Total films seen so far this year: 272
Films seen in the last week: The Wedding Video, Frankenweenie, The Bird, A Few Best Men
FILM OF THE WEEK: BRAVE
Five Unsung Sports Movies That Are Worth Checking Out
I'm very much a fair-weather sports fan (I watch Wimbledon and will catch the odd World Cup game but that's about it) but like pretty much everyone else in the country, I was completely sucked into the Olympics over the past two weeks and it got me thinking about my favourite sports movies (I may not love sports but I do love sports movies). Then I thought there'd be no point listing my favourite sports movies, because they are all the well known ones (Breaking Away, Eight Men Out, Raging Bull and so on, along with more recent films like Whip It and Friday Night Lights). So instead, here's a list of five unsung sports movies that you probably haven't seen, all of which are well worth checking out.
1. North Dallas Forty (1979). Nick Nolte gives one of his best performances as Phillip Elliot, an ageing American football player who's become dependent on painkillers as he struggles to avoid being replaced by younger players.
2. Personal Best (1982). Mariel Hemingway stars in writer/director Robert Towne's sensitive lesbian drama about female track and field athletes preparing for the 1980 Olympic games. Also stars real-life track star Patrice Donnelly.
3. Bang The Drum Slowly (1973). Along with the same year's Mean Streets, this was the film that helped bring De Niro widespread fame. He plays Bruce Pearson, a slow-witted catcher for fictional baseball team New York Mammoths, who becomes terminally ill. His best friend and confidant is the team's star pitcher (Michael Moriarty), who manipulates the team's manager into continuing to allow Bruce to play, without revealing his reasons.
4. Stick It (2006). I asked several gymnastics-watchers if they'd seen this during the Olympics and no-one had, which surprised me, as it's one of the few films about the sport. Missy Peregrym plays Haley Graham, a rebellious teenager who's forced to return to the world of competitive gymnastics she left behind. Also starring Jeff Bridges, who's a lot of fun as the team's trainer.
5. The Cutting Edge (1992). Okay, so it's likely that ice skating fans are well aware of this film, as it's something of a cult movie, despite going straight to video back in 1992. Essentially, it's an ultra-cheesy romcom, starring D.B. Sweeney as a has-been ice hockey player who's paired with Moira Kelly's spoiled rich girl figure skater in the run up to the Winter Olympics. Still, if you haven't seen it, it's both an enjoyable romcom and an enjoyable ice skating movie.
Films I Am Dying To See: Wreck-It Ralph
I can't remember when the rest of the internet saw the Wreck-It Ralph trailer, but it was a while ago and I filed it away for future watching and then forgot about it. However, during a visit to Disney HQ yesterday (can't say why, embargoed, etc), I saw the poster for it and it reminded me that I still had to watch the trailer. Needless to say, the film has now rocketed onto my Dying To See list.
The idea is genuinely inspired, taking its cues from the likes of Toy Story, only this time it's video game characters that have lives outside of the games they're in. John C. Reilly voices Wreck-It Ralph, a hulking video game villain who's tired of being the bad guy and longs to be a hero, so he walks out of his game (“Fix-It Felix”, voiced by 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer) and signs up to a Call of Duty-style videogame as one of the good guys, before realising he may have bitten off more than he can chew (“When did videogames get so VIOLENT?”).
Sadly, I was never much of a videogame player beyond the likes of Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong and so on (I am slightly more familiar with the Mario characters thanks to my nephews' Wii, but that's as far as it goes), so a lot of the in-jokes and references are likely to be lost on me. In the now seemingly-obligatory support group scene (00m50s), for example, I can recognise Bowzer and the Pac-Man ghost and I get that the fighter is meant to be from Mortal Kombat (or whatever), but that's about it, so I'll have to rely on game-savvy friends to fill me in.
Anyway, the concept is inspired and the voice cast (which also includes Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman) is extremely promising – I love the scene with Silverman's annoying little girl character at the end of the trailer. Unfortunately, the film doesn't open here till February, so quite a while to wait yet.
Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):
Only two new entries this week, with Disney/Pixar's delightful adventure Brave and Sarah Polley's relationship drama Take This Waltz both making it into the top ten.
There now follows the usual plea to See Smaller Films First (#SSFF, etc), since the likes of The Expendables 2 and The Bourne Legacy will be around for at least a month or so, so if you are planning to see Take This Waltz (four stars), The Bird, The Wedding Video, The Devil's Business (three stars each) then please see them this weekend as smaller films need your support in their opening weekends. It's a terribly unfair system but that's just the way it is and we need to find a way to beat it.
Interview-wise, this week we have exclusive interviews with Brave director Mark Andrews and producer Katherine Sarafian, an exclusive interview with Brave star Kelly Macdonald, an exclusive interview with Brave co-stars Robbie Coltrane and Kevin McKidd and an exclusive interview with Sean Hogan, writer-director of The Devil's Business.
Elsewhere, you can still read our exclusive interview with Offender star Joe Cole; our exclusive interview with Matt Kane and Natasha Loring (Beaver Falls), stars of The Dinosaur Project; our exclusive interview with Fernando Meirelles, director of 360; our semi-exclusive interview with Searching For Sugar Man director Malik Bendjelloul and the film's subject, Mexican-American singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez; our exclusive interview with director William Friedkin for Killer Joe; an exclusive interview with Gina Gershon for Killer Joe and our exclusive interview with Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, star of the magnificent A Royal Affair.
Come back next week for exclusive interviews with Bart Layton and Charlie Parker, P.I. (director and key character in the superb documentary The Imposter) as well as an exclusive interview with James Marsh, director of Shadow Dancer.
1. Searching For Sugar Man
3. Moonrise Kingdom
5. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
6. The Dark Knight Rises
7. Magic Mike
8. The Amazing Spider-Man
9. Take This Waltz
10. Step Up 4: Miami Heat
DVD of the Week: Damsels in Distress (out Monday 20th, online RRP £11.99)
This week's DVD of the Week is writer/director Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress, which, for my money, is one of the best films of the year. Analeigh Tipton (Crazy Stupid Love) stars as Seven Oaks college student Lily, who hasn't been on campus more than thirty seconds before she's co-opted into an idealistic, super-pretentious clique that includes queen bee Violet (Greta Gerwig), British-accented Rose (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and sweet-natured Heather (Carrie Maclemore).
The girls dedicate themselves to running the college Suicide Prevention Centre, dishing out the unlikely therapies of tap-dancing and free doughnuts (but only if you can prove you're clinically depressed). The plot, such as it is, centres around the usually upbeat Violet getting depressed after catching her gloriously moronic boyfriend Frank (Ryan Metcalf) with newly inducted clique member Priss (Caitlin Fitzgerald).
Meanwhile, Lily agonises over her attraction to attached French graduate student Tom (Hugo Becker) and enters into passive-agressive competition with Violet for the attentions of fraudulent literature student Charlie (Adam Brody). The ever-delightful Greta Gerwig (do more films please, Greta Gerwig) is perfectly cast as Violet and her quirky rhythms and offbeat personality are ideally suited to Stillman's drily arch, borderline absurd dialogue.
Tipton is equally good as the more grounded Lily and there's terrific support from Megalyn Echikunwoke, who turns the phrase “playboy operatOR type” into a hilarious running gag. The script is packed with deliciously quotable lines and Stillman orchestrates some brilliantly funny scenes that pay off in unexpected ways, such as the hilarious resolution to one character struggling to learn the colours or Violet deciding that she wants to start an international dance craze called the Sambola.
In short, this is a delightfully quirky, frequently funny and superbly acted comedy from Whit Stillman that plays like a parody of his earlier films filtered through high school clique movies like Mean Girls and Heathers. Admittedly, Damsels in Distress won't work for everyone, but if you're a fan of either Greta Gerwig, Stillman's previous films or tap-dancing, you will love it. Highly recommended.
Extras on the DVD include: a commentary with director Whit Stillman and the cast; 6 minutes of outtakes; five deleted scenes; a 10 minute Behind the Scenes featurette; the theatrical trailer; and a 27 minute onstage Q&A with Whit Stillman and the entire cast. You can also read our exclusive interview with Whit Stillman here.