Boogie: Shooting Hoops And Quoting Classic Literature

Written by Luke Barnes

Boogie is a drama film directed by Eddie Huang. The plot centres around the titular Boogie (Taylor Takahashi), a young man with only one dream, to become a professional basketball player. We see Boogie, deal with life, family and growing up all whilst trying to improve his game and stay in control of his life.

I am fairly mixed on this one, on the one hand I thought that its quieter moments of character drama were excellent, especially when the film was focusing on Boogie’s parents relationship or how each try and control who he is. However, I thought the premise and the wider execution of the film let it down as it ended up becoming just another generic sports film.

Both Huang and Takahashi intrigued me, I think both have a lot of potential which is shown within this film and I am excited to see where both go next. Takahashi especially, managed the emotional weight of the film well, whilst still feeling relatable and human.

Overall, if you are prepared to dig beneath the generic sports movie premise there is some solid drama and character work to be moved by here.

Pros.

The character drama

Takahashi

The ending

Cons.

It is very generic

It is predictable

2.5/5

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Bend It Like Beckham: David Beckham Really Is In Every Film

Written by Luke Barnes

Bend It Like Beckham is a sport coming of age comedy film directed by Gurinder Chadha. The plot sees Jess (Parminder Nagra), try to pursue a career in football despite her parents wishes.

I enjoyed this films depiction of ‘football mad England’, its approach is far more subtle and thoughtful than films like Football Factories or Green Streets would have you believe. I thought Jess as a character was very easy to warm to, and also very relatable. We could see the identity crisis she was facing, and we sympathise as the character almost becomes like a friend to us over the course of the film.

I thought the ending of the film were she gets to go and become a professional footballer in America is heart warming and just the right amount of feel good resolution that makes you think ‘hey maybe things will be okay’.

My main issue with the film would be that the central romance between Joe (Johnathan Rhys Meyers), and Jess is troublesome on several levels. Firstly, the love triangle between Jess, Jules (Keira Knightly), and Joe feels a bit too male fantasy, and secondly because he is the coach of the team and both of his female love interests are players on the team, meaning the power dynamic is icky.

A bigger question not just for this film, but also applicable more generally, was a romance plot line actually needed at all?

Overall, a feel good film on the surface but troublesome underneath.

Pros.

Nagra

Knightley

The ending

Cons.

The romance plot line

Some of the wider messages

2.5/5

Football Factory: Hooligans In The UK

Football Factory is a British sports drama film directed by Nick Love. The plot examines the rise in football hooliganism, examining the lives of those who live to fight. We follow Tommy Johnson (Danny Dyer), one such hooligan as he gets caught up in a feud between two sects of fans and is forced to revaluate his life.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this in my reviews before, but I am a huge Danny Dyer fan and have been for a while: Dog House, The Business, Severance, Human Traffic all classic Dyer fare, and this fits in amongst that pantheon, though it doesn’t have as much charm as some of the others and is definitely rougher around the edges.

It is kind of crazy how badly this film wants to be Trainspotting, there are multiple moments in this film that feel almost shot for shot the same, with slight tweaks to avoid being called out. The difference of course is one is a British classic and the other is a blatant rip-off; I’ll let you figure out which is which.

Danny Dyer has his usual laddish charm and is okay here, though this does feel very safe for him. I would dare say that Dyer is upstaged by Neil Maskell, who plays his on-screen best friend and who also has some of the best scenes in the film, managing to inject a bit more soul into the film than Dyer seems capable off.

There are several moments in this film that are clearly supposed to be funny or sad, but in both cases the film struggles to achieve either. The first death doesn’t feel hugely impactful as we don’t really know the character, and the final death doesn’t bare weight as the film has done little to make us care about the character. The humour is far weaker, and the film tries less hard at this aim; those who the film is based on might find it funny, but anyone outside of that small group would probably be hard pushed to find a laugh here.

Overall, it is passable Dyer content, no The Business, in fact don’t watch this film at and just check out The Business it is a much better.

Pros.

Dyer and his roughish ways

Neil Maskell is trying

Cons.

The characters aren’t likeable and that limits the films emotional impact

The humour doesn’t work

It drags in parts

2/5

Reviewed by Luke

You Cannot Kill David Arquette: The Best Comeback In Hollywood History

You Cannot Kill David Arquette is a documentary film directed by David Darg. The film follows Scream actor David Arquette as he attempts to return to the world of wrestling after winning the championship belt in the early 2000s, to much condemnation from the fans.

I enjoyed this film a lot, and part of the beauty of the film is that you can really enjoy it and get something out of it regardless of whether you are into wrestling or not. I personally, don’t really follow wrestling but I still appreciated the character journey and the raw emotional value. My friend who I recommended this film to is very much into wrestling, and he also really liked the film for entirely different reasons (namely, the amount of famous wrestlers who appear in it in one form or another). So anyone can enjoy it.

There is this hyper-reality surrounding the film that is quite hard to describe, certain parts of it almost feel larger than life and you question whether this is actually a documentary or is something else, something more in the vein of a mockumentary. However, it is all real and genuine and this larger than life aspect to the film really helps some of its more personal themes to land.

On that note this film makes you feel bad for David Arquette to an almost heart-breaking extent. Yes, he is not the traditional underdog in that he has the money, the house, the wife and the career, but despite all that you can see the scars he has from his time in the wrestling community and how desperately he wants to come back. Before watching this film I had almost entirely forgotten about Arquette, but now he is back on my map in a big way and I want to see him cast more.

Overall, this is the deserving winner of Best Documentary.

Pros.

The emotional journey

Fun to watch regardless of how into wrestling you are

A well-done underdog story structure, that really does make you feel something  

The ending

David Arquette   

Cons.

None

5/5

Chick Fight: Alec Baldwin Is The Drunk Fighting Instructor We All Need In Our Lives

Chick Fight is an action comedy directed by Paul Leyden. The plot follows Anna (Malin Akerman), a woman who’s life is going to the dogs, she is on the verge of being evicted, she can’t find a job and her love life is non-existent. However, one day she walks into an underground women’s fight club and a new chapter in her life begins.

This film is fine, nothing more nothing less. It is nothing that you haven’t seen before and of those films most are better. However, I also would not call this film bad, it is solidly watchable and some of the supporting performances are quite good.

With that in mind, I give props to Bella Throne for being quite a good antagonist here, you hate her, but at the same time you feel for her a little bit; her and Akerman have some entertaining scenes together. Alec Baldwin as Anna’s coach/trainer is also quite good, he plays the boozy old man who lives at the beach well, and I am really digging this phase of Baldwin’s career; he is also great in Pixie.

Akerman herself is a passable lead, though her role could be played by literally anyone.

Overall, it is an easy watch though it is a touch generic. Watch if you can’t find anything better.

Pros.

Throne and Baldwin

A few funny moments

It is very watchable

Cons.

Akerman doesn’t do much

It is very generic

2.5/5

Reviewed by Luke

The Way Back: Ben Affleck’s Painful Return

The Way Back is an American sports film directed by Gavin O’Connor. The plot follows Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck), a basketball player who turned to drink after his child died, now he is resigned to drink himself to death. That is until one day his old high school ask him to coach their basketball team, after their old coach unexpectedly retires, this gives him a reason to carry on.

This is a very generic film, there have been, are and will be so many other sports dramas that follow this same plot outline. A has been who has personal problems, coming back from obscurity to help the next generation. The plot did nothing for me as I already knew where it was going.

However, though the plot is generic Ben Affleck saves this film and elevates it far beyond what it would be otherwise. Ben Affleck’s performance here might be one of the best of the year, he plays the broken man who has given up so well; it is frightening how convincing he is. Obviously, he is drawing on his heavily publicised substance abuse battles, for this role and you can tell that, and it really adds to the performance.

Overall, the film really isn’t anything special, you have seen it countless times before, but you haven’t seen Affleck this raw and vulnerable and it is worth a watch for that alone. Affleck really does save this film.

Pros.

Ben Affleck and his raw performance

The feel-good story

How well Ben Affleck sells the character and his journey

Cons.

The plot is very generic

You know exactly what is going to happen

2/5

Reviewed by Luke

Early Man: The Origins Of Man United

Early Man is a British stop motion animated film directed by Nick Park. The plot follows a group of stone age people as they are challenged by a bronze age civilisation to a game of football to decide the fate of their valley home.

I will admit I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Aardman and their animations, I really didn’t like Chicken Run and I enjoyed Wallace and Gromit when I was young, but I have not thought about those films in years. So, going into this I had low expectations that were lowered even further when I heard the mixed reviews, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with this film.

I enjoyed the story quite a bit and found that the time period leant itself quite well to Aardman’s signature animation style. I thought the characters all had a great deal of rootability, and you really wanted to see them win the game. This film manages to capture the plucky underdog spirit to a tee.

The voice cast didn’t add much to proceedings as I feel like anyone could have played those characters, the voice actors themselves were not memorable, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your viewpoint. Out of the cast I thought Maisie Williams shone the most, her character of Goona was fun and memorable and Williams managed to pull of an accent for the full run time somewhat convincing; much more convincingly then her GOT co-star Sophie Turner in the last X-Men film, however.

Overall, a fun film that really made me consider Aardman that bit more, maybe it has converted me to their cause- time will tell.

Pros.

Fun and accessible

The setting leant itself well to stop motion

Maisie Williams

Capturing the underdog spirit

Cons.

The voice cast weren’t very strong

It felt a bit bloated

3/5

Reviewed by Luke

Space Jam: Who Said Product Placement

Space Jam is a basketball themed live action CGI film directed by Joe Pytka. The plot sees acclaimed basketball player Michael Jordan be drafted into a match alongside characters from the Looney Tunes cartoons. Together they must defeat evil mutant aliens that have stolen the talent of some of the NBA’s best players.

I have not watched this film since I was a kid, watching it again now I have to say it is the embodiment of the hectic crazy 90’s spirit. None of it makes any sense and everything is either a mad dash for product placement or badly put together CGI. However, that is the charm.

The CGI is terrible, it is clear that Michael Jordan is not really there and a lot of the time there is a slight delay in between a Looney Tunes character saying something and Jordan’s reply, because he clearly isn’t in the same room as the voice actors and it has been badly put together. However, I won’t be too harsh on it because though it took me out of it, it was good for the time period.

I think in terms of Looney Tunes film I preferred Back In Action, as that had more of the manic energy of the cartoon and this seems to focus more on the basketball at the expense of said energy, other than a few moments that remind you these cartoon characters could be anyone.

Overall, this is a testament to the craziness of the early 90’s and its weirdness only adds to its charm, but as a Looney Tunes film it doesn’t live up to the cartoon.

Pros.

It’s a great basketball film.

Bill Murray.

The craziness of it all.

Cons.

It is not a good Looney Tunes film.

Most of the characters feel quite empty.

3/5

Reviewed by Luke

Coach Carter: You Can Beat Your Circumstances!

Coach Carter is a biographical sport film, based on the real life of high school basketball coach Ken Carter, directed by Thomas Carter. The plot sees Ken Carter (Samuel L. Jackson), become the coach of the Richmond High basketball team, Carter sets about turning the team into winner, in multiple different ways, and has a huge impact on his student’s lives; caring after everyone else has given up.

This film is inspirational, there is no other word for it than that, these boys go from doomed youth, to promising young men that might actually have a chance to escape their awful circumstances. It promotes the value of hard work and perseverance even when it seems hopeless to do so, morals and values that never go out of fashion.

Jackson is as terrific as always, as an actor he has one of the best stage presences I have ever seen, and he captivates the audience’s attention from the moment he appears on screen. You really buy that he cares about these boys and wants what is best for them; the scenes where the community seems so against him break your heart because you know his intentions are good.

My one complaint would be that the two hour and fifteen-minute runtime feels indulgent, I would say that this film is too long, as such there is pacing issues; the second act has a hell of a lot of lulls that make you want to stop watching. I think it could easily have been chopped down by maybe half an hour and still worked just as well.

Overall, this film does what a lot of sports biopics want to do but can’t, and that is be truly motivational. It is an inspiration to watch and Samuel L. Jackson relishes every second he is on screen and gives maybe a career best performance?

Pros.

The emotional beats.

It manages to be uplifting and inspirational.

Samuel L. Jackson.

Interesting and engaging.

Cons.

Minor pacing issues, particularly bad in the second act.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke

Fighting With My Family: Florence Pugh’s Rise To Fame

‘Fighting With My Family’ is a biographical, sports, comedy-drama film. The film chronicles the rise of WWE superstar and the youngest Diva’s Champion, Paige (Florence Pugh). It shows her origins wrestling with her family in Norwich, the hard NXT training process in America and finally her finest moment when she won the title.

Now before I get into all the things I love about this film; I want to mention a few things I felt held it back. For me I found the Paige misjudging the other female wrestlers and then feeling left out because she isn’t like them, storyline to be a little played out; the reveal that the other wrestlers are actually good people once Paige opened up to them is painfully obvious- it has been done in 1000 sports movies before. However, I do understand that when adapting a true story, the filmmakers are limited in where they can take the plot without it becoming untrue.

The main thing I liked about this film is the development Paige’s family got. It would have been easy to have her family as background characters and not focus on them, but rather than do that, the film flushes each one of them out nicely. They all have their individual motivations and you understand them, her brother (Jack Lowden), for example has dreamed of being in the WWE since he was a boy and over the course of the film, he gets that dream crushed, but then learns that there is more to life than fame.

Though this isn’t a fresh arc as it has been done time and again before it is nice to see the supporting characters in Paige’s life get some attention and development.

Florence Pugh as Paige is fantastic, she perfectly captures that underdog spirit as well as the idea of being an outsider that is looking for somewhere to belong; you can see the emotional journey of this film play out on Pugh’s face over its runtime and it is very satisfying. She emotes well. She also has a believable physicality that makes all of her wrestling scenes look real and authentic.

The two scene stealers of this film for me are Vince Vaughn and Dwayne Johnson. Vaughn’s Hutch Morgan has a real sense of vulnerability to him and he comes across as a protective figure to Paige as well as an antagonist at times, giving him a nice duality. Johnson on the other hand is great comedic support he brings a lot of laughs and entertainment value to any scene he is in.

Overall, this film is a delightfully charming sports film about the love of wrestling the cost of fame and the rise of a very talented young woman- in two senses.

Pros.

Vaughn and The Rock.

The Development of Paige’s Family.

The Emotion.

Pugh Is Paige.

Cons.

Cliched At Times.

4/5

Reviewed by Luke