Archive for the ‘Sportsdrama’ Category

Classic: Rocky – **

Posted: January 19, 2017 in 1976, Drama, Social Drama, Sportsdrama, USA, XX

Winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, Rocky remains quite an important and popular movie. The story is well known. A street boxer, who hasn’t really made anything of his life, takes up the challenge to fight Apollo Creed, the reigning world champion. He has no fair chance, but he’ll get plenty of money and it’s all for the good as he’ll be the underdog and that attracts crowds.

Rocky was the first in a series of six movies focussing on the ‘Italian Stallion’, the underdog who ends up being the champ. Back in the eighties Rocky III and Rocky IV were smash hits at the box office, with chart topping soundtracks and every tough kid in school trying to replay the fights between Sylvester Stallone and Mr T (III) or Dolf Lundgren (IV). Back then anyone who was a fan of these action blockbusters had little interest in seeing the first movie, which is more of a social drama. As a kid, I couldn’t understand the fuzz about this boring motion picture of the seventies that has only one fight. As an adult, I can understand the fuzz a bit more. The zero to hero-story always works. Especially back then. Stallone is really good in this movie. The soundtrack was refreshing at the time. The rich and successful guy was black ! The dialogue isn’t PC at all. The fights look real. All great.

But what’s with all the shouting? Everyone shouts. All the time. It’s like watching a modern day Egyptian movie. And what’s with the side characters? Rocky’s future wife Adrian… Rocky’s trainer Micky… Rocky’s supposedly best friend Paulie… Rocky’s maffia employer Gazzo… Every scene they are in is annoying. And there are a lot.

However, after watching last year’s reboot Creed it’s interesting to see this classic again. A lot of references make more sense now.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075148/

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I am Bolt – **

Posted: January 17, 2017 in 2016, Documentary, Sportsdrama, UK, XX

Usain Bolt is an interesting character. He’s genuinely cool and laid back and as the ‘fastest  human on the planet’ he can afford to be cocky and confident and even arrogant to the point that nobody really minds if he boasts of being ‘a legend’ and ‘the greatest’.

I Am Bolt is a very linear documentary that focuses on the unique win of 9 gold medals in three disciples over three olympics. It’s a well made documentary as it has one main thread (the difficult preparation towards RIO2016) and then uses flashbacks on regular intervals to Beijing2008 and London2012. It fascinates, just because Bolt is fascinating.

However, it’s directed by a team that clearly loves Bolt. It’s a fan made movie. Bolt himself may be the main producer. He self directs  himself. Maybe he was in the editing room. Who knows. Some elements are really good though. In stead of having Bolt state in a self recorded message that he is annoyed by the press conferences, the director just makes a compilation of several questions that reporters ask (leaving out the answer). That’s a very efficient way to make the audience understand the frustration of a celebrity sportman.

For a biopic it’s absolutely necessary that there’s more drama, more friction, more dark shade, more controversy. For a documentary like this it’s not. When you decide to watch I am Bolt, it’s because you like Bolt. And there’s plenty out there who do.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4647900

Creed – **

Posted: January 15, 2017 in 2015, Drama, Sportsdrama, USA, XX

Finally. A year after it’s release! Creed.

It’s okay. A bit disappointing though since the buzz was so big. The performances are good. Stallone is really good. Not supporting actor award good, but still. And that Michael B Jordan is great too. That body! The fact he was able to transform it from being pretty average to physically perfect just for the sake of a movie part: respect! The soundtrack is ok. The story kind of makes sense.

But in the end, it’s a movie about a boxer prepping for a boxing game. So, yeah. Not that exciting.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3076658/

In the French drama Bodybuilder, the world of bodybuilding is just a setting. The real story deals about an estranged father who gets to know his delinquent son after years of separation. The kid needs to go into hiding when a criminal gang chases him for the money he owes. The only place he can go to is the gym that his dad runs in some far away town. So, just like him, the audience starts learning more about the obsession of a bodybuilder training for a big competition and the rest of the crime element becomes obsolete.

There are all kinds of things that are off in this movie. First, there’s non-acting of Yolin François Gauvin, who plays the bodybuilder. A bodybuilder himself, he just plays a bodybuilder. One without emotions. One without charm. One without charisma. It’s very doubtful that director Roschdy Zem wanted him to act that way. This movie is made in France and not in Hollywood, where studios would pay famous actors to train hard enough to look like real bodybuilders. So Roschdy Zem was limited in choosing a main lead. Which makes you wonder why he even started with this project. If the main lead sucks, the movie sucks.

Second, the movie somehow feels like a comical Dardenne’s drama. It’s quite brave to add humor to a sad story in a depressing setting, but it doesn’t always work. You know it’s not a parody, yet at times it feels like it is. You know it wasn’t the intention of Zem to laugh at this underground scene of absurd body sculpting, but it feels at times like he’s making a total fool of his subjects.

But most of all, the story just isn’t exciting. Kid makes debts, runs away, hides with his dad, mocks his dad, acts like a total retard, tries to pay off his debts by getting involved in even more criminal acts and then somehow changes for the better. While his dad just doesn’t give a fuck. B.O.R.I.N.G.

Maybe with a better acting, better dramatic balance and a more gripping story this could have been a good movie. Now it’s just mediocre.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3446852

 

 

Race – *(*)

Posted: July 30, 2016 in 2016, biopic, Historical, Sportsdrama, USA, X1/2

African American athlete Jesse Owens attending the Olympic Games in Nazi-controlled Berlin and winning four gold medals is one of the most interesting stories ever. It’s surprising that it took so long for anyone to make this into a motion picture. But now they have and it’s clear why this tale hadn’t been told before on the big screen: it’s TOO complex to be told in 130 minutes. It fails as a historical drama and it fails as a biopic.

In a time when tv series are getting more attention than theatrical releases, the producers should have spread the tale over several one-hour episodes. They should have focussed on one particular character in the first episodes and then make them all come together in the end. They should have asked Steven Spielberg to direct it and they should have looked longer for a better cast. They should have paid a historian to double-check the details (and prevent it from being a piece of history for dummies) And they should have found an editor who could tell the director which scenes are superfluous and which scenes need more focus. It’s a shame that money was saved on this project. This could have been so much better!

Race is worth the watch, just because the story is worth to be heard. And apart from the frustration of this story being told in a very superficial way, it’s not all that bad of an experience either.

Stephan James is enjoyable to watch, but he isn’t a Jamie Foxx or Denzel Washington. His performance lacks their theatrical strength and confident power. He probably got instructions to play it humble and subdued, but it all looks restrained and it feels like something is missing. In fact, there’s something missing in all of the performances. Mainly because their screen time is too short. Jeremy Irons plays a construction tycoon who acts as a diplomat to make sure that the American Olympic Committee doesn’t boycott the games under Hitler. His character is incredibly intriguing. You could dedicate an entire episode (of that proposed series) to the man. But now he just pops up from time to time and he cannot shine.  His antagonist, played by William hurt, has even fewer scenes. The fact that one wants to boycott the games and the other doesn’t is worth more than just an anekdote. So it shows that the talented actors aren’t performing to the best of their abilities.

German actor Barbaby Merschurat cannot possibly have liked the way the director wanted him to portray Nazi PR guru Goebbels. First of all, he doesn’t look like the man at all. And second: regardless of how evil the character was in real life, it’s a total injustice to depict him as a one-dimensional guy just because you want the audience to not like him.

There is one exception: Carice van Houten. She’s excellent as Leni Riefenstahl. If Spielberg ever decides to make a biopic about this fascinating director, he should look no further for the female lead.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3499096

Milkha Singh is an Indian sports hero who won several 400m races from the mid fifties until the early sixties. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag means Run Milkha, Run and tells the story of how this man became the fastest Indian ever.

It’s three hours long, but it never bores. The directing and editing are really good and quite different from the typical Bollywood movies. Nothing we haven’t seen in any Hollywood or Eastern Asian movie, but very enjoyable. The storytelling uses a lot of flashbacks, jumping between different periods in the mans life. But it’s never confusing or predictable. The compulsory dance & chant scenes are limited and the soundtrack is surprisingly cool with heavy guitar riffs during the action scenes. And the acting is superb. Especially by Farhan Akhtar in the leading role. This guy isn’t just a pretty boy, he also has the talent to move the audience in every funny, emotional and physical scene. That smile. Those expressions. That body!

This is an interesting biopic with the right balance between entertainment and drama. Life for Milkha was hard, surviving a massacre as a child, becoming an orphan, growing up as a petty thief, entering the army, competing with India’s elitist athletes and facing his own demons. You start rooting for this guy from the very first scene to the last one.

There are a lot of superfluous (but not necessarily bad) scenes that prevent this from being a classic masterpiece. But it’s a must nevertheless.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2356180

Check out this training scene:

It also has scenes like these:

Diamantes Negros – **1/2

Posted: February 19, 2014 in 2013, Drama, Mali, Spain, Sportsdrama, XX1/2

There’s a lot of misery in this Spanish movie about the ongoing trade of minor soccer players from Africa. It’s incredibly depressing and makes you very angry at this scandalous business. You can’t blame the African kids who dream of world stardom and easily trust any scout that promises to bring them to Europe. You can only blame the scrupulous businessmen who treat their new recruits as disposable products if they don’t deliver. And you can blame the commercial game of soccer which creates these dreams and opens doors for crooks to bring on new talent.

I am not a soccer fan, apart from the fact that is a uniting game played in almost every single culture all over the world and thus an easy subject understand other societies. That’s what makes this movie appealing to a large audience. The storyline may be predictable and quite simple, but never bores and it allows for some cultural education as well. There is even room for (intercultural) humour.

The story focuses on two childhood friends from Mali who get recruited by a Spanish talent scout. They have to invest a lot of money to get the opportunity to leave for Europe, but their family and local society are convinced they will pay it back one day. So off they go to Madrid where they encounter Western Society with all its up and downs.

The two actors are obviously new to the acting business but they perform well. One is exited and nervous about the adventure and does not want to disappoint his family. The other has more talent, but is more reserved and cautious. Both are in for an emotional roller coaster ride of good and bad surprises. They carry the movie and make it worth the watch.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2362320/