Soapy ‘42,’ distant ‘Disconnect,’ loopy ‘Room’

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FS, Contributing Writer

“42”

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Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in major-league baseball in 1947, receives full hagiographic treatment in Brian Helgeland’s 42 (wide release), which covers his hiring by the Brooklyn Dodgers, and his first season with the team, in triumphant, inspirational tones.

It’s a great story, reduced to a series of melodramatic confrontations with racists that Robinson handles with amazing stoicism, and usually followed by an appropriate comeuppance for the perpetrators. Meanwhile Helgeland and his crew bathe every image in light that creates halos even where they don’t belong.

Chadwick Boseman cuts a heroic figure as Robinson, and Harrison Ford is appropriately oversized as Branch Rickey, the crusty owner who hires him. There are also amusing turns by Lucas Black as Pee Wee Reese, the shortstop who publicly befriended his teammate, and John C. McGinley as the team radio announcer.

But while people who fell for melodramatic mush like The Blind Side will enjoy it, 42, unlike the man who wore the number, doesn’t earn Hall of Fame status.

 

“The Company You Keep”

Robert Redford’s on the run again in The Company You Keep (Angelika), but he moves a lot more slowly than he did 30 years ago in Three Days of the Condor.

He plays an erstwhile student radical who’s lived under an assumed identity for 30 years because he’s among the FBI’s most wanted. Outed by a brash young reporter, he goes on the lam to clear himself by tracking down his old comrades-in-arms.

The picture springs to life when some excellent actors—especially Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte and Richard Jenkins—show up in relatively short scenes.

But Redford himself is bland, and his direction is flaccid, making for a chase movie devoid of energy.

The company is good, but the film isn’t a keeper.

 

“Trance”

Director Danny Boyle brings his customary visual pizzazz to Trance (wide release), a complicated psychological thriller about a man who undergoes hypnosis to cure the amnesia preventing him from remembering where he hid a priceless painting.

Like all Boyle’s pictures, this one is beautifully crafted, but it’s too clever by half. By the close there have been so many twists, turns, flashbacks and revelations that you’ll be exhausted from working to keep up with them, and angry that you even bothered to try.

 

“Disconnect”

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Crash was obviously the model for Disconnect (wide release), which uses a trio of interlinking stories to argue that over-dependence on electronic means of communication, rather than on genuine human contact, can be a recipe for disaster.

One of the stories—about a boy who attempts suicide because of two classmates’ misuse of social networking—has the feeling of an after-school special, but is still compelling. The others—one about a TV newswoman and a kid she meets online, the other about a couple robbed via identity theft—work less well.

Disconnect is earnest and decently made, but ironically it rarely engages on an emotional level, remaining more an exercise in construction.

 

 

 

 

“Room 237”

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Even if you don’t much care for Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, you might still enjoy Room 237 (Angelika), in which five obsessive fans are given free rein to spout their wacky ideas about what the movie’s really about.

For one, it’s about the Holocaust, for another the campaign against Native Americans, and for a third it’s a self-confession about Kubrick’s role in faking the moon landing. Two others talk about subliminal messages and numerology.

The documentary can be taken simply as a portrait of a bunch of slightly mad folks over-attached to a movie. But more generally, it’s about the appeal of intellectual Gnosticism of any sort, which can lead adherents to some truly outlandish conclusions.

 

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