The real “Rocky” makes his bid for fame with the movie Chuck, the mostly true story of the prize fighter who went 15 rounds with Mahammad Ali in 1975. It’s the fighter that Sylvester Stallone carved his Oscar winning movie from and Chuck Wepner’s story comes to the screen more than 4 decades later. Well-acted directed and produced, the film has a lot of Hollywood heart and even more heartaches. Read more
Just in time for the winding down of the major league baseball season, The Phenom comes to Blu-ray/DVD with a drama that’s fit for avid lovers of the sport. The psychological story has a good cast, nice direction, but the script turns an interesting plot into a theatrical two act play. The movie leaves out the guts and glory that most baseball flicks rely on for the magic that puts sports fans in the seats of a dark movie theater. Instead turns into a sob story about a rookie that loses his ability to focus on “the game”. Read more
The movie Hands of Stone follows the life of world champion boxer Roberto Duran. Well-acted by a fine cast, the film plays out much like the movie Ali where the top boxer stunned the world capturing the heavyweight crown. With Duran, the story gets a glazing of white wash, turns bullish and then a bit too sentimental for my taste. That said, I did enjoy the production value and the boxing action that looked very realistic. Read more
Based on a true story, Walt Disney Pictures brings another fine movie to the screen involving sports. Returning to baseball Million Dollar Arm opens in local theaters throughout America in the midst of the pros 154th season. Dramatically presented adding comedy and sweet tears, the movie has all the trappings of a good run at the box-office, as long as the giant lizard doesn’t stomp on it. However, it’s longevity will be the test as there are a lot of little league, high school and minor league teams that should bump up the tally, and rightly so. Read more
With the NFL Draft a month away, the movie Draft Day will be hoping for a lengthy run at the box-office. The film takes you to the innards of high pressure picking and trading not seen during a real NFL draft. We saw one side of the coin, player management, in the movie Jerry Maguire when it was released in 1996, but here we get a Hollywood look at what happens in the back rooms of the teams holding all the cards. Read more
Taking you back to the late 1980’s and now on Blu-ray is the action film No Holds Barred. The movie stars Hulk Hogan in a campy story about wrestling. The film has been digitally remastered and includes some additional bonus features. If you like the sport of wrestling as the central theme in an action film that has a lot of wacky comedy, then this Blu-ray should give you a ringside view. Read more
Here’s a very good documentary for all you sports fans and those who like a fine inspirational story. It’s called Linsanity and follows the life of basketball player Jeremy Lin. The film is now available on DVD for the first time.
Lin grew up in a suburb of San Francisco called Palo Alto where he played basketball for his high school. Although a cut above his teammates and his opponents he still had the stigma of being Asian in an American game. With strong determination, fighting off racial slurs and bullying in the early years, Lin finally gets a chance to play college ball at Harvard. Even at a college like Harvard that has a code of ethics, Lin had to deal with racism, more so than African Americans in the sport of Basketball. Read more
Using some nicely delivered comedy, The Hot Flashes now on DVD features important messages that ring clear. The fun film that showcases some of filmdom’s most recognizable faces plays like a cool PSA for breast cancer and hits the mark without being sappy. The story may be a bit clichéd, but the determination and devotion to the cause is a slam dunk. Read more
The movie “42” hits a home run in acting, directing and cinematography. The storyline takes you on a journey of courageousness in the face of racial discrimination and a door opener for others that followed. It’s not just about baseball but of heroes and the right to play the game. Read more
Entering the film market the week after the running of the Kentucky Derby, The Cup, a true horse racing story, makes it’s bid for the sports fan base. A true account of one of a first ever winners by a non-Australian horse in a race dominated by the continent’s best runners, this film works not only for racing enthusiasts but thrill seekers as well. Read more
We’ve had a bevy of sports true story films over the years and in most all cases even if you know who won, they are all inspirational. This is the case of The Mighty Macs, a small women’s parochial college so obscure, that I had never heard of it before seeing the film. Well, would you believe they had a run at the title of the first Women’s National Collegiate Basketball Champion?
Did they win? Well even if you know that point it’s a good film, but not knowing it becomes even better. So don’t watch any trailers or go on line to find out or it may spoil the dramatic ending.
Cathy Rush (Carla Gugino) had just graduated from a major college and was looking for somewhere she could hang her hat in a basketball gym. Sending out letters she gets a meeting with Mother St. John (Ellen Burstyn) the head of a very small catholic college; her only reply. When she gets there she finds the place a mess, the original gym burned down and the auditorium now being used for a makeshift sports center. She accepts the position and is handed one tattered basketball. With a very small salary, no coaching experience and no budget Cathy sets out to put a competitive team together to play within the school’s collegiate division. When the impossible starts getting plausible, Cathy pushes for more help and support to keep her team going.
The Mighty Macs found my heart pounding wanting them to become winners and I was truly set up by the directing, acting and exciting storyline. Although I felt that Carla Gugino was miscast in the role (too refined and not athletic looking for the part), she gives her all to the role. Working with almost nothing and girls with very little ability, her character drives the girls to games in a van and works them constantly while hoping for a miracle.
But what makes this movie work is the cast of inspiring young ladies, Marley Shelton as Sister Sunday and some excellent direction by Tim Chambers in his directorial debut. Shelton does a great job as a nun turned rebel in order to help with the team. She brings sweetness to the role and slowly changes to a dynamo while being challenged by her desires to be holy.
Chambers takes careful aim at making sure that his audience gets entrenched in the drama around the impossible circumstances before moving into the first losing game followed by others. Building up the suspense with each proceeding winning game, it’s easy for a sports hound to get hooked, and I did. I even found myself silently rooting for the girls right up to the final buzzer.
Chamber’s biggest challenge however, comes with his choice of Gugino with her lack of athleticism looks and sweet personality in a role that just wasn’t made for her. But, he does work around it by putting a lot of the focus on each of the girls, Marley Shelton and the amazing Ellen Burstyn.
The Mighty Macs is rated G and fits the mold of a family film. The inspirational true story has a lot going for it showing that it doesn’t take a big college to complete your dream in life. Make sure you stay through the credits for some actual archive film footage of the original basketball team.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A slam-dunk true story. (B)
This is one of those long films that have a lot to say before it gets into the action it has been promoting. Warrior depends on its inspirational message to keep the audience entertained while they wait for the fierce fighting that makes this movie a winner.
Much like The Fighter, last years Oscar nominated film, the movie pits two brothers against each other in a battle of pride, redemption and anguish over their past relationships with family. Here however, we find the two Tommy (Tom Hardy) now an ex-marine and Brendan (Joel Edgerton) now a teacher at odds with each other due to an incident that happened when they were young involving their father Paddy (Nick Nolte) who coached them as wrestlers.
The story opens with Tommy coming home after being embarrassed in the Marine Corps for misconduct. His main reason is to enlist his father’s help in winning a ‘winner takes all’ mixed martial arts tournament called Sparta. Surprised by his return Paddy tries to reconcile, but the only way Tommy will accept him is if he trains him for Sparta. When Brendan gets to word that Paddy is training Tommy he enters Sparta.
The acting here is very good and both Hardy and Edgerton fit the mold of two brothers at odds with each other and are fit to enter the ring. Director Gavin O’Connor (Miracle) takes the men to their limits in both a physical and psychological way. The final confrontation between the two ranks high in the film world with Raging Bull, The Fighter and Rocky.
But the star of the film comes from an outstanding performance by Nick Nolte as the father who has to make an unpopular decision in order to save his family. As a recovering alcoholic Nolte’s Paddy finds himself in a pressure situation to which most alcoholics would succumb. Trying to overcome the past and make things right Paddy tries to reconcile but finally has to decide between his two sons. It’s a gut wrencher of a role and Nolte pulls it off. Look for an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actor for Nolte.
Good cinematography, sound and choreography are paramount to the final fight and Masanobu Takayanagi (Babel) camera, Ben Wilkins (Final Destination 5) sound editor, J. J. Perry (Haywire) stunt coordinator, work in tandem to produce an amazing explosive martial arts battle.
Warrior is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, some language and thematic material. The film spans 2 hours and 19 minutes so you may want to bring along a cushion.
FINAL ANALYSIS: A very good production with a cringing story. (B)