Summer is Over, but MAM will Never Die
Well, we did it. We got through the Summer of 2016. It was...well, Summer of 2016. Luckily, though September looks equally as bleak, October onward should bring us some great movies heading into the end of the year. Regardless, your MAM Fam will be here to guide you through the good, the bad, and the indifferent every week. Until our next ep, sit down and enjoy this freshly minted newsletter.
Mad About Football
Fall is upon us and with it comes one of God’s greatest inventions: football. The college game, of course, kicked off this past weekend (sorry ‘bout cha, Sooners and Tigers) and the NFL commences in the coming days. Football has become our national pastime and yet in film, it is often relegated (if you’ll forgive the pun) to the sidelines as a background setting or B-plot. Baseball movies are essentially a genre unto themselves while football lags behind. Even still, there are a couple dozen football movies that have stood the test of time in some way or another and here now are a few of our collected thoughts on these films.
1. What are your three favorite football movies?
Richard: I almost universally hate all football movies. I love football, but for some reason it is more of a fit with the medium of television (Friday Night Lights, Hard Knocks, etc.). Baseball—while, in my opinion, an inferior sport in terms of watchability--lends itself a lot more to film. But if you're going to put a gun to my head I guess I kind of like Remember the Titans (B+), Jerry Maguire (A-), and Varsity Blues (B-).
1.) Remember the Titans
2.) Little Giants
3.) Forrest Gump (for Brian)
Brian: For me, the better football movies tend to root themselves in reality. I’d go with:
1.) Friday Night Lights (the movie, obviously) – One of the greatest sports books ever written and while Peter Berg’s adaptation isn’t exactly a page-by-page retelling, it does right by the story and the characters. Plus, it launched the TV series which is the greatest achievement in the history of the world.
2.) Brian’s Song (the original) – Back before my generation came along with all our sensitivities and general softness, men weren’t allowed to cry unless they were talking about “The War” (whichever war that might be), experiencing a Joe Theismann-level injury, or watching Brian’s Song. Plus, Lando Calrissian as a football player.
3.) Jerry Maguire – I almost hesitate to call this a football movie given that so much of it takes place off the field. Regardless, as the resident Cameron Crowe Apologist on the show, I’d be remiss if I failed to bring up an excellent movie that was rendered impotent by the catchiness of its own dialogue.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go fight Kent.
2. What are the three worst football movies?
Richard: Rudy, Rudy, and Rudy. Rudy is terrible. The movie sucks too.
Kent: Draft Day, Draft Day, and Draft Day.
Brian: Kent stole my answer here so I’ll go with:
3.) Leatherheads, a movie that actually exists and is so bad that everyone, including the cast, forgot about.
2.) The Program, a movie that makes Any Given Sunday look realistic and grounded.
1.) The aforementioned Draft Day, a movie that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
3. In a winner take all championship game, who wins: The West Canaan Cowboys (Varsity Blues) or the TC Williams Titans (Remember the Titans)?
Richard: I am a firm believer in sports constantly evolving. Not only are training methods vastly superior (not to mention medicine), but so are coaching schemes. I'm one of these weirdos that thinks a mediocre 2016 NFL team (say the 2016 Miami Dolphins) would beat the undefeated Miami Dolphins of 72 by 50 points. Mercury Morris can suck it. By this logic, as Varsity Blues takes place in the mid-to-late 90’s and Remember the Titans takes place in the civil-rights-era 60’s, I think the West Canaan Cowboys trounces Denzel and Co. Texas forever, suckers.
Kent: Gonna have to go with TC Williams because we know Denzel would coach the hell out of that game. But Canaan could kick all of our butts at Dawsons Creek trivia. (Editor’s Note: SPEAK FOR YOURSELF, KENT.)
Brian: On paper, Canaan has a decided advantage. But, in the words of literally every football color guy in the history of the sport, “the game isn’t played on paper.” After jumping out to a commanding lead, Canaan looks to be in the driver’s seat over TC Williams until Billy Bob takes a hard hit and comes away with his 7,000th concussion. When Coach Kilmer inexplicably refuses to pull him from the game, the Cowboys start drinking on the field. Not the locker room, not even the sidelines, I mean literally in the huddle on the field. An exasperated referee crew is forced to end the game and declare TC Williams the victor by way of forfeit. Hayden Penettiere is nonetheless displeased with the effort.
4. Who’s your football movie quarterback?
Richard: Keanu Reeves because he did it twice (The Replacements and Point Break) and was completely unconvincing both times. This would be like if Dave Franco did another magic movie after Now You See Me...oh, wait.
Brian: Adam Sandler, The Longest Yard. I saw numerous Sportscenter bits in which Sean Salisbury taught Sandler how to play quarterback. And if Salisbury can’t teach someone how to succeed both on and off the field, then I don’t know who could.
5. You’re starting a new NFL franchise. Who’s your first pick in the Football Movie Players Expansion Draft?
Richard: Brett Favre, Something About Mary, but if we're limiting this to "football movies" I'd take Devin Sawa in Little Giants. (This would be a huge mistake and bust because, though Sawa has the measurables, he went on to star as Stan in the Eminem video. Basically, I'm like the GM that drafted Ryan Leaf).
Kent: Vontae Mack. Why is that even a question? #VontaeMackNoMatterWhat
Brian: Haha, you fools! Gale Sayers (Brian’s Song) was an actual NFL superstar who rushed for almost 5,000 yards and garnered five All-Pro selections. Just give me the trophy now.
5 Criminally Underappreciated Performances
A closer look at some performances so outrageously great or so outrageously small that they often take years and years to be fully appreciated.
Honorable Mention: Hugh Grant, About a Boy -- Just pure charisma on screen, a true movie star at work.
5) Casey Affleck, Good Will Hunting – In a movie chock full of great performances (early peak-Affleck and Damon, fully-peaked Robin Williams, lovely Minnie Driver, and a brilliant Stellan Skarsgaard turn) the one that stands out over time is the younger Affleck. What makes this performance great is that it is profoundly weird. Morgan is a character that even Giovanni Ribisi would find unsettling and Affleck owns it, much like he owns that baseball glove.
4) Eddie Murphy, Life – This movie is far better than it should be. There are a few deviations into comedy that don't work as well, but even more than Dreamgirls, Eddie really brings home the drama here. His eyes are sad, his world is beaten and he is totally, heartbreakingly, believable.
3) Adam Sandler, Punch-Drunk Love – In sports there are seasons where frustrating teams suddenly "put it all together" so to speak. This is that season for Sandler. His wonderful controlled rage, his eyes, every piece of this performance is nuanced and smart. It's really a shame what his last 10 years have looked like, he has the potential to be truly great.
2) Melanie Laurent, Inglorious Basterds – For all the credit that Christoph Waltz received for Inglorious Basterds (all of which is due, he was a revelation), it is Melanie Laurent's Shoshanna that is the emotional core of the movie. I've never loved or rooted for a character more, and now she got to parlay this into Now You See Me. Win-win.
1) Val Kilmer, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – A true tour dé force. Kilmer somehow outshines a true scene-stealer in Robert Downey Jr. I can't tell if Kilmer's career has been slightly wasted or just perfectly utilized. It's a weird line.
New to Home Viewing in September
IN HOME VIEWINGS SEPTEMBER
Each month in this space, we take a look at what movies and TV shows you’ll be able to (legally) watch in the comfort of your own home in the coming weeks. I recommend a couple of properties I enjoy, highlight one I haven’t seen but I’m looking forward to checking out, and something I desperately want you to avoid. I’m just doing my part to help you make smart decisions with your precious free time. Am I a hero? I’ll let you be the judge of that.
WHAT I’VE SEEN AND YOU SHOULD, TOO: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping – Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer (Available on Blu-Ray and DVD September 13th)
Like MacGruber before it, Popstar seemingly came and went with little fanfare or attention befitting its genius. I get it, the Lonely Island movies aren’t going to reach a huge, mass audience. But in a year that has been inundated with the unoriginal and the uninteresting, Popstar represented a small glimpse of hilarious, highly offensive sunshine. It’s a low key spoof (again, just like MacGruber before it) of music documentaries and concert films and everyone involved is one hundred percent committed to the bit. Popstar isn’t perfect and of course it doesn’t measure up to Grubes (First of all, you will NEVER be Forte, Samberg. Secondly, I forgot your question.) but it is very funny and contains some outstanding bits.
MAY I ALSO RECOMMEND: Sicario – Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benecio Del Toro (Available on Amazon Prime September 23rd)
I have a feeling that, in 20 years, as film historians of the day look back at 2015, they’ll wonder how it came to pass that Sicario did not win all of the awards. I was very high on this movie from the jump but it has become even greater in my mind and I believe it will age tremendously well over the coming years. Blunt is an absolute FORCE, Brolin and Del Toro make their supporting roles subtly pop off the screen, and Denis Villanueve nails the pace of the narrative. Sicario is worth it just for the extraction scene, if for nothing else.
(Check out our Sicario episode on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sicario/id600020121?i=1000354720792&mt=2)
NOTE: There are plenty of excellent movies headed to your home this month in one form or another. I’ve highlighted in bold those films that bear my mythical seal of approval.
WHAT I HAVEN’T SEEN BUT INTEND TO: The People Vs OJ Simpson- Cuba Gooding Jr., Courtney B. Vance, Sarah Paulson (Available on Blu-Ray/DVD August 2)
It’s an age-old story: Boy gets excited for a TV show. Boy records said TV show but gets behind. Boy forgets to record a few episodes of said TV show. Boy gets frustrated that said TV show isn’t available On Demand. Boy gives up on said TV show. And so it goes with The People Vs OJ Simpson and me. I know it’s great, I know I’ll love it, and I know Richard and Kent hate me for not having watched it previously. I’ll work on it, okay?
WHAT I’VE SEEN SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO: Warcraft – Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster (Available on Blu-Ray/DVD September 27th)
The obvious choice for this entry is Now You See Me 2, an atrociously unnecessary heap of trash that somehow made its predecessor look significant. But at the end of the day, despite how bad NYSM2 is, it is also a hallmark of the Mad About Movies experience and I want you all to see it so we can talk about how bad it is. Not so much with Warcraft. I quite like director Duncan Jones and while I have literally no connection to the World of Warcraft game is based on, I had hoped that at the very least Jones would be able to bring together something interesting to justify the immense time spent on this project. Nope. There was obviously a lot of behind the scenes meddling taking place with this movie and it did well overseas so it can’t be classified as a complete flop. But none of that helps to make Warcraft even semi-coherent nor explain why the performances are so hollow or the effects are so hideous. Steer clear.
September 6th – Now You See Me 2, The Iron Giant (Special Edition), Money Monster, The Flash Season 2, Supernatural Season 856, Road House (Collector’s Edition)
September 13th – Captain America: Civil War, The Big Bang Theory Season 9, The Conjuring 2, Aliens (30th Anniversary Edition), Transformers: The Movie
September 20th – Star Trek Beyond, Beauty and the Beast, Labyrinth, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, Neighbors 2, Free State of Jones, Blood Simple (Criterion Collection)
September 27th –Central Intelligence, The Shallows, The Neon Demon, An American Werewolf in London, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Grimm Season 5, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Collector’s Edition), Highlander (30th Anniversary Edition), Valley of the Dolls (Criterion Collection), The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother
NETFLIX – 3 Days to Kill, Babel, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, The Blacklist Season 3, Bones Season 11, Cats & Dogs, Chef’s Table Season 2, Crash, Defiance, Footloose, The Finest Hours, Gotham Season 2, Hope Floats, The Imitation Game, Jaws 1-4, Last Holiday, London Has Fallen, Luke Cage Season 1, Man on Wire, Narcos Season 2, New Girl Season 5, Portlandia Season 6, Raiders!, Road Trip, Saving Private Ryan, Scary Movie 2, Stomp the Yard, Supergirl Season 1, Sweeney Todd, Top Gun, True Grit, U571, The Walking Dead Season 6, The Wicker Man, Zootopia
AMAZON – 1984, Any Given Sunday, Apollo 13, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Bigger Stronger Faster, Black Death, Bronson, Buried, Caddyshack, Cocaine Cowboys, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, Doctor Who Season 9, Eight Men Out, Food Inc., Freakonomics, Full Metal Jacket, Futureworld, Good Will Hunting, Hair, Heaven’s Gate, Heist, Interview with a Vampire, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Man on Wire, The Mechanic, Ondine, One Mississippi Season 1, Out of Time, Roman Holiday, Saved!, Scary Movie 2, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, The Secret of NIMH, Shadow Dancer, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Stop-Loss, To the Wonder, Transparent Season 3,The Witch, Young Adult