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Tag Archive: sports movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

Oscar-winning filmmaker Nick Park is back with his next entry in Aardman Animations’ ingenious world of classic stop-motion animation.  The family comedy Early Man takes audiences back to the city of Manchester, England, at the dawn of the Bronze Age.  In this slapstick look at history, cave men created football (American soccer) from a fallen meteorite.  The sport fell out of favor, but was picked up again and embraced in the early Bronze Age by a city of moderners, but the cave men are still around and have one chance to save their world if they can only beat the Bronze Age team at the game.  Unfortunately it’s a group of bumbling early humans who must learn the sport and take on a group of arrogant professional players.  But it’s in the genes of the cave men, so amid a non-stop volley of sports metaphors, tropes, and jokes, the cave men have a go at it.

Leading the team and the story is Dug, voiced by Eddie Redmayne (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them), along with his companion, an eager early-era wild boar named Hognob, voiced by the film’s director Nick Park.  The duo make for a solid homage, albeit a prehistoric incarnation, of Park’s famous Wallace & Gromit.  The villain in the tale is Bronze Age leader Lord Nooth, lover and hoarder of all things bronze, especially bronze coins.  He’s voiced by a nearly unrecognizable Tom Hiddleston (Thor: Ragnarok) playing an over-the-top, snooty opportunist in full-on Monty Python comedy style.  Game of Thrones and Doctor Who actor Maisie Williams offers her own voice acting talent as Dug’s new friend Goona, and Timothy Spall (Harry Potter series, Alice in Wonderland, Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams) is Dug’s good-natured and encouraging leader, the firmly about the old ways Chief Bobnar.

Little kids will laugh at the silliness of the characters and adult U.S. anglophiles will understand most, but probably not all, of the British comedic references.  And there are many.  Soccer fans will pick up on references to the sport, to Manchester United, zebra crossings, and puns that will work for fans of any sport.  Want to see why Stonehenge was built?  Ever seen the genesis of the electric razor?  The film has already opened to positive reviews in the United Kingdom, but does not arrive in theaters in the States until later this week.

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race-poster

Stephen Hopkins, director of The Ghost in the Darkness, Predator 2, and the reboot of Lost in Space, and TV series House of Lies and 24, is bringing to the big screen the momentous race of Jesse Owens, the black track and field gold medalist who showed-up Adolf Hitler’s racist regime by winning in the 1936 Olympics.  The cleverly titled Race stars Stephan James (Selma) as Owens, the role previously given to John Boyega, who instead left the production to take on the role of Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Race co-stars Saturday Night Live alumnus Jason Sudeikis as Coach Larry Snyder, as well as Academy Award winners William Hurt and Jeremy Irons.  Race is the kind of serious topic biopic the Academy traditionally looks for at Oscar time.  If the film is the great drama that the story deserves, this could be a breakout role for both James and Sudeikis.

Jesse Owens biopic

But can Sudeikis overcome his comedy acting past to drive this drama home?  Many ex-SNL regulars have tried to break the SNL curse and jump into drama, including Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Steve Martin, Albert Brooks, and Eddie Murphy, along with other comedy talents like Michael Keaton, Eddie Izzard, Jim Carrey, Jamie Foxx, Will Smith, Robin Williams, and Jonah Hill.  Will the Academy recognize Race a year from now?  Murray, Aykroyd, Martin, Brooks, Hill, Smith, Williams, and Keaton have all been nominated for acting Oscars, but no ex-SNL actor has won an acting Oscar, and only comedic actors Foxx and Williams were able to make the switch from comedy to drama and take home the big prize.

Check out this trailer for Race:

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Eddie the Eagle poster

At a critical point in last year’s World Series the crowd drew silent and a fan in the crowd could be seen in the Jumbotron holding up a sign with three words:  Never say die.  The crowd erupted.  And his team went on to win.

In Ice Castles a young woman overcomes blindness to become part of a successful figure skating team.  In Rudy a young man fights desperately to play college football.  In Caddyshack a kid picks principle over a college scholarship to compete in a round of high stakes golf.  In Slap Shot and Necessary Roughness a coach tries some innovative methods to turn a losing team into a successful hockey or football team.  In The Bad News Bears and The Mighty Ducks, a coach tries to make a team of youth baseball or hockey players out of a group of misfits.   In The Natural, Field of Dreams, and Moneyball a has-been baseball player returns to the game to save the day.  In Pride of the Yankees a professional baseball player tries to fight a terminal disease to keep playing the game.  In Jim Thorpe–All American a Native American overcomes racism and class struggle to become a track, football, and Olympic icon.  In Brian’s Song two professional football players move past racial differences and face a terminal illness.  In Rocky and Creed a guy from the streets fights to be a contender in the boxing ring.  In Cool Runnings (Jamaican bobsled), The Cutting Edge (pair figure skating), and Chariots of Fire (track) athletes overcome their personal trials to compete in the Olympics.

The underdog finally has his day.

Eddie the Eagle cap

Each of these sports movies follows a trial against adversity, whether it be a physical, mental, social, economic, or cultural barrier.  Some are seriously dramatic and others comical, but most manage to include more than an ounce of humor along the way.  And all incorporate plenty of heart.  But they all share the theme of “beating the odds”.

A new movie from 20th Century Fox looks destined to be the next beat-the-odds sports movie triumph, and seems like it may be good enough to be added to this list of great sports films based on a new trailer.  Eddie the Eagle follows a British skier who in 1988 became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic ski jumping.

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