30-for-30: Trojan War

30 for 30 Trojan War

Release: Tuesday, October 13, 2015

[Netflix]

Directed by: Aaron Rahsaan Thomas

Another story lamenting how the mighty have fallen. That’s how Trojan War will look to anyone not familiar with the University of Southern California, Pete Carroll, the Seattle Seahawks . . . or really American football in general.

Carroll and his Seahawks have long been associated with some of the sport’s most recognizable brands, yet all this attention hasn’t always benefitted them. To a certain extent, that fall-from-grace trajectory is the genesis for the drama herein, although its exposure of infamous personnel (as well as famous personalities) is where the film sets itself apart.

Aaron Rahsaan Thomas, who brings much experience writing and producing popular television series such as Southland, CSI: New York and Sleepy Hollow, turns the spotlight on the former head coach of the USC Trojans, rewinding the tape to reveal what events precipitated his jump back into the NFL after nearly a decade of coaching inspiring college athletes in a part of the country where stardom isn’t exactly hard to come by. (The campus is but a stone’s throw away from the entertainment capital of the world.)

The Carroll era kicked off in 2001 and ended in 2009. In that time, he resuscitated a program that found itself on life support having struggled through one of the worst four-year stretches in USC history, a period in which the Trojans were essentially cropped out of the national collegiate football picture, failing to crack the top 20 in the national rankings from 1996 until 2000. Trojan War rushes through backstory, hastily developing the environment into which the new head coach would be stepping before slowing down to catch its breath and focusing on what happened in the early 2000s.

The 2004 and 2005 seasons are of particular interest, for these were the years during which Carroll and quarterback Matt “Lion Heart” Leinart led USC to 34 consecutive victories, tying the fifth longest winning streak in Division I football history. Consequently they’re also the years upon which current and past USC players and alums reflect with deep-seated bitterness. In the interviews with former players like LenDale White and Leinart, even Carroll himself, you can sense the discomfort and tension. And for good reason.

In 2010 the NCAA wrapped up a protracted investigation into violations involving star running back Reggie Bush (who played for Carroll from 2003-2005), and went on to hand down particularly harsh penalties against the school: USC was required to vacate all of its wins from the 2004 and 2005 seasons, including Bowl games; they were banned from participating in postseason games for two years as of the 2010 season; Bush was stripped of his Heisman trophy and his name permanently scrubbed from the record books. The school also forfeited 30 scholarships over the next three years.

For all intents and purposes, those years of dominance ceased to exist — years during which their profile had risen so high it wasn’t unusual to brush shoulders with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Henry Winkler, Spike Lee, Flea (of course), Jake Gyllenhaal and Andre 3000, just to name a few celebrities, at any given game. Blame it on Carroll, said the NCAA; he was the one who had fostered an environment that was both unhealthy and unstable. The specific language cited a “lack of institutional control.”

Yet ultimately these dark days don’t represent the spirit of Trojan War. Thomas, perhaps conscious of the pain the school is still experiencing now five years after the findings, elects to spend more time backtracking down the path to greatness that the team once journeyed throughout those years, reminding skeptics just how effective Carroll’s coaching and his squad were as they met each team with ever mounting confidence and matching up against old rivalries such as UCLA and Notre Dame with a cockiness that felt earned rather than created out of spite.

He profiles a few of the star athletes — including Bush (who appears in archived footage but never in live interviews for the documentary as he’s presumably trying to put this chapter behind him) and LenDale White, who comprised the ‘thunder’ part of the USC “thunder-and-lightning” duo — while taking time to assess Carroll’s thoughts and feelings on this part of his coaching career. Actor Michael B. Jordan narrates. Yes, it is all a little generic and clichéd but it does serve at least one purpose. The NCAA can wipe clean from the slate any set of numbers and names they like but in the minds and hearts of those who paid attention to this club, this is the kind of legacy not even the slow, inevitable passing of time can render irrelevant.

Click here to read more 30 for 30 reviews.

Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans leave the field after another display of dominance

Recommendation: Trojan War will speak louder to California football fans but it should provide a sufficiently intriguing story to those who have been fascinated by Pete Carroll’s energetic personality. It could also benefit from a longer running time but I doubt a three hour feature would capture everything about this dynamic period either. This is a pretty worthwhile option for passionate followers of the sport and it’s right there on Netflix.  

Rated: TV-PG

Running Time: 77 mins.

[No trailer available; sorry everyone.]

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.usa.newonnetflix.info; http://www.bleacherreport.com 

30-for-30: The Day the Series Stopped

Release: Sunday, October 12, 2014

[Netflix]

Directed by: Ryan Fleck

October 17, 1989. Game 3 of the World Series, the Battle of the Bay. It was the Oakland Athletics squaring off against the decidedly more white collar-catering San Francisco Giants. The A’s were up 2-0 in a series they would go on to sweep. On this day in this October the scoreboard was so trivial it may as well have not even existed. Before Game 3 got underway the Bay Area was struck by a 6.9-magnitude earthquake, crippling much of the surrounding area and posing a major safety risk to everyone crammed in to Candlestick Park.

Ryan Fleck, an Oakland native and director of major Hollywood productions such as Half Nelson, It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Mississippi Grind, jumps behind the camera to helm a 30 for 30 feature that shines a light on the aftermath of the disaster, a sobering reminder of the significance of sports drama relative to real life occurrences. Fleck’s approach manifests as a collage of footage from the chaotic moments during and after to create an atmosphere of confusion and apprehension, immersing viewers in the very turmoil in which the camera crew and its happenstance subjects found themselves.

The Day the Series Stopped, while lacking the emotional epicenter that has made other episodes in this series truly memorable, offers some unique perspectives from that day. For starters, the event stands as one of the few live broadcasts interrupted by a major natural disaster. Up in the press box we hear (and see) a young Al Michaels, who was calling the game along with former catcher-turned sportscaster Tim McCarver, react to the ‘quake while somehow managing to maintain his professionalism despite the uncertainty now introduced.

Elsewhere, stagehand Benjy Young, who was responsible for maintaining certain parts of the stadium, including the towering stadium light fixtures, happened to be caught in one of the worst places imaginable as the ground turned to mush. He was up on the towers as the ‘quake hit, holding on for dear life as, and these are his words, “the whole thing just jumps forward. I looked down the poles, massive steel columns, just like spaghetti.”

In spite of a few poor judgment calls — the use of a highly distracting, melodramatic soundtrack, and an all-too-brief runtime being the main culprits — Fleck carefully navigates his story through the chaos as he turns cameras to the surrounding Bay Area, where estimated damages were projected north of $5 billion. In total 67 lives were lost and over 3,000 were left injured as fires raged and massive chunks of concrete and rubble were upheaved and distorted. Both sides of the Bay Bridge resembled a child’s toy set mangled in the aftermath of a temper tantrum. Much of the footage, including the havoc that was wreaked upon the Bay Bridge itself, is surreal.

This documentary supports the theory that even the most intense rivalries are trivial when it comes to life or death situations. Both communities came together in this difficult time as they helped one another search for missing family, friends and relatives and lent a hand to rescue efforts. Much of this information is disseminated through interviews with former players from both teams, some of whom are visibly uncomfortable talking about this particular game.

When it was time to play ball ten days later, the atmosphere had changed dramatically. It was less about statistics and records as it was about the simple pleasures of being able to resume play. Life would never be the same again, of course, but it was starting to resemble something close to normal. Even if this Series marked the first sweep of any team in the World Series in more than a decade, the biggest victory was witnessing the two communities overcoming their differences under these remarkable circumstances.

The Day the Series Stopped is a great example of 30 for 30‘s appeal to general interest audiences. Some familiarity with baseball couldn’t hurt, though intimate knowledge of the sport isn’t a requisite for appreciating the magnitude (sorry) of these events. Coming from someone who doesn’t watch baseball, I wish this one could have been given a lengthier run time. I can only imagine what kind of things Fleck couldn’t or didn’t even know to include here.

Click here to read more 30 for 30 reviews.

Recommendation: Offers some interesting perspectives on this chaotic day but unfortunately not enough to make it a truly compelling documentary. Good enough to satiate general fans of sports, and anyone with a knowledge of this rivalry are sure to find this slightly more captivating. Worth a look if you can spare 51 minutes out of your day.

Rated: NR

Running Time: 51 mins.

[No trailer available; sorry everyone.]

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: Google images 

Southpaw

Release: Friday, July 24, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Kurt Sutter

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Like its punch-drunk protagonist Antoine Fuqua’s ode to blood sport sure can throw a powerful jab but its technique fails considerably when on defense. What does the film have to defend against, exactly? Only about three decades’ worth of boxing movie cliches. That’s if we’re using ole Marty Scorsese’s Raging Bull as the standard of comparison. We could probably go with Rocky as well, and we could also sit here all day debating which is a better model, but . . . yeah, let’s not.

The easier argument to settle for now is that Southpaw is not as good as either of them. Southpaw is the amateur in the ring, visibly nervous but psyched up to land the first punch. As a truly potent tale of redemption, Fuqua’s latest is about as effective as Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal)’s oral communication following a match. In case you have yet to see this, that’s pretty poor. Indeed, Southpaw is far more convincing reinforcing what should already be a clear message: the sport is violent. A person enters the ring, an oft-unrecognizable mass of muscle typically leaves. That reality constitutes 75% of what’s required of Gyllenhaal here — much to the benefit of a narrative that drapes lazily around this venue like the excessive advertising no one really pays attention to. I feel a little weird championing the film’s violence, but I can’t deny Southpaw is at its best when it goes on the offensive.

Gyllenhaal ought to be relieved that his grueling training regimen for this role is put to good use in three key fight sequences. The story of Billy “The Great” Hope is defined mostly by tragedy and suffering. Big picture: this is essentially the story of every cinematic boxer we’ve watched beat themselves up in an ironic effort to improve their lives out of the ring. Yet there are moments where Fuqua’s emotive direction feels unique, inspired. During a public altercation between the hot-headed Billy and a rival named Miguel “Magic” Escobar (Miguel Gomez) Billy’s wife Maureen (Rachel McAdams) is inadvertently shot and killed, leaving Billy devastated. He quickly spirals out of control, resorting to drugs and alcohol as he simultaneously tries to come to terms with the loss and rectify it by finding the man responsible.

Billy’s inability to cope and his aggressive boxing style don’t remain mutually exclusive for very long. His attacking of a referee results in perhaps the biggest gut-punches, and they come three at a time, in rapid succession: he’s first suspended for a year from boxing. Then goes the beautiful mansion via repossession thanks to the lack of a steady paycheck. Rock bottom is finally struck when he drives his car into a tree, landing him in the hospital and then in court where a judge strips Billy of his custody and sends Leila to a foster home (well, you know . . . for the time being). That third punch is more of a massive blow delivered in slow-mo, as the once-close relationship he shared with his daughter slowly unravels — Leila unable to understand what’s become of her family.

Starting over’s as simple as dropping in on a dilapidated training facility managed by a surly has-been, and asking for help in getting back to the top. Forest Whitaker brings gravitas to the part of ex-pro trainer Tick Wills, who is hesitant to give Billy some . . . you know, hope. Obligingly he offers him a night job cleaning up and maintaining the facility. While there was an opportunity for an upbeat clean-up montage here, unfortunately it was missed; however, we do get the critical training montage, a staple of the genre that dates back to Stallone, wherein Billy finally sees a glimmer of his own last name (does anyone else see the genius in naming the character the way they did?). Crowbarred in after he’s informed by his former fight promoter Jordan Mains (Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson) of an opportunity to make some good money in a title fight in Vegas, the scene at least makes good use of Eminem’s ‘Phenomenal.’

Southpaw‘s grueling fight sequences go a long way in covering up some of the narrative shortcomings. So does another excellent performance from Gyllenhaal. Unfortunately Kurt Sutter’s script suffers heavier bruising than Billy’s face. From poor character development to cliche-ridden dialogue — those representing the legal system perhaps bearing the brunt (Naomie Harris is simply wasted) — the film won’t do much, if anything at all, for those with concerns of it being ‘just another boxing movie.’ The film title is derived from a specific stance wherein a left-handed boxer leads with his right hand and foot. Opposite the southpaw stance is orthodox, one taken by right-handed fighters. I don’t know whether Fuqua is right or left-handed, but I do know his film prefers the orthodox, fighting (suffering?) through flurries of jabs and the occasional hard left-hook. If it weren’t for such enduring work from its cast the film’s all too conservative strategy probably wouldn’t last beyond the second round.

Recommendation: Emotionally resonant tale just manages to overcome its undeveloped and overly familiar story thanks to knock-out performances from Gyllenhaal, Laurence and Whitaker. As a fan of boxing movies, I have seen better but this is by no means, and despite the sheer amount of cliches, a bad movie. It’s just not exactly the title fight we’re expecting to see with a name as large as Gyllenhaal apparently replacing Eminem in the lead. If you’re not expecting much out of the film other than some good fighting scenes, then Southpaw will surely deliver. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 124 mins.

Quoted: “Don’t let him take this from you. Don’t let him get into your head. You got one shot. Go southpaw. Go southpaw on his ass. You got to go out there and you . . . beat his ass!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

When the Game Stands Tall

WGST_DOM_1SHEET

Release: Friday, August 22, 2014

[Theater]

Dignity and courage. Those are two words you cannot separate out of any sports movie, good, bad or ugly. Whether handled delicately or with blunt force, there comes a point where the film either shoehorns in these values or cleverly suggests them through a combination of strong writing and impassioned performance.

When the Game Stands Tall is a film based on the trials and tribulations experienced by the De La Salle Spartans, a central-California high school football team put through the wringer when they first surrender an unheard-of 151-game winning streak to a team they could have beaten. They then lose their head coach temporarily to overwhelming stress that culminates in a heart attack and his sitting out for a good portion of the season. And finally the increasingly desperate Spartans tragically lose a key player and good student to a senseless act of street violence.

Reality is often more like a nightmare, and this is hardly the first time young players’ mettle has been tested for the sake of general audience entertainment. The fact’s not offensive so much as it is uninspiring. As trying a time as this is for a once-proud team (goodness only knows what it was like for the real community), this particular film — one built almost exclusively out of cliches — is much more so.

Beginning with a ruthlessly jejune Jim Caviezel as head coach Bob Ladoucer, any honest evaluation of this poorly-conceived model of sports-as-therapy must take note of him and his flat delivery first and foremost. After all, this is ostensibly his movie, given the fact he was responsible for building such a winning team over the years. However, his part is written so poorly and unfortunately Caviezel delivers so awkwardly that whatever dignity remains in the film, it pertains more to side-line issues. Where Coach is meant to inspire and invigorate his team — indirectly, us — with spirited pep talks that emphasize brotherhood, faith and character, he instead lectures and recites, driving any interest to continue listening right out the door. . .along with any reasonable viewer or casual sports fan.

The many tough faces of Ladouceur are intended to reinforce the unique circumstances; evidence of how thin he had stretched himself to make the team exceptional. But Caviezel takes it to the point of effecting numbness. Even the practice dummies players drill themselves into repeatedly have more personality than he does. It should be mentioned that the emphasis on his listless expressions throughout many scenes is one rather ill-advised move on the part of director Thomas Carter. The actor is absolutely not the only one to blame. Unfortunately he bears the distinction of being caught in the act.

When moving away from this disastrous crusade to prove the head coaching position ain’t for everyone, we thankfully intercept only decreasing levels of terribleness on the offensive and defensive ends. Supporting cast isn’t exactly impressive but they at least offer up something akin to what is expected of a sports-film, performance-wise. Richard Kohnke, along with Alexander Ludwig, Matthew Daddario, Stephan James and Ser’Darius Blain round out the key players at the quarterback position and offensive line, respectively.

While Kohnke’s Rick Salinas is at the star position, he’s largely bereft of complexity but that’s not really a problem, as he doesn’t have much screen time. Ludwig follows the trajectory of every most mis-interpreted jocks who have issues at home. In this case, he’s slave to an overly-enthusiastic father (Clancy Brown) who demands the best from his son, and wants nothing more than for De La Salle to get back on track. Who knew statistics were more important than family? Meanwhile, Daddario is handed the part of the coach’s son Danny, whom Ladouceur is compelled to protect until the very last minute. No need to worry; nothing terrible happens, though I’m sure you’re aware already of that kind of conflict resolution. “Show me what you got, kid.” (And then he does precisely that.)

The Game somehow finds a pulse in James’ T.K. Kelly, an impressive athlete and genuinely nice guy who is struck down at the ripe age of 18. Not only is his story the strongest of the lot, the young actor offers up an affectionate spirit we can actually support. Sports fans often seek enthusiasm out of the stories they seek out on the silver screen. James is  one of the few who doesn’t look disinterested in being on set. He’s also not an uncompromisingly stereotypical player, though his journey to a heartbreaking premature end isn’t the biggest break from convention.

There’s no denying some of the emotional build-up is actually earned. An overt religious overtone actually helps elevate moments of sadness rather than drown them in off-putting sentimentalism. One particular speech comes to mind. And Caviezel has a moment or two where he doesn’t seem to be rehearsing his lines. But as far as I am concerned and the way I like my sports represented, I should have come equipped with more padding for the beating I was going to take when it comes to the cliched and predictable.

When it comes down to it, When the Game Stands Tall forgets to really take a stand for anything.

Michael Chiklis un-bald is a very different Michael Chiklis

Michael Chiklis un-bald is a very different Michael Chiklis

2-0Recommendation: One can probably do much worse than Thomas Carter’s woeful interpretation of a community rallying around their local sports team in the wake of multiple difficult circumstances. But that’s a coin with another side to it, and of course you are going to come across far superior versions. Hopefully one day there’ll be a better movie to represent this incredibly resilient community. I don’t really recommend this one even to sports buffs considering the other competition that’s out there waiting.

Rated: PG

Running Time: 115 mins.

Quoted: “Family isn’t just blood relatives. You’ve got me and 60 brothers. . .”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

TBT: Brink! (1998)

new-tbt-logo

As the summer season of filmgoing winds down (well, sort of. . .Guardians of the Galaxy looms around the corner this weekend, so maybe that’s a premature statement) my inspired posts have really ramped up! Today’s TBT comes at you not from the brain of. . .well, me. . . but yeah, from someone else. Someone else’s sick mind is responsible for today’s throwback. And I won’t mention any names (Keith), but suffice it to say — this man has a great taste in movies! I had almost forgotten all about these campy Disney originals, until now. So, he suggested this one and, for anyone who has seen this, I’m sure they’ll also wonder how I could possibly go without talking about

Today’s food for thought: Brink! 

Brink

Rolling brakeless since: August 29, 1998

[TV]

Ahh, Brink! Yes, the movie title with the mysterious exclamation point at the end, the one to this day I still don’t understand. I mean, why so excited? Everytime I write that title I sound more enthusiastic than I really should about a Disney channel original movie, but you know, whatever. #YOLO.

There’s a great many things yours truly does not understand, and this movie title, not to mention how inexplicably awesome the film itself actually was, are two more things I might as well add to the list.

I ain’t gonna fake it, brah. Brink! is a pretty damn cheesy movie, but it features some blasts of summer fun that time and again recall a much simpler, innocent time. The days spent careening down streets and heckling passers-by on the boardwalk can be recalled fondly for every Californian at home catching it on T.V. for the umpteenth time at 4 p.m. right after school. For those playing the long-distance game, who don’t live in California and who aren’t steeped in the rollerblading culture, it perhaps served better as a postcard from Venice Beach.

When a group of enthusiastic young in-liners led by Andy “Brink” Brinker (that’s not an awkward name at all) clash with a rivaling group of “professionally sponsored” skaters, Brink (Erik von Detten) is forced to decide who to skate for when given the opportunity to raise money for his family by joining Team X-Bladz, the über-serious and totally rad side of skating. But does he have it in him to sacrifice his friends and the simple joy of having fun while skating in order to make money? Dedicated Brink-sters tend to view this fairly asinine struggle as Anakin slowly joining the Dark Side. You desperately want him to turn back, to use reason and logic. Possibly, The Force, if necessary, to escape a lifetime of. . . well, selling out.

Of course, deep down Brink knows that “The Force” is just him having an identity crisis. He was once a passionate skater but now finds it necessary to use his talents as a way to financially help out his family. He betrays his bro’s (Brink, c’mon man), and he even endangers the life of one of them during a street race between himself and Gabby (Christina Vidal) when trying to prove who is the better downhill skater. If there really is a Dark Side in Disney’s eyes, it’s the whole selling one’s self out to corporate greed and uniformity. Ironically actual skaters view the world the same way. Unfortunately even the corporate-sponsored ones still have to fight for food, as the sport is not — as one might imagine — a highly-paid profession.

But enough of the practical talk, this is a Disney Channel movie throwback, for crying out loud. Enough with statistical probability of making it successfully in the industry (yes, the sport of rollerblading has garnered corporate sponsorship, despite what skateboarding might have you thinking otherwise), and enough with the damn comparisons to Star Wars. I just lost an entire paragraph to that metaphor. And about to lose another one to an explanation of why that was weird. Whatever.

At the end of the day, if you haven’t experienced the fast-paced, corny-as-corn action of Brink!, you’re basically missing out. And, brah, you have been for quite some time. The child in me who sat far too close to a television set still wants to think it was longer ago than 1998. Then again, that was well over a decade ago now.

fsrconc

Man, it’s gotta be a burden to possess a face that looks like that . . .

3-0Recommendation: I feel like if I need to recommend Brink! to my readers, I’ve already lost the race. You’ve either seen this one or you gave it a wide berth. I’m not really sure how some of my readers would go about even tracking it down out of curiosity now, unless they are comfortable with sifting through hours of mindless drivel on the Disney channel. Although, that might be a worthwhile sacrifice if you find yourself just curious enough.

Rated: NR

Running Time: 99 mins.

Quoted: “Whatever brah, let’s blade.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.bustle.com; Google images 

TBT: Happy Gilmore (1996)

new-tbt-logo

Well, clearly this month is going to go one of two ways for my loyal TBT readers — May is a month officially dedicated to the trashy, juvenile and downright offensive antics of one Adam Sandler. While I’m of the camp that actually doesn’t completely hate his guts yet, his insistence on recycling the same group of jerk-off friends and characters in films is a tactic that’s clearly established an alarming rate of diminishing returns. It’s not the slump itself that makes me lose respect for the guy so much as it’s his indifference to being in a slump. He’s acting as if he’s already entered his twilight years, which very well may be the case now, given future productions requesting his services don’t appear to be trying anything different. The funny Adam may as well be in retirement. Nonetheless, there was a time when I truly enjoyed what he brought to the big screen. Sure, he never was a contender for any award outside of a Golden Raspberry, and his routine has always revolved around foul language and debasing himself in a variety of ways, but these are things that I’ve never personally had a problem with laughing my fool head off at. The good old days have long since passed, but I still get a bit of nostalgia looking back on them. 

Today’s food for thought: Happy Gilmore

happy_gilmore_comedy-10588

Release: February 16, 1996

[DVD]

I’m sure to many Happy Gilmore will always be Adam Sandler. Wait, shit. Strike that, and reverse it.

It’s the role that competes with maybe only one other — his insanely childish Billy Madison from the year before — as being THE character I would frequently and mistakenly associate with Sandler’s real-life persona. (Maybe it really is similar.) There was something natural and believable about Sandler’s on-screen energy. This was also my first impression of the guy, so I had nothing to compare it to then. I was a sixth-grader in New York at the time when I first watched Sandler throw his temper tantrums out on the 18th green; when I witnessed golf clubs flying through the air with uncommon grace; when I first realized that, holy crap — some women really can rock short hair.

This was the story of everyone’s favorite hockey player-turned-golfer who switched sports out of necessity to keep his sweet old grandma in her home and out of the wretched old-people facility she was forced into by the government. An emotional person, Happy got tossed from his hockey team after getting into a fight with virtually everyone on it, and only became further enraged learning of his grandma’s situation. When his aptitude for golf was subsequently discovered by a former pro named Chubbs (Carl Weathers), who now spends his days maintaining a shoddy driving range, Happy’s quick to dismiss the idea and conveniently tried to prevent the rest of the film’s beyond-inevitable developments.

Speaking of inevitable: I think the time has come once again for the review format to change here. This showcase of Adam Sandler’s profound talents deserves a different treatment, seeing as it’s a true testament to classic cinema, and adds further proof that, indeed, “all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.” (I hope to God that at least someone has picked up on the mounting sarcasm here. . .)

Instead what I’m going to do is list five life lessons you can learn through the film’s butchering of the sport of golf. Without further ado, let’s tee off, shall we:

  1. happy_gilmore_1996_baseball_maching

    Life requires thick skin, so learn how to thicken it. Try taking 100-mile-an-hour golf balls straight to the chest every day for ten minutes, and see how quickly you man up. If this doesn’t prove quick enough, maybe try taking them to the forehead.

  2. 4308_4

    Life’s going to force you to make some tough choices. For the love of God and all that is holy, please, make the responsible one(s).

  3. xcapture2ebh2.431

    The world isn’t an awfully logical place. It helps to be able to think rationally every now and again. When you feel like you aren’t, all you need to do is visit your happy place. Everyone has one.

  4. HappyGilmoreDL

    Life is going to kick, knock or trample you down. But no matter how you fall, it’s how you respond to that goddamn game-show host who’s all up in your grill that counts. So make it.

  5. draft_lens17663790module148391311photo_1298358222happy-gilmore-original.jp

    Above all, observe the Golden Rule. Yes, doing unto others as you would have others do unto you does apply to inanimate objects. Don’t be ignorant.

There we have it, a very hastily-compiled list of five profound take-aways from one of Sandler’s unquestionably stronger films. Happy Gilmore may not offer much in the way of genuine advice or even much of an inspiring story, but the film was a great deal of fun, and it excelled in generating fond memories. In particular, Ben Stiller’s cameo as the world’s worst orderly and the gigantic Richard Kiel (playing Gilmore’s construction boss, Mr. Larson) only seemed to get better with age. Adam may be broken now and in disrepair, but once upon a time he really worked well.

Now — on to the next phase! Tune in next week folks. Or don’t. Because it’s going to be Adam Sandler all month long. 😀

3-0Recommendation: Happy Gilmore stands out among Sandler’s filmography since it remained in an era that was more or less free from the symptoms that plague his films of today: it can’t exactly be called original, but it featured rip-roaring humor, a touching story (who doesn’t root for grannie, come on) and a hilarious foil in Christopher McDonald’s Shooter McGavin (what a great name, by the way) — three elements that eventually will come to be recycled to death in his later offerings. All that said, this film does nothing to sway the opinion of anyone on the other side of the fence. Of course, all of this is pretty obvious. . .do I need to actually recommend this one?

Rated: R (for really really really ridiculous)

Running Time: 92 mins.

Quoted: “You can trouble me for a warm glass of shut the hell up! Now you will go to sleep, or I will put you to sleep. Check the name tag; you’re in my world now grandma!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: google images 

Draft Day

draft-day-kevin-costner-movie-poster

Release: Friday, April 11, 2014

[Theater]

“A sports metaphor.”

There, I did it. I’ve gotten that out of my system, and now no one can call me out for not including at least one in a review for a football-related movie. Now, to get down to the x’s and o’s.

Kevin Costner is as amiable as ever as he becomes Sonny Weaver, the general manager of the Cleveland Browns in this odd dramatization of the process through which college players are selected to play in the pros. The film takes place over the course of a single day — I won’t tell you what day that is, because that is a massive spoiler. . . — and it establishes Costner’s character as the conduit through which all of the big day’s events, emotions and energy will flow.

Directed by some guy who busted a bunch of ghosts back in 1984, Draft Day is his opportunity to shed some light upon an area of the sport perhaps even many hardcore football fanatics would like to know more about. Before placing players on the field, some key executive decisions must be made before and during the drafting process which will determine who those will be. It wasn’t necessarily Reitman’s duty to provide us an action-packed football drama. In fact, for every football movie that has had it’s share of crazy plays, Draft Day features an equal number of moments that do not feature them, almost as if announcing to the world that a movie that discusses football rather than uses it as a plot device is actually possible.

The lack of quarterback/runningback heroics should hardly cost Reitman ten yards.

Whereas many films make the mistake of jamming as many action sequences together as possible to make the story feel more exciting; or others use the sport as a means of coping with reality (hence, football as a plot device), Draft Day considers all of these options and dispenses with them, opting to get down to fundamentals. Football, like any number of team activities at the professional level, is a business first and a passion second. For once it’s refreshing to witness sports functioning differently in the movies, even if certain realities can turn ugly. . .like knowing that all this movie is going to do is earn the NFL suits even more money, because this does make the game seem enticing and thrilling at the corporate level. There is plenty of drama to be found, but nothing of the “if I don’t make this play I can’t come home for dinner” variety. What passes for excitement and intensity in a movie like this is the direction in which conversations go and what picks are actually made in the draft in the film’s final act.

The events of Draft Day are completely fictionalized, but they transpire in a way that is entirely convincing, and to a somewhat lesser degree, emotionally investing.

Sonny is on the hot seat. It’s a seat so hot in fact, he can’t really sit down in it. The city is desperate to get back to a place where a championship title isn’t a pipe dream. With Sonny’s job on the line thanks to the hawk-like watch of team owner Anthony Molina (Frank Langella), he must decide what assets he can afford to ditch and what’s worth keeping of his current line-up in order to take the right steps moving forward. But moving forward won’t be easy when his colleagues and players find out what Sonny is prepared to sacrifice in order to get what everyone thinks they want.

In the opening moments, Sonny is made an offer by Seattle Seahawks’ general manager Tom Michaels (Patrick St. Esprit) to trade their top pick in Wisconsin quarterback Bo Callahan (Josh Pence), who’s considered as this draft’s most sought-after talent, for three of Cleveland’s future top picks. Not one. Not two. Three years in a row. Keep in mind, a number one pick theoretically could change a team’s fortunes just like that. But what if the supposed star player they bargain for doesn’t deliver? What if he doesn’t fit in? Gets injured quickly? What then?

There’s also the little issue of Sonny’s personal affairs inside and away from the office, as he and his colleague and “friend” Ali (Jennifer Garner) struggle with the idea of making their relationship public. Sonny’s father has also recently passed away. Indeed, there is plenty of drama to endure on this day. Though it does border on shameless and is unavoidable, the product placement and brand recognition isn’t as intrusive at it sounds like it would be because, after all, this is what and where the movie is: it’s effectively a dramatization of the business that determines the futures of young men going into the working world. It’s almost possible to view this as a ‘real world’ film reel. Draft Day is an odd movie because it is filmed so in line with reality; it’s almost a special you might see on SportsCenter for a 10,000th Anniversary edition of the show.

And yet, it retains originality in Kevin Costner’s stalwart portrayal of a man in crisis mode, who saves a football team from almost irreparable damage; it is given personality in the fictitious players who are on the verge of elation or heartbreak depending on whether they get picked this year. The Cleveland Browns seem like a strange place for the film to take place in, and yet, no team is without it’s stretches of despair, confusion, even chaos. So at the same time we want to scoff at the notion of the Browns becoming a cinematic entity, why shouldn’t it have been them?

Draft Day is a competent drama that surprisingly appeals more because it spares little attention to the gridiron. Stuffed with sports jargon, it’s clear to see that it’s crafted to fit a somewhat niche audience, but a general interest in football will make this film a pleasant watch also. This is mostly due to Costner’s appeal. How this guy doesn’t wear a diaper for all of the shit he could lose each minute is beyond comprehension, and at times even humorous. These are aspects you begin to appreciate more about the sport after watching.

Keep an eye out for a number of big names including Ray Lewis, Chris Berman, Arian Foster, Deion Sanders, Mel Kiper and Jon Gruden.

DRAFT DAY

3-5Recommendation: You will totally be forgiven for looking at this as the NFL now invading the silver screen, but there’s more to this story than the corporate giants of football and film taking baths in the monetary exchanges. I mean, they probably did do that, but let’s focus on the fact that a film crew has managed to create a fictional account of a complicated process in the football off-season. No matter how you slice this one up, this is not your traditional sports film and could mean several different things to many different attendees. It’s worth a look for Costner fans, as well. His performance is spectacular.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 110 mins.

Quoted: “How is it that the ultimate prize in the most macho sport ever invented is a piece of jewelry?”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com