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42 (film)

42 is a 2013 biopic about Jackie Robinson. It was written and directed by Brian Helgeland, and it stars Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey. The film focuses primarily on Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The film starts with Branch Rickey, the President and GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers, making the bold decision to bring a black player to the major leagues. He only has to find the right one, someone with talent, skill, and the ability to take abuse without fighting back. He finds what he’s looking for in a young player named Jackie Robinson.

Jackie must endure racism and prejudice from his own teammates, other teams, managers, fans, and the media on his path to breaking the color barrier. He experiences things what would make anybody break but he handles it all with grace and class, keeping his mouth shut and letting his bat do the talking. And all the way he inspires people. He changes people. He changes the world. And he does it playing baseball.

Chadwick Boseman does a serviceable job playing the legendary Jackie Robinson. He doesn’t stand out but he doesn’t take anything away. I couldn’t name an actor that could do it better off the top of my head, but nothing about his portrayal really grips you. Harrison Ford is a scene-stealer as always. He growls and chews his way through his lines. Alan Tudyk’s brief appearance as Ben Chapman, the racist manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, also deserves recognition.

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           42 is not a perfect film. It’s not a hundred percent accurate and they take some liberties in telling the story. That’s to be expected. It’s a Hollywood biopic, not a documentary. Jackie disappears during a few parts of the movie and it becomes The Branch Rickey Story far too often. Yeah, Branch Rickey played a huge part in racial integration but I wanted to see a movie about Jackie Robinson, not another flick about a rich white guy. There’s also an unnecessary scene involving homoerotic showering that left me scratching my head. Jackie’s teammate seems way too interested in seeing Jackie naked. Like way too interested. I also wish that they showed more things from Jackie’s career like other black players entering the game and when he was finally tenured enough to be able to fight back.

It’s still a good movie. I would recommend it. The good outweighs the bad and it’s important to recognize and honor Jackie Robinson. The movie depicts him in a positive light and you’ll respect him more after you watch it. But this film only gives you a glimpse of his life and he did a lot of great things that aren’t included in the two-hour running time. I want more. I demand a sequel.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Serenity (film)

Once upon a time, there was an amazing television show called Firefly. It got cancelled before it could even complete the first season. But the fans demanded more stories about Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew. And somehow Joss Whedon was able to convince a studio to make a follow-up film to his cancelled show. It didn’t do too well at the box office, but it’s become a cult classic. It’s a great sci-fi flick, but if you didn’t watch the show, you’ll be confused with all the characters and backstories.

            Joss Whedon brought back all of the main cast from the TV show. Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Jewel Staite, Sean Maher, Ron Glass, and Summer Glau all reprise their iconic characters. There’s a great extended take reintroducing Malcolm, Wash, Zoe, Jayne, Kaylee, Simon, and River as Serenity fights to stay in the sky before crash landing. It’s the perfect way to reestablish what you’ve been missing out on.

The movie picks up a few months after the events of the final episode. Shepard Book and Inara have already been driven off of Serenity by Malcolm, and Simon and River seem poised to leave as well. The two Tams are still being pursued by the Alliance and Malcolm is having more and more difficulties trying to find jobs. There’s a run-in with some Reavers and you finally see how frightening they are.

            The Reavers are kind of the backbone of the story. A lot of shit happens and one of the shits that happens is the crew discovering that the Alliance is responsible for creating the Reavers. Malcolm decides that the Verse has the right to know the truth, and he eventually broadcasts the evidence after a fight with the Operative that has been tracking them throughout the film.

This is an awesome movie, a great movie, and a spectacular movie… if you’re a fan of the show. You really need to watch Firefly first to truly appreciate this flick. Serenity is your reward for enjoying the show. It’s just a glorified episode with better special effects and a bigger budget. And it makes you want more Firefly.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Firefly (tv show, not the bug)

Firefly is one of the best TV shows of all time. Never mind the fact that it didn’t escape its first season, that just means it never got the chance to jump the shark. Firefly is about nine different people looking out into the void of space and seeing nine different things. Creator Joss Whedon takes us to a universe where mankind has escaped to the skies to escape overcrowding, transforming and terraforming new planets for habitation. China and the US were the two superpowers, and the two cultures merged together. So Firefly is your basic space western with eastern flavor to spice it up. Nathan Fillion stars as Malcolm Reynolds, the captain of Firefly-class spaceship Serenity, who leads a loyal crew and a group of passengers of various adventures around the outskirts of space doing odd jobs, which may not be entirely legal.

At first glance, Firefly seems like your standard slice of sci-fi. There are spaceships, advanced technology, crazy weapons, new phrases… but then you start to realize that it’s very different from most science fiction shows. There are no aliens for starters. It as much a sci-fi show as it is a western. That might seem like two clashing ideas but Han Solo is a fucking cowboy. It is a human drama that relies on the chemistry between the characters and the cast.

A good cast will make or break a show. A show like Lost can go off the deep end and start involving time travel and purgatory, but if they have likeable and relatable characters people will come back each week.

Nathan Fillion stars as Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a former sergeant for a losing army in a civil war. He resents the Alliance, the current government for beating him in the fight for independence. He is honorable and has good intentions, but will fight dirty if he needs to.

Gina Torres plays Zoe, the first mate. She fought alongside Mal as a Browncoat and his been loyal to him ever since. She is fierce, ferocious, and a great fighter. She is married to Wash (Alan Tudyk), the pilot of Serenity. He is kind of a coward, and naturally serves as comic relief. Adam Baldwin plays Jayne Cobb. He is basically a mercenary that currently works for Mal, but he would sell him out if the price is right. Rounding out the main crew is Kaylee (Jewel Staite) the ship’s mechanic and the heart and soul of Serenity. She is sweet and innocent, and if she is in trouble than the ship is in trouble.

Malcolm Reynolds and his crew do random heists and various illegal activities to pay the bills and keep Serenity in the sky. Occasionally they pick up passengers for legitimacy. One passenger is Inara Serra (played by Morena Baccarin), who works as a companion. Companions are legal prostitutes, and in the future they are respectable. Inara and Malcolm have a little chemistry but they rarely act on it.

In the pilot episode, they pick up a few new additions to the passenger list. Ron Glass plays Book, a Shepherd (a priest or pastor), with a shady past who knows way more about crime and criminals than he should. Also jumping on board is Simon Tam (Sean Maher), a brilliant doctor whose main concern is his younger sister. Summer Glau plays River Tam, Simon’s sister and the main reason for Serenity to keep evading the Alliance. She has a much higher IQ than her genius brother, which he describes as making him seem idiotic. So she is really smart. She is also really crazy. The Alliance fucked with her head and turned her into a human weapon that’s way beyond Jason Bourne.

The crew stumbles their way around the galaxy, meeting new people and doing crazy things. They make enemies and become heroes more than once. The crew fights amongst each other, they bond, they become friends, and they become family. And you get to know each character and what they represent.

The best episode of the entire series is Out of Gas. They use a non-linear structure that flashes between the current perilous storyline of Mal with the history of the crew and how they all came to join Serenity. This one episode sums up the entire series.

I have a crazy theory that Malcolm dies in Out of Gas. The next episode, Ariel, they do an elaborate Hollywood style heist that seems out of place for the show. Shepherd Book is inexplicably absent, there’s no religious influence and we know that Mal is an atheist. They suddenly start to reuse characters that appeared once and suddenly come back, in this case the mysterious Two by Two, Hands of Blue guys. The episode after that, War Stories, brings back another character, the evil crime lord Niska, who comes back and captures Mal and tortures him to death before reviving him and telling him, “You died, Mr. Reynolds.”

The episode after that, Trash, brings back Saffron, another character from one episode. In a universe with countless worlds to explore, Malcolm keeps running into key figures from his past. Maybe he’s dead and is holding onto his memories, trying to keep from slipping into the void.

Firefly is a great show. I can geek out and talk about it for hours if someone would let me. Joss Whedon created a fully realized universe, oftentimes fantastic, but always relatable. You recognize the characters and their problems. They just happen to be living on a spaceship in the future.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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