Category: Sport


Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story

December 30th, 2010 — 1:09am

****

Jews and Baseball rm-  An American Love Story- You don’t have to be Jewish or a baseball fan to get something out of this well done documentary. However, the more you fit into these categories, the more you will want to be sure that you catch up with this film. Every Jewish kid should get a DVD of this film for his or her 13th birthday. It is written by Ira Berkow, Pulitzer Prize winniing author and directed by Peter Miller. There are interviews with baseball greats and people who knew them. There are also personal comments by people such as Larry King, Ron Howard and Dustin Hoffman The emergence of Jewish baseball stars, mirrors the story of the Jewish immigrants being able to partake in the American dream. The difficulties that these baseball heroes encountered spotlight the anti-Semitism that festered in the United States. The film also makes a point of showing that the problems that these Jews had in taking their rightful place on the baseball diamond were not very different than the next group had in challenging the discrimination barrier in this game. This latter point was illustrated in an incident that happened at the tail end of Jewish icon Hank Greenberg’s baseball career during the rookie year of Jackie Robinson. Robinson was trying to beat a base hit when he collided with Greenberg who was playing first base. As the two highly competitive players brushed themselves off, Greenberg gently offered Robinson good luck in dealing with the resistances, which he knew Robinson, would experience as the first black baseball player. The film tells the stories with interviews of the pioneer Jewish ball players in the major leagues. One such player is the legendary Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodger Sandy Koufax, who will be known forever for pitching four no hitters and also skipping a crucial World Series game in order to attend Jewish high Holiday services. This movie also profiled a budding Jewish baseball player whose name we sadly don’t recall because he only had one major leagues at bat during which time on the first pitch he was hit in the head and suffered a severe concussion. After months of recovery he is still struggling in the minor leagues hoping to come back to major-league baseball with the hope of living his dream. This movie is about the baseball dream that many Jewish kids have had and a select few have realized but it is a dream that every kid understands.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Documentary, History, Sport

127 Hours

December 11th, 2010 — 1:50am

***

127 Hours- rm– You go to this movie knowing that it is the story of the guy who was hiking and mountain climbing by himself and his arm got pinned by a boulder and he couldn’t get out so he cut his arm off. This subject matter will eliminate a number of potential movie viewers and is probably why our Friday night movie theatre was only 1/3 filled. On the other hand (if you will pardon the pun) it is co-written by Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle who directed the movie and who also who won an Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire as well as making  Transformers. Boyle’s pacing keeps the movie moving although it is mostly focused on James Franco who does a terrific job portraying the real life  Aron Ralston. There are flashbacks which appear to be to his  childhood and parents which if you have read about him know that some of these are premonitions of his ultimate marriage and having a son. His fantasies and his wishful thinking while he is caught in this dilemma are very realistic and it is very easy to feel you are inside his head. The clips of the real life Ralston at the end of the movie with his wife and child, swimming and mountain climbing with one arm will push that emotional button for most people. If you are one of those people who knows that this is a movie that will have special appeal and  meaning to you, you will not be disappointed. (2010)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama, Sport

The Blind Side

September 8th, 2010 — 4:40am

The Blind Side* * *
The Blind Side
– nf- A few months after the Academy Awards we decided to see this movie since it was nominated as one of the 10 best pictures of year and of course Sandra Bullock was named Best Actress. While it was a good performance by Bullock who had a fine southern accent for her character, we decided that she probably was given the Oscar for “her body of work”. The movie was a predictable “feel good” story that in our opinion was not in the same league as the other nominees for best picture. It is based on a true story of Michael Oher, an oversized black teenager from the wrong side of the tracks ( Quinton Aaron), who gets “adopted” by a rich Memphis couple ( Sandra Bullock and country music star Tim McGraw) with two kids of their own. The school football coach drools over his potential as a offensive lineman but it is not until his new Mother knowing that he has tested to have high aptitude in the “protectiveness” scale encourages him to “protect” the quarterback or the running back as he would protect his own new found family does he show his stuff. He now is able to use his size and power and become a great football player who is recruited by many colleges including his new parent’ s alma mater “Ole Miss”. In order to play football and stay in the game he had to be tutored by a teacher who also went to Ole Miss played by Kathy Bates. There are a few mild twists and subplots in the story line but no big surprises. You come away from the movie with a warm feeling, especially as you look at the closing credits interspersed with photos of the real Michael Oher and the family that adopted him, as well as confirmation that he eventually made the NFL. (2009)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama, Sport

Whip It

September 6th, 2010 — 8:34am

Whip It* *
Whip It
– nf – This is movie which may have appeal to the high school movie set , especially the girls. A 17 year old girl from a small town in Texas played radiantly by Ellen Page ( who was tremendous in Juno ) decides that she can’t live out the aspirations of her mother ( Marcia Gay Harden) and become a beauty queen so she escapes to Austin and joins an all girl roller derby team. The movie and all the characters are filled with clichés. Most of the girls on the team are tough on the outside but have a heart of gold. This includes one roller derby teammate played by Drew Barrymore who also makes her directorial debut with this movie. There is a boyfriend who has a band. She has a best girl friend with whom she has a temporary disagreement. Her Dad just cares about watching football on TV but ultimately comes through for her. It won’t be hard to predict what her mother finally does. Thirty years ago roller derby was popular on TV and I understand it is making somewhat of a comeback in middle America today. This movie will not propel it to center stage. It may be an inspiration of some young girls who can identify with the heroine. (2009)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Sport

North Face

September 6th, 2010 — 8:03am

* * *
North Face
– sp – If you are at all interested in mountain climbing – dangerous mountain climbing, or if you think you might want to learn more about risk taking mountain climbing this movie is for you. This is an award winning German film with English subtitles, set in Germany in 1936. The government has encouraged German mountain climbers to show the world how brave and strong they are by climbing this most difficult mountain. The chilling (and we do mean ice cold and freezing) attempt to do this feat is the main plot of this film. It is based on a true story. Most of it, including all the life and death parts of the movie, are based on known facts of an actual occurrence. One of the guests at our film course was a young alpine mountain climber who not only had heard of the actual events shown but verified that all the situations on the mountain , pitfalls and climbing techniques with pitons and ropes etc were quite authentic. This was a period piece nicely depicting the lavish hotel setting at the base of the mountain. However, most of the two hours and one minute of this film take place in the outside bitter cold. We also learned that this movie is in the tradition of some great German mountain climbing movies which we haven’t seen. While we were caught up with the suspense and adventure, we did feel there was too much time up there in the mountain with snow continually falling or alternating between flakes to avalanches. The movie was very skillfully done. The story line was interesting and painful, but wasn’t complex and stimulating enough for all we had to bear in watching it. (2010)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Action, Foreign, Sport

The Perfect Game

September 6th, 2010 — 3:05am

* * * *
The Perfect Game
– sp – This “Rocky” movie is for dyed in the wool baseball fans. It is the true story of 1957 odyssey of some poor Mexican kids in Monterrey, Mexico who formed a Little League baseball team and went on to win the Little League World Series in the U. S. The movie is interspersed with actual documentary footage which confirms the authenticity of the movie. Cheech (of Cheech and Chong of earlier days) does an excellent job of playing a Priest who is connected to the team. The child actors are outstanding. The producer confirmed to us that just about every theme and story in the movie is based on actual events. If you like baseball, you can’t miss this movie. (Although they are Mexican players the movie is in English) 2009

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids, Sport

The Wrestler

September 6th, 2010 — 2:52am

* * *
The Wrestler
–sp – Marisa Tomei plays a pole dancer with a heart of gold and Mickey Rourke plays a washed up wrestler with a broken heart. No doubt that the movie was very well directed and acted. Rourke, a former boxer, bulked up 40 pounds to realistically play this role and Tomei learned how to pole dance without her clothes. However the script was very predictable and the story failed to give us the depth of understanding of the characters that might have made this a great movie. 2008

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Sport

Strength and Honor

September 6th, 2010 — 2:26am

* * *
Strength and Honor
– sp – The movie is set in Ireland. A reluctant boxer goes back to fighting in a bare fisted tournament so he can win money for treatment for his sick child. Another Rockyesque movie. Actor Michael  Madsen does a very good job of playing the hero. Mike Mahon,the first time Director is already planning the sequels II and III which he says will be set in the United States in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. He obviously has talent and if he ratchets it up a notch you might want to look back and see how he started things.(2007)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Sport

The Damned United

January 17th, 2010 — 2:08am

The Damned United* * *
The Damned United
– sp – Imagine a storyline in which Joe Torres iconic manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers steps aside and some younger hot shot guy who did well with a second rate team is given the job. Picture that this new guy thinks he is the greatest and is out to prove that he is even better than Torres whom he dislikes. He doesn’t even feel he needs his beloved assistant manager on whom he was very dependent on his previous teams. Add great action, inside locker room scenes and baseball talk that you really appreciate having grown up as a baseball fan. Now transform the whole story to Great Britain and make it about soccer instead of baseball and you have the essence of this movie. We were very impressed with Michael Sheen whom we met at our film course and who plays Brian Clough, the well-known real life soccer coach, who might be called the tragic figure of this movie. Sheen who played David Frost on the screen and in the theatre in Frost-Nixon described his preparation to inhabit the characters he plays. He takes over the screen and brilliantly conveys the depth of personality and emotion. Although the movie is not just about soccer, there is something lost in the translation to more familiar life situations. We don’t think that the journey taken in this film will be worth the 98 minutes to most people we know. (2009)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama, Sport

Invictus

January 16th, 2010 — 2:41am

Invictus* * * * *
Invictus

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

This is the last verse of poem titled Invictus that Susan’s dad frequently recited to inspire her and her brother. The poet William Henley wrote it in 1867 most probably reflecting his battle with tuberculosis which caused him the loss of a leg and a life with an artificial limb This is also the title and a recurrent theme of the latest movie directed and produced by Clint Eastwood and starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela. It is small slice of the great accomplishments of a man who spent 27 years in a small prison cell before emerging to be Prime Minister of South Africa and lead his country after the fall of apartheid The story shows how Mandela was determined to bring together the country despite the anger of the blacks after years of oppression and the resentment of the whites after the loss of their power and their majority rule. The vehicle for demonstrating Mandela’s role in unifying South Africa was the 1995 Rugby World Cup hosted by South Africa. Matt Damon plays Francois Pienaar the captain of the South African team originally not up to the task of winning. He becomes inspired by Mandela and helps his team master their fate and perhaps the fate of their nation. The real Nelson Mandela reportedly met Morgan Freeman and hoped that he would play him in a movie . Freeman very much wanted this opportunity and finally found the script where he could do it. He did it so well that when Clint Eastwood met Mandela he said that he thought that the great leader was “imitating Freeman”. It was more than the acting that make this an outstanding film. The breaking down of barriers between people is reflected in subtle nuances of the relationships between the white and black bodyguards of the Prime Minister, in the contrast of team captain Pienaar’s parents and even in the interplay between a youngster and a police officer listening to the big game on the radio. The powerful struggle that his country had to go through seemed to be echoed in the struggle of the Rugby scrum. The final game was shown in some detail and we were told was recreated from the study of tapes of the contest. The television scenes and commentary of the actual game was woven into the movie. Only three of the many rugby players seen in the dramatic battles on the field were actors. One of these with a very small part but with a distinctive face was Scott Eastwood son of Clint. (2009)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Drama, Sport

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