Anand’s Second Cap For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon


Anand from For The Love Of Movies sent in two reviews for this blogathon. Here is the second. Thank you again for your contributions Anand.

Hoop Dreams


Hoop Dreams is one of the great cinematic experiences of my lifetime. Its length gives a good sense of the passing time and lets us feel an intimacy towards the hopes and aspirations of its characters. Although a documentary, Hoop Reams has more of a cinematic appeal because of the intrigue factor missing in most of the documentaries.

The tale is of two African-Americans William Gates and Arthur Agee who aspire to become NBA champions. As the tale progresses, the two tales oscillate between being poles apart and morphing into one another. This is a classic underdog story which hasn’t lost its appeal since it was released in 1994. It may be because of the gritty realism in Steve James’ storytelling. He doesn’t shoot with any preconceived ideas, as if to project it as an emotional drama or underdog story, he just lets wheels of fate work its motions and captures it unadulterated. Hoop Dreams is more of two characters realizing how easy it is to dream and how distant the dreams actually are.

The underlying theme also explores the American education system and its flaws and how its structure forces poverty-ridden kids to continue to live in the rut and monotony of life. The coaches and relatives win our hearts with their pragmatic testimonies, where they express their insecurities about the dreams of William and Arthur, yet never let these insecurities transpire before them.

Both William and Arthur never became NBA champions. William became a pastor while Arthur started his own clothing line. The movie, therefore misses the third act, where the character finally tastes sweet success. And good for the viewers too, for it gives a message that most sports movies seem to skip out on, that just because someone doesn’t make it to the top, it doesn’t give us an excuse to not remember them. It is broken dreams and aspirations that make a sport rather than the success stories.

Darren’s Entry For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon


Darren of Movie Reviews 101 is yet another critic extraordinaire to take part in this little blogathon. It’s been great having you onboard Darren, thanks for taking part!

The Fan

Director: Tony Scott
Writer: Phoef Sutton (Screenplay) Peter Abrahams (Book)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Wesley Snipes, Ellen Barkin, John Leguizamo, Benicio Del Toro, Patti D’Arbanville

Plot: An all star baseball player becomes the unhealthy focus of a down on his luck salesman.

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

Verdict: Enjoyable Thriller

Story: The Fan starts as baseball MVP Bobby Rayburn (Snipes) joins to San Francisco Giants on a lucrative contract to be the highest paid player in the league. We also meet diehard baseball fan Gil Renard (De Niro) who is over the moon with the latest signing believing his team could go all the way this year but is on his last legs in his job as a salesman.
When Gil’s life starts crashing around him, he loses his job, gets a restraining order from his kid and even his beloved team isn’t performing he starts to reach into dark places. On the field, Bobby isn’t reaching to levels of expectation with Primo (Del Toro) outshining him in the games, with this we see how both men are not having the best time in their lives.
When Gil becomes obsessed with trying to help Bobby find his form, things take a dark turn with potentially deadly consequences.

Thoughts on The Fan

Characters/Performance – Gil is a true extreme diehard sports fan, he makes sport, in this case baseball the most important part of his life. He has been struggling with his job and family life which has pushed him over the edge. Bobby is the typical arrogant overpaid sports star who believes he can walk into any team and become the star attraction, when things don’t go his way, he struggles with the fan backlash when he hits a slump.
Performance wise, Robert De Niro is fantastic in this role with the final third of the film showing all of his skills on the psychotic levels. Wesley Snipes also brings the cocky sports persona from White Men Can’t Jump to the next level with his performance. The rest of the cast are all great, with always reliable performances from John Leguizamo and Benicio Del Toro
Story – We all know how certain fans can go to the extremes when it comes to supporting their team, we all know how the star player can sometimes find themselves getting the fans turn on them. So what happens when a fan goes too far, what happens when a star breaks his slump for his own change rather than because of the fan? Well this shows us just what could happen and in a very stylish way.
Action/Sports – The action is mostly based on the suspense of the film with the sports drama side coming from how the extreme fans can act.
Settings – San Francisco is the most part for the setting which shows us how difficult it could be to get by, the difference between sports players and fans as well as the amount of people an average person could blend into.
Final Thoughts – This is one of the most interesting twists on sports drama, seeing the extremes we could see a fan go to for a player and a team. This does start slightly slow but I do feel that helps build the characters for the final third of the film.

Overall: Great sports drama that has the intensity needed for the story.
Rating

Tiffany’s Entry For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon


This review comes to you from Tiffany at the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Thank you Tiffany for getting involved – it was good to read about your film and to have you take part.

Angels In The Outfield


Many films are centered around sports. Others are centered around religious, supernatural elements such as angels. However, have you ever heard of a movie about sports and angels? There is such a film, and it is Angels in the Outfield from 1951 with Paul Douglas, Janet Leigh, and Donna Corcoran. I will review Angels in the Outfield in terms of the sports involved, the supernatural elements, and Guffy McGovern’s transformation.
As the name implies, this film is centered around baseball; it is a story about the Pittsburgh Pirates and their manager, Guffy McGovern. The Pirates are in a slump, and their losing streak has lasted for months. A cute reporteress named Jennifer Paige is assigned to write an article about the Pirates. She may not know anything about baseball, but she does know about proper behavior and comeuppance, so she is certain that the Pirates are losing because of their disagreeable manager’s behavior. There is a lot of interesting footage from actual baseball games which would be interesting to sports fans. The Pirates start in seventh place in the National League, and they soon move to eighth, the lowest possible position. However, after Guffy begins to reform his behavior with a little angelic intervention, the team begins to rapidly improve. Soon they are in third place with hopes for winning the pennant. After being hit in the head with a ball, Guffy dizzily reveals his conversations with angels. Further evidence leads to a trial regarding his sanity relating to talking with heavenly beings. This trial comes right before the final game that will determine the pennant, but the kind old judge says that Guffy is sane. However, because he started fighting with his reporter nemesis in the courtroom, Guffy is on his own. The final game is going shakily without heavenly intervention, and the pitcher is Guffy’s tired old friend, Saul Hellman, a man who was a great player years ago but now is wavering under the strain. Guffy’s angel told him that next year Saul would no longer be playing ball on earth, so he decided to give Hellman one last chance to be a star. Even though all the fickle fans are yelling for Hellman to be taken out, Guffy gives him a final chance, and his confidence in him makes him succeed. They win the game and the pennant.
The name also tells us that angels are involved in this movie; everything changes for the Pirates when Guffy becomes acquainted with an angel. One night, while trying to find his good luck piece on the dark field after a game, Guffy is cursing because he can’t find his missing token. A voice tells him to shut up; at first, Guffy is sure someone is playing a joke on him over the loud speaker. It takes a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning bursting the calm night for him to realize that the voice is really an angel’s. This angel tells him to stop swearing, fighting, and bullying. If he obeys, the angels who play baseball will help him win some games. The very fanciful notion of angels in this film is the following: someone has been praying on Guffy McGovern’s behalf, so Gabriel, the archangel, has dispatched a personal angel to reform him and pull the Pirates out of their slump. This particular angel, who sits at Gabriel’s right hand, is a member of an angelic baseball team called the Heavenly Choir. This team is comprised of deceased baseball players who are receiving their reward in heaven, where they still play baseball and occasionally assist their mortal brothers in the game. The idea is that they stand behind the Pirates when they need help and assist them, wearing long white robes which are sort of like uniforms and bear the initials HC for Heavenly Choir; I understand they are not encumbered by their wings. Mind you, no angel is ever seen on the screen. The information comes from Guffy’s conversations with his unseen angel and a little girl’s description of them. You see, little Bridget White, a Catholic orphan with a lot of faith and a great fondness for Guffy and the Pirates, is the only person who can see the angels. Whenever they start helping the Pirates during a ballgame, she sees them very clearly.

It seems that nothing less than a miracle could transform Guffy McGovern from an irreverent, foul-mouthed bully into a kind man, but a child’s prayers, a woman’s love, and an angel’s intervention manage to reform him. Guffy is ruthless to his players, rude to reporters, and insulting to the umpire. His speech during and after games is often very blue, but this film uses a brilliant tactic to imply swearing without allowing one forbidden word to be said. Paul Douglas yells and talks, but several recordings of his voice are played at the same time, so his words sound like nonsense. I don’t know whether the idea came from Clarence Brown, the director, or Joseph Breen, the head of the Production Code Administration, but the Code administrator must have approved of this delicate technique. Guffy is thrown out of almost every game for his fighting with the umpire. After an angel warns him to stop fighting and swearing, he struggles, so the angel suggests that he learn Shakespeare to diversify his vocabulary. The whole team is stunned and nervous because of the coach’s change; he is kind, courteous, even-tempered, and well-versed in the language of the Immortal Bard.  When Bridget White sees the celestial beings with whom he has been conversing, Guffy pays the sweet little orphan a visit; at the orphanage he encounters Jennifer Paige again, since she too is curious about the child. Jennifer writes an article about the girl’s supposed angel siting, but she soon realizes that it causes a lot of trouble. She brings Bridget to another baseball game, hoping that she won’t see angels when she sits out of the sun, but she sees them again. As Bridget recovers from a stomach ache caused by two many hotdogs and Eskimo pies, Guffy and Jenny visit her. Soon, the three are fast friends. For the first time in years, Guffy realizes that there is more to life than baseball. He realizes that a man can get a lot of joy and satisfaction from the affection and care of a young woman and little girl. He begins to make plans for adopting Bridget, but he will need to marry Jenny to give her a happy, normal home. At the end of the film, he has won the pennant, but more than that, he has won the love of a future wife and daughter.
Having reviewed Angels in the Outfield in terms of the sports involved, the supernatural elements, and Guffy’s transformation, we see that it is a heartwarming story that mingles America’s favorite pastime with a whimsical outlook on heaven and its angels. There is a lot of interesting footage of baseball games which will please sports fans but also be entertaining to people like me who don’t like sports. Although it presents a very fanciful view of angels, this movie has a charming if not realistic depiction of heaven and the way it helps humans. The experience with the angels makes Guffy realize that clean speech, peace-making, and respect and kindness for other people make life fulfilling and rich, since a man needs more than baseball in his life. Watch this movie soon to see how MGM charmingly mixed baseball and angels in 1951.

Damien’s Second Cap For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon


Here is the second review from Damien of Riley On Film. Thanks again for taking part!

Nacho Libre


Silliness hit a new high for me as professional movie watcher and blogger when I saw this film for the third time. NOTE: it took three times before it made that height.

“Berated all his life by those around him, a monk follows his dream and dons a mask to moonlight as a Luchador (Mexican wrestler).” -IMDB

Cast
Jack Black Nacho
Ana de la Reguera Sister Encarnación
Héctor Jiménez Esqueleto
Darius Rose (as Darius A. Rose) Chancho

Directed by
Jared Hess

Written by
Jared Hess, Jerusha Hess

Other Info
Comedy, Family, Sport
PG
Fri 16 Jun 2006 UTC
92min
IMDB Rating: 5.7
Jared Hess directed this film and when you consider the other films he’s done, it fits right in like a puzzle piece:  Napoleon Dynamite (2004), Nacho Libre (2006) and Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

These are silly films with deadpan serious acting that, when understood after a few watches, contain all kinds of subtle humor that gets you down deep.

Jack Black plays Nacho and he was the most well known of the cast when it was released. Ana de la Reguera plays the innocent yet sexy Sister Encarnación who acts as a sort of love interest to Nacho. as a final note on the cast, I would be remiss not to mention the incredibly skinny and funny Héctor Jiménez who plays Esqueleto. Most the rest of the cast consists of unknowns.

Nacho Libre is a film about a monk in Mexico who moonlights as a luchador wrestler. He tries to hide his alter ego but eventually he is found out and decides to try and win prize money for the orphans in his monastery.

FINAL THOUGHTS
This is in my top ten faves of all time. I recommend people watch it a few times before making a judgement. The quotes are absolutely side-splitting. Go in knowing the director’s odd style, it’s not like other films. If you can do that, I think you’ll agree the humor is transcendent.

5/5

Catherine’s Entry For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon


This next review comes from Catherine, the owner of the Thoughts And All Sorts blog. Thanks for your contribution Catherine, it was brilliant as always to hear from you when you signed up for the blogathon.

Bend It Like Beckham


Bend it Like Beckham (2002) is one of those fun, feel-good British comedies. I remember it being released way back then – was the talk of the film town. In fact, that’s how I was introduced to the lovely Keira Knightley. I also didn’t know who Jonathan Rhys Meyers was before that.

Nominated for a Golden Globe (best musical or comedy), it tells the story of Jesminder ‘Jess’ Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) who dreams of playing with David Beckham. Reality, however,  being a quick game with her friends in the park. One afternoon, Jules (Keira Knightley), approaches Jess to try out for a girls soccer team which she then joins. While keeping up with soccer practice and coach “problems”, she also has to juggle tradition, parents, friends, sibling weddings, sibling fights and such.

It’s always fun (and in a way, sad) watching Jess being torn between playing soccer (and being half naked in shorts, according to her family) and fulfilling traditional expectations. The two leading ladies are perfect in their representation of the two aspects without making it too obvious in this light-hearted story.  And, they’re convincing as friends with their ups and downs.

While not a “serious” sports movie, it is a sweet one about following your dreams. Just watch this one for the escapism.

Carl’s Entry For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon

This post comes from Carl from Listening To Film. I’m thrilled that you took part here.

This post is written for the Play to the Whistle Blogathon hosted by Kira at Film and TV 101 and Josh at Reffing Movies.

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What better film to pick for the Play to the Whistle Blogathon than one that features a down-on-its-luck team defy the odds and take down a much stronger foe? No, not that one. No, not that one either.

No, I’m talking about the 1989 baseball classic, MAJOR LEAGUE. Written and directed by David S. Ward (best known for writing THE STING (1973) and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE  (1993)), the film tells the stirring and emotional story of a band of underdogs who….

…oh who am I kidding. The film is an absolute riot and easily one of the best sports comedies of all time.

The plot is fairly simple: Rachel Phelps, a former exotic dancer, inherits the Cleveland Indians baseball team from her dead husband. Not wanting to live out her days in Cleveland, she hatches a plot to field the worst possible team she can, because if overall attendance drops below a certain threshold, the league will allow her to relocate the team to Miami, Florida.

And boy, what a team they put together. I think the Cleveland Indians of MAJOR LEAGUE should go down as the most colorful sports team in film history. Every major character (player or not) leaves a lasting impression and is perfectly cast:

  • ML_castJake Taylor (Tom Berenger), the worn down veteran who sees this as his last chance at being a winner;
  • Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (Charlie Sheen), the former convict with a blazing fastball and undiagnosed vision problems (and who helped make the song “Wild Thing” into a sports anthem);
  • Willie Mays Hayes (Wesley Snipes), a blazing runner who needs to have his talent catch up a bit with his showboating;
  • Pedro Cerrano (Dennis Haysbert), a slugger from Cuba who prays to the god Jobu because he, “No can hit curveball. Straight ball, I hit very much. But with curveball…bats are afraid.”
  • and of course, beleaguered Indians announcer Harry Doyle (Bob Uecker), who chugs Jack Daniels during the game and popularized the call, “Juuuuuuust a bit outside!”

Another key to the success of this film is its setting. To fully appreciate the era in which MAJOR LEAGUE was made, we must travel back to an alternate dimension where the Cleveland Browns (American football) were good, while the Cleveland Indians were a complete mess. Cleveland itself has earned a reputation here in the US for being a…well…a dump, and the opening credits, which are set to Randy Newman’s song “Burn On” sets the stage perfectly.

Added context for any non-US readers: the Cuyahoga River is a major river that runs through the city of Cleveland and that has famously caught fire a number of times due to pollution. 

ML Harris rum
Eddie Harris makes the tragic mistake of stealing Jobu’s rum
Smartly, the vast majority of the movie is spent either on the field or in the clubhouse, allowing the rag-tag group to bounce off of each other. Old-timer pitcher and devout Christian Eddie Harris (Chelcie Ross) tries to start a religious war with Cerrano, prompting one of the famous exchanges in the film:

Cerrano: “Jesus. I like him very much. But he no help with curveball.”
Harris: “Are you trying to say Jesus Christ can’t hit a curveball?”

ML hats
“Hats for bats, keep bats warm.” – Pedro Cerrano
Likewise, overpriced free-agent Roger Dorn (Corbin Bernsen), who is more interested in life after baseball than actually playing it, starts a feud with rookie Vaughn and later with Taylor for a lack of effort. He also has a hilarious run in with Cerrano during spring training, with the big Cuban taking one of Dorn’s golf club covers for his bat.

ML Haywood
“Haywood leads the league in most offensive categories, including nose hair.”  – Harry Doyle
The on-field action is surprisingly good. While no one will confuse many of the stars of the film for real baseball players (Charlie Sheen was at one point offered a scholarship to play college baseball, and his ability to throw a decent fastball helps sell several of the scenes), the filmmakers do a good job of editing around the stars to make it fairly convincing.

Side note: I was amused to find out that the guy who plays the Indians’ nemesis, Yankee slugger Clu Haywood, actually served as the real Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitching coach for a time.

The plot of the film plays out as you would largely expect. The team, which starts off terrible, begins to improve. In response, Phelps begins taking away things like transportation (first they are downgraded to a plane that is literally duct taped together and then later to a bus) and therapy equipment like a working whirlpool (which is solved by putting a motor boat engine inside). Eventually the team gets wind of her overall plan to lose and decides that the only course of action left is to win the pennant outright.

Which of course, they do. Surprising? No. But that’s not really the point of the film. The point is how they do it, and MAJOR LEAGUE’s version of the cliche “winning it all” scene is one of my favorites. It ties together a number of threads that were dropped earlier, particularly a scene where Jake Taylor is alone in the stadium and imagines does the famous Babe Ruth “calling his shot” moment and the fact that Taylor’s knees are bad. At the same time it doesn’t take the obvious route of Taylor crushing that game-winning home run.

If I had to find fault with the movie, the only place I can really point to is in a side plot involving Taylor and his ex girlfriend Lynn Wells (Rene Russo). Now, I’ve confessed my irrational dislike for Russo on Twitter, but here I can’t even really blame that. It’s just that this side plot is terribly unnecessary.

Taylor takes Vaughn and Hays out for a celebratory dinner to kick off the season, and he spots Wells having dinner with another guy (who turns out to be Tom, her fiancé). He then proceeds to, well, stalk her through the movie, including a scene where he crashes a party at Tom’s place. Eventually, when he busts in on HER place, they end up sleeping together, and eventually, during the celebration at the end of the pennant-winning game, she reveals that she has left Tom. Because of course, that’s what happens in these kind of movies.

But who cares? I know I didn’t…and Taylor’s behavior is at times obsessive to the point of being creepy. You know what though, that’s not the point of the movie, and their plot doesn’t intrude too much on the film to be damaging. At worst, the scenes between Taylor and Wells amount more to “ok, time to go grab a drink/snack” when you’re watching at home.

Finally, since this is Listening To Film after all, a brief word about the music. I say brief, because there really isn’t much to say about it. Being a late 80s film, there are a number of pop songs used throughout the film, most notably “Wild Thing” by X, which is used as Ricky Vaughn’s entry song. For the rest, James Newton Howard turns in a score that is so unabashedly 80s  with prominent synth and rock instrumentation. Most famous is probably the track “Pennant Fever,” which plays over a montage of the Indians slowly improving and gaining ground in the standings.

Newton Howard also wrote a love theme for the film that, again because it was the 80s, was turned into a song for the end credits. The song, called “Most Of All You” and performed by Bill Medley, is again both wonderfully and cringingly pure 80s ballad. It’s one of those songs that, if you grew up in the 80s, you might recognize but not be really sure why.

Ultimately, the songs and the music do work well for the film, because all are part of a pure 80s time capsule of a movie. It’s been a long time since the Cleveland Indians played in Municipal Stadium (affectionately called the Municipal Pig Lot by folks where I grew up). These days, they are competitive, and have been for most years since the mid 90s. But maybe, just maybe, they have the ghosts of Jake Taylor, Ricky Vaughn, and Pedro Cerrano to thank for that success.

MAJOR LEAGUE isn’t a movie that will move you to tears or keep you on the edge of your seat. But it will make you laugh out loud, smile, and have a great time for an hour and a half or so. And isn’t that really what movies are for?

MovieRob’s Entry For The Play To The Whistle Blogathon


Next up, we have a review from someone you might call a star of the movie blogging world. MovieRob has helped out a great deal, not just with this blogathon, but with so many others, sharing news of all the upcoming events for the community to see. He has also reached the small milestone of 3000 reviews in the last few months. Thanks for participating Rob!

Invictus


“If I cannot change when circumstances demand it, how can I expect others to? ” – Nelson Mandela

Number of Times Seen – 2 (24 Dec 2009 and 23 May 2017)

Brief Synopsis – True story of how the newly elected President of South Africa tried to unite his country through the use of the Rugby World Cup.

My Take on it – I have never been a fan of the sport of RUgby and really have no idea how the game is played.

I loved the way tho that this film was able to show how the use of sport can help affect people with differing views and opinions and try and unite them.

We all know in general how much of a grand figure Nelson Mandela was but to watch how this story unfolds shows how his vision of a unified South Africa which went against the mainstream thinking at the time  was able to be spring boarded by the National Pride of sport.

Morgan Freeman  and Matt Damon are both great here as the tow most influential people of the story and they both show their character’s convictions quite well.

The accents used by them (mostly Damon) seem a bit too much and started getting annoying part of the way through.

I’m aware of the fact that this is a film about sport, yet they show the game of Rugby a bit too much without finding a way to give those unfamiliar with sport a bit of a tutorial along the way.

Clint Eastwood once again shows with this movie that he will forever be remembered as a great Director before actor.

He was able to put all the pieces together here in such a way that it looks and feels so great to watch.

The story, cinematography, character’s and of course music all work so well together that these elements make the film even more enjoyable to watch.

Bottom Line – This story shows how sport can be used in more ways than just to have fun. The ideas shown here by Mandela are quite amazing to watch because we can see how much opposition he received while on his quest to unifying his country.  Freeman and Damon are both great here, but the accents were a bit off kilting to listen to.  They showed a bit too much of the games played which was a bit disconcerting since I don’t quite understand the rules of the game of Rugby.  Another Eastwood directorial masterpiece that puts all the pieces together quite well. Great story, cinematography, characters and most of all music make this even more enjoyable to watch.  Recommended!

MovieRob’s Favorite Trivia – Nelson Mandela’s personal assistant, Zelda La Grange, apparently asked Morgan Freeman to stop walking like Mandela, so that she could tell the difference between the two. (From IMDB)

Rating – Globe Worthy