Welcome To Wrexham

Welcome To Wrexham

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies and series 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, while a resolution for 2022 has also seen me making a resolution to watch more series.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there, while also now throwing in the occasional series. In each article I will be giving some details about the movie/series 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, but I will not be looking at the traditional “Fist-pump moment” and “Favourite line” sections due to just how much more content a series provides compared to a movie, instead talking about the prospects for the future of the show. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today, I will be looking at the series Welcome to Wrexham

Key facts

Released in 2022

Distribution (UK) Disney+

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Rob McElhenney, Humphrey Ker, Wrexham A.F.C.

Synopsis In September 2020, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney announced their intention to buy Wrexham A.F.C., a Welsh football (or soccer to the Yanks) club playing in the National League, the fifth tier of English football. This series follows the actors’ purchase of the club, before following them through the remainder of that season and the whole of the next one, as they look to earn promotion from the National League, where they have played since their relegation from League 2 at the end of the 2007/8 season.

Review

Sporting documentaries following a team through the year are growing in popularity following the success of series like Sunderland ‘Til I Die and Formula 1: Drive to Survive, and while Welcome to Wrexham is another in the growing list of these documentary series, it is not just that, and that is due to the main men: Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.

You may know Rob from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a comedy series which he created and co-developed and on which he serves as an executive producer, co-writer, and occasional director, while also playing the role of Ronald “Mac” McDonald. And Ryan Reynolds… well, enough said there. And their personalities are clearly on show throughout this series, as they will provide voice-over for the series, so even episodes that barely feature them in the story still benefit from their involvement and help to make this a series that will attract viewers who wouldn’t usually look at a sporting documentary like this. And yet while their influence on the series is huge, they don’t take over the show, allowing a number of people affiliated with the club—including manager Phil Parkinson, players, staff and local fans—to all have their own part in this show that is equally important.

And even more than that, Ryan and Rob have had the foresight to know that this show will bring in a lot of viewers, especially in the USA, who won’t understand soccer, british slang, the English football league structure or have ever heard of Wrexham, or even Wales for that matter! And so the show does a great job of explaining things like the league structure, promotion and relegation with quick, simple graphics and explanations that allow the uninitiated to get the info they need without taking too long and making die-hard fans mentally switch off, while they will also take the time to give American translations to certain British words to help avoid confusion, such as “pitch” and “quid”. But even as a Brit, these quick translation breaks don’t feel annoying as they fit the tone of the show, as we have 2 Americans who are new to soccer taking over the club, it just feels like part of their learning process, while the show actually still taught me in these moments by including the Welsh translation.

And this is what I really came to love as the show went on. It is clear that Rob and Ryan respect the community and don’t just see this as a way to earn some extra clout, and that comes through as we see Rob learning Welsh, while the Welsh translations being included lead to an episode mid-way through the series that puts the sporting narrative on hold and instead takes 30 minutes to teach the audience about Welsh history and culture. This show isn’t just gaining Wrexham A.F.C. more fans, it’s putting Wrexham and Wales on the world map.

Of course in all this, I haven’t really mentioned much about the sport side of things, and some die-hards may sometimes wish that we got a bit more of a sporting focus, but that is not the aim of this series, as it instead shows just what goes into owning a club, while I’m sure that season 2 may start to focus on the sporting side a little more now that the team and players have been introduced to the masses. But that is not to say that those stories are not there in season 1. We see the pressure Phil Parkinson is under after early struggles, we see the impact of star striker Paul Mullen, the loss of star defender Aaron Hayden and keeper Rob Lainton to injury. We see a cup run that ends in Wembley heartbreak and a league campaign that ends in crazy fashion. And yet we still have time to look at the role of hooliganism in football after an incident following a game, the role that football can have in male relationships, and even does a great job of finding the right tone to address one of the players going through the heartbreak of his son being stillborn.

This is a show not to be missed, and it says a lot that in a month where there were so many major shows coming out on streaming, I was equally excited for new episodes of this as I was for House of the Dragon and Andor, and more so than She-Hulk and Rings of Power—something that I would never have expected ahead of time as I am such a massive geek!

My highlight of the series: Phil Parkinson’s “enthusiasm counter” during his team talks.

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

Man in the Arena

Man in the Arena

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies and series 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, while a resolution for 2022 has also seen me making a resolution to watch more series.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there, while also now throwing in the occasional series. In each article I will be giving some details about the movie/series 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, but I will not be looking at the traditional “Fist-pump moment” and “Favourite line” sections due to just how much more content a series provides compared to a movie, instead talking about the prospects for the future of the show. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

Today, I will be looking at the documentary series Man in the Arena

sport screen man in the arena tom brady

Key facts

Seasons 1

Episodes 9 (currently)

Status 1 more episode in production

Released in 2021

Distribution (UK) Disney+

Starring Tom Brady

Synopsis A documentary series looking back through the career of Tom Brady, focusing on each of his Super Bowl seasons with the New England Patriots (with an episode planned for his Super Bowl run with Tampa Bay) looking at the iconic moments in Brady’s own words and with input from other people who played a key role.

Review

As someone who has paid some form of attention to the NFL since the mid-noughties and has closely followed the league since the 2009 season, a constant in the league has been Tom Brady. The undeniable GOAT, Brady’s achievements are incredible and deserve respect, but are made into an even better story when you remember that he was a sixth-round draft pick!

As such, I’ve always enjoyed documentaries about Brady, but this one still managed to leave me pleasantly surprised. While the name and poster would make you think it is all about Brady, the actual series feels on the whole more like a documentary about the Brady-era Patriots, with heavy focuses on some of the other influential players of the time, such as Drew Bledsoe, Willie McGinest, Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, as well as input from some of the big names Brady faced in the Super Bowl (Michael Strahan and Richard Sherman). In fact, it is only really episode 7 that felt like it was really focused more on Brady, as it featured his family and looked back at a season during which his mother was going through treatment for cancer, while parts of episode 8 also focused on his relationship with the controversial Alex Guerrero.

Though I will admit that I haven’t seen many documentaries on the NFL, this one did a really good job of showing the psyche of the New England Patriots, which has been a key part of their success and ability to remain in playoff contention through multiple rebuilds. It really highlights an environment that certainly wouldn’t be right for every player, but pushes for success.

With such a long and high-profile career, there have been so many iconic moments, and it was great to hear Brady et al. talk about these, such as how time both times the Pats faced the Giants it looked like they had the win, only for a remarkable catch to help the Giants score on a late drive, and how history almost completed itself against the Seahawks. There was talk on the Tuck Rule, that comeback against Atlanta and those game-winning drives that earned Brady his early fame (including how one throw did not go as planned but worked out to their advantage), while also a moment where wife Gisele Bündchen inadvertently made headlines following the loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. There’s something great about the way that sportsmen can remember games and talk about them years later that I love to hear, and as such this documentary—interviews spliced in amongst game footage, sideline footage and footage from news reports/football shows—was perfect for me!

Of course, if you know your NFL history, you will know that there are also some controversies to cover in this time, with Spygate and Deflategate. In credit to the series, it does not shy away from these moments, and it does go into how the players felt and how it affected them. However, while it does talk about Brady’s suspension as part of Deflategate, I noticed that it brushed over the reason that he was suspended, while I can’t help question just how accurate these sections are considering Brady is an executive producer.

A few final thoughts on the series:

  • Of course a part of the Patriots success was down to the input of TE Aaron Hernandez. While some of the footage used shows a couple of his plays, and he occasionally features in sideline shots, it was noticeable to me that even as Brady talked about the 12-package they used with him and Gronk, Hernandez was never actually discussed by name.
  • I could have happily sat through a series where each episode focused on each season of Brady’s career rather than focusing on the Super Bowl runs, but many of the other seasons do get some kind of mention, while these are all the big talking points of Brady’s career, so I can understand why it was kept to this more condensed format.

The Future

As mentioned earlier, we are set to get one more episode which will focus on Brady’s move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their Super Bowl victory. And who knows, with Brady coming out of retirement, there’s always the chance of yet another episode being required later down the line.

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

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

Welcome to Sport on the Silver Screen. In this series, I will be looking back over sports movies and series 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, while a resolution for 2022 has also seen me making a resolution to watch more series.

Being a fan of both movies and sports, I have taken the chance to start highlighting the sheer volume of sports movies out there, while also now throwing in the occasional series. In each article I will be giving some details about the movie/series 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, but I will not be looking at the stradiotional “Fist-pump moment” and “Favourite line” sections due to just how much more content a series provides compared to a movie, instead talking about the prospects for the future of the show. Be aware, there will be spoilers, but I will try to keep them to a minimum.

2021 saw me revisiting the Mighty Ducks movies, and while I had some fun last week with a theoretical ranking of the movies’ 19 players, I also took the chance to binge the newest story in the Mighty Ducks franchise: the series The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers

sport screen mighty ducks game changers

Key facts

Seasons 1

Episodes 10

Status Active – renewed for season 2

Released in 2021

Distribution (UK) Disney+

Starring Lauren Graham, Brady Noon, Emilio Estevez, Maxwell Simkins, Swayam Bhatia

Synopsis Now a hockey powerhouse, the Mighty Ducks junior team is selective about who makes the roster. After being cut and told he is wasting his time, 12-year-old Evan Morrow and his mother form a new team of underdogs with the help of original Ducks coach, Gordon Bombay, who has since become the despondent owner of a low level ice rink.

Review

Asa fan of the Mighty Ducks, this was one of the early announcements outside of Star Wars and the MC that got me excited about the potential of Disney+. So safe to say it was hard holding off for the best part of a year as I found time to go back over the movies and then find time for the series. But then like a tube of Pringles, once I popped, I couldn’t stop and I binged the show in just 3 sittings, and only that because  forced myself to take some time away from the TV!

While I enjoyed it, it certainly didn’t always feel like a Mighty Ducks story. The Ducks felt very different by being the bad guys of the team, and I will admit that this remained a bugbear of mine for pretty much the whole series, but I trusted in the writers and they addressed this in a way that I was happy with. Much of the familiarity came from Gordon Bombay, who was certainly a more cynical and weary character to begin with, but certainly still had that heart that helped us all fall in love with the movies previously. The Ducks feeling very much relies on nostalgia in this first series, most notably in an episode where 6 former players return, but all the pieces are there in a team of misfits who are playing hockey because they enjoy themselves and go on to be one of the top teams, so I feel that season 2 will feel more ingrained as part of the Ducks’ story as we are more familiar with the characters.

One thing that I really appreciated in the series was the time we had to get to know the characters, with the vast majority of our team fleshed out well in a way we would never have been able to get in a movie. We also saw the families behind the players, something that we never really got in the movies aside from Charlie’s mother, an this just allows for extra depth to some of the players, such as Sofi’s perfectionist parents. However on the whole I did find myself disappointed with the adults’ depictions in the series, as all of them other than Bombay seemed so over the top that it was unrealistic. I understand that this is considered a comedy-drama but even comedy requires some believability.

And sadly one of the least believable things was also for me the most frustrating: the character of Alex Morrow. I don’t put this down to Lauren Graham’s performance, but instead how she was written. She was far too much of a worrier as a mother and coach, and while her character did get some growth in the way that she dealt with her job and her boss (who also happened to be the mother of 2 of the Ducks) I never felt that we saw any signs of her really growing as a capable coach. To me, this needs to be one of the big areas addressed going into season 2.

The other issue that I did have was just how little hockey we got at times. A big staple of the Mighty Ducks movies has been what they do on the ice in games, but it sometimes felt like we were going a couple of episodes without any games, only for a quick scene or montage of gametime, perhaps a slightly longer run of episodes would have given us a bit more of a balance and more time to see the fun on-ice antics.

All in all, a strong first season that I think has given the series every chance for success.

A few final thoughts on the series:

  • While the Hawks now being one of the worst teams has a certain irony about it, I can’t help wonder why the team’s colour scheme has completely changed
  • There was something set up in the initial episode of the show that was shown a couple of ties in the following episodes before being dropped without any mention, only for it to become a key plot point in the final episode (I won’t say what so as not to spoil for anyone who hasn’t watched, but for those who have, it relates to Sofi). I feel that his could have been handled through the series a little better, but again I think this was hampered by how much of the hockey laterin the season was just shown in a couple of montages

The Future

The season has ended in a way that sets the show up nicely for season 2, but the loss of Emilio Estevez has me seriously worried, especially given Alex Morrow seems nowhere near ready to coach the team on her own, so we now either need to create a narrative for how she became competent over 1 offseason or find a reason to bring in a new coach who will blend with the classic Ducks way. A former Duck would be ideal—and Charlie Conway would be the prime candidate—but there is no guarantee that Joshua Jackson or any of the other former Ducks actors would be available to take on such a role. Similarly, we now need to find a reason to write Bombay out while likely still using the Ice Palace, which is always going to feel a little contrived as it was not expected. And that will potentially hurt the show’s longevity, as if we don’t feel that this team are the Ducks we love without Gordon Bombay and we have to rely on a cameo or 2 per season, then many of the longtime Ducks fans may fly away.

Beyond that, I think we need to see an expanded roster for the team this year, which can work easy enough given how well most of the team have already been established. I got a feeling in the final episode of the series that Ruby was feeling a little iffy on some of the coaching decisions made, and with her mum’s closeness to Alex growing, a change of teams wouldn’t feel off, while I would also expect maybe 1 or 2 completely new characters to add to the roster.

If the show can keep things going, it has a great chance to follow the team over the next couple of years and all the challenges that brings with it. Puberty is an obvious one, an we already have the creation of 2 couples in season 1, while it would also be easy enough to bring in an LGBT romance within the team from what has been set up in season 1, especially as Nick having 2 mothers is already normalising this. Meanwhile on the ice, we could see players coping with how their bodies change over the next couple of seasons, and it could be interesting to see someone as sweet and calm as Nick have to become the team’s new enforcer because of how he grows into a physical player, or see Evan transition from forward to defenseman if him going through puberty made him a more viable defensive option than some of the current players.

Beyond that, there is aso the question of how Alex progresses. It can be assumed that she will look to move on in her career, could this provide new obstacles to her coaching the team? Or what if she were to start dating the parent of another player? Logan and his divorcé father have moved in on the same street, while another character could always be introduced. And what if further seasons want to take things further, with players potentially having to compete against each other for the same spot in a higher level—something that certainly feels like a potential stumbling block in Evan and Sofi’s relationship.

If season 1 has set the show up well, season 2 feels crucial right now for the longevity of the series.

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

D3: The Mighty Ducks

D3: 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.

It’s been a while since I started watching the Mighty Ducks movies again, with a busy rugby schedule, work getting busier and a house move, but it’s time to finally complete the trilogy with a look at D3: The Mighty Ducks

ss d3 the mighty ducks

Key facts

Directed by Rob Lieberman

Music by J. A. C. Redford

Released in 1996

Starring: Emilio Estevez, Joshua Jackson, Jeffrey Nordling, Heidi Kling, Margot Finley

Synopsis: When the Ducks are enrolled at Eden Hall Academy on junior varsity sponsorships, they must adapt to a new environment, including romances, being seen as outsiders, dealing with bullies and the varsity hockey team and a new coach in Coach Orion. But is it too much change all at once for Charlie?

Review

I used to watch this and D2 all the time as a kid, and while I always enjoyed them both, I always did prefer the second, a feeling that persists with this re-watch. I think a part of this is the relative lack of actual hockey in this movie, with just 3 games given any time in the movie. Instead, we get a load of hijinks such as the constant rivalry between the Ducks and Varsity, Goldberg’s inability to skate and Charlie and Fulton’s truancy, many of which I feel could have been left out or shortened for more important story and character moments, such as the Ducks’ relationship with Banks after he gets picked for Varsity.

But probably the biggest surprise in this movie is that though he receives top billing, Emilio Estevez appears in just 1 scene in the first half of the movie, and though he has an important role later in the story, he is definitely not one of the main protagonists. Instead, after being the heart of the team for 2 movies, this movie sees Joshua Jackson’s Charlie Conway become the lead protagonist, and on this re-watch it really felt that rather than ending a trilogy, this was meant to be the movie in the middle of a larger franchise, which would see the focus move from Gordon to Charlie.

This is a very different movie to the previous 2: the Ducks are united (on the whole) for once, so the conflict is created by giving them a new coach, who is far stricter and has much more of a focus on defence than Gordon Bombay, who made it fun. Similarly, with the team now all in their teens it feels like the whole movie is an allegory for puberty, with a number of players ending the movie with some form of romantic interest and change all over the place: the style of hockey they play, their standing and role within the team, heck even the score feels similar but different to the previous movies.

But here we come to the issue, there are so many changes that they don’t always feel fully fleshed out in a movie with a runtime of 1 hour 24 minutes. Orion comes across overly strict and uncompromising, but then immediately becomes best pals with Charlie as he re-joins the team. Banks appears to be ostracised by the Ducks after being selected for Varsity and even fights with Charlie, but then the next time we see him he’s playing with the Ducks as if there’s never been an issue. With everything going on, I think that the Banks storyline was probably the biggest mistake as it separated him from the team for the third movie in a row, while having Ken Wu’s only story beat of note being that he gets bullied doesn’t look great—though that’s still more than some of the team got!

Ultimately though, this is a good tale of Charlie growing as a person. He learns the hard way not to judge someone by first impressions, to be willing to adapt and to stand up to bullies. But more than that, he learns that being the heart of the team and the captain is a role that must be earned rather than just given. Is it a perfect movie? No. Neither does it feel like an ending. Hopefully with The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers being renewed for season 2, we will see Charlie return to the story sometime soon and see how his life has gone on.

Sports perspective

Like with the other 2 movies, 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!

As in the previous matches, your rival team (previously the Hawks and Iceland, now Varsity) are a bigger and stronger team, while the officials always seem to punish the Ducks more than their rivals. However what I can comment on this time is Coach Orion’s focus on teaching the team defence. While any team can have success when you with great attacking play, once they get older it becomes more important to be able to stay organised and defend well, as the Ducks have shown themselves just how easy it can be to score in just a few seconds. And that really shows with the hockey being much more grounded than we saw in the previous movie.

One final thing to note is a side-story in this movie about attempts to get the name of Eden Hall’s sports teams changed from “The Warriors” to something less offensive, with the name eventually becoming the Ducks at the end of the movie. Considering this movie is 25 years old, this oddly mimics something that we are currently seeing in sports, with a number of American sports teams rebranding away from anything inspired by Native Americans, something that is also currently being requested of the English Premiership rugby team Exeter Chiefs.

Fist-pump moment

I had a feeling before the movie of what my fist-pump moment would be, and it didn’t change on this re-watch, though I will say that Dean Portman’s return ran it closer than I expected.

The moment in question: the final training session before the JV-Varsity game, when Orion calls in the team and while looking stern, tells them that they’re not skating like Warriors, before telling them they’re skating like Ducks and beginning to hand out the Ducks jerseys he took off them in the first session. This is one of the few times we hear the familiar Ducks fanfare through the whole movie as the team receives their jerseys before one final shot of them coming together skating in a circle and bringing back the classic “Quack” chant.

It shows in this moment that though they may have been changing though the whole film, with a new coach and a new focus on defence and two-way hockey, they are still always going to be the ducks at heart, and nothing can stand against that.

Favourite line

So I must admit that there weren’t many lines that in themselves stood out to me in this movie, though Gordon’s monologue to Charlie about how Charlie and the Ducks saved him and how he told Orion that Charlie was the Minnesota Miracle Man brought a ear to my eye as it mirrored D2’s scene between Jan and Gordon. Instead I settled on a line from Hans as he talked with Charlie:

“He took away the “C”, Charlie. Not what was under it.”

It’s a timely reminder to Charlie that he has put too much focus on his standing as captain of the Ducks. He was always the heart of the team well before this, and it is clear from the game the Hans has just been listening to that the Ducks are missing Charlie. He was never the best player on the team, but what made him so important was that he was what the Ducks embodied: honesty, integrity, fair play and a love of the game.

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

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!