D2: The Mighty Ducks

D2: The Mighty Ducks

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they used in their old show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today I will be continuing my trip down memory lane by looking at one of my favourite movies as a child and the sequel to last week’s movie: D2: The Mighty Ducks

Key facts

Directed by Sam Weisman

Music by J. A. C. Redford

Released in 1994

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Kathryn Erbe, Michael Tucker, Jan Rubeš, Carsten Norgaard, Joshua Jackson

Synopsis: After injury robs Gordon Bombay the chance of making it into the NHL, he is appointed the new head coach of Team USA Hockey for the upcoming Junior Goodwill Games. Coaching a team made up of many of the previous Ducks and some of the best players from across the country, the group grow as a team and individuals while Bombay is forced to adapt to newfound fame and expectations.

Review

I absolutely loved this movie as a child and I’m actually quite surprised that I never wore the VHS out! I’m such a fan that I ended up buying a replica of the white Ducks jersey from the climax of the film (#96 Conway, for anyone asking) So to find out that this only had a 59% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes was a massive shock to me. But hey, we all have different tastes and I loved it as much as ever!

Much like in the original movie, the person growing the most is surprisingly not the kids, but Gordon Bombay, who suddenly finds himself thrust into a world of sponsors who love him when he wins but turn their back as soon as he loses, while he also finds himself suddenly among the cream of the crop in LA and spending to much time at sponsor events rather than prepping the team, leading to a damning loss against Iceland which he reacts badly to. Though the character of Hans doesn’t appear in this movie, his “brother” Jan fills the exact same role, helping Gordon to see the mistakes he has made and sort himself out in time to earn the team’s trust back and get the win in the big game playing fun hockey. This is hinted at almost immediately, with the opening sequence flashing between Gordan as a child skating on the pond behind his house and Bombay playing in the minors and being on route to the NHL until he receives a career-ending injury. In this opening, we hear Gordon’s father tell him “No matter how far you go, don’t forget your home” and when you combine the orange colour palette for this moment with the colour palette later in the movie as Bombay goes skating at sunset in LA to get his head back after reaching his low point, it’s clear that this is Bombay learning his lesson.

Of course, the Ducks still play a key role, but it is an interesting situation. While Charlie still feels like the heart of the team, he is given much less weighting in this one—his role as the heart of the team really being shown by being the one to round up the Ducks and to drop out in order to open up a roster spot for Banks in the final—as we are introduced to a number of new characters, who have to be given time to bed in and grow themselves. While some of these characters are effectively replacements for Ducks who didn’t return—Ken Wu taking over from Tammy Duncan as the figure skater in the team—many provide a new dynamic, like Dean Portman bringing in another physical, confrontational edge to pair with Fulton Reed, while Russ Tyler’s knucklepuck is a fun variation on Fulton’s slapshot from the first film. What this does mean though is that some characters don’t get as much time as they properly deserve, with Guy Germaine especially falling foul in this movie.

One player who does really benefit though is that of Adam Banks, the best player on the team, who seems to take on a bit of the role Charlie had in the first movie, as a surrogate son for Bombay, and he and Emilio Estevez share a wonderful scene that I had to mention, as Bombay is forced to bench banks due to injury, and does a great job of talking to him and realising that being benched will not be the end of the world and realising what is important.

What probably doesn’t help the situation of giving all the team enough time is a couple of moments that feel really out of place, with Bombay going on a date with the Iceland team’s trainer after one very quick meeting that was nothing more than an introduction, only for them to not have any more interactions together in the movie and for her to be firmly sided with Iceland for the rest of the movie, while following this we get a few hints of a budding romance between Bombay and team tutor Michelle McKay. Neither of these relationships has any payoff—besides the date with Maria helping fuel the team’s distrust in him—and I can’t help feel that these moments could have been removed in favour of more time with some of the Ducks.

Finally, I need to spend some time talking about the main antagonist of this movie, and Carsten Norgaard is great as Wolf “The Dentist” Stansson, the head coach of Iceland. He looks physically intimidating but what really stood out for me on re-watch was that—barring an anger issue which results in a cheap shot on Bombay—he doesn’t actually come across as that bad a person, especially when you consider Coach Reilly told his team to injure Banks in the last movie. Instead, Stansson is tactically solid; we see him and Maria watching a number of USA’s matches, with the movie often showing them watching USA’s weapons (Fulton’s slapshot, Russ’ knucklepuck and the Flying V), all of which Iceland stop in games. Yes the Iceland team play rough, but it is only Olaf Sanderson who really takes things too far on the ice. And then at the end, Stansson actually realises (after a cutting remark from Gunner Stahl) that the win wasn’t everything and is able to shake Bombay’s hand and congratulate him on the win. If we’re looking at characters who could pop up in The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers down the line, I think that Stansson could be a good one to come in as an acquaintance of Bombay, similar to how Rocky and Apollo Creed became friends.

Sports perspective

Like my review for the original, I’m not going to be able to go into much detail at all as Ice Hockey is not a sport that I’ve ever really been able to invest any significant time in. However the movie does a good job of not needing you to have a detailed knowledge of the rules, so that as long as you can understand the basics that each team is trying to put the puck in their opponent’s net more often than the other, you’re completely fine.

Once again, many of the goals we see the Ducks score would ever be seen in an actual game, as the Ducks often rely on gimmicks – like making Russ Tyler and Goldberg swap kits to hide Tyler from the Iceland players and give him time to get the shot off. Even more so than in The Mighty Ducks, we see the tropes of the main rival being a bigger and more physical team that plays in black, who are allowed to get away with a lot more than USA are – most notable when you look at Sanderson getting 2 minutes in the box for deliberately attacking Banks while Portman is ejected just seconds into a game for pushing a player over.

Useless trivia

The Goodwill Games was an alternative to the Olympics, also running every 4 years. There were 5 Summer Goodwill Games (Moscow 1986-Brisbane 2001) and 1 Winter Games (Lake Placid, 2000). Other planned Games were Phoenix (Summer) and Calgary (Winter), which were both cancelled before they could take place in 2005.

Ice hockey was part of the Summer Games.

Fist-pump moment

“They’ve got on new uniforms. They’re wearing the logo of the Duck!”

My fist-pump moment for this one has to be the moment that Team USA come out for the second half of the final wearing new uniforms, the new white kit with the Ducks logo. This is by far my favourite of the kits the team wars during the trilogy, but more than that, it is the moment where the new members officially become Ducks, with a very corporate Team USA jersey until then. Right before this, during the “Ducks Fly Together” scene, we have had the familiar ducks theme playing, but with this reveal, the music comes back stronger, and as the team skate back out onto the ice, you can not just the players but the crowd also spurred on by the change. And trust me, when you have the crowd behind you, you feel invincible.

Favourite line

This movie, there was a line I already remembered before my re-watch and it still stood out this time around:

“Gordon, when I told the Goodwill Committee who you were, I did not talk to them about your good looks. I didn’t tell them you would win at any cost. I told them you were a man who loves the game. And I told them you were a man who could teach the kids about more than just winning or losing. I told them you were the Minnesota Miracle Man and only you could teach them to fly. So be that man. Be that man, Gordon”

It comes at a key moment as Jan helps Gordon realise the mistakes that he has made and reminds him that helping the kids grow is the most important thing rather than coming away with the victory.

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

The Mighty Ducks

The Mighty Ducks

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they used in their old show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today I will be starting a trip down memory lane by looking at the first film in one of my favourite movie series as a child: The Mighty Ducks

ss The Mighty Ducks

Key facts

Directed by Stephen Herek

Music by David Newman

Released in 1992

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Joss Ackland, Lane Smith, Heidi Kling, Joshua Jackson

Synopsis: Hotshot Minneapolis lawyer Gordon Bombay (Estevez) is arrested for drink diving and forced to undertake 500 hours of community service coaching the struggling local “District 5” Pee Wee ice hockey team. Though there is initially no love lost between him and the team, they slowly remind him of the love he once had for the game and he looks to turn around their fortunes on the ice.

Review

As much as I loved this trilogy of movies, I can’t remember having watched the original that many times, as for some reason I only had the sequels on VHS (ageing myself here!) as a kid. So it was really fun watching this one again as, though I remember the brad strokes, I don’t remember the detail anywhere near as well.

As a kid, these were just fun sports movies, but watching this now as an adult – and someone who played at my local rugby club as a kid and later in life went back to help coach there – there is actually a really poignant story here, and I would go as far as to suggest any adult who wants to coach children’s sport should watch this movie. Bombay starts the movie as a lawyer who is not afraid to play dirty to ensure that he wins his cases, and that is the same mentality that he initially brings to the team. It is clear that as a child he loved the game, but a bad moment in a match and the reaction of his “winning is everything” coach made him fall out of love with the game.  But as time goes on, we see Bombay getting that love of the game back and helping the kids improve so that they start winning, but also ensuring that the focus is on them enjoying playing the game rather than having to win. It’s a hard balance for a coach to manage, and watching this should be a good reminder for coaches watching to ensure that all the team is having fun, and that the stars of the team are treated just the same as the weakest of players.

Estevez does a great job as Gordon Bombay, showing that change in mentality over time and going from an arrogant jerk at the beginning of the movie to an inspirational coach by the end, but the real standout to me was Joshua Jackson as Charlie Conway, who is far from the best player on the team, but is the heart and soul of the movie, someone who is there because he loves the game – refusing to cheat when Bombay tells him to and being the first to welcome Banks to the team – and while his mother does have a romantic storyline with Bombay, it feels more like the true romance is Gordon falling back in love with the game as Charlie reminds him of what he was like at that age. The rest of the kids do a great job – finding child actors is always a risk but they do well on the whole – but Lane Smith also does a great job as the main antagonist of the movie, Coach Reilly, who was Bombay’s old coach and still coach of the rival team the Hawks.

One final thing to mention in this section is the score, and this really stands out to me in the matches, but especially the matches against the rival team, where we get some extended action. There are 2 obvious themes, one for the Ducks and one for their rivals, and they are meshed together throughout the games does such a great job of adding feeling tot he action, especially with how the theme for the rivals – who are generally bigger and stronger – feels ore overbearing than that of the Ducks.

Sports perspective

So I’m not going to be able to go into much detail at all as Ice Hockey is not a sport that I’ve ever really been able to invest any significant time in. However the movie does a good job of not going into detail about the rules, so that as long as you can understand the basics that each team is trying to put the puck in their opponent’s net more often than the other, you’re completely fine.

Of course, I highly doubt that many of the goals we see the Ducks score would ever be seen in an actual game, as the Ducks often rely on gimmicks – like using a figure skater spinning next to the goal to create space to receive the puck and score. I did appreciate though the “Statue of Liberty” play using Fulton Reed’s powerful slapshot as a dummy for a team play, much as the play in American football sees the quarterback faking a pass to disguise the running back rushing with the ball.

While the Ducks rely on these fun gimmicks, we also see the Hawks allowed to get away with a lot that would probably be penalised in the game and the Ducks getting penalised for much less, and this just helps to set up even more how incredible and against the odds their victory will be.

Useless trivia

Ever heard of the NHL team the Anaheim Ducks? Well they were founded in 1993 by the Walt Disney Company, going under the name The Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, which was inspired by this movie. The name was changed to the Anaheim Ducks following Disney’s sale of the franchise, however they still pay homage to their founding on occasions with their kits and the appearance of their mascot.

Fist-pump moment

My fist-pump moment comes halfway though the championship game against the Hawks, immediately following Adam Banks being stretchered off the ice after one of the players did as Coach Reilly had instructed and took him out of the game. After checking on Banks, Bombay takes a detour back to his team via the Hawks, where he looks his old coach in the eye and states:

“To think I wasted all those years worrying about what you thought. You’re going down, Reilly”

The music has remained soft through this moment as it mourns Banks’ being forced out of the game, but on this proclamation it builds up. This is Bombay’s big moment. Throughout the film we have seen him affected by his tie as a Hawk under Reilly, which made him fall out of love with the game. We have seen him try to copy the Hawks early on, then play dirty by having the team cheat to try winning at all costs, but as the movie has gone on, the Ducks brought his love of the game back, leading to him getting fired for making sure Banks couldn’t play for the Hawks for fair play reasons and he even found that the new District lines would make him a Duck rather than a Hawk.

But it is in this moment that he finally sees just how far Reilly will go to win that he is finally able to fully break away from his Hawks past and be his own man, the man the Ducks need him to be.

Favourite line

Having spent so much of my life in teams, both as a player and a coach of junior rugby, and also with the Pistol Shrimps, there was a line from Bombay that rally stood out to me:

“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.”

This really stood out to me as you get out of being in a team what you put in. A team is a family in itself, a group that has your back when you need help. Winning isn’t everything, but instead it is about the time you spend together and the memories you make along the way.

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they used in their old show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today I will be looking at a more recent movie: Ford v Ferrari

ss ford v ferrari le mans '66

Key facts

Directed by James Mangold

Music by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders

Released in 2019

Starring: Matt Damon, Christian Bale, Jon Bernthal, Josh Lucas, Caitriona Balfe

Synopsis: Henry Ford II tasks former racing driver Carroll Shelby (Damon) and his team, including racing engineer and driver Ken Miles (Bale), with creating a Ford racing car capable of ending Ferrari’s dominance at the annual 25 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.

Review

I remember when this movie was first coming out hearing rave reviews from people who saw it, but had no time to go see it in cinemas. Luckily, getting access to my friend’s Sky Go for a week to watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League gave me a chance to catch up on a couple of other films that I’d missed, so this was top of the list. Safe to say that it didn’t disappoint!

I was a massive fan of Mangold’s Logan and the way it made a superhero movie feel so grounded and real. Well Mangold did it again, and though that should be obvious from the fact that it is a biographical sports drama, he – and everyone involved – did a fantastic job of making me feel like I was actually watching something from the 60s in how realistic it all looked. He also did a fantastic job of keeping the film grounded and full of heart rather than just action, by regularly coming back to scenes between Ken Miles and his wife or son. Much like Warrior, it is these moments of heart that can so easily be left out of a sports movie, but in fact take the film to another much more emotional level as we get even more invested in the character by seeing their family life and how that is being impacted. Most notable for me was a pair of scenes between Bale and Noah Jupe (playing Miles’ son, Peter), one talking about being kind to the car and feeling it, and another following a map Peter has made of the Le Mans circuit and using it to talk through the perfect lap.

Of course, these scenes add great feeling, but it is only possible due to the quality of acting, which is top class across the board. Jupe is brilliant for a young actor, while Matt Damon puts in another strong performance as Shelby, with moments of weakness, but also moments where he is fully in control and in his element. Josh Lucas is incredible as Leo Beebe, playing a perfect sh*tweasel character as the main antagonist in a personal sense (Ferrari racers obviously being the overall antagonists). But the best performance by a mile is Christian Bale as Ken Miles. We get moments of elation, anger, joy, sadness and focus from Bale, and he is deep in this role, such that I never for a moment felt that there was any overlap between this performance and any of his other roles that I had seen. having seen this, I’m shocked that he missed out on a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars.

Would I recommend it? Definitely! This is not just an out-and-out sports movie, but a drama with heart and humour, while the idea of racing is easy enough for people to understand even if they do not know the details of the sport. If you have seen Rush and enjoyed it, then this is definitely worth finding a couple of hours to watch.

Sports perspective

So I’ll keep this short and sweet as I’ll be completely honest and admit that motor racing is not my forté, and that if I am usually watching the sport, then it will be Formula 1, rather than endurance racing. Add to that the way that motor racing has changed so much from the 60s to now, and this is certainly something outside of my wider knowledge.

Obviously the big point here is that the narrative focuses mainly on the one Ford that Miles is driving and just a handful of Ferraris, when in actuality there were much larger numbers in the race. We also keep the focus mainly on Miles in the car, when these endurance races have teams of 2 drivers due to their length – we do see shots making this clear, but the action itself sticks to when Miles is in the car. (MAJOR SPOILER WARNING) As a result, the finale of the race is framed somewhat as a defeat as Miles is cheated out of first place, whereas in the wider scope of things it was still a win for Ford.

I also feel that some of Shelby’s shenanigans with the neighbouring Ferrari pit crew were tough to believe actually happened, but they added some fun moments to the race, while also adding tot he feeling of Shelby and co. having to overcome a more experienced and prepared opposition.

Useless trivia

Though I have gone with the title of Ford v Ferrari, as this is what I most commonly heard it called due to listening to shows and podcasts by Americans – such as the Schmoedown Entertainment Network and Action Industries – the movie was actually titled Le Mans ’66 in the UK and some other European countries. Personally, I think that the Ford v Ferrari title is better and more fitting as though Le Mans 66 was the climax of the film and the end of Ferrari’s dominance, the film does in fact cover a couple of years and at the heart of it is about the work that Shelby, Miles and co. put in to create a car that could beat Ferrari and went on to do so for a number of years.

Fist-pump moment

The finale of the race at Daytona gets my vote here. With Miles (unknowingly) needing to win the race in order to get a spot for Le Mans, Beebe has supplied his rival with a far superior pit crew to give them an advantage over him, whilst also giving both cars the order not to push the cars over 6,000 RPM, which would give Miles an advantage due to how closely he had been involved in the design of the car. Seeing Miles will fall just short, Shelby walks out to the side of the track and shows Miles a sign: 7000+ GO LIKE HELL. With this instruction, Miles opens up and goes on a tear to take the lead on the final lap and win the race.

This scene has everything, fantastic racing action, Shelby’s trust in Miles and willingness to stick the proverbial middle finger up at Beebe, who has no way of stopping him, and a grandstand finish with Miles getting the crucial win against the odds.

Favourite line

There were a few that I considered here, including a speech by Shelby about 7,000 RMP which is said at the start of the movie and repeated again towards the end, while “This is about the place where the uninitiated soil themselves” was a humorous moment, but I instead found myself picking this moment from Henry Ford II after the failure of Le Mans ’65 as Shelby convinces him that he needs control of the team rather than being overruled by suits like Beebe.

“This isn’t the first time Ford Motors has gone to war in Europe. We know how to do more than push paper. And there is one man running this company. You report to him. You understand me? Go ahead, Carroll, go to war.”

At a time where many of the male characters would have served during WWII, its a completely understandable sentiment in such a big rivalry between Ford and Ferrari for Henry Ford to liken Le Mans to a battlefield, while we often see in war movies how incapable officers cause the problems, much like Beebe and the other suits are for Shelby.

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

Oceans Apart

Oceans Apart

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

Now, today I’m doing something a little different, by looking at a recently released documentary that is currently available to watch on Amazon Prime: Oceans Apart: Greed, Betrayal and Pacific Island Rugby

Ocans Apart Cover

Directed by Callum Drummond & Axel Haudiquet

Released in 2020

Starring: Dan Leo

Synopsis: Former Samoa captain Dan Leo looks at the issues faced by Pacific Islands rugby players to see why these nations that are responsible for so many of the game’s superstars are struggling so much on the world stage.

documentary Oceans Apart

This was a fantastic documentary and a real eye-opener. As a fan of rugby in general, I have been so disappointed to see the way that the Pacific Islands – especially Samoa and Tonga – have struggled over the last couple of decades as rugby has gone professional. So many times, I’ve been disappointed to see players from the Pacific Islands choosing to play for Tier 1 nations where they may earn just a handful of caps, rather than playing 40-odd times for the country of their birth – a notable example being Charles Piutau, who won 17 caps for New Zealand but had not played international rugby since 2015. Watching this though made me really begin to understand why the players choose to play elsewhere as there is limited financial incentive to play for the Pacific Island nations.

As the documentary explains, Dan Leo was the captain of Samoa when the team threatened to boycott a match against England at Twickenham in 2014 due to financial discrepancies within the Samoan Rugby Union, as publicly-funded money was not reaching the team. The game eventually went ahead with the promises that everything would be investigated, but nothing ever came of it bar a few headlines at the time, and Leo found himself omitted from the squad moving forwards. Leo was not the only influential Samoa player to be dropped from the national team following criticism of the union, which is headed by the Prime Minister, and the way that funds are used.

In this 1 documentary, Leo really highlights the impact of the lack of funding – showing a player who has been left to fend for himself in Romania after losing his contract due to a kidney issue while also updating us on what happened to Fijian wing Rupeni Caucaunibuca, who was one of the stars of RWC2003. As we follow his investigations, which also involve interviews with a key members of the rugby community, including James Haskell (who played in the 2014 match against Samoa), Ben Ryan (who coached Fiji to Olympic Rugby 7s Gold), outspoken Samoan centre Eliota Fuimaono-Sapolu and a number of Pacific Islanders who play in the Premiership and Pro14, the issues become clear.

As the documentary shows, many of these unions are led by people who could be considered problematic due to their role in the nation’s government, but as the documentary shows, the issues go beyond the national unions and to the way that the nations are treated by World Rugby, who clearly favour the “Tier 1” nations, with Brett Gosper (who was at the time CEO of World Rugby, but will now be stepping down to take up a role within the NFL in the New Year) coming across very poorly in an interview.

I won’t say any more about this, except that this should be a must-watch for all rugby fans, and that hopefully this will lead to pushes for change that will give more support to nations outside of Tier 1.

 

What did you think of the documentary? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

Remember the Titans

Remember the Titans

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they use in their weekly show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Having looked at 2 of my favourite sports movies for my first 2 articles int eh series, I was planning to look at something new for my third. But after everything that has been going on over recent weeks, there was only one movie that felt right and topical: Remember the Titans

sport screen remember the titans

Key facts

Directed by Boaz Yakin

Music by Trevor Rabin

Released in 2000

Starring: Denzel Washington, Will Patton, Wood Harris, Ryan Hurst, Donald Faison

Synopsis: The movie is based on the true story of the 1971 T. C. Williams high school football team in Alexandria, Virginia. After the school integrated, Herman Boone is brought in to coach the team. The story shows how the black and white players (and the coaches) come together as a team and then follows them through a season while having to deal with the racism of those around them.

Review

Let me start by acknowledging that as a white male, I have things very easy in my life due to an undeserved privilege. I don’t know what it is like to experience racism or discrimination. Do I think that Remember the Titans accurately depicts the racism the team had to deal with? To a degree, yes, but I admit that as a Disney movie intended for families, certain dramatic liberties are bound to have been taken that will have likely toned down some moments but also created or hyped up others. What it does though is leave me with a feeling of how the situation was and allow for a clear growth from the characters throughout the film as they begin to see beyond the colour of each other’s skin, shown well by characters like Gerry Bertier’s mother who goes from her initial racism to helping comfort Julius Campbell and forcing him to stay strong following Gerry’s accident. Similarly we get the growth of Gerry’s girlfriend (played by Kate Bosworth) from not even wanting to touch Julius to shaking his hand before the final game. Similarly, I love the growth amongst the players, with initially just a few bonding but more over time as they find common ground (such as Ryan Gosling’s Alan Bosley bonding over music) or come to respect each other on the pitch like Gerry and Julius.

The movie itself could be considered somewhat formulaic – a new team of players comes together over time and has to overcome difficulties caused by those around them on their way to a climactic final match (note the similarities to The Replacements when summarised like that) – but that in no way makes it a bad movie as this will often be the case with sports movies. The characters themselves are on the whole likeable (except the ones who aren’t meant to be like Burgess Jenkins’ Ray Budds – who was made up for the movie), and while Coach Boone does often come across as too strict and not likeable – including deliberately showing up two of the players in front of the team and their families when they first meet, there are also some scenes that explain why he is strict and other moments, like with Ethan Suplee’s Louie Lastik or during his speech at Gettysburg, that shows his softer side. Of the players, the performance that really stands out for me is that of Wood Harris as Julius Campbell. As one of the driving forces and star players on the team, he gets a lot more serious screen time than others players, but he uses this time really well, with his notable scenes being an argument with Gerry about why he should play for the team when Gerry is captaining them but not calling out the whites for not blocking for their black Quarterback – a turning point for the pair and the team – and the scene where he reaches the hospital to find out that Gerry is paralysed from the waist down and breaks down, but has to try staying strong. Finally, I really need to praise the performance of Hayden Panettiere as the daughter of Will Patton’s Coach Yoast. Child actors can so often break a movie, but she does a great job here as a young girl obsessed with her father’s football team and she never feels out of place in scenes with greats like Patton and Denzel Washington.

Remember the Titans features a mix of a soundtrack along with a score from Trevor Rabin and the pair mesh brilliantly together, with the soundtrack providing the general tone to the movie, but then the score replacing it to underline many of the more inspirational speeches and moments, add tension where appropriate and place the focus on the football scenes. It does not draw your attention in the same way some scores will (though it certainly deserves the love) but it works underneath what we are watching to accentuate the moment.

Sports perspective

So as mentioned before, this is based on a true story, but a lot of changes have been made for theatrical reasons. The real Titans were more successful than the movie suggests with a number of big wins on the way to their 13-0 season, while the game with Marshall that the final game was based off was actually mid-way through their season (and the actual State Championship game was a 27-0 blowout). There is also no evidence that any of the Titans’ games were officiated as blatantly unfairly as we see in the Regional Championship, while in reality all of their opponents would have been integrated schools rather than all-white.

In terms of the actual action, though, Remember the Titans feels very believable. As high school football, it is easy enough to believe players would be able to switch between offense and defense with more ease, while the gameplay feels natural and not reliant on gimmick plays, even the last-ditch play to win the State Championship feels very natural and something that we could see even in an NFL game.

Useless trivia

Ironically, Remember the Titans is probably one of the least remembered movies in the Movie Trivia Schmoedown, with players having frequently missed questions relating tot he film, including Above The Line missing 2 questions on the film in their first shot at the Team Title, which cost them the match.

Fist-pump moment

Seeing the team begin to come together in the classic “Strong side”, “Left side!” scene was very close, I had to go for a moment mid-way through the Regional Championship game.

Having seen the team be unfairly penalised all game. Coach Yoast sacrifices his hall of Fame place by threatening to go to the press if the officials don’t let the game play out fairly. He goes back to the sidelines,makes some adjustments and gives the “Leave no doubt” speech (one of the most inspirational in the movie) and the defense immediately begins to dominate the game.

“All right now, I don’t want them to gain another yard! You BLITZ ALL NIGHT! If they cross the line of scrimmage, I’ll take every last one of you out! You make sure they remember, forever, the night they played the Titans! Leave no doubt!

Favourite line

While the “Leave no doubt” speech was certainly up there, I ended up picking something that felt much deeper. After Gerry’s accident, Julius goes to see him in hospital, but the nurse tries to stop him, leading to this great response from Gerry:

“Only kin’s allowed in here.”

“Alice, are you blind? Don’t you see the family resemblance? That’s my brother.”

As someone who has played team sports for years, your teammates really do begin to feel like family. And especially with my rugby 7s team the Pistol Shrimps, I find that we can go a year (or more) without speaking, but as soon as we meet up, we’re ripping into each other but will always stand up for each other if someone outside the group causes trouble.

More than that, though, this line is a beautiful reminder that the colour of your skin should not be defining you. Hopefully we are close to seeing a day where that is a reality rather than a dream.

 

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

The Replacements

The Replacements

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they use in their weekly show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today I will be looking at one of my favourite sports movies: The Replacements

ss the replacements

Key facts

Directed by Howard Deutch

Music by John Debney

Released in 2000

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Gene Hackman, Orlando Jones, Jon Favreau, Rhys Ifans, Brooke Langton

Synopsis: When the NFL players all go on strike with 4 games remaining in the regular season, the Washington Sentinels bring in head coach Jimmy McGinty (Hackman) to help the team make the playoffs. Rather than bring in semi-pros, McGinty chooses to bring in a hodgepodge of players he has watched through their careers to create the craziest team of replacements ever.

Review

If you’re looking for a piece of cinematic greatness, this is not going to be it. What it is though, is a genuinely fun sports comedy movie. I can’t even remember exactly how I first found this movie, I just came across the DVD at the bottom of my box of DVDs one day, decided to watch it and fell in love and it is a feel-good movie that I will consistently return to.

Much like many ensemble team sports comedies, the members of the team we follow all fall into their distinct roles: Keanu as Shane Falco is the heart of the team who has his funny moments but is generally used as the more serious spine to keep the story on track along with Hackman, Rhys Ifans is the one trying to run from his past, while Jon Favreau and Orlando Jones are key to a lot of the comedic moments as they play a maniacal linebacker/SWAT officer and a shop assistant who speaks before he thinks most of the time. Langton is there primarily as a love interest, but I do appreciate that she is shown to be highly knowledgeable about the team and the sport, helping her feel like a character in her own right rather than just a female for the lead to fall for.

As with many sports movies, it is always interesting to see where the antagonists come into play. The opposition are antagonists to some degree – especially specific players at times and the way Dallas are portrayed as so superior to the Replacements in the final match – but the real antagonist is the usual Quarterback, Eddie Martel (Brett Cullen) and his group of striking players, which is a dynamic that I think works quite well in that he is there at the start, but dealing with him brings the replacements together and it is only when he returns for the final match that things start to go wrong for the team again.

For me, the comedy really hits in this movie. Orlando Jones, Jon Favreau and Rhys Ifans are all incredible comedic actors and Gene Hackman plays off everyone around him so well. All of this then allows for more poignant moments, much like Keanu’s “Quicksand” speech and the scene where McGinty has to tell him that Martel has returned to the team.

Finally, I just want to mention the music of the movie, as I have had the soundtrack downloaded for years. I really like what John Debney does in this movie, combining a soundtrack of existing songs and a score to create something that works really well in the moment. The score works really well to cover a lot off the more sports-heavy moments, while the use of existing songs has led to me really appreciating Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” and discovering “Heroes” (They use a cover by Marc Bonilla & Font 48, but it led me to David Bowie’s version).

Sports perspective

The movie utilises the actors playing the game as much as possible in the Baltimore Ravens’ stadium, which really helps in terms of making everything look realistic – though if you pay attention you will notice it leads to a number of inconsistencies as plays are shown from different angles.

The movie itself is very loosely based on the 1987 NFL strike and the Washington Redskins (who won all 3 games during the strike and went on to win the Super Bowl), but it is only really as far as the general premise and some similarities in the teams faced and the QB controversy. Archie Lee Harris, Jr. (who plays Wilson Carr, one of the striking players) was in fact one of the replacement players during the strike, playing tackle for the Denver Broncos in 3 games on their way to the Super Bowl.

Having real NFL coaches portraying the opposition head coaches and having the commentary duo of John Madden and Pat Summerall for the matches goes a long way to helping the action feel authentic, and it genuinely feels like the pair had fun with some of the commentary.

As someone who has been watching the NFL for years, though, there are a number of occasions where what we are seeing doesn’t quite match up with real life. Though I understand that a big part of it will be to keep the focus on our main characters, we do end up with circumstances where players are involved in plays where their position would usually not feature, such as a QB on a kickoff return and a linebacker and corner both involved in an offensive play. Similarly there are instances where the rules of the game are not quite as we see in the movie, such as having to call a timeout at the end of the play after fielding the kickoff (the clock would automatically stop) and the officials combining a number of penalties against the Sentinels on one play (in reality, it would have been just 1 penalty, though I wonder if any players would have been ejected, especially under modern rules).

Finally, I just need to mention the oddity that Keanu’s character Shane Falco is goes from starting QB to being cut when Martel returns to the team. QB is such a vital position, teams will always carry at least 2 on the roster, so from a sporting sense, Falco would just be benched rather than cut. Obviously, this wouldn’t have been as impactful narratively, but from a sporting perspective, it would have been easy enough to add a moment in where McGinty is forced to cut Falco as well as take back Martel.

Useless trivia

Keanu’s character in this movie, Shane Falco, studied at Ohio State, which is also the alma mater of his character Johnny Utah in Point Break.

Fist-pump moment

I almost went for Fumiko’s “fat-man score” against San Diego, but for me, the fist-pump moment is the bar brawl after the first match. We get to see all of our main characters from the team working together, while also bringing out the individuality of each character.

Favourite line

Falco’s “Quicksand” speech is definitely up there in showing how so quickly a situation can deteriorate when things start to go wrong, no matter what you do. Instead, I ended up going for an inspirational quote from one of the huddles in the final game.

“Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever.”

 

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!

Warrior (2011)

Warrior (2011)

Welcome to my new series Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies that I have recently watched/re-watched and giving my thoughts on them. Getting into the Schmoedown and starting to follow a number of the personalities from the show has given me a much greater appreciation of movies and seen me starting to watch more.

Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic stopping most sport, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there. For each movie I will be giving some details about the movie and then a quick review, including a section giving a sports fan’s perspective of the action’s realism.

This series has been heavily influenced by Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai of Action Industries, and as such I will be borrowing a couple of sections that they use in their weekly show Action Movie Anatomy: Fist-pump moment and favourite line. Be aware, they will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

I wanted to start the series with a bang, so I have started with a movie I was watching for the first time after hearing Ben and Drew continually praise it: Warrior

sport screen Warrior (2011)

Key facts

Directed by Gavin O’Connor

Music by Mark Isham

Released in 2011

Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo

Synopsis: Two estranged brothers come back into each others lives as they find themselves both competing in a winner-takes-all mixed martial arts tournament.

Review

After hearing Ben Bateman and Andrew Ghai hype up this movie so often, I was keen to watch it but also a little nervous that it would not live up to the hype… I needn’t have worried. I immediately fell in love with this movie and already feel comfortable putting this in my top 5 movies after just 1 watch!

This is not just a sports movie. It is an emotional drama set around a sports event, with everything going on away from the octagon being as important (if not more so) than what is actually happening. All 5 of the main actors feel perfect for their roles and while it was potentially a risk to cast Hardy and Edgerton in the lead roles when they were still relative unknowns, they carried the movie so well and were so believable in both the drama and the action sequences. Grillo and Morrison were fantastic in their supporting roles, but Nick Nolte was absolutely superb in the role of the alcohlic estranged father and Tommy’s (Hardy) coach. He was fully deserving of his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and Christopher Plummer’s performance in Beginners must have been amazing to deny him the award!

What the movie does really well is build on what you know about the brothers and their backstory as the movie goes on. At the start, you know very little about them, but as the story continues you slowly get to see why each of the brothers is motivated to win the tournament, why they became estranged and how they both came to be in their respective situations. The way that Tommy’s backstory comes out slowly as the film progresses is amazing and I must admit that I didn’t see the final reveal coming but it did a great job of making everything click into place. What this means is that our feelings for the characters are built on how they act and talk rather than what we initially know about them. I also really like how neither of them is really a villain (Hardy could probably be considered an antihero), which creates a different dynamic to what you would see in most sports stories, as the most villainous characters are the brothers’ semifinal opponents. This allows for a final where you feel conflicted as to who you should want to win (even though it should be Brendan, there is enough to make you cheer for Tommy) and the brothers’ relationship can become the focus as much as the actual fight itself and building to a beautiful ending.

If you’ve never watched this movie, stop reading this and put it on now!

Sports perspective

So I want to start this section by saying that MMA is far from my strong suit, I will watch on occasion but not regularly, so the sporting aspect is not one that I can judge as closely as I can in some other sports. It certainly feels though that the fights are realistic, as we see different fighters using different styles (Hardy’s Tommy is more of a brute fighter, Edgerton’s Brendan is more technical).

The joy of combat sports like MMA and boxing are that they are easy for someone watching the movie to pick up the basics without having to know the full ins and outs. All you need to know is that the fights are split into rounds and that one guy is trying to knock out their opponent or make them submit.

Fist-pump moment

For me, this was Brendan’s semifinal against Koba, going from Frank’s (Frank Grillo) talk in the corner right up to the end of the fight when Koba taps out. The speech in the corner was fantastic and the build through the round as Brendan went from being bullied around the octagon to slowly taking control and pulling off the victory felt like an amazing climax… and that was with the final still to come!

“Look at me! Look at me! Why are we here, Brendan? Why are we here? Are we here to win this fight? You tell me, ’cause if we’re not, I’ll throw in the towel right now. We’ll get Tess and we will go home. You don’t knock him out, you lose the fight. Understand me? You don’t knock him out, you don’t have a home!”

Favourite line

If we’re talking inspirational lines, it’s the one above, but as with so many sports movies, we got an absolute zinger in the commentary that gets my pick here:

“He ripped the door off a tank!”

 

What did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments. Until next time!