sport movies

REVIEW: Borg vs McEnroe (2017)

The story of the rivalry between the enigmatic Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and the brash John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) with a focus on the 1980 Wimbledon Championship.

Borg vs McEnroe is a great insight into two legends of tennis. It’s a bit uneven in the time spent with each man, with more of a focus on Borg which is a bit of a double-edged sword. It’s a good thing because out of the two he is generally the one who is more private and less is known about him so seeing him as a child and teenager shows how he became the champion in was in the 1980’s. but on the other hand, every time the focus shifts to McEnroe, the screen crackles with energy and that’s down to LaBeouf’s near perfect performance.

LaBeouf as McEnroe really was the highlight of the film for me but it was interesting to learn more about Borg and his relationship with his coach Lennart Bergelin (Stellan Skarsgård) and his fiancé Mariana Simionescu (Tuva Novoyny). All give good performances but Shia LaBeouf is the one who really shines.

All the tennis matches featured in Borg vs McEnroe are well-shot and exciting but it’s the 1980 Wimbledon Final between the two men that is truly thrilling. With the music building as each set progresses, the editing and the performances of the two leads it makes the final showdown between these two legends incredibly tense and exhilarating. Everything in Borg vs McEnroe has been building to this moment and it doesn’t disappoint.

The costuming, the music, the sets, everything is so incredibly 80’s and it all looks great. Borg vs McEnroe is a great, though slightly uneven, sports film. If you’re a tennis fan you may get more out of it but it’s themes of rivalries and underdogs are for everyone. 4/5.

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REVIEW: The Hot Flashes (2013)

the hot flashesA group of middle-aged women, all former high-school basketball champions, come together to compete against the current high-school champions to raise money for a mobile breast cancer screening unit.

The Hot Flashes is a lot of fun. It’s got that mix of comedy and relatable characters that really pulls you in. It’s Beth’s (Brooke Shields) idea to put together a middle-aged basketball team and by doing so she discovers more about herself. Beth’s marriage doesn’t seem to be going great and her husband Laurence (Eric Roberts) is just waiting for her to get bored of this basketball team idea like she usually gets bored of everything else. Beth surprises herself and her family with how determined she is about this cause.

The bond between Beth’s team is what really drives the film. As usual in sports films, not all of them get on to begin with but over the course of the training and three matches against the high-school girls, they become really close and good friends. The team is made up of five very different women; Beth, Florine (Wanda Sykes) is running for Mayor and doesn’t think playing basketball would necessarily be good for her image, Ginger (Daryl Hannah) a car saleswoman who has been living with her roommate for 16 years, Roxie (Camryn Manheim) a tough biker who believes her husband is no longer interested in her, and Clementine (Virginia Madsen) a woman often shunned by the town for her promiscuity.

The basketball games are fast-paced and well edited so you never lose what’s happening even if you don’t know the rules of basketball. There’s also a great soundtrack full of high tempo songs that help pull you in and root for the team.

The Hot Flashes is built on the relationships between the women in this story – both good and bad. There’s Beth and her team, Beth and her teenage daughter Jocelyn (Charlotte Graham) who is on the high-school basketball team so there’s a rivalry between the two but they never stop caring about each other, and Jocelyn and Millie (Jessica Rothe), the most popular girl in school and on the basketball team.

The Hot Flashes is kind of cliché but that doesn’t make it any less fun or heartfelt. 5/5.

REVIEW: Creed (2015)

creedpostersmallFormer Champion Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) returns to the world of boxing as a trainer and mentor when Adonis “Donny” Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed, seeks him out to help him become a boxer like his father.

Creed is written and directed by Ryan Coogler and sees him reunited with his Fruitvale Station star. Coogler manages to rejuvenate a franchise that’s decades old but is still respectful to the character of Rocky and its legacy while setting up a new hero of the story with Donny.

Michael B. Jordan is great as Donny. Fighting is all he knows how to do and is one of the things he’s good at and actually enjoys but then there’s this legacy of his father’s name, a father he doesn’t know but there’s so much respect for that it’s intimidating. Donny wants to be his own man but at the same time he keeps being around Rocky, a man that knew his father, until Rocky gives in and trains him. Rocky is an interesting character in Creed. He’s older and maybe a little sadder, and he’s not interested in the life of boxing anymore. Donny helps make Rocky embrace life again and they help each other be better people.

Stallone really is brilliant in Creed, it’s been a while since he’s done something that wasn’t Expendables-esque and this time he really brings it. His performance will have you reaching for the tissues because it really is heart-breaking sometimes.

The fights in the film are exciting and gripping. One fight in particular is memorable due to the fact it looks like it’s all in one take. As Adonis fights in the ring, the camera pans around him and his opponent and after a punch there’s a cut on the guys face and you just can’t tell when there could have been a cut for the makeup person to run into the ring to do that. Also a few of the boxers Donny goes up against are professional, real-life boxers. This adds another layer of danger and anticipation whenever Donny steps into the ring.

While Creed is a boxing film and a part of the Rocky universe, at its heart is the relationships between the characters. Donny calls Rocky his Uncle and they are like family, fighting and caring about each other, and then there’s his relationship with Bianca (Tessa Thompson). It feels like such a natural romance and Bianca is not just a love interest. She has her own dreams and aspirations and isn’t afraid to tell Donny when he’s mucked up. Their romance didn’t feel shoe-horned in at all and it complimented the narrative as a whole.

Creed is a brilliant movie full of heart and excitement and has done a great job at rejuvenating an old franchise. 5/5.

REVIEW: Whip It (2009)

whip it posterSeventeen year old Bliss (Ellen Page) lives in a small town in Texas and isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life. When she discovers a roller derby league she makes new friends and discovers something she could really love, even if her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) who loves entering her in pageants wouldn’t approve.

While Whip It might have many of the sports movie clichés, the underdog team, the misfits and the family not agreeing with the leads choice in sports, but Whip It has so much charm and great performances that it is so much better than the typical clichés.

The roller derby scenes are fun and exciting but the violence is never over the top. The atmosphere in those scenes are often electric and the commentator ‘Hot Tub’ Johnny Rocket (Jimmy Fallon) is equal parts funny and cringe-worthy.

The difficulties Bliss faces as she tries to juggle her new passion for roller derby, her family and her first love in musician Oliver (Landon Pigg) are very believable. She is a wonderful lead character and it’s though her eyes you see the warmth all these characters have for her and each other.

One of the most delightful things about Whip It is all the different relationships between the different women portrayed throughout the film. Bliss had a strained yet believable relationship with her mother, she and her best friend Pash (Alia Shawkat) argue, and then there’s this incredible friendship and camaraderie between all the members of Hurl Scouts. Maggie Mayhem (Kristen Wiig) is kind of like the mother of the team while Smashley Simpson (Drew Barrymore) and Rosa Sparks (Eve) are both a lot of fun.

Whip It is fun and full of awesome relationships between women and for me, it’s a new favourite film. 5/5.

MONDAY MOVIE MEME: Sports Movies

The Monday Movie Meme is held by From Pages to Pictures each Monday and there’s different themes each week. I’ve been meaning to take part for quite a while but I kept forgetting but as today is a Bank Holiday I’ve finally got time to actually do this meme.

So without further ado, here’s my thoughts on Sports Movies.

MOV_02dd9806_bWhat’s your favourite sports comedy?
Well it’s got to be Cool Runnings (1993) hasn’t it? I grew up watching that film whenever it was on TV. It’s a comedy but it’s got a lot of heart. I can quote the vast majority of the film and will always watch it whenever it’s on TV, even if it’s half way through or only got 15 minutes left.

invictus_xlgWhat’s your favourite sports drama?
Invictus (2009). I love a true story and a true sports story that is also pretty inspirational is great. I love the tension in Invictus, both when it came to the rugby matches and the racial tensions in South Africa, and everyone gives a great performance. Definitely my favourite sports drama though The Blind Side (2009) comes a close second.

remember_the_titans_xlgWho is your favourite sports movie hero?
Got to be Coach Herman Boone (Denzel Washington) from Remember the Titans (2000). He’s truly an inspirational character to his team and brings people together and can be both tough but fair. I know he was also a real person but I don’t know much about him.
My other sporting hero – both in film and in real life is Niki Lauda. Daniel Brühl played him in Rush (2013) and I thought his performance was great and I generally love how Lauda persevered after suffer such a terrible accident and went on to become a F1 champion three times.

I’ve previously blogged about my top ten sports films so if you want more cool sports films to watch, go have a look.

My Top 10 Sports Related Movies

I re-watched Invictus earlier in the month and I enjoy it a lot even though I’m not a huge rugby fan. This then led me thinking about the sports related films I very much love, no matter what the sport if the characters are interesting and the story can pull you in I enjoy it.

sports movies

Invictus
I rewatched this after seeing Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom as it ends at just the perfect place to then watch Invictus, it’s like continuing with South Africa’s history. Nelson Mandela, in his first term as the South African President, initiates a unique venture to unite the apartheid-torn land: enlist the national rugby team on a mission to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Morgan Freeman is wonderful as Mandela but one of my favourite parts is with his body guards who are both black and white and watching how they go from being hostile towards eachother to working together and even playing rugby together.

Fast Girls
This British film is about the clash between street smart runner Shania Andrews (Lenora Crichlow) and wealthy young athlete Lisa Temple (Lily James) and how they must come together to compete in the relay for Great Britain. Like any sports film really (let’s be honest) it is a great, feel-good film. It has a great cast, is funny and has a brilliant soundtrack too. I remember where I first watched Fast Girls; I was on a plane to New York and ended up bouncing in my seat with excitement through the final act.

Cool Runnings
I’ve grown up watching Cool Runnings whenever it was on TV. It’s a super funny film about the first Jamaican bob-sled team. It has one of my favourite motivational scenes in it “I see pride! I see power!” and it’s generally just a fun, great movie.

Rush
I love this film a lot even though I know next to nothing about F1. The relationship between James Hunt and Niki Lauda is portrayed brilliantly by Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl. The racing scenes are interesting and pull you in (even though it’s just cars going around a track) and there’s the perfect balance between tension and emotion throughout the film.

Warrior
This may be a film about MMA but what it’s really about is family. I couldn’t decide who I was cheering for – Brendan (Joel Edgerton) or Tommy (Tom Hardy) – as they both deserved and wanted to win so much. I may have been a little choked up at the end.

The Blind Side
This is also a film more about family than a sport, but this time it’s the family you choose. I love the relationships between all the different members of the family and this is another one that left me with tears in my eyes.

Escape to Victory
Allied Prisoners of War against the German’s in a football match – what could possibly go wrong? I just love watching Pelé, Bobby Moore, Mike Summerbee and all of the other great footballer’s of the seventies and eighties playing football with Michael Caine and Sylvester Stallone.

Remember the Titans
I don’t think I’ve ever disliked a film starring Denzel Washington and Remember the Titans is definitely one of my favourites. It’s the true story of a newly appointed African-American coach (Denzel Washington) and his high school team on their first season as a racially integrated unit. This is a wonderful snapshot of history as well as having some great American football matches that pulls you in.

Bend it Like Beckham
This is British humour at its best. Jess has to try and balance her parents’ wishes and her desire to play football. Again, this is another film more about family than football but it’s also got some great friendships and comedy too.

Wimbledon
I never used to like tennis, I found it boring and annoying especially when Wimbledon came around and my mum had it on all day every day. Nowadays I love it and always find myself cheering on the underdog (unless they’re against Nadal and then I’m cheering for him) and Wimbledon (the film) is all about cheering for the underdog. Plus it’s got John McEnroe as himself which is fantastic.