3 stars = Good
In some ways, "42 -- The Jackie Robinson Story" is as old-fashioned as they come.
In the mid-1940s, an African-American boy at a baseball game puts his hands together in prayer and beseeches, "Please, God, let Jackie show we can do it."
In other ways, such as the dramatization of Phillies manager Ben Chapman hurling the N-word at Robinson during a game, it doesn't shrink from the ugliness.
It tells the story of how Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), the Brooklyn Dodgers general manager who brought the African-American player (Chadwick Boseman) aboard the minor league Montreal Royals and then the Dodgers to break the league's color barrier.
Although Robinson likes to reassure people, "God built me to last," writer-director Brian Helgeland smartly concentrates on 1945-47 and the earliest days of what Rickey called the "noble experiment."
Talent, temperament and time were on Robinson's side, and when No. 42 retired in early 1957, he had a career batting average of .311.
"42" dramatizes the opposition and thaw the first baseman (and later second baseman) experienced in the locker room and on the field. Small but defining moments -- a teammate slinging an arm around Robinson's shoulder for the crowd to see, another finally challenging the Phillies manager, and even an innocent but oh-so-awkward invitation to shower with his teammates -- turn into milestones.
"42" is also a love story. His wife, Rachel (Nicole Beharie), provides unfailing support for her husband, whether in Pasadena, at Ebbets Field or in a tiny Brooklyn apartment shared with their infant son, where laundry is strung from wall to wall.
The drama casts Rickey and Robinson in a heroic light in a story clearly meant to inspire, celebrate a pioneer and jog our collective or selective memory.
Mr. Boseman ("The Express") has an athlete's physique and while playing a saintly character does get a chance to show his anguish in the most searing -- and necessary -- scene of the film. Mr. Ford turns in one of his freshest, finest performances in years.
Pittsburgh pops up a few times, most notably with African-American sports writer Wendell Smith (Andre Holland) chronicling the story for the nationally circulated Pittsburgh Courier.
The DVD comes with the making-of featurette "Stepping Into History." The Blu-ray adds "Full-Contact Baseball," focusing on what Robinson endured on and off the field, and "The Legacy of the Number 42," about how Robinson is viewed today.
' Evil Dead'
This reboot of the beloved cult horror film about five young friends terrorized by a demonic spirit does exactly what it's supposed to do: scare you to the chiropractor.
The new version, by Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, making his feature debut, is more stomach-churning than soul-chilling. The action revolves around a derelict cabin in the woods, but this time, it's the site of a drug intervention. What follows is a rapid descent into madness, homicide and self-mutilation, first by one, then another of the cohorts, until it is literally raining blood.
"Evil Dead" has its moments, but many come courtesy of familiar horror movie camera tricks. Other touches seem cadged from the canon of horror-movie cliches, from the hand reaching up from the grave to the zombie neck twitch. For Mr. Alvarez, presumably, it's homage, not theft. Even so, the whole thing is kind of fun, if your taste runs to gallows humor.
DVD extras: behind-the-scenes featurette; "Being Mia" (the physical and psychological transformation into Evil Mia) and "Directing the Dead." Also, on Blu-ray: commentary with Mr. Alvarez, writer Rodo Sayagues and actors Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci and Jessica Lucas; "Unleashing The Evil Force" featurette; "Evil Dead the Reboot" that includes cast rehearsals, Bruce Campbell and Deadites.
-- The Washington Post
' Bullet to the Dead'
Directed by action veteran Walter Hill, this nasty, pulpy adaptation of the graphic novel plays it straight when it should wink and careens into chaotic, unimaginative mayhem when it should go long on style.
Sylvester Stallone's Jimmy "Bobo" Bonomo is a snarly, sneering vigilante, who in this case is working as a New Orleans hit man when his partner unexpectedly gets knifed in a bar. Soon, a Washington detective named Kwon (Sung Kang) arrives on the scene, investigating the murder of his partner.
Elements like story and dialogue are only pesky details to be dispensed with in between the real deliverables: fistfights, knife fights, gunfights, ax fights and one explosive showdown at the catfish corral that whet the filmmakers' insatiable appetite for figuring out new ways for people to brutalize one another.
"Bullet to the Head" exposes that bravado for the pose that it is, and it's not a good look. Extras: "Bullet to the Head: Mayhem Inc." featurette.
-- The Washington Post
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "Hell on Wheels: The Complete Second Season": Cable series that follows a former soldier (Anson Mount) involved with the building of the transcontinental railroad.
• "Damages: The Final Season": Law drama starring Glenn Close.
• "Arthur Stands up to Bullying": Four episodes starring the world's most famous aardvark.
• "White Frog": Director Quentin Lee's tale of the power of family, friendship and love.
• "Erased": An ex-CIA operative (Aaron Eckhart) and estranged daughter (Liana Liberato) become targets for termination.
• "Bill Moyers: On the Hudson -- America's First River": Mr. Moyers discusses the river's 315-mile course from its source in the Adirondacks to its outlet at New York harbor.
• "The Smurfs: Smurfs to the Rescue!": Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Dreamy and others star in six adventures.
• "Tom and Jerry: No Mice Allowed!": Includes 30 cartoons featuring the animated duo.
• "Doctor Who -- The Doctors Revisited": A look at the first men who played the iconic character.
• "Misfits: Season Three": BBC series about five outsiders who get super powers after being struck by lightning.
• "Super Why! Hansel & Gretel: A Healthy Adventure": The reading superheroes go on two adventures.
• "Caillou: Big Kid Caillou": Caillou teaches kids about being themselves, flexibility, friendship and kindness.
• "Letters From Jackie: The Private Thoughts of Jackie Robinson": Documentary chronicles Robinson's thoughts and ambitions both as an athlete and symbol of the civil rights movement.
n "Power Rangers Samurai: The Ultimate Duel -- Volume 5": The Red Ranger finally faces off with Deker for the ultimate duel.
• "Eve of Destruction": The fight for survival continues in the second disaster film in the five-part doomsday cable series.
• "Combat!": TV series starring Vic Morrow and Rick Jason.
• "LeapFrog: The Complete Scout & Friends Collection": Series designed to help children learn.
• "The Bookdock Saints II: All Saints Day": The director's cut includes 27 minutes of extended footage.
-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers