hawks

In light of our beloved reigning champ Chicago Blackhawks being knocked out of the nail-biting Stanley Cup Western Conference Semi-Final two weeks ago and the crowning of the current Stanley Cup champs LA Kings awarded last weekend, hockey season is officially over.

Still depressed about what could’ve been? You’re not alone.

After the devastating loss in Game 7 of our series against the seemingly indomitable LA Kings, I was recently told that it’s “just a game”. But is it? Like so many sports, we watch it because of our passion for the sport. Like baseball, it’s a national past time that has grown through generations. It rallies people together and brings them closer than ever. It’s a chance to bring unprecedented revenue to a city crowned undisputed champion for that year or season if you will. Finally, it brings an unlimited amount of tourism to our city. And who wouldn’t want that?

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As with other films, the background I have about this film was limited. South Africa — nada. Rugby — less than nada. But, it’s an Eastwood film and it has two of my favorite actors, so what the heck. And, boy, what a great film. Morgan Freeman does a spectular job of playing Mandela…he’s less about the looks of the Nobel Prize winner and more about the persona. So, at the start of the film in the early 1990s, Mandela gets out of jail and is elected to president. Apartheid is over. Mandela sees rugby and it’s “whites” only popularity as a way to try and help some of the white South Africans that he determined to unite his racially divided country. Matt Damon plays the rugby team captain who is in awe of the inspiring Mandela. Some believe (both black and white) that Mandela’s focus on rugby as a uniting tool is fooling. The blacks want to know why he is focusing this much attention on a white sport. And the whites don’t believe he is sincere and feel he has some sort of ulterior motive. South African politics are a big part of this film, as is rugby. Knowing next to nothing about those subjects did not hinder my enjoyment here. The story is intense and passionate enough sustain interest throughout. This film is about heart and friendship. It’s about determination and spirit. It’s a movie for all — not only political or sports junkies.

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I am an Anglophile, and I have studied a lot about England and its culture and habits. But, their sports (rugby, cricket, and football (or rather, soccer)) are a mystery to me. This film is about what WE (Americans) call soccer and what THEY (Brits) call football. OK – so I’ve heard of soccer and seen soccer played (well, in movies…) and I know that you cannot touch the ball with your hands – only with your feet. So, when I watched this film, I thought I was prepared for everything I would need to know. Well, I was wrong. The Damned United goes DEEP into the deep recesses of soccer to live and breath the sport. It is a good film. The story is strong. And, not having any idea about the inner-workings of British football did not hinder my enjoyment. The story is based on a real character in British football history…and a real period in their football’s legacy. Brian Clough works his way up the ranks from lowly football manager to a highly successful team manager, finally managing to lead what many in Britain in the 1970s would have considered the finest football team in the country…Leeds United. The problem is, though, that Leeds was always a rival of Brian’s former team…not exactly endearing the Leeds players to him. Can he win them over? Can he gain their trust? I’m assuming most of the population in the UK knew the answers to these questions well before they watched the film. I, on the other hand, did not. So I enjoyed thoroughly finding out what was going to happen next. Part drama, part thriller, all sports film, The Damned United is quite an entertaining flick, whether you’re British, American, a soccer fan, or just enjoy a good movie!

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I have to confess that I really thought this movie was too hokey when I first saw it in the theaters. I was a HUGE Kevin Costner fan at the time and so it was essential I see it. I was 14 at the time and I thought this film was OK, but nothing special and WAY too silly for me. So, I’m not sure if it is age or life experience or what, but seeing it again after all of this time…almost 20 years later…lent a different perspective to this film that I definitely did not have as a teenager. It’s a movie about second chances. About regrets. About living in the NOW. About not letting things fly by you without notice…because one day when you feel like it’s time to finally take notice, it’s way too late. Sure, the “hoke” factor is still there, but it’s not what the movie is about. The fantasy element is just to get to the main point of the film…which I feel is to live life like everyday is your last. And to ENJOY life and try not to alienate too many people along the way because you never know when they might turn up in your yard and want to play catch.

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Paul Newman…Tom Cruise…Martin Scorsese. Heaven on film. A sequel 25 years after the fact, Scorsese takes over for The Hustler helmsman Robert Rossen (who died in 1966) and continues the story of “Fast” Eddie Felson…a hustling pool player who uses his exuberant charm and extreme good looks to his benefit at every pool table he plays. The tale Scorsese spins here is much different than Rossen’s tale of 1961. This film is more stylized and a little glitzier…at least as glitzy as pool halls can get. Here, Felson encounters a young man whom, seeing a lot of his young self in, he begins to groom into being a proper hustler. The protégée is crass and way to smart for his own good. Felson teaches him some of the lessons he learned over the years…though at times the protégée has trouble listening. The Hustler will always remain the quintessential Fast Eddie film. But, this one adds depth and experience to the aging hustler’s character.

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A minor league veteran (Kevin Costner) trains an undisciplined, cocky pitcher (Tim Robbins) whose goal is to get to “the show” (the major leagues). Susan Sarandon as the team’s groupie convincingly plays a women who feels she must train one player per season in ways that have little to do with their performance on the field. This film features great comic dialogue about baseball and relationships between men and woman, as well as star-making performances for Costner, Robbins, and director Ron Shelton. Her role as Annie also put Sarandon back on the map as a sexy leading lady.

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The fun never stops in this battle of the sexes. One of the more famous pairings of legendary screen (and off-screen) duo Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, this one is almost perfect. Written by writing team Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, not much here is out of place or overlooked. The comic timing of all of the actors is spot on and Hepburn and Tracy have fabulous chemistry (I mean, why wouldn’t they?). The supporting role of the wronged wife played by the ever-clever Judy Holliday only adds to the spark of this romantic comedy. Playing a husband and wife, Tracy is a prosecutor and Hepburn is a defense attorney. Low and behold, don’t they find themselves on opposing sides of the same case. Go figure! The case involves a scorned, emotionally abused wife who follows her husband and shoots him (non-fatally) while he’s in the arms of another woman. What a perfect case for not only a great battle between a husband and his empowered wife, but for much comic banter about the roles men and women play in society. Folks, it doesn’t get much better than this!

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I didn’t like Leatherheads much the first time I saw it. It’s a sweet film, but it’s uneven. Is it a sports film? Is it a romantic comedy? Is it a screwball comedy? Is it a period piece? Well, it is all three…plus more. Seeing it the first time, I didn’t like that about it. Seeing it a second time, I began to realize that no matter what type of movie it is, it’s a good film in all of its many genres. Clooney plays “Dodge,” an aging pro football player before pro football became what we know it today. Back in the 1920s, it was college football that was the King and pro was college’s illegitimate big brother. Pro games would be successful if they got a hundred or so people to show. College games would pack the stadiums. Unlike today, if you are a college football star, a future in professional football was not a good career move. Dodge took that path. And slowly watches as the other pro teams around him fall to bankruptcy. He sees a college football star, who also happens to be a war hero, as professional football’s last resort…a player who will come in and bring crowds with him. It works, but then it backfires, but then it works. Enter a reporter who is trying to take down said war hero and you have an interesting mix of characters and genres. It’s not the best movie of the year but it’s fun.

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A classic Tracy/Hepburn comedy. Katharine Hepburn plays an athlete who excels in a variety of sports. Spencer Tracy plays a shady sports promoter who sees a perfect financial opportunity to be made with Hepburn. As their business relationship grows weary, their attraction increases, even though Hepburn is engaged to a dominating man who does not want her to keep playing sports. Not the best of the duo’s films, but it’s still one you should see.

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