Pick of the Week: Mean Machine
This is how a remake should be done. Mean Machine is a well done remake of the 1974 film The Longest Yard, unlike the most recent Adam Sandler disaster. I'd really like to pretend that Sandler's version never existed. I'd heard good things about this remake, so I checked it out.
This is a soccer movie set in prison. Just as in the original, it's the guards versus the cons, with an ex-pro player leading the cons.
Vinnie Jones, probably most well-known as Big Chris in Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, plays the lead. He's mostly been in supporting roles, from independent movies to this summer's X-Men 3, but he commands the screen throughout the film, and, with his pre-acting life as a pro footballer, he looks great in the action scenes.
The only actor who steals scenes from him is Jason "The Transporter" Latham, who plays Monk, an inmate with a bodycount bigger than both starting lineups. His daydream sequences are priceless.
The Longest Yard was a classic for late night cable, and is one of my favorite football films. I thought I would list some other sports films that are often overlooked.
He Got Game
Spike Lee used real life pro player Ray Allen for the lead, who did surprisingly well for a non-actor. Denzel plays his father, a jailed playground legend who never made it to the pros, as his son might. It's a dark film, with one of Washington's first well-acted unlikeable characters. I have no idea why this isn't better known. It made little more than $20 million at the box office, which, for its era and budget is a disappointment. Maybe the storyline is too downbeat for the masses, but it's a great film.
North Dallas Forty
Before Any Given Sunday, and ESPN's Players series, there was North Dallas Forty, looking at the behind-the-scenes life of Dallas Cowboy Nick Nolte. Nolte is a broken down pro who's held together by the unethical practices of team doctors. Gritty and the forerunner of many later films.
The best player to ever come out of Oakland was Demetrius "Hook" Mitchell. That's the opinion of NBA ballers Gary Payton and Jason Kidd, among many others. Unfortunately, Mitchell was more interested in drugs and thuggery than getting to the pros. This documentary looks at his life as his prison release is eminent. Hook was imprisoned for robbing a video store in Oakland.
Soul in the Hole
New York City's Rucker Park is the birthplace of many a legend, both little known and NBA level talents. This documentary explores the lives of people with no national, but plenty of street fame. If you like the And 1 Streetball team, you'll love this.
Jim Brown: All American
Another Spike Lee film, this time the definitive documentary on Jim Brown, the man many consider to be the best football player ever. Lee showed this at film festivals, but as far as I know, it never got a regular theatrical release. Lee goes deep into Brown's off-field life as well, including his famous friendship with Richard Pryor.
The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh
Sadly, this film is not available yet on DVD. Jonathan Winters plays himself and his evil twin. I haven't seen the movie since the early '80s, so I can't vouch for how good it is, as I was easily impressed back then. Dr. J plays the lead, and the cast is filled with the great ballers of the day, from Spencer Haywood to Connie Hawkins. Think Slapshot, with basketball.
Pigs vs. Freaks
Even though this was made in the '80s, it's set in the '60s. Tony Randall is a hippie guru, who comes up with the idea that the hippies should play a game of flag football against the local cops. I'm only mentioning it because it's completely bizarre. It's maybe the worst sports film ever. I can understand when a bad sports film gets made about a popular sport, but flag football? With hippies? The touch football scenes in Eight is Enough were better made.
If you ever see this coming on TV, please record it and send me a copy. This is a Foosball film with Kristy McNichol and Leif Garrett. Garrett plans to go to the $50,000 Foosball tournament in Vegas, but his partner breaks his hand. Along comes McNichol, but can a GIRL play Foosball? The story turns surreal when the Foosball scenes are in action. The Foosmen spin in slow motion. Also, Garrett has a secret move, that no one else in the history of Foosball has ever come up with or has a defense for, a bizarre move in which the Foosball itself flies over the men and goes straight into the goal.
I went to the wedding in Nowheresville, NV this weekend. I got by without the DVDs, but the coffee was unforgivable. I left Friday morning and returned Sunday evening, so I only got 8 DVDs in this week.
178 DVDs down, 322 to go. 141 days in, 224 to go. The pace is now at 10.06 per week. I have to get this number under 10 again. 11 this week.