"42" (PG-13, 127 minutes, Warner): Brian Helgeland has succeeded in "42," a soaring portrayal of Jackie Robinson's entry into Major League Baseball in 1947. Anchored by a quietly compelling lead performance by Chadwick Boseman, "42" begins in 1945, when Brooklyn Dodgers General Manager Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford) decides to integrate the team. Rickey settles on Robinson, a gifted athlete from California with an impressive record in the Negro leagues. The film is suffused with the casual racism of the era and captures Robinson as a character whose meaning and power is primarily existential. It was his very being around which the vortex swirled - a vortex of defiance, pride, pathological racism and, finally, awe. Filmed with the gauzy, nostalgic light of an American summer and insistently underlined by Mark Isham's overwrought, Copland-esque orchestral score, "42" is unapologetically corny, but it never succumbs to offensive condescension. By the time PeeWee Reese (Lucas Black) famously puts his arm around Robinson during a game in Cincinnati, "42" has taken on undeniable momentum as a quintessential story of American aspiration. Thanks to transitional figures like Robinson, we've always been the home of the brave. To be the land of the free, the film suggests, we all need to step up to the plate.
"Evil Dead" (R, 91 minutes, Sony): 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 clichés, from the hand reaching up from the grave to the zombie neck twitch. For Alvarez, presumably, it's homage, not theft. Even so, the whole thing is kind of fun, if your taste runs to gallows humor.
"Bullet to the Head" (R, 92 minutes, Warner): Directed by action veteran Walter Hill, this nasty, pulpy adaptation of the graphic novel plays it straight when it should wink and careers 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, axe 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.