Mini-Review Round-Up – August 2012

I had quite a review drought to end 2011 so I think the remedy for this kind of post would be to have the post be cumulative monthly. Therefore, after each qualifying film a short write-up will be added to the monthly post. The mini-reviews will be used to discuss Netflix and other home video screenings.

For a guide to what scores mean go here.

The Whisperer in the Darkness

The Whisperer in Darkness was a film I just had to see. After having seen The Call of Cthulhu, which was a short, silent version of a Lovecraft classic, I knew I’d want to see anything this company (known as the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society) did.

In their newest film, and first feature, they tackle The Whisperer in Darkness and shifted from a silent film representation to a monster film of the 1930s approach. In both cases, the style of film that is emulated perfectly suits the work being interpreted.

I firmly believe this to be the case, regardless of your familiarity with either of these very distinct niches. If you are unfamiliar with Lovecraft this is a great introduction as it very faithfully, but also intriguingly in cinematic terms, renders the narrative. Any admirer of film, regardless of what era(s) they prefer, will recognize some of the conventions on display in this film, and as details of the narrative unfold it’ll become clear the choice is an inspired one.

Much of this is a roundabout way of saying that odds are you’ll like this if you go in with the knowledge of what the film is attempting, and you could be a fan of either or neither end of the narrative equation and walk away liking it. However, if you like both it’s rather heavenly, or should I say hellacious? Either way, it’s great stuff.

10/10

Intruders

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I can’t put it right at the top, but when all is said and done, Intruders will likely end up being one of my favorite horror films of the year. It starts almost immediately with a scene that you think will just be a great teaser but instead ends up being the first building block in a parallel storyline (in terms of both time and place). Aside from being a bi-lingual film, the film does a great job mirroring certain themes and elements in the storylines, giving elements different spins in each. The film is very tense but also cloistered in its drama and fear-inducing, which it makes it very effective indeed. To say too much more would be to start giving things away. I think that fans of the horror genre, Spanish horror in particular should see this film.

10/10

Detention

To accentuate the positive first, I cannot, nor can anyone in all likelihood, accuse Detention of being unoriginal or predictable. One of its few perks is that it does not ever make it obvious where it’s going next, and in its own insane way does manage to link everything together in the end. However, the film seems to think it’s a lot more clever and funny than I find it to be. It’s part (sub)genre-hopping horror/sci-fi and mostly comedy but the comedy portion is very forced, nearly all of it. Few and far between are the jokes that work for me and rarely did jokes strike me as genuine reflections of character. Instead the characters always seem to be in a state of limbo between being a stand-in for a horror archetype and a human vessel for a punchline.

I can see how the film has produced divisive reactions, and I always prefer a film that strives for divisiveness. When all is said and done, attempting to please everyone creates tepid cinema. Truly universal stories, at their core, come from a very personal place- so, I can easily see how this might be someone else’s cup of tea, but it’s not mine.

2/10

Lovely Molly

I tend to take my time to even send out a tweet reaction to a film most of the time. In very vague terms I’ll know walking out of a film, if I liked it or not. However, to what extent I did and what I thought of it usually takes a little time to decide. It’s the rare film that plays on my mind for a while.

Lovely Molly is one of those films. My initial tweet about it, when I did finally mention it, was slightly mis-worded: it’s not that the film is difficult to follow, it’s not; the denseness and nebulousness comes in the ‘answers’ the film gives to questions it poses. They’re not entirely clear, they invite debate, they invite you to re-view the film; but they are all chilling and surprising.

The film also features a fabulous performance by Gretchen Lodge, which makes you stand up and take notice.

This film made me realize that there are two kinds of re-viewable films ones that could get massively better and one with a definite ceiling. This film is the latter kind, but worth giving your own shot.

6/10

The Moth Diaries

It’s a bit of a shame when a film that offers a different perspective on a subgenre fails to catch lightning in a bottle. The Moth Diaries is not only subtle vampire tale set at an all girls school, but is also directed by a woman. It’s a slow-burn, which never quite catches fire all the way and it doesn’t really bend convention too much save for the casting and setting. Some of the better parts of the film are the overt allusions to the Gothic literature, from which all vampire tales draw at least some inspiration, which doesn’t bode too well for the piece at hand. The film doesn’t seem to detach itself too much from the source material, and there is an excessive amount of voice over for the story being told. Perhaps the novel is a better vehicle for this tale than the film as constructed.

5/10

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Birthday Movies

As someone who is fanatical about films what better way to celebrate one’s birthday than by taking in a film. I have been doing so for quite some time watching a film on or near my birthday and while some have been better than others many stayed memorable because they became one of my birthday films. Below are some which I have seen. I suggest that if you have not started this tradition you should do so now. With each of these films I seem to remember something about the viewing experience because the screening was on or near a momentous date and thus made the experience somewhat elevated. Some films did turn out to be favorites and as always for an indication as to the significance of the scores check My Rating Scale.

2017 Wind River

Gil Birmingham and Jeremy Renner in Wind River (2017) CR

 

2016 Don’t Breathe 

Jane Levy;Dylan Minnette;Daniel Zovatto

2015 Sinister 2

Sinister 2 (2015, Universal)

NOTE: Was viewed on 8/28 as I couldn’t get to the movies on 8/27.

2013 Blue Jasmine and Twixt

Blue Jasmine (2013, Sony Pictures Classics)

Twixt (2011, American Zoetrope)

2012 The Apparition

The Apparition (2012, Warner Bros.)

I could’ve had an honorary selection, but then I saw this on the actual day of my birth, and it’s the worst thing I’ve had the displeasure of seeing on this day.

1/10

2010 Nanny McPhee Returns

Nanny McPhee Returns (2010)

This is yet another one of the rare sequels that is more enjoyable than the original, a fact I elaborated on in my initial review. This was a film that also made a dent in my annual BAM Awards. It continued my tradition of strong films on my birthday.

8/10

2009 Inglourious Basterds

Inglourious Basterds (2009, The Weinstein Company)

This is without question the best film of the bunch and went on to quite a few BAM wins including Best Supporting Actor. It is a throughly enjoyable moviegoing experience made more special by knowing the time and place where I saw it.

10/10

2007 Mr. Bean’s Holiday

Mr. Bean's Holiday (2007, Universal)

It seems as if Rowan Atkinson is being true to his word and that this was, and is, Mr. Bean’s swansong and if that is so what a way to go. This movie absolutely cracks me up and not only is everything that Bean should be but also has some cinematic commentary to it. Fantastic stuff and still vastly underrated I feel.

10/10

2006 How to Eat Fried Worms

How to Eat Fried Worms (2006, New Line Cinema)

How To Eat Fried Worms is another one I’d put in the underrated category. It embraces a child’s love of the grotesque with unbridled glee yet also tells what could be a very trite tale with enough sincerity to escape the commonplace and be something a bit more.

8/10

2005 The 40 Year Old Virgin

The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005, Universal)

The 40 Year Old Virgin is one of those movie whose reputation preceeds it when it shouldn’t. It’s not a bad film, it’s not a great film. It’s just fine but is often touted as being much more. While not the prime example it’s in the Judd Apatow mold of not knowing when enough’s enough and it’s also not Carell at his best and I am a big fan.

6/10

2004 Mean Creek

Mean Creek (2004, Paramount Classics)

This is a film I included in my favorite films of the decade and clearly it was a BAM winner as Best Picture. It’s a film that not only treats its young cast as real people but also isn’t afraid to make them imperfect in an unsensationalistic way. It’s also a film that with its conclusion is unafraid of embracing ambivalence making the one villainous character more gray than black in the end.

10/10

2003 Jeepers Creepers II

Jeepers Creepers II (2003, MGM)

Jeepers Creepers is a horror phenomenon I never quite understood. I appreciate what made the original work for people on an intellectual level but did not enjoy it and this one is worse still. It was slim pickings this year and I was better off skipping the cinema.

4/10

1999 The Muse

The Muse (1999, October Films)

It’s most definitely not Albert Brooks at his best it almost seems like a riff on Woody Allen that loses steam but it’s not nearly as bad as the IMDb would have you believe. There was a time where Sharon Stone had a string of tremendous roles. Considering what a minor note it was, you can still get a taste of what she was like at her peak.

7/10

1996 A Very Brady Sequel

A Very Brady Sequel (1996, Paramount)

This is lovingly satirical adaptation at its finest. It set a precedent that other films have tried to emulate but failed in doing so quite badly. It’s a sequel head-and-shoulders better than its predecessor, compulsively watchable and hilarious stuff.

10/10

Short Film Saturday- The Writer

This is a short film that was created for a contest Quentin Tarantino ran as part of a promotion for his upcoming Django Unchained. Below you will find the winning entry by Brazilian student filmmaker Edson Oda. Oda, per reports, is heading to USC for his masters.

Here is Oda’s Vimeo blurb:

This is a short film a created for the Quentin Tarantino’s Emerging Artist Contest to promote the film Django Unchained.

“The Writer” tells the story of Pedro, a young cowboy who defies the writer of the short film (me). I used the footage of the film “Day of Anger” and changed the dialogues in order to create this comic book world ruled by the sacred script.

It is a really fun, insightful and creative short. I hope this film is allowed an Academy Award qualifying festival because it’s certainly deserving. I do recommend you watch fullscreen to not miss any of the text.

Enjoy!

The Writer from Edson Oda on Vimeo.

Comparative Analysis: How People Like Us and the Lucky One Handle Secrets

SPOILER ALERT: Since this is an analytical piece rather than straight-up review certain plot elements will be discussed in some detail. If you do not wish to know such information please stop reading now.

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I believe what struck me most about People Like Us is that while it shares a plot device with The Lucky One, namely a lie told (or if you prefer information withheld). The reason this struck me so strongly was that while this was one of the major encumbrances of The Lucky One I feel that People Like Us handled it better in many regards such that is allows the film to succeed.

Now, the first way in which the secret(s) and lie(s) in these films differ is that in People Like Us it’s a far more tangible thing. Chris Pine’s character has just discovered that his father had a daughter with another woman. Therefore, he has to process and deal with this information. He had a bad relationship with his father, felt abandoned, but never knew about this. He has to sort it out himself. Furthermore, he discovers this in light of his father’s recent passing, where he is assigned to give her money his father left to her.

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In The Lucky One we understand the plight that Zac Efron’s character has: he feels that a woman in a picture was his lucky charm, the woman being a fallen comrade’s sister. With his struggles to adjust to life as a civilian he goes to seek her out, to what end he does not yet know. Now, he does eventually come to like the woman, and not the dream, and he does help give her closure about what exactly happened to her brother. However, his secret is not only far more nebulous, but is also one he comes much closer to having a chance to say.

Essentially, if a confession in a film is a necessity you’re really walking a tightrope. The longer the protagonist is forced to withhold that information the more precarious he and his plight become. Now, the external and internal conflicts of People Like Us are so well laid out and the different avenues so well-examined that the cat’s-got-your-tongue situations end up being far less annoying in that film than in The Lucky One.

Also, in The Lucky One it’s the kind of weird thing that you can either explain right away or you know you’ll wait on. However, the biggest issue is that he was so close to saying it and he just got motor-mouthed out of his opportunity upon first meeting her. Granted it’s a hard thing to say, but in People Like Us it was hard too but the film allowed the protagonist the opportunity to make the decision to wait on his own with minimal outside influence.

Neither scenario is really ideal for a prolonged secret, however, I feel People Like Us played it better than The Lucky One did.

The Pop of Ted

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Anyone who watches Family Guy, or really any show Seth MacFarlane is involved with, knows that he and the writers have a passion not only for non-sequitor flashbacks and cutaways, but also pop culture references both ubiquitous and obscure. It’s one of the things you either love or hate about his style. I, for one, love it.

While there’s much to dislike about the now (in)famous cultural vegetables article in the New York Times, one very salient point that was made in it was in discussing Phineas and Ferb and how the writer’s niece would laugh at jokes she couldn’t understand because she had an inherent understanding of the comedic rhythm employed. I can relate to that because I used to do that. I’d laugh because something sounded funny or silly, then later when I’d learned what the reference meant or where it was drawn from that made it better.

Another thing that can be seen as useful about material so drenched in pop culture references is that it does bring things back to the fore. Every so often a movie, song or TV show will resurge in popularity. At times, it’s rather random, at others there is a catalyst-reference in another film.

Having seen a few Flash Gordon serials I was always curious to see the feature film version, but I never had until just after seeing Ted.

I was also one who either sought out older shows and music, but also had a lot of things introduced to me by my parents. If some kids are disinclined to be culturally indoctrinated in any way, shape or form a film like this; if parents approve of course, could create talking points. I know I already explained to a younger friend the significance and the funniness of the Teddy Ruxpin joke.

The more instantaneous, in many ways, the world gets the more important it can be to recall certain touchstones of the past regardless of what the subject. Whether it be something meaningful like the significance of the Berlin Wall coming down or who’s Tom Skerrit.

Time is a continuum not a vacuum, creating art in a vacuum can be a precarious, needless to say many artists do watch, read and listen to other artists in bygone eras, and whether consciously or unconsciously that exposure influences what is created now. However, literal referencing of said artistic influence, no matter how great or small, underlines a specific figure or work in the past that someone can glean something from.

Therein lies the significance of noting it. Rather than tirelessly discuss each reference I caught, I’ll list them below. A few of them added thanks to that same friend who saw it quite a few times more than me.

Pop Culture References in Ted:

Hasbro
Family Guy cast members
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Norah Jones
ALF
Johnny Carson
Belinda Carlisle video
The Notebook
Star Wars
Tintin (Destination Moon)
Saturday Night Fever flashback
Garfield
Tom Skerrit
Ryan Reynolds
E.T.
Jesus?
Peter Griffin (References as character in dialogue)
“This is art.”
Lance Armstrong’s
Veiled North by Northwest chase
Fenway Park
Scrabble
Spongebob Squarepants
Taylor Lautner

Music

Ted Is Captured / Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Flash’s Theme – Queen
Only Wanna Be With You – Hootie And The Blowfish
Come Away With Me – Norah Jones
All Time High (From The Motion Picture Octopussy) – Rita Coolidge
I Think We’re Alone Now – Tiffany

The Spirit of Little League

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ESPN’s series of documentaries 30 for 30 tackled the 30 biggest stories in sports since ESPN’s launch in 1979, and many acclaimed filmmakers took the helm. The ESPN Films brand have since spun off to further sports docs. While I have not been able to catch all of them I have seen many and the series of films has been even more fascinating and riveting than many anticipated (Note: many of these films now stream on Netflix).

Little Big Men,the tale of the Kirkland, Washington team that captured the 1982 Little League World Series title, originally aired, interestingly enough, after this 2011 tournament’s completion; which made sense since most of the film dealt with their lives after the championship was claimed, and how the sociopolitical climate was ripe for these kids to be put on a pedestal, which made them heroes and symbols to be looked up to, and then taken down.

As is typically the case, there are mixed emotions in this film. All the players loved the experience and were still glad to have won in spite of the unforeseeable hoopla that followed them.

They also drove home the point that they played, trained and strove for the title because they wanted it and no one forced it upon them, which in this day and age is a legitimate concern.
The Little League World Series is a great event, having been there several times, it seems that all the players take it as a great experience regardless of outcome. However, the sentiments of the Washington players do bear repeating as the notion of enjoyment of the game being paramount is one that needs to be cultivated and should not be taken for granted. Just as players and parents need to learn and practice sportsmanship, so are constant reminders needed about the joys of baseball.

Here are a list of some films that vary in their quality, but all remind us why the game is great and will bide the time between now and next year’s Little League World Series:

The Perfect Game

The true story of the 1957 Monterrey team that won it all.

The Bad News Bears Go to Japan

Both versions of the tale need acknowledging, so I figured I’d highlight the end of the trilogy.

The Bad News Bears (2005)

It’s one of those remakes that make you scratch your head…until you see it. My apologies again, Billy Bob.



Amazing Grace and Chuck

It’s only about baseball, and sports in a roundabout way, it’s really about nuclear disarmament and a movement; but it starts and ends on the diamond with one Little Leaguer and is one of the best examples of the power of sport.

Mickey

This is a film that was delayed and limited in many ways. Little League even assisted in the production, but I believe it began filming in an age when age fraud was largely fiction. Then the Almonte scandal broke. The film means well but is really a bad and misguided cautionary tale that does bad mentioning.

Small Ball: A Little League Story

This is a PBS documentary about a team from Aptos, CA that made the 2002 World Series that is a very balanced look at the process.

Rewind Review- Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time, but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is in large part a victim of a poorly thought out unoriginal marketing scheme as much as Paranormal Activity is the product of brilliant marketing. Having said that we will discuss that later and deal first with the film at hand.

The Vampire’s Assistant is by no means a perfect film, however, I did enjoy it quite a bit and it did leave me wanting more if perhaps a bit too much. The major flaws are the quickly drawn and superficially defined characters. We get enough on each to start such that the story is able to function and begin, yet the information disseminated is given to us clumsily and easily through dialogue. We instantly find out that Darren (Chris Massoglia) is a good kid and Steve (Josh Hutcherson) is a tough guy with a chip on his shoulder and all the reasons therefor.

The things conveyed through voice-over, like their individual obsessions, would have been much better conveyed with more visual information. An example, Steve’s dad left and his mom is an alcoholic so he feels he has nothing to live for when a crucial decision comes about. We learn all this through his dialogue, and have seen neither hide nor hair of his father or mother throughout. Even a flashback quick would’ve enhanced that emotion a bit which was very effectively conveyed by Hutcherson. Both young leads, in fact, elevated the story through their convincing portrayals of their sketched characters. Again each has an obsession that sets them on their path that sets them down their course but we learn this mostly through voice over.

The last issue was that of the character of Mr. Tiny. He’s an enigmatic villain and an interesting one, and his words and the opening title sequence make it clear he is only interested in being a puppet master in the battle between two rival factions of vampires. However, why he is only interested in that, what his timetable is, what his real motivation is, and why he chose Darren and Steve is nebulous at best. There is a mention of a prophecy but it is ill-defined.

Now having said all that the film does have quite a bit going for it, and knowing that Universal was hoping to launch a franchise does explain some of the lack of detail. The first part is that it does not take itself too seriously. There is a quite a bit of good humor had with the vampire genre as it turns some of the vampire clichés on their ear.

Aside from supporting turns by John C. Reilly, Salma Hayek, Ken Watanabe and more the film does have an essential conflict at its core that is quite interesting. You have in this story two best friends who become enemies and a rivalry that could’ve been avoided. You also have hilarious cartoonish portrayals of the adult characters at the beginning, which are deftly altered by Weitz when they re-emerge later on and the tone of the tale has changed. The parents reappearing looking concerned and real the teacher seeming confused and frightened, both merely shells of their formerly goofy selves.

The effects were quite good, which is more than can be said for most films, and this one based on reports didn’t cost an arm and a leg. The cinematography was composed and contained even in heavy action sequences which also can’t be said of a lot of films.

To return to the marketing, this is a film that was pushed into October and then had its title altered to include The Vampire’s Assistant, which is the title of the second book in the series. The use of the word vampire a calculated attempt to try and capitalize on Twilight‘s popularity. These are mistakes because this movie is nothing like, and never tries to be, Twilight. The target audience is different, the conflict at the center of it is completely different, and none of these ploys yielded box office results with the film finishing 8th with just $6.35M in gross. This is a shame because all these questions that came to mind wouldn’t have held any water had it not been interesting, and so now it seems they will be unanswered in celluloid and left only within the pages of Darren Shan’s novels.

6/10

Commentary: Chris Massoglia – Sandlot to Silver Screen

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It is not unusual for an athlete to either be an actor, or to become one at some point in their career. In this age of social media, and of the multi-taskers and multi-talented, it is not unusual at all. One hardly needs to list former athletes turned actors, for those who watch films frequently will likely know of at least one. However, one hardly hears of an athlete turned actor with a tale such as that of Chris Massoglia.

In the summer of 2004, Chris and the Robbinsdale Little League of Robbinsdale, MN, were one game away from a trip to Williamsport, PA and the Little League World Series. Playing the Regional final meant an appearance on ESPN for all the players. By that time Chris Massoglia had already appeared on TV. He was on an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent the year before and had just recently appeared in two episodes of Criminal Investigation, using the stage name Chris Kelly.

The commentators talked about Chris and his acting pursuits because on the ESPN questionnaire all the players get, so that the broadcast team can get a sense of who they are, Chris listed his nickname as “Hollywood.” He was dubbed so by his teammates due to his acting pursuits and now it seems that the moniker is quite prophetic and not the simplistic ribbing initially intended.
After a few more TV stints he appeared in the independent film A Plumm Summer, which can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube. However, his big break is still ahead with two upcoming lead roles. Now going by his given name, Massoglia has landed two huge roles.

First, he played Darren Shan in The Vampire’s Assistant. The film, was an anticipated potential franchise, featured a star-studded cast.

Chris also co-starred in Joe Dante’s Venice Film Festival Award-Winner The Hole.

One if not both of these films should be the launching pad for Massoglia’s stardom, and have him become one of the more unconventional athlete-turned actor-tales we’ve seen.

Short Film Saturday- Bateyes

Here’s a film that very quickly proves that shorts can have layers to them and also have pretty interesting structures. There’s flashback in here but it’s not in your face about it, there’s a precise trigger but that comes later and there’s a bit of psychology at play too as the subject of this piece is re-examining his life because of a rather mundane, yet significant moment he’s going through.

I also enjoy that this short was created based on a monologue and produced by a theatre program for young people. All in all it serves everyone who comes in contact with it, artists and viewers alike.

Rewind Review- The Perfect Game (2009)

The first thing that likely needs saying about a film like The Perfect Game is that it’s the kind of film that you absolutely want to like but the execution of this tale made it difficult if not impossible. There are myriad reasons you want to like it: the based-on-a-true-story aspect, the fact that it covers a simple sport in a simpler time, the fact that this film (like many about the Little League game) wallowed in undistributed obscurity and the fact that the success of certain cast members after the fact and the power of social networking helped it to be released, at least in part. However, all of that is peripheral to the film and can’t really factor in, which is unfortunate because it is a great story.

One of the major stumbling blocks this film faces is a problem of accents and language. The film is a tale of the ragtag team from Monterrey, Mexico that was the first to capture the Little League World Series crown. It would’ve been best if the film had been shot in Spanish, instead we get stereotypical accents which waver despite the arduous efforts of some cast members and the young core of the film is quite talented and likely able to handle it. To compound this problem the one kid they did have deliver an entire line in Spanish couldn’t deliver it so it was poorly-dubbed. Which brings to mind the other issue in films where accented English substitutes for a foreign language and that’s the quandary of when to venture into that foreign tongue. It’s usually best to never do so for a whole line especially if the actor being asked to deliver it can’t speak fluently.

There was, however, also inconsistency in the the casting of some pivotal roles. The first being Clifton Collins, Jr. as Cesar. Not only does his accent waver, as should be considered a given of almost anyone in the cast, but his delivery is frequently off. The prime example of this is when first addressing the media in Williamsport, PA he is concerned about the start time of their first game because that’s when the players have their siesta. Not only have we not seen a siesta in the film but the delivery is so poor you think he’s joking and poking fun at stereotypes about Mexicans. When immediately in the next scene you find out it’s true and is a legitimate complaint. Similarly when he’s being the tough coach you rarely get a glimpse of why the kids would like him regardless; it’s not a layered enough performance.

The second casting issue is more one of perception but in film in many cases perception is reality. Probably the most important person to this team is the town priest who travels with them most of the way to the series. This character is played by Cheech Marin. There’s nothing greatly wrong with Marin’s performance, as there is with many of the smaller supporting players who are unknowns, but he’s just not credible in this part as some other lesser known actor might’ve been. Lastly, there is Frances Fisher as Betty a beat reporter who is following the team, at first reluctantly and then willingly, who cannot decide what decade she was from or where she is from and ends up being a character without time or place.

The young cast aside from the accent issues, which was an affectation placed upon them, do deserve special mention and accolades for bringing forth most of the positive moments in this film. Namely they are: Jake T. Austin, who plays Angel Macías, the star pitcher of the team, who features in the film’s greatest moment when their coach reminds him that he’s Sandy Koufax (as the team was inspired to greatness by comparing themselves to the Brooklyn Dodgers) and he says “No, I’m Angel Macías,” which is followed by a triple-cut on his delivery of his last pitch which was awesome. Ryan Ochoa, the team’s wise-cracking catcher, Norberto, who in the narrative makes one of the great plays in the championship in what is one of the film’s special moments. Moises Arias, who is best known as Rico on the Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana, should tap into this kind of character more, he’s a bit a pest but well-intentioned and not completely obnoxious. Lastly, there is Jansen Panetierre, who plays the amicable Enrique, who is one of the two star pitchers on the team who absolutely owns his moment when he was told he’d be starting the semi-final game when he thought he’d be passed over for Angel.

What is perhaps most maddening about this film is that it botched the simple and cliché and excelled in what was unique. What makes that even more frustrating is that a lot of what is cliché could’ve been removed from the film and and not hurt it any since it runs about two hours. There is much of the time where you feel like you could be watching The Mighty Ducks or any other sports or Disney project. There’s all the standard scenes which detract from the different tale this film is trying to tell. Which is not to detract from the aforementioned projects or company since this film didn’t handle the scenes nearly as well.

The first act of the film drags painfully and the pace never recovers. The film insists on setting things up slowly even though nothing terribly complicated or suspenseful is happening. For example, Cesar meets his love interest, Maria, for the first time and you know there will be flirtation and what this scene leads to is establishing a turbulent relationship but the pace of dialogue combined with the Bill Conti score, which in this project is always cheesy, make the scene seem interminable.

The film starts, like many do, with the “based on a true story” title card and that should be enough but it throws in archival footage as well and black & white traveling shots. This is rarely, if ever, effective and only really makes a difference at the end when you see real photos of scenes we saw re-enacted.

The bad start that this movie gets off to is almost overcome with wrinkles unique to this tale: the kids having never played on grass, the meeting with Cool Papa Bell, the trip through the segregated South, the relationship of Cesar and Maria, the preoccupation with the games that takes over Monterrey and the games themselves.

While I am sure there are likely a few liberties with history taken I won’t get too bogged down in the minutiae there, but rest assured if you survive the first act you will sit through the movie because it does indeed get better. Where it does suffer again later on is in a typically poor handling of sports on film. Yes, the story is about the characters, their relationship, their camaraderie and coming together for a common purpose but in a sports film you will inevitably have game scenes and we the audience need to know the stakes of each game and that wasn’t always the case. Similarly, as per usual, you got “Film Baseball,” which can apply to any sport and most movies, where editing made it easy to accomplish the desired result of a play. For once I’d just like to see a camera set up behind a pitcher, or the catcher, and see the whole play from windup to contact with no cuts.

If you are heading out to the movies as a fan of Little League Baseball, as I am, and want to see depicted on screen all that is good about the game, both past and present, you likely will not be disappointed. If you head out to see The Perfect Game as a fan of film you will likely be disappointed and will witnessed something far less than perfect.

4/10