REVIEW: Sisters on Track [2021]

Run through the line. You must always be hesitant about stories dealing with the charity of multi-millionaires that never questions the systemic issues behind such “selfless acts” because they can often make it seem like those acts are a part of a working system. They’re not. Is it great that Tai, Rainn, and Brooke Sheppard‘s lives were forever changed after Tyler Perry gifted their mother Tonia Handy a Brooklyn apartment with two years’ worth of rent covered? Yes. Is it great that their Junior Olympic track and field victories landed…

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REVIEW: 12 Mighty Orphans [2021]

Optimism. Sports-writer Jim Dent had the best of both worlds when deciding to write the book Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football. He had a ragtag bunch of kids languishing in a Texas orphanage that was able to find the self-respect and courage necessary to overcome the stigma the label “orphan” possessed on and off the field in 1927 as well as a leader in Coach Rusty Russell who would end up revolutionizing football with the advent of the spread offense.…

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REVIEW: Safety [2020]

I am a winner. Anyone who’s played organized sports is familiar with their clichés. Whether “fighting in the trenches” as though a game is akin to war or loyalty and love transforming your teammates and coaches into a second family (the same rhetoric employers use as a means to get you to willingly sacrifice more than your compensation contractually demands), these platitudes are used to confirm that “we” is stronger than “I.” The result is two-fold: we do make priceless relationships from those experiences, but also sometimes find ourselves stripped…

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REVIEW: Embattled [2020]

More than myself. You’re either a sucker for films like director Nick Sarkisov and screenwriter David McKenna‘s Embattled or you’re not. I’m the former—a fact that’s proven especially true when the filmmakers are willing to use the fighting drama genre as a means to provide something more than just an adversarial winner takes all ambition. So I was hooked pretty much from the first scene as Cash Boykin (Stephen Dorff) runs his mouth on the way to the Octagon, pumping himself up with the crowd as his son Jett (Darren…

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FANTASIA20 REVIEW: Chihuo Quan Wang [Chasing Dream] [2019]

Don’t drown yourself in mistakes from the past. We live in an era where celebrity has become more about fame than talent as those wishing for adulation do what they can to mimic the greats that came before them without ever worrying about proving whether they possess an ounce of originality. You want to impress the judges on “American Idol”? Show them you can be Madonna, Lady Gaga, and Rihanna all at once. You want to be the talk of the fighting world by unleashing your strength in the Ultimate…

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REVIEW: The Way Back [2020]

I don’t think I can help you. This isn’t a sports movie. While a lot of similar films (troubled adult is asked to coach a bunch of troubled kids en route to everyone finding an identity and purpose they couldn’t before) do try to distance themselves from that stigma, The Way Back seems intentionally built upon this separation. When all is said and done, there’s barely any basketball on-screen at all besides close-ups showing a full press defense and practices showing player strengths and weaknesses. The bulk of the games…

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REVIEW: Olympic Dreams [2020]

I really want it to be that thing I want it to be. Director Jeremy Teicher and writer/actor Alexi Pappas already made a film about the latter’s Olympic ambitions entitled Tracktown. Shot two years before she placed 17th in the women’s 10,000 m event at the 2016 Rio Olympics, it dealt with a physically injured athlete forced into taking a break amidst the chaos of Olympic Trials preparation. It was therefore only natural that the pair would choose to tackle a story dealing with the psychological and emotional experience of…

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REVIEW: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) [2019]

What is courage? Even when the Taliban was driven out of Afghanistan, young girls still weren’t guaranteed an education and those from strict families past the age of thirteen were generally not allowed to leave their homes. The reason: a patriarchal sense of “honor.” Parents can’t risk their daughters being kidnapped on their way to school because of how such an act would ruin their reputation. While sons are at university, someone has to earn a living to keep food on the table. Just because the Taliban wasn’t enforcing a…

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REVIEW: Ford v Ferrari [2019]

I’ll have you home for meatloaf and gravy. The man at the center of James Mangold‘s Ford v Ferrari is Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a former driver turned racecar designer forced into retirement by a heart condition exacerbated by the difficulties of his high-speed sport of choice. His narrative importance lies in being the connective tissue between Ken Miles (Christian Bale as his close friend and colleague) and Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts as a man who needs no introduction) once the titular war at Le Mans gets underway. His…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: Foosballers [2019]

“It was truly like a religion” Sports documentaries are generally allowed to make some assumptions. Talk about baseball, football, basketball, hockey, or soccer can gloss over the structural details and rulebooks because those coming to watch a story about a certain player or team are already fans of the game itself. When you move into a fringe sport in the vein of foosball, however, filmmakers like Joe Heslinga can’t afford that luxury. So he and writer Mike Wagstaffe must find a balance between the personalities of the top players, the…

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BIFF19 REVIEW: A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem [2019]

It is the hardest thing to walk away from. Everything in this world comes down to control and that’s what makes the work being done by minority classes (gender, race, sexuality, religion, etc.) so important today. When those in power look the same (white, male, old), there’s little room to want to look outside their sphere of influence and recognize their impact upon anyone else but themselves. That’s where the manipulations come in and why they’ve become as easy to perform as breathing. And it all compounds in the case…

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