42–The Jackie Robinson Story

By Piper Bayard

42, starring Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, and Nicole Beharie, tells a story of African-American Jackie Robinson’s breakthrough into the world of major league baseball. It covers Robinson’s life from the time he was first hired to play for the Dodgers’ affiliate, the Montreal Royals, through his rookie year with the Dodgers.

42 movie poster

Jackie Robinson used his life to write a story of pioneering talent and determination, from being UCLA’s first 4-letter athlete and a 2nd lieutenant and platoon leader in the U.S. Army during WWII, to becoming the first ever major league baseball Rookie of the Year. He was an extraordinary man and an outstanding baseball player. Too bad this movie isn’t about him.

Instead, 42 is about the deity commonly referred to as “Jackie Robinson.” The movie isn’t even shy about Robinson’s deity status, making several overt correlations between him and Jesus Christ, with his only “flaw” being an occasional reasonable display of temper. I can’t help but think that Jackie Robinson the Man might have cringed at the explicit comparisons with the Son of God.

That said, the acting in this movie is excellent. Most of the characters are written as 21st century politically correct racial stereotypes. However, the actors do a great job in spite of their, if you will forgive me, black and white roles, and their performances were excellent to a person.

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in 42

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson in 42

Chadwick Boseman, a graduate of Howard University and a former student of the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, England, is exceptional as Jackie Robinson. He took Hollywood’s character profile of a deity and almost convinced me he was playing an actual historical figure rather than a mythical hero. He is the antithesis of Kristen Stewart with his range of facial expressions, and he has a lovely smile that I look forward to seeing in another movie. Soon, if possible.

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey in 42

Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey in 42

Harrison Ford, always a welcome favorite, is gifted by the writers in having a well-rounded character to play in the form of Branch Rickey. He did a great job with it.

Nicole Beharie also deserves recognition for her portrayal of Rachel, Jackie Robinson’s wife. It’s not mentioned in the movie, but Rachel Robinson went on to become an Assistant Professor at Yale School of Nursing and the Director of Nursing at the Connecticut Mental Health Center. Beharie is more than believable playing that accomplished, graceful young woman in the movie who would, herself, make contributions to history in her own right.

Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson in 42

Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson in 42

I do not want to diminish Jackie Robinson the Man’s accomplishments. I have the greatest respect for him and for the uphill battle he faced. There is no question that Robinson suffered considerable racism both on and off the diamond. And, to the best of my knowledge, the movie is accurate in its portrayal of Phillies manager Ben Chapman, the Phillies, and the Cardinals, who were notable in their racial abuse.

However, unlike the movie portrayal, Robinson was not the only black player in the Montreal Royals. In fact, the International League had a number of minorities in their ranks at the time he joined. Also, the Brooklyn Dodgers largely welcomed him to their team with only a handful of his teammates objecting. Throughout the baseball world, there were mixed reactions to opening major league baseball teams to racial minorities, and for every white person who was against it, there was another white person who would not have cared if Robinson was a Martian as long as he could hit. Young people watching this movie would never know that.

Jackie Robinson LOOK, v. 19, no. 4, 1955 Feb. 22, p. 78 Photo by Bob Sandberg, LOOK Photographer

Jackie Robinson
LOOK, v. 19, no. 4, 1955 Feb. 22, p. 78
Photo by Bob Sandberg, LOOK Photographer

I give this movie a .38 Special rating*. That means I was glad I saw it at the matinée, and I’m actually glad I saw it. The actors’ performances were worth the trip in spite of the fact that the movie struck me as the cinematic equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade painting. Light was cast from a dedicated perspective. I believe it disrespects and dehumanizes the extraordinary man and amazing ballplayer, Jackie Robinson, by reducing him to a stereotypical hero/deity rather than presenting him as he was. The reality of the great human man who inspired generations of children of all races would have been the better story.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

*Our Movie Rating System:

  • Dud Chinese-manufactured ammo: Stay home and do housework. You’ll have more fun.
  • .22 rim fire:  Not worth the big screen, but ok to rent.
  • .380: Go to the matinée if someone else is paying.
  • .38 special: Worth paying for the matinée yourself.
  • .357 magnum: Okay to upgrade to prime time if you can stand the crowd.
  • .44 magnum: Must see this. Potentially life-altering event.

Bayard, Holmes, Movie, No Popcorn — SKYFALL

SKYFALL Review

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

SKYFALL marks the Golden Anniversary of the Bond series, and it’s raking in the serious gold—for good reason. In this 23rd Bond film, M and MI-6 are under attack, and it’s up to 007 to track down and destroy the threat. He does it in style, proving once more that Bond truly is the master of resurrection.

Sam Mendes makes a brilliant directing debut with the series, showing he actually earned all of his Oscars and Tonys for other films over the years. Daniel Craig returns for the third time as Bond, along with Judi Dench playing M, and introducing Ben Whishaw and Naomi Harris as Q and Moneypenny, respectively.

Bayard:

From a thriller standpoint, SKYFALL has it all. Fast pace, nail-biting tension, creative chases, and explosions that will warm the heart of twenty-something pyrotechnics lovers. There’s even a tiny snafu that might have you wondering, “Which side was that?” But I suspect that will only end up making the movie more loved for being a bit flawed like the rest of us.

While cutting edge with a modern feel and new, young characters, SKYFALL still honors the classic qualities of Bond. It not only takes us for one more spin in 007’s iconic Aston Martin DB5, it treats us to colorful locales, mysterious people, and even exotic animals. Though I feel compelled to note those komodo dragons must be on a diet of digitally enhanced Twinkies and MLB steroids to get that big.

This 50th Anniversary installment continues to develop the three-dimensional character brought to the fore with the Craig incarnation of the series, and we find out more details of Bond’s early life and home. Only one Bond behavior strikes me as being particularly out of character. He allows his MI-6 co-worker to shave him with an old-fashioned straight razor. A certain spook I know *glances down the page* can barely sit still for his wife of decades to cut his hair. He would rather suck broken glass through a straw up his nose than allow anyone near his throat with a sharp object.

Holmes:

It’s not easy to take an old, worn out basic story line like the “stolen master list” and make a watchable movie out of it after so many have tried and failed, but SKYFALL does it. The entire production is excellent, and this is a great addition to the Bond series.

As to the normal “spy flick” questions, here we go . . .

No, it’s not terribly realistic, but that’s fortunate. Who really wants to watch a bunch of guys in filthy, third world hovels passing long hours trying to get something done? SKYFALL is definitely unrealistic, and that’s why it’s superbly entertaining.

Can you use light sockets to make nail bombs? Yes. But not with the method employed in the movie. So all you middle school boys reading this can leave those light fixtures alone. You’ll only succeed in infuriating your parents without getting any real explosions.

The palm ID feature of Bond’s new Walther will thrill gun control nuts the world over. And yes. Tracking radios that size and smaller do work in the real world. The smallest model would be useless in an action flick because they would need a macro lens shot to show it.

There is a theme throughout SKYFALL of a rift between the old HUMINT (human intelligence) hands and the rest of the intelligence community. In the real world, there are plenty of old spooks. The problem with operatives getting good at the job is that organizations generally don’t want them to leave, and they don’t know how to leave, anyway. The idea that younger spooks see the older spooks and their methods as irrelevant is 99% false. Only politicians and whiny media types do that. I suspect this is just as true in MI-6 as it is in American intelligence organizations.

Now for the negatives. The script is a bit weak in a couple of places, but that’s about the only complaint I have.

The positives are many. The acting ranges from fair to excellent. The camera work and editing are great. I hope the editing crew and directors from BOURNE LEGACY see this movie so they can get an idea of how one might make a movie if one combines intention with talent.

The opening chase scene includes a “drive through the market chase” and a novel “top of the train” scene. I won’t ruin them for you. I’ll just say they are very well done, evidencing a good deal of time and effort.

The fighting and shooting scenes are articulate and reasonable. There were no magic weapons with infinite shots, and there were a couple of original touches I think viewers will enjoy.

In a return to earlier Bond style, SKYFALL delivers craftily woven levity. However, the sex was a notch lower than more traditional Bonds. Sorry guys. The producers skimped on their usual “legions of young woman in small bikinis” device, but there is still plenty of movie here.

The four years we waited for a new Bond film were well used by the entire production cast to create a movie that entertains without the viewer having to try too hard. They ALL got it right.

We highly recommend SKYFALL to anyone who enjoys action films. Few movies will ever achieve this level of production quality. Bravo to the Bond team!

We give SKYFALL a .357 magnum +P rating. This is our second highest rating, and it means we would actually pay prime time theater prices if we could stand the crowd. It only fails to achieve our highest rating, the .44 magnum, because we reserve that for films that might enlighten or inspire some of the viewers. You may not be enlightened or inspired by SKYFALL, but you will almost certainly be entertained.

 

Bayard, Holmes, Movie, No Popcorn – ARGO

By Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes

ARGO movie poster

ARGO is a movie thriller based on Operation ARGO, a CIA undertaking lead by CIA employee Tony Mendez to rescue six US Embassy employees who avoided capture by the Iranian criminals who violated the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979. Ben Affleck directs and stars as Tony Mendez. He is supported by fellow stars Alan Arkin, John Goodman, and Bryon Kranston.

Bayard

George Clooney is one of the producers of this movie, and he makes his mark immediately. ARGO opens with an American apologist historical spin, implying Iran was a happy, thriving utopia right up until big, bad US came in to set up Shah Pahlavi and steal all of the oil. For an actual historical perspective of this time period rather than the fictional version George Clooney offers, see Iran’s Present is Iran’s Past – Part VI, Rise of the Ayatollahs.

Once past the first few historically offensive minutes, ARGO becomes an excellent movie that superbly conveys the intensity of the Iranian Hostage Crisis. In 1979, Americans were horrified at the unprecedented savagery of an attack on our diplomatic enclave. Even the ruthless Japanese Empire had not stooped so low during WWII. Across the country, we were united in front of the evening news, watching daily for something positive as the stress of the crisis and the brutal stories from friends and relatives who’d escaped became a constant background tension in our collective psyche as a nation.

image from ARGO movie

The escape of the six to Canada was a vital success for the West. It not only gave us hope through the long months of that untenable situation, but it renewed our faith in our good neighbors to the north, along with our other genuine allies. ARGO successfully captures the barbarity of the attack to Westerners and to decent Iranians, as well as the intensity of what the hostage crisis and the escape of the six meant to America.

One thing I appreciate most about ARGO is the sarcastic humor, which is expertly laced through the movie. There are some actual laugh-out-loud moments, usually thanks to Arkin and Goodman, that are just enough to prevent the dark subject matter from becoming overwhelming.

Overall, I thoroughly appreciated and enjoyed ARGO, and I would definitely recommend it.

Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez, image from ARGO movie

Holmes

I enjoyed the movie and I am glad I saw it. The story line does not completely follow reality and, fortunately, a few key players are left out of the movie version. Affleck was not attempting to produce a CIA training manual; he was trying to create a watchable movie and he succeeded. He and the producers can be forgiven, and in fact thanked, for not being completely accurate.

Before I give kudos to the folks who made the movie a success, I should take a moment to express my humble but heartfelt gratitude to then Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his wife Pat, Canadian Immigration Officer John Sheardown, the Government of Canada, the Embassy and Government of Sweden, and several other brave souls, including Iranians, who will remain unknown. Without their moral and physical courage, the movie would not have been made because the six Americans who escaped the attack on the US Embassy would likely not have survived.

image from US State Department, public domain

As for the movie version of what occurred, I congratulate Ben Affleck for a very good job of acting and directing. Ben, you DON’T look like Tony Mendez, and I’m sure that will help Tony keep his personal life peaceful.

Alan Arkin did what Alan Arkin always does. He’s believable and humorous. Arkin and John Goodman combine to add a great touch to the movie. They play a couple of Hollywood insiders who conspire to help the CIA pull off the unlikely mission. Their performances alone are enough reason to see this movie. To those who follow Hollywood, it might seem implausible that anyone from that world would ever help the CIA. But Hollywood did just that on both this and other occasions, proving not everyone there is a self-absorbed, ignorant degenerate. There are decent people there, as well.

John Goodman and Alan Arkin, image from ARGO movie

The acting was well done all the way through the movie, including those bearded bad guys and the screaming imbeciles in the streets. You might feel a need to cluster bomb them throughout the film, but that just proves they are doing a good job of acting. Leave your cluster bombs and any other heavy weapons at home, please.

The editors did a fine job of weaving in a bit of historical footage without causing the usual brain twist that we normally suffer when historical footage is inserted in a movie. The lighting, sound, and camera work were perfect.

If you want a historical documentary, this isn’t it, but it’s still close enough for the documentary seekers to watch since no good documentaries are available for the events depicted.

As a cranky old spook, it’s often difficult for me to sit through a “spook drama” but I enjoyed this film. Fellow Yankees fans should momentarily forgive the Red Sox fan Affleck his many sins, both real and imagined, and enjoy this tense thriller. I can’t promise that you will be thrilled, but you should be well entertained. However, reasonable and responsible parents should not bring children under twelve to have them frightened by this movie.

Tony Mendez and President Jimmy Carter, image from cia.gov

Holmes and I give ARGO a qualified .44 Magnum rating, which is our highest level of cinematic esteem. It won’t actually change your life unless you happen to experience some sort of spiritual epiphany while in the bathroom at the theater or with your significant other in a dark theater parking lot. But this movie can somewhat illuminate one’s historical perspective, and it can certainly entertain a wide audience.

Have fun at the theater, and don’t get caught being socially inappropriate in the parking lot.

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Bourne in Hell . . . Review of “The Bourne Legacy”

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

The Bourne Legacy is born from the trilogy of Matt Damon Bourne movies and is intended to give birth to a new flood of cash. After rogue agent Jason Bourne does his superspy tap dance across the CIA in the previous three movies, that agency decides to terminate operations coming from Treadstone, the top secret project creating ultimate warriors like Bourne. Terminating operations means murdering all of the people connected with them. One of these uber-soldiers, Aaron Cross (played by Jeremy Renner), manages to escape his execution and goes on the run with one of the doctors who helped create his super powers, Dr. Marta Shearing (played by Rachel Weisz).

We’ll tell you right up front that we didn’t like this overblown excuse for a movie, but that was definitely due to no fault of the actors. They did the best they could have done with this cinematic travesty. In fact, the acting was the only redeeming quality of the entire two miserable hours.

image from en.wikipedia.org

Now for our individual observations.

Bayard:

Understanding that this is fiction, I’m generally pretty charitable with movies. However, I do not give them license to be stupid. Shortly into this movie, I knew The Bourne Legacy crossed that IQ line when I cracked up laughing, thinking, “What? He’s got a rifle? Why didn’t he just shoot the damn ****** instead of dancing with them?”

It did not get better. In fact, about a half an hour in, I had to stop myself from moo-ing because The Bourne Legacy is what I call a Dairy Farm Movie. I understand that the movie business, like every other business, is in the business of making money. But movies, books, paintings, dance, etc. should give us something in exchange for that money, and that something should not be to treat us like cash cows to be milked.

As an author, I’ll say I found this story sorely lacking in structure. It has a beginning; it has a middle, a middle, and another middle, all of which consist of chase scenes punctuated by an occasional dramatic pause. In fact, if it’s true that visualizing a physical activity is almost as effective as doing the thing, I burned at least 5k calories watching these chase scenes. It finally got to the point that I thought I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in The Terminator.

Unlike The Terminator, though, The Bourne Legacy has no actual end beyond a trite committee meeting held with people who would have already known about the project in the first place for it to exist at all. At no time do the “white hats” actually take charge of the situation and dominate the “black hats” to obtain satisfying resolution to the story problem.

Bottom line? I want those two hours of my life back, please. I could have been ironing my pantyhose or watching my dog catch flies.

Holmes:

This movie was Bourne in Hell, and then it got worse.

It’s rare for me to walk out on a movie, but if I hadn’t been there to review it, I would not have stayed. Generally, if I’m going to review a movie, I watch it at least twice so I can catch more detail and find more things to appreciate about it. I’m sorry, folks. I did my best but I can’t tolerate The Bourne Legacy a second time. All I can offer is my honest first impressions.

If a movie with a well-developed plot or great action is what you seek, then by all means spare yourself the agony of sitting through this one.  And if you’re hoping to see a Jason Bourne movie, it isn’t one of those, either. The producers saved themselves a bundle by only flashing a brief glimpse of Matt Damon’s photograph rather than hiring the actual actor.

As to plausibility of the movie concept, there isn’t one. I won’t claim that the CIA has never, ever killed anyone, but it is not their normal and customary practice to run around killing each other. No intelligence organization in a democratic society could sustain itself by routinely murdering its own employees or citizens. That was standard operating procedure for the Soviet Union, and you see how well that worked out for them.

Most of the “action” scenes are severely edited, resulting in a hint of action amidst abundant kinetic energy. It’s more like a stop-action animation film with bad editing. For example, one moment a woman is upright on a motorcycle, and the next she is falling off the side, clinging to a bus, but we never see how this happens. It is frenetic activity, but it is not fluid action.

This is, unfortunately, a money-saving trend in modern films. While they clearly saved a lot of cash by cheating on the action scenes in The Bourne Legacy with staccato film editing, it gave me annoyance rather than the tension and interest it was supposed to be creating.

And the plot?  Are the writers on strike again?

So far some critics have been upset by the lack of an “ending” to The Bourne Legacy. I’ll let them slide on the ending. If you never quite start the movie, why should you have to end it? Besides, in the case of The Bourne Legacy, my favorite thing about the movie is that it finally stopped when it did, though sooner would have been better.

At the “end” the non-action switches abruptly to a non-love scene. We are all better off not seeing that love scene. It would have no doubt amounted to something like “Fifty Shades of Bilge Grease” or “Last Tango in a Tropical Hell.” I want to personally thank the writer and producer for sparing me that agony.

On the positive side, if you haven’t seen this movie yet, it’s not to late to avoid the pain. If you have ten bucks that are burning a hole in your pocket and you are in dire need of some action, then use the cash to buy a pair of knitting needles and a skein of wool. Learning to knit would be a better bet for entertainment than paying to see The Bourne Legacy.

The Bourne Legacy will soon be coming to a theater near you! Warn your loved ones!

Rating:

The Bourne Legacy earns our first Dud Chinese-Manufactured Ammo* rating. We know better than to look for documentary style reality in movies, but this film did not bother to employ the many modern techniques available for producing a satisfying story or exciting action scenes. If you’re looking for action or for a movie, this isn’t either.

Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

*Our Movie Rating System:

  • Dud Chinese-manufactured ammo: Stay home and do housework. You’ll have more fun.
  • .22 rim fire:  Not worth the big screen, but ok to rent.
  • .380: Go to the matinée if someone else is paying.
  • .38 special: Worth paying for the matinée yourself.
  • .357 magnum: Okay to upgrade to prime time if you can stand the crowd.
  • .44 magnum: Must see this. Potentially life-altering event.

Piper Bayard is a recovering attorney with a university degree or two. She currently pens post-apocalyptic sci-fi and spy novels with Holmes when she isn’t shooting, SCUBA diving, or chauffeuring her children.

‘Jay Holmes’, is an intelligence veteran of the Cold War and remains an anonymous member of the intelligence community. Piper is the public face of their partnership.

You may contact them in blog comments, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Piper Bayard, or by email at BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

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