I’m excited to share my first self-produced podcast for my website, called Filmcraziest Presents: Popcorn Flicks. The podcast will be a review show about Disney Channel Original Movies. I love Disney Channel Original Movies and they have a lot of nostalgia for me (I did a bunch last October during the Halloween month, so hopefully I’ll talk about all of those on the podcast in time). I’ve always wanted to start a podcast on DCOM’s and I finally tricked someone into doing it with me and that’s my good friend Bobby Strate, who I met through my scriptwriting program.
We’re two awkward guys discussing the film, so hopefully it’s entertaining. I decided to make the pilot episode the 2001 DCOM The Luck of the Irish since today is St. Patrick’s Day (I’m posting this at 9 p.m., so it’s still St. Patrick’s Day for a couple hours more).
I realized after we reviewed it that it’s probably the most offensive way you could celebrate Irish culture, and we talk about that during the podcast. We discuss its stereotypes (where all Irish people are leprechauns), its unbelievable premise and how it could be stronger with its villains, and the laws of physics in basketball during the movie.
I’d love to hear any feedback! I don’t have much of a budget yet for a logo or a theme song, so hopefully by next episode I’ll have those. Also, to let everyone know, there’s vulgarity so this podcast is definitely not sponsored or affiliated with Disney in any way. We also spoil everything. Without further adieu, here’s the link to where you can listen:
(May 1 Update: You can listen on Soundcloud here or you can listen directly below or download the podcast here on my website, where you’ll get an option to download it by clicking the three dots.)
Directed by: Tom Shadyac. Starring: Aldis Hodge, Greg Kinnear, Sherri Shepard. Runtime: 1h 39 min. Released: August 9, 2019.
(This review contains spoilers)
A football player’s dreams in the NFL are halted when he is falsely accused of rape and spends six years in prison. He gets released and fights to clear his name within an unjust system as he tries to get back into football shape.
Aldis Hodge’s performance as real-life football player Brian Banks is the highlight here. The film portrays the crime sensitively, and Hodge captures the embarrassment and anger of wanting to clear his name well because he is a registered sex offender. By the end of the film he’s so inspiring and Hodge fills Banks’ shoes expertly.
It’s fascinating when Banks is released and contacts Justin Brooks (Greg Kinnear) of the California Innocence Project. It’s a unique film in terms of false imprisonment movies as the character usually tries to clear their name from behind bars. Banks does this out of prison and contacts Brooks because he’d be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life if he doesn’t clear his name.
I also think it’s fascinating watching the film not be contained to Brian’s character behind bars as he tries to clear his name himself. Though, he still might as well be in prison because of the sex offender tag – which doesn’t let him play organized football since he can’t go near a school or parks.
Greg Kinnear is also good as Brooks who fights for Banks because he legitimately believes him. I like Sherri Shepard as Brian’s mother Leomia, fighting for her son because she also knows he’s innocent. I don’t think I’ve seen any films with Shepard, but she’s strong in this supporting role.
Some of the most effective scenes in the film are when people see him differently for his conviction. Brian also spends time with a woman named Karina (Melanie Liburd), who walks away when Brian tells her about his conviction. She comes back into play later, but these scenes are effective. Knowing that Brian did not commit this crime, it’s heartbreaking throughout when everyone looks at him like he’s guilty.
That’s the reflection of the unjust, tragic system that has failed Banks and so many others. It’s also very unfortunate to watch when he gets terrible advice from his lawyer. The reasoning behind the false accusation is also sickening, as her words give him a prison sentence and have an impact on his career as he was an up-and-coming star. It’s tragic in this aspect.
I won’t spoil further how his story plays out, but don’t Google his name before watching this since it’s a true story. I love this film and think it will be under-seen (it currently has 1,788 votes on IMDb), but it’s good drama directed by Tom Shadyac (whose filmography includes Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Liar Liar).
This film also just hits two specific films I love: False accusation films and sports films. It brings the strength of both those sub-genres – like the courtroom drama and detective work, uncovering stuff that people missed of false accusation movies, as well as the inspiring and triumphant part of a sports film. I think it’s a special film. It’s not perfect film as some of the dialogue and direction is standard, but it’s special because of Brian Banks’ story. His story is great and so is the story of the California Innocence Project.
Directed by: Gavin O’Connor. Starring: Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Janina Gavankar. Runtime: 1h 48 min. Released: March 6, 2020.
Gavin O’Connor’s The Way Back is the latest addition to an unofficial cinematic universe – films with the key words Way Back in the title, starting with Emilio Estevez’ The Way, then a few months later with Peter Weir’s adventure drama The Way Back, and then in 2013 with my personal favourite The Way, Way Back.
Obviously these films have nothing to do with each other, but four is too many films with a generic name like this. The generic title is fair for O’Connor’s sports drama because it’s familiar, but it is also very good.
Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) was a high school basketball legend on his way to earning a scholarship before he walked away from the game. Years later, he’s given a shot at redemption coaching the team at his alma mater, a Catholic high school called Bishop Hayes.
Jack isn’t exactly the poster boy for the Catholic image. He’s an alcoholic skilled at hiding his boozing. We see him sneak liquor into his thermos at his construction job, and then plow through a fridge full of beer cans while deciding to take this coaching job. The scenes when Jack needs to be helped home because he can barely stand are hard to watch.
Affleck brings his A-game as the character and it’s the best male performance I’ve seen so far this year. It’s a quiet, tortured performance as he battles his inner demons. When we learn more about these demons, it is crushing, and I wouldn’t dare spoil that. I’ll just say this is one of Affleck’s finest performances and he is heartbreaking and powerful.
He’s great in the sports scenes, too. When Jack puts down the bottle and takes an interest in these kids, The Way Back inspires, and it inspires on and off the court. There are a couple of players that we learn about. Jack’s dynamic with Brandon Durrett (Brandon Wilson), a quiet player with a deep understanding of the game, is the most interesting. Brandon’s father doesn’t approve of the game as a career path and it’s fascinating watching Jack turn him into a leader.
Another main player is Marcus Wiggins (Melvin Gregg). He has attitude problems and thinks he’s the star of the team, and I like how his character is handled. Another player, Kenny Dawes (Will Ropp), is one-note as a ladies man, but he gets some good laughs. We learn the names of the other players – like Chubbs (Charles Lott Jr.), Bobby Freeze (Ben Irving) and Sam Garcia (Fernando Luis Vega), but the rest feel like they’re there to fill out a roster.
The film’s also not so much about the kids, it’s about Jack and how they change him. I like how Jack changes the team, too, and his coaching strategy brings a lot of comedy since it’s a Catholic school and he swears a lot, much to the chagrin of the team’s chaplain, Father Mark Whelan (Jeremy Radin). The dynamic with assistant coach Dan (Al Madrigal) is also strong in the film. Jack brings a winning mindset to the team and it charms in its sports moments. The dramatic scenes are also beautiful, and I like the way director Gavin O’Connor shoots drama.
The film is about Jack’s trauma and basketball. Basketball gives Jack a purpose and it’s used as healing, but the film never shows that it could cure everything for him. O’Connor and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby write a strong film here. There’s a good balance to The Way Back. There’s importance in its sports scenes, but an equal importance to being a character study on alcoholism and trauma. That makes Jack’s way back even more compelling.
Released: April 11, 2014. Directed by: Ivan Reitman. Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Patrick St. Esprit. Runtime: 109 min.
Kevin Costner stars in Draft Day, the NFL’s answer to Moneyball. He portrays fictional General Manager of the Cleveland Browns, Sonny Weaver Jr., as he goes through the motions of a generic, off-the-field sports drama. The story follows him on a stressful day: draft day. On this day, many college hopefuls are drafted into the NFL. To express the anticipation of the day, there’s a countdown to the televised event on the screen. Those who don’t like this movie can also use it as a way to estimate how much longer they’ll be in the theatre.
What may give this film a bit more punch is if it were based on a true story. This just feels too much like a commercial flick for the NFL and ESPN. I have nothing against sports dramas that aren’t true, at least if the fiction on-screen is noteworthy. This film is not bad, it just might be better to watch something that will matter history-wise. Football fans might find a stronger merit in this film. During, the pessimist inside me wondered if Ivan Reitman could make the draft day exciting. He does, working suspense into the finale, which is the strongest stretch of the film. It gives the movie more life, and makes it something more than just lightly entertaining. Prior to it, humour and a charming cast make the light entertainment run at a brisk pace.
Director Ivan Reitman tells this drama with style. There’s a main editing style used when characters are on the phone. Sonny will be on one side of the screen, and the person he’s talking to on the other side. Sometimes their arms will go on the other person’s side of the screen. It’s cool because it looks like they’re in the room together, but this effect also shows how much people talk on the phone. It’s a funny contrast to teens who would just text each other if they want to make a trade for their NFL fantasy draft. I’ve literally seen my brother do this so maybe one of the reasons he enjoyed this film is that he can relate to the stresses of having to get a good team together. Some food for thought: are fantasy drafts and this movie NFL draft really that different in this case? This film has fictional football players who have decent backstories, but it doesn’t really mean anything in the longrun, as far as history goes. Same as fantasy drafts, or maybe Madden video games would work better for my argument; if you have one player on your roster for the Cleveland Browns – that doesn’t mean they’re really going to be playing for the Browns in real life.
Anyway, about the characters. Jennifer Garner portrays a pretty exec who manages the salary cap for the Browns. She’s also in a relationship with Costner’s Weaver. He plays the character with charm. Weaver’s ass is on the line because he’s been general manager of the Browns for two seasons, and he hasn’t been leading the team to many victories. If he doesn’t do a good job this year, the city will request his head, so to speak. Sonny is a character living under his father’s shadow. He is the loved, recently deceased coach of the Browns, Sonny Weaver Senior. Junior has people in his ear all day telling him who to pick for the team, so they can be victorious. The film has a message of following you heart and doing what you think is best. This seems like a realistic portrayal of the job of a general manager on draft day. The generic characters in this off-the-field underdog story are likable enough to make viewers root for them to pull out a win. In this, there’s a deeper exploration of trying to differentiate personal and professional life. There’s a sub-plot that’s irritating. Sonny’s mother wants to spread the ashes of her deceased husband today, of all days. She could simply wait one day, but it’s too urgent as it is. It feels too uninspired to contribute to the story very much.
Draft Day has some interesting aspects. The assistants of Sonny spend hours looking for weaknesses of players they want for their team. If you know that weakness and no one else does, that’s an advantage. It’s entertaining to see these managers play mind games with each other and have different strategies of how to get really good players. These strategies are also ways to show some football playing (through archive footage of old games) in a film that largely takes place off-the-field. Draft Day shows that these type-of sports dramas have an okay future. They’re all right for those who enjoy easy viewings, but not usually as good as on-the-field sports films. This is just a harmless film that has good intentions, but ends up being average. You might be better off watching the real 2014 draft.
Reviews from my notepad will be a series of reviews coming out every Wednesday, or whenever I feel like posting it. They will just be quick reviews of films that I waited too long too write a full-out review for, so I just write a few thoughts about it. Or it may be some jot notes I found that have my thoughts of the film. Either way, they won’t be long reads. Here’s the first review: Million Dollar Baby (2004).
Million Dollar Baby
Release Date: January 28, 2005
Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman
Runtime: 132 min
Tagline: Beyond his silence, there is a past. Beyond her dreams, there is a feeling. Beyond hope, there is a memory. Beyond their journey, there is a love.
Million Dollar Baby may pass itself off as that old generic underdog story that has been done one thousand times before. It does have a few elements to make it that generic story, but this one won Best Picture. With a lot of underdog stories, the feel-good moments often outweigh those sad scenes. That is not the case here. The first half has enough happy scenes to keep you going, but the mood and atmosphere alters completely in the latter half of the film. It becomes much more ominous and depressing, and if you’re not prepared for that drastic change, you may not be open to liking this. The truth is, it’s a good film that may have a very abrupt alteration of atmosphere, but it still transitions that fairly well. The plot is fairly simple, but it uses it to its advantage – and it puts some great themes, and deep emotional content, into play. The relationship that grows between Maggie Fitzgerald (portrayed by Hilary Swank) and Frankie Dunn (portrayed by Clint Eastwood) is quite beautiful. It changes from a sort of loathing on Dunn’s part, to a deeper respect and love, where it feels like a non-condescending father-daughter relationship. This transition is well done, and it is not rushed, so it does feel believable. There are great performances from the cast: Morgan Freeman especially, Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood. The motivations of Swank’s character is easy to see. She has had difficulties in her life, and that’s probably because of her very rude and selfish family. It’s a film that’s good, but it wouldn’t be worth the price of one million dollars.
Gus (Clint Eastwood) is a good old fashioned baseball scout who doesn’t rely on computers to give him all the needed statistics. In a technology dominated society, this could cause problems. Gus isn’t in his glory years, and he is now having difficulty seeing properly. He goes on one last recruiting trip, and much to his dislike, his daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams), tags along.
Trouble with the Curve is filled with clichés and it has a great amount of predictable moments and outcomes, but that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable. Clint Eastwood is type-cast and plays that dynamic-seemingly-unpleasant-stubborn-old-fart. Amy Adams is that all-work-and-no-play(makes Mickey a dull gal) character. The characters are pretty solid, and there are great actors coming out the ying yang – Eastwood (who came out of acting retirement to do this), Adams, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Robert Patrick, and Matthew Lillard.
Some may be turned off by the baseball vibe of it all, but anti-baseball lovers, don’t threat, because it’s not all about baseball – there’s enough humour, relationship building and self-sacrifice to make it enjoyable for those who don’t like the game. Though, it does help if you enjoy it at least a little bit.
It really does offer a great story and narrative, and most of the characters have quite a few layers. The film is enjoyable, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s like a roller coaster of feel-good moments and emotional moments. There aren’t any bad scenes, but some just aren’t extremely memorable. Trouble is an experience that is very memorable and extremely enjoyable for baseball fans, but it might just offer entertainment and not make a lasting impression to non-baseball fans.
The only bad characters, really, are the baseball player that Gus is scouting, and Matthew Lillard’s. Lillard has gone from the sort-of annoying stoner Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo films to an adulterous prick in The Descendants to a young baseball scout who thinks he knows everything there is to know about the sport, in this.
Eastwood’s character seems unpleasant, stubborn and reserved; but that’s probably because of his vision going, an upcoming threat of possible retirement, and that utter need for independence that a lot of elders possess.
The father-daughter relationship seems pretty timid, but it makes for some nice scenes throughout the feature.
There are some cool visuals, like when Gus is looking at something and his vision goes awry. At first, in all honesty, I thought I only percepted the screen as blurry!
Trouble stars Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake, Robert Patrick and Matthew Lillard, to name a few.
There’s a lot of nice humour here and there, some great scenery and visuals, and there’s great chemistry created between the actors (even though Lillard is that one odd guy out). There are some draining moments and predictable moments, but it still is quite enjoyable, and really doesn’t overstay its welcome. Baseball lovers run out and see it, and non-lovers of the game, I give you permission to wait until it comes out on home media.
Stars: Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler, Elisabeth Shue
Runtime: 120 min
Tagline: Legends Start Somewhere
Chasing Mavericks brings the audience knowledge of the life story of Jay Moriarity. The year is 1994, and the location is Santa Cruz, California. 15-year old Jay Moriarity has always loved surfing, and has idolized local legend Frosty Hesson since childhood. When Jay hitches a ride on the roof of Frosty’s van, he finds out that the myth of the Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth, is very real. He gets it in his aspiring stubborn head that he must ride this wave, and Frosty offers to teach him to survive it.
A lot of the content in C.M., is material that you’ve probably seen about ten times before, and the story feels simply between average and a bit above average. It’s just that unfortunately average true underdog story, who just wants to beat the odds and come out a winner, with just a little determination and heart. Despite its average story , it still does offer an enjoyable experience and a story that someone could easily like a lot, or even love.
The true story is pretty nice, and it’s all about following one’s dreams and just aspire to become something, or some such bogus bullsh*t. If you do know Jay’s story and everything before you see it, it isn’t necesssary to check this one out. Unless you’re really curious, but if you know beforehand, it may not be as enjoyable. It also might be a rewarding experience for you if you went in knowing as little about his story as possible, and go in without many expectations at all. It’s just some really nice scenery and a fairly average tale.
Jay knows what it is like to be independent, as he has grown up (for the most part) without his father, and his mother works a lot. He finds a fatherly figure within Frosty, and it really is nice to watch their relationship grow over the course of the feature. Jay also learns great lessons of how to observe, and lessons of fear from Frosty. The chemistry created between the two is great. Also, the chemistry created between Jay and Kim is too, great. At times, the relationship between Jay and his best friend Blond, feels, oddly enough, awkward.
The beginning with Jay younger and Kim younger and Frosty younger, almost makes it feel like a whole different plot. That goes on for about fifteen minutes, but then it jumps ahead seven years to 1994, where the majority of the film is set. I didn’t like how that was done.
The acting is good, and the main performers bring good chops to the table. I haven’t seen a lot of Jonny Weston or Leven Rambin. Well, I’ve seen Rambin in her small role in The Hunger Games, but that’s about it. There is also some incredible scenery and fine cinematography offered.
As far as surfing films go, this one was great. I’ve never been a huge fan of surfing, but I did enjoy this more than Soul Surfer. In that one, they really just chewed (really feasted) the scenery. Speaking of S.S., the success of that probably inspired Fox to make a surfing flick, for young Moriarity, for the 2012 Fall season.
The great thing about Jay and Frosty’s relationship is that it doesn’t feel like a teacher-student relationship, but a true friendship.
The climactic surf sequence is fairly quickly paced, but others just drag on; and at times the relationships that build on the land are greater than those draining surf sequences.
SMALL SPOILER ALERT.
This isn’t a large spoiler because it doesn’t spoil a key element of the film, so read with much risk.
Somehow, the fact that the Mavericks is real is leaked, and citizens around the area come, right during the final surf sequence when Jay wants to ride the huge wave that’s coming. Some watch, and some amateur surfers want to try out the waves. Even some boats go out. For me, I hate how the filmmakers execute this. It really takes a number on my attention, because Jay is supposed to be the focal point, but at times I’m really distracted by all those boats in the water. It’s mostly bothersome to me because the filmmakers really don’t have to follow the story to the letter. They should have just left out the boats, then I’d be content.
END OF SMALL SPOILER ALERT.
There isn’t a lot of humour offered, but the few jokes are pretty funny. There’s some poignancy here and there, but most of it can be pretty inspiring.
Gerard Butler (he also is Executive Producer), Jonny Weston, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, Leven Rambin, Devin Crittenden and Taylor Handley star.
Sometimes, Chasing Mavericks feels just a bit too average. There’s some nice humour, cinematography, and great scenery. Sometimes some scenes drag on, but the better scenes certainly outweigh those poor ones. It’s worth checking out if you want to check out a nice inspirational story, but that’s about the only big thing that makes C.M. stand out so vibrantly.