42 (2013)

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Directed by:  Brian Helgeland
Written by:  Brian Helgeland
Starring:  Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, T.R. Knight and a host of others.

This movie is a biography first and a baseball movie second.  Director and screenwriter Brian Helgeland does more than recount the triumphs of MLB Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, he focuses on the backlash of the first African American to play professional ball for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

What I liked:  This is a truly inspiring biography of an American icon, and it feels like Helgeland takes a step back to let the story unfold on its own.  Despite the many clichés in the dialogue and relationships, that are part and parcel of a sports flick, I still felt the lumps in my throat at Robinson’s strength as he broke the colour barrier in baseball.  As Stephen Whitty put it, Chadwick Boseman, who plays Robinson, “captures, in a clenched jaw or a sidelong glance, a lifetime’s worth of dearly attained dignity and barely contained rage.” Boseman is matched only by Nicole Beharie who plays his wife.  The pair are as strong as their characters and make a, perhaps, unexceptional film heartfelt, meaningful and memorable.

What I didn’t like: I can commend Harrison Ford for stepping out of his comfort zone but his performance felt too forced to be convincing, despite his depth of character, as Branch Ricky the Dodgers Executive who searched out Robinson.  Although, it might be that I’m so used to seeing Ford play a certain role in a certain why that I was taken out of my comfort zone with this performance…Finally, the ending is anti-climactic, and despite the team’s final achievement, I was only aware that it was the finale by the surging music and heavy editing.

My rating: Even if you see it coming a mile away, you’ll be fighting off tears.

IMDB: 7.8

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

Warrior (2011)

Director: Gavin O’Connor
Writer: Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis & Cliff Dorfman
Actors: Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo & Kevin Dunn

I’m not a fan of UFC which is why I’ve arrived late to the Warrior party.  But despite its darkness and violent tone this is not a violent movie.  Rather it is a sports drama about two estranged brothers fighting through their past and against their penitent father.  The performances by the entire cast are so touchingly genuine that it will take a second viewing before I become overly aware of the clichés pointed out by some critics and the formulaic plot points found in most movies about athletes.

What I liked: Everything about the film feels so authentic that I wondered if the movie was based on a true story (thankfully it isn’t).  Performances by Tom Hardy (who is quickly becoming my favourite ‘it’ actor), Joel Edgerton and Nick Nolte move the story forward with such wonder and tension that despite a predictable final act, the journey is what makes Warrior enjoyable.  Frank Grillo, as trainer Frank Campana, embodies true friendship and he became the eyes through which I watched this story unfold.

What I didn’t like: I can only really pinpoint two scenes.  The first is the confrontation scene between the two brothers.  The scene preceding it carried more emotional weight than the confrontation itself as the setting took me out of the film for a moment.  The second isn’t in the film: Giving away as little as possible, all I can say is, the moment of revelation for the finale could have been more subtle to fit with the emotional tone of the movie and I wanted to see Frank’s reaction more than anyone’s.

My rating: Packed the biggest emotional punch (so to speak) I’ve felt in years.

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
IMBD: 8.4