Showing posts with label Sports Movie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sports Movie. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Review: Prime Video's "THE UNDERDOGGS" is Vulgar, Funny and Holds The Titty

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 5 of 2024 (No. 1949) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Underdoggs (2024)
Running time:  96 minutes (1 hour, 36 minutes)
MPA – R for pervasive language, sexual references, drug use, and some underage drinking
DIRECTOR: Charles Stone III
WRITERS:  Danny Segal and Isaac Schamis
PRODUCERS:  Kenya Barris, Mychelle Deschamps, Jonathan Glickman, Constance Schwartz-Morini, and Calvin Broadus (Snoop Dogg)
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Mitchell Amundsen (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Paul Millspaugh
COMPOSER:  Joseph Shirley

COMEDY/SPORT

Starring:  Snoop Dogg, Tika Sumpter, Mike Epps, Elias Ferguson, Jonigan Booth, Caleb Cm Dixon, Adan James Carrillo, Alexander Michael Gordon, Kylah Davila, Andrew Schulz, Thom Scott II, Kal Penn, Kandi Burruss, Tony Gonzalez, Terry Bradshaw, and George Lopez

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SUMMARY OF THE REVIEW:

--Snopp Dogg is excellent is this truly funny sports comedy.

--This film has a lot of profanity and bad behavior, and their reference to sex acts and sex organs is plentiful.  It's family comedy that is not appropriate for viewing, unless the family is a bit daring.

--The Underdogg's scatological tale of a washed up, arrogant coach and a group of kids who know mostly disappointment does not come across as corny or phony.  The Underdoggs keeps it real, perhaps, too real sometimes.

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The Underdoggs is a 2024 sports comedy film from director Charles Stone III.  The film is an Amazon “Prime Original” that began streaming on “Prime Video” January 26, 2024.  The Underdoggs follows a washed-up former professional football player who decides to coach a peewee football team as way to regain his fame only to learn some important live lessons.

The Underdoggs opens at the “California High School State Championship 1997.”  Jaycen "Two J's" Jennings (Elias Ferguson) is the star wide receiver at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, and by catching the “Hail Mary” pass thrown his way, he wins the state championship for his school.  Jaycen goes on to be a star professional football player, but his ego eventually gets him tossed from the professional ranks.

Now, Jaycen Jennings (Snopp Dogg) is a washed-up ex-professional football star – an arrogant washed up former football star, and the days of being “Two J's” are behind him.  Still, he is desperately trying to hang onto fame, hopefully by landing a plum gig hosting his own Fox Sports TV show.  However, Jaycen hits rock bottom when he is sentenced to community service after an accident.

Eventually, he finds his way to the Los Angeles County Community Outreach Program, where he decides to coach a peewee football squad, a group of poor kids known as “the Green Team.”  Jaycen, however, sees this as a chance to get what he wants, but will he be forced to really give these kids what they need – a coach that cares?

I am shocked by how much I really like The Underdoggs.  Of course, the screenplay by Danny Segal and Isaac Schamis (from a pitch by Snoop Dogg and fellow producer, Constance Schwartz-Morini) revisits familiar territory.  The tale of a fallen coach, mentor, or role model and his team of poor kids, outcasts, and assorted misfits has played out in such films as The Bad News Bears (1976) and Role Models (2008).  The Mighty Ducks (1992), which is referenced in The Underdoggs, is apparently a similar film, but I have never seen it (nor have I ever wanted to).

I have been a long-time fan of Snopp Dogg, and perhaps because of serendipity, he is perfect as an actor is this story of underdogs.  I like that the film allows Jaycen to stay true to himself while also evolving, but the children also keep it real while learning to take pride in themselves and in their efforts.  In this way, The Underdoggs is a perfect, lesson-heavy, family film, but...

The Underdoggs is rated “R” by the MPA for “pervasive language, sexual references, drug use, and some underage drinking,” and alla' that shit is actually in the film, sometimes in large quantities.  There is even a funny “disclaimer” at the beginning of The Underdoggs that basically says that today's children use the same profane words spoken in the film.  Perhaps, the filmmakers' argument is this is indeed a thoroughly modern family-friendly film.  I think the “F-bomb” is said in The Underdoggs seemingly more than one hundred times.  So its appropriateness will vary from family to family, respective of decorum and personal tastes.  I have to admit that I was uncomfortable with the amount of profanity and bad behavior in this film, but...

I still laughed a lot.  The Underdoggs is uproariously funny.  I think Mike Epps as Kareem, Jaycen's friend who becomes his assistant coach, and Tika Sumpter as Cherise Porter, who was Jaycen's high school girlfriend, make the best of characters that are not that well written.  Epps is always a scene-stealer in everything from comedy to action to horror, and he grabs all he can here.  Sumpter makes Cherise an effective moral check on Jaycen's selfishness.

In the end, I feel totally comfortable recommending The Underdoggs to adult and older teen viewers.  It is one of the funniest films of the new year, so far.  I think some young viewers will be crazy about The Underdoggs, whether their parents approve or not.

A-
7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Tuesday, February 6, 2024


The text is copyright © 2024 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Saturday, March 4, 2023

Review: "CREED III" Lets Loose with Fists of Fury

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 11 of 2023 (No. 1900) by Leroy Douresseaux

Creed III (2023)
Running time:  116 minutes (1 hour, 56 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for intense sports action, violence and some strong language
DIRECTOR:  Michael B. Jordan
WRITERS: Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin; from a story Ryan Coogler, Keenan Coogler, and Zach Baylin
PRODUCERS:  William Chartoff, Ryan Coogler, Michael B. Jordan, Jonathan Glickman, Elizabeth Raposo, Charles Winkler, David Winkler, and Irwin Winker
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Kramer Morgenthau (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Jessica Baclesse and Tyler Nelson
COMPOSER:  Joseph Shirley

DRAMA/SPORTS

Starring:  Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson, Jonathan Majors, Wood Harris, Phylicia Rashad, Mila Davis-Kent, Jose Benavidez, Selenis Leyva, Florian Munteanu, Thaddeus James Mixson, Jr., Spence Moore II, Tony Bellew, Jacob “Stitch” Duran, Yahya McClain, and Stephen A. Smith

Creed III is a 2023 boxing drama and sports movie directed by Michael B. Jordan.  It is the ninth entry in the Rocky film series, which began with the 1976 film, Rocky.  Creed III is also a sequel to 2018's Creed II.  In Creed III, Adonis Creed has retired on top of the boxing game, but a childhood friend who was once a boxing prodigy returns bringing trouble with him.

Creed III finds champion boxer, Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan), defending his unified heavyweight boxing championship of the world (including the WBC titles) against an old rival.  Then, he retires to the life of a boxing promoter and manager via Delphi Boxing Academy in Los Angeles with its owner, Tony “Little Duke” Evers (Wood Harris).  His wife, music producer Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson), has a thriving career, and they have a bright, inquisitive, and hearing-impaired daughter, Amara (Mila Davis-Kent).  Life is good, but...

Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), the wife of Donnie's late father, Apollo Creed, adopted Donnie, and he must now deal with her failing health.  Also, Donnie has been teaching Amara to fight, and that causes a clash with Bianca after an incident at Amara's school.

The most shocking turn of events is the return of Damian “Dame” Anderson (Jonathan Majors).  Once upon a time, Dame was an 18-year-old, “Golden Gloves-winning,” boxing prodigy (Spence Moore II).  He was also 15-year-old Donnie's (Thaddeus James Mixson, Jr.) best friend.  However, a terrible incident separated them, and now, a reunion has become a dangerous face-off.

I did not think that I would enjoy Creed III as much as I enjoyed Creed (2015) and Creed II, but I did.  I will say, however, that Creed III is not quite as good as the earlier films.  The main reason is that the screenplay, written by Keenan Coogler and Zach Baylin with contributions for producer Ryan Coogler, is full of fanciful nonsense that would not happen in the real world of boxing.  Much of what happens in the planning and managing of fights seems illogical.  Still, the film's fight scenes are quite intense and even crazy, especially the fighting between Donnie and Dame.

Creed III, however, does not run on logic; it runs on emotions and passions.  The film's themes revolve around time and loss, and, to a lesser extent, love and longing.  Time does not heal all wounds, and the loss of opportunity can be devastating – as the film sees it.  Under the guidance of first time director, Michael B. Jordan, who is obviously also the film's star, the characters are direct – sometimes stunningly so – to each other about their feelings.  So can there be healing?

In that mode of raw emotions, Jordan, Tessa Thompson, and Wood Harris give strong performances.  Phylicia Rashad offers a poignant painful turn as Mary Anne, and Mila Davis-Kent steals scenes as young Amara Creed.  Jonathan Majors, currently a blazing hot movie star, presents Dame Anderson as crazy, but not too crazy, and as bull-in-the-china-shop who hides two decades of hurt behind his destructiveness and brutality.

Creed III”s maelstrom of emotions and feelings fascinated and got me past the plot holes.  For all the bitterness, wall-pounding, regret, and hurt that this film presents, it is about making amends.  I am impressed by Michael B. Jordan's directorial debut, and I think that fans of the previous films will really enjoy Creed III.

7 of 10
B+
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Saturday, March 4, 2023


The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.

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Thursday, March 2, 2023

Review: "CREED II" Stands Strongly on Its Own

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 10 of 2023 (No. 1899) by Leroy Douresseaux

Creed II (2018)
Running time:  130 minutes (2 hours, 10 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sports action violence, language, and a scene of sensuality
DIRECTOR:  Steven Caple, Jr.
WRITERS: Juel Taylor and Sylvester Stallone; based on a story by Sascha Penn and Cheo Hodari Coker (based on characters created by Sylvester Stallone and Ryan Coogler)
PRODUCERS:  William Chartoff, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin King-Templeton, Charles Winkler, David Winkler, and Irwin Winker
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Kramer Morgenthau (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Dana E. Glauberman, Saira Haider, and Paul Harb
COMPOSER:  Ludwig Goransson

DRAMA/SPORTS

Starring:  Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Dolph Lundgren, Florian Munteanu, Russell Hornsby, Wood Harris, Milo Ventimiglia, Robbie Johns, Brigitte Nielsen, Andre Ward, Tony Bellew, Jacob “Stitch” Duran, Max Kellerman, Jim Lampley, Roy Jones, Jr., Michael Buffer, and Scott Van Pelt

Creed II is a 2018 boxing drama and sports movies directed by Steven Caple, Jr.  It is the eighth entry in the Rocky film series, which began with the 1976 film, Rocky.  Creed II is also a sequel to 2015's Creed, which was a spin-off of the Rocky series.  In Creed II, newly crowned heavyweight champion, Adonis Creed, faces off against a boxer who is the son of the man who killed his father in the boxing ring.

Creed II opens three years after the events depicted in Creed.  Boxer Adonis “Donnie” Creed (Michael B. Jordan) finally defeats his rival, Danny “Stuntman” Wheeler (Andre Ward), to win the heavyweight championship of the world.  By his side is his trainer, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), the rival-turned-friend of his late father, Apollo Creed.  Creed's widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), who adopted Donnie as her son, is proud of him and his accomplishments.  His girlfriend, singer-songwriter Bianca Taylor (Tessa Thompson), also accepts his proposal of marriage

On the other side of the world, however, ghosts from his and Rocky's pasts stir. In Kyiv, Ukraine lives Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), the former Soviet Union boxer who killed Apollo Creed during a bout in 1985.  After losing to Rocky in a subsequent boxing match, Ivan moved to Ukraine in exile.  Seeking an opportunity for redemption and a chance to regain glory, Ivan has been training his son, Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), to be a professional boxer.  Using training methods that are practically torture, Ivan has turned Viktor into a monster of a boxer who can and has broken his opponents' bodies.

Assisted by American boxing promoter, Buddy Marcelle (Russell Hornsby), Ivan is determined to get Viktor a match against Donnie.  For Donnie, it is a chance to settle his late father's affairs, but Rocky wants no part of such a match.  Can Donnie's body take the punishment fighting Viktor will inflict?  Donnie must also answer this question: why is he really a fighter?

As I said in my review of Creed, I have never watched the movie, Rocky, or any of its sequels in their entirety.  I doubt that I have ever watched enough of them to amount to an entire film.  I don't like boxing movies, but after watching these Creed films, I am thinking about diving into the Rocky series.

I thought director Ryan Coogler delivered some powerful work in the first Creed, and I think director Steven Caple, Jr. delivers an equally powerful film in Creed II.  Although Creed II's story is directly connected to 1985's Rocky IV, it is not as reliant on the Rocky franchise the way Creed, with its multiple intimate connections, was.

Like Coogler did in the first film, Caple gives Sylvester Stallone the space he needs to give one of his best performances as Rocky Balboa in decades.  Stallone, who also co-wrote Creed II's screenplay, actually evolves the character of Rocky, showing more about his character and life.

Caple also gets an excellent performance from Michael B. Jordan.  Jordan makes Adonis Creed seem genuine; all his hopes and dreams and the things that make him proud or angry resonate strongly in Creed II.  I dare say that Jordan is Adonis Creed the way great actors have seemingly made themselves into their characters (for instance, Harrison Ford as Han Solo and as Henry “Indiana” Jones).  Simply put, Jordan makes Donnie real.

Tessa Thompson as Bianca Taylor is good, but the character seems as if she is becoming a younger version of Phylicia Rashad's Mary Anne, and Rashad already does the mothering in this film quite well.  Dolph Lundgren is nice as Ivan Drago, delivering a layered performance as a fully developed character.  I must say, however, that Florian Munteanu is magnificent as Viktor Drago.  Viktor does not have many lines, but Munteanu tells the character's story and reveals his personality with his expressive eyes and emotive facial expressions.  Viktor Drago needs his own movie.

I did not think that I would like Creed II so much, but I love it.  I think its depictions of boxing matches are more intense than those in Creed (shout-out to Creed II's editors:  Dana E. Glauberman, Saira Haider, and Paul Harb).  The finale between Donnie and Viktor is the cherry on top of Creed II, a movie that can go toe-to-toe with the other boxing movies that I have deigned to watch.

8 of 10
A
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Thursday, March 2, 2023


NOTES:
2019 Black Reel Awards:  2 nominations: “Outstanding Actor” (Michael B. Jordan) and “Outstanding Score” (Ludwig Göransson)

2019 Image Awards (NAACP): 1 nomination: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Michael B. Jordan)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.

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Saturday, February 25, 2023

Review: "CREED" Fights Furiously in the Shadow of "Rocky"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 9 of 2023 (No. 1898) by Leroy Douresseaux

Creed (2015)
Running time:  133 minutes (2 hours, 13 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for violence, language and some sensuality
DIRECTOR:  Ryan Coogler
WRITERS: Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington; from a story by Ryan Coogler (based on characters created by Sylvester Stallone)
PRODUCERS:  Roger Chartoff, William Chartoff, Sylvester Stallone, Kevin King-Templeton, Charles Winkler, David Winkler, and Irwin Winker
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Maryse Alberti (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Claudia Castello and Michael P. Shawver
COMPOSER:  Ludwig Goransson
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/SPORTS

Starring:  Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Andre Ward, Tony Bellew, Ritchie Coster, Jacob “Stitch” Duran, Graham McTavish, Gabe Rosado, Brian Anthony Wilson, Max Kellerman, Jim Lampley, Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiser, and Hannah Storm

Creed is a 2015 boxing drama and sports movies directed by Ryan Coogler.  It is the seventh film in the Rocky film series, which began with the 1976 film, Rocky.  Creed is also a spin-off of the Rocky series.  The film focuses on a young boxer who struggles with his legacy, but seeks out his late father's friend and former rival to be his trainer.

Creed introduces Adonis “Donnie” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan).  He is the son of former heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed via an extramarital affair.  Creed's widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad), took Donnie into her home in Los Angeles, which opens up many opportunities for him.  However, Donnie also wants to be a boxer, but when he finds that no one will support or train him, he travels to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

There, he convinces Apollo Creed's old friend and former rival, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), to train him.  Initially reluctant to return to boxing, Rocky eventually agrees and begins training Donnie at his old stomping grounds, Front Street Gym.  When Donnie gets the offer to fight the “light heavyweight” champion of the world, “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew), Stallone isn't sure that he should do it.  Donnie's new girlfriend, singer-songwriter, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), also has her doubts.

To do this, Donnie will have to embrace his legacy as well as forge a new one for himself.  But is he willing to accept that the world does not want Adonis Johnson.  It wants “Adonis Creed?”

I have never watched the movie Rocky or any of its sequels in their entirety.  I doubt that I have ever watched enough of them to amount to an entire film.  I don't like boxing movies, although there is one I do like, the 1949 Film-Noir, The Set-Up.  However, I have been a fan of writer-director Ryan Coogler since seeing his powerful film debut, Fruitvale Station (2013).  I am crazy about his two films for Disney's Marvel Studios, Black Panther (2018) and its sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022).  I am intrigued by the upcoming Creed III, so I decided to see the one Coogler film that I'd skipped, the first film in the series, 2015's Creed.

In some ways, Creed seems entirely reliant on the first three film in the Rocky series.  It obviously would not exist with those films, but sometimes Creed acts as if it could not exist without constantly referencing the past.  Creed, as a film, struggles with its own legacy (Rocky) as it tries to become its own thing just as Adonis Johnson struggles with the legacy of Apollo Creed.  Will becoming Adonis Creed overshadow Adonis' own identity and achievements?  Can Creed escape the shadow of Rocky.  Perhaps, they find a happy medium, Adonis more so than the film that tells his story.

Beyond that, Creed is a really good film because Ryan Coogler is an exceptionally good filmmaker.  Here, his work makes him come across as a natural, and I now see why Marvel was willing to consider him for Black Panther all those years ago.  Coogler gives Sylvester Stallone the space he needs to give his best performance as Rocky Balboa in three decades.  The role had become a stereotype, but here, Coogler makes old and ailing Rocky seem like a genuine life lived instead of as a caricature revived.

Coogler also gets Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson to give what still seem to be the best performances of their careers.  Adonis and Bianca have weight and depth, and Jordan makes Adonis feel like an especially developed character.  Jordan carries Adonis' history and emotions as if they were real things.

It is a shame that the Oscars could only recognize Stallone – via the “Best Supporting Actor” category that he did not, but should have won.  It is as if the Academy, especially the directors and screenwriters' branches, fears Ryan Coogler colossal talent.  Still, Creed, in spite of its spin-off imperfections, will be remembered much more than many of 2016's Oscar favorites.

8 of 10
A
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Saturday, February 25, 2023


NOTES:
2016 Academy Awards, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Sylvester Stallone)

2016 Black Reel Awards:  5 wins: “Outstanding Actor, Motion Picture” (Michael B. Jordan), “Outstanding Supporting Actress, Motion Picture” (Tessa Thompson), “Outstanding Director, Motion Picture” (Ryan Coogler), “Outstanding Original or Adapted Screenplay, Motion Picture” (Aaron Covington and Ryan Coogler), and “Outstanding Motion Picture” (Sylvester Stallone, Irwin Winkler, David Winkler, Robert Chartoff, William Chartoff, Kevin King-Templeton); 4 nominations: “Outstanding Score” (Ludwig Göransson), “Outstanding Ensemble” (Francine Maisler), “Outstanding Original Song” (Tessa Thompson, Ludwig Göransson, and Sam Dew for the song, “Grip”), “Outstanding Original Song” (Donald Glover, Vince Staples, Jhené Aiko, Ryan Coogler, and Ludwig Göransson for the song, “Waiting for My Moment”)

2016 Golden Globes, USA:  1 win: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Sylvester Stallone)

2016 Image Awards (NAACP):  4 wins: “Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture” (Michael B. Jordan), “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Tessa Thompson), “Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture-Theatrical” (Ryan Coogler and Aaron Covington), “Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture-Theatrical” (Ryan Coogler); 2 nominations: “Outstanding Motion Picture” and “Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture” (Phylicia Rashad)


The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.

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Saturday, February 5, 2022

Review: "SLAP SHOT" is Still Top Shelf

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 4 of 2022 (No. 1816) by Leroy Douresseaux

Slap Shot (1977)
Running time:  123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes)
MPAA – R
DIRECTOR:  George Roy Hill
WRITER:  Nancy Dowd
PRODUCERS:  Stephen Friedman and Robert J. Wunsch
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Vic Kemper
EDITOR:  Dede Allen

SPORTS/DRAMA/COMEDY

Starring:  Paul Newman, Strother Martin, Michael Ontkean, Jennifer Warren, Lindsay Crouse, Jerry Houser, Andrew Duncan, Jeff Carlson, Steve Carslon, David Hanson, Yvon Barrette, Allan F. Nichols, Brad Sullivan, Stephen Mendillo, Yvan Ponton, Matthew Cowles, and Kathryn Walker

Slap Shot is a 1977 sports comedy-drama film directed by George Roy Hill and starring Paul Newman.  The film focuses on a hockey coach and his minor league ice hockey team that finds success when they turn to violence in order to gain popularity in their hometown.

Slap Shot opens in the (fictional) New England small town of Charlestown.  The town's main business, the local mill, is about to lay off 10,000 workers.  That threatens the existence of the town's minor league hockey team, the Charlestown Chiefs, which is struggling with a losing season.  The hometown crowd is increasingly hostile, and the team's general manager, Joe McGrath (Strother Martin), is looking for another job, that is when he isn't trying to sell off team equipment.

After discovering that the team's ownership is going to fold the team, player-coach Reggie Dunlop (Paul Newman) concocts a plan to save the team and his job.  He tells his players that the team is going to be sold to a buyer in Florida, but in order to make the team attractive, they have to win and draw larger crowds.  Reggie encourages the recently acquired Hanson BrothersSteve (Steve Carlson), Jack (David Hanson), and Jeff (Jeff Carlson) to engage in the violent play they enjoy so much.  The brothers' aggressive violence and thuggish style of play excites the fans, so Reggie retools the team, encouraging his players to act like “goons.”  Soon, the team is actually winning games, and the victories and violence draw big crowds at home and on the road.  But how long can Reggie keep hiding the truth?

I had been putting off seeing Slap Shot for years, but recently, I got to see part of it on one of those retro Cinemax/Flix cable channels.  I couldn't believe how much I liked what I saw, so I decided to watch the entire movie.  Thanks to DVD.com (Netflix), I was able to do so.

It was worth it.  I'm not a big fan of sports movies, and I am quite particular about the ones I watch.  I thoroughly enjoyed Slap Shot, in large part because I am a fan of the late actor, Paul Newman (1925-2008).  Slap Shot is an odd movie, but in many ways it is a Paul Newman movie.

Yes, the elements of Slap Shot that involve minor league hockey:  struggling clubs, small town hockey fans, inconsiderate management and uncaring ownership, and professional hockey players on the less glamorous side of a professional career feel genuine.  There are times while watching this movie that I could believe that the Charlestown Chiefs were a real down-and-out minor league hockey team.  The small town setting seems authentic.  The supporting characters are quite interesting, and not just the now-legendary, delightful, and lovable Hanson Brothers.  Players like the wide-eyed Dave “Killer” Carlson (Jerry Houser) and the lascivious Morris "Mo" Wanchuk (Brad Sullivan) add color, spice, and edgy humor to Slap Shot.

However, Slap Shot is a Paul Newman movie.  The movie strikes a wonderfully odd tone, in large part because of the shifting tones of Newman's deft comic performance.  Reggie Dunlop is essentially having a midlife crisis, as he is about to lose the one and only thing he has in life – playing hockey.  It is certainly the thing he loves the most, and he clearly would not give it up in order to hold onto his wife, Francine Dunlop (Jennifer Warren).  Newman deftly navigates the shifting tones of Slap Shot – from riotous sports comedy to quirky character comedy-drama.  With a sly grin and roguish charm, Paul Newman's acting talent and star power carry Slap Shot through its inconsistencies and lapses in logic.  And when none of that works, Newman's lovely blue eyes step in to save the day.

Although it apparently was only a moderate box office success upon its first release, Slap Shot is one of those film that has gained new generations of fans through showings on cable television and home entertainment releases like VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray.  I hope it continues to find new fans because there is nothing else like it and because we should never forget Paul Newman.  Slap Shot is both unique and uniquely entertaining … and it has the Hanson Brothers, of course.

8 of 10
A

Friday, February 4, 2022


The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.

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Sunday, December 12, 2021

Review: "THE CANNONBALL RUN" Can Still Run

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 70 of 2021 (No. 1808) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Cannonball Run (1981)
Running time:  95 minutes (1 hour, 35 minutes)
MPAA – PG
DIRECTOR:  Hal Needham
WRITER:  Brock Yates
PRODUCER:  Albert S. Ruddy
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Michael Butler (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Donn Cambern and William D. Gordean

COMEDY/ACTION/SPORTS

Starring:  Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Jack Elam, Adrienne Barbeau, Tara Buckman, Terry Bradshaw, Jackie Chan, Bert Convy, Jamie Farr, Peter Fonda, George Furth, and Michael Hui

[I am working my way through the films that I first saw in a movie theater for which I have not previously written a movie review.  The first time I saw a movie in an in-door theater (as opposed to a drive-in cinema) was in 1980 – likely The Empire Strikes Back.  However, I am starting this process in the year 1981, and it turns out that there are only two movies left from that year that I saw in a theater for I which I have never written a formal review.  The Cannonball Run is one of them.]

The Cannonball Run is a 1981 action-comedy and car-racing film from director Hal Needham.  The film was produced by the Hong Kong film company, Golden Harvest, and distributed by 20th Century Fox.  The movie's plot was based on the 1979 running of an actual cross-country, outlaw road race, the “Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash,” which was also known as the “Cannonball Run.”

The film features an all-star ensemble cast, led by Burt Reynolds and featuring Dom DeLuise, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcett, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr., to name a few.  It was also the second Hollywood film appearance for Hong Kong martial arts legend and international movie star, Jackie Chan.  The Cannonball Run movie focuses on an illegal cross-country race and its oddball contenders who will use every dirty-trick-in-the-book to evade the law and to screw over their opponents.

The Cannonball Run opens in Connecticut were several teams of racers have gathered for the latest running of the illegal, cross-country road race, the “Cannonball Run.”  The goal of the racers, who are called “Cannonballers,” is to reach Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California.  Some of them hope to break the Cannonball's speed race record of 32 hours and 51 minutes.

The race teams that have gathered in Connecticut are an odd lot.  The most eccentric is the team of JJ McClure (Burt Reynolds), a famous racing driver and team owner, and Victor Prinzi (Dom DeLuise), his chief mechanic and co-driver.  There racing vehicle is a “Transcon Medi-Vac” ambulance outfitted with a NASCAR engine.  In order to convince any law enforcement officers that might stop them that they are a real ambulance and medical team, McClure and Prinzi draft a wacky physician, Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing (Jack Elam), into their plans.  For a patient, they kidnap a beautiful young woman, a tree-loving photographer named Pamela Glover (Farrah Fawcett).

Their competitors are right behind them and are almost as weird.  Scotch-swilling Jamie Blake (Dean Martin), an F1 racing icon, and his gambling-obsessed teammate, Morris Fenderbaum (Sammy Davis Jr.), dress as Catholic priests, and drive a red FerrariJill (Tara Buckman) and Marcie (Adrienne Barbeau) are two attractive women who use their good looks and impressive cleavage against traffic officers while driving a black Lamborghini.  Two Asian racers (Jackie Chan and Michael Hui) race in a high-tech, computer-laden Subaru hatchbackSeymour Goldfarb, Jr. (Roger Moore), the heir to the “Goldfarb Girdles fortune,” identifies himself as the actor Roger Moore, and he even drives a silver Aston Martin DB5.

Chasing after these teams and determined to stop the race because of its effects on the environment is Mr. Arthur J. Foyt (George Furth), an agent of the federal government's “Safety Enforcement Unit.”  But can Mr. Foyt really stop all the racers, or will their dirty tricks stop each other?

I know why 15-year-old Leroy loved The Cannonball Run when he saw it in a theater in 1981 (the Vista Village Twin Cinema).  He liked the fast cars, the cool-looking cars, the pretty White women with big boobs, and he was a fan of the actors and celebrities who appeared in the film, such as Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, Mel Tillis, and Terry Bradshaw, to name a few.  I was and still am a huge fan of the NFL team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and legendary Steelers quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, was and still is my favorite NFL player, even though he is now a fat, old White man who supports Donald Trump.

But why did AARP Leroy, who recently watched The Cannonball Run again for the first time in 40 years (via Netflix's DVD.com), still find himself loving the movie?  Maybe, it is because I like speedy, high-end, foreign sports cars.  Maybe, it's because I still like amble breasts on White women.  Maybe, it is because I still like many members of the film's cast, and I certainly appreciate Adrienne Barbeau, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin more than I did back then.  And maybe, it is because now I appreciate the way actor Alfie Wise and former NFL defensive lineman, Joe Klecko, who both appeared in The Cannonball Run, once looked in tight jeans.

I also noticed that some of the larger profile stars in this film are best known for what they did in the 1970s.  Some continued to be star actors into the 1980s and beyond, such as Burt Reynolds.  Others, like Terry Bradshaw, found new careers.  Bradshaw has acted and appeared in numerous films and television shows, and he has had a four-decade career in sports broadcast that has earned him three Sports Emmy Awards, and he is still do that as of this writing.

Maybe, part of my enjoyment of this film is nostalgia.  I am a fan of at least ten performers who appeared in The Cannonball Run and who are now deceased, including Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise.

That aside, the film is genuinely funny, at least I think so.  It has a simple plot – win the race, trick the police, and lie-cheat-steal your opponents.  The setting is also simple, the highway and byways of the United States.  Sadly, because the film has a short-running time, it can only provide a cursory glance at the many unique places across the USA through which the Cannonballers have to travel.  Honestly, I think this concept would make for a good television series, at least a miniseries.

The characters are actually interesting.  Most of the actors are playing themselves or are playing character types, like Jack Elam's goony Dr. Van Helsing.  I'm pretty sure that Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. were each playing a character they played many times before this film, both on television and in film.  Farrah Fawcett's whispery-voiced Pamela Glover is a mostly pointless character, but Adrienne Barbeau and Tara Buckman make better use of their “sex appeal.”

In the case of Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise, their playing to type was and still is fine with me.  Reynolds smile and his wit shine through in The Cannonball Run, which is by no means one of his better performances.  Reynolds popularity lasted so long because he was a true movie star.  As for DeLuise, if you liked what he usually did, well, he gave all of himself here.  I have always found him likable, even when the material was not top notch, which it is not here.

I think what really sold The Cannonball Run, both to teenage me and to old me, is that everyone in this movie seems to be genuinely having fun.  Back in 1981, those good feelings crossed over to the audience; The Cannonball Run was one of the year's biggest box office hits.  In a way, those good feelings have crossed over through time to me, and I found myself really enjoying this movie all over again.

7 of 10
B+

Saturday, December 11, 2021


The text is copyright © 2021 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Review: "Planes" Flies Pretty High

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 49 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

Planes (2013)
Running time:  91 minutes (1 hour, 31 minutes)
Rating: MPAA – PG for some mild action and rude humor
DIRECTOR:  Klay Hall
WRITERS:  Jeffrey M. Howard; from a story by John Lasseter, Klay Hall, and Jeffrey M. Howard
PRODUCER:  Traci Balthazor-Lynn
EDITOR:  Jeremy Milton
COMPOSER:  Mark Mancina

ANIMATION/ADVENTURE/COMEDY/FAMILY/SPORTS

Starring:  Dane Cook, Stacy Keach, Brad Garrett, Teri Hatcher, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Priyanka Chopra, John Cleese, Cedric the Entertainer, Carlos Alazraqui, Roger Craig Smith, Anthony Edwards, Val Kilmer, Sinbad, Gabriel Iglesias, Danny Mann, Colin Cowherd, Oliver Kalkofe, Klay Hall, John Ratzenberger, and Brent Musburger

Planes is a 2013 computer-animated fantasy adventure film and sports comedy that was produced by DisneyToon Studios.  It was originally intended to be released straight-to-video, but was instead released to movie theaters as a 3D film in August 2013.  Planes is a spinoff of Pixar's Cars film franchise and is co-written and executive-produced by John Lasseter, the director of Cars (2006) and Cars 2 (2011).  Planes focuses on a cropduster plane who dreams of competing in a world-famous aerial race.

Planes opens in the small town of Propwash Junction and introduces Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook).  This young airplane is a cropduster, but he dreams of being an air racer and even has a racing alter-ego he calls “Strut Jetstream.”  Dusty's pal, a fuel truck named Chug (Brad Garrett), encourages Dusty's dream of flying in the airplane race, the Wings Around the Globe Rally.

However, Dusty was built to be a cropduster, not an air racer, but he is determined.  After barely qualifying for the rally, Dusty seeks the help of an elderly and reclusive Navy war plane named Skipper (Stacy Keach), who reluctantly agrees to help him.  Still, the odds are against Dusty, and so are some of his competitors.  Does he have what it takes to win?  Does Dusty truly understand the motto “Volo pro veritas” (“I fly for truth.”)?

I was kind of interested in seeing Planes when it first played in movie theaters, but I changed my mind.  However, I was able to get a Blu-ray copy for review of its sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue, which was released to theaters in July 2014.  So I decided to see the original film, and I have to be honest, dear reader:  I really like Planes.

Planes is a formulaic animated film aimed at the family audience; meaning children watch it and the parents who take them to the movie suffer through it.  However, Planes is a well-executed and entertaining formulaic animated family film.

The characters are a mixture of familiar little-guy heroic types, ethnic stereotypes, and assorted comic caricatures.  But they're mostly all lovable, and stand-up comedian and actor, Dane Cook, who can be, at best, an acquired taste, is quite good as the voice of Dusty Crophopper.   Carlos Alazraqui is a treat as El Chupacabra, a friendly competitor of Dusty's in the Wings Around the World Rally, and Sinbad makes the most of his character, Roper, the forklift who is also a rally official.

Planes is a well-written version of the little engine that could (in this case, an airplane), and the writers are constantly putting believable obstacles in his way that the audience will want to see him overcome.  Some, like me, will find their hearts lifting as Dusty soars over those obstacles, and also over his primary antagonist and rival, Ripslinger (Roger Craig Smith), who is the kind of jerk I want to see get his comeuppance.  I enjoyed Planes enough, surprisingly so, that I'm ready for the sequel.

6 of 10
B

Sunday, November 2, 2014


The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review: Director Peyton Reed Brought It with "Bring It On"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 111 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Bring It On (2000)
Running time:  98 minutes (1 hour, 38 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sex-related material and language
DIRECTOR:  Peyton Reed
WRITER:  Jessica Bendinger
PRODUCERS:  Marc Abraham and Thomas A. Bliss
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Shawn Maurer
EDITOR:  Larry Bock
COMPOSER:  Christophe Beck
Black Reel Awards winner

COMEDY

Starring:  Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dushku, Jesse Bradford, Gabrielle Union, Clare Kramer, Tsianina Joelson, Rini Bell, Nathan West, Shamari Fears, Natina Reed, Brandi Williams, Lindsay Sloane, Holmes Osborne, Sherry Hursey, and Cody McMains

The subject of this movie review is Bring It On, a 2000 high school sports comedy from director Peyton Reed.  The film spawned four direct-to-DVD sequels and a stage musical.  Bring It On (the original film) focuses on a head cheerleader who makes a shocking discovery just before the upcoming cheerleading championship tournament:  the previous captain of her high school’s cheerleading squad stole their best cheer routines from an inner-city school.

All-American girl Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst) sees her dream finally come true.  She is now the head cheerleader of the Rancho Carne Toros, at her high school in suburban San Diego.  The Toros have won The Nationals of the high school cheerleading championship the last five years, and Torrance is not about to let anything – her parents, her little brother, her grades, or her college future – get in the way of a sixth consecutive title.

The big shocker comes when Torrance learns that her predecessor was stealing the routines that earned the Toros their reputation from an inner-city high school hip-hop cheerleading squad, the Clovers of East Compton.  And the Clovers and their captain, Isis (Gabrielle Union), are looking to get even with the Toros at the 2000 Nationals.  Now, Torrance and her Toros are going to have to learn all-new routines, all while dealing with the trials and tribulations of high school life.

Bring It On was a hit with ‘tweens, teens, and 20-somethings back in 2000.  Although it’s competently directed and the writing doesn’t do much in the character department, the Machiavellian-lite, cutthroat world of competitive youth events, in this case, the world of competitive cheerleading, provides this movie’s fireworks.  It’s fun to watch the catfights, preening dumb jocks, and every kid with a smart aleck attitude.

The cheerleading performances, from the practices to the championship, are rousing enough to make you stand up and cheer.  The acting isn’t all that great, and the script doesn’t give the black cheerleaders enough room to show that there is actually character behind their sass.  Kirsten Dunst’s performance is serviceable for this flick, and Eliza Dushku’s hot babe, Missy Pantone, makes what started out as a dull Disney-like teen movie into a real movie the moment she struts on stage.

6 of 10
B

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Updated:  Wednesday, June 11, 2014

NOTES:
2001 Black Reel Awards:  1 win: “Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress” (Gabrielle Union)

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Review: "42" Good Film; Does Good by History

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 77 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

42 (2013)
Running time:  128 minutes (2 hours, 8 minutes)
MPAA – R for thematic elements including language
WRITER/DIRECTOR:  Brian Helgeland
PRODUCER:  Thomas Tull
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Don Burgess (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Peter McNulty and Kevin Stitt
COMPOSER:  Mark Isham

DRAMA/BIOPIC/SPORTS/HISTORICAL

Starring:  Chadwick Boseman, Harrison Ford, Nicole Beharie, Andre Holland, Christopher Meloni, Ryan Merriman, Lucas Black, Alan Tudyk, Hamish Linklater, T.R. Knight, John C. McGinley, Toby Huss, Max Gail, Brad Beyer, and James Pickens, Jr.

The late Jack Roosevelt Robinson, better known as Jackie Robinson, was an American baseball player who is best known as the first African-American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era.  The MLB once had a color line, which meant that Black men could not play the game, and, prior to Robinson, no Black man had played for a major league baseball team (apparently) since the 1880s.

So when the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color line.  However, it was both Robinson’s unquestionable talent and his character that challenged the basis of segregation in the United States, in all aspects of American life, including professional sports.

How did Jackie Robinson get to play Major League Baseball?  In the mid-1940s, Branch Rickey, the club president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, began to scout the Negro Leagues with the specific intention of finding a promising black player he could bring to his organization.  Rickey found Robinson, and thus, began a relationship that guided Robinson into baseball and through tough times to make history.

42 is a 2013 biopic-historical film and baseball movie from writer-director, Brian Helgeland.  It is a dramatization of the relationship between the iconic Jackie Robinson and the ground-breaking Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey.  42 takes the audience from Rickey’s signing of Robinson, through the 1947 MLB season as Robinson and Rickey try to make history and the Dodgers try to make it to the playoffs.

42 opens in Brooklyn, New York, Spring 1945.  Brooklyn Dodgers general manager, Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), is making moves to find and hopefully sign the black baseball player who will break the baseball color barrier that keeps Major League Baseball all white.  In Birmingham, Alabama, in the summer of 1945, the Kansas City Monarchs, a Negro League baseball team, is in midst of a road trip.  The team bus stops at a gas station, where team member Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) tries to use the men’s restroom and stirs up a little trouble.

However, that gas station is where a Dodgers’ scout catches up to Robinson.  Soon, Robinson and Rickey are planning to change baseball and maybe the world.  Robinson has his wife, Rachel (Nicole Beharie), by his side, and a black sportswriter, Wendell Smith (Andre Holland), offering a helping hand.  But is that enough to help Robinson overcome hostile crowds, racist taunts, racial epitaphs, and belligerent opponents?  Together, a stubborn general manager and tough-as-nails player race towards the playoffs and history.

42 is a genial, easy-going movie about a dark time in American history.  As the film expresses, however, dark times allow men and women of character and strength to be the light that shines through the clouds and maybe even dispel some of that darkness.  The film is really the story of two men, Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey, who wage battle on different, but related fronts.

The more interesting battle is Jackie’s because it takes place on the field of combat that is professional sports.  Director Brian Helgeland is quite good at making the baseball scenes of this film engaging, even occasionally fascinating.  The scenes in which Robinson is heckled with the word, “nigger,” the most used of all the hate speech, are riveting.  Even if the N-word makes you uncomfortable, it is hard to look away from these most potent moments of 42.  Kudos to Alan Tudyk as the horrid Ben Chapman; it is a superb turn that makes a small role unforgettable.

Helgeland is not quite as good at depicting Branch Rickey’s struggles.  He picks the right adversaries for the pugnacious executive, but the director is shoddy in executing the backroom verbal brawls.  When it comes to Rickey, Helgeland presents an opponent with a gripe, and has Rickey tell him off, in what amounts to a short, one-sided spat.  I can imagine that the real-life versions of Rickey’s battles were a tad bit more dramatic and combative than they are depicted here.  That aside, Harrison Ford gives one of the best performances of his career as Rickey; it is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

When Brian Helgeland combines Rickey and Robinson’s struggles into a single struggle, he creates a rhythm that beats out a tale of two men determined to overcome obstacles.  Yeah, 42 is feel-good and even schmaltzy, especially in scenes that bring Jackie and his wife, Rachel, together.  I can put that aside because 42 is a movie that American film needed to tell, and it does good by the real-life story it tells

8 of 10
A

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Review: "Cinderella Man" Ignores the Woman Next to the Man (Happy B'day, Paul Giamatti)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 16 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Cinderella Man (2005)
Running time: 144 minutes (2 hours, 24 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for intense boxing violence and some language
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
WRITERS: Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman; from a story by Cliff Hollingsworth
PRODUCERS: Brian Grazer, Penny Marshall, and Ron Howard
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Salvatore Totino
EDITORS: Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill
COMPOSER: Thomas Newman
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/BIOPIC/SPORTS

Starring: Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko, Paddy Considine, Bruce McGill, Ron Canada, Clint Howard, and Rufus Crawford

The subject of this movie review is Cinderella Man, a 2005 boxing drama and biographical film from director Ron Howard. The film is based on the life of heavyweight boxing champion, James J. Braddock (1935 to 1937), and the movie’s title is taken from Braddock’s nickname.

In 1928, James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) was an up-and-coming prizefighter. By the early 1930, Jim Braddock was an impoverished ex-boxer – broken-down, beat-up, and as unfortunate and out of luck as so many Americans were who had hit rock bottom during the Depression. Although his boxing career was seemingly over, Braddock and still had a wife, Mae (Renée Zellweger), and three children to support, and to him they were what mattered most. Braddock was unable to pay his bills and eventually had to seek Public Relief (kind of like modern welfare); he even begged for money when things got that desperate.

However, Braddock never gave up on his dream to be a great boxer, even when the Boxing Commission took away his license to fight, and chance brings him a one-time fight. With his manager, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti), at his side, Jim grabs the success of that fight and pushes his way back into boxing, each success keeping his family with a roof over their heads, food on the table, and light and heat. Eventually, he gets his dream match – a heavyweight championship fight with the reigning champion, the unstoppable Max Baer (Craig Bierko). Now, Jim, considered too old and finished by many in the boxing community, must face Baer, a man renowned for having killed two men in the ring.

Ron Howard’s biopic, Cinderella Man, based upon the real life of Depression-era boxing hero, Jim Braddock, was one of the best reviewed films of 2005, but considering the reviews and the pedigrees of the filmmakers involved, the film was not well attended. That’s a shame because Cinderella Man is one of those proverbial “good movies” of which many people, especially media watchers, complain there aren’t enough. This is actually Howard’s epic film, an ode to middle class values from a man, who as a child actor, played one of the ultimate Middle American children, Opie Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” and later played the teenage version of that in Richie Cunningham of “Happy Days.”

Cinderella Man is a film where you can really root for the hero, Jim Braddock. He’s the (not so) little guy battling against doubters, haters, financial misfortune, poverty, unemployment, etc., but he believes in himself. Though his back is often against the wall, he never quits, and he ain’t too proud to beg – if it keeps his family fed and off the streets. Russell Crowe’s performance embodies that plucky American spirit, but he shows something else we Americans really like – grit – the kind of grit it takes to fight the tough times. In fact, Paul Giamatti’s Joe Gould is like that voice inside our heads that keeps pushing us, and just when we think that the voice has left us, it’s back in our corner when it sees that we’re willing to fight out of the bad times. That’s the acting dynamic between Crowe and Giamatti – the hero and the voice of encouragement.

Cinderella Man actually does a few things to keep from being a perfect film. The lighting and cinematography are too murky; everything looks like an Old Master painting covered in soot. The script by Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman is good, but not great. One reason that it isn’t great is because it takes the easy road of turning Renée Zellweger’s Mae Braddock into the little wife at home fretting away for her man. I can imagine that Mae does as much to hold things together for the Braddocks, and Howard and his writers don’t have the imagination to really show her struggle – what she does to support the family unit. Mae is just a prop the filmmakers use when they need to send Jim home for scenes that don’t involve boxing or work.

Ultimately, this is Ron Howard’s Middle American fable, and he uses the elements of cinema to manipulate the audience as much as Steve Spielberg did in films like E.T. the Extraterrestrial and The Color Purple. However, Cinderella Man has many genuine and honest moments that speak to the American family and of the grit it takes for a family to keep it together. That’s enough to make me ignore the warts.

7 of 10
A-

NOTES:
2006 Academy Awards, USA: 3 nominations: “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Paul Giamatti), “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Daniel P. Hanley and Mike Hill), “Best Achievement in Makeup” (David LeRoy Anderson and Lance Anderson)

2006 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Best Screenplay – Original” (Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman)

2006 Golden Globes, USA: 2 nominations “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Russell Crowe) and “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Paul Giamatti)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Review: "Surf's Up" Has Impressive Animation

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 136 (of 2007) by Leroy Douresseaux

Surf’s Up (2007) – computer animation
Running time: 85 minutes (1 hour, 25 minutes)
MPAA – PG for mild language and some rude humor
DIRECTORS: Ash Brannon and Chris Buck
WRITERS: Don Rhymer and Ash Brannon and Chris Buck and Christopher Jenkins; from a story by Christopher Jenkins and Christian Darren with Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse
PRODUCER: Christopher Jenkins
EDITORS: Ivan Bilancio and Nancy Frazen
Academy Award nominee

ANIMATION/COMEDY/SPORTS with elements of drama

Starring: (voices) Shia LaBeouf, Jeff Bridges, Zooey Deschanel, Jon Heder, James Woods, Diedrich Bader, Mario Cantone, Brian Posehn, and Dana Belben

The subject of this movie review is Surf’s Up, a 2007 computer-animated film directed by Ash Brannon and Chris Buck. The film is a mock documentary or “mockumentary” (with This is Spinal Tap being the most famous example). It was one of three 2007 films to receive best animated feature Oscar nominations (a category Ratatouille won).

A documentary film crew follows a young penguin who loves to surf in Surf’s Up, the computer-animated film from Sony Pictures Animation (Open Season) which takes the notion that penguins invented surfing.

Cody Maverick (Shia LaBeouf) is not like the other penguins in Shiverpool, Antarctica. He’d rather surf than process fish all day. Opportunity arrives when he talks his way into the Big Z Memorial Surf-Off, an international surf tournament named in memory of Cody’s idol, the legendary surfing penguin, Zeke “Big Z” Topanga.

When Cody arrives on Pen Gu Island, he realizes that he doesn’t really fit in very well because he is a small wave surfer in a big wave event. He quickly earns the ire of a mouthy surfing promoter, a hedgehog named Reggie Belafonte (James Woods), and the 9-time reigning champion, the utterly arrogant penguin Tank “The Shredder” Evans (Diedrich Bader). Cody does manage to make a fast friend in Chicken Joe (Jon Heder), a surfing rooster from Michigan, and also attract the attention of sexy lifeguard, Lani Aliikai (Zooey Deschanel). However, it’s when he meets the mysterious Geek (Jeff Bridges), a reclusive penguin who lives on the other side of the island that Cody learns there is more to discover in surfing than just how to win a tournament.

Although on the surface it resembles leftovers from the Oscar-winning computer-animated hit, Happy Feet (2006), Surf’s Up is actually a good film on its own. It is an entertaining comedy that not only has some really cool surfing scenes, but also has a nice message about friendship. Shia LaBeouf and Jeff Bridges have excellent chemistry, which may be due to the fact that the voice actors recorded their dialogue together in one room – a rarity in feature film animation. As the burnt-out, but wise teacher, Geek, and his stubborn pupil, Cody, Bridges and LaBeouf respectively add solid dramatic weight and traction to the characters’ relationship with their voice performances. Each actor brings both gentle sarcasm and humor to their roles, but they both know when to add a somber touch when the story calls for it.

As for the rest of the cast: Jon Heder manages to seem fresh, although even here he is pretty much playing the same kind of goofy dude part he’s been repeatedly playing for the last three years. Zooey Deschanel is always a nice presence – somehow managing to add a touch of sweetness to any film in which she appears. James Woods is shrill and his character, Reggie Belafonte, is way more annoying than he needs to be.

The aforementioned surfing scenes are surprisingly good – a testament to how supernaturally skilled these programmers, software guys, and animators who make computer-animated films are. That they make the surfing look so good with penguins on the surf boards adds to the amazement.

6 of 10
B

Saturday, November 10, 2007

NOTES:
2008 Academy Awards: 1nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film of the Year” (Ash Brannon and Chris Buck)

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Review: The Rock Tries Hard in "The Game Plan" (Happy B'day, Dwayne Johnson)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 19 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Game Plan (2007)
Running time: 110 minutes (1 hour, 50 minutes)
MPAA – PG for some mild thematic elements
DIRECTOR: Andy Fickman
WRITERS: Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price; from a story by Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price and Audrey Well
PRODUCERS: Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Greg Gardiner (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Michael Jablow

COMEDY/SPORTS/FAMILY

Starring: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Madison Pettis, Kyra Sedgwick, Roselyn Sanchez, Morris Chestnut, Hayes MacArthur, Brian J. White, Jamal Duff, Kate Nauta, Jackie Flynn, and Paige Turco

Dwayne Johnson’s movie career began with a small role in 2001 in The Mummy Returns, but before that he was a wildly popular professional wrestler known as “The Rock,” a name that has stuck with him throughout the first seven years of his movie career. Johnson claims that his Fall 2007 film, The Game Plan, is the last time he’ll be credited in a film as “Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.” Good for him because this tolerable kids movie turns out to be the perfect time to jettison his WWF moniker.

Boston Rebels quarterback Joe Kingman (Dwayne Johnson) is the toast of Boston, and boy, does he know it. Self-centered and egotistical, Joe has the respect of teammates, but he doesn’t really trust them. When the game is on the line, Joe calls his own number to make the big plays, but after nearly a decade, this superb physical specimen and all-around great player doesn’t have a professional football championship.

A confirmed bachelor, Joe lives in a lavish bachelor pad decorated with the latest personal electronic gadgets and numerous trophies for his personal (not team) achievements. Then, one day an 8-year-old girl named Peyton Kelly (Madison Pettis) shows up at Joe’s door claiming to be his daughter from a short-lived marriage. She expects to stay with him while her mother is out of the country, Peyton says. This isn’t what Joe needs just as he’s making what may look like his last best chance to win a professional football championship. Still, while Joe warms to Peyton, his ruthless, high-powered agent, Stella Peck (Kyra Sedgwick) doesn’t. And Peyton hasn’t been entirely truthful…

The Game Plan is an innocuous family film that will appeal to children who are too young to have seen this formula story countless times as many adult viewers have. Still, there is some appeal to these stories of wayward men who struggle with, then gallantly grasp the reigns of fatherhood. The truth is that the first hour and twenty minutes of The Game Plan is lousy. It isn’t until the last half hour that The Game Plan picks up real dramatic weight and suddenly the transformation of Joe Kingman from overgrown man-child to responsible dad becomes a stirring, gripping story.

As for the acting, everyone is bad, especially Madison Pettis as Peyton and Kyra Sedgwick as the meanie agent. Johnson, however, works at this movie with such gusto; he almost fools you into believing that this could be an Oscar-worthy flick. The Game Plan is strictly for diehards fans of “The Rock” (me – at least as an actor) and children.

5 of 10
C+

Monday, April 07, 2008

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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Review: "North Dallas Forty" is Proud to Be a Muck-Racking Drama

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 122 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

North Dallas Forty (1979)
Running time: 118 minutes (1 hour, 58 minutes)
MPAA – R
DIRECTOR: Ted Kotcheff
WRITERS: Peter Gent, Frank Yablans, and Ted Kotcheff (from the novel by Peter Gent)
PRODUCER: Frank Yablans
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Paul Lohmann
EDITOR: Jay Kamen

DRAMA/SPORTS with elements of comedy

Starring: Nick Nolte, Mac Davis, Charles Durning, Dayle Haddon, Bo Svenson, John Matuszak, Steve Forrest, G.D. Spradlin, and Dabney Coleman

North Dallas Forty is a 1979 sports movie that is set in the world of 1970s professional football. The film is based on the 1973 novel of the same name by former NFL-player turned novelist, the late Peter Gent.

Phillip “Phil” Elliot (Nick Nolte) is a pro football player – specifically a wide receiver on the Dallas franchise (a thinly veiled version of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys). Elliot smokes marijuana, sleeps around with sports groupies, drinks a lot, but he plays through injuries. His rebellious attitude and his tendency to ask the kind of questions that the team management doesn’t want to answer have him in hot water. His coach, B.A. Strothers (G.D. Spradlin), won’t put him in the starting lineup, and his best friend, Seth Maxwell (Mac Davis), the team’s star quarterback, thinks that Phil should just shut up sometimes. There’s a big game coming up in Chicago that will decide if Dallas gets in the playoffs, and it just may also decide Phil’s future.

North Dallas Forty remains a gritty football flick, a gridiron classic that is timeless in its portrayal of the Machiavellian front office maneuvering, favoritism, and politics of big-time professional football. This film’s unvarnished look and its rough portrayal of football life may not resemble the glitzy pro football that the NFL and its media cohorts sell us, but North Dallas Forty is about the NFL’s brand of football.

The acting isn’t all that great, but works in the context of this movie; the film also gets preachy towards the end. However, the film’s portrayal of how the players strive to win and the gut-wrenching physical pain they endure to keep playing makes North Dallas Forty a riveting sports flick. When you see team owners and management bullying and extorting players to take dangerous drugs and horrid shots of painkillers so that they can play through pain and injury (which actually makes it worse), you’ll know that you’re watching honest-to-goodness, in-your-face, muck-racking cinema.

7 of 10
B+

Friday, June 02, 2006

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

"Moneyball" is Money

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 2 (of 2012) by Leroy Douresseaux


Moneyball (2011)
Running time: 133 minutes (2 hours, 13 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for some strong language
DIRECTOR: Bennett Miller
WRITERS: Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin; from a story by Stan Chervin (based upon Michael Lewis’s book "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game")
PRODUCERS: Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz, and Brad Pitt
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Wally Pfister (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Christopher Tellefsen
COMPOSER: Mychael Danna

DRAMA/SPORTS/BIOPIC

Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop, Brent Jennings, Ken Medlock, Nick Searcy, Glenn Morshower, Reed Thompson, and Kerris Dorsey

Moneyball is a 2011 sports drama and biographical film starring Brad Pitt. The film is a fictionalized version of events in the 2002 season of the Major League Baseball team, the Oakland Athletics (A’s). Moneyball follows the real-life A’s general manager (GM), Billy Beane, as he uses computer-generated analysis to field (or put together) a competitive and winning baseball team. The Moneyball movie is based on Michael Lewis’ 2003 book of the same name, and Oscar-winner Scott Rudin is also one of the film’s executive producers.

Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is upset that his team lost to the New York Yankees during the 2001 playoffs. The end of the 2001 season also means that several of the A’s star players are leaving to sign with other teams for much more money than the A’s are willing to or have the ability to pay. As GM, Beane is constrained by the lowest payroll in baseball, so he needs to find another competitive advantage. Beane meets Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a young Yale economics graduate with radical ideas about how to assess a baseball player’s value and about how to put a team together. But this new approach is controversial, and as the A’s lose, the pressure mounts on Beane.

Acclaimed film and television writer, Aaron Sorkin wrote the third version of Moneyball’s screenplay. Sorkin also wrote The Social Network, for which he won an Academy Award. Like The Social Network, Moneyball is a film about someone who introduces something radical and controversial to an institution, in this case baseball, which everyone insists cannot be changed. Another thing Moneyball has in common with The Social Network is that Moneyball is also about a guy who goes out and makes something and does it as well as or better than other men that have many more resources than he has.

Director Bennett Miller (Capote) makes this story work as a film by focusing on Beane, and to a lesser extent Brand. Millers puts Beane’s struggles and the A’s ups and downs side by side. Separately, Beane and the A’s are compelling, but together, their story is exhilarating.

As Billy Beane, Brad Pitt gives one his more unusual performances. To sell this story, Pitt, as the lead character, does not rely on his star power or handsome looks. Indeed, whenever his “muscle-ly” arms make an appearance, they seem out of place. Pitt’s performance is subtle, quiet, and graceful. When Pitt needs to be intense, he is intense, so much so that I could feel it coming off the screen; however, Pitt delivers this intensity in an entirely non-intense way. I believed that Pitt was Billy Beane.

Of all the biographical sports dramas I’ve seen, Moneyball is like no other. This is a baseball movie for baseball people, but this is also a good movie for good movie people.

8 of 10
A

Friday, January 13, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

"Bend it Like Beckham" is Something Different and Nice

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 131 (of 2003) by Leroy Douresseaux


Bend it Like Beckham (2002)
U.S. release: 2003
Running time: 112 minutes (1 hour, 52 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for language and sexual content
DIRECTOR: Gurinder Chadha
WRITERS: Paul Mayeda Berges, Guljit Bindra, and Gurinder Chadha
PRODUCERS: Gurinder Chadha and Deepak Nayar
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Lin Jong (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Justin Krish

COMEDY/DRAMA/SPORTS

Starring: Parminder K. Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys-Myers, Anupam Kher, Archie Punjabi, Shaznay Lewis, Frank Harper, Juliet Stevenson, Shaheen Kahn, Ameet Chana, and Shaznay Lewis

Bend it Like Beckham is a 2002 comedy/drama and sports movie from director Gurinder Chadha. The film is set in West London and focuses on a young woman who rebels against her orthodox Sikh parents to join a football (soccer) team.

If you’ve never heard of David Beckham, the “Beckham” in Bend it Like Beckham, that’s okay. He’s currently the world’s most famous soccer player or footballer, and soccer still has a long way to go in the States. Still, Beckham, the movie about a young woman who battles her parents Old World ways to forge her own future is not only a really good “feel good” film, but also unique because it’s Asian/Sikh cast makes it very different from the all-white family films that we usually get.

Jesminder Bhamra or Jess (Parminder K. Nagra), who has loved soccer since she was a little girl, gets an offer from her new friend Juliette Paxton (Keira Knightley) to join an girls soccer team that is part of an all-female team. Jess’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra (Anupam Kher and Shaheen Kahn) detest their daughter’s interest in soccer although she excels at it, seeing it as an affront to their orthodox Sikh ways, especially as their daughter Pinky’s (Archie Punjabi) wedding day approaches. Jess, however, rebels against them; she concocts elaborate lies that usually fall apart, but her biggest sin is when she joins her team for a big tournament in Germany.

Although the story touches on a number of family issues, including obligation and tradition, the script approaches ideas as frivolously as a sitcom. There is a serious clash of cultures going on here, and although the film is a laundry list of conflicts, the screenwriters never treat any of it seriously. For instance, during a soccer match, an opponent throws Jess to the ground and calls her a “paki,” which is a sadly popular ethnic slur against many Asians in England. When Jess retaliates, the referee throws her out of the game, but not the bigoted ho. This directly ties into the experiences Mr. Bhamra had when he moved to England, but the director brushes past the trauma of racism and just moves onto the next funny scene.

Bend it Like Beckham is light, frothy entertainment. It is funny, and though a bit of a chill tempers its warmth, I credit it for being quite entertaining in spite of a few warts.

6 of 10
B

NOTES:
2003 BAFTA Awards: 1 nomination: “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (Deepak Nayar and Gurinder Chadha)

2004 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy)

2004 Image Awards: 1 nomination: “Outstanding Motion Picture”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Review: "DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story" is Still Funny (Happy B'day, Ben Stiller)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 100 (of 2004) by Leroy Douresseaux

DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Running time: 92 minutes (1 hour, 32 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for rude and sexual humor, and language
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Rawson Marshall Thurber
PRODUCERS: Stuart Cornfeld and Ben Stiller
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jerzy Zielinski
EDITOR: Alan Baumgarten and Peter Teschner
COMPOSER: Theodore Shapiro

COMEDY/SPORTS with elements of romance

Starring: Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Ben Stiller, Rip Torn, Justin Long, Stephen Root, Joel David Moore, Chris Williams, Alan Tudyk, Missi Pyle, Jamal E. Duff, Gary Cole, Jason Bateman, Al Kaplon, Curtis Armstrong, and Hank Azaria with (cameos) Lance Armstrong, Chuck Norris, and William Shatner

DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story is a 2004 sports comedy set in the world of competitive dodgeball. Ben Stiller is one of the film’s producers and is also one of the movie’s stars. DodgeBall follows an underdog dodgeball team and their rivalry with a powerhouse team from a big-budget gym.

A group of misfits band together and enter a dodgeball tournament in Las Vegas in order to save their cherished gym, Average Guy Gym. The gym owner, Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn), is not an ambitious guy, but he reluctantly joins his friends/customers to go after the $50,000 championship prize.

This prize money will save his gym from foreclosure, where upon it will end up in the hands of Global Gym and its owner, White Goodman (Ben Stiller). When Goodman learns that Peter’s friends will compete in the tournament and that Peter is also dating an attorney (Christine Taylor) he desires, Goodman assembles a killer team of hired muscle to compete in the Las Vegas tournament against Peter and his friends.

DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story is absolutely hilarious. It’s witty, sarcastic, lewd, crude, snarky, and unabashedly lowbrow, but ultimately it’s the kind of belly laugh comedy that doesn’t come around often enough. It’s not high art; it’s the love child of such films as Caddyshack and Revenge of the Nerds. Vince Vaughn, once destined to be a matinee idol, has turned out to be a funny comic actor who gets plenty of mileage out of dry wit and dead pan humor, and though he is warmer than he is hot in this film, he makes DodgeBall.

Anyone who can not take DodgeBall seriously and has the kind of sense of humor that finds a film like Dude, Where’s My Car? funny will like this.

6 of 10
B

NOTES:
2005 Razzie Awards: 1 nomination: “Worst Actor” (Ben Stiller)

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