Movie Review: Winning Season

I needed a net-fix so I gave Winning Season a try solely because of Sam Rockwell.  I was fully prepared for the movie to be a blatant Bad News Bears Rip off so when it started out that way I didn’t pay any attention.  Surprisingly, The movie comes into its own fairly quickly and though Rockwell is certainly the strength of the film I found myself pretty interested  and actually enjoying the movie.

Sam Rockwell is readily introduced as a drunk who works nights as a busboy.  He is quickly reconnected to a former classmate/athlete who runs their Alma Mater and is desperate to find a new coach for the girls basketball team.  So, he takes the job, but hates it and doesn’t take the girls seriously.  Meanwhile, his daughter who plays basketball for another school, hates him.  So, the story pretty much writes itself after that, except watching Rockwell’s tenacity as a coach and his teams dedication to him even after he gets fired is really something, and the overall turnaround for the character and a well executed ending make it a worthy view.

First of all, I do give it full marks for story.  It could have very easily been a rehash of the same old sports movie routine and while it still had those common elements, its individuality outshines its derivative genre aspects.  That combined with Sam Rockwell holding it down in the lead really makes the movie worth watching.

It’s not perfect.  a lot of the acting from the girls is corny and forced.  Not great dialogue may be a factor, but the performances at times are reality-show-awkward.  The story is not particularly clever, but original enough to not just re-watch Coach Carter, or something.  Unless you want to have a battle of the Sams.  (Nick Fury against Justin Hammer?)  Thankfully, it’s not so overwhelmingly awful that the really entertaining parts can’t be enjoyed and overall I give it a solid B.

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Movie Review: These Amazing Shadows

These Amazing Shadows is a tantalizing title.  Just the provocation of thought it initiates is worthy of praise.  I readily grasped the concept that films are sort of shadows of the past, but it never had occurred to me that movies literally are shadows.  The documentary is an introduction to the Library of Congress’s initiative to salvage and preserve films that a board of directors deems worthy of induction into the National Film Registry.

It’s easy to dismiss this film as just another list production, like the stuff you find and watch on TV when nothing else is on.  At times it feels like that sort of show just by its nature, but even though it looks like a bunch of people rattling off anecdotes to clips of popular and nostalgic films, it does run deeper than that.  First of all, the clips (like it or not) are evocative.  There is some powerful stuff that plays on our connections to the film’s portrayed, the films we grew up on.  Secondly there is the bigger story of the National Film Registry and why it exists.

It all started with the debate over the preservation of film as artwork when black and whites became colorized, which met with controversy.  Film came to be identified as an art form, but also a crucial medium, a uniting force and a neglected diminishing archive of American history.  So, the National Film Registry was Born and dedicated to the preservation of film, specifically those that have historical, cultural or aesthetic significance.  The mission is interesting, but what happens when the highlight reel element meets the testimonies of board members and film makers is an examination of history led by the presence and awareness of all kinds of films that really shaped human thought and created history, as much as reflected it.

t’s not a flashy movie, or the in-your-face science and logic defying “documentary” that has become so prevalent.  It doesn’t dare you to watch or entice you with anything really, besides a slight manipulation near the end where it goes into the destructive power of film and if “bad” films should be protected.  This documentary is made for those who are interested in the place of film in American history.  If you are, then These Amazing Shadows is worth watching.  If you aren’t, you really should be.

Movie Review: Changing Lanes

Changing Lanes is one of those films where the two protagonists duke it out under escalating circumstances that threaten to completely ruin their lives.  One man (Samuel Jackson) is an is a divorced alcoholic fighting for custody of his kids.  The other is a blissfully unaware lawyer (Ben Affleck) who wakes up to some dark truths about his business and how greedy people succeed.

These characters struggle with their conditions in thought provoking ways that raise philosophical questions without overduing it or neglecting the momentum of the story.  By not pushing too hard on the philosophy aspect, it becomes a very philosophical movie, one with a real resolution that brings a proper end to the drama of the film.

It all starts with a freeway accident between two strangers with important court dates.  Gavin leaves Doyle high and dry and as a result Doyle misses a custody hearing.  Gavin’s day gets worse when he realizes a crucial file for his case was left with Doyle at the scene of the accident.  The two then irrationally, but understandably, try to bully/get back at each other as Gavin attempts to get his file back.

The rising conflict is a little harder to watch.  On the other hand the film does a terrific job of making you care about the characters and still understand that they are bringing all of this trouble onto themselves and that they deserve each other.  For this reason their constant unraveling is endurable and the depth of thought beneath the tumult makes it worth watching and investing in.

It’s a delicate sort of film and this movie was handled by a surgeon.  The story and screenplay credit goes to Chap Taylor, although Michael Tolkin gets screenplay credit as well and may have been the surgical hands involved. A

Something to watch on Netflix

I’m streaming a pretty good flick on Netflix right now.  It’s called What Planet Are You From? and it stars everybody:  Garry Shandling, Annette Bening, Greg Kinnear, John Goodman, Ben Kingsley, Judy Greer, Linda Fiorentino…  It’s a really sharp comedy about an alien from an advanced race sent to impregnate an earth woman as the first step of a world domination scheme.

Granted, I’m writing, while I watch. So, I’m not too engrossed; But I am laughing while I write.  It’s always, I think, a valuable thing to get a heads up on something good you can see instantly for free if you are a netflix subscriber.  Garry Shandling is a great lead in this amazing cast.  It only grossed about 1/8 of it’s 5000,000.00 budget back in 2000.  Sometimes time surprises you, like which was going to be a bigger hit:  E.T. or Crush Groove?

Oh, and if you want to know who wrote it, four writers are credited.  It’s always interesting to see if a movie has a handful of writers.  Sometimes a movie can be four times better.  Usually it turns out incohesive, I think.  This was one of the more fortunate team ups, headed by Garry Shandling.  The other writers were Michael Leeson, Ed Solomon and Peter Tolan.  Solomon wrote Men in Black, Charlie’s Angels (also with multiple writers icluding the great John August), and Super Mario Bros. among other things.  Leeson is responsible for  I.Q. and The War of the Roses.