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Friday, September 28, 2012

Paul Thomas Anderson Returns with The Master

Written by Kirk Baird

By the age of 27 Paul Thomas Anderson was hailed as a genius, a wunderkind, and an impressive new voice among young filmmakers.

The film that garnered this attention was Boogie Nights, an unconventional (read: refreshingly nonjudgmental) examination of the booming pornographic film industry in the 1970s and 1980s in San Fernando Valley.

The film brought several future Hollywood stars to the fore in Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle, Heather Graham, and John C. Reilly; resurrected Burt Reynolds’ career; and probably saved the career of Mark Wahlberg by proving to audiences he could act better than he could rap as Marky Mark.

Anderson is back in the spotlight for The Master, as always a film he wrote and directed, a detached examination of a nascent pseudo science-religious movement in the 1950s founded by a charismatic writer and intellectual named Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman).

The film centers on the relationship between Dodd and Freddie Quell (a sure-to-be Oscar-nominated Joaquin Phoenix) as the drunken and violent ne'er-do-well who stumbles into Lancaster's life and becomes a surrogate son. Theirs is a complicated relationship of envy and respect, anger and love, and that's where the relationship remains — frozen in place, as with most of the other characters in the film.

The Master is receiving strong buzz and currently enjoys an 87 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Anderson films don’t come often: In the 16 years since Anderson, now 42, made his first studio feature, he’s directed only six movies. For comparison's sake, Steven Spielberg directed nearly twice that amount in his first 16 years as a filmmaker.

Here’s a quick examination of Anderson’s oeuvre:

Hard Eight (1996): For Anderson’s first film he establishes a persistent theme of his films up through and including The Master of surrogate father and wayward son. Philip Baker Hall plays Sydney, a longtime gambler who takes the inexperience and down-on-his-luck John (Reilly) under his tutelage in Reno. Gwyneth Paltrow plays a casino cocktail waitress and hooker named Clementine whom John falls for, which brings unexpected complications into his life.

Boogie Nights (1997): The three-minute tracking shot that introduces the film’s cast of characters remains one of my favorite opening shots in movies. Based loosely on the life of porn legend John Holmes, Boogie Nights is the story of porn star Dirk Diggler (Wahlberg) and his rise to fame, followed by his steep decline into drugs. The film is also populated with a menagerie of characters with struggles of their own.

Magnolia (1999): Tom Cruise was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2000 as a bitter and aggressive motivational speaker, one of many fascinating flawed characters whose lives randomly intersect in this mosaic set in San Fernando Valley. The film’s emotional core is punctuated by Aimee Mann’s terrific soundtrack, which was also nominated for an Oscar.

Punch-Drunk Love (2002): Anderson thought enough of his abilities and of Adam Sandler that he cast the oft-critically maligned comic actor in Sandler’s first dramatic role as a troubled soul who finds true love, gets mixed up in strange phone sex hotline trouble, and must overcome emotionally crippling family members and other hostile forces to win her affections.

There Will Be Blood (2007): The union of Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis sprouts the expected results, with Day-Lewis earning his second Best Actor Oscar as miner turned rich oil man and force of nature Daniel Plainview in early 20th century Southern California in this mesmerizing film essay on capitalism, religion, and father-son relationships.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mumford & Sons Return (Finally!)

Written by Kyle Slagley

After waiting for three years, Mumford & Sons fans finally got a second round of the folk-rock-Americana that has carried the band to fame since Sigh No More was released in October 2009.

Babel, the album some listeners have been craving since before the boys performed at the Grammy Awards in 2011, was released on Tuesday. As expected, it contains heart-wrenching laments and instrumentals that sometimes sound like a runaway steam engine.

Although the musical formulas for both Sigh No More and Babel are fairly simple, the area where frontman Marcus Mumford really shines is in his lyrics. A close review of the text reveals references to Shakespeare, the Bible, and even Steinbeck while calling on the listener to maintain faith in ideals like love and redemption. Combine those themes with Mumford’s fiercely passionate vocals and the swelling instrumentals and it’s no wonder the group has exploded into multi-platinum territory in little more than three years.

Babel has been met with reviews on both sides of the spectrum. Those touting the success of the band’s second full-length album are clearly fans of the gritty formula that put Sigh No More at the top of half a dozen Billboard charts. The main criticism being that Babel’s sound does not deviate from Sigh No More at all. As far as I’m concerned, Mumford & Sons have a good thing going with a formula that clearly works; if it ain’t broken…

For those who logged on or ran out on Tuesday to snag a copy of Babel, it won’t be too long before we hear the familiar cry for more. Will Mumford really make us wait another three years? How will we manage? Rest assured there are other artists out there that can give listeners their folk fix in the meantime. Here are a few of my favorites to supplement your playlist.

Graceland by Paul Simon: Simon put this album out after spending a great deal of time in South Africa in the mid eighties. It’s a hodgepodge of musical styles, but the blend of South African mbaqanga on “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” makes this track one of the best on the album.

Gord’s Gold by Gordon Lightfoot: No folk collection would be complete without at least one of Lightfoot’s albums. As a die-hard Lightfoot fan, I can say that Gord’s Gold is a good collection that showcases his talent as a songwriter and contains some of the lesser-known tracks like “Don Quixote” and “Carefree Highway” that happen to be my own favorites.

Fleet Foxes by Fleet Foxes: This is the first full-length album by the Seattle group and it contains some of the best baroque-folk I’ve heard. Fleet Foxes enjoyed local success around the Northwest but received quite a bit more acclaim in Europe than the U.S. I recommend them as one of the best indie-folk groups you’ve never heard.

Flaws by Bombay Bicycle Club: Lead singer Jack Steadman has a voice reminiscent of Iron & Wine as is evident on the first track, entitled “Rinse Me Down.” While Bombay sports a different tone than Marcus Mumford, it’s still a good choice for when a mellower sound is wanted.

Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down by Noah and the Whale: The best part about this English quintet is by far the feel-good tone. On this debut album, listeners get a chance to hear the uplifting nature of the band’s music. Interesting fact: Laura Marling, former girlfriend of Marcus Mumford, was a member of the band until 2008, when she left to pursue a solo career a few months after this album was released.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Avengers Unites Marvel Superheroes

Written by Kirk Baird

In a recent interview with Stan Lee, I asked the famed comic-book writer and co-creator of so many classic Marvel superheroes — the Amazing Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four — if there are any titles remaining he would still like to see on the big screen.

Of course Lee, 89, had several he said would make great movies, Dr. Strange and Black Panther being two he mentioned by name. He also said if any Marvel film was competently and properly made, any of its superheroes could be a winner on screen. Perhaps that’s why he’s excited about the upcoming Ant-Man adaptation by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World).

But alas, not all superhero films are created equally, especially from Marvel properties. But those that have worked have been met with critical praise and huge box-office numbers, the biggest and best of these being this summer’s The Avengers. This all-star team-up of some of Marvel’s biggest names — Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Black Widow — not only was the biggest film this summer, but ranks as the third biggest moneymaker of all time. With the release of The Avengers on DVD and Blu-ray, here are some of the other best and brightest of the Marvel superhero film catalog:

The first two X-Men movies (X-Men and X2) and the prequel reboot, X-Men: First Class. The link between these three movies is filmmaker Bryan Singer, the director and cowriter of the first two X-Men movies and a hands-on producer for the reboot. In between these high points for mutant kind was X-Men: The Last Stand, which Singer and his writing team abandoned in favor of the ill-fated reboot, Superman Returns, while director Brett Ratner was brought in at the last minute.

X-Men: First Class was a successful attempt at negotiating around the third film disaster and reigniting the X-Men franchise, this time at the beginning, with a new cast, several new heroes, and a fun 1960s James Bond vibe.

Iron Man and Iron Man 2: With the cheeky brilliant Robert Downey, Jr., in the lead of Tony Stark/Iron Man, a genius, cocky, and sardonic scientist billionaire, the first Iron Man proved to be a classic in the comic-book genre. I’m in the minority, though, in thinking that Iron Man 2 is a worthy sequel. In terms of summer popcorn entertainment, it does exactly what it needs to do: keep you entertained from start to finish. Look for Iron Man 3 next summer.

Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2: I’m not so much a fan of this summer’s Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man, as I feel it covered much of the same back-story territory that Sam Raimi and co. did with the first Spider-Man, which launched the franchise in splendid fashion. The second film was even better, now that the characters had been established and it could move beyond the origin story. The third film, unfortunately, tried too hard to one-up its predecessors, squeezing in three villains and a muddled plot.

Captain America: The First Avenger: With the origin of Captain America as the movie’s plot, director Joe Johnston cobbles together an engaging superhero romp that never takes itself too seriously, and even manages to pay homage to World War II propaganda films. Chris Evans makes for the ideal film representation of the perfect soldier. Evans will also don the red, white, and blue costume again in 2014 for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Monday, September 24, 2012

2012 Emmy Awards Announced

The 64th annual Emmy Awards were presented on Sunday night, celebrating the best of the best that television has to offer. The ceremony was hosted by comedian Jimmy Kimmel, who kept the show moving while entertaining the audience between award presentations. It was mostly a tame performance, the highlight coming when 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan pretended to pass out on stage for a Twitter gag.

The night’s big winners were Modern Family (ABC) and Homeland (Showtime), each with four awards, including Best Comedy Series and Best Drama Series, respectively. Homeland also won for Best Drama Actor (Damian Lewis) and Actress (Claire Danes), while Modern Family won Best Supporting Comedy Actor (Eric Stonestreet) and Actress (Julie Bowen).

As a network, HBO did very well in the awards, to no one’s surprise. The movie Game Change, detailing Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, won four awards, including Best Actress Julienne Moore for her portrayal of Sarah Palin. Julia Louis- Dreyfus won Best Comedy Actress for Veep, and Boardwalk Empire took home a trophy for Best Directing. There were no awards, however, (at least during the televised portion) for series like Girls and Game of Thrones, despite a number of nominations.

Other notable winners included the History special Hatfields & McCoys, which won for Best Actor (Kevin Costner) and Supporting Actor (Tom Berenger). Dame Maggie Smith won Best Supporting Drama Actress for PBS’s Downton Abbey, while Best Supporting Drama Actor went to Breaking Bad’s (AMC) Aaron Paul. Jon Cryer won Best Comedy Actor for his role on Two and a Half Men (CBS).

Let us know your thoughts on the ceremony and the awards in the comments section below. For a full collection of winners, please see our website.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Happy Birthday, Stephen King!

Written by Kyle Slagley

Ask just about any group of patrons to name the most prolific author of horror novels they can think of, and more often than not the response you’ll receive is Stephen King. Like him or not, the Maine native has almost singlehandedly restructured the way the average reader thinks about the suspense novel.

King’s first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974; since then, both his bibliography and his film credits have grown at such an astounding rate it leaves you wondering if the man isn’t eerily supernatural, much like some of his stories. Indeed, King has over 50 novels, twice that many short stories, and numerous miniseries and films based on his writing.

King turns 65 today, and based on his official website he shows no sign of slowing any time soon. In fact, this week a release date (September 24, 2013) was announced for his upcoming novel Dr. Sleep, the much-anticipated sequel to The Shining.

Here are some of our favorite books and movies from the frighteningly masterful and masterfully frightening writer.

Carrie (film: 1976): A high school girl with telekinetic powers takes revenge on her classmates after being humiliated at prom.

The Green Mile (film: 1999): Tom Hanks and the late Michael Clarke Duncan tell the tale of a wrongfully convicted murderer on death row with an unusual gift for healing.

It (novel: 1986, miniseries: 1990): Inhabitants of Derry, Maine, must face an evil clown that terrorizes the town by bringing fears to life. This work is quite possibly the reason that so many of us, to this day, have an irrational fear of clowns.

The Shawshank Redemption (novella: 1982, film: 1994): An established banker is wrongfully sentenced to life in Shawshank prison for the murder of his wife and her lover. During his imprisonment he expands the prison library and navigates the corruption of the guards before escaping.

Hearts in Atlantis (novella: 1999, film: 2001): Published in a collection of the same name, this story follows a boy who helps a friendly stranger with supernatural gifts escape the pursuit of the shady folks that follow him.

Carrie: The Musical (soundtrack: 2012): Debuting on Broadway in 1988, Carrie: The Musical made its mark in theatre history as the most expensive flop on Broadway at approximately $8 million to produce and closing after only five performances. On March 1 of this year, the Off-Broadway revival debuted at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, closing the following month on April 8 after 46 performances.

For a comprehensive look at King’s prolific career, SmartBrowse “Stephen King” on our website.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Page One Looks at Changing Face of Newspapers

Written by Kirk Baird

Working in newspapers most of my adult life, I acknowledge I have a soft spot for print journalism and I fear for its future. I don’t think newspapers are going away, as so many other doomsayers predict; rather, they are changing. Perhaps my fear is for the unknown of what that transformation will be.

The entertaining and engaging documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times is an admirable effort in putting faces to this mounting industry crisis, as major newspapers are losing money and shuttering or slashing staff to keep the presses going.

To examine this problem, filmmaker Andrew Rossi turned his camera to the leading light in U.S. newspapers, The New York Times, and specifically its new Media Desk, a department created to report the transformation of journalism amid the changes from the Internet and social media.

As with any newspaper, there are colourful characters at the Times, none more so than David Carr, a fair, thorough, and tough-minded media reporter and columnist who is a recovering cocaine addict. After surviving the depths of despair in his own life, it’s hardly surprising that Carr is also the most optimistic in the film about the survival of The New York Times and print journalism as a whole.

Equally fascinating to those who haven’t worked in a newsroom will be the excitement Rossi builds as Carr works to report a damaging expose of the upper-management culture and climate at the Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and Orlando Sentinel, among others, and its new ownership.

As Page One: Inside the New York Times suggests, the debate about the future of journalism will rage as it has for decades. Media is an industry constantly in flux. And while experts have differing opinions on what changes new media will bring, everyone is in agreement that a world without newspapers would be a bleak one indeed.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Summer Box Office Recap

Written by Kirk Baird

The Avengers was the crown jewel of the summer movie season, while some big-budget flops such as Dark Shadows and Battleship took a toll on the overall box office. But the biggest losers this summer were the film studios, which watched ticket sales continue to slide. Attendance, according to, dropped about 4 percent to 533 million overall, the lowest number in nearly two decades. Just since 2002, total ticket sales are down 100 million.

Just as alarming: box-office receipts also were down 2.84 percent — about $4.3 billion — from the same May to Labour Day period from 2011.

Of course, higher ticket prices and upcharges for 3D and IMAX help mask this serious problem in the industry: patrons are coming to the movies less often.

Marvel’s The Avengers got summer off to a massive bang with a $1.5 billion worldwide total haul, $620 million of which was from the domestic box office, according to The runner-up box-office king was The Dark Knight Rises, with $433 million domestically and more than a billion dollars worldwide. Rounding out the superhero triumvirate was The Amazing Spider-Man, which was also the third-highest grossing film this summer at $260 million domestically and $735 million worldwide.

On the flip side of these successes was Dark Shadows, which earned less than $80 million domestically for the Tim Burton-Johnny Depp supernatural dark comedy that cost $150 million to produce, and Battleship, which grossed only $65 million domestically for the $209 million film based on the Hasbro board game.

It was the foreign box office to the rescue, however, pushing both films to a profit with $236 million and $302 million total worldwide receipts, respectively.

The foreign box office also helped Men in Black 3 generate nearly $625 million worldwide and Snow White and the Huntsman earn $394 million around the globe. Not every film needed help from abroad, though.

The raunchy R-rated comedy smash Ted, about a teddy bear come to life, grossed $216 million domestically, more than four times the costs of the film. Even better was Magic Mike. The comedy-drama directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring Channing Tatum as a Tampa stripper — the film was based on the actor’s real-life experiences — earned nearly $114 million in North America, or more than 16 times its $7 million production cost.

Small-budget films also found big audiences this summer.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel earned $131 million worldwide on a budget of $10 million. And Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom grossed nearly $60 million worldwide on a budget of $16 million.

And while no production budget was available, certainly the conservative documentary 2016: Obama’s America exceeded industry expectations with more than $20 million so far at the domestic box office after an opening haul of $31,000 in mid-July in one theatre in Houston.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Titanic Gets 15th Anniversary Rerelease

Written by Kirk Baird

Coming out on a two-disc Blu-ray, two-disc DVD set is the love story set to tragedy and drama, Titanic. Fifteen years after its release, the film remains an effective combination of a director’s unyielding vision, an audience-pleasing romance, historical curiosity, and arguably the best use of CGI in movie history with the sinking of the ship.

Written and directed by James Cameron, the 1997 Best Picture Oscar winner remains the filmmaker’s greatest triumph and, until Avatar came along, his most flawed work. Titanic is a 90-minute gripping film with a 90-minute warm-up, but given the limitations of Cameron’s workspace — he had to shoehorn a dramatic plot into a historical disaster everyone knows — his script and film succeeds.

Leonardo DiCaprio shoulders some unnecessarily harsh criticism for his role as lower-class and happy drifter Jack, while Kate Winslet was nominated for Best Actress for her role as upper-class beauty Rose, who’s miserable with her station in life. The unlikely couple make for a likable and, more important, believable pair, and without them Titanic’s sinking is simply an exercise in groundbreaking effects.

But this movie is less about the people on board the ship than the film’s namesake, and the spectacle and grandeur of the recreated Titanic and its historically accurate details make for a magnificent display on Blu-ray. While the commentaries with Cameron, the cast, and historians have been imported from the 2005 DVD release of the film, the Blu-ray offers two-and-a-half hours of new material, including a pair of documentaries — Reflections on Titanic and Titanic: The Final Word with James Cameron — as well as 30 deleted scenes, and 60 behind-the-scenes featurettes. This is a must-have for fans of the second-biggest film of all time.

To complement the Titanic Blu-ray release is Ghosts of the Abyss 3D, Cameron’s documentary capturing his return trip to the Titanic and its resting place on the floor of the icy Atlantic Ocean. The three-disc combo Blu-ray 3-D/Blu-ray/DVD version offers the original hour-long theatrical release from 2003 and an expanded 90-minute cut. The extra half-hour provides extended trips into the rusting and deteriorating ruins of the ship, as Cameron and actor Bill Paxton, who played treasure seeker Brock Lovett in Titanic, dive in submersibles to the wreckage. More impressive is the footage from special underwater robot cameras nicknamed Jake and Elwood as the crafts negotiate ghostly dark rooms and hallways that have been silent since April 15, 1912. CGI effects provide context and ghostly visions to the often-unrecognizable remains, as the ship is slowly being reclaimed by the sea and sea life.

Ghosts of the Abyss makes a fascinating bookend to Titanic — assuming after more than three hours on the S.S. Cameron you’re up for another 90 minutes with the director and the doomed ship.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11, Eleven Years Later

Written by Kirk Baird

United 93 opened in theatres to critical acclaim in April, 2006. Months earlier, the trailer for the film — a white-knuckle and gut-punch re-enactment of the hijacked flight that crashed in Pennsylvania — was famously derided by audience heckles of "Too soon!"

"Too soon" seems so distant and quaint now, especially as Sept. 11 has become a cottage industry in  popular culture 11 years later.

Musicians including Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Tori Amos, and Toby Keith have flocked to the theme. Writers explored the attacks and the aftermath in an assortment of fiction (Terrorist by John Updike and Falling Man by Don DeLillo) and even non-fiction (the bestselling The 9/11 Commission Report). And, of course, filmmakers followed United 93's lead with sobering examinations of a post-9/11 world, including Reign Over Me, World Trade Center, and most recently Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

For a nation that once collectively said it was "too soon" to discuss the tragedy, we are spending a lot of time absorbing Sept. 11, 2001, reading about it, and watching it.

"Too soon?"


With the 11th anniversary of the attacks today, here are some Sept. 11-themed movies and documentaries:

*9/11: The Filmmakers Commemorative Edition (2002): French brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet happened to be filming a documentary on NYC firefighters when the attacks happened, and their cameras captured moments of heroism, chaos, and death that are impossible to forget.

*Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004): Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore explores the Sept. 11 attacks, and the role of the Bush administration, in his controversial documentary.

United 93 (2006): Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum) directed this tense recreation of the heroism of 40 strangers who stood as one against the terrorists who seized control of their plane.

*World Trade Center (2006): Oliver Stone directed this true story of the rescue of two Port Authority policemen trapped in rubble after they volunteered to help the victims of the World Trade Center attacks.

Reign Over Me (2007): Adam Sandler stars in this drama about a suicidal New Yorker who lost his family in the attacks with Don Cheadle as the friend who tries to help him.

Man on Wire (2008): This Oscar-winning documentary details the famous high-wire walk by Frenchman Philippe Petit in 1974 between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers as well as history about the buildings themselves.

Mooz-lum (2010): A moving drama that explores post-9/11 life for a black Muslim in an increasingly wary society.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011): A grieving 9-year-old boy goes on a great adventure through New York City as way to be close to his father, who died in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

*Unfortunately, these movies are out of print.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Remembering Michael Clarke Duncan

Written by Kirk Baird

Michael Clarke Duncan was a giant of a man, whose first big impression on moviegoers was as an innocent death row inmate with mysterious healing powers in 1999’s The Green Mile. His performance was nominated for an Oscar.

Duncan died Monday morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, following complications from a heart attack he suffered in July. He was 54.

A former bodyguard, the 6-foot-5-inch Duncan turned to acting in his 30s, with his breakthrough coming in 1998’s Armageddon starring Bruce Willis. Willis was impressed with Duncan – enough to work with him again a year later in Breakfast of Champions and to recommend him for the role of John Coffey in The Green Mile. The pair would also work again in 2000’s The Whole Nine Yards and 2005’s Sin City.

Duncan also appeared in the 2001 Tim Burton remake of The Planet of the Apes, 2002’s The Scorpion King, 2003’s Daredevil, and 2006’s Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. With his bass-like voice, he was a natural for animated films as well. Duncan provided voices to the 2003 Spider-Man TV series as the villain Kingpin (which he also played in the live-action Daredevil), the leader bear Tug in Disney’s 2003 Brother Bear and its 2006 sequel, the rhinoceros Commander Vachir in 2008’s Kung Fu Panda, and the heroic CGI Green Lantern Kilowog in the 2011 live-action Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds.

Check out:
The Green Mile
Kung Fu Panda
Planet of the Apes (2001)
The Scorpion King

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Written by Kirk Baird

The National Football League kicks off the regular season tonight at 8:30 p.m. EDT with the Dallas Cowboys taking on the defending Super Bowl champs, the New York Giants. Here are a few football films to help pad the season.

The Replacements (2000): This 2000 comedy starring Gene Hackman and Keanu Reeves tackles that brief period in professional football when substitutes took over for the striking players.

Any Given Sunday (1999): A gritty behind-the-scenes examination of professional football directed and co-written by Oliver Stone, with Al Pacino chewing scenery (as only Pacino can) as the head coach, Cameron Diaz as the team’s president and co-owner, and Jamie Foxx as the promising young quarterback, a role that made Foxx a star.

Brian’s Song (1971): This made-for-TV film is the ultimate tear-jerker for grown men, chronicling the true story of teammates and friends Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams).

Invincible (2006): Mark Wahlberg plays Vince Papale, a bartender turned improbable walk-on with the Philadelphia Eagles in this drama based on an incredible true story.

Friday Night Lights (2004): Texas is crazy for high school football — I know, I grew up there — and this drama based on the bestselling book by H.G. Bissinger and starring Billy Bob Thornton captures it like nothing else. Also check out the award-winning TV series (2006-2011) as well.

Rudy (1993): Sean Astin takes on the inspiring true story of a Notre Dame football player considered too small to play and who fought the odds to take the field.

Jerry Maguire (1996): A terrifically entertaining look at the money side of football through the up-and-down career and relationships of a sports agent (Tom Cruise), with an Oscar-winning performance by Cuba Gooding, Jr. as a difficult but talented wide receiver.

The Longest Yard (1974): The original drama starring Burt Reynolds is far superior to the Adam Sandler comic remake about a former pro quarterback now in prison who fields a football team of inmates to play the prison guards.