Chuck (US – 2016) – Short Review

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Chuck (it was titled the The Bleeder when shown at TIFF in September)is based upon the real life story of heavyweight boxer Chuck Wepner who had a shot at glory in 1975 facing Muhammad Ali in the ring and making it to the 15th round.

Directed by Philippe Falardeau (The good lie) it stars Liev Schreiber (Spotlight, X-Men), Naomi Watts and Ron Perlman (Hellboy). It is said that Wepner’s story was influential in the Making of Rocky (1976). At least that is what he wants us to believe.

We are witnesses to the preceding, then the fight and the ensuing downfall. The depiction of 1970’s era is honest, the performances are enjoyable, especially Perlman as the manager. A colorful manager is a must to any boxing film.

Chuck is a pedestrian ride narrated with with a great dose of narcissism, but in such a self-deprecating way it ultimately becomes sympathetic. Chuck is much about trusting the word of the one telling the story…

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Finland – 2016)

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Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen’s first feature, The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, won top prize of Cannes Film Festival’ Un certain Regard in 2016. As Finland’s submission to the Academy Awards, it made it to the infamous short list of nine before being cut out when it came down to five. It should have been in.

 

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki is based on real events. In 1962 Mäki got a shot at the World Featherweight boxing title becoming the hero of a nation. But on the way, because of love, he partly lost the will to fight.

Kuosmanen’s film, poetically shot in glorious black and white by Continue reading

Fantasia 2016 : Fourth place (South Korea)

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In Ji-woo Jung’s Fourth Place, Young Jun-Ho’s mother sees her son as a potential swimming champion, leaving him in the hands of a merciless coach, thus opening the door to moral and physical abuse.

Carefully crafted, structured with simplicity in a straight forward fashion, Fourth Place throws a punch at bullying by exposing the process (there is a beautiful 20 minutes prologue with the coach as a young man) leading to such anomaly.

Built on strong performances by the leads Continue reading

Football films #1 :Two Half-Times in Hell (Hungary – 1962))

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Legendary Hungarian director Zoltan Fabri’s Two Half-Times in Hell (aka The Last Goal, original title: Két félidő a pokolban ) is a deliberately inaccurate retelling of the real life 1942 European football match (Dubbed the Death Match) between a German soldier team and an Ukrainian War prisoners team made of former footballers of Kiev  Lokomotyv and Dynamo Continue reading

5 BASEBALL FILMS

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Opening Day in Major League Baseball is just a couple days away. Except for Boxing, no other sport was put on screen as often as baseball,  America’s pastime. Instead of writing about the most popular titles like The Natural, Field of Dreams, Major League or the recently Oscar-nominated Moneyball, I suggest 5 lesser-known entries on the subject.

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1 – I Will Buy You (Anata kaimasu, Masaki Kobayashi, 1956)

A professional baseball scout is entitled to convince a promising athlete to  sign with the team of the Toyo Flowers.

Before  his stunning Human Condition trilogy, Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi made this tremendous film about Japan’s professional baseball industry.  It is a very engaging (if pitiless) look at the popular sport in 1950s Japan. Unlike many of his American counterparts, this is not a flattering portrait of the sport as the film exposes all maneuvers by rival scouts to sign the promising baseball player.

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2- Fear Strikes Out (Robert Mulligan, 1957)

Inspired by the true story of professional baseball player Jimmy Piersall, who battled mental illness to achieve stardom in the MLB.

Fear Strikes Out Features some amazing performances by Anthony Perkins ( predating Psycho deranged-character) Continue reading