Starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, Francoise Hardy, Brian Bedford, Jessica Walter, Toshiro Mifune
Follows the lives of four Formula One drivers through the 1966 racing season as they compete to be world champions. There’s Pete Aron (Garner). A stoic, but somewhat reckless American driver who’s blamed for his teammate’s wreck. Sarti (Montand), a Frenchman. The best in the sport, but starting to grow weary of it. He starts an affair with an American journalist (Saint). Scott Stoddard (Bedford), an Englishman recovering from a major wreck and his wife leaving him. And Barlini (Sabato), an arrogant and carefree Italian racer. The women, though certainly beautiful, are completely short-changed in this picture. As a result, the surrounding drama around the stunning race sequences do not measure up. Yves Montand’s character is the only one with any real depth. That being said, the racing scenes truly are special. John Frankenheimer is an amazing craftsmen, and the film’s nearly three hour running time fly by thanks to his vision.
Starring Leon, Doug E. Doug, John Candy, Malik Yoba, Rawle D. Lewis
After his chances at running in the Olympics are dashed, Jamaican Derice Bannock (Leon) sees potential in bobsledding as a way to compete. He enlists a disgraced former champion (Candy) living on the island to help train him and the Jamaican team. Disney consistently finds gold when they mix the familiar sports genre with colorful cultural settings (Queen of Katwe, McFarland U.S.A, Million Dollar Arm). Well acted, though light. Winning.
Another fascinating entry in ESPN’s running 30 for 30 series, this one follows the early to mid-’90s NBA rivalry between the Reggie Miller led Indiana Pacers and the Patrick Ewing led New York Knicks. The story is set with the retirement of Michael Jordan, who, with the Chicago Bulls, dominated the Eastern Conference as well as the rest of the NBA. With MJ gone, the rest of the league felt stronger than ever that their time was now, and the pressure was higher than ever. Two of the biggest contenders are chronicled in this funny and illuminating documentary, highlighting the teams’ similarities, Reggie Miller’s antagonistic persona, and Spike Lee’s passionate courtside fandom. The film is a lightweight compared to some of the other more substantial 30 for 30s, but it still demonstrates the power of sports, which I believe is the key to the series greatness. It answers the question of why we love sports.
Voices of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall, Richard Ayoade, Rob Brydon, Miriam Margolyes
Set during the Stone Age, a close-knit, primitive tribe are overtaken by a more advanced community of bronze age warriors. Dug, a brave member of the Stone Age tribe, challenges the imperialists to match of their favorite sport (football or soccer), in a wager to regain the group’s land. Nick Park, creator of Wallace and Gromit and director of Chicken Run, is brilliant in my eyes. However, this film is mostly a series of gags. That’s not entirely a negative as the gags are very good, and, of course, the animation is first rate, but the story isn’t as fully developed as his best work.
Starring Ralph Macchio, Pat Morita, Robyn Lively, Thomas Ian Griffith, Sean Kanan
Daniel and Mr. Miyagi return to California and open a store selling bonsai trees. There enterprise is interrupted by Terry Silver (Ian Griffith), a member of the Cobra Kai who were humiliated by the protagonists a year earlier at the Karate tournament. Silver vows revenge and enlists a superstar hotshot to compete against Daniel to reclaim the title. Utterly unnecessary first and foremost. Completely devoid of fun or humor. Daniel is too manic in this entry. The villains are way over the top; in their actions and in their acting. And the love interest, if she can be called that, is more like a friend zone relationship. Over the top. Rehash. Drudgery.
Starring Ralph Macchio, Noriyuki “Pat” Morita, Elisabeth Shue
A New Jersey boy named Daniel (Macchio) moves to California with his single mother, and immediately runs into a gang of bullies. They torment him ceaselessly until the Okinawan maintenance man, Mr. Miyagi (Morita), stands up for him, and offers to teach him karate, in preparation for a massive tournament at the end of the year. Your standard sports film in many ways, The Karate Kid gets over the top by being better than the rest. The relationship and friendship between Daniel and Mr. Miyagi is the heart of the film, and I enjoy the corny ’80s trappings. Crowd-pleasing. Rousing. Classic.
Starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Madina Nalwanga
Continuing Disney’s trend of cultural sports films following McFarland, USA (2015) and Million Dollar Arm (2014), Queen of Katwe tells the true story of Phiona Mutesi, an international chess prodigy raised in Ugandan slums. This is a wonderful movie that benefits from a strong sense of authenticity and effortless performances from everyone.