Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY (2013)
I never really expected they'd ever make a sequel to The Best Man, much less do it almost 15 years later and Big Chill the thing a little bit. I was surprised how easily the characters came back to me (I don't think I've seen the original since it first showed up on video in 1999/2000) and how much I just enjoyed being in their world for a little while. The cast is great--I don't really get to see Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long or Regina Hall often enough--and the emotions are genuine. It's just a nice Christmas-themed movie. Oh, and excellent soundtrack. All Christmas music, natch. ***

42 (2013)
The reviews of this Jackie Robinson biopic left me pretty cold, for the most part; I saw it referred to as bloodless and impersonal, and someone even went as far as to compare it to one of those too-clean stories of the lives of some saint or other, like it was the Sunday School version of Jackie Robinson. I decided to give it a chance basically because it just happened to be on. I spent all of Sunday with my Dad, fishing on the lake for the first time since I was 12, and found myself home alone all Sunday night. Having had a great day (only caught two small fish--less than six inches, but they were bass, a least--but it was a real triumph for me in that I managed to be patient and engaged and not anxious at all) and a long bath, I decided to order a pizza and watch 42. I remember Roger saying he liked it, and I guess I wanted to watch something I felt like my Dad would've liked, and it's been on all the time on HBO, so I sat with it. And I loved it.

It's not bloodless or overly sanitized at all. In fact, the language is so rough it made me uncomfortable (it's supposed to, of course). In one scene, the language was so harrowing and cruel that I wanted to cry. In some respects, the film is deliberately old-fashioned; it takes it cues from great baseball pictures like The Pride of the Yankees. But it's absolutely the right decision to put the focus on Jackie Robinson's ordeal and what he had to go through to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, even if it's somewhat at the expense of making Jackie's characterization more complex. It's not really a biopic; it's about social change.

It helps that a lot of the film rests with Chadwick Boseman as Jackie; he's a charming, personable actor giving a nuanced, sympathetic performance, and now I can't wait to see him play James Brown in Get On Up. I also liked Harrison Ford in the movie; I haven't actually seen him act in a long time, and he seems to be relishing the chance to ham it up without breaking the movie's reality. (There's a little bit of the baseball fan gee whiz to this movie that only adds to the charm of it.) And at the end, I found myself moved.

I'll be honest and admit that it's a solid three-star movie, but I'm going to give it an extra half because, let's be honest, your personal experiences always shade your feelings about a movie. Hey, these are reviews, not actual criticism. ***1/2 Glad I sat with it instead of dismissing it.

CONEY ISLAND (1917)
Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton are both after a married girl at Coney Island. I love seeing the Coney Island rides and attractions in old silent flicks. There's a lost magic to it. Fatty and Buster are on point, as always. ***1/2

LOOK PLEASANT, PLEASE (1918)
I'm not always the biggest Harold Lloyd fan, but TCM had some shorts on the other night that I quite enjoyed. This was the first, with Lloyd playing a hapless grocer on the run. He ends up standing in for a flirty (more like gropey) photographer who is dodging a jealous husband. Really, really tight pacing on this one, even though I still found Lloyd's personality a little cutesy. ***1/2

TAKE A CHANCE (1918)
The second Lloyd short; in this one, he's at the park trying to woo Bebe Daniels. Some fantastic physical gags in this one, including Lloyd's slide on a bar of soap. Great timing, great pacing. ***1/2

CAPTAIN KIDD'S KIDS (1918)
The final Lloyd short of the night. Not as good as the other two. The middle section here is Lloyd as a rich boy who gets captured by lady pirates. Some good gags, particularly the kitchen stuff. I just realized I'm really a sucker for kitchen sequences in silent movies... ***

1 comment:

Roger Owen Green said...

Glad you liked 42. As I said - and YOU said - people were trying to make this movie what it was not: a biopic of his career.