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Leave it to Steven Soderbergh to make a sports movie with hardly any sports action in it.

The auteur’s latest offering is “High Flying Bird,” released direct to streaming via Netflix. It’s the story of the game behind the game in the world of professional basketball as one agent, in an effort to do right by his client during a lockout by the owners, threatens to upend the entire model and throw the league into chaos – and one could argue that he’s right not just in economic terms, but ethical as well.

Soderbergh’s malleable ideas with regards to what it means to be an upper-echelon filmmaker in the 21st century continue on their merry way with this one. Following experiments both successful (shooting last year’s “Unsane” exclusively via iPhone) and not-so-much (the self-distribution effort to sidestep the system with 2017’s “Logan Lucky”), he’s keeping what works – the iPhone – and tweaking what doesn’t by letting Netflix wrangle the eyeballs.

The end result works – not surprising considering you’ve got Soderbergh directing a script from Tarell Alvin McCraney. It’s an insightful look behind the curtain of pro sports that feels genuine, a compelling illustration of how the sausage is made.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 28 November 2018 14:07

‘Creed II’ an exceptional rematch

The success of 2015’s “Creed” was surprising in a lot of ways. The notion of creating a torch-passing sequel to the “Rocky” franchise seemed like a reach. And yet, thanks to the talents of writer/director Ryan Coogler and great performances from Michael B. Jordan, Tessa Thompson and a shockingly nuanced turn courtesy of Sylvester Stallone, it turned out to be an outstanding film.

After that film’s success, of course we were going to get a sequel to the sequel, which brings us to “Creed II.”

It’s not the same behind-the-camera team – Coogler is gone, replaced by Steven Caple Jr., while the screenplay was co-written by Juel Taylor and Stallone from a story by Cheo Coker and Sacha Penn – but the on-screen talent remains, with Jordan, Thompson and Stallone all returning. And while this new movie doesn’t quite ascend to the same level as the first film, “Creed II” is an excellent movie in its own right, finding ways to ground its titular character in life’s realities while also presenting him with a terrifying new foe.

Published in Movies
Monday, 02 July 2018 15:44

Ball don’t lie – ‘Uncle Drew’

Sometimes, you see a movie trailer and think “That looks terrible.” Other times, you see a trailer and think “I’d like to see that.” And every once in a while – rarely, but it happens – you get one that makes you think “That looks terrible. I’d like to see that.”

“Uncle Drew” very much falls into that third category.

The film – based solely on a character played by Kyrie Irving for a handful of Pepsi commercials wherein Irving would don a bunch of old-age makeup and prosthetics and proceed to humiliate people on various basketball courts. Pretty funny bit for a couple of minutes, sure - but for 90? With a Space Jam-esque collection of NBA players making up a significant portion of the supporting cast? Obviously, it was going to be terrible.

And even more obviously, it was going to delight me.

Published in Movies

How do you tell the true story of a man who seemingly sprang forth from the mists of myth? How do you ground in reality a man whose life seemed in many ways like fantasy?

How do you do justice to a giant?

That was the daunting task laid before director Jason Hehir when he agreed to make “Andre the Giant,” the very first documentary project springing from the partnership between Bill Simmons’s The Ringer and HBO. And through well-curated archival footage and a host of interviews with people who both knew and cared deeply for the world-famous wrestler, Hehir executed that task to perfection.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 11:42

‘Early Man’ is right on time

Animated movies have become been big business in recent years. Yes, the Disney juggernaut has been rolling for decades now, but in the past 20 years or so, we’ve seen an explosion of cartoon content – these movies have been getting bigger in scale and box office scope, with nine-figure budgets producing ten-figure returns.

But that’s not Aardman Animation’s style.

The studio’s newest feature is “Early Man,” directed by Nick Park of “Wallace & Grommit” fame. It’s another lovely example of the whimsical simplicity that marks so many of their works, short and feature alike. It’s got that wonderful stop-motion look, a dynamite voice cast and the signature cheekily innocent wit that has become a hallmark of Park’s work.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 11 October 2017 12:29

Play like a girl - ‘Battle of the Sexes’

The 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs is a legitimately important historic moment – one of the most important to ever spring from the world of sports. It was a blow struck for feminism and women’s rights, a blow that still resonates today.

Frankly, it’s remarkable that it has taken this long for it to receive the cinematic treatment.

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 06 April 2016 11:39

Fastball' brings the heat

Baseball documentary seeks the fastest of the fast

Published in Sports
Wednesday, 27 August 2014 09:51

When the Game Stands Tall' fumbles

Inspired-by-real-life sports movie lacks for inspiration

It's no secret that I'm a sucker for inspirational sports movies. I'm known for it. And if you give me an inspirational sports movie inspired by a true story, then I'm even more in. And if it turns out that said inspirational sports movie is centered on a high school team, then believe it or not, I'm even MORE in.

Published in Movies

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