Sports

Creed Trailer photo
Gonna fly now, gonna fly forever
Everyone's got that one film franchise that means more to them than anything. Some have Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Jurassic Park, and there's probably a few folks that really want more of Pixar's Cars. But me, I've got...

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First official photo from Rocky spin-off Creed


Eye of the (old) tiger
Apr 13
// Matthew Razak
We're mostly just posting this to remind you that, yes, another Rocky film is coming and it's called Creed. Remember? Probably not since it's hard to get excited outside of the fact that Michael B .Jordan is starring in it as Apollo Creed's son. Here we have what must be an image of him visiting a retirement home and teaching the elderly how to box.  Creed releases on November 25. 
Southpaw Trailer photo
Southpaw Trailer

First trailer for Southpaw starring Jake Gyllenhaal


Mar 27
// Nick Valdez
After Enemy and Nightcrawler, I've been really looking forward to what Jake Gyllenhaal would do next. Thankfully the wait looks completely worth it with this first trailer for Southpaw. Directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Da...

Creed photo
Creed

Rocky spin-off Creed gets a sad synopsis


I'm not ready for this to be over again :(
Feb 26
// Nick Valdez
It took me years, YEARS, to get over Rocky Balboa. When the three decade long Rocky saga finally came to end, it was a good end but I still wanted much more. The Rocky films mean so much to me (so much that I wrote my undergr...
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Here's all the trailers you'll get to see during the Super Bowl


Because we know you're not interested in the game
Jan 29
// Matthew Razak
While the Seahawks and Patriots might be one of the least interesting Super Bowl match ups we've seen in a while that doesn't mean you shouldn't be watching. There's going to be commercials and some of those commercials will ...
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Trailer for McFarland, USA features minorities triumphing


With the help of a white guy, of course
Nov 04
// Matthew Razak
As far as motivational sports movies go Disney has been on a pretty good streak of pumping out at least descent films. Million Dollar Arm was enjoyable and the next in the line up is McFarland, USA, which, you guessed i...
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Real Steel 2 in development, but not likely


There are sad fighting robots everywhere
Sep 08
// Matthew Razak
As a fan and supporter of the first Real Steel I was happy to hear a while back that they were working a sequel. While the movie wasn't perfect it was just enough fun to make it worth your while and I figured that more b...

Review: When the Game Stands Tall

Aug 22 // Matthew Razak
[embed]218236:41776:0[/embed] When the Game Stand TallDirector: Thomas CarterRated: PGRelease Date: August 22, 2014  When the Game Stands Tall tells the story of De La Salle High School's football team, who, under coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) went on a record breaking 151 long winning streak. This is the story of the team that lost that streak and how the overcame the challenge of losing it. The problem is there weren't actually that many challenges. They lost two games and then won the rest. Any drama that comes from their seasons is from them playing the number one ranked team in the country after their two game losing streak, but the movie rambles on long after this and takes too long getting to it. There is maybe a story here. If the movie didn't spend the first hour rambling through its overbearing religious lessons and instead focused on the characters and their faith it could have pulled us into the team. Instead we're left outside of it so that when that first loss comes it's less of an emotional feeling and more of a who cares. Thanks to the fact that so much time was needlessly spent on watching the characters not play football we're rushed through the training and work to get the team back into winning shape. Then, once they do beat the team that the entire film was building up to the movie goes on for another 30 minutes finishing up a side story that no one actually cared about. Any competent filmmaker would have clearly seen that the ultimate game for this team was their first win after losing the streak, but When the Game Stands Tall is not made by competent folks.  Did I mention the heavy handed religious message? When a star player who was on his way to Oregon dies, his story almost entirely immaterial to the rest of the film, the movie takes a what should be a touching scene about death and why God may choose to take a young man (if you believe in such things) and turns it into a sermon. It shouldn't be a surprise that this is handled so poorly as the screenplay is all over the place, but since the film is clearly designed to speak to a Christian audience you'd think they would at least get that part right.  When the Game Stands Tall is a mess of a film that gets lost in its inability to tell a single story. Instead it grasps at too many different straws in an attempt to tell every story. Instead of focusing on a coach and team struggling to find itself, and dosing so through its faith, it rambles incoherently through its messages. There's a sports movie here, it just got lost in bad film making.  One last point I'll make. For a Christian movie the sports training montage was insanely homo-erotic. Like creepily so. 
Stands Tall Review photo
Like scoring a touchdown for the other team
I'm a sucker for sports movies. You give me a gang of lovable underdogs, a few training montages and a triumphant final game and I'm in your pocket. It's just so easy to get caught up in a sport film even when their bad. They...

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See When the Game Stands Tall early and free


Washington DC, Norfolk and Richmond screenings
Aug 13
// Matthew Razak
Football is almost here! That's really exciting (if you like football). To get into the mood how about a little sports movie celebrating greatness on the gridiron. When the Game Stands Tall is perfect for that, and we've...
Mudbloods Trailer photo
Mudbloods Trailer

Trailer for Mudbloods makes Quidditch awesome


Aug 08
// Nick Valdez
Harry Potter has a huge, huge fandom. Spanning seven books, eight movies (possibly more soon), theme parks, and now a real sport based on the fantasy sport Quidditch. While I never liked the Quidditch sections of the story (...
FFS: O Futebol Classico photo
FFS: O Futebol Classico

Flix for Short: O Futebol Classico, a Mickey Mouse short


Jun 17
// Nick Valdez
To celebrate the FIFA World Cup kicking off in Brazil, Disney has crafted a new Mickey Mouse short entirely in Portuguese, O Futebol Classico. It's short, sweet, and funny. You don't even need to know Portuguese to like it!  JOSE CARIOCAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.  
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New trailer for whimsical soccer movie This is Not a Ball


May 30
// Liz Rugg
Leading up to the 2014 World Cup, (which is taking forever, am I right?) artist Vik Muniz has created the quirky, tongue-in-cheek documentary This is Not a Ball. This is Not a Ball follows Muniz all over the world as he expl...

Review: Million Dollar Arm

May 16 // Matthew Razak
Million Dollar ArmDirector: Craig GillespieRelease Date: May 16, 2014Rated: PG  [embed]217760:41523:0[/embed] As with every nearly every sports movie in the past decade Million Dollar Arm is based on an inspiring true story. That story is that of Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Danesh (Madhur Mittal), two Indian boys who try out for a baseball pitching competition put on by JB (Jon Ham). JB is a sports agent down on his luck so in a last bid attempt to save his company he goes to Indian to find baseball players in a country that knows nothing about baseball. Rinku and Danesh win this and come over to America to attempt to get signed by a professional baseball team. In doing so the normal sports film struggles and a bit of culture shock occur as JB learns how to not be a jerk and falls in love with Brenda (Lake Bell). From that you should be able to tell how the rest of the movie plays out because it plays out the exact same way every movie like this does. The film is overly nice to a flaw and sweet to a face that almost borders on bitter. There's nothing here too challenging or out of the box. The montages hit at just the right times, the comebacks occur right on cue and the eventual triumph of hard work and friendship is indeed inevitable. If you're in the mood for that type of movie then you could do far worse than Million Dollar Arm, and I'm definitely not going to come down on it for being unoriginal in its structure since it does what it does well enough. It also helps that the cast is actually really great. Jon Hamm plays JB as charmingly as possible, though at times it's hard to get Don Draper out of your head. He's got an effortless cool that works on screen and works in the film. Even better are Sharma and Mittal who do a fantastic job of imbuing what could have been tow cookie cutter characters with a bit of life. The cast really makes the film work. Without them the saccharine story wouldn't have the needed charm to carry itself. The film also does a great job of capturing the beauty of India as it was actually shot there. Director Craig Gillespie captures some fantastic scenes from around the country. On the flip side the entire trip is very sugar coated and hardly deals with the oppressive poverty and other issues that the country, and even the characters in the film face. It's this sugar coating that makes the sports work, but keeps the film from being something more. There was a chance here to challenge perceptions and address some global issues, but the movie settles for platitudes about giving India a dream. It's nice and all, but doesn't feel very sincere. What is oddly sincere is the movie's soundtrack, which is almost entirely comprised of rap songs that sample Indian music. It's a very strange mixture, having a super sweet Disney sports film over layed with some actually edgy music. At times it can throw you off, but I like to think the mixture of American hip hop and Indian music was an intentional commentary of the American baseball and Indian kids. It's possible I'm giving the film too much credit. Million Dollar Arm is no more or less than what it looks like. A charming cast makes it succeed, but a lack of willingness to really push boundaries never lets it become anything more. 
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You've seen this movie, but it's OK to see it again
A feel good sports movie from Disney? I don't think anyone was expecting anything to earth shattering from Million Dollar Arm. Life lessons will be learned. Sports will be played. People will change. It's the kind of thing th...

Kickboxer remake photo
Kickboxer remake

Kickboxer getting remade with kickass dudes


Kick! Punch! It's all in the mind!
May 14
// Nick Valdez
Normally I'm not fond of remakes or reboots, but when it seems like the newer version might be an improvement over the original, I don't really mind. The original Kickboxer was part of a long line of "Jean Claude Van Damme ki...
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See Million Dollar Arm early and free


Washington DC and Baltimore screenings
May 05
// Matthew Razak
A feel good sports movie from Disney? Sign me up. Summer is full of action and drama, but I want to feel good about something. Home runs and Jon Hamm make me feel good. You too should feel good by grabbing our passes to Milli...
Ping Pong Summer photo
Ping Pong Summer

First trailer for Ping Pong Summer


Apr 24
// Nick Valdez
By the looks of this first official trailer for Michael Tully's Ping Pong Summer, we're going to get a critical, yet loving look at 80s sports films. Or even 80s films in general. Taking place in 1985, a kid named Rad Miracl...

Tribeca Review: Maravilla

Apr 22 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
[embed]217654:41466:0[/embed] Maravilla Director: Juan Pablo Cadaveira Release Date: TDB Rating: NR I find boxing kind of upsetting. I have no problem with its existence or popularity, but the whole concept of watching people actually hit each other in the face until one of them gets a traumatic brain injury just doesn’t appeal to me. So the first few minutes of Maravilla were difficult, because it’s primarily close ups of the knockout blows that made Sergio “Maravilla” Martinez the champion that he is. But it’s not just the knockout blows but the sounds of the punches. Most people know that Hollywood sounds aren’t actually the sounds that come from a fist hitting flesh. And though boxing gloves bring the sounds a bit more in line, the squishy crunches accompanying the big strikes were clearly pumped up. And while I knew that was the case, it was hard to divorce myself from it, and it took the already-unpleasant reality of boxing and pumped it a notch. But then Maravilla turns away from boxing and moves primarily to the boxer. Sergio Martinez is an Argentinian boxer who won the World Middleweight Championship fair and square before having the title stripped from him due for complicated political reasons. Through a series of events, Mexican boxer Julio Chavez Jr. got the title without ever going up against Martinez. Understandably, Martinez was unhappy about that, and that quest to take on Chavez Jr. is the focal point of Maravilla’s story. If you’re a boxing fanatic, I don’t know how much of this film will be new to you. Maybe you’ve got posters of Martinez above your bed and know everything about his life, but for those who are completely new to his story, Maravilla basically covers all of the important ground. The only question that I left the theater with was how exactly the scoring system worked. When Martinez deals a knockout blow, obviously he’s the winner. But how do they decide who wins when they both finish the fight standing? Turns out, there’s a complicated scoring system that determines it, which is important and something I wish I’d known beforehand. But aside from that, I never really felt like I was lost. Boxing has always struck me as a pretty simple sport, and nothing about Maravilla changed that. But even though the final result may seem pretty simple, what happens behind the scenes is anything but, and that’s why the film is interesting, because it exposes boxing’s interesting politics. Martinez may be the best middleweight boxer in the world, but as far as the big leagues were concerned, he wasn’t a big name. People didn’t know him and they wouldn’t pay for him. And if they couldn’t sell him on pay per view, they weren’t going to put him up against the extremely marketable Chavez Jr. The amount of work they have to go through to make the fight happen, all of it in the public eye, is fascinating. They hold up events, make public insults, and even get Martinez to become an Argentinian dancing star. All of this to bring Martinez to a fight. But Maravilla is a one-sided affair. Although director Juan Pablo Cadaveira talks to people who believe that Chavez Jr. is worthy of the title he was given and that Martinez is overrated, those people are never given the same weight that the pro-Martinez camp are. And why should they be? It is named after Martinez after all, but it feels like the film is trying to present itself as fair when it obviously isn’t. Numerous people are featured in the film, and all of them have something to say. But when Maravilla doesn’t agree with their viewpoint, their words lose their impact, and they may as well not be there at all. It’s just fluff that the film disregards. And that’s fine, but why pretend? When it gets to the big showdown, Maravilla becomes legitimately gripping, but the intensity of the fight is mitigated somewhat by the way the film cross-cuts with footage of Martinez’s family and friends watching on TV from Argentina. In and around the ring there’s a palpable sense of tension that’s missing from the spectating scenes. Perhaps it’s the obviously different cameras that create a jarring effect or maybe it’s the fact that these other people are not really swept up in the pageantry of this enormous spectacle, but every time it cut to Martinez’s mother shouting, I wanted desperately for it to return to the fight. It moved away from the action too frequently and stayed away too long. Even so, I was still invested in the fight, especially since I didn’t know how it would end. The documentary was being made as the fight was being set up, and I believe it would have come out for better or worse, so with each successive round, I gasped and cheered (internally of course) in much the same way that people likely did last June when the fight took place. It didn’t convince me that I should watch more boxing matches, because I still find it an unpleasant sport on concept alone, but now I can understand why others are so enamored. If you are a big fan of Julio Chavez Jr., you’ll probably hate Maravilla, but everyone else will find something to enjoy.
Maravilla Review photo
The politics of punching
One of the most significant differences between a documentary and a film based on a true story is that documentaries can be about things that failed. Documentaries about big events are often started during the setup, and it&r...

Intramural Trailer photo
Intramural Trailer

First trailer for Intramural, a sports parody featuring SNL cast members


Apr 15
// Nick Valdez
I'm not the biggest fan of sports movies as they all tend to look the same. But every once in a while, something new comes along and manages to rock the sports genre with its uniqueness. Intramural might make it close to tha...
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See Draft Day early and free


Washington DC screening
Apr 04
// Matthew Razak
FOOOOOTBALL! No, wait. DRAFTING PLAYERS TO PLAY FOOTBALL!  It's a testament to how desperate America is when there's no football to be watched that an entire film can be based on the draft, but, I mean, we are reall...
Space Jam 2 Real(?!) photo
C'mon and slam
[ESPN's Brian Windhorst has made a whole lot of very happy people very sad. Via Twitter, he says that Lebron's sources have completely refuted this and stated that he is not involved in any Space Jam sequel. But whi...

Draft Day SB Spot photo
Draft Day SB Spot

Super Bowl TV spot for Draft Day


Feb 03
// Nick Valdez
Draft Day, starring Kevin Costner, isn't a movie made for me, but I can see why it's going to be a big deal. Backed by the NFL as it morphs a sitting room into a stirring drama, Draft Day takes the most important day in a lo...
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Trailer for Draft Day turns sitting in a room into drama


Dec 27
// Matthew Razak
Draft Day looks like a big, long advertisement for how awesome the NFL and football is. Now, I'm a major football fan, and the draft can beinteresting, but the plot of an entire movie based on it? That sounds like it's ...

Review: Grudge Match

Dec 24 // Matthew Razak
Grudge MatchDirector:  Peter SegalRated: PG-13Release Date: December 25, 2013  It's easy to see Stallone in this movie as the guy is still built like a brick wall and dumping out action films with his shirt off left and right. DeNiro on the other hand is a harder sell. He looks old, and while it turns out he's in pretty good shape the film's premise seems like a stretch. Stallone and DeNiro respectively play Henry 'Razor' Sharp and Billy 'The Kid' McDonnen, two aging boxers who were once rivals back in their heyday. The two fought each other twice, each winning once, but when the third fight was about to happen Razor dropped out. Flash forward and through a series of improbable events and the wonders of viral video a grudge match is set up between the two boxers by broke promoter Dante Slate, Jr. (Kevin Hart). If the film had solely relied on old people jokes and training montages we'd be having a far different discussion, but instead, knowing its two stars aren't actually boxing material owns up to its ridiculousness and focuses on the comedy and relationships. Does it do this especially cleverly? Not in the least, but it does it far better than a movie about two 60 plus men punching each other in the face deserves to be done. 'The Kid' has a plot line focusing on kindling a relationship with his son (Jon Bernthal) while 'Razor' works on a broken relationship with Sally (Kim Basinger). Alan Arkin, as Razor's trainer, adds some comic relief and emotional punch as well. It's the film's focus on these relationships instead of the boxing that make it better than it should be. There's barely a training montage to be had, and by the time the actual boxing match rolls around the movie has smartly parlayed the focus from the fight to the people, bluntly hitting the viewer over the head with its cliche sports movie message of sportsmanship and family. Nothing is very subtle here, but it never hits that point where the film loses the audience. It helps that its liberally peppered with enough humor to keep you moving when the lackluster screenplay doesn't keep you interested.  It's also pretty smart of the filmmakers to mostly ignore the boxing since the boxing itself is pretty damn awful. Stallone and DeNiro's previous in ring appearances weren't exactly known for their realism, but this concluding fight is a joke. As if it wasn't obvious enough that Stallone was about 100 times heavier than DeNiro, the fight is so cut up its hardly coherent. That's probably the fault of the two boxers, who aren't exactly able to jump around like they could in their youth. Still, its just enough to hit that spot where all decent sports movies hit so when the triumphant ending comes you're suckered into it even though you've seen it a million times before. DeNiro and Stallone seem to be in the same boat. The two riff well enough here and there, but it's all so obvious at what they're trying to do. At some points they're spot on and at others they aren't, but they both pull out just enough to get you going. It's really the comic relief of Arkin and Hart that keep their characters alive. The film -- to use another old person metaphor -- is kept off life support thanks to the fact that the actors pump just enough life into it to get you going with the characters. It's obvious everyone is having a bit of fun even if they aren't fully committed to it.  Grudge Match is definitely not your best option in theaters this holiday. Far, far, far, far... far... really, really, really far from it. That being said, and despite the fact that it is cliche and obvious, the movie delivers some heart. I'm not sure where they found one that was still beating with actors this age, but it's there. 
Grudge Match Review photo
Old dog. Same tricks.
Grudge Match is a movie based entirely around getting two old actors (Sylvester Stallone and Robert DeNiro) from two of the greatest boxing movies ever made (Rocky and Raging Bull) back into the ring to punch each o...

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See Grudge Match early and free


Washington DC and Baltimore screening
Dec 16
// Matthew Razak
Old people boxing? No it's not another Rocky movie, though Stallone is in this as well. It's Grudge Match, which sees not only Stallone returning to the ring, but Robert DeNiro as well. There's going to be a lot of wrinkles. ...
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Yahoo takes a realistic look at Space Jam


"Bugs and Michael share a water bottle" Says Space Jam webpage
Nov 25
// Michael Jordan
Arguably one of the worse movies starring a professional athlete, Space Jam was something of an ambitious project. Meshing cartoon characters into the physical world while packing as much 90’s pop culture references as...

Review: Rush

Sep 26 // Nathan Hardisty
RushDirector: Ron HowardRelease Date: September 13, 2013 (UK), September 27, 2013 (US)Rating: 15 (UK), R (US) [embed]215347:39937:0[/embed] There's not much room for filler in Rush's story. It tells the tale of one of the more infamous Formula One rivalries in its history, that between James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). Against the backdrop of the 1976 Formula One season, both sportsmen vie for the top world accolade. As family matters, personal demons and bottled troubles all come out on the race track, both men must battle both against themselves and each other in order to create a ever-lasting legacy. Hunt is famous for being the very loud playboy type, reportedly sleeping with over 5,000 women in his time on the Earth, whereas Lauda was the inverse. A mechanical, confident and very certain man; run driven by passion of the sport rather than the promise of, well, passions.  Rush is somewhat centered on exploring the truth and love behind the sport, it's one-hundred percent human drama. In the vein of Senna it probes against the very life behind the steering wheel and attempts to understand the drive, force and wit that men pour into this practice. All of this, all the championship and all the mechanics, is all in focus of setting a grander backdrop for the men to act out their great rivalry. Much like the Montagues and Capulets in Romeo and Julieti, or the Empire and Rebellion in Empire Strikes Back, an understanding of the politics and mechanics of the actual backdrop isn't necessary in buying into the drama. Humanity is on show here, not intergalactic space politics, Venetian family histories or, indeed, Formula One engineering. Ron Howard's sure touch of history, however, is still felt throughout Rush. There's a great sense of the Seventies that hangs throughout the whole picture. The hospital scenes feature, to us perhaps, primitive equipment shoved into people in order to save them. These brutal depictions are covered with a sure sense of the time, that this was the harsh reality. As Lauda watches on as Hunt goes on to win games, confined to a hospital bed, we buy into the great drama that begins to stir into him. Just as the hospital scenes are authentic, so too are the fashions, music and overall 'feel'. The Seventies foundation isn't the only anchor at play here but also the weather effects. Wind, rain, sleet and other images of 'pathetic fallacy' are instead reversed here to become genuine effects of hazard. Some of the film's most breathtaking scenes happen under the cover of torrential rain and on the racing track. Its climax, featuring POV shots and a great bounty of rain, is an intense, terrifying and, in some sense, testosterone-curdling experience. Rush packs more scares than a lot of horror fare of this year. It's still completely about the relationship between Lauda and Hunt. Thankfully the script is here to play punches and show how, as the film actually says, the best gift that you can be given, sometimes, is an enemy. We watch Lauda and Hunt evolve to become pre-eminent forces in the motorsport and the steady stream of one-liners and banter helps keep the show afloat. Sometimes the film nearly discards entire races under the guise of flash montages, so as to keep the relationship at the absolute core of the film. I wondered if this would upset a few Formula One Fanatics but, in reality, the drama and love of the sport is the element placed in the middle and, really, that's what is truly special and illuminating about the sport. These men buy into their own deaths, buy into being on the very edge of existence, and the drama that gushes from that is perfect territory for Ron Howard to (as proven) fruitfully put together a great endeavor of human drama. It sells the film too that the performances are practically perfect. Chris Hemsworth simply works as the playboy James Hunt who just leaks charm and confidence in every single muscle-bound pore, he almost seems like a retroactive extension of Hemsworth's persona itself. Brühl gives great weight to every single one of Lauda's facial expressions and his teeth deserve their own sentence. Brühl's teeth, and the make-up department, might be an actual show-stealer. Olivia Wilde shows her heart-melting face as Hunt's one-time-bride Suzy Miller, and whilst playing the glamour and beauty girl elements to a tee she also shows off her great ability to give warmth and genuine human complexity to any scene. There's also the other brief showings of folks like Christian McKay as Hemsworth's financial benefactor, who's just very bubbly. Stephen Mangan also manages to turn a few lines of a tertiary character, one of Hunt's later mechanics Alastair Caldwell, into a brilliant and very heartfelt performance. One thing I don't entirely buy into is Hemsworth's accent in some instances, it's somewhat leaking of a bit too much Downtown Abbey binge watching if I say so myself. Really, though, Ron Howard has managed to create an absolute show-stopper of a performance. Some of the cinematography is as breathtaking as Inception, the weather effects and grand time-scale turn a human rivalry into a much more epic affair in line with the likes of Gladiator and the script still bubbles like the oil of a great machine, thanks to Peter 'Frost/Nixon' Morgan. I've used up most of my automobile-based metaphors and so I'll just say it plain and simple. Rush shouldn't scare you with its subject matter, it's a great time no matter if your a petrol-blooded person or not. It's just a... a... wheel-y good time.
Rush Review photo
Vroom vrooom?
Rush is an odd beast. On paper you'd expect some kind of mechanical, by the books ode to the motorsport with some human drama interspersed. In reality the human drama is on the absolute top of the podium with all the oth...

Grudge Match Trailer photo
Grudge Match Trailer

First trailer for Grudge Match settles all bar bets


Who'd win in a fight between Rocky Balboa and Jake LaMotta?
Sep 13
// Nick Valdez
Let's say you're drunk and your drunk nerd friend goes, "Hey, who'd win in a fight between Rocky from the Rocky movies and Jake La Motta from Raging Bull?" Assuming any of that comes out coherently, the two of you get into a...

NRH's Weekly Analysis: Senna's human drama

Sep 09 // Nathan Hardisty
The stage for Senna isn't a boxing ring or grand set, it's the race track. On this place so many players perform their part and build points towards their goals and dreams and aspirations. Senna's absolute belief in God is a point of battle between him and Alain Prost, who I'll discuss in a sec. An element of death hangs over the story, and if you know the tale it still seems to have been, through dramatic devices and sharp editing, intensified up to an emotional eleven. Alain believes Senna sees himself as immortal whereas Senna simply sees himself as being guided by God, that he has a greater duty both to his belief, himself, his country and his very creed to continue you on. Some of his last words we see are in discussion with someone who asks him to let them both quit and go fishing, to which he simply says that he has to carry on. A sense of honor is built by the film, through showing the truth and beauty of the sport. Long stretches of simple racing footage blend into the over-hanging audio narration from journalists, participants and pundits. A narrative is knitted and cobbled out of some beaten up footage from Brazilian talk shows to sly camera shots of office complexes. All the while honor is in the mix and Senna is constantly shown to be driven, to be caring and to be resilient. In effect he slowly becomes a hero and this may be where things take a somewhat uncomfortable turn. See, Senna is a real man. He lived and he did his racing thing. The film seems to have one hand in a biopic and another in the editor's suite trying to build a drama. To do this there's several measures taken. Footage is replayed with commentary as disputes seem to bubble upwards. To build Senna as a hero we also need a villain of sorts and this arrives in the form of Formula One politics. Even before we see Senna float about the fate of the F1 race-track he talks of the politics and its many figures populate and prod at Senna's heroism, most notable Alain Prost. For a biographical film showing people who change ever so constantly, who were humans filled with compassion and humanity and life just like ourselves, the film does a brilliant job of turning them into characters. Alain Prost is given a character arc just like any other Darth Vader or Shakespearean figure, with his name being the actual 'last' showing up in the film and its context ties up our attitudes towards Prost into a different area. I have to wonder if all of this is manipulative though, is it right to take these lives and mash them into narrative mix. Senna has its hands firmly on the film-making wheel (reel, get it?) rather than the historical one. It uses footage but for the amount it uses I wonder if there's leagues of film that was discarded in favor of building a grand heroic story. One of the film's most affecting sequences is, and this is a spoiler, his friends and family holding his racing helmet. When we all go six feet under we hope to be given our last respects. Senna's last respects were his last moments, an icon of a sport that has led to many fatalities in its history. When they hold that icon of heroism, that artifact of humanity, I wonder if it mirrors the film in a way. A constructed symbol, a monument to human drama. It doesn't make it any less true though and the human drama remains. I wonder if it's possible to get attached to a sport without any of the narrative; none of the names or faces or flags. If all the cars were blank white and all the drivers were anonymous, with no commentary, would the sport itself be worthwhile? It is pretty exciting to see things fly at hundreds of miles per hour against each other, but even attaching any kind of identity to these cars could possibly create a narrative, a tale in itself. Senna is about one story of attached human drama, masterfully tailored to create a narrative of tragedy. Of course, Senna is still a biography of sorts. It knows when to splice facts and skips years. As I said with Gasland it's difficult to argue where the history begins and where the fiction ends. Senna seems to have a perfect balance of the two, though I'm not clued in to the sport enough to truly judge. The emotional involvement I had with the film is also a point of discussion. The names and sport itself could be largely esoteric, yet none of the material ever felt isolating or unfriendly. Ron Howard's Rush releases later this week and I have to wonder whether or not it's the right way to go about this. It's probably just a 'different' way. Senna splices all kinds of historical footage and audio to creates its film, Rush simply bases itself upon the story and builds a fictional drama filled with actors and sets throughout. Senna is still, however, no less a film filled with lesser characters. Both will create stories of human drama and while it may be slightly manipulative, perhaps that's how it might always be.
Weekly Analysis photo
A documentary orbiting a biopic
I'm not a petrolhead. My father is pretty heavy into motorsports, Formula One in particular. I've never been grabbed by it myself but he pointed me towards Senna as an example of exactly what grabs people about the sport...

Review: The Trials of Muhammad Ali

Aug 23 // Hubert Vigilla
[embed]215493:40603:0[/embed] The Trials of Muhammad AliDirector: Bill SiegelRating: NRRelease Date: August 23, 2013 Director Bill Siegel sets up a dichotomy at the beginning of the documentary. In old television footage from the mid-1960s, Ali is excoriated as a disgrace to his country; in footage from 2005, Ali receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that a civilian can receive. For those who never lived through the era or perhaps only know Ali by the fondess and adoration that's heaped on him today, the two sides of Ali are striking. This is not the legend but a social pariah, and one deemed un-American. The root of this hatred in Ali at the time came from his religious and political awakening in the mid-60s, much of it due to his association with the Nation of Islam. In chronicling Ali and the Nation of Islam, Siegel notes the group's political dimension, which tended to outweigh its religious practices. There's another striking dichotomy toward the end of the film: in the 1960s, the public at large considered the Nation of Islam a threat while traditional Muslims were deemed okay; today the opposite seems the case. As a young man defining his identity, Ali aligns with the Nation of Islam to assert his blackness. He changes his name as part of this act of self-empowerment and reinvention. This must have seemed radical at the time, but a comfortable historical distance allows us to understand the whole scope of such reclamations of identity and why they're part of the process of social change. The country was in the thick of the civil rights movement and discrimination was the law throughout much of the South. The desire to change a name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali is the same sort of desire that led James Brown to sing "Say it Loud -- I'm Black and I'm Proud." This impulse also led Ali to take a stance against Vietnam. He refuses to serve because he's a conscientious objector on religious grounds. The patriotic fervor to eradicate communism was still rampant, and so Ali was barred from boxing. In the years he's not permitted to fight, Ali took to the road as a public speaker. Without these events, Ali may not have become the Ali that's loved today, and Siegel takes time to explore this journey. Clay was reborn as Ali as part of his spiritual quest, and thanks his exile from the ring, Ali would be reborn as a champion rather than a villain. What's interesting is that The Trials of Muhammad Ali doesn't quite present a full or obvious comeback arc--we don't wind up at The Rumble in the Jungle like Michael Mann's Ali. Instead there's surprising nuance to the legal case against Ali. (He's not just being tried by the public, there's a legal appeal to the Supreme Court as well.) It's like a win by points, and not a resounding one, but it allows for Ali's return to the ring, and for the public to start seeing him with new eyes. While part of me still wonders how this change in public perception came about, there's a chain of cause and effect that's there, much of which Siegel suggests in footage and new interviews. This is a combination of multiple things, like the evolving face of the Vietnam War, the birth of Ali's charismatic image, the civil rights victories, the losses to Joe Frazier and Ken Norton prior to the Rumble in the Jungle. Mostly it might be about America's love for the comeback kid, both in sports and in public life--the country loves a person who can take a punch and keep standing, proud.
Muhammad Ali Review photo
How Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali
I remember talking to a friend of mine about Muhammad Ali once, and he mentioned the nuttiness of the Ernie Terrell fight in 1967. About three years prior to that match, Ali had joined the Nation of Islam and officially chang...

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Friday Night Lights movie script is complete


Clear eyes, strong hearts...
Aug 19
// Matthew Razak
If you've ever watched TV and Friday Night Lights wasn't a show you watched when you did then you did it wrong. Go to Netflix now and watch it all. While the series had a decent run on TV more of it could never be a bad ...

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