Hollywood has produced some wonderful films set in the world of Major League Baseball, but many of them have been works of fiction. Bull Durham comes to mind, as does Field Of Dreams and The Natural, but in my opinion some of the best stories that can be told about America's Favorite Pastime are the one's about the real-life sluggers. This September, Sony and director Bennett Miller (Capote) are bringing audiences Moneyball, a drama about the Oakland Athletics' GM Billy Beane, and while the film stars Brad Pitt, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Wright Penn, it faces the challenge of centering on a relatively unknown figure. Luckily for Robert Redford and writer/director Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential), their new joint effort will focus on one of the most well-known and respected baseball players of all time - Jackie Robinson.
The LA Times is reporting that the duo has struck a deal to collaborate on this ambitious biopic, which Redford has been trying to get made for years. He'll co-star in the film, alongside an as-yet-uncast actor who'll play Robinson, as Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers executive who discovered and signed the future star. The film is said to focus less on Robinson's role in breaking the color barrier in the MLB and more on his relationship with Rickey, who scholars believe integrated baseball for reasons of both idealism and economics. On their complex friendship, Redford was quoted saying, "no one really knows the Rickey part, the political maneuvers and the partnership they had to share. It's the story underneath the story you thought you knew."
Helgeland will write and direct the untitled film, though its script has already seen Redford and other scribes like John Adams' Kirk Ellis. Production is obviously way off for now, as there are many details that must be sorted out first - chief amongst them being choosing the right actor to play the legendary Robinson. I've long felt that the story of the rise of the Dodgers, from being constantly defeated by the New York Yankees at the World Series from 1947 through 1955, when the team finally beat the Bronx Bombers, is the ultimate baseball underdog tale and Robinson's story fits right into that period. Though I'd rather watch a rousing, decade-spanning rags-to-riches story about one of the most beloved teams in professional sports, Robinson's life is long-overdue for the big-screen treatment and I'm very excited that this film is finally moving forward.
As for who should play Robinson, my pick is Chiwetel Ejiofor, not necessarily because he's the best physical match for the slugger (though with modern make-up practices I could probably play Robinson), but because I strongly believe that there's nothing this fantastic British actor can't do. Still, I want to hear your opinions on who should take on this prized part. Sound off!
Source: The LA Times
In yet another variation on the shopworn road picture in which two mismatched former buddies are forced to cross the country together Soul Men’s uneasy brand of overly broad humor and contrived situations is saved intermittently by some cool musical numbers. But alas it’s not enough. Louis (Samuel L. Jackson) and Floyd (Bernie Mac) are part of a major musical group led by Marcus Hooks (John Legend) who goes solo leaving Floyd and Louis in the lurch. Fast forward 20 years Hooks has died and Louis and Floyd who did not end on good terms and have not spoken since have been coerced into appearing a tribute show for Hooks at New York’s famed Apollo Theatre. Afraid to fly they get in Floyd’s 1971 Cadillac El Dorado accompanied by a talented young woman (Sharon Leal) who may be Floyd’s daughter. Along the way they try to get their act up to speed by appearing in various redneck honky tonks filling the interminable 103-minute running time with a lot of unfunny sexual encounters and unbelievable situations. The late Bernie Mac was a terrific comic talent and is highly wasted in this mishmash in which he is constantly encouraged to mug for laughs. Mac is so much better than the lowbrow material he has to work with here that it’s a shame this film should stand as one of his last (at least there’s Madagascar 2). Faring even worse however is Samuel L. Jackson who is out of his element in a musical comedy and seems to be taking none of this hokum seriously. Thankfully the soulful musical numbers reminiscent of classic ‘60s Sam and Dave R&B are well chosen and capably performed even though neither Mac nor Jackson are known for their singing. Best number in fact is fronted by John Legend making his acting debut as Hooks. As the young eager beaver manager trying to get Floyd and Louis back together Sean Hayes is way too broad. Faring better is newcomer Adam Herschman as Hayes’ mop-topped intern who uses his fanboy infatuation with the pair to nice advantage. And there’s a nice now bittersweet bit near the end with the late Isaac Hayes. Malcolm Lee (Undercover Brother Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins) is a director who tends to go for the slapstick when a little subtlety and believability would be more in order. With a great Sunshine Boys premise and some nifty musical material to pepper the proceedings Lee still manages to drop the ball letting his talented actors down and encouraging them to chew up every scene. The corny silly situations certainly doesn’t help matters with the road trip device feeling more like padding than anything else. Soul Men doesn’t find the right rhythms.