The biggest cultural event in New York this weekend is the opening of Matilda on Broadway–it got a rave from the Times. Movies? Not so much going on.
The major opening in wide release is 42 (63), the story of Jackie Robinson breaking the color line in baseball. This event can not be understated as a significant piece of the civil rights movement, and in American history overall. But the film seems to be getting “good, but could have been better” reviews, mostly because it’s a bit too hagiographical.
A. O. Scott writes: “Mr. Helgeland…has honorably sacrificed the chance to make a great movie in the interest of making one that is accessible and inspiring. Though not accurate in every particular, the movie mostly succeeds in respecting the facts of history and the personality of its hero, and in reminding audiences why he mattered.”
For cineastes, the big opening this week is Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, (60) starring Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem (what an eclectic cast!) He has made only six films, but sure knows how to build suspense for each one. This one is a romance. Scott writes: “To the Wonder” gestures toward the same kind of transcendence (as The Tree of Life) but falls short. This is partly because the human situation in the center of the film does not quite support its philosophical scaffolding and partly because the images, gorgeous as they are, do not in themselves possess the evocative power Mr. Malick intends them to have. He works in a shorthand that can sometimes feel facile rather than profound.”
Also in limited release is Disconnect (65), directed by Henry-Alex Rubin, with Jason Bateman and Hope Davis. It’s one of those omnibus movies, like Crash, Babel, and Short Cuts. Stephen Holden writes: “How the movie, directed by Henry-Alex Rubin (the documentary “Murderball”) from a screenplay by Andrew Stern, will be received probably depends on the age and digital sophistication of the viewer. Those proficient with Facebook, Twitter, Skype, webcams and smartphones may find “Disconnect” too obvious and blithely dismiss its alarmist attitude as fuddy-duddy.”
From the great British miserabilist, Ken Loach, comes The Angel’s Share (68), which is a comedy about the whisky trade. Holden writes: “Before it turns lighter and fizzier, “The Angels’ Share” offers a pungently realistic portrait of hopelessness and frustration, which explode in vicious street fighting and petty crime. It is difficult to transcend this world, where any attempts at upward mobility are likely to be thwarted by bitterly angry peers determined to make sure no one escapes.”
Finally, Scary Movie 5 (16) was wisely not screened for critics. I’m sure there are no surprises here, even the cameos by Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan. I found this critique by a commenter on Metacritic to be insightful as to the target audience: “First of all I thought the movie was going to be lame but i really enjoyed it. It’s better than scary movie 2 but not as good as scary movie 3 or 1.” There you have it.