The story of Jackie Robinson gets the Hollywood treatment this weekend.
The drama “42” is a gauzily nostalgic look at Robinson’s rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, stoically facing racist taunts and death threats as the first black man in the major leagues. Newcomer Chadwick Boseman is charismatic as Robinson, capturing both his cool grace and his athletic prowess. But director Brian Helgeland’s heavy-handed sermonizing and Harrison Ford’s over-the-top portrayal of Branch Rickey, the Dodgers’ general manager who orchestrated Robinson’s arrival in the bigs, lay the movie’s message on thick.
“The Place Beyond the Pines” is a densely plotted drama, told in three acts, about fathers and sons and the consequences put on the present by sins of the past. Part one features Ryan Gosling as a motorcycle stunt rider who quits the carnival circuit when he learns he has a son -- but making a living leads him to bank robbery. Part two centers on a rookie cop (Bradley Cooper) whose idealism is tested after a fateful encounter with Gosling’s character. Part three is set 15 years later, as the sons of Gosling’s and Cooper’s characters meet. Director Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine”) creates a moody and thoughtful drama that benefits strongly from Gosling’s dynamic performance and slowly flags when Gosling’s not on screen. (Read The Cricket’s interview with Cianfrance, as he recounts how Gosling and Cooper became involved in the film -- and how his cinematographer almost got himself killed.)
“Trance” is director Danny Boyle’s return to movies -- after a three-year break that included his work on the London Olympics opening ceremony -- and it’s a stylishly sexy heist thriller. James McAvoy stars as Simon, an assistant auctioneer who thwarts a major art heist. But it turns out he was the inside man on the job, and the thieves (led by Vincent Cassel) want to know where he hid a priceless Goya. Simon can’t remember, so the thugs enlist a hypnotherapist (Rosario Dawson) to unlock Simon’s memories. But she lets loose more than anyone bargains for. Boyle polishes the movie to a shine, but the convoluted story twists a few too many times.
The best movie of the week plays at the Broadway: “No,” an energetic and smart political drama from Chile. Director Pablo Larrain chronicles the 1988 ballot measure that allowed Chileans to vote yes or no on the future of dictator Augusto Pinochet’s regime. The film looks at the campaign of the “no” side, and of the ad man (Gael Garcia Bernal) who helped craft the message of the opposition forces. It’s a riveting look at the power of positive politics.
The documentary “Room 237” is a head-scratching treat for film lovers, in which director Rodney Ascher interviews people who have developed elaborate theories about the hidden meanings within Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining.” The theories may be pure bunk, but Ascher’s lively depictions of them (using a wealth of movie clips) illustrate movie fandom at its most extreme.
Lastly, because you’ve all been bad little boys and girls, there’s “Scary Movie V,” another installment of the parody franchise that refuses to die. It was not screened for critics.