The Last Dance (2020, Directed by Jason Hehir) English 8

Featuring Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, Dennis Rodman, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jerry Reinsdorf, John Paxson, Isiah Thomas, Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, Patrick Ewing, Kobe Bryant, Larry Bird, John Stockton

ESPN Last Dance audience up 128% via VoD; Netflix success |

(8-Exceptional Film)

Expansive. Thrilling. Compelling.

Following Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls teammates through the 1997-1998 campaign (what would be his final season as a Bull), The Last Dance weaves across the careers and upbringings of several of the key contributors, showing what made that team and that season so special. If someone contends that they don’t understand why people care about sports, let them watch an ESPN documentary, and The Last Dance is one of ESPN’s finest. Epic in length and coverage, it will likely be a new standard setter. It’s not a fly-on-the-wall documentary. It’s clearly shaped mostly around Jordan, and though it does reveal a little of his vulnerable side, his sociopathic side, what-have-you, it is still told largely with him as the protagonist. As a result, you might have heard other players complaining about certain things being depicted and other things left out. That’s a creative choice. That’s a story-telling choice. Michael Jordan is a sports hero for the ages, and what I think The Last Dance does best is reveal the human side of MJ that makes his superhuman athletic triumphs all the more impressive. In any case, it is massively entertaining.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(959)

Shaolin Soccer (2001, Directed by Stephen Chow) Cantonese 6

Starring Stephen Chow, Ng Man-tat, Wong Yat-fei, Tin Kai-man, Zhao Wei, Lam Chi-chung, Patrick Tse

Shaolin Soccer - Wikipedia

(6-Good Film)

Goofy. Original. Absurd.

Sing: That’s a great idea – kung fu soccer! Why didn’t I think of that?

I wonder how the prolific Stephen Chow’s films are viewed over in mainland China or his native Hong Kong. He’s obviously insanely popular (The Mermaid, one of his more recent works, made over $500 million) and though the idea of a “spoof” isn’t a new concept, his movies tend to baffle me. In Shaolin Soccer, Chow spoofs sports films (the rival team is known as “Team Evil”) and probably more Kung Fu films than I even recognized (although I could at least appreciate the Bruce Lee reference). Chow plays Sing, a peon with extraordinary Kung Fu skills, discovered by Fung (Man-tat), a former soccer great looking to coach his way back to the big-time. The two assemble a team of Shaolin monks and find that the monks’ Kung Fu skills translate remarkably well on the soccer field. Like many Chinese or Hong Kong classics I’ve seen, Shaolin Soccer is a bizarre treat. I laughed often and was bemused often. Chow, for example, uses CGI frequently and crudely, but it seems to be integral to the humor. His humor in general is one of excess and absurdity. I simply wonder if his films are as bizarre to his native audience or if films like Shaolin Soccer qualify as a culture shock.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(958)

Rookie of the Year (1993, Directed by Daniel Stern) English 5

Starring Thomas Ian Nicholas, Gary Busey, Daniel Stern, Amy Morton, Bruce Altman, Eddie Bracken, Dan Hedaya, W. Earl Brown, Colombe Jacobsen, Albert Hall, Robert Hy Gorman, John Candy

Rookie of the Year - Movies - Special Screenings - The Austin ...

(5-Okay Film)

Nice. Winning. Wish-fulfillment.

Chet Steadman: Henry, don’t take this serious. But its nothing to joke about. But one day, your gift will be gone.

Imagine being a 12-year-old pitching in the MLB. Most kids probably do imagine some version of that, whether it be baseball or football or any other sport. That’s why Rookie of the Year works as a solid kids’ film. It’s classic wish-fulfillment. Henry (Ian Nicholas) is a normal kid with little athletic ability, or perhaps just little confidence, until a freak accident blesses him with an arm capable of pitching over 100 mph. The struggling Chicago Cubs, his hometown team, in need of an attendance boost, sign him to their roster, but Henry quickly proves to be more than just a gimmick as he leads the Cubs into the playoffs. Gary Busey, at this point in his career, was playing a lot of psychos and weirdos, but he’s surprisingly appealing as the kind mentor figure here. This is a very likable film with a few juvenile moments but it proves to be a winning family flick.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(920)

The Mighty Ducks (1992, Directed by Stephen Herek) English 6

Starring Emilio Estevez, Joss Ackland, Lane Smith, Heidi Kling, Josef Summer, Joshua Jackson, Elden Henson, Shaun Weiss, Brandon Adams, Matt Doherty, Marguerite Moreau, Vincent Larusso, Danny Tambarelli, Brock Pierce, Aaron Schwartz

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(6-Good Film)

Fun. Goofy. Endearing.

Gordon Bombay: A team isn’t a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn.

Misunderstood by critics, given cult status by the ’90s youth, The Mighty Ducks is something of a mediocre classic. Mediocre in terms of filmmaking and storytelling but a classic nonetheless. It’s fun, it strings together a host of memorable characters including Goldberg and Averman, and it’s a satisfying underdog tale. Gordon Bombay (Estevez, anchoring the film with a genuinely strong performance) is an unscrupulous lawyer who’s forced into community service after a number of driving violations catch up to him. This takes the form of him coaching the local youth hockey team, the worst in their league. He’ll turn them around of course and become a better person along the way.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(905)

D2: The Mighty Ducks 2 (1994, Directed by Sam Weisman) English 6

Starring Emilio Estevez, Joshua Jackson, Kathryn Erbe, Michael Tucker, Jan RubeŇ°, Joshua Jackson, Carsten Norgaard, Elden Hensen, Shaun Weiss, Kenan Thompson, Marguerite Moreau, Matt Doherty, Vincent Larusso

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(6-Good Film)

Nostalgic. Satisfying. Appealing.

Gordon Bombay’s (Estevez) playing career is officially over. As he looks on to the next chapter of his life, he receives the offer of a lifetime to coach Team USA in the Junior Goodwill Games. Bringing back his players from the first Mighty Ducks and mixing in an assortment of new ones, he’ll have to get them playing together if they’re going to have a shot at beating Team Iceland. There was a time when I viewed this as the greatest movie ever made, the apex of the mighty Mighty Ducks trilogy. It’s impossible for me to detach myself completely from those memories and see the film objectively, nor do I really want to. It’s a nostalgic goldmine. There are memorable characters, imposing villains, and plenty of goofy antics to go along with the sports action. Maybe don’t watch this for the first time if you’re over twenty.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(898)

The Big Green (1995, Directed by Holly Goldberg Sloan) English 5

Starring Olivia D’Abo, Steve Guttenberg, Jay O. Sanders, John Terry, Chauncey Leopardi, Patrick Renna, Bug Hall

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(5-Okay Film)

Fun. Clumsy. Mediocre.

Into the miserable, poverty-ridden town of Elma, Texas, where the children are separated into two classes-younger and older-steps Ms. Anna Montgomery to teach the older group. Though young and beautiful, Ms. Montgomery doesn’t have much luck in connecting with the students until she decides to put together a soccer team with the help of local Sheriff Tom Palmer (Guttenberg). It’s a sports film for kids, likely inspired by the insanely popular Mighty Ducks series. The formula is the same and there’s plenty of charm in this film and a few creative touches, but it’s not a transcendent kids’ movie. It’s perfectly fine and likely entertaining for children but just mediocre seen objectively.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(885)

Side Out (1990, Directed by Peter Israelson) English 6

Starring C. Thomas Howell, Peter Horton, Courtney Thorne-Smith, Terry Kiser, Harley Jane Kozak, Christopher Rydell

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(6-Good Film)

Slick. Compelling. Vapid.

Beach volleyball isn’t what I would call a major sport, so I didn’t expect Side Out, a film largely concerned with that game, to be as compelling as it is. C. Thomas Howell plays Monroe Clark, an aspiring lawyer from Milwaukee who moves out to sunny Southern California to work under his rich uncle, Max (Kiser). While working at the bottom, serving notices to deadbeats who haven’t paid their rent, Monroe gets swept up in the local competitive beach volleyball scene, thanks to a new friend, Wiley (Rydell), and eventually teams up with a washed-up, local legend, Zach Barnes (Horton), to compete in the big tournament. It’s a doubtful premise built around a pretty flimsy sport, cinematically speaking, but it’s handled rather well. The characters are interesting enough despite not having any real problems and the performances are as laid back as the SoCal lifestyle.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(874)

The Cutting Edge (1992, Directed by Paul Michael Glaser) English 6

Starring D.B Sweeney, Moira Kelly, Roy Dotrice, Terry O’Quinn, Dwier Brown, Michael Hogan

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(6-Good Film)

Conventional. Appealing. Solid.

Doug Dorsey’s (Sweeney) once-promising dreams of being a professional hockey player are dashed after he suffers a hit that damages his vision. Not having much else to do with his life, a strange opportunity comes his way to partner with Kate Mosely (Kelly), a difficult figure-skater looking to compete in the pairs event at the upcoming Olympics. The two clash as naturally as they fall in love. It’s a romantic comedy. You either like them or you don’t. As far as romantic comedies go, The Cutting Edge is a pretty good one. The leads are appealing and their antagonistic dialogue is attractive.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(850)

Little Giants (1994, Directed by Duwayne Dunham) English 5

Starring Rick Moranis, Ed O’Neill, Shawna Waldron, Devon Sawa, Brian Haley, Susanna Thompson

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(5-Okay Film)

Goofy. Amusing. Slight.

The younger, Danny O’Shea (Moranis), has always been in the shadow of his Heisman trophy-winning brother, Kevin (O’Neil). When Kevin starts up a local Peewee football team but cuts Danny’s daughter simply because she’s a girl, Danny decides to start his own team. Since each town can only have one, the two brothers will face off to determine which team stays. I do try not to grade on the curve. At the same time, you can’t watch something like Little Giants with the same criteria used for The Godfather. The fact is Little Giants was made to please children first and foremost and is pretty successful on that front. Beyond that, it’s a fast-paced, goofy, creative effort with a solid premise and a handful of strong characters. Even its sillier moments (the annex of Puerto Rico and numerous gags) are pretty memorable, as are the nicknames “Icebox” and “Spike.” Fun for a kid, reasonably amusing for an adult.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(817)

Varsity Blues (1999, Directed by Brian Robbins) English 5

Starring James Van Der Beek, Amy Smart, Paul Walker, Ron Lester, Ali Larter, Jon Voigt, Scott Caan

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(5-Okay Film)

Inconsistent. Amusing. Simple.

Varsity Blues had the opportunity to be a memorable black satire on the world of high school football in Texas, a comedic Friday Night Lights, and at first, I thought that was where it was going. The characters, led by Mox (Van der Beek), are interesting. The team plays under the ruthless, imperial Coach Kilmer (Voigt, prone to overacting when given the chance in bad films, here gives a note-perfect performance despite his over-the-top storyline), fighting for his 23rd district championship. Mox, a career backup QB who reads novels while riding the bench, is suddenly thrown into the spotlight once the star and team captain, Lance Harbor (Walker), blows out his knees. High school football is an intense life-altering period for many people. You could approach that seriously, demonstrated later by the movie and T.V Series, Friday Night Lights, or you could attempt to satirize how overly serious high school football can be. The latter approach is what could have made Varsity Blues a classic with the right direction. Dads pathetically arguing over who was better 20 years ago is great stuff. An attractive sex-ed teacher who works part-time as a stripper is not, and in the end Varisty Blues devolves into a basic sports film, i.e, the heroes win and at the last second. Football isn’t exciting cinematically. You need something else to make the action absorbing.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(801)