Miracle (2004)


5 Seconds Left in the Game.  Do You Believe in Miracles?

It took so long to finally receive today’s movie that I had almost forgotten that Yimmy requested it.  As best I can remember, this is only the second movie that Yimmy has requested, yet a pattern is already developing.  You want to know what kind of movies my friend Yimmy likes?  The ONLY movies Yimmy likes are inspirational movies about the Olympics.  That’s it.  Today’s inspirational Olympic movie (or as we should start referring to them, Yimovie) is a pretty popular and respected movie based around an extremely popular and inspirational moment in American sports history.  As an über-nerd, I knew next to nothing about the movie or the event.  But now you can view this movie through the eyes of a person who doesn’t know sports, doesn’t know hockey, and did not even know one of the most famous sports moments in history.  What will such a nerd think of the movie Miracle, written by Eric Guggenheim, directed by Gavin O’Connor, and starring Kurt Russell, Noah Emmerich, Kenneth Welsh, Eddie Cahill, Patrick O’Brien Demsey, Michael Mantenuto, Nathan West, Kenneth Mitchel, Patricia Clarkson, Sean McCann, Eric Peter-Kaiser, Bobby Hanson, Joseph Cure, and Billy Schneider?

Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) interviews with the United States Olympic Committee for the opportunity to coach the 1980 Olympic Men’s hockey team, and gets the job with his philosophy about how to beat the unbeatable Soviet team.  With his assistant coach Craig Patrick (Noah Emmerich), he sets about picking a team not comprised of the best players he can find, but the team he thinks will be able to work as a family.  He picks 26 people with the intention of cutting six by the time they get to the Olympics.  The work begins immediately.  Brooks attempts to find out how to kill a group of 26 with just physical labor on the ice, but at least 20 of them survive by the time they head to the Olympics.  Even with all their hard work and camaraderie, they’ll still need some sort of miracle just to beat the Soviet team, and I’m sure the idea of taking home the gold is completely out of the question.

One of the best compliments that I could probably give a sports movie is that it actually made me interested in watching whatever sport it was based on.  It’s a rarity to be certain, but I would give this movie the ability to say that it accomplished that goal.  It was every bit of the feel good movie that it attempted to be, but I’d say that I’d give next to no credit to the story of the movie.  How could you?  From what I can tell, the movie might as well have been a documentary for the bulk of the movie.  There was some behind the scenes stuff that I’m sure they had to make up, but watching the making of featurettes on the DVD showed me that the hockey – arguably the reason anyone went to see this movie – was choreographed to be identical to what actually happened.  And it certainly wasn’t going to surprise anybody.  I’m sure the greater majority of people know what happened with the Miracle on Ice.  I technically didn’t, but I could’ve guessed.  If someone had asked me before this movie, I would’ve said that it was probably a sports thing, so I’m guessing hockey, and if it’s a miracle then I assume the other team was better, but we won anyway.  It’d be similar to what would happen if people asked me what happened with “The Catch.”  I’d guess it was football because I vaguely remember them talking about it in an episode of Scrubs, and I’m guessing some person caught the ball in some spectacular way, probably in the last seconds of the game and it probably caused them to win.  See?  All you need to figure these things out is some common sense.  The Immaculate Reception is just as obvious.  Someone probably caught the ball in a spectacular way and was rewarded by getting impregnated with the son of God by an angel.  The story was good for what it was.  It’d be more of a compliment to the direction of the movie that this movie worked because he’d be the one responsible for capturing the moments and recreating them, and that’s where the movie gets most of its steam.  It’s able to still make the movie interesting and suspenseful even though most people know where it’s going.  I would say real life boned them on some parts of the movie though.  You would expect the ending to be a little more spectacular, but that’s not how it worked out in real life.  In real life, the US team took the lead early in the third period (and yes, I had to look up that they were called “periods” in hockey) and then just held that lead until the time ran out, giving them the win.  A movie like this would typically end in the way the first period ended, with the guy getting the final point of the period with one second remaining on the clock.  The movie also makes great use of the montage, pulling those out about three times during the movie to show the team training, but it never really became tedious.

The performances were difficult for me.  Kurt Russell and Patricia Clarkson did great jobs, but the hockey players didn’t really do much of anything other than playing hockey.  Kurt Russell had a difficult performance to pull off, but it seemed that he really became the character and did him justice.  He had moments where you felt for him, usually relating to his family situation.  There were other times where you just thought he was an asshole, like when he was having the team sprint up and down the ice after a game until they literally couldn’t stand anymore.  As for the team, I didn’t really care about any of them individually, but that might have been what they were going for since it seemed as if the coach wanted them to be a team rather than individuals.  But most of the team didn’t have much for personalities.  The only ones that had any kind of story were the goaltender who was holding back because his mom had died and the two guys on the team who hated each other in the beginning.  Everyone else was basically the same person as far as I knew.  They also didn’t seem that bright as it took the whole team half of the movie to realize that Brooks wanted them to say that they played for the United States of America instead of their individual colleges when they introduced themselves.  I figured out what the guy wanted the first time he asked.  But they’re hockey players, so I assume they’ve taken a pretty good amount of head trauma.

Yimmy has not let me down yet.  Both of his movies took things that he knows I don’t care about, but I still end up liking them because they’re inspirational movies with feel good themes.  Miracle takes an inspirational underdog story and recreates it, so I give little credit to the story and more credit to the direction that recreates those moments very well.  Those and Kurt Russell’s performance.  It’s a movie worth watching, even for people who aren’t fans of hockey because it can hold your interest even without the benefit of caring about the subject matter.  You can’t stream the movie, but you can get the disk from Netflix.  Miracle gets “This is your time.  Now get out there and take it” out of “To me it looks like two monkeys trying to hump a football.”

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Friends with Benefits (2011)


Let’s Play Tennis

Today ended up being a pretty rough day for me when it comes to reviews. Not because I didn’t have time to review anything but had to force one in, but because I watched 3 movies and want to do all 3 reviews back to back. These three movies are all comedies, but much different types of comedies that you will be presented with over the next 3 days. First on my list is the 3rd part to the epic and unrelated friends who fuck each other but won’t get into a relationship series. I saw No Strings Attached before I started doing reviews, so I assume I will need to back track to it eventually to write the review for it. Love and Other Drugs I saw and reviewed already. That leaves only one: Friends with Benefits, written by Harley Peyton, Keith Merryman, and David A. Newman, directed by Will Gluck, and starring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Richard Jenkins, Patricia Clarkson, Jenna Elfman, and Woody Harrelson, with notable cameos by Emma Stone, Andy Samberg, Shaun White, and Masi Oka.

Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) get dumped by their respective significant others, Emma Stone and Andy Samberg, at the very beginning of the movie, and that makes them gunshy about any future relationships. Dylan, an art director for a small internet company, goes to New York City to take a meeting with GQ about a job offer and Jamie is sent to try to convince him it’s a good idea. The two hit it off and Jamie really sells him on NYC, so he takes the job. They become pretty good friends pretty quickly. One day, while mocking a romantic comedy, Dylan proposes the idea that the two of them should bump uglies – or in their case, bump ridiculously hot and handsomes – and just be friends. This goes really awesome for them for a long time. Jamie starts dating a guy named Parker, who ditches out on her after they have sex. Dylan proposes that she accompany him back to LA to visit his family, sister Annie (Jenna Elfman) and father (Richard Jenkins). On this trip, their feelings start to interfere with their awesome fuck-buddyship. It’s a rom-com, so you can expect a good bit of happily ever after.

Having seen all three sex buddy rom-coms, I can say this one is by far the best. Love and Other Drugs was too much drama and way not enough funny, and, though Gyllenhaal and Hathaway are a pretty pair, you can give us TOO much nudity. No Strings Attached was funnier than Love and Other Drugs by a lot, and the drama wasn’t as heavy, and Portman is a great actress, but she was dragged down a lot by the not very likeable Kutch. Friends with Benefits manages to hit a nice sweet spot in all categories. Timberlake and Kunis are both good looking enough to appeal to any human with normal sexuality, and we don’t see everything so we don’t get bored with looking at them naked. There is a good deal of comedy to the movie and a fair amount of drama, but nowhere near enough to call this melodrama like Love and Other Drugs. It was light drama, so we don’t get depressed in the middle of our comedy. The pair in this movie have a lot of good dialogue written for them. The first act of the movie is filled with great back and forth between the two stars, and most of it is pretty funny. Their banter suffers a little once the fucking begins, but that might be in part that I was desperately searching for a little more nudity from Kunis. And the search is what I want. Once you give it to me, I’m satisfied. When you beat me over the head with it, I’m bored. Their banter gets back to form getting towards the end of the movie. I especially liked when Kunis was making fun of Timberlake for the fact that he used to like Kris Kross, and Timberlake busts a rap from “Jump”. One problem I had with the movie was that they sat around mocking a rom-com for using manipulative music and all the typical things from rom-coms, but they use most of these staples in their own movie. I’m sure it was done to be a little tongue-in-cheek, but it more served to just point out those things and make us notice them in their own movie. One such cliche is them sitting on the Hollywood sign, although that did end in some good funny. One thing they did that I don’t recall ever seeing is that they had Annie’s son (the aspiring magician) have his arm catch on fire, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid catch fire in a movie. Also, if a movie wants to stand out so much, they should make the girl go after the guy for a change. Do we have to do ALL the heavy lifting just because of our greater upper body strength, ladies?

I had refused to allow myself to say this for a long time, but I like Justin Timberlake. *NSYNC was awful enough to make me hate him for a long time, but his appearances on SNL and Jimmy Fallon made me think he may be able to do some decent comedy. Friends with Benefit only supports that. He’s both charming and funny in this movie, and good-looking and naked enough that ladies and gays would be all over it. For the mens and other gays, Mila Kunis is hot. Real hot. And pretty damned funny to boot. She’s also charming and funny, and both actors put on a pretty good performance during the short-lived drama parts. The things they said to each other in the inevitable part where they get angry at each other would sting pretty badly in a real fight as well. Richard Jenkins doesn’t add much comedy as Timberlake’s father, but he adds some heart to his parts because of his advancing Alzheimer’s. On the exact opposite side, Patricia Clarkson doesn’t bring much drama, but brings plenty of humor as Kunis’ hippie mom. She’s almost as funny here as she was in Easy A. It’s not too much of a surprise that Jenna Elfman does some good funny in her short time in the movie. One of my favorite things she did seemed improvised, when they were having dinner and Timberlake and Jenkins were talking about sports, and Elfman was sitting to the side mumbling to herself “We get it, you guys like sports.” blah blah blah. Also not in the movie very long, but very enjoyable and original in his performance, was Woody Harrelson. He played a very masculine sports columnist, but he was also very, VERY gay. He talked with Timberlake in a way that most guys talk to each other in movies, but instead of pussy, he was all about the wang. The cameo performances are nice, but don’t really add much to the movie.

I can thoroughly recommend this movie to you guys. I got it from RedBox, so it didn’t cost me very much money to watch this, and I don’t really feel the need to go out and buy it immediately, but I will probably add it to my collection eventually. I think you’d do well to put it on your Netflix queue or your RedBox reserve. Guys have Kunis, Girls have Timberlake, and both get a good amount of funny and an interesting enough story, with pretty good performances throughout. If you’re only going to see one of the plethora of “friend fucking movies”, I recommend this one. Friends with Benefits gets “Your breasts. They intrigue me” out of “I can work with that”.

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