Writer-director Brian Helgeland has had a mixed career (writing “L.A. Confidential,” “A Knight’s Tale,” “The Postman” and “Mystic River,” and winning both an Oscar and a Razzie award in 1998 for Best Screenplay for “L.A. Confidential” and Worst Screenplay for “The Postman.” His best-known directorial outing previously was Mel Gibson’s “Payback” in 1999; with “42,” however, he has finally hit his stride. The film, a dramatization of the monumental events that surrounded the breaking of Major League Baseball’s color barrier by Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey and baseball great Jackie Robinson, is an almost perfect stylistic outing. In 1946, Rickey (Harrison Ford, here submerging himself into his role with an Oscar-worthy performance) put himself at the forefront of history when he signed Negro Leagues ballplayer Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) to the team, putting both Robinson and Rickey in the firing line of the public, the press and other players. Facing unabashed racism from every side, Robinson was forced to demonstrate tremendous courage and restraint, knowing that any incident could destroy his and Rickey’s hopes to desegregate the game. Rickey’s decision was based on a combination of idealism and astute business sense: it made sense to hire the best ball players to win games and make money for the team, and the best players could be black or white (or later, Afro-Hispanic, such as Roberto Clemente). The story follows Rickey’s decision in 1945 to hire a black player, through the drafting of Robinson in ’46 for the Dodger’s farm team, and then his appearance on the Dodgers in ’47, which lead to a National League pennant win. “42,” which was Robinson’s number (and the only number retired by all MLB teams), is the story of a changing sport and a changing world. It’s an almost perfect film; the scenario, the dialogue, the editing, the framing — everything is pitch perfect. There’s never a dull inning, never a seventh-inning stretch. Yes, it’s predictable (first off, we know how it’s going to end; second off, we know that Jackie will stand up to the taunts as to his color by turning the other cheek); yes, some of the characters are stereotypical and archetypical, but heck, who cares. It’s fun and absorbing and, for a generation born way, way past the breaking of segregation in sports (or elsewhere, for that matter), it’s educational. It’s a textbook example of how to make a movie, one that can be studied in any film school. And one that made a lot of money. Vitals: Director: Brian Helgeland. Stars: Harrison Ford, Chadwick Boseman, Nicole Beharie, Christopher Meloni, Andre Holland, Lucas Black, Hamish Linklater. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 128 min., Drama, Box office gross: $91.513 million, Warner.
Due September 17:
In the fame-obsessed world of Los Angeles, a group of teenagers embark on a disturbing crime-spree in the Hollywood hills. Based on true events, the group, who were fixated on the glamorous life, tracked their celebrity targets online, and stole more than $3 million in luxury goods from their homes. Their victims included Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and Rachel Bilson, and the gang became known in the media as “The Bling Ring.” Director Sofia Coppola takes us inside the world of these teens, where their youthful naivete and excitement is amplified by today’s culture of celebrity and luxury brand obsession. The members of the Bling Ring introduce us to temptations that any teenager would find hard to resist. And what starts out as youthful fun spins out of control, revealing a sobering view of our modern culture. Based on Nancy Jo Sales’ Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins.” Extras: “Behind the Bling” making-of featurette, “Scene of the Crime with Paris Hilton” featurette, “Tabloid Culture: A Master Class Featuring Nancy Jo Sales” (who wrote the Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”) featurette, theatrical trailer. Vitals: Director: Sofia Coppola. Stars: Israel Broussard, Taissa Farmiga, Emma Watson, Leslie Mann, Katie Chang, Claire Julien, Georgia Rock, Gavin Rossdale, Paris Hilton. 2012, CC, MPAA rating: R, 90 min., Drama, Box office gross: $5.458 million, Lionsgate.
After a two-decade fallow period with dramas, Francis Ford Coppola returned to his horror roots (that began during his apprenticeship with Roger Corman) with “Twixt,” a vanity production (it had to follow three self-imposed mandates that Coppola requires in all of his new work: That it be his own original story and screenplay, have some personal element, and be self-financed) that failed to stir any appreciation by critics and lacked any theatrical release of note. Unfortunately, this lackluster film won’t rise to the top of the director’s list of memorial work, thought it does have its moments. Basically, there’s too much overacting, too much underacting, and too much silliness for the dreamlike plot to grab at the viewer. The story: A writer (a portly, underachieving Val Kilmer) with a declining career arrives in a small town as part of his book tour and gets caught up in a murder mystery involving a young girl, a story that could be source material for his next novel. That night in a dream he is approached by a mysterious young ghost named V (Elle Fanning). He’s unsure of her connection to the murder in the town, but is grateful for the story being handed to him. But as he investigates the killing, he uncovers more horrifying revelations, and is ultimately led to the truth of the story, finding that the ending has more to do with his own life than he could ever have anticipated. This particular story came to Coppola during a vivid dream he had while on a trip to Istanbul and is inspired by the writings of Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Also stars Bruce Dern (who chews the scenery), Ben Chaplin, Joanne Whalley and David Paymer. Extras include “Twixt — A Documentary by Gia Coppola,” an on-set featurette by the director’s granddaughter that offers an insightful look into the production, as well as allowing Coppola to wax poetic on the process of filmmaking — insights that turn out to be more interesting than the film he made. Vitals: Director: Francis Ford Coppola. Stars: Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Elle Fanning, Ben Chaplin, Joanne Whalley, David Paymer. 2011, CC, MPAA rating: R, 88 min., Horror Thriller, Fox.
“Trance” is an all-out assault on the psychological thriller by master-of-every-genre Danny Boyle. Much like his assault on science fiction, “Sunshine,” audiences shied away from “Trance,” most likely because the meat of the film can’t be encapsulated in a few words or a 60-second trailer. “Trance” is nothing short of a visual mind game that blurs the lines between fiction and reality, heroes and villains, recalling the more monumental early works of David Cronenberg. It’s a convoluted crime caper-mystery-thriller roller-coaster ride in which the viewer — as well as the protagonists — never know what’s real and what’s fiction. The story: Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer, teams up with a criminal gang to steal a $27 million Goya painting, but after suffering a blow to the head during the heist, he awakens to discover he has no memory of where he hid the painting. When physical threats and torture fail to produce answers, the gang’s leader, Frank (Vincent Cassel), hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to delve into the darkest recesses of Simon’s psyche. As Elizabeth begins to unravel Simon’s broken subconscious, the lines between truth, suggestion, and deceit begin to blur. Though it may take some extra viewing to unravel the truth (if that’s even possible), the film is well worth putting on your list — if nothing else than for the stunning performance by Dawson. Extras include deleted scenes, commentary and behind-the-scenes featurettes. Vitals: Director: Danny Boyle. Stars: James McAvoy, Rosario Dawson, Vincent Cassel, Tuppence Middleton, Sam Creed. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: R, 101 min., Thriller, Box office gross: $2.310 million, Fox.
Sally Potter, director of the outlandish “Orlando” (1992) and “The Tango Lesson” (1997), continues her skein of interesting and quirky productions with “Ginger & Rosa,” a coming-of-age story set in London in 1962. The story: Two teenage girls — Ginger & Rosa — are inseparable. They skip school together, talk about love, religion and politics and dream of lives bigger than their mothers’ domesticity. As the Cold War meets the sexual revolution and the threat of nuclear holocaust escalates, the girls face the clash of desire and the determination to grow up. Ginger (Elle Fanning) is drawn to poetry and protest, while Rosa (Alice Englert) shows Ginger how to smoke cigarettes, kiss boys and pray. Both rebel against their mothers: Rosa’s single mum, Anoushka and Ginger’s frustrated painter mother, Natalie. Meanwhile, Ginger’s pacifist father, Roland, seems a romantic, bohemian figure to the girls. He encourages Ginger’s Ban-the-Bomb activism, while Rosa starts to take a very different interest in him. As Ginger’s parents fight and fall apart, Ginger finds emotional sanctuary with a gay couple, both named Mark, and their American friend, the poet Bella. Finally, as the Cuban Missile Crisis escalates — and it seems the world itself may come to an end — the lifelong friendship of the two girls is shattered. “Ginger & Rosa” takes the familiar teen-coming-of-age genre and subverts it into a sensitive look at the real joys and sorrows of growing up, presenting her characters with more predicaments than most kids have to face and merging the personal with the political. Potter ups the ante of coming-of-age tales set in the 60s — or any decade, for that matter — by adding in the anti-war sentiments and a love affair between one of the girls and the other’s dad. And, the icing on the cake: Elle Fanning is spectacular as Ginger. Extras include deleted scenes, cast interviews, an audio commentary with writer-director Potter and two featurettes going behind-the-scenes into the making of the film. Vitals: Director: Sally Potter. Stars: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 90 min., Drama, Box office gross: $1.05 million, Lionsgate.
Warner Archive Collection Releases (2013)
Due July 9:
Comedy about the unexpected detours we encounter on the road to happiness. Year in and year out, Princeton admissions officer Portia Nathan (Tina Fey) has lived her life by the book. But during her annual recruiting trip, she finds herself reconnecting with a former college classmate, free-spirited teacher John Pressman (Paul Rudd). As she bends the entrance rules for one of his very unconventional students, Portia puts at risk the future she thought she always wanted, and finds her way to a surprising and exhilarating life she never dreamed of having. Director: Paul Weitz. Stars: Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Michael Sheen, Lily Tomlin, Gloria Reuben, Wallace Shawn. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 107 min., Comedy, Box office gross: $17.873 million, Universal. Available: 7/9.
Due September 3:
In this inspired new film, Oscar-nominated actor-writer-director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who’s telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions. Polley unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving. Stories We Tell explores the elusive nature of truth and memory, but at its core is a deeply personal film about how our narratives shape and define us as individuals and families, all interconnecting to paint a profound, funny and poignant picture of the larger human story. An official selection of the Sundance, Toronto, Venice and Telluride film festivals and winner of Best Documentary at the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards, “Stories We Tell” is at its core a deeply personal film about the nature of truth and memory, and how personal narratives shape and define both individuals and families. Vitals: Director: Sarah Polley. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 108 min., Documentary, Box office gross: $1.243 million, Lionsgate.
On July 23, Music Box Films will release director Baran bo Odar’s critically acclaimed “The Silence” (2010), a brooding mystery and psychological thriller about a young girl’s disappearance on the anniversary of the unsolved rape and murder of a young girl 23 years earlier. As a new investigation is mounted, a small German town is ripped apart by guilt, grief and suspicion. Featuring spot-on performances, beautiful cinematography, and a captivating script, “The Silence” has an 87% Fresh rating including rave reviews by The Washington Post, LA Times, Entertainment Weekly and more. We’re giving away three DVD copies of the film; for a chance to win, answer the following question and send your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Who wrote the book upon which “The Silence” is based?
Three e-mail addresses will be chosen at random from those received; only correct answers sent to email@example.com are eligible to win. Only winners will be notified and only one entry per email address.
• Criterion Collection: September 2013
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