As you may recall [42 is one of the movies I was most looking forward to this year](https://awesomefriday.ca/2013/01/matts-most-anticipated-of-2013/). As both a baseball fan and history buff, how could it not be? Jackie Robinson is one of the all time great players and his story is one of the most important in American history, not just baseball history but American history.
Given these two things I feel I could be forgiven that I hoped this movie would be great but unfortunately it isn’t. That’s not to say it’s bad, it’s actually a good movie but it’s also not exemplary. Other than being about Jackie Robinson there’s nothing that really sets it apart from any other “underdog/outsider makes good” sports story.
Like I say, that’s not a problem per se however it is kind of disappointing. There are a lot of things about 42 that are great though, so let’s talk about them.
First, the story is tight. It focusses on Robinson’s first season and not his whole career. This is a good thing because he ended up playing for a long time and eventually won a world series in 1955 a full 8 years after he debuted. There is a lot to explore but keeping the movie to his first major league season keeps the story more focussed and honestly, these sports movies always have 2 minutes of footnotes at the end about where the characters ended up and the World Series fact works as one of those given that his first season was by far his most important.
If I have complaints about the story they are first that the film, admittedly likely out of necessity glosses over how Branch Rickey chose Jackie Robinson ignoring basically all of the scouting and selection process (save seeing Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson’s names of a board at one point). It likely would have made the movie too long, but I still would have liked to see some more of the “who do we choose” stuff than just the one scene we get.
Second, it’s pretty much entirely predictable. To be fair, it’s a true story that I know, but also it’s an “underdog/outside makes good” sports movie, there’s a pattern to these things. Everyone is uncomfortable or doesn’t know what to think at the start. Antagonists say things like “you’ll never make it” and “you don’t belong here” and eventually he wins over most everyone and wins the day.
As an extension of this, while the film does actually very well with lot of these tropes it also does pretty poorly with others and the film is peppered with scenes that feel like they’re right out of a lifetime movie of the week that just scream “LOOK AT HOW BAD RACISM WAS AND HOW AWFUL PEOPLE WERE”.
Where the movie does shine greatly is in it’s supporting cast. Chadwick Boseman is good as Robinson but Harrison Ford is great as Branch Rickey, the owner of the Dodgers determined to integrate baseball. Ford is a great actor and it’s nice to see him remembering that for a change instead of just playing a grumpy old man. Oscar worthy? I’m not sure, but it’s certainly the type of role that the academy loves.
The other standouts for me are Christopher Meloni as Leo “Nice Guys Finish Last” Durocher, the manager of the Dodgers famous for telling the team if they didn’t like Robinson they would be missed, and also Alan Tudyk as Ben Chapman (manager of the Phillies) who famously opposed Jackie Robinson’s presence. There are a string of scenes where Tudyk has to yell a string of racial epithets that, were it myself in his place, I think would have made me sick as soon as the camera stopped rolling and as a member of the audience made me legitimately uncomfortable.
So to repeat myself, 42 is a good movie but not a great one. If you like sports even a little you should probably see it. If you don’t like sports you could certainly do worse (Scary Movie 5 is out, for example). I only wish that it were a great movie instead of just a good one.
Ryan Gosling. Sean Penn. Josh Brolin. Emma Stone. Robert Patrick. Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi and Michael Pena. Directed by Reuben Fleischer in a post World War II cops vs. Gangsters story. This is a movie I wanted to see from the moment I heard about it.
Set in Los Angeles and facing off against famed mob boss Mickey Cohen, the players form an elite and off the books squad of cops who at the behest of the Chief of Police (played by Nick Nolte) take the battle against organized crime right to the head honcho. They hit him hard and where it hurts.
Does this sound familiar? Yeah, it sounds a lot like The Untouchables. Too bad it’s nowhere near as good as The Untouchables.
Now hold up a moment, that’s not to say that this is a truly terrible movie, just that’s it’s also not a very good one. The problems are twofold, first there’s the issue of balance.
See, half the time it seems to be a serious cop drama complete with “are we doing the right thing?” moments and the rest of the time it seems like it’s trying to be Dick Tracy 2, complete with characters who are either stereotypes or caricatures (more on that in a moment).
Seriously. Sean Penn plays Cohen so over the top that he’s kind of hard to take seriously and Troy Garity is his main henchman who has a scar over his face that damaged his eye, and is credited as “One Eyed Assassin”. Meanwhile, Josh Brolin is the tough as nails, uncompromising lead detective and Ryan Gosling is the morally grey detective who needs to decide if he’s really in the game or not. The problem here is that the movie never commits to one tone. Is it light and fun or is it dark and serious? The answer is neither because it seems to try so hard to meet in the middle.
If any of this is starting to sound familiar again it’s because of the second problem: there’s pretty much literally nothing here you haven’t seen before. There’s two deaths on the squad and normally I’d consider that spoilery, but if you can’t tell which ones it’s going to be after each of their first scenes (and what the immediate follow-up is going to be) then you’re probably watching a different movie than I was.
The film has other problems as well. A one liner here and there is good, several one liners during every sequence is silly. The rest of the dialogue is pretty bad too, even the lines that sounded cool in the trailer fall flat in the movie itself and they’re trying so hard to be cool that no one gets any real development. Everyone ends up just being a pastiche of others you’ve seen before. The Hard Ass, the cowboy, the tech guy, the minorities struggling for acceptance, and the old man police chief.
Worse yet, none of the actors really have any chemistry together. Sure, Josh Brolin and Mireille Enos has some, but the home story is a sub plot and Josh Brolin talking to almost anyone else feels forced. Even Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone don’t really seem to connect despite having done so in other films.
There’s a lot to like here in the small details. The movie looks amazing, from the sets to the costumes to the hair and makeup, everything looks pretty spectacular actually. The story itself isn’t bad, and we all know Reuben Fleischer loves his slow motion shots. In the end though, the looks are just window dressing, the story is told with little nuance and terrible dialogue and the slow motion (and sped up) stuff just makes the pacing of the big final action sequence fall to pieces.
The scenes that do play well are the action scenes (not sped up or slowed down) but they almost feel like a different movie.
_Gangster Squad_ was one of [my most anticipated films of the year][ma]. Maybe because of that context I am being hard on it, but I don’t think I am. It seems to be a movie that was made to make a great trailer. Lots of one liners to choose from, beautiful people in beautiful clothes on beautiful sets, and lots of action (and it really does have a great couple of trailers). The problem is that they didn’t seem to be able to figure out what kind of movie they wanted to make or how they wanted to play it and the result is that the finished product is just a hot mess.
“Matt’s Most Anticipated of 2013”
2012 was one of the best years for film that I can remember and I’m honestly hoping that 2013 meets or beats it in terms of number of quality releases, and more importantly in the quality of those releases. There’s a lot coming out this year so here’s the ten that I am looking forward to most.
I’m listing these in order of release and not order of anticipation, partly because I find them hard to rank but mostly because I am looking forward to them all for different reasons.
And with that, here are the movies I am most looking forward to this year.
### Gangster Squad (11 January)
I’ve actually been waiting for this since last year since its original 2012 release was pushed after the Aurora Shooting.
Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Sean Penn in an old school cops vs. gangsters film is a hard recipe to screw up. I love the cast, I love the premise, and while director Rueben Fleischer has only made a couple of films, they were both good and he’s made a host of music videos and commercials which were also good.
I worry about the [re-shoots that happened following Aurora last year](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangster_Squad#Association_with_the_2012_Aurora_shooting) but not very much considering the scene had just been relocated and re-staged rather than excised entirely.
### The Place Beyond The Pines (29 March)
Yes, another Ryan Gosling movie. It’s true: I’m a fan of the baby goose. More than that though, I’m a fan of Ryan Gosling because he’s a great actor.
Gosling previously teamed with director Derek Cianfrance in 2010s _Blue Valentine_ and in that film both Gosling and co-star Michelle Williams knocked it right outta the park. Seriously, if you haven’t seen that movie just go find it and watch it (but be aware, it has some hard to watch scenes).
Ryan Gosling playing a stunt bike rider robbing banks to provide for his son while being chased by Bradley Cooper as a cop mixed up with some crooked colleagues? It’s an intriguing set up and one I can’t wait to see.
### 42 (12 April)
I’ll admit this one is a bit of a wild card pick; chalk it up to my love of baseball. On the other hand this is the story of a modern American legend in Jackie Robinson and it’s being directed by Brian Helgeland, the guy who wrote _L.A. Confidential_, _A Knights Tale_ and _Mystic River_. There’s a lot to like about that fact alone but when you add in Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey (the guy who dared to sign Jackie Robinson in an era when racism was still an OK thing) things get more interesting.
Chadwick Boseman is a relative newcomer here, but if this works out this could be a star turn for him and I’m always interested in seeing that.
### Iron Man 3 (3 May)
I’m a huge Marvel geek and I’m a huge fan of their grand experiment to bring comic book continuity to the big screen. If you’ve been paying attention you may have already [gotten this impression](https://awesomefriday.ca/2013/01/matts-best-of-2012/ “Matt’s Best of 2012”).
Robert Downey Jr. is among the best cast of the Marvel Heroes currently on screen and it’ll be a pleasure seeing him as Tony Stark again. Hell, even in the kind of boring Iron Man 2 he was fun to watch and with Shane Black directing and Don Cheadle returning as James “Rhodey” Rhodes/War Machine one can only assume that there’ll be some great “buddy cop” kind of sequences as they battle the armoured bad guys.
Sir Ben Kingsley is playing the Mandarin, a character with supernatural powers in the comics, so it will be cool to see how they reconcile that with the technological world of Iron Man (that is, does he even have his powers or are The Ten Rings from Iron Man all he controls or will they be technological or what?).
Another exciting tidbit is that the story is based on _Extremis_ by Warren Ellis, which is one of my favourite Iron Man stories and sees Tony Stark go through some interesting stuff.
Plus, this is the first film in Marvel’s second phase so I’m looking forward to seeing if I can pick out any world building or portents that’ll give me an idea what they’re planning for Avengers 2.
### The Great Gatsby (10 May)
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s _The Great Gatsby_ is an American classic, a fact that even though I am a Canadian I can certainly appreciate. I’m not going to sugar coat this though: I’ve never actually read it. I’ve always meant to but for some reason it’s just never happened.
Now there’s this, Leonardo DiCaprio re-teaming with director Baz Luhrmann in what looks to be a perfect part for the former and potentially the best looking film from the latter. The film is full of talented people not the least of which is Carey Mulligan who has shone brightly in everything I’ve seen her in, even as Sally Sparrow in Doctor Who.
Plus, if it turns out to suck I won’t have to be bothered by how the movie was a crappy adaptation of the book.
### Star Trek Into Darkness (17 May)
To say I am anticipating this film is an exercise in understatement. Understand that I am a life long Star Trek fan, some of my earliest memories are watching The Original Series with my father. I’ve seen every episode of every show (including the animated series) and every movie. In 2009 JJ Abrams brought Star Trek back to the big screen in a big way and I _fucking loved it_.
Long story short: if this list were ranked, Star Trek Into Darkness would be #1 on the list.
I happen to think that the previous film was nearly perfectly cast so I seriously can’t wait to see the whole crew back again. Yes, even Chris Pine. More importantly, I can’t wait to see Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain in this. So far I’ve only really seen him play good guys so it will be nice to see him put on his evil face. The man is a hell of an actor and this will very likely be a hell of a film.
There’s so much more I could say here, but the bottom line is this: _is it May 17th yet???_
### Much Ado About Nothing (7 June)
So apparently while filming last years _The Avengers_ Joss Whedon called up a bunch of his friends and shot an adaptation of Shakespeare’s _Much Ado About Nothing_ in his own house over 12 days or so.
Let’s rephrase that: the guy making the biggest film of last year made an indie Shakespeare adaption in his home in his spare time. That alone is pretty cool.
But this is also Joss Whedon we’re talking about here. Love him or hate him he’s certainly done some interesting stuff and is really good at managing large casts. I’m also just curious to see what he does with Shakespeare and how he worked his house into the film.
Plus, this is full of his buddies like Nathan Fillion (playing Dogberry), Amy Acker (Beatrice) and Clark Gregg (Leonato).
So basically it’s a bunch of awesome people doing a version of a play by the greatest playwright ever as adapted by a fantastic director. So where do I sign, exactly?
### Pacific Rim (12 July)
Let’s see, director with a crazy and unique visual style? Check. Giant Monsters? Check. Giant Robots fighting those monsters? Check. Two people whose minds link via a computer voiced by the same actress as GLaDOS from Portal? Check. A cast including Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam? Check.
I dunno, maybe this movie wasn’t made for me specifically but there’s certainly a lot of boxes checked off here.
Plus, it’s a disaster movie where people are fighting for humanity as a whole to survive (check) against ridiculous odds. I’m sure that the giant robot that turns the tide will be obsolete or broken or something too but cliches done well are still entertaining as hell, and Guillermo del Toro is a pretty great director so I have little doubt he can pull this off.
### The Worlds End (25 October)
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright are finally going to release the third in their “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” each of which has been an homage to a certain type of film so far (if you’ve been hiding in cave these last few years, _Shaun of the Dead_ was zombies and _Hot Fuzz_ was buddy cop action).
In addition to apparently featuring the mint chocolate chip cornetto, apparently the boys will be on a massive pub crawl towards The World’s End Pub and the world might actually be ending while they do it. That description alone is enough to get me in theatres but rest assured the film will be full of their signature comedic style and mile a minute on the nose pop culture riffs that made the previous two films (and the series they did, _Spaced_) so laugh out loud funny.
### Enders Game (1 November)
I am of the opinion that if you have never read Orson Scott Cards phenomenal book _Ender’s Game_ you should probably stop reading this **right now**, go find a copy and read it. There’s even a fantastic [graphic novel adaptation](http://www.comixology.com/Enders-Game/comics-series/8011 “Ender’s Game on Comixology”) if you’re so inclined. I’ll wait here while you do that.
All done? Good, then I don’t have to spoil anything. Now do you see why a movie version of this could be amazing? Harrison Ford as Commander Graff and Sir Ben Kingsley as Mazer? Asa Butterfield as Ender himself? There’s not a lot to dislike here. Well, except that Gavin Hood is directing, but remember that while he did direct _X-Men Origins: Wolverine_ he also directed (and won an Oscar for) _Tsotsi_, which is an amazing film.
### What’s Missing?
There’s certainly a lot more than 10 films coming out this year and more than 10 that I am quite looking forward to. _Thor: The Dark World_ (8 Nov) and _Elysium_ (9 Aug) both only missed being on the list by the skin of their teeth –if I wasn’t a baseball fan you can bet one of them would have made it– and then there’s the Spike Lee remake of _Oldboy_ (11 Oct), _Man of Steel_ (14 Jun) trying to get Superman right for the first time in decades and Tom Hanks playing Walr Disney in _Saving Mr. Banks_ (20 Dec) and _Movie 43_ (25 Jan) doing it’s best to offend, well, everyone it seems.
It definitely looks like it’s going to be a good year for genre film in particular this year, which means this is going to be a good year for nerds like me.
You may have noticed that I didn’t mention _The Wolverine_ (26 Jul) or _The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug_ (13 Dec) and that’s because while I am looking forward to both of these I’m not really excited to see either. That might change once I see some trailers though so time will tell.
Sometime toward the end of 2013 I plan to revisit this list and recap whether I was excited to see the terribly great or the greatly terrible. In the mean time, what are your most anticipated films of the year?