REVIEWS OF RENTED DVDs I GET IN THE MAIL

Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

THE BLIND SIDE (2009)

In B, Biography, Drama, Motion Pictures, Sports on May 11, 2010 at 10:43 pm

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STUDIO — Warner Bros.

CAST — Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Ray McKinnon, Jae Head, Lily Collins, Kathy Bates

DIRECTOR — John Lee Hancock

MPAA Rating: PG-13

In many parts of the United States, football is more than a sport; it’s practically a religion. This is especially evident through the South and Midwest, where college football reigns supreme. I can testify to this fact, as I have seen Bulldog-themed restaurants in Georgia, Longhorn-themed stores in Texas, and Cornhusker-themed everything in Nebraska. In fact, I can personally support the theory that life all but shuts down on Saturday afternoons in the fall in the state of Nebraska. After spending 16 years of my life there, I have brought back this observation: Go shopping in a department store during a Husker game, and life stands still while a play is in progress. When the ball is snapped, everyone stops in their tracks and listens intently to the radio broadcast (guaranteed to be on in at least 95% of the businesses in the state); if there’s a touchdown, they celebrate like they’re all guests of honor in a massive bachelor(ette) party. Then when the game goes to commercial, as if by magic, they go back to whatever they’re doing. It almost looks like a scene from the classic Star Trek episode “The Return of the Archons” (Just watch through the first sct, and you’ll see what I mean). I do, of course, say this in jest, but it is still fascinating to witness.

There is no mistake in identifying passionate football fans. They support their favorite teams until the ends of the earth, even if they have been “rebuilding” for 15 years. They wear their hearts on their sleeve, their wardrobe is adorned with the team colors of their choice, their cars are littered with flags, decals, and other paraphernalia, and they even plan social events around the games! This is true of nearly all passionate sports fans, but college football fans really love their sport, and they really love their school, no matter where they live. Such is the case of Leigh Anne Tuohy, an Ole Miss graduate living in Memphis, Tennessee.

Michael Oher (Quiton Aaron, right) at Thanksgiving dinner with the Tuohys (from left, Lily Collins, Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Jae Head)

By now, I am sure that you have heard of Mrs. Tuohy, and the remarkable story of how she took in a kid from the wrong side of town because he had nowhere to go. That kid grew up to become Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens. They could not have been more different. She was an affluent, pretty, outspoken white woman with a family; he was a very large, very shy, very homeless black teenager with no ambition or direction in life. Yet, she took him into her home, fed him, clothed him, and guided him into becoming a young man who had found his destiny.

Okay, I’m not sure what has already been said about this movie, but I will say that, as sports movies go, this is one of the best I have seen in the last 20 years. One remarkable fact about The Blind Side is that it is the first motion picture with one actress billed above the title (by herself) to gross over $100 million. Now, I have had a soft spot for Sandra Bullock ever since she burst on the scene as the off-beat cop of the future in Demolition Man (1993). She is a quirky, slightly-left-of-normal girl next door, and I knew there was nothing but a bright career ahead for her. But never in a million years did I expect her to achieve serious critical acclaim, and I don’t think she did, either. When she co-starred in Crash (2004), things began to change. I noticed that Sandra Bullock was evolving from a movie star to an actress (there is a difference), and when you are an actor or actress who is also a movie star, really good things begin to happen.

The Blind Side contains fine performances from much of the cast, beginning with Bullock, who won Best Actress as Leigh Anne Tuohy. TIm McGraw was an agreeable Sean, and Quinton Aaron did very well, too. I did have one concern: Did Michael Oher, during the lost days of his youth, really lack intelligence, or did he just not care? Signs seem to point to the latter, and Aaron played from that angle fairly well (Although I did notice a few overly-vacuous spots in his performance). The breakout performance in this movie (to me, anyway) goes to Jae Head, who played Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy’s son, S.J. First of all, he had all the best lines (“Enough with the rugby shirts! You look like a giant bumble bee!”), and it was very easy to see he and Quinton Aaron bonded well. Also, watching S.J. coach Michael through drills is a sight to behold! Oh, one more cool fact about this movie: The college football coaches in the film are the real deal. Some had retired and others moved on to other positions, but yes, Virginia, that really was Lou Holtz you saw on the screen.

The Blind Side is a wonderful and inspirational story of generosity, love, and good ol’ Christian beliefs. And football. Lots of football. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, then get thee to your Queue and line it up!

4 out of 5

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THE WRESTLER (2008)

In Drama, Independent, Motion Pictures, Sports, W on January 31, 2010 at 1:23 am

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STUDIO — Fox Searchlight

CAST — Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood

DIRECTOR —  Darren Aronofsky

MPAA Rating: R

I entered this movie not as a wrestling fan (which I am not), but as a fan of movies about men struggling to find themselves. Also, I have been a longtime fan of Mickey Rourke (I first caught him in The Pope of Greenwich Village, back in the 1980s). During the 1990s, he more or less fell off the radar, only to return in 2005’s Sin City. From there, he reached a well-deserved, long-overdue critical (and popular) acclaim in The Wrestler. In this movie, Rourke plays Randy “The Ram” Robinson, professional wrestler and self-described “broken down piece of meat.”

Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) prepares to make his signature move.

In the credits, we view The Ram’s past glory, through ticket stubs, flyers, magazine covers and newspaper clippings, all from the 1980s. Then we lurch forward 20 years later to see him still stepping into the ring every week to do what he loves to do. Make no mistake, this is not the WWE we’re talking about; this is a small-time circuit, where the fights are uglier (even though still choreographed), the blood is real, and the pay is lousy. So, to make ends meet, he works for a local grocery store. Along the way, he befriends a local stripper (Marisa Tomei) and tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood).

It is not often when I say this, but Mickey Rourke was born to make this movie. He plays Randy The Ram as an inwardly tortured soul who knows he has screwed up in his life, and the scars he wears from his years in the ring are symbolic of the pain within him. He loves what he does every weekend, but in the real world things just don’t go over well. The most noteworthy example is when he manages to reach out to his daughter, only to drop the ball later on.

The Wrestler was wonderfully-acted, the script was well-written, and director Darren Aronofsky made what I consider a must-see movie. I recommend it as a must-add to your Queue.

4 out of 5