a word, perfect.

Great dialogue, great acting, excellent writing, an understated score, and just very well crafted emotional climaxes make 42 a very enjoyable movie experience. It’s not really a sports movie, guys, it’s more of a person movie. And it’s far and away a better movie than Lincoln.

Content warnings: Some salty language- mostly racial epithets, some mild violence.

Writing: 5           Acting: 5           Overall: 5

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Wreck-It Ralph

There’s a reason that Wreck-It Ralph is getting a lot of good press: it’s darn good. Despite a slightly slow second act, this film has a ridiculously enjoyable and quality plot and it tells a story about people who make sense. It helps that Wreck-It Ralph also explores the world of video games far better than Tron.

Here’s a trailer:

The deets:

Released November 2, 2012

Written by Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee, Rich Moore, and Jim Reardon

Directed by Rich Moore

Starring Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Mindy Kaling, John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Adam Carolla, Alan Tudyk, and Dennis Haysbert

Rated: PG

*     *     *     *     *

Story

Ralph (Reilly) is the huge, wrecking villain in a video game called Fix-It Felix whose hero is the  perky Felix (McBrayer). Ralph wants to be a hero too so that he no longer is left out and feels outcast. To that end, Ralph exits his video game, makes his way through Video Game Central (in a very clever and creative sequence), and pursues a hero’s medal from a game called ‘Hero’s Duty.’

During his adventures in the other game, he makes a mess of things and encounters the head shooter on the team, Calhou (Lynch). She’s a no-nonsense, tough, rules-following commander who has no time for Ralph’s bumbling. But Ralph gets the medal and it seems that the movie is headed for a too-simple denouement, but it’s just getting started.

He gets away from the game in a pod, carrying one of the ‘bugs’ from Hero’s Duty into a new video game that takes place in a sugary land. Ralph loses his medal in the escape, as well as the bug, which proceeds to make itself at home under the land, laying thousands of eggs in the process.

As Ralph tries to get his medal back, he meets Vanellope (Silverman– in  a role written for her specifically), a young girl who wants to be a racer– which is the main activity of this world– but is told she cannot race because she’s just a glitch. Running the sugar land is King Candy (Tudyk doing a phenomenal impersonation of the mad hatter from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland), a crafty, morally ambiguous fellow who is dead set against Vanellope.

Now Ralph, who was ready to disingenuously pass himself off as a hero instead of a bad guy, must find the ability to be a true hero- which will demand sacrifice. Using his particular talents, he has to help Vanellope, save her video game, and become a real good guy. Along for the ride is Felix, who is a lot more than he first appears to be.

Critique

Wreck-It Ralph is one heckuva good movie due to its writing (plot, characterization, setting), voice-acting, and unbelievably polished and thoughtful animation.

For starters, the writing. This is a seriously good plot, intricate and heartfelt and deep. Everything that happens occurs because of choices made by characters. There are consequences for choices and prices paid and all kinds of craziness that come from these choices. The characters are thoughtfully written as well. Not one of these characters is a one-off static plot device. Winchell and Duncan, the two donut guards, are great examples of fully fleshed out side characters.

Then there’s the setting. What a fully realized world these characters inhabit. Every question you might have about how this world could exist in the same world as real human beings live in is answered. Smart people created this world, filling it to bursting with great ideas based on actual video games, actual people, and with a healthy respect for the comedic.

The voice acting comes up aces as well. Sarah Silverman has found her true calling: voice acting. Please, Sarah, never do anything other than voice acting. John C. Reilly has a large, warm voice– perfect for Ralph. Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch– wow. Their characters would have been so much less if anyone else had done the voices.

But Tudyk is the winner. How talented is this guy? He delivers a performance that doesn’t sound at all like him and could have descended into caricature, but skates right along the edge of goofy and awesome.

Now let’s take a look at the animation. As you see in the clip above, it’s obviously bright and robust. But it’s also thoughtful. One of Pac-Man’s ghosts is in this film, and he behaves and moves exactly as such a ghost should. Same goes for the people in the building that Ralph wrecks in his game. They are technology peers with old Mario games, and they move like those characters move– jerky, pixellated, and with cool sound effects. This thoughtfulness informs the entire movie.

Disney has crafted a non-Pixar animated film that is easily as good, and obviously informed and influenced by, the Toy Story franchise. Funny that The Lorax is the single worst film of the year and Wreck-It Ralph deserves to win an Oscar for best animated film.

Content warnings: Some mildly rude humor and some video game violence.

Writing: 5          Acting: 5          Overall: 5

Hey, don’t wreck the love. Fix it up real nice and share this post.

(This may be my worst movie tie-in encouragement yet. Sorry.)

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