Million Dollar Baby packs a serious punch. I haven’t seen much of Hilary Swank, but she’s an actress who always makes her performances count. She’s far from a typical 2 time Best Actress winner. It only took 5 years after Swank won for Boys Don’t Cry. Both films feature an intense transformation that the Academy Awards couldn’t ignore. Million Dollar Baby is the first movie to win Best Picture after the Lord of the Rings trilogy ended. It’s not the greatest boxing movie ever made, but it does go deeper than most. All thanks to the personal Oscar winning direction of the legendary Clint Eastwood. He also produced, starred, and provided the subtle guitar score.
Eastwood is the gruff but good hearted boxing trainer Frankie Dunn. He has his own personal problems ranging from faith to family. Although initially refusing to train a girl, Maggie Fitzgerald is exactly the aspiring young underdog he needs in his life. Together they train and eventually bound over their shared struggles. Similar to her previous award winning role, Maggie is from a trailer park with a scumbag family and has her life cut tragically short. Million Dollar Baby also gave Morgan Freeman the opportunity to finally win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Former boxer Scrap has great interplay with Frankie, a lovable mentor role with Maggie, and Freeman narrates as well. The role is practically redemption for not winning for Shawshank Redemption. Several before they were famous actors include Jay Baruchel as a more dimwitted aspiring boxer. Plus many future Marvel actors like Anthony Mackie, Michael Peña, and a very skinny Mike Colter. Swank still steals the show with her impressive muscle tone, heartfelt sincerity, and brutal boxing matches against real life female boxers. The ending is heart-wrenching, but the message of Million Dollar Baby is clear to always protect yourself and fight for your dream.
Frankie and Scrap help Maggie in the ring
Space Jam: A New Legacy is corporate branding run amok. It’s no secret that nostalgia sells. So it was only a matter of time before Space Jam 2 finally entered active development. When Michael Jordan left the project, the closest thing to a sequel became the underrated Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Although Warner Bros. considered other sports icons to focus on, the only constant was other popular basketball player LeBron James. Space Jam has been a personal favorite of mine since childhood, but I never felt the need for a sequel. The already bizarre premise of the Looney Tunes playing a high stakes basketball game will only feel derivative the second time around. A New Legacy is one of many 2021 films released simultaneously in theaters and on streaming. Appropriate considering how much it feels like an ad for HBO Max. My brother and I saw A New Legacy in theaters with an audience of kids who all seemed to enjoy it. A New Legacy has several problems that I can only blame on current trends.
I’m still not a sports fan, but I of course know who LeBron James is. While he is a slightly better actor than MJ, there’s way too much hero worship placed on “King James.” LeBron’s fictionalized life plays out similar to Space Jam, but they include a father/son element that tries too hard to be sentimental. Especially for a movie concerned with IP. Don Cheadle is given a ton of attention as an evil algorithm named Al-G Rhythm. His unusual plan is to use LeBron’s success to insert him in existing properties. Everyone thinks it’s a bad idea, but the movie does exactly that. Al-G takes LeBron’s son Dom and sends him through the Warner Bros. Serververse. The LEGO Movie, Ready Player One, and Ralph Breaks the Internet did the exact same thing, but somehow A New Legacy feels more in your face. It’s nice to see the traditionally animated Tune World, but something about Bugs Bunny feels off. I know it’s manipulative, but I couldn’t help but have fun with Bugs searching several Warner Bros. movies or shows to find his friends.
That of course includes the DC Universe, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, The Matrix, and other more inappropriate franchises. There’s a serious double standard that doesn’t stop there. Daffy Duck, Tweety, Sylvester, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Porky Pig, Wile E. Coyote, the Road Runner, Foghorn Leghorn, Granny, and Speedy Gonzales get to be on the team, but Pepe Le Pew is suddenly bad. Lola Bunny is also a non-sexualized tough girl with the slightly distracting celebrity voice of Zendaya. Granny is similarly given an unusual amount of attention. The Looney Tunes are computer animated against their will in a video game version of basketball attended by all the remaining IP’s that do nothing but watch. The Goon Squad can’t hold a candle to the Monstars since they’re all real life players I’ve never heard of. Neither can the very forgettable soundtrack that doesn’t even include the catchy “Space Jam” theme. Some of the jokes, including one about Michael Jordan work, but a rapping Porky Pig is pure cringe. The overlong sequel tries to have an emotional payoff that’s totally lost in a movie like this. Space Jam: A New Legacy is a no win situation.
LeBron James and Bugs Bunny play basketball
Preceded by: Space Jam
Turbo is The Fast and the Furious with snails. That’s how it was pitched and that’s what we ended up with. DreamWorks Animation is always a toss up, but I can’t say I was expecting a movie about a snail with super speed. Yet like the underdog himself, Turbo is a cute, fast-paced, victory. Albeit one that crashed and burned at the box-office. After the success of The Croods, Ryan Reynolds had two consecutive bombs with Turbo and R.I.P.D. Although it nearly killed his career, Turbo deserves a second chance. The computer animation is sleek and innocent with cartoony snails and realistic locations. Theo is just an ordinary LA garden snail living in a tomato patch. Like most underdog stories, Turbo dreams of racing like his hero Guy Gagné.
Gaining super speed was always gonna be ridiculous, but Turbo literally becomes fast by ingesting NOS in a Fast & Furious style street race. More ridiculous is Turbo developing other car powers like eye headlights, tail lights, and even radio control. It’s a fun enough concept on its own, but a star-studded cast makes things even funnier. Paul Giamatti voices Theo’s doubting safety obsessed brother Chet. They’re both brought to a struggling strip mall called Starlight Plaza where they encounter an ethnically diverse cast of humans and snails. Along with fellow business owners voiced by Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, and Richard Jenkins, Michael Peña voices taco truck driver Tito. His relationship to Turbo is almost exactly like Ratatouille. Except that Tito uses his “Little Amigo” to attract customers.
His relationship to his brother Angelo also mirrors Turbo’s relationship with Chet. The funniest characters are a posse of racing snails who help Turbo on his journey. All of whom would end up with their own flash animated Netflix show Turbo Fast. Samuel L. Jackson is the crazy Whiplash, Ben Schwartz is the feisty Skidmark, Maya Rudolph is the flirtatious Burn, Mike Bell is the delusional White Shadow, and Snoop Dogg himself is the smooth talking Smooth Move. He contributes to the soundtrack that includes the extremely catchy “That Snail is Fast.” Everyone gets the crazy idea to enter Turbo in the Indy 500 and they accept using Air Bud rules. Turbo’s French Canadian hero, voiced by an unrecognizable Bill Hader, quickly turns into the bad Guy who refuses to lose to a snail. I’m not a NASCAR fan, but high octane races are always fun to watch. Even with a predictable outcome, Turbo is a cliché filled family friendly thrill ride.
Turbo and his crew
The Game Plan opens the playbook of love. Fatherly love that is. Before his acting career really took off, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was starring in kid friendly family movies. The Game Plan was his first family comedy, but last movie to include his wrestling name. It was apparently the last Disney movie under the Buena Vista name as well. I didn’t watch The Game Plan when I was younger since I wasn’t a fan of football or the “Tough guy cares for child” trope. It’s cute, but not something I would’ve enjoyed when I was a kid.
Joe Kingsman is a player on the field and off. He’s an Elvis fan and star quarterback with a carefree bachelor lifestyle. The Rock does his best to maintain his charisma. He’s gonna need it when the scene stealing daughter he never knew winds up on his doorstep. Peyton is adorable, but Disney star Madison Pettis isn’t always convincing. Even by precocious kid standards. They get into the usual father-daughter antics.
She puts his bulldog in a tutu, bedazzles his stuff, and humorously gives him an allergic reaction to cinnamon. Joe teaches Peyton all about a football game plan, but there’s actually not much football in the movie. More time is spent on Joe learning ballet for his daughter. The Game Plan is a bit overly long and gets pretty serious near the end. If you’re fine with a predictable playoff, then The Game Plan may still be a game for the whole family. ❌⭕❌⭕
Joe celebrates his big win with Peyton
Happy Gilmore is the second funniest golf comedy I’ve seen. Caddyshack will always be #1, but I really underestimated how funny Adam Sandler’s early work was. After going back to school in Billy Madison, it only made sense to see the other half of Happy Madison Productions. Happy Gilmore is a devoted ice hockey player with a short fuse that’s fitting for Sandler’s often loud shtick. When his loving grandmother’s house is foreclosed on, he makes it his mission to get her the money she needs.
I care about golf about as much as Happy Gilmore, but there’s no denying how great his long-drive is. Just like Billy Madison, I started to pick up on Sandler’s defining tropes. He’ll say something immature, end up with a hot woman, and usually plug a product (Subway in this case). Yet Happy’s hockey-like outbursts, swearing, and fights on a quiet golf course are just too hilarious not to laugh. Carl Weathers is also funny as a one handed former golf pro who teaches Happy everything he knows. Same with professional a-hole Christopher McDonald as the skeezy Shooter McGavin.
Happy’s public relations director Virginia Venit tries to clean up his act to better help him in his game with Shooter. There are unexpected guest actors like gentle giant Richard Kiel, but the best appearance will always be Bob Barker. His out of nowhere fight with Happy Gilmore was so funny it boosted the ratings of The Price is Right. Happy Gilmore may be rough around the wedges, but it’s just another example of Adam Sandler bringing comedy to even the most unlikely places.
Happy Gilmore vs. Bob Barker
Caddyshack II is the pointless golfing sequel no one asked for. There was just no point in doing one without the involvement of comedians Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, or Harold Ramis as a director. The traditional R rating doesn’t even return. It’s instead replaced by the safe PG rating. Which based on the first movie, would have simply meant more nudity. The only returning actor was Chevy Chase, but he’s just kinda there. Inching ever closer to his more cynical later years.
A now animatronic gopher is also played up to a ridiculous degree. Complete with cartoony voice and unfunny shenanigans. It’s so obvious that Caddyshack II is attempting to replace previous characters. Right down to unmemorable teen caddy’s. Jackie Mason replaces Dangerfield as the colorful eccentric millionaire. Only his personality and brand of stand-up is all over the place.
The plot I couldn’t care less about, involves the country club being bought with housing construction in mind. Along with the same old class discrimination and high stakes game of golf we saw before. At the same time Dan Aykroyd plays a far less funny version of Bill Murray’s character. Except he’s an ex-military Captain with a bizarre voice. Probably the only somewhat original character is the obnoxious one Randy Quaid plays. As a sequel nobody wanted to make, Caddyshack II was doomed from the start.
Everett spots the gopher
Preceded by: Caddyshack
Caddyshack brings uproarious laughter to the quiet game of golf. A sport I’ve never officially played in my life. So I wasn’t sure how I’d react to Caddyshack. Nevertheless, golf isn’t the primary focus of the almost non-story. Caddyshack feels more like a loose collection of characters brought together by a wealthy country club. Bushwood Country Club is crawling with snobby golfers that often look down on the lower-class workers. Danny is a teen working as a caddy for the summer.
The late Ted Knight is the most snobby golfer who cheats and runs the whole club. This was the late Harold Ramis’ directorial debut, so key Saturday Night Live players have significant roles. Chevy Chase is wise golf guru Ty Webb and Bill Murray is goofy groundskeeper Carl. At the same time the late Rodney Dangerfield shines with his unique brand of stand-up comedy. “I tell ya he gets no respect, no respect.” All characters are brought together through the game of golf, but the funniest stuff is all separate.
There’s the goof ball subplot where Carl attempts to kill a gopher. Played by a comically cheap looking puppet. Pretty much all of Murray’s lines were improvised, including his iconic “It’s in the hole!” Dangerfield’s eccentric millionaire’s off the cuff jabs are a bright spot as well. There’s also a random but funny scene where a Baby Ruth is thrown in a pool. Another subplot involves the promiscuous niece of the founder being sought after by both Danny and Ty. The nudity is pretty much the only reason the movie is R rated. With all its random slapstick, Caddyshack is a hole in one for 80’s comedies.
Carl hunts the gopher
Followed by: Caddyshack II
Varsity Blues is where football meets teen angst. Although I’m still not much of a sports guy, I am at least a fan of cheesy teen movies. So Varsity Blues was a fair compromise. It was actually the first of so many teen movies released in 1999. Which is why they banked on James Van Der Beek’s Dawson’s Creek fame. He plays a Texas High School football player named Mox who doesn’t want his father’s life.
Equal teen heartthrob Paul Walker is his friend whose game injury forces Mox to take center stage in the game. The main conflict is between Mox’s team and a tyrannical coach. Overweight Texas born pig owner Billy Bob is another friend who keeps getting concussions. Most of the football stuff didn’t stand out to me as much as all of the random stuff in between.
Like an incredibly random subplot about a sex ed teacher that turns out to be a stripper. Nothing comes out of it. Same with Mox’s wacky kid brother going through several different religions. But the most iconic scene in Varsity Blues has nothing to do with football. This is the movie that features a cheerleader sporting a sexy whipped cream bikini. Something I’m sure has been unsuccessfully imitated many times. Varsity Blues may center on football, but it’s very much for the MTV generation.
West Canaan High School football team
Miracle depicts one of the greatest moments in sports history. The 1980 Winter Olympics “Miracle on Ice.” When an American hockey team beat the more favored Soviet Union. Of all the sports I’ve mentioned before, hockey is probably the one I know the least about. I had fun playing a mock version of the game in school, but I’ve never played the genuine version on ice. I only know that you play with a puck, the rules are similar to soccer, and fights often break out. But since I was in the midst of watching a sports movie marathon (including football, baseball, basketball, and soccer), I knew I needed to see a hockey movie. So I settled for Miracle.
A movie I guarantee I wouldn’t have seen if not for this marathon. Even though its Disney and my teacher started showing some of it in class once. Kurt Russell gives it his all for Coach Herb Brooks. As he breaks down his young ameutur team with hours worth of suicide drills and builds them up with inspirational speeches. When you invest 2 hours into a sport, you’ll pick up on the rules. So I was definitely chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” when America was victorious. I watched a hockey movie and a Miracle broke out.
Herb Brooks roots for his team
Bend it Like Beckham is sports movie goals. Despite being the most popular sport in the world, I’ve never been a big soccer guy (or football to most countries). For the sake of geographical convenience, I’ll be referring to football as soccer. Bend it Like Beckham refers to famed soccer player David Beckham. Jesminder is an Indian girl with a not so secret love for soccer and a poster of Beckham above her bed.
She lives in England where an English girl named Jules finds her playing soccer in the park. Due to her underutilized talent, Jules befriends as well as offers Jess a position on a women’s soccer team. But Bend it Like Beckham isn’t just about soccer. It’s also about culture. Since Jess’ parents have strict beliefs, they don’t allow her to play soccer. Leading to an eventual rift that makes her choose between her Indian heritage and the game that she loves.
Speaking of love, things only get more complicated when she falls for her Irish coach (whom Jules also happens to fancy). I don’t mind playing soccer, it’s just the watching that never got me into it. That being said, the movie did at least manage to boost my overall interest of the sport. Bend it Like Beckham is a charming story of love, society, and soccer you’re bound to get a kick out of.
Jess holds up the winning trophy