Category Archives: Sports

Field of Dreams (1989)

If you build it, he will come.

— The Voice

This is the last movie that I saw before my burnout happened over two months, the guy tear-jerker Field of Dreams. There is an unwritten rule that if you are a man and you don’t cry at the end of, you have no soul. That is true. Every boy wants to have one game of catch with their fathers once in their lifetime. Based on the novel, “Shoeless Joe”, it was nominated for three Oscars including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay and Original Score.

A farmer from Iowa named Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) is walking through his field when he hears a disembodied saying, “If you built it, he will come.” He hears the same phrase repeatedly, but he is the only one that hears it. He confesses to his wife, Annie (Amy Madigan) about the phrase that he keeps on hearing. She thinks that maybe it was God talking to him or maybe he is going off the deep end.

Ray randomly questions the townspeople about the meaning of the phrase until he realizes that he has to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. He thinks that this action would bring a childhood hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson, back so he could play one last game. Ray thinks that he is turning into his father (Dwier Brown), a man who played it safe during his life and never took chances.

Ray decided to plow him field, much to the chagrin of the people in the town who think that Ray is bonkers  and would lose his farm. He spends his life savings building the diamond, waiting for something to happen. Months go by with no response until there is a man walking in the diamond. It is Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta). They play a mini game of baseball. When they are done playing, Ray and Joe realize that Joe cannot step foot outside of the diamond. Joe disappears into the cornfield.

Ray’s brother, Mark (Timothy Busfield) thinks that Ray is crazy to think that he could afford the farm when he wiped out most of his crop. The bank is threatening to take away the home. The NY Yankees team from the 1919 World Series come to play ball in the field. Ray, Annie and their daughter, Karin (Gaby Hoffmann) can see them, but Mark cannot.

Ray has enough to deal with when the voice tells him to “ease his pain”. He thought he meant the radical novelist turned social recluse, Terrance Mann (James Earl Jones). He tries to kidnap him to take him to a ball game where he didn’t have the opportunity to do when his father.

I might have remembered the movie differently, because I didn’t get the same feeling with movie like I did when I was younger. I bawled at the end of the movie, but I had a heartwarming feeling by this last viewing. Hmm… I guess, the magic of the film is gone.

Judgment: It’s still a fun ride, but its lost its luster.

Rating: 7/10

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Just Wright (2010)

In this game every shot counts.

I have decided to start this “SIL Festival” because my sister-in-law has been busting my chops for not reviewing black movies. It’s not like I don’t enjoy black movies. My reasoning for not reviewing them as much is because they are not that many black movies to choose from. These movies are representing me and my culture. I don’t want to support a movie that is trash just because black people are in it. I want to see quality movies that are not Pootie Tang, Soul Plane or Car Wash. I saw that Just Wright was on cable over the weekend. Perfect timing.

Queen Latifah plays Leslie Wright, a physical therapist living in a fixer-upper house with her god-sister, Morgan (Paula Patton) who is determined to marry a NBA player and be a basketball wife. Leslie’s father, Lloyd (James Pickens, Jr.) tries to be the handyman of the house with disastrous results. Leslie’s mother, Janice (Pam Grier) constantly nags Leslie about finding a husband.

Leslie is a huge New Jersey Nets fan. She is following the winning streak of star player, Scott McKnight (Common), but Morgan is looking to score a baller husband. A chance meeting at a gas station changes the course of everyone’s life when Leslie is invited by Scott to his house for his birthday party.

Leslie thinks that she is vibing Scott when fate steps in the form of Morgan trying to scoop up Scott for her own. It seems to works. Scott falls for Morgan and they have a whirlwind courtship that lands them getting engaged.

Everything was going great with Scott being selected for the All Star Game, having a beautiful fiancéand possibly re-signing with the Nets for a tenth year when he injures his left knee. His whole life turns upside down when he loses his fiancé, career and self-respect. It wasn’t until a determined Leslie gives him the chance to build himself back up their relationship changes.

I was surprised that Scott was not portrayed as the typical NBA player with a huge ego to go with his huge contract. Scott was a humble, low-key, down to earth kind of gentleman that was not followed by an entourage full of agents, bodyguards, groupies and wannabe ballers. Common as Scott is a breath of fresh air and he is not bad look at either. I did enjoy the chemistry between Queen Latifah and Common.

Judgment: I felt that the movie was a little too sickly sweet and some parts for me.

Rating: 7/10

The Fighter (2010)

I have known about The Fighter for  some time now. It was originally supposed to be Darren Aronofsky next movie, but it kept getting delayed in the process. He did The Wrestler and felt that this movie would be too similar so he passed the baton to David O. Russell. It has got a lot of buzz this award season. It deserves it.

This is the true life story of Lowell, Massachusetts residents Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his older half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) circa 1993. Dicky has a HBO documentary crew follow him around for his comeback to the boxing ring where he shined as knocking out Sugar Ray Leonard, who appears as himself in the film.

Seeing that his time has passed, Dicky trains Mickey to make more goals than he ever did in his career. His decades long crack problem had him wasting away his body, hair, and mind. Their mother, Alice (Melissa Leo) is trying to keep the family together by acting as Mickey’s trainer. Dicky’s crack problem is hampering Mickey’s training and everybody sees that, except for Alice.

Mickey meets a feisty bartender after a night drinking named Charlene (Amy Adams). They begin to have a courtship when a fate steps in. Mickey would supposed to fight one opponent that is in his weight class, but his opponent caught the flu and will not be able to box. Another opponent steps up who is twenty pounds heavier than Mickey. (If you expect me to believe that Mark Wahlberg weighed 145 lbs, you are nuts. I am 160 lbs and I hit like a girl.) He takes the match so the family could get paid. He gets his ass handed to him.

Embarrassed by the loss, Mickey doesn’t want to talk to anybody in his life. Not until a rival manager would train Mickey in Las Vegas so he could have a chance to have a great career ahead of him. Mickey has a tough decision to make about choosing between his family and his career.

The movie overall was a very good exercise in establishing the dynamics between duty and pride, acceptance and being ostracized.

The story gets under your skin and wants warm your heart. It does has its faults. The main problem with this movie is the lead actor. Wahlberg has been training for this part for roughly five years and I was not rooting for him to succeed. He didn’t have the nuance, the charisma to make me be on his corner. Lastly, another down point is the fight sequences in the general were overly rehearsed. It did not feel like that they were hitting each other in the ring. It was like a choreographed dance.

Judgment: This movie is like a sucker punch to the gut.

Rating: ****1/2

Touching the Void (2003)

I didn’t put a knot into the end of the rope. If there was nothing down there, I would fall, and it would be quick.

— Joe Simpson

Kevin MacDonald’s film, Touching the Void has been on lips of film buffs everywhere saying that anybody who hasn’t seen it should. I have heard nothing but praise for this documentary that infuses re-enactments to the talking heads. I thought that it was a harrowing account of survival, but I thought it was anticlimactic.

This movie re-tells the story of three people trying to attempt to climb the 20,813 ft Siula Grande Mountain in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. Based on the book of the same name; Joe Simpson, Simon Yates and Richard Hawking recounts their harrowing seven days ordeal. As the talking heads are speaking, the events are dramatized with Brendan Mackey as Joe, Nicholas Aaron as Simon and Oliie Ryall as Richard.

Other climbers had attempted to climb to the summit of Siula Grande. These relative strangers could together to climb it. Richard stays behind at the base camp while Joe and Simon climb up. They want to climb the mountain Alpine style, which means that they are climbing the mountain non-stop with their essentials taken with them.

Joe is the climber and Simon is taken the slack to him. They get a feel of the terrain which was mostly very steep with rocky portions in them. On the second day, a powerful storm hits the climbers where the snow froze on contact with their clothing. They didn’t realize that not having enough gas to melt the snow for water or having adequate food with prove crucial for what was about to come up when they dug a cave to sleep in.

The storm passes the next day and they climb up to the summit. They bask in the glory of their feat. When the two try to find a way back down, a patch of clouds roll in, losing their way down the mountain. They are taken to the most dangerous part of the mountain where on the descent down, Joe looses his grip and begins to fall. He stops only to find that he broke his leg that shattered his kneecap in half.

Simon tries to find a way to get an injured Joe down the mountain alive without causing more to the leg. Simon decides to have all of the available rope they have to give enough slack for Joe to slide down the mountain. The trouble is that by nightfall, Simon lowered Joe so much that Joe was dangling off the side of the mountain.

I thought that this was a good movie, but I had a bring problem with the people recounting the story. This is the same problem that I had with Man on Wire where they have the person there with an actor re-enacting what is being said. It took away the suspense of did this person survive this ordeal. For me the first thirty was mind-numbingly boring that I almost turned the movie off. I thought when is the guy gonna break his leg already. I also had a problem with the over-swelling score. Cue the violins. Come on, every time that a tense moment comes up the score had to suck the tension out of the moments.

Judgment: All in all, I’m glad that I saw it, but it’s not the greatest documentary of all time.

Rating: ****

Invictus (2009)

This country’s changed. We need to change as well.

— François Pienaar

Since the announcement of Clint Eastwood on the next LAMB in the Director’s Chair, I am trying to watch more of his movies for the upcoming three-day fest. I thought I might kill two birds with one stone with seeing Invictus. Based on the novel, “Play the Enemy” by John Carlin, the movie tells the story of Nelson Mandela trying to unite the nation after Apartheid. This movie is getting some critical acclaim. I don’t see why it does.

Morgan Freeman channels Mandela as the movie chronicles five years in the life of Mandela beginning on February 11, 1990 when he was released after two decades of imprisonment. The country is torn apart by a civil war brewing between the Africans and the Afrikaans.

Mandela becomes president and when takes the office some of the white staff threaten to quit. The remnants of racial tensions are still thick in the air. Mandela needed to find a way to unit the country of South Africa as one. He goes to a rugby match where the Springbok rugby team, headed by François Pienaar (Matt Damon). The team is not doing their best.

Mandela wants to meet with the captain of the Springbok team to discuss how they could help the nation heal from Apartheid. The encouragement of Mandela inspires the team to train for the World Cup in 1995. Mandela almost pushes his presidential duties aside to focus on the rugby team and make them succeed.

I don’t know jack shit about rugby. It looks like American football to me without the figure hugging spandex. The biggest problem of the movie was that. Americans don’t care about sports that know nothing about. I thought I was going to see a movie about Mandela struggle to readjust to civilian life after a lengthy imprisonment, but I have to research that myself.

Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon are getting some critical acclaim for this film. I thought that they were fine. Freeman looked like Mandela, but his accent slipped in and out when he monologued about retaining the Springbok’s colors or when Freeman did his signature voice-over. That took me out.

Matt Damon’s character was just there. He was the pawn for Mandela. Move here. Move there. You can win the World Cup if you do as I say. Mandela felt like he was obsessed with the team that he would risk his health and even the state of country in order for the Springbok to succeed.

I thought François was written like a caricature. There was nothing remarkable about him. I didn’t believe that he would lead a rugby team to the World Cup. (Oh, please, it’s not a spoiler. It’s history.) I couldn’t help but wonder if Matt Damon has a prosthetic nose. If he did, it was distracting.

Eastwood still delivers stunning visuals of the multiple fans in the Ellis Park Stadium watching the Springbok play. The mix of shadows and light is always great, but the film as a whole felt empty. In the climactic match, there was a lot of slow motion. Too much slow motion. Even the spectators watching the game were in slow motion. Why? That match was as slow as molasses.

Judgment: The movie was awkward, clunky and uninspiring. I was disappointed.

Rating: **

Point Break (1991)

You’re sayin’ the FBI’s gonna pay me to learn to surf?

— Johnny Utah

After I was impressed by Kathryn Bigelow’s film The Hurt Locker earlier this year, I wanted to delve back into her filmography. Point Break is heralded by male movie geeks as a solid thriller about a hotshot FBI agent and a slick thrill seeker. I don’t know if it’s mean, but I think something was lost in translation from movie to viewer.

Keanu Reeves plays the rookie FBI agent, John Utah that is assigned to the Los Angeles Robbery Division under the tutelage of Harp (John C. McGinley). Harp gives him a crash course on being a federal agent when is partnered with vet Angelo Pappas (Gary Busey).

The case they are working in a quartet of bank robbers known as “The Ex-Presidents.” They wear rubbers masks over their faces as they robbed twenty-seven banks in the past three years. The duo tries to piece together the pattern that they use. The crime spree happens during the summer months and it stops until the next year.

Forensics at the crime scene suggests that the robbers are surfers telling from the tan mark when one of the robbers mooned the bank and the sand that was collected at the different banks. Utah decided to go undercover to find out who “The Ex-Presidents” are. He has to blend into the culture with speaking the language, knowing the lingo and their mannerisms.

On his first day out of the waves, he almost drowned when the feisty Tyler (Lori Petty) saves him. Johnny wants her to teach him how to surf and how to appreciate the waves. During their teaching sections, Johnny meets Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), a surfer that is obsessed with the “big wave” that happens rarely.

Johnny and Bodhi bond over Johnny’s former glory days of college football. The more that Johnny is immersed in this world of surfing, the less the focus he has on the case that blinds him from seeing who he has become friends with.

For a person that has not set foot in the ocean, the world of surfing is completely lost to me. I thought that story, as a whole was completely ludicrous. I would speak about it more, but that would be a spoiler. I thought the action sequences were decent. The climax of the movie was predictable and lame. I did not believe that Keanu would a sly FBI agent. It’s not the fault of Bigelow. It could be the screenplay that’s a problem.

Judgment: A hapless thriller about a bunch of surfer dudes playing cops and robbers.

Rating: **1/2

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The Blind Side (2009)

You threaten my son, you threaten me.

— Leigh Ann Tuohy

It was not my intention to see The Blind Side, because everyone knows how much I can’t stand Hollywood inspirational movie coming out during the holidays to tug at your heartstrings. Recently, Sandra Bullock has been getting some serious critical acclaim for her lead performance. Against my nature, I decided to watch what the fuss what all about.

I had a heavy bias walking into this movie. The ultra-giving white person helps the disadvantaged black youth achieve greatness thought some kind of sport. It has been seen time and time again.

I’m not a big sports fan to begin with, but I put my feelings aside to watch the true story of Michael “Big Mike” Oher (Quinton Aaron), a disadvantaged black youth that is crashing on the couch of a friend since his mother, Denise (Adriane Lenox) is strung out a crack. Mr. Hamilton (Omar Dorsey) wants to get his own son, Steven (Paul Amandi) into a good school with Big Mike in tow. With his lack of motivation for schoolwork and his limited intelligence, the Wingate Christian School Coach Cotton (Ray McKinnon) wants to give Big Mike a chance to succeed at something.

Mrs. Hamilton doesn’t want Big Mike to be sleeping on the couch anymore. With no place to go, he befriends the Tuohy family riding in their brand new Lexus SUV when he is walking in the freezing rain. Compassion in Leigh Ann Tuohy’s heart, they decide to take him into their huge mansion during the Thanksgiving holiday.

After that one night, Leigh Ann brings Mike back to his old neighborhood where he learns that his mother is evicted from her home. Now with no home to go to, he ends up staying with the Tuohys on a permanent basis. Leigh Ann learns that Michael has “protective instincts” that if his grades could improve than he could compete in football. He has the right build to be left tackle to protect the quarterback’s blind side.

By the end credits, I fought so hard to hate this movie, but there was a certain charm about this movie. The actions of Michael on the football field when he tackled opponents was hilarious as well as the performance by Jae Head as Sean Junior.

I am not saying that this movie is best movie of the year. It’s not horrible either. It’s right in the middle for me. As far, Sandra Bullock’s performance, I can see why she is getting some attention, but I’m getting an Erin Brockovich: Part Deux vibe again. Put on a blonde wig, have skintight clothing and talk in some crazy Memphis accent aka act like a slut and you will get some Oscar attention. Do actresses have to demean themselves so they could get a shred of credibility in Tinseltown? Something needs to be done about that.

Judgment: Another average inspirational holiday movie that is supposed to make you adopt a big black boy.

Rating: ***

Jet Li’s Fearless (2006)

Poison works very quickly. It has worked its way to my heart… Zhensheng, promise me you won’t seek revenge. Revenge will only bring us more bloodshed. Please, that’s not what I want. We must strive to become triumphant… Nong Jinsun, I only understand wushu. I practiced for many years to understand what Wushu is, what is wushu’s real purpose. The competition must continue. One cannot choose how one’s life begins. It takes courage to finish the final step.

— Huo Yuan Jia

Billed as Jet Li’s swan song to the epic martial arts movie, Fearless retells the true-life story of Huo Yuan Jia. He is known as being the best martial artist in China at the turn of the 20th century. I learned about this after I watched the movie. I thought that this was another martial arts movie, but it was a little different not by much.

As I said in the introduction, the film is about the life story of Huo Yuan Jia (Jet Li) primarily focusing on the last ten years of his life. All of this life, Yuan Jia wanted to be a great martial artist like his father. His father didn’t want his son to fight because of the asthma that he had since he was a boy.

Yuan Jia wanted to prove everyone wrong to be the number one fighter in the land. Not hearing his mother’s warnings, he becomes very cocky. He fights scores of warriors until Master Chin (Chen Zhi Hui) challenges him. They get into an epic fight where Chin is defeated. As an added consequence, a follower from Chin’s clan slaughters Yunjia’s family.

Devastated from the turn of events, he leaves his life behind to find the true meaning of the martial art. After years of exile, Yuan Jia comes back to his hometown to find the Jin Wu Sports Federation that has expanded to over fifty countries today.

I understand that Jet Li wanted to portray the greatest hero in Chinese culture. He wanted to end his martial arts movie life with this person. It’s like poetic justice, but it was stale in some parts of the movie. The action sequences are great, of course. You can plainly see the stunt doubles from some of the actors. Also, there is a sequence where a Japanese fighter is interacting with Yuan Jia where he is clearl dubbed. That is a capital offense in my book. Everything else is blah.

Judgment: If you want to see a half-ass attempt of a biopic, watch this movie.

Rating: ***

The Damned United (2009)

damned_united_ver2

Things are going to be a little different around here… without Don.

— Brian Clough

The Damned United was not on my radar whatsoever. I never heard of the film until Mike from Big Mike’s Movie Blog reviewed it. I heard that people were digging this movie. Typically, I don’t like sports films, especially soccer. This movie tries to delve into the genius of England’s greatest soccer coach, Brian Clough, but it barely scratches the surface.

In July 1974, Leeds United fail to make the World Cup that year. The most successful manager of the club’s history, Don Revie (Colm Meaney) leaves his post to manage English National Football Team. His successor is the opinionated Brian Clough (Michael Sheen), who has some choice words about Leeds in the past. His new team does not like the new guy.

The action flashes back six years earlier, the days that he was with a fledging team of Derby County with his assistant manager Pete Taylor (Timothy Spall). During random drawing of which teams would square off, second division Derby is selected to play first division Leeds. The Derby team is humiliated by a loss when Leeds team implements dirty tactics to win their games.

This begins a rivalry between the two clubs. If Derby wants to be the best, they have to beat the best by any means necessary. Brian wants to have a player that could help them reach the top of the second division. The management goes with the over the hill, Dave Mackay (Brian McCardie). This swift action causes strife with chairman of the team, Sam Longson (Jim Broadbent).

His new strategy works as the club move up the second division to capture the cup. The nation takes notice about his accomplishment. Revie wants to humiliate Clough as much as he can.

Michael Sheen gave a very good performance in this movie. Some parts of the movie were very good with the self-realization that we good. I wish that the movie focused more on that. It mainly focused on Clough’s obsession with getting back at Revie. When the movie was over, I thought, “That’s it.” It felt like a hanging chad.

Judgment: There is a good movie here. You have to fish for it.

Rating: ***1/2

Kickboxer (1989)

kickboxer

I tell them you say they no good fighters… and that their mothers have sex with mules.

–Xian

Being familiar with the Jean Claude Van Damme oeuvre, Kickboxer is not breaking the mold of the typical revenge story martial arts movie. Seeing him doing his signature splits and aerial roundhouse kicks is still quite enjoyable.

This movie starts with a kickboxing match with Eric “The Eliminator” Sloane (Dennis Alexio) defeating another opponent. He has defeated all of the best fighters in America. After the match, a reporter tells him and his manager brother, Kurt (Van Damme) about going to the birthplace of kickboxing, Thailand.

Once in Bangkok, Eric is set up in a match with the barbaric Muay Thai warrior, Tong Po (Michel Qissi). Eric is over-estimates his opponent and he becomes paralyzed from the waist down.

Blinded by the desire for revenge, he seeks out the tutelage of a master Muay Thai teacher, Xian (Dennis Chan) in a straw hut in the middle of the jungle. Xian doesn’t think that Kurt has the chops to defeat.

As in any film of this elk, he falls in love with a girl. In this case, she is Xian’s niece, Mylee (Rochelle Ashana). The local crime boss, Freddy Li (Steve Lee) wants to destroy everything in their lives.

What can I say? The acting is not very good. It was a stretch that Kurt was American. Okay. The fight scenes were too rehearsed to taken seriously.

The only good things about the movie is the skimpy costumes, Haskell Anderson and Dennis Chan.

Judgment: The only way you could enjoy this movie is that you love S&M.

Rating: ***1/2

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