Lisa’s Week In Television: 7/18/21 — 7/24/21


The Olympics are here! I know what I’m going to be watching for the next two weeks.

Seriously, don’t ask me to explain it. I just get excited about the Olympics. Admittedly, I do usually prefer the winter games to the summer games but still, I’m just glad that the Olympics are finally being held. This is the year that I discovered that badminton is an Olympics sport and I have to admit that I’m kind of upset that I didn’t know that earlier. My sisters and I used to play badminton all the time. WE COULD HAVE GONE TO THE OLYMPICS!

Anyway, here’s my thoughts on what I watched this week:

Allo Allo (PBS, Sunday Night)

“I have the spy camera! It is disguised as a potato!”

Allo Allo opened with Rene escapes from the Colonel’s dungeon and then being sent on a mission to take photographs of a safe. As usual, it was overly complicated and funny. I think what I like about this show is that some of the humor is very complex and very clever and then an equal amount of the humor just comes from silly things like Crabtree and his greeting of “Good moaning,” regardless of the time of day. It’s a mix of sophistication and stupdity and it’s a good combination.

The Bachelorette (ABC, Monday Night)

And now we’re down to four! The highlight this week was Katie sending Andrew home, then changing her mind and asking him to stay, just for Andrew to turn her down. And that’s why Andrew will probably be the next Bachelor.

Big Brother 23 (CBS and Paramount Plus, 24/7)

You can read my thoughts on the show that everyone love to hate over at the Big Brother Blog.

Court Cam (A&E, Wednesday Night)

More courtroom drama! I complain about this show, some would say nonstop. And yet, it is addictive. Or, at the very least, it makes for good background noise. It’s one of those shows that you don’t really have to pay too much attention to. Each 30 minutes episode is full of so many little stories that it’s basically tailor-made for people with ADD like me. That said, I still stand by my claim that this show is a sign of the decline of civilization in general. We live in dangerous times. Or actually, I guess we just live in increasingly stupid times. Dangerous is such a dramatic word.

Dragnet (MeTV, weekday mornings)

Monday’s two-episode block of Dragnet 1968 started with an episode in which an ex-con called the police to let them know that someone had solicited him to commit a murder. The solicitation happened as a result of an ad that the ex-con put in a “hippy newspaper.” Joe Friday went undercover as the ex-con to catch the killer. Somehow, he was able to do this despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing about Joe Friday that suggests that he would even know what a hippy newspaper was, let alone put an ad in one. Episodes of Dragnet where Friday goes undercover are some of my absolute favorites because it’s not like Friday puts any effort into changing his behavior or his style of speaking. He just takes off his tie! He’s still obviously a cop, no matter what he claims. This was followed by an episode in which Friday and Gannon investigated the murder of a real estate agent. Interestingly enough, for a show from 1968, the victim and all of the suspects were black but no mention of race was made during the episode. Instead, the emphasis was on Friday and Gannon treating everyone exactly the same as they treated white suspects. I imagine that was a deliberate decision on the part of the producers, as Dragnet always went out of its way to present the LAPD in the best light possible.

Tuesday started with a somewhat silly episode about a gang of dogs that had been trained to snatch purses. For those who love campy Dragnet, the highlight of the episode was Friday and Gannon interviewing a victim who was also a hippie and who carried a gigantic flower with her and who explained that she “like(d) the fuzz because you’re all flowers too.” This was followed by an episode where Friday and Gannon once again went undercover, this time to bust a con artist who was responsible for a pyramid scheme. Uniquely, this episode ended with a lengthy and rather dull courtroom scene.

Wednesday started off with Friday and Gannon pursuing another set of con artists. This time the con involved impersonating police officers and selling people cards that were said to extend special privileges. Soon, Los Angeles was full of swindled people tearing up traffic tickets. Fortunately, the LAPD were able to get the fake cops off the streets and once again, Friday and Gannon took of their ties and went undercover to make the arrest. One of the con artists was played by G.D. Spradlin, who would later go on to memorably play Sen. Pat Geary in The Godfather, Part II. This was followed by an episode where Friday and Gannon investigated whether a patrolman had taken a bribe. As usual, the emphasis was put on the police force doing things by the book.

Thursday stated off with a Christmas episode, in which Friday and Gannon worked hard to recover a stolen statue of Jesus. This is actually a classic episode, one that is aired by the retro stations every Christmas season. The statue was recovered and no one went to jail. This was followed by an episode in which Friday and Gannon searched for a drug smuggler whose plane had crashed in the San Fernando Valley. Many people went to jail at the end of that episode.

Finally, Friday’s episodes started off with Joe and Gannon investigating the disappearance of two little girls. It turned out the parents of the girls were divorced, which led to Joe giving their mother a lot of attitude, as if it was solely her fault that her daughters were missing. And indeed, the show ended with the girls being recovered safely (it turned out that they had just run off to see their old dog) and a hearing in which the father was given “reasonable visitation rights.” It was an awkward episode that didn’t really sit well with me. Fortunately, it was followed by a much more enjoyable episode, in which Joe and Gannon investigated a cult leader who was giving his followers LSD. It was Joe Friday vs. the counter culture! Brother William, who thought everyone should embrace LSD, was well-played by a distinguished actor named Liam Sullivan. For 20 minutes or so, Brother William and Joe Friday debated whether or not drugs should be legal. “How many times have you taken LSD?” Friday demanded. “Several hundred times!” Brother William exclaimed, “and look at me! I’m as sane as you are!” In the end, no one learned anything but Brother William did eventually got to prison.

Fasten Your Seat Belts (A&E, Wednesday Night)

Hey, who doesn’t love chaos at airports and on airplanes, right?

Actually, hold on. Both of those things would totally make me and a lot of other people nervous. The last place most of us would ever want to be would be on an airplane where someone is losing it during mid-flight.

Regardless, Fasten Your Seat Belts is a the new, ultra-cheap reality show that features footage of people acting up on airplane and in airports. It’s basically like watching YouTube for 30 minutes, except for the fact that Robert Hays (star of the Airplane! films) is the host. I guess if you’re into YouTube videos of people acting like jackasses and inconveniencing their fellow travelers, this show might be for you.

Hell’s Kitchen (Fox, Monday Night)

For me, the funniest part of any Gordon Ramsay show, from Hell’s Kitchen to Kitchen Knightmares to that motel hell show, is when everyone sits around and talks about how attractive they find Chef Ramsay to be. It happens at least once every season. This week’s episode of Hell’s Kitchen featured Chef Ramsay talking to all the chefs one-and-one and then all of the chefs talking amongst themselves about how sexy they found Chef Ramsay to be. Eventually, Keona was sent home but Ramsay told her to keep her head up high and to keep growing as a chef and, the show seemed to be saying, who couldn’t appreciate those words coming from someone as amazingly handsome as Gordon Ramsay?

Hunter (ZLiving, Weekday Mornings)

Hunter is an extremely 80s cop show about a 7 foot detective named Hunter who shoots criminals in Los Angeles. His partner is Dee Dee McCall, who is just as quick to shoot as Hunter is. This is one of those shows that always appears to be playing on at least one retro station. I’d never actually watched a full episode until Monday morning, when I used two of them for background noise. The show looked fun in a silly 80s cop show sort of way — a lot of tough talk, car chases, and gunplay. At one point, Hunter casually tossed a man off a roof and then said, “Works for me.” That pretty much sums up the show.

Moone Boy (PBS, Sunday Night)

Martin wanted the latest game system but his father couldn’t afford it and was sure that “this whole computer thing is just a fad.” (Remember, Moone Boy takes place in the early 90s.) To raise the money himself, Martin got a job as a “golf ball hunter” at the local country club. Eventually, Martin got struck in the head by an errant golf ball and his imaginary friend, Sean, was briefly transformed into a 1920s style golf pro. Meanwhile, Martin’s father reached into the past and remembered his time as a table tennis champ to win his son’s respect. It was a sweet and funny episode, as most episodes of Moone Boy tend to be.

Open All Hours (PBS, Sunday Night)

Apparently, PBS has re-started Open All Hours, showing the very first episode this week. Arkwright looked about the same but Granville was obviously much younger this week than he was last week. That said, even at a young age, he still seemed like he had been utterly defeated by life. Poor Granville. No wonder he’s always trying to figure out a way to kill Arkwright.

Perry Mason (MeTV, Weekday Mornings)

I was back at the office on Monday and I needed a little background noise while getting my desk organized so I turned on MeTV and I watched an episode of the old, 1950s Perry Mason. This was the one with Raymond Burr as Perry. Unfortunately, because I was working and organizing while the show was on, I couldn’t pay much attention to it but I did see that Perry did manage to not only win an acquittal for his client but he also exposed the real murderer, who just happened to be sitting in the courtroom when Mason announced his name! He confessed and everything! Yay!

Rachael Ray (Channel 21, Weekday Mornings)

On Monday, I turned over to Rachael Ray for background noise while I was at work. She discussed how to make the perfect hot dog. It all looked very complicated but I will say that, if I was one to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I would probably totally trust Rachael. She seems to know what she’s talking about.

Silk Stalkings (ZLiving, Weekday Afternoons)

This is a cop show from the 90s, an exercise in pure style that followed two beautiful cops as they arrested beautiful (and often half-naked) people for committing ugly crimes in Florida. On Monday, I watched two episodes. The first one was about killer frat boys and somewhat inevitably featured William McNamara as one of the bad guys. The second featured an investigation of murder among the rich, famous, and unclothed. It was a fun, largely because nearly everyone in it was oversexed and naked for the majority of the episode.

Tokyo Olympics (NBCSN, Saturday Afternoon)

I watched badminton and a bit of beach volleyball. I noticed that professional badminton moves a bit more quickly than what I’m used to. Still, I think if I had made the Olympic team, I could have adjusted at brought home the bronze.

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremonies (NBC, Friday Morning and Night)

I caught the final half of Friday’s opening ceremony during the morning broadcast and the first half when NBC reshowed it later that night. I can’t help it — I love the Olympics, though I prefer the winter games to the summer games. I was really upset when they were cancelled last year so I’m glad to see them back this year. As for who I’m rooting for — my father’s side of the family is Irish, my maternal grandmother was born in Spain, and one set of great-great grandparents came to this country from Italy. And my best friend was born in Israel. So, I’m cheering for Ireland, Israel, Italy, Spain, and maybe the United States. I don’t know. The U.S. has been getting on my nerves lately.

Upstart Crow (PBS, Sunday Night)

While trying to write a new comedy called The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare struggles to come up with a big issue that could set the play apart from other plays. Christopher Marlowe, who is sleeping on Shakespeare’s couch after having faked his own death, is of no help. Things start to look up when the intense actor Wolf Hall joins the theater (“I’m a member of the Wolf Pack!” Kate exclaims) but the ever sneaky Robert Greene plots to ruin Shakespeare’s new play by tricking Wolf into making an ill-thought political statement. This was another funny episode, featuring a great turn by Ben Miller as Wolf Hall.

An Olympic Film Review: Blades of Glory (dir by Josh Gordon and Will Speck)


All good things must come to an end and the Winter Olympics have done just that.  Tonight, here in the States, NBC will wrap up their coverage of the Games and they’ll broadcast the Closing Ceremonies.  As NBC tends to do, they’ll pretend that they’re broadcasting live but the truth of the matter is that the Winter Games are over and now we’ll have to wait two years for the far-less exciting Summer Games.

I enjoyed the Winter Olympics this year.  I was one of those obsessive people who would watch all of the recaps at one in the morning.  Medal-wise, Norway dominated with a total of 39 medals.  The United States came in fourth with only 23 medals but that’s still 22 more medals than Latvia got!  (Just kidding, we love you, Latvia!)  Overall, though, it was a pretty good Olympics.

That said, there were a few things missing.

For instance, no one attempted to recreate JFK’s affair with Marilyn Monroe on ice.  I thought that was definitely a missed opportunity.

There weren’t any frantic chase scenes.  No mascots were injured over the course of the Olympics.  I guess we should be happy about that, all things considered.  Still, it’s hard not to feel that this break with Olympic tradition left something lacking in the games.

Finally, none of the skating routines featured the risk of decapitation.  Again, I guess this is a good thing.  I mean, we really don’t want to see anyone lose their head, especially not when the games are being broadcast across the world.  But again, it was hard not to feel that lack of the Iron Lotus was unfortunate.

In short, the Winter Olympics may have been good but they were nothing like the 2007 film, Blades of Glory. 

Blades of Glory tells the story of two very different ice skaters.  Jon Heder is Jimmy McElroy, who was adopted by a hyper-competitive, kinda creepy millionaire (William Fichtner) and practically raised to become a gold medalist.  Will Ferrell is Chazz Michael Michaels, who is a hard-drinking, hard-living, sex addict.  Jimmy is all about technical perfection.  He’s a non-threatening, almost child-like celebrity, the type who has earned himself his own obsessive stalker (Nick Swardson).  Chazz is, on the other hand, is a self-styled rock star, as well as being something of an idiot.  In 2002, when they both tie for the gold, they get into an argument that 1) leads to a mascot getting set on fire, 2) brings shame upon the “World Winter Games,” and 3) leads to them getting banned from men’s single competition.

But, as Jimmy’s stalker figures out, that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete in pair skating!  The former rivals may loathe each other but it’s either that or a future of skating in cheap ice shows and working in retail!  Under the guidance of their burned-out coach (Craig T. Nelson), Jimmy and Chazz learn to work together.  And what better way to win the gold than to do an extremely dangerous maneuver that could potentially lead to one of them losing his head?

However, not everyone is happy to see Chazz and Jimmy return to competition.  The reigning champions — Straz and Fairchild Van Waldenberg (Amy Poehler and Will Arnett, who were still married when they played creepy siblings in this film) — have no intention of allowing themselves to be upstaged.  And if that means using their younger sister (Jenna Fischer) to try to drive a wedge between Chazz and Jimmy, so be it…

So, obviously, Blades of Glory is not a serious look at the world of ice skating.  The plot is really just an excuse to highlight the absurdity of putting people who clearly don’t belong there on the ice.  This is another Will Ferrell comedy where the majority of the laughs come from the absolute dedication that Ferrell brings to playing an almost absurdly stupid human being.  Ferrell has the ability to deliver even the most nonsensical of dialogue with total sincerity and conviction.  In Blades of Glory, he’s well-matched by Jon Heder, who brings his own odd style to the role of Jimmy.  If Ferrell is all about aggressive stupidity, Jon Heder is all about impish stupidity and it becomes surprisingly compelling to see whose stupidity will ultimately win it.

While it never quite reaches the highs of Anchorman, Blades of Glory is still a funny movie.  It made me laugh and that’s always a good thing.

An Olympic Film Review: Personal Best (dir by Robert Towne)


Like all good people, I am currently obsessed with the Olympics.  I was hoping that I would be able to post an Olympic-related film review every day during the games but, unfortunately, regular life got in the way and it didn’t happen.  I’ll try to post what I can today and then, for the rest of this upcoming week, I will be concentrating on reviewing films that have been nominated for best picture.

(Interestingly enough, only one Olympic-related film has been nominated for best picture and I reviewed Chariots of Fire years ago.)

The 1982 film Personal Best is a movie that I recorded off of Cinemax last year, specifically so I could review it during the Winter Games.  That may have been a mistake on that part because Personal Best doesn’t actually deal with the Winter Games.  Though it’s a film about athletes training to compete in the Olympics, they’re all runners, swimmers, and pole vaulters.  In short, they’re all hoping to compete at the Summer Games (which, for my money, are nowhere near as much fun as the Winter Games).  On top of that, no one in Personal Best actually gets to compete at the Olympics.

Of course, that wasn’t how things were supposed to go originally.  While doing research for this review, I discovered that Personal Best had quite a long and somewhat tortured production history.  The directorial debut of the famous (and famously slow) screenwriter Robert Towne, Personal Best was originally meant to showcase athletes preparing for the 1980 Summer Olympics.  However, shortly after production began in 1980, it was announced that the United States would be boycotting the Olympic Games and the script was hastily changed to reflect that fact.  Shortly after the boycott was announced, production was put on hold when the Screen Actors Guild went on strike.  In what the New York Times described as being “a ploy to allow the movie to become an independent production and resume shooting during the strike,” Towne filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros.  The end result of that lawsuit was that David Geffen stepped in and financed the film.

This led to yet another lawsuit, this one filed by Towne against Geffen.  Towne claimed that Geffen forced him to sign a “coerced agreement” that not only lost him the rights to a script he had been working on about Tarzan but also left him dead broke.  Geffen, in that same New York Times article, is quoted as saying, “Robert Towne took a picture budgeted at $7 million – ‘Personal Best’ – and made it incompetently for $16 million,” and that he agreed to take over financing because, ‘no other studio would pick the film up because Robert Towne had spent $5 million, and there wasn’t a coherent scene in the entire movie.”

I know what you’re saying.  “That’s great, Lisa, but what’s the actual film about?”

Personal Best, for the most part, is about bodies in motion.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  There’s a plot.  Chris Cahill (Mariel Hemingway) is a young runner who hopes to someday compete in the Olympics.  She finds herself torn between following the advice of her lover, Torry (Patrice Donnelly) and the advice of her manipulative coach (Scott Glenn)  and things get even more complicated when she enters into a heterosexual romance with a swimmer named Denny (Kenny Moore).  Both Towne and the film deserve credit for the forthright way that it portrays Chris and Torry’s relationship and also for its unapologetic portrayal of women who are just as competitive and determined to win as men.

But really, the film doesn’t seem to be that concerned with the story that it’s telling.  The film itself is far more interested in the images of professional athletes competing and training.  This is one of those films that is full of slow-motion scenes of people running down tracks and attempting to jump over hurdles.  Most of the cast was made up of actual athletes and Towne’s camera lovingly captures every single ripple of muscle as they move across the screen.  Watching the film, it was hard not to be reminded of the way Leni Reifenstahl fetishized athleticism in Olympia.  This is a film that loves, celebrates, and comes close to worshiping athletes.  That wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that the film lingers for so long on those bodies that it’s hard not to eventually get bored with them.  I mean, there’s only so many times you can watch someone jump over a hurdle in slow motion before you don’t care anymore.

And it turns out that, no matter how impressive the athletes may look, you do need to tell a compelling story, especially if, like Personal Best, your film is over two hours long.  As written, Chris Cahill is not particularly likable or even that interesting.  Her life revolves around competition and she really has no other interests.  That may be a realistic portrayal of what it takes to be the best but there’s a reason why most sports biopics are heavily fictionalized.  Chris spends a lot of time getting mad and crying and it gets a little bit old after a while.  Perhaps it would be different if we believed that Chris actually was one of the best runners in the world but the film never quite convinces us.  (It doesn’t help that Mariel Hemingway spends the entire film surrounded by actual track and field athletes.  Hemingway does her best with the role but it’s always easy to tell who is actually an athlete and who is just acting.)  On the other hand, the coach and Torry are far more interesting characters but both of them keep getting pushed to the side.

Personal Best is a film that will be best appreciated by people who are as obsessed with athletics as the film is.

An Olympic Horror Film Review: Fatal Games (dir by Michael Elliot)


Like all good people, I am currently obsessed with the Winter Olympics!  As a result, over the past two weeks, I’ve been watching and reviewing a lot of Olympic-themed films.  Today, I watched the 1984 slasher film, Fatal Games!

If you look at the poster above, you’ll see that Fatal Games was advertised as being a film about “America’s Olympic hopefuls … competing in the Fatal Games!”  That’s kind of true.  The Olympics are frequently mentioned throughout Fatal Games but technically, no one in the movie is actually a member of the Olympic team.  At least not yet.  Instead, they’re all students at a special athletic academy.  Apparently, it’s supposed to be a high school, though we don’t ever see anyone taking a math test or attending English class or anything like that.  Instead, it appears that everyone at the school spends all day practicing gymnastics, swimming, or running.  In fact, it appears that there’s only 20 students at the school and, at most, 5 members of the faculty.  Maybe it’s meant to be like that school that all of the clones attended in Never Let Me Go.  Either that or it’s just an indication that Fatal Games was an extremely low-budget film.

Anyway, seven of the students have just won some sort of regional competition and now they’re getting ready for nationals!  And, if they win at nationals, they’ll get to go to the Olympics.  However, they might not even make it to nationals.  Someone is stalking the blandly likable athletes and using a javelin to pick them off, one-by-one.

Interestingly, it takes people a while to notice that the number of potential Olympians is steadily dwindling.  Instead, people say stuff like, “Hey, have you seen Nancy?”  “Not for a few days.”  “Hey, have you seen Sue Ellen?”  “Didn’t she got to San Francisco to see her boyfriend?”

Well, I guess it’s understandable.  It’s not like anyone in the film is going to school to develop their critical thinking skills.  They’re athletes.  Who cares about all of the people mysteriously disappearing?  They have athletic stuff to worry about!

Fatal Games is pretty much a typical mid-80s slasher.  Interestingly enough, it’s structured like a giallo.  The murderer dresses in black and we get all of the required close-ups of the killer’s gloved hands.  The film introduces several potential suspects but doesn’t reveal the killer’s identity until the final ten minutes.

Is it the overly critical track coach?

Is it the creepy doctor?

Is it the nurse who is worried that the athletes are being injected with too many hormones?  (Obviously, she’s seen Goldengirl.)

Is it the swim coach?

Or is it her girlfriend, the swimmer who didn’t qualify for nationals?

Is it the gymnast whose grades are slipping?

Could it be the other gymnast who is always telling jokes?

Or the runner who has father issues?

Or is it Joe, the token weird guy?

They’re all given a scene or two to establish that they have a potential motive for wanting the seven aspiring Olympians dead.  When the killer and the killer’s motive is finally revealed, it’s so over-the-top and stupid that you can’t help but admire the film for actually going there.  The filmmakers obviously said, “Forget trying to make sense.  WE’RE GOING FOR IT!”

Anyway, the main problem with Fatal Games is that the murderer uses a javelin and, as a result, there’s a lot of scenes of the killer running through narrow school hallways, carrying this goofy-looking javelin.  Don’t get me wrong.  Javelins are sharp and scary and I wouldn’t want one thrown at me.  But still, when someone spends more than five minutes running down a narrow hallway while carrying a javelin, it just looks silly.  Let’s not even think about the logistics of using a javelin to kill someone in broad daylight without anyone else noticing.

That said, as silly and predictable as Fatal Games may have been, there were a few moments of inspired lunacy.  I already mentioned the ending, which is so over-the-top and silly that you can’t help but admire it.  But there’s also a few shots that are genuinely effective.  A scene where the killer suddenly appears in a doorway was handled well.  There’s also an oddly dream-like sequence in which a swimmer practices in the pool, little realizing that the killer is floating underneath her.  How did the killer get in the pool, with the javelin, without anyone noticing?  Who knows?  It’s still an effective scene.

Finally, I have to mention that Fatal Games opens with a song called “Take It All The Way,” which is so generically 80s that it’s oddly brilliant.  It’s almost as good as Graduation Day‘s “The Winner.”

Fatal Games is currently available for viewing on YouTube.

A Winter Game Film Review: Goon: Last of the Enforcers (dir by Jay Baruchel)


Here at the Shattered Lens, Leonard Wilson is our resident hockey expert.  He can tell you all about the in and outs of the game in general and the New York Rangers in specific.

Myself, I know very little about hockey.  Here’s what I do know:

  1. It’s played on the ice and with a puck.
  2. There are a lot of fights.
  3. All of my Canadian friends love it.
  4. It’s a sport that is mentioned many times on Degrassi.
  5. Two hockey players won the 22nd season of The Amazing Race.
  6. Back in 2011, I followed Arleigh’s suggestion and watched a hockey movie called Goon.  Surprisingly, I really, really liked it.

Six years ago, I started my review of Goon by admitting that I didn’t know anything hockey so not much has changed.  However, while I still may not know much about hockey, I am currently obsessed with the Winter Olympics.  And, of course, hockey is a big part of the Winter Games.  Since I’m currently watching movies about winter sports, today seemed like the perfect time to watch 2016’s Goon: The Last of The Enforcers and get caught up on the story of Doug Glatt.

Who is Doug Glatt?  As played by Seann William Scott, Doug Glatt is probably one of the nicest guys that you could ever hope to meet.  He’s not particularly smart.  He’s the type who responds to almost comment with a slightly confused smile.  He tend to take things literally.  But he’s a genuinely sweet guy and it’s impossible not to like him.

Except, of course, when he’s on the ice.  Doug is a semi-pro hockey player, playing for the Halifax Highlanders.  Even his biggest fans will admit that Doug isn’t the best hockey player of all time.  However, no one can throw a punch like he can.  Doug’s an enforcer.  His specialty is beating up the opposing team.  When his coach (Kim Coates) needs to intimidate the other team, he sends Doug out with orders to beat someone up.  Doug has no problem breaking someone’s nose but he usually apologizes afterward.  He’s known as The Thug.

Doug is married to Eva (Allison Pill), who loves hockey but, now that she’s pregnant, she worries about Doug getting seriously injured.  These worries come true when Doug gets into a fight with Anders Cain (Wyatt Russell), a fearsome enforcer on another team.  (Anders just happens to be the son of the owner of the Highlanders.)  Cain not only leaves Doug crumpled up on the ice but he also injures Doug’s right shoulder, making it difficult for Doug to throw a punch with his right hand.  It appears that Doug’s playing days are over.  Doug ends up working in the storage room of an insurance company while the Highlanders continue on without him.  Adding insult to injury, Anders is soon signed by the Highlanders and given Doug’s old position as team captain.

As much as Doug tries to move on, he keeps finding himself drawn back to hockey.  When he runs into a former rival, Ross Rhea (Liev Schreiber), who is now making a living as a glorified gladiator, Doug realizes that he can learn how to fight with his left fist.  But with Eva not wanting him to fight anymore, Doug is forced to decide which team he’s going to play for, the Highlanders or his family?

Especially when compared to the first Goon, Goon: Last of the Enforcers is an extremely busy film.  Beyond Doug trying to adjust to life off the ice, the film also deals with Anders Cain’s relationship with his father, the locker room shenanigans of the Highlanders, Ross Rhea’s attempt to make a comeback, and the antics of obnoxious sports reporter Chad Bailey (T.J. Miller).  That’s a lot for one film to deal with and it’s not surprising that the end result is an uneven mishmash of raunchy comedy and sports-themed melodrama.  Whereas the first Goon worked because it kept things simple and sincere, Goon: Last of the Enforcers is way too complicated for its own good.

That said, as played by Seann William Scott, Doug is just as likable as he was in the first film and Scott and Allison Pill still make for an adorable couple.  In fact, the entire cast does a pretty good job, especially Wyatt Russell and Liev Schreiber.  The film doesn’t really work but, for fans of the first film, it’s still enjoyable enough.  If nothing else, it’s nice to see how things work out for Doug Glatt.

An Olympic Film Review: Cool Runnings (dir by Jon Turtletaub)


Like all good people, I am currently obsessed with the Winter Olympics.  Earlier this week, I asked some of my closest friends if they could recommend some good films about the Winter Games.  Almost everyone who replied recommended that I check out Cool Runnings, a film from 1993.

So, I did.

And I’m glad that I did.

Cool Runnings is one of those sports movies that’s based on a true story, though I imagine it’s probably a very loose adaptation.  Jamaica is a country with a long and proud Olympic history.  Since the 1948 Summer Olympics, Jamaican athletes have won a total of 77 medals, the majority of them in individual and relay sprinting events.  However, Jamaica didn’t compete in the Winter Olympics until 1988, when the Jamaican Bobsled Team made their debut.  According to contemporary news reports, the Jamaicans were folk heroes at the ’88 Winter Games and other teams would frequently help them out by lending them equipment.  Though the Jamaicans were never really a medal contender, they were personally popular and everyone was upset when their bobsled crashed during one of their qualifying runs.

That, of course, isn’t exactly the story that’s told in Cool Runnings.  In Cool Runnings, the Jamaican bobsled team is ridiculed by all of the snobs on the other teams, with the Germans especially going out of their way to be condescending.  Their first run is a disaster but their second run puts them into medal contention and causes people all over the world to spontaneously break into applause.  It’s a sports film, after all.  For a sports film to work, there has to be adversity before there can be victory.  Cool Runnings does stick close enough to the real story that the Jamaicans do end up crashing their sled.  However, in the film version, the team proudly carries their bobsled over the finish line while, again, people all around the world applaud.  Even a woman with a Russian flag claps.  And yes, it’s all pretty hokey but who cares?  It made me cry.

It’s a well-done film, one that is unapologetically sentimental and all the better for it.  Before I watched the film, I didn’t know anything about how the bobsled worked, beyond the fact that it involved four people and that everyone had to jump into the sled after launching it.  But, ultimately, it didn’t matter that I didn’t know much about bobsledding.  From the moment that film started, with scenes of aspiring Olympians running across sunny Jamaica, it had my attention.

When the film starts, Derice Bannock (Leon Robinson) is hoping to compete in the Summer Olympics but, at the qualifying trial, Derice and another runner, Yul Brenner (Malik Yorba), end up tripping over yet another runner, the likable and enthusiastic Junior Bevil (Rawle D. Lewis).  Out of contention for the Summer Olympics, Derice decides to try to find a way to go to the Winter Olympics.  Fortunately, there’s a former Olympic bobsledder, Irv Blitzer (John Candy), living nearby and Derice’s best friend, Sanka (Doug E. Doug) is a champion push cart racer.

The film follows Irv and the four Jamaicans on their unlikely journey to Canada.  It’s a comedy with a dramatic heart.  Yes, Sanka may need help getting his helmet over his hair (“Thanks, coach,” he says whenever Irv pounds down the helmet) but the film also takes the time to explore why it’s so important for these four to compete in the first place.  It might be tempting to make fun of Yul Brenner when he talks about how he wants to live in Buckingham Palace but the film makes clear just how important this improbable dream is for Yul and everyone else.  No one may give the Jamaican bobsled team a chance but Jamaica never stops believing in them.

It’s an incredibly sweet little movie, featuring likable performances and a heart-warming story.  I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good sports story.

A Kind of Olympic Film Review: Cloud 9 (dir by Paul Hoen)


Technically, 2014’s Cloud 9 is not an Olympics film.  Though it is a sports film and deals with a big competition and features a lot of talk about winning gold medals and all that good stuff, the film doesn’t take place at the Olympics.  Instead, it takes place at the annual “Fire and Ice” snowboarding competition in Summit Valley.

But let’s be honest.  Would I have watched this movie if not for the fact that I’m currently obsessed with the Winter Olympics?  Probably not.  Would the film have been made in the first place if not for the 2014 Sochi Games?  Again, probably not.  Cloud 9 may not take place during the Olympics but it might as well.

Cloud 9 was made for the Disney Channel, with everything that suggests.  It’s not a dramatic or realistic examination of the world of competitive snowboarding but then again, it never claims to be.  Instead, it’s a cute little romantic comedy about falling in love, pursuing your dreams, and not allowing your life to be determined by an overbearing parental figure.

Kayla Morgan (Dove Cameron) is a part of the Swift snowboarding team.  Since the Swift Team is known as the best in Summit Valley, that therefore makes Kayla the best.  At least, that’s what Kayla believes.  Of course, a lot of other people believe that Kayla isn’t that good and the only reason she’s been given a place on the team is because her father (Patrick Fabian) owns the local resort.

Kayla is also dating Nick Swift (Mike C. Manning), the son of Coach Sebastian Swift (Jeffrey Nordling).  Coach Swift is about as evil as you would expect someone named Sebastian Swift to be.  He believes in victory at all costs and he relentlessly pushes his son to be the best.  Coach Swift has reached the conclusion that the Swift Team will never be the best as long as Kayla is a member.  He tells his son to take care of it…

OH MY GOD, IS NICK GOING TO MURDER KAYLA!?

No, don’t worry.  Things never go that far.  Instead, Nick and the members of Team Swift frame Kayla for destroying an old sign.  When the sign collapses, it also manages to destroy a sled belonging to Will (Luke Benward).  Will used to be a champion snow boarder, until he attempted to pull off a new move called the Cloud 9.  Not only did Luke fail to pull off that move but he also broke his leg and ended up as the star of a YouTube video called “Epic Fail.”  Now, Will works at his family’s dog kennel.

And soon, Kayla is working at the dog kennel as well!  Her parents are willing to pay for the sign but Kayla is going to have to replace the sled herself.  Even worse, she gets kicked off the Swift Team…

So, what do you think happens?  Do you think Kayla eventually learns humility as a result of having to take care of a bunch of dogs?  Do you think Nick dumps Kayla?  Do you think Kayla and Will are going to fall in love and then form their own team to compete in the Fire and Ice competition?

Well, yes, all of that happens.  Of course, it does.  There’s not a single surprising moment to be found in Cloud 9 but it’s a sweet-natured movie and Dove Cameron and Luke Benward make for a cute couple.  Some of the snowboarding footage is impressive.  It was a nice and inoffensive way to spend 90 minutes.  When it comes to a movie like this, that’s all you can really ask for.

An Olympic Film Review: Goldengirl (dir by Joseph Sargent)


The 1979 film Goldengirl is a film that I had wanted to see ever since I first came across this trailer on one of the 42nd Street Forever compilation DVDs:

Wow, I wondered.  What was Goldengirl’s secret and why was she ordering James Coburn to kiss her feet?  For that matter, why did James Coburn have a haircut that made him look exactly like this old lady who used to live next door to my grandma in Fort Smith?  What did it all have to do with the villain from The Spy Who Loved Me and just how drunk was Robert Culp when he shot his scenes?  Even more importantly, why did Goldengirl keep running into that wall?  That looked painful!

I did some research.  (That’s a fancy way of saying that I looked the movie up on Wikipedia.)  I discovered that Goldengirl was made in 1979.  It was originally meant to be a television miniseries that would not only air during the 1980 Summer Olympics but which would feature Goldengirl competing at those Olympics!  However, during production, it was decided to just use the material for a feature film instead. (Hmmmm, I thought, behind-the-scenes drama!  Intriguing!)  The film was released in June of ’79 and, despite one rave review from Vincent Canby in the New York Times, the film failed at the box office.  Add to that, the U.S. ultimately boycotted the 1980 summer games, which made Goldengirl‘s Olympic-set climax a bit awkward.

I also discovered that Goldengirl is nearly impossible to see.  It’s never been released on DVD or Blu-ray or any digital or streaming service.  So, I resigned myself to the fact that I’d probably never see Goldengirl and, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I really didn’t care that much.

However, for the past few days, I have been absolutely obsessed with the Winter Olympics.  Even though it was a Summer Olympic movie, I decided to go on YouTube and see if anyone had uploaded Goldengirl since I last checked.

And guess what?

They had!

Now, here’s the problem.  The two guys who uploaded Goldengirl also talked over the entire movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  The movie looked about as good as a VHS copy of a movie from 1979 is ever going to look.  And I could still follow Goldengirl‘s story, even if I sometimes had to really strain to hear the dialogue over the two guys “commenting” on it.  Still, it meant that I had to put a bit more effort into watching this movie than it perhaps deserved.  It was kinda hard not to resent that.

Anyway, I have finally seen Goldengirl and I can now tell you that it’s a pretty lousy movie.  Goldengirl is Goldine (Susan Anton).  Her father is a German scientist who used to work for the Nazis.  When he came to the United States, he decided to prove that his theories of eugenics were correct by adopting a daughter and breeding her to be the world’s greatest athlete.  Working with a psychiatrist named Dr. Lee (Leslie Caron, for some reason), they have not only turned Goldine into the world’s greatest athlete but they’ve also turned her into a bright, smiling media personality.  (Dr. Lee has trained Goldine, through the use of a vibrator, to always give the right answer when she’s asked a question.)  Now, they just need Goldine to win three gold medals at the Summer Olympics and for PR agent Jack Dryden (James Coburn) to make Goldine into a star.  Dryden is the only person who really cares about Goldine as something other than an experiment or a way to make money.

Goldine spends almost the entire movie running.  There’s one running montage that seems to go on forever.  Susan Anton was a model when she was cast as Goldine.  She’s got the right look to be a celebrity but she’s never convincing as an Olympic-class athlete.  Whenever Goldine competes, we either get a close-up of Anton running in slow-motion with no other runners around her or else a long-shot that’s designed to keep us from noticing that Anton isn’t really on the track.

Really, that’s entire film.  On the basis of the trailer, I was expecting that Goldengirl would turn out to be a robot or something like that.  Instead, it just turns out that her stepfather has spent years injecting her with vitamins and hormones and now, as a result, she has diabetes.  Seriously, that’s it.  She gets pretty mad when she finds out that her handlers have put her health at risk just so she could win a race.  But then she goes ahead and runs the race anyway so I guess it was all for the best.  Seriously, that’s the entire freaking movie.  It doesn’t help that Anton’s acting is amateurish and the rest of the cast seems bored.  Only Curt Jurgens really makes much of an impression, mostly because he’s too sinister not to be memorable.

The trailer is better than the movie.  That’s the secret of Goldengirl.

An Olympic Film Review: Downhill Racer (dir by Michael Ritchie)


For the past few days, like all good people, I have been totally obsessed with the Winter Olympics!  Last week, I asked my friends to suggest some Winter Olympic-themed movies that I could watch and review.  More than a few of them immediately recommended that I check out a film called Downhill Racer.

First released in 1969, Downhill Racer tells the story of David Chappellet (a very young and very handsome Robert Redford).  When we first meet David, he’s just arrived in Switzerland.  An alternate to the U.S. ski team, David has been summoned by Coach Eugene Claire (Gene Hackman) to replace an injured skier.  From the minute that David arrives, it’s obvious that he’s not interested in being anyone’s friend.  He’s upset that he was an alternate.  He’s upset that he’s going to be skiing so late in the competition.  He’s upset about … well, almost everything.  Unlike the rest of his teammates, he’s a loner and he rarely has much to say.  He cares about one thing: winning championships and being recognized as the best.  David is not a particularly likable character.  However, the fact that he doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks about him is one of the things that makes him compelling.  Add to that, David quickly proves himself to be one of the best.  He may be arrogant but, more often than not, he can back up his pride.

Why is David so driven?  We get some clues when David returns to his hometown in Idaho.  Even though everyone in the town knows him and he doesn’t have any trouble convincing a former girlfriend to go off with him, David still seems out-of-place.  When he visits his father, the taciturn man is not impressed by David’s success.  As his father puts it, the world is full of champions.  Why should David deserve any more praise than anyone else?

Standing in contrast to the reservered David is Coach Claire.  Whereas David is reserved, Claire is passionate.  Whereas David is an unapologetic loner, Claire is willing to fight for every member of his team.  Whereas David reacts to a crash by refusing to accept that he made a mistake, Coach Claire is always brutally honest.  David couldn’t be a champion without Claire’s help but, in the end, the Coach is destined to remain in the background while David signs lucrative sponsorship deals and becomes a hero to television viewers everywhere.

It’s a familiar story, though perhaps it wasn’t as familiar in 1969 as it is today.  Today, we’ve grown accustomed to the idea that celebrities can be jerks and that “heroes” are often just manufactured idols.  (Downhill Racer has a good deal of fun with the shallowness of the media’s coverage of David Chappellett’s career.)  That said, familiar or not, there’s a good deal of authenticity to be found in the performances of both Redford and Hackman.  It takes a bit of courage to play a character who is as narcissistic and arrogant as David Chappellett but, even more so, it takes talent to make that character compelling.  As for Hackman, he’s the ideal coach.  He knows both how to get the best out of Chappellett but also when to call him out on his crap.  From the minute we meet the Coach, we knows that he cares but we also know that he’s seen a lot of David Chappelletts come and go over the years.

Of course, the main reason to watch Downhill Racer is because of the racing scenes, many of which were filmed as a point-of-view shot, putting you in the skis as the frozen landscape flies past you.  They are amazing to watch.  I’ve never been skiing, which is probably a good thing when you consider that I’m a bit accident-prone.  But the skiing sequences in Downhill Racer left me breathless, shaken, and exhilarated.

Downhill Racer is definitely one to watch, during the Olympics or any other time.

An Olympic Film Review: Miracle (dir by Gavin O’Connor)


(Back in 2011, Chris Mead — who wrote under the name Semtex Skittle — reviewed Miracle for this site.  At the that time, I had not seen the film.  Below are my thoughts but please, also be sure to read Chris’s review as well.)

 

Like all good people, I’m currently obsessed with the Winter Olympics.  Earlier this week I asked a couple of friends if they could recommend some good Winter Olympics movies.  A lot of movies were suggested but, without fail, everyone thought I should see Miracle.  (A lot of people also suggested Cool Runnings, which I’ll be watching next week.)  Having watched Miracle earlier today, I can see why everyone recommended it.

The year is 1980 and two hockey teams are about to face off at the Winter Olympics in upstate New York.  (The location, to be exact, is Lake Placid.  Fortunately, the giant alligators are nowhere to be seen.)

On one side you have the Russian team (or the Soviets as they were known back then).  They are widely considered to be one of the greatest hockey teams in history.  They are big, fierce, and determined.  Coming from a system that has declared individuality to be a crime against the state, the Soviet team plays like a machine.  The Soviets have won the gold in the last four Olympics.  As one American coach puts it, their greatest strength is that every other hockey team in the world is terrified of them.

On the other side, you have the American team.  However, this isn’t the type of American dream team that one would expect to see today.  In 1980, professional athletes were not allowed to compete on the U.S. Olympic team.  Instead, the 1980 hockey team is made up of amateurs and college players.  Unlike the Soviet teams, the American don’t have a government that grooms and supports them.  Instead, win or lose, they have to do it on their own.

Of course, it’s not just two hockey teams that are about to face off.  It’s also two super powers and two very different ways of life.  In 1980, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were the two most powerful rivals in the world.  The Soviets were trapped in an endless and unpopular war in Afghanistan.  Meanwhile, in the U.S., the economy was shaky, American citizens were being held hostage in Iran, and an ineffective President gave long-winded speeches about how unhappy everyone in the country appeared to be.  Both countries needed a victory but only one could win.

And it would take a miracle for that winning team to be American…

I don’t think it requires a spoiler alert to tell you that’s exactly what happens.  I mean, after all, I’m reviewing a film  called Miracle!  On top of that, it’s based on true events.  The U.S. hockey team — made up of college students and led by Coach Herb Brooks (played, in one of his best performance, by Kurt Russell) — not only managed to defeat the highly favored Soviet team but they went on to win the gold medal.

Even if you didn’t know that the Americans beat the Russians, you would never have any doubt about how Miracle is going to end.  Miracle is a film that utilizes almost every sports film cliché but it manages to do so with such sincerity and such style that you don’t mind the fact that the movie doesn’t exactly take you by surprise.  Is there any actor who is as good at project sincerity and human decency as Kurt Russell?  Whenever he says that he’s going to make his team into champions, you believe him.  When he says that he’s being hard on them because he wants them to be the best, you never doubt him or his techniques.  When he says that he’s proud of his team and his country, it brings tears to your eyes.  If there’s ever a movie that deserves a chant of “USA!  USA!  USA!,” it’s Miracle.