24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Sports

'42' star: Jackie Robinson pic shows we're 'evolving as a race'

June 12, 2012 |  6:29 pm

Jackie Robinson died 40 years ago this fall. But lest anyone think the Brooklyn Dodgers icon is best viewed as a relic of history in these days of multicutural baseball, a star of the upcoming Robinson film “42” says that the barrier-breaking baseball player is as relevant as ever.

“After electing Barack Obama, it seems so natural we can beat the crap out of him,” Hamish Linklater, who plays Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca in the movie, said by phone from the film's Alabama set. “Every now and then it’s nice to say ‘maybe we are a evolving as a race and a people.’ A baseball movie is a way to offer a little bit of hope.”

Linklater, best known as deadpan brother Matthew Kimble in TV's “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” tackles the role of a Dodgers pitcher who was Robinson’s teammate during the infielder’s game-changing debut season of 1947. (Branca was one of the few Dodgers willing to line up next to Robinson on opening day. Major League Baseball is commemorating the 65th anniversary of Robinson's iconic season this year.)

Brian Helgeland (“L.A. Confidential”) wrote and is directing the movie, which looks at General Manager Branch Rickey’s  decision to sign Robinson and Manager Leo Durocher’s choice to play him in the face of a fierce backlash. Harrison Ford stars as Rickey while up-and-comer Chadwick Boseman plays Robinson.

Linklater describes the film, which Legendary Pictures is financing and Warner Bros. will release at the start of next year's baseball season, as “a sports movie and a social justice movie rolled into one.” “Sports is such a great contextualizer,” he added. (The "42" is, of course, a reference to Robinson's number, which has become a symbol of cross-racial heterogeneity throughout sports.)

At 86, Branca is the only surviving star from that 1947 team. His back story is fascinating in its own right. Though he won 21 games that year and was a three-time All-Star, Branca became best known for an ill-fated relief appearance in 1951 in which he gave up the so-called “Shot Heard 'Round the World” to the New York Giants’ Bobby Thomson. Branca later found out Thomson was stealing signs but kept quiet for decades because he and the Giants slugger had become friends.

On top of that, Branca learned late in life that his mother was Jewish but that she had kept the fact from him and his more than dozen siblings after fleeing Eastern Europe at the start of the 20th century.

“None of that is really in this film,” Linklater quipped. “But it would make a great movie.”


Jackie Robinson did something he had to do

Jackie Robinson: 10th greatest sports figure in L.A. history

New Dodgers owners seeks to include family of Jackie Robinson

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Jackie Robinson and his teammates at Ebbets Field in April 1947. Credit: AP

With Kings in Stanley Cup Final, which hockey movie rules? [Poll]

June 1, 2012 |  9:00 am

'Miracle': Click for more hockey movie photos

The Los Angeles Kings have been providing some great drama on the ice, landing in the Stanley Cup Final and stealing Game 1 in New Jersey. But hockey has been a reliable, if underappreciated, source of drama on the screen, too. Yes, there's "Slap Shot," about the laughable, lamentable Charlestown Chiefs, often regarded as the best sticks-and-pucks movie of all time. But not everyone agrees.

Here, then, are five choices for the best hockey movie of all time. Read the arguments, then vote in our poll.

"Miracle" (2004) -- Gavin O'Connor did something novel when he cast his dramatization of Mike Eruzione's upstart squad from the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. Instead of finding actors and teaching them to play hockey, he found hockey players and taught them to act. The result is a thrilling, true-to-life depiction of what it's like to deke, check and dipsy doodle. Also, you get Kurt Russell in plaid as U.S. coach Herb Brooks.

PHOTOS: Hockey movies

"Slap Shot" (1977) -- Racy, outrageous and occasionally even poignant, "Slap Shot" defined not just the hockey movie but sports films in general. But is it the best of all time or just an R-rated comedy ahead of its time?

"Goon" (2011) -- OK, so it's not the first movie to turn a sweet man into an enforcer. But in telling of the transformation of nice-guy Doug Glatt (Sean Wiliam Scott) into a hockey goon, Michael Dowse brings his off-the-wall-Canadian charm to the subject of Canadians on the boards.

"The Mighty Ducks" (1992) -- Vote for any of these films. Just not this one. Please.

"Youngblood" (1986) -- A hot prospect on a minor-league team, a wise veteran mentor, a liaison with the coach's daughter. It's "Dallas" with hockey. Also Rob Lowe and Patrick Swayze in the same '80s movie.



Kings fans yell at TV

Anze Kopitar's goal lifts Kings in overtime

Room on bandwagon? Kings will keep on truckin'

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: A scene from "Miracle." Credit: Disney

Linsanity The Movie? Jeremy Lin gets documentary treatment

April 4, 2012 |  2:35 pm



EXCLUSIVE: The Linsanity that Jeremy Lin touched off this winter has faded, a casualty of the New York Knicks point guard’s drop in productivity and the recent knee surgery that ended his regular season.

But the surreal period in which a former bench warmer led the Knicks on a seven-game winning streak while helping a lot of headline writers show off will live on, at least if Hollywood has anything to do with it.

Lin is the subject of a documentary that is being pitched to distributors in Hollywood by agency CAA; footage is currently being assembled.

According to a person familiar with the pitch who was not authorized to talk about it publicly, the movie (no firm title yet, so let your pun-riddled imagination run wild) looks both at Lin's unlikely run in the NBA as well at his humble background. Los Angeles-born and Palo-Alto raised, Lin shone at Harvard after being passed over by recruiters at college powerhouses, then bounced around pro basketball as an undrafted free agent before landing with the Knicks. The movie will also include elements of his Christian faith.

The Lin doc is being directed by Evan Jackson Leong, Lin’s friend and a filmmaker in his own right. A former assistant to “Fast and Furious” franchise director Justin Lin (no relation), Leong previously directed a documentary about Christianity in Asia titled "1040" and also has been shooting Lin for years. (A message left at Leong's production company was not returned Wednesday afternoon.) The film will be produced by  408 Films and Endgame Entertainment, which previously produced the Oscar favorite "An Education" and the documentary "Every Little Step;" it's currently working on a documentary series about American sports for HBO.

It won’t be the first time Lin will be seen outside the precincts of SportsCenter. Lin is active on YouTube, regularly posting videos to his own account. In addition, a series of "Day in the Life" videos, made with Leong's help when Lin was still a struggling backup with the Golden State Warriors, became a viral sensation after No. 17 hit it big with the Knicks.

Lin proved endlessly fascinating when he came out of nowhere earlier this year, showing unbridled enthusiasm while netting at least 20 points and seven assists in his first five starts. But does that interest live on, and will it be enough to sustain a theatrical or high-profile television documentary? Lin’s basketball future is also cloudy — he’s a free agent after this year — so we’ll see if the movie can, Lin-style, get by on large amounts of grit. Spike Lee, if ever there was a film project calling your name ....


Linsanity: Jeremy Lin by the numbers

Jeremy Lin: Is he Neo from 'The Matrix?'

Jeremy Lin scores for TV, Twitter and the Knicks

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Jeremy Lin. Credit: Getty Images

Oscars 2012: 'Undefeated' filmmakers say sorry for the F-bomb

February 26, 2012 |  8:32 pm


The makers of “Undefeated,” which won the Oscar for documentary feature Sunday, may have gotten off to a rocky start when accepting their Academy Awards on stage: They dropped the F-bomb, for starters, were bleeped out and their speech was cut off at 45 seconds. But Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin and Richard Middlemas were charming, if a bit apologetic, backstage.

“It wasn’t the classiest thing,” admitted Martin. “But it did come from the heart.”

Their film about an inner-city football team at Manassas High School in North Memphis, Tenn., had a good deal of heart as well. Lindsay said they’d wanted to dedicate the award, when accepting it, to the community of North Memphis, but they’d gotten cut off prematurely.

Oscars: Red Carpet | Quotes | Key Scenes Ballot | Cheat Sheet | Winners

“It was heartbreaking,” said Lindsay. “Because we wouldn’t be here without them.”

“We can’t thank the community of North Memphis enough,” added Martin.

The team at Manassas High is all black; volunteer coach Bill Courtney is white. Martin said the film wasn’t initially meant to make a pointed political or social statement, but he’s pleased it’s sparked discussion of such issues. “When we got there and saw race and class was not an issue for the coach and volunteer players, for us, it was not our duty to bring that element into it if it wasn’t an element for them. But that said, the whole point of it was to elicit and inspire a conversation about race and class."

Lindsay threw effusive shout-outs to all the other nominated films in the documentary category; backstage, he credited the win in part to current filmmaking technology. “It’s partly because of the technology — you can tell stories you couldn’t tell before,” he said. “And people are clamoring for something genuine. I think we’re sick of manufactured.”


Oscars 2012: Full coverage

Kenneth Turan reviews 'Undefeated'

'Undefeated' is a provocative look at race and class in sports

— Deborah Vankin

Photo: Coach Bill Courtney and star lineman O.C. Brown figure in "Undefeated." Credit: Dan Lindsay/TJ Martin/ The Weinstein Co.

Prince Fielder's megabucks contract: Is sports the new showbiz?

January 30, 2012 | 10:47 pm

Prince fielder
In the sports world last week, everyone was talking about Prince Fielder, the Incredible Hulk-sized free-agent first baseman who signed a nine-year, $214-million contract with the Detroit Tigers. The deal, the fourth richest in baseball history, is still being noisily debated on baseball blogs and sports talk shows along with an even bigger contract that Albert Pujols signed last month with the Los Angeles Angels.

But the signings put a wholly different question in my head. Why do we live in a time when sports salaries are such a hot topic, but hardly anyone cares anymore what movie stars make? The fact is that sports is the new show business, and the interest (or lack thereof) in salaries is one reflection of that.


When “Underworld Awakening” opened earlier this month, the box-office stories were full of info about its budget — $70 million — and the percentage of moviegoers who saw it in 3-D — 59% — but no one bothered to mention how much Kate Beckinsale was paid to star in the film. Even the salaries of the most mega-wattage stars don’t come under that kind of scrutiny anymore. When “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” was released, virtually every story mentioned the film’s budget, but not the fact that Robert Downey Jr. was paid a $15-million upfront salary.

This is a sea change from the go-go days in the mid-1990s, when movie star salaries were a front-burner concern. When then-Columbia Pictures chief Mark Canton paid Jim Carrey an unprecedented $20 million to play the lead in the dark comedy “The Cable Guy,” it was headline-grabbing news, especially because rival studio chiefs were apoplectic, seeing the salary hike as a sign of approaching apocalypse.

In hindsight, the doomsday talk was a tad melodramatic, even though Columbia took a bath on “Cable Guy,” despite Carrey’s presence on the marquee. It took studios at least a full decade to realize that movie stars were, by and large, a lousy bet.

Some in Hollywood see the lack of curiosity in movie star salaries as a sign of the star’s fading relevance in our culture. One studio chief speculated that we live in an era where moviegoers are more interested in characters than the people who play them. “We used to build movies around the stars,” one studio head explained. “But now we develop characters and superheroes — and then figure out which actor best fits the mold.”

If you look at the upcoming aspiring blockbusters, they are largely movie-star-free extravaganzas. With the exception of “Men in Black 3,” which has Will Smith front and center, the films are driven by concept and character, whether it’s Disney’s “John Carter,” Universal’s “Battleship,” Warners’ “The Dark Knight Rises,” Fox’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” or Paramount’s “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”

With stars no longer at the nexus of the deal-making decisions, their salaries have lost a lot of news-worthy luster. In fact, if there is any one key reason why baseball signings are making news while movie star salary stories have dropped off the charts it’s that baseball salaries are skyrocketing while Hollywood salaries are in decline.

In sports, business is booming because the biggest value in today’s media world is live sports entertainment. The NFL just concluded a new round of billion-dollar TV deals, which in turn will generate higher salaries for football stars. The same goes for the NBA and MLB.

When Frank McCourt bought the Dodgers in 2004, he paid $430 million. Today, with the team being auctioned off to the highest bidder, insiders say the new owner could easily pay $1.5 billion for the team. The Dodgers are worth it because the new owner will reap a bonanza from a rich new TV deal. The TV money is fueling all the salary inflation. The Angels were able to sign a 10-year, $240-million deal with Pujols in December because the team signed a lucrative new TV deal with Fox.

The parallels between the two businesses are striking. Knowing they had tons of cash pouring in from their new TV deal, the Angels used it to buy the biggest star in the business. The same thing happened in the 1990s and early 2000s when the studios, flush with cash from home video and DVD revenues, used the money to chase after big-name talent, prompting a series of bidding wars. Now that star salaries are in decline, the media has turned its attention elsewhere. When it comes to sexy business stories, a XXXL-sized ballplayer getting $214 million has a lot more heat than the news that Tom Cruise, who made $70 million for “MI3,” is getting less than a fifth of that for “MI4.”

When stars make less money, the media’s sources also dry up. CAA was famous for leaking its star salary numbers in the ’90s, and every dazzling new salary breakthrough sent a telling message to stars signed to a rival agency — why isn’t your agent raking in all that moolah for you? When salaries are in decline, as they are now, you rarely see the likes of Kevin Huvane or Ari Emanuel feeding any information to the press, as today’s salary news only offers another instance of the scaling down of A-list actors’ earning power.

Today’s Hollywood is a buttoned-down place, a tiny cog in the showbiz sector of most media conglomerates. It’s the sports team owners who are like the studio moguls of yesteryear — fierce competitors with a burning desire to win. It may be a huge gamble to spend $200 million on a pudgy first baseman. But if it takes the team to the World Series, it’s a wager worth making, one with a lot more sizzle than the safe bets in today’s risk-averse Hollywood.


Oscars 2012: Are the nominations ready for primetime?

Oscar Watch: What do Mitt Romney, 'The Artist' have in common?

Hollywood on black culture: Should it be looking forward, not back?

--Patrick Goldstein 

Photo: Prince Fielder, who signed a $214-million contract with the Detroit Tigers last week, celebrating after hitting a double against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field last September. Credit: Benny Sieu/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/MCT


'Senna' rekindles personal memories of an intriguing athlete

August 12, 2011 |  4:00 am


In 1990, I spent two weeks at the Formula One circuits in Estoril, Portugal, and Jerez, Spain, writing about one of the most intriguing athletes to ever live, Ayrton Senna da Silva. Of course, all I wrote about, and all anyone who covered him could talk about, was his relationship with death. Senna’s belief in God and his mortality glowed like an aura about his impossibly handsome head, and every day on the track he did the unthinkable because he was undistracted: No matter what team, no matter what car, he considered it his only job to find his physical limit.

Asif Kapadia’s new documentary, “Senna,” which opens in L.A. on Friday and tracks the driver on an inexorable rocket ride to three world championships in four years, captures his soft-spoken intensity perfectly. Most moving is the comment of F1’s lead physician, Dr. Sid Watkins, who read that aura and, after the death of driver Roland Ratzenberger in 1994, begged Senna to quit and just go fishing with him. But Senna was locked into an exploration of being human that few will understand.

A story from the track, touched on in the film, makes that clear. I was in the press room in Jerez when suddenly on the TV came images of Martin Donnelly, a driver for Lotus, lying on the sunbaked track, still strapped in his seat after his car had disintegrated, his legs mangled in all the wrong directions. I wrote that he looked for all the world like an astronaut that had fallen to Earth, and he was dead. A trackside fireman touched his helmet and backed away.

I bolted for the track, and right beside me, running out of the pits, was Senna. Just the two of us. We ran to the fence and leaped up on it, clinging there. He had a stricken look on his face as we watched the paramedics bring Donnelly back, find a pulse, load him off to the hospital. Senna then walked back to the pits, suited up, and sat in his car, the mystical calm settling back over his face.

The track was cleared again for qualifying, and other drivers, including the fearsome Ferrari team with their new touch shifters, chose not to run. But the first one out was Senna. He didn’t seem angry. He seemed to be in a dialog, he and the car talking to something bigger, his Honda wheezing like an attack fighter. He eclipsed the lead time by an eternity, took poll position, then parked, unsuited, and walked to the hospital.

A doctor came out and announced that Donnelly would live. After a while, Senna walked out and I followed him back to the pits, where he burst into tears.

In 1994 at San Marino's Imola circuit, the day after Dr. Watkins tried to get him to quit, Senna flew into a wall in sixth gear and died of a head injury, apparently the victim of a car malfunction. The intriguing proposition made by Kapadia’s film, and what I saw with Senna, was that he never did find his limit. Given the right equipment, he could have gone faster. Even at the end of such an epic story, one is left saying, oh, what might have been.


Movie review: 'Senna'

Sundance 2011: Tears and thrills from the Formula One track in 'Senna'

A Formula One movie steps on the accelerator -- but with Ron Howard instead of Paul Greengrass

-- Dean Kuipers

Photo: Ayrton Senna, center, savors victory at the Australian Grand Prix in 1993, flanked by Alain Prost, left, and Damon Hill, right. Credit: Reuters

Sports films: Pick your champions

June 29, 2011 |  7:30 am

Baseball had the Great Bambino. Hockey had the Great One. Boxing had the Greatest. All were singular athletes who defined their sport for generations. But when it comes to sports movies, how do you measure greatness?

Sure, there are statistics such as box-office dollars, but every number might as well have an asterisk next to it à la the mythical one next to Roger Maris' onetime home run record. Quite simply, inflation and the ways films are distributed make the playing field too uneven.

Poll Picking the best sports films really comes down to opinion. And that's where you come in.

We've narrowed the choices to five top films in 10 sports -- baseball, basketball, football, tennis, golf, hockey, boxing, horse racing, soccer and surfing. Click here or on one of the images to register your votes for the champ in each genre. Or write in your picks in the comments.

So, let the games begin. The ball's in your court. It's gut-check time. Step up to the plate. And don't pull any punches.


Gerard Butler begins playing the (soccer) field

Hockey movies: The Stanley Cup meets Hollywood

A Formula One movie steps on the accelerator with Ron Howard

-- Scott Sandell

Photos, from left: "The Fighter" (Jojo Whilden / Fighter, LLC), "Bend It Like Beckham (Christine Parry / Fox Searchlight Pictures), "Remember the Titans" (Buena Vista Pictures)

A Formula One movie steps on the accelerator -- but with Ron Howard instead of Paul Greengrass

June 21, 2011 |  3:44 pm

EXCLUSIVE: Formula One racing is one of the most popular sports around the world. Can it also be the stuff of blockbuster filmmaking in the United States?

A movie called "Rush" will test that question. A development project currently making the rounds of  Hollywood studios, "Rush" tells of the 1970s F1 rivalry between the late playboy British driver James Hunt and his nemesis, Austrian champion Niki Lauda.

Packaged just a few weeks ago as a Paul Greengrass film, the director has opted to move on to other projects, say two sources familiar with the pitch who asked not to be identified because they weren't authorized to speak on the director's behalf. Instead, one of the sources said, the movie is being shopped with veteran director Ron Howard ("A Beautiful Mind," "The Da Vinci Code") as the filmmaker.

The movie reunites Howard, who directed another '70s-set true-life piece, "Frost/Nixon," with his screenwriter on that film, Peter Morgan, who has written the "Rush" script. It aims to shoot this year in Europe and could command a budget as high as $50 million.

Lauda and Hunt would make compelling movie subjects. Archrivals who dominated their sport in the 1970s, their most storied square-off came in 1976, when Ferrari's Lauda went out in middle of the season after suffering a serious injury. That allowed McLaren's Hunt, who had lagged behind Lauda, to make up ground and eventually eke out a season win.

Adding to the rivalry: the pair were opposites both on and off the track. Hunt was known for dining with his dog at high-end London restaurants and for a general club and party lifestyle. Lauda led a more hard-luck life, contemplating suicide at one early point in his career and suffering the 1976 accident that burned a considerable portion of his face. His post-race career has nonetheless been fruitful: He's founded two airlines and for a time managed a Formula 1 team. (Hunt, who after retirement did racing commentary for the BBC, died in 1993.)

Continue reading »

Hockey movies: The Stanley Cup meets Hollywood

June 15, 2011 |  4:47 pm


Hollywood and hockey have a relationship as complex as this year's battle between the Vancouver Canucks and the Boston Bruins for the Stanley Cup championship, which will culminate in Game 7 on Wednesday after a series filled with injury-inducing hits, spectacular offensive plays, verbal taunts and a biting incident. (Sounds like a typical day in the movies blogosphere, if you ask us.)

Though the industry is full of hockey fanatics -- Hockey-promoproducers Jerry Bruckheimer and David E. Kelley, filmmaker Kevin Smith and actors such as Kiefer Sutherland, Michael J. Fox, Mike Myers and Cuba Gooding Jr., to name a handful -- there aren't many high-profile hockey movies. The projects that are well-known, such as 1977's "Slap Shot" starring Paul Newman and the "Mighty Ducks" movies of the 1990s, can inspire mixed feelings among hockey and movie aficionados alike. Somehow, the action on film never quite matches up with its on-ice inspiration.

And yet, there are more hockey-related movies than one might think: "Miracle." "Mystery, Alaska." "Sudden Death." "Wayne's World" features Stan Mikita's Donuts, named in homage to the Chicago Blackhawks great, and a cop named Officer Koharski, a sly reference to onetime National Hockey League referee Don Koharski, who was once assailed by a coach screaming at him, "... you fat pig. Have another doughnut!" John Wayne even starred in a hockey film, 1937's "Idol of the Crowds," in which he is coaxed into playing in the NHL to pay for an expansion of his chicken farm.

To see a gallery of memorable hockey movies, click on one of the images above. And to see the Duke himself take some awkward steps on the ice, watch the video below.



Hockey movies: Our Stanley Cup runneth over

What if you went to a film premiere and a hockey musical broke out?

Kevin Smith talks 'Red State,' Wayne Gretzky and why he's ready to leave filmmaking

-- Scott Sandell

Photo: Michael Ontkean, left, and Paul Newman in the movie "Slap Shot." Credit: Universal Pictures.

Gerard Butler begins playing the field

April 5, 2011 | 11:51 am

There hasn't been a good soccer-based movie in a long time -- you have to go back to "Bend It Like Beckham" in 2003, if not before. Gerard Butler will try to change that.

The Scottish actor (and Celtic fan) this week began shooting "Playing the Field," a story about soccer, the suburbs and sexual attraction.  The sport will serve as a backdrop for what is a kind of "Shampoo" set amid American manicured lawns.

According to a person familiar with the production who was not authorized to speak about it publicly,  Stuart Blumberg -- the "Kids Are All Right" co-writer who garnered an Oscar nomination for penning the family dramedy -- recently came on to write a new draft of Rob Fox's script.

Despite the American setting, the project has a transatlantic feel. Italian director Gabriele Muccino ("The Pursuit of Happyness," the original Italian-language "Last Kiss") is behind the camera.

Butler and Jessica Biel play an estranged couple, with the cast also including Judy Greer and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who 24 Frames has learned have recently signed on, joining Dennis Quaid and Uma Thurman. In addition to Butler, Heidi Jo Markel, Kevin Misher, Jonathan Mostow and Alan Siegel are producing, with Millennium Films the producing and financing entity.

Originally conceived as a Little League story (title: "Confessions of a Little League Coach") the project has morphed into a tale about footy. Basically, it involves an accomplished Beckham-like pro (Butler) who after living a playboy life throughout Europe returns to his estranged American wife and child to try to reconcile with them. He begins coaching youth soccer to show his commitment.

But things get sticky when a number of the local women take a shine to him, including characters played by Thurman (Quaid's wife), Zeta Jones (a vixen newscaster) and Greer (a hot-and-bothered housewife). The comedy has distribution around the world and will be seeking a U.S. home.

With the MLS season underway and Champions League play hitting the quarterfinals, thoughts (for some) turn to soccer. And, perhaps, to soccer movies.


Gerard Butler and a soccer movie: A match made in Scottish heaven?

Why is there no great Hollywood soccer movie?

Will a Butler be born?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Gerard Butler. Credit: Hannibal Hanschke/EPA


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