About ten years ago I bought a DVD player from the Blockbuster in Finchley. It cost me £200. I could have got a much better one for that sort of money but you see this one came with 50 free movies! Bargain!
Well the DVD player is long gone but the movies remain for two reasons, firstly and ironically the cheap double sided discs would not play properly in the cheap DVD player they came free with and secondly, despite starring such luminaries as Brad Pitt, Kevin Spacey and Russell Crowe they are uniformly awful. Seriously, the biggest film of the bunch is The Lawnmower Man!
As the years have rolled by they have sat on my shelf in the ‘I’ll get round to them some day’ pile and what better reason to get stuck into them than to inflict my reviews on you gentle people.
As well as a review I shall be giving them a mark out of five which will not only be an indication of quality but a prediction of their very immediate future:
***** Might actually keep
**** Attempt to sell on Ebay
*** Straight to the nearest charity shop
** Straight to the nearest bin
* Will give away as a gift to anyone who makes me listen to Coldplay
So here goes…
For this episode we take another trip into the murky depths of the Drama boxset (I’ve got to start ticking these bastards off!) for a film about a sport I have no interest in. My spirits weren’t exactly high but my fears were somewhat unwarranted as this one turned out OK. Not, you know, great, but OK, which at this stage in proceedings, I consider a win.
Split Decisions stars Gene Hackman and a bunch of actors for whom IMDB was invented. The phrase “What’s he been in?” has never been uttered quite so many times by your humble reviewer, and as such I shall do my best to describe the actors to you in the most familiar way I know how.
So, Gene plays a cop (we know this because briefly dons a policeman’s uniform, although this fails to become an important plot point) who also helps train his two boxer sons played by Cabal from Nightbreed and The Lawnmower Man. Except that Lawmower Man has gone off to the big city to seek his fame and fortune with a bigger boxing promoter, much to the chagrin of his father who is training his more loyal and level headed son for the Olympics.
When Lawnmower returns home he is approached by a shady boxing promoter (played by Mr. Strickland from Back To The Future) who wants him to take a dive in a fight against his prizefighter in return for a pay off. When he refuses, Mr. Strickland has the slacker beaten up and thrown from a window to his death. Marty McFly got off lightly!
Cabal decides that the best way to avenge his brother’s death is to get into the ring with the prizefighter (and aforementioned defenestrator) even though he’s clearly way out of his league and will almost certainly get pummeled to death. CUE TRAINING MONTAGE!
Well the big fight comes and things go pretty much as expected with poor Cabal getting his ass handed to him on a plate. Then, suddenly, he wins, and the police arrest all of the guilty parties. Cue near carbon copy of the freeze frame from Rocky. Seriously that how it ends! He’s on the ropes when he suddenly launches a volley of blows out of nowhere and defeats the guy. I can only assume the writer was right up his deadline on this one.
Well despite the ridiculously abrupt ending, this one wasn’t all that bad, the story is pretty derivative (seriously how many loved one’s deaths have been avenged in 80’s cinema?), but the cast are pretty strong. Hackman has little to do but not as little as The Girl From Flashdance. Oh did I not mention that The Girl From Flashdance was in this? Well that’s because she does NOTHING! It’s not that she’s in only a few scenes. She’s in lots of scenes, sitting in the background, looking a little worried, kissing the hero. Hers is one of the most underwritten characters I’ve ever seen, and she’s the only bloody woman in it (unless you count ‘Sexy Round Announcer Lady’ as a meaty feminine role)! She does has one scene with some dialogue but the main point of that scene appears to be so she can lean out of a window dressed like this –
I’m not even exaggerating. Most of the dialogue revolves around how she probably shouldn’t be leaning out of a window dressed like that. Germaine Greer this is not. Some versions of the DVD even have her on the cover next to Hackman, clearly to capitalise on her Flashdance fame, which is even more insulting.
But all gripes aside, this one was a whole lot better that some of the other dreck I’ve been forced to endure during this series. It rolls along fairly painlessly and for once I didn’t feel entirely like an hour and a half of my life had just hemorrhaged into the ether.
Cheesy Sci-Fi next time I think. I feel like I’ve earned it.
So the Olympics is finally upon us and has so far been treated with the sort of hostile, passive aggressive welcome us Londoners have been fine tuning for decades. But despite the rail disruptions, road chaos and the fact that Stratford is an armpit with a Westfield, a lot of people are looking forward to the actual sporting events getting underway.
For me however, one guy throwing something further than some other guy means about as much to me as my Mum’s milkman beating some other milkman to the role of head milkman. Or, you know, a really good metaphor that highlights that one stranger beating another stranger at the egg and spoon race (that’s in the Olympics right?) is really not on my radar, even if they are English.
But I do like to be topical, so for all those to whom the Olympics simply means a ball ache of a commute to work for a month here are my five favourite sports movies for people who think Spurs are the spiky things on cowboy’s boots and Arsenal is a big load of guns.
5. Happy Gilmore
Happy Gilmore was a small miracle for two reasons, firstly it managed to be a great comedy about golf that didn’t completely rip off Caddyshack, and secondly it managed to be a great comedy starring Adam Sandler. Actually it should probably have points deducted for being the movie that led me to think watching Billy Madison would be a good idea. But we’ll waive that point.
It tells the tale of a terrible hockey player with an incredible slap shot who is convinced to give golf a try in order to win enough money to save his grandma’s house. Adam Sandler has built a career out of his idiot manchild / violent psychopath shtick for years, but never has it been so perfectly balanced as in this movie. Just check out the scene where his calm attempts to ‘send the ball home’ result in a brilliantly violent outburst –
But it’s not just Sandler who makes the movie, there’s an amazing supporting cast, from Carl Weathers as one handed coach Chubbs Peterson to punchably smarmy rival Shooter McGavin played with relish by Christopher McDonald. Even Ben Stiller has a cameo as a brilliantly moustached psycho care home warden. The movie zings with quotable one-liners (“I eat pieces of shit like you for breakfast”, “You eat pieces of shit for breakfast?”) and any movie that features a midget cowboy and an all out fist fight with Bob Barker (“The price is wrong bitch”) is definitely worthy of my admiration.
This one drifted under the radar on its release, at least it did in the UK, perhaps due to the fact that it’s based on two very American sports. But any movie starring the creators of South Park and directed by the man behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun has to be worth at least one watch. Some may argue that this isn’t a sport movie as the sport was made up, to which I say fuck you, all sports are made up (except for human hunting, that shit is inherent).
Matt and Trey play Coop and Remer, two losers whose only joy in life is a hybrid of baseball and basketball which they created. One day a sport promoter (played by the late great Ernest Borgnine) shows up, interested in turning it into a national sport and so they, along with their long suffering third member Squeak (Dian Bachar, who die hard Parker/Stone fans will recognise from Cannibal The Musical and Orgazmo) head to the big leagues and pay the price of fame and fortune before, wouldn’t ya know it, learning a little something about friendship.
The first thing I noticed about this film is what a genuinely talented actor Trey Parker is, he plays the part of Coop with genuine pathos which stops the film ever fully lapsing completely into farce. But aside from that it’s just really, really funny. Matt and Trey had no part in writing this one but they still left their mark all over it, especially in the brilliant ‘psych-outs’, the perfectly legal tactics they use to put the opposing team off scoring points –
By now you might be thinking that I’m actually a secret golf fan but let me assure you that my entire experience of golf includes the one time I went to the driving range and that Christmas where my housemate and I spent two weeks drunk, playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour on the Playstation. So it comes as just as much of a surprise to me that not only do I like two movies involving golf but that there were even two great movies involving golf!
What’s really left to say about Caddyshack? Sure it’s rambling and shambolic but it features Chevy Chase and Bill Murray at the height of their comedic powers, the former playing slimy playboy and golfer Ty Webb and the latter in a career making role as semi-retarded groundskeeper and gopher nemesis Carl Spackler. Just watch what happens when the director (in this case Harold ‘Egon Spengler’ Ramis) turns on the camera and let’s Murray do his thing –
or when he knows that all you need from a great comedy scene is Chevy Chase and a piano (see also Three Amigos and Community) –
2. Dogtown & Z Boys
I had to include at least one non-comedy on this list and I admit this is a bit of a cheat because I actually fucking love skateboarding. Don’t get me wrong, put me on a half pipe with a skateboard and the only trick I’d pull is breaking 17 bones all at the same time, but sit me in front of the X Games with a cold beer and I’m as happy as the proverbial Larry.
But Dogtown & Z Boys deserves inclusion because it is such a great film. To be precise it’s a documentary film chronicalling the rise of modern skateboarding focusing particularly on the legendary and influential Z-Boys, a group of punk surfers who took surfing to the streets and paved the way for the Tony Hawks of the future. Made by ex-Z-Boy Stacy Peralta and featuring most of the major players from that time it is a fascinating look at the evolution of a modern day sport.
The film also deserves inclusion as skateboarding has always been a bit of an anti-sport. What makes this documentary so fascinating is that none of these people thought they were changing the world, they were just doing something they loved with their friends. The only people they were competing against were themselves, which always seems a far healthier way to be in my opinion.
I have even showed this film to people with little interest in skateboarding who have thoroughly enjoyed it, that’s how good it is. Here’s the trailer, and while you’re at it check out Peralta’s almost as excellent surfing doc Riding Giants.
1. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
Before this film was released a lot of British people were completely unaware that dodgeball was even a thing, even afterward I think a lot of people thought it was a BASEketball style Hollywood invention. No English council’s health and safety department would ever allow a sport where kids pelt each other with hard rubber balls (though rugby is fine apparently!).
Right there is what made it so ripe for parody. Exchange the children for grown adults, make one side lovable losers led by everyman Vince Vaughn and the other a group of buffed out super men led by a hilariously diminutive Ben Stiller (for the second time in this article sporting a fabulous moustache), then add a deranged Rip Torn throwing spanners at people and you’ve got gold.
I must admit my hopes weren’t too high for this movie on its release, a broad, high concept comedy made by a first time director, so I was as surprised as anyone to be gasping for breath within minutes in the cinema. Dodgeball is simply one of the purest comedies ever made, every single scene exists solely to be as funny as it can be. The performances are superb. Stiller gets a lot of the credit for his admittedly show stealing role as White Goodman but he’s supported by a cast including Justin Long, Stephen Root, Christine Taylor and the aforementioned Torn and Vaughn, and who could forget Alan Tudyk who will forever be Steve The Pirate in the hearts of anyone who never watched Firefly.
Here’s 49 seconds of Justin Long getting hit with dodgeballs. It never stops being funny.
So there you have it, five films that prove that sport can be about more than grown men crying in pubs. What are your favourite anti-sport movies? Have a lovely giant sports day everyone, if you need me I’ll be in Camden in any bar without a TV.