Film Review: Everybody Wants Some!! (2016)

Release Date: March 11th, 2016 (SXSW)
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Written by: Richard Linklater
Cast: Blake Jenner, Zoey Deutch, Ryan Guzman, Tyler Hoechlin, Glen Powell, Wyatt Russell, Austin Amelio

Annapurna Pictures, Detour Filmproduction, Paramount Pictures, 116 Minutes

Review:

“Have you noticed whenever we’re around baseball all we talk about is pussy. Now, we’re actually around a few potentially interesting young women, all you talk about is baseball. It’s a little fucked up!” – Finnegan

I really anticipated Everybody Wants Some!! when it was coming out. It was Richard Linklater’s spiritual successor to his coming of age classic Dazed and Confused. Also, Linklater seems to really nail it on the head when it comes to coming of age films.

While I enjoyed the experience of Everybody Wants Some!!, it wasn’t on the level of Dazed and Confused. That’s okay though because even if they share narrative and style similarities, they are very different movies.

This film picks up in the summer of 1980 as it follows a college freshman as he moves in with the baseball team to prepare for the upcoming year. The story then captures their lives and their camaraderie while becoming a team and chasing girls. The film ends the moment the first class starts, so it really just focuses on the main character’s introduction to his four year college journey.

The cast is pretty fantastic and Linklater has a way of steering ensembles into great territory. This film is no different in that regard. All the main actors hold their own and feel like authentic teens and twenty-somethings.

I do have to say that Austin Amelio really steals the scenes he’s in but maybe that is because it is hard to envision Dwight from The Walking Dead as some collegiate baseball star. But his comedic timing and presence are great and it was really cool seeing him do something that is such a departure from his more famous character.

I really liked Zoey Deutch in this but she didn’t have a lot of screen time compared to the guys. Speaking of which, Jenner, Powell and Hoechlin had a great chemistry. The other scene stealer though was Wyatt Russell, who just commands attention without really trying but when you are the son of the legendary Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, that shit’s in your blood.

Everybody Wants Some!! is pretty enjoyable but it doesn’t have the lasting impact of Linklater’s Dazed and ConfusedSubUrbia or Slacker. It is a nice companion piece to those films however and sort of adds a fourth chapter to those pictures that I always thought of as a loose trilogy.

Documentary Review: No No: A Dockumentary (2014)

Release Date: January 20th, 2014 (Sundance Film Festival)
Directed by: Jeff Radice
Music by: DAdam Horovitz

Arts+Labor, 100 Minutes

NONO FINAL FILE

Review:

Many have heard the tale of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis and how he pitched a no-hitter on LSD. Well, this documentary covers that game and also the career of one of baseball’s most enigmatic figures.

Dock Ellis was a guy who didn’t like the system and always used his voice to be a thorn in the establishment’s side. Whether it was the baseball establishment or the establishment of American society in the 60s and 70s.

He was also an avid drug user and alcoholic. He’s gone on to talk about how he never pitched sober and how it helped him deal with the fear he had in being in such a high pressure position on the grandest stage.

No No chronicles all of these things and also how his substance abuse issues affected those around him, whether it was his ex-wives or his teammates. The film also paints an amazing picture of baseball culture in Ellis’ day.

Most importantly however, the film shows how he hit rock bottom and turned his life around. In interviews with Ellis, he talks about how he has moved on from those darker days and used his experience to talk to other people with substance abuse issues.

It also sheds light on how he wasn’t proud of his LSD-fueled no-hitter.

The documentary interviews a lot of Ellis’ teammates and friends and even Ron Howard, who worked with Ellis on his film Gung Ho.

This is one of the best baseball documentaries to come out in recent years. It is definitely worth a viewing and is currently streaming on Netflix.

Top 25 Baseball Films of All-Time

It is almost Opening Day for the 2017 Major League Baseball season! So I figured that I would put together something special.

This took a lot of time to compile and I spent over a month revisiting about fifty baseball films, as well as watching a dozen or so classics I had never seen. I also talked to countless people about the subject, whether online or at ballgames over the last month.

A special shout out goes out to those who contributed to the discussion.

So just in time for the season opener, I drop my list of the Top 25 Baseball Films of All-Time!

Top 25 Baseball Feature Films:
1. The Natural
2. Field of Dreams
3. Bull Durham
4. Sugar
5. Moneyball
6. 42
7. The Sandlot
8. A League of Their Own
9. Major League
10. 61*
11. Eight Men Out
12. Million Dollar Arm
13. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings
14. Pride of the Yankees
15. Bad News Bears (original)
16. Walt Disney’s The Rookie
17. Bang the Drum Slowly
18. For Love of the Game
19. Cobb
20. Soul of the Game
21. Major League 2
22. The Perfect Game
23. Rookie of the Year
24. Trouble With the Curve
25. Mr. Baseball

Honorable Mention:
-Damn Yankees!
-The Pride of St. Louis
-Pastime
-Bad News Bears (remake)
-The Stratton Story
-Fear Strikes Out
-Headin’ Home
-The Jackie Robinson Story
-Fever Pitch (only because of how it shows the love of the sport)
-Angels In the Outfield (original)

Dishonorable Mention:
-Major League: Back to the Minors
-The Babe
-Angels in the Outfield (remake)
-Ed
-anything with Air Bud in it

Top 10 Baseball Documentaries:
1. Ken Burns’ Baseball
2. Catching Hell
3. Baseball: Pelotero
4. The Lost Son of Havana
5. No No: A Dockumentary
6. Pride & Perseverance
7. The Battered Bastards of Baseball
8. Knuckleball
9. The Heart & Soul of Chicago
10. The Life & Times of Hank Greenberg

Documentary Review: Baseball (1994)

Release Date: September 18th, 1994 (first episode)
Directed by: Ken Burns, Lynn Novick
Music by: David Cieri

PBS, 1620 Minutes (11 episodes, including the sequel ‘The Tenth Inning’)

Review:

In my opinion, this is Ken Burns’ magnum opus. In fact, it is PBS’ magnum opus in their long, storied existence. But I also see baseball as the greatest thing in the entire universe and since I am also a big history buff, this massive documentary series is probably the best thing ever released on television, as far as I’m concerned.

Now there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of baseball documentaries done throughout film and television history. However, none of them are as rich and as thorough as this one.

The series itself is comprised of nine movie length episodes. There is also a tenth chapter, split into two movie length parts, that was added on later. Due to its size and execution, the wealth of knowledge and information in this series is monolithic. Baseball covers the sport from its earliest days up into the early 2000s – leaving no stone unturned. He also plans to do an Eleventh Inning if the Chicago Cubs win the World Series. Well… they did just last year.

The film is done in the typical Ken Burns style, which fits perfectly with the world of baseball, especially the really old school stuff. The narration is beautiful, the library of historical photographs seems endless and as you progress through time, the series becomes more and more lively and colorful – like baseball.

This is the series that introduced me to Ken Burns and it is still my favorite that he has done. I would watch this every time it popped up on PBS when I was a kid. Now I have the luxury of being able to watch it whenever I want on Amazon Prime. And since it is just about time for Opening Day, my annual tradition of watching this series has already begun.

Film Review: Million Dollar Arm (2014)

Release Date: May 6th, 2014 (El Capitan Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Written by: Thomas McCarthy
Music by: A. R. Rahman
Cast: Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Bill Paxton, Suraj Sharma, Lake Bell, Alan Arkin

Walt Disney, Roth Films, Mayhem Pictures, 124 Minutes

Review:

I love baseball. I love Jon Hamm. I love underdogs. I love heartwarming feel-good sports movies. So why wouldn’t I love Million Dollar Arm? I asked myself this question before going to see the film and I hoped that I wouldn’t be disappointed. I wasn’t. In fact, the film exceeded any expectations that I had.

The film tells the story of J.B. Bernstein who, in a desperate attempt to keep his sports agency afloat, goes to India to find pitching prospects out of cricket players. In India he finds Dinesh Patel and Rinku Singh, who go on an arduous journey to try and make it in Major League Baseball.

The story was stellar and the script was fantastic. Jon Hamm (Mad Men, The Town) was terrific as J.B Bernstein, while Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) and Suraj Sharma (Life of Pi) both did a great job as the two Indian players Dinesh and Rinku. The real star of the movie however, was Pitobash (I Am Kalam, Shor In The City) as Bernstein’s hilarious Indian assistant Amit. Alan Arkin (Argo, Little Miss Sunshine) and Bill Paxton (Titanic, Apollo 13) also showed up in this film, giving it a bit more character depth and direction, as both played allies of Bernstein trying to get these kids into the big leagues. Lake Bell (No Strings Attached, What Happens In Vegas) played the love interest and the most solid voice of reason in Bernstein’s ear. She was fantastic.

There isn’t really anything bad that I can say about this film. It was well directed, well written, well acted and lived up to the standard that Disney has given us in the past with their sports movies. I recently compiled (but haven’t yet posted) My Top 25 Baseball Films of All-Time. Well, this film should probably be wedged into that list. I guess I’ll have to update it before its release.