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Top 5 Sport Movies...

Sport combines almost every genre of film, blending the high stakes action of a car chase, the romance of a sports fan cheering their team on, with the drama of an underdog story only to have everyone laughing with sporting bloopers. No wonder sports fans flock to stadiums, bars and satellite TV! Film gives us a chance to explore deeper sporting themes from the player's perspective. Here are some knock-out sports movies you need to make a point of seeing or reliving...


Sport movies pride themselves on the underdog story and Sylvester Stallone’s award-winning Rocky is testament to the triumph of the human spirit. The young Stallone began carving a long Hollywood career in 1976, after insisting he star in his own movie, despite the studio wanting to cast a known actor.

Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger song became a sporting anthem the moment Rocky Balboa ascended those steps and the film’s nuggety and sincere quality continues to shine through. Rocky embodies determination, perseverance and going the distance, principles that we can learn from and admire as sports fans.

Best sporting moment… when the bell rings on the 15th final round and all Rocky can think of is “Adrian!”.

Raging Bull

Robert De Niro’s red-blooded performance and amazing physical transformation earned him a well-deserved Oscar for Raging Bull. The actor’s preparation for the role included winning two-of-three genuine Brooklyn boxing matches and gaining 27 kilograms to play the older Jake LaMotta.

The hard-hitting black-and-white sports drama is based on the cantankerous LaMotta, a prize fighter, whose rage wasn’t limited to the ring. Raging Bull remains a masterpiece that saved and cemented Scorsese and De Niro’s dynamic duo. After the real LaMotta saw the film, he realised what a terrible person he had been. When he asked his wife “Was I really like that?”, she replied “You were worse.”

Best sporting moment… in the final fight, when LaMotta is turned into a human punching bag by Sugar Ray Leonard.


After Tom Cruise got behind the wheel in Days of Thunder and Sylvester Stallone wrote off Driven, it seemed we’d never see a high-calibre, high-octane motor racing movie. Ironically, history helped rewrite history when Ron Howard signed on to direct Rush the biographical drama-turned-thriller about the 1970s F1 championship.

An unlikely sports movie director was supported by two unlikely stars in Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl, who deliver underrated performances in a vivid recreation of the merciless rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in the F1 Championship. An underdog through-and-through, Rush was unlucky not to get any Oscar nominations.

Best sporting moment… when James Hunt drops his driving gloves to deck a journalist.

The Hustler

Some winners are born to lose. This paradox inspired Robert Rossen to direct The Hustler, a sports drama about a self-destructive pool player who challenges a long-time champion in a high stakes game. Paul Newman is Eddie Felson, a character who was probably inspired by Raging Bull boxing icon, Jake LaMotta, who has a cameo as a bartender.

The Hustler is a dark, beautifully shot and morally complex sports drama, packed full of great performances and led by iconic roles for Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. The film inspired Martin Scorsese to direct The Color of Money, which saw Fast Eddie taking on a protégé.

Best sporting moment… all of the trick shots.

The Wrestler

Wrestling is one of those sports that blurs the line between sportsmanship and entertainment. Whether it’s staged or not, there’s no denying the talent involved, from the character interplay to the live-action stunts. Darren Aronofsky explored a much grittier version of this world with Mickey Rourke playing an aging wrestler on the verge of retirement.

The stalwart role was an undisputed comeback for Rourke and made a fascinating character study as the actor essentially wrestled with demons from his own past. Tough, relentless and deeply affecting, The Wrestler makes a fitting companion piece to Black Swan.

Best sporting moment… when Rourke blades his forehead, for real.

Runners up: Moneyball, The Big Blue, Field of Dreams, Chariots of Fire, Hoosiers, Bull Durham and Lagaan.

This article originally featured in the July 2014 edition of TechSmart magazine.

Movie Review: Belle

Some period piece dramas are stiff and stuffy while others bring considerable weight to a genre that has become synonymous with lavish costumes, historical settings and sweet nothings. Belle is a film that brings the romance and beauty of Pride & Prejudice together with the drama and heft of Amazing Grace.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Touch) is perfect for the lead in Belle, and was attached to the project for several years. Her father, a black South African doctor, and her mother, a white British nurse, give her special insight into the disposition and journey of a mixed race person. She delivers a charming, impassioned star-making performance in a film with an impressive British cast.

Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, Matthew Goode, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton, Sarah Gadon and Sam Reid round off an impeccable collection of actors, who have been superbly cast in this costume drama. While it seems as though the stellar line-up is there to pad Mbatha-Raw, she holds her own with grace, beauty and much dignity.

Another impassioned turn, which complements Mbatha-Raw, comes from fellow star-on-the-rise, Sam Reid. He's a handsome man with a distinctive voice, who makes a great equal-opposite and romantic interest. These two best represent the tone of Belle, driving the subtle political theme's agenda via quietly powerful performances in a story that tugs at the bodice of social etiquette to reveal startling injustice.

Belle 2013 movie review

"If I told you, you had a nice body, would you hold it against me?"

The screenplay written by Asante, but credited to Misan Sagay, fosters full range characters and each of their relationships have great tension, adding to the film's taut atmosphere. The social politics and examination of love and equality in the build-up to the abolishment of slavery in Britain is handled with great subtlety. While it never becomes preachy and holds its emotional integrity, more power could have been wrung from the subversive undertones.

While the emphasis is on drama, Belle could have been directed more artfully by Amma Asante. It's the sort of film that would have benefited from a more epic, sweeping feel. It's still a remarkable second film for Asante and perhaps budgetary constraints were an issue. While it could have carried much more weight and impact as an sprawling romance, Belle remains deft, exquisite and effective as a moving and intimate drama.

The bottom line: Exquisite

Movie Review: Transformers - Age of Extinction

WHAM! BAM! Thank you Michael Bay. Love or hate him, the Transformers director has continued to smash the box office with larger-than-life movies about Hasbro's popular line of toys from the '80s. His latest sequel, Transformers: Age of Extinction, is a case of too much "more of the same" with Mark Wahlberg replacing long-running front man, Shia LaBeouf.

The story takes place some time after the Chicago mayhem from Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon. The Autobots have gone underground, the Decepticons are wanted for scrap metal, times are tough and the authorities want the public to alert them to any alien activity. Cade Yeager (Wahlberg), a DIY mechanic turned inventor, picks up an old truck for next to nothing. After some testing, he and his daughter soon become wanted by the Autobots and a paranoid government official.

Besides the effects-driven action, the cast is probably the most impressive thing about the latestTransformers movie. While Shia LaBeouf was charming and likable in his own way, Mark Wahlberg just seems better equipped to lead the charge and serves as a refresh on the save the world heroics. He goes head-to-head with Stanley Tucci as Joshua Joyce, a Steve Jobs archetype, and Kelsey Grammer as a steely-eyed former intelligence bigwig.

This triumvirate helps establish the human element in Transformers: Age of Extinction, anchoring and punctuating the high-flying alien robot action. Mark Wahlberg is charismatic and convincing, Stanley Tucci is the imperfect perfectionist and Kelsey Grammer delivers a cold-hearted performance that allows him to straddle both the X-Men and Transformers franchises.

They're supported by Transformers girl, Nicola Peltz, who is good at playing teen eye candy for Michael Bay. Jack Reynor is like the Irish long lost brother to Chris and Liam Hemsworth, who gets a Colin McCrae style understudy gig to Wahlberg. T.J. Miller's goofy surfer dude character helps inject some comedy into the first hour, while Thomas Lennon is up to his quirky business as usual. Then theTransformers have a couple of familiar voice actors in Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime, Frank Welker as Galvetron, John Goodman as Hound and Ken Watanabe as Drift.

Transformers: Age of Extinction Movie Review

"Hey kids, in today's Transformers movie... blah, blah, blah don't do drugs."

Make no mistake, Transformers: Age of Extinction is not all that different from the previousTransformers films. The film still revolves around the Autobots trying to save humanity from the bad guys... who just have more human ties and there's a more literal bull in a China shop showdown. The emphasis is on the high octane, explosive symphony of robot metal with the humans doing their best to stay out of the way of the carnage.

If you've watched all the Transformers movies up to this point, you'll probably watch Michael Bay's latest re-imagination. The technical audio-visual aspects of the film make it epic, impressive and visceral to a fault. Thankfully the film-makers haven't gone Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on the action, allowing us time to marvel at the CGI, instead of trying to induce a seizure.

It's loud, flashy, slick and over-the-top action that drives the film... and at just under 3 hours, you will definitely get your money's worth if you like that sort of thing. It's no secret, Michael Bay's takenTransformers to the extreme, making it difficult to imagine anyone attempting a Transformers movie marathon without a written note from their doctor. To his credit, the relentless splurge is so beautifully crafted, it's difficult not to see it through to the air punch glory of the last climactic battle.

Mark Wahlberg helps reign in Bay's ridiculously good-looking action set pieces with a near-invincible and grounded performance. The selection of sleek vehicles and ominous spaceships ramp up the eye candy. The Dinobots make a Dino-Riders adaptation seem more than just a possibility, while the heady plot involving corporate weapon manufacturers and corrupt CIA officials, give the Autobots a license to kill humans.

It's a pity Bay tried to cram so much into this sequel. While exhilarating at first, the continual barrage of big action set pieces does become a case of diminishing returns. The re-entry story tries to relive the promise of the first Transformers movie and they probably could have spent a bit more time developing the characters instead of fast-forwarding to the humdrum of Transformers on-the-run, heist and urban chaos.

We get a taste of what a "Transformers in Space" movie would be like and perhaps they should have taken this idea a step further instead of resorting to the usual smash-and-grab. All in all, Transformers: Age of Extinction is largely entertaining and will appeal to fans of the series and action junkies who want to see eye-popping audio-visuals in the form of fast cars, big stunts and explosive heavy metal alien robot choreography. It's really really good for something that isn't all that good.

The bottom line: Flashy

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

How to Train Your Dragon had a strange title, but managed to be a funny, moving and wonderfully entertaining animated adventure about a boy, his pet dragon and his father. Several years on... the sequel, How to Train Your Dragon 2, has swooped in to bring us more of the same thrilling entertainment with a slightly darker, more mature edge.

The sequel is also much more Dean DeBlois (Lilo & Stitch), who is credited as writer-director, taking a stronger controlling influence over the story. He worked on How to Train Your Dragon and adapts Cressida Cowell's book series without the team from the first one. This makes the film slightly edgier and turns it into an emotional roller-coaster as Hiccup discovers a mysterious dragon lair and encounters the Dragon Rider.

Now that Hiccup and Toothless have grown older, the buddy movie no longer has the novelty of them discovering their friendship and abilities. The warriors and dragons are living in harmony, tossing sheep in dragon races, instead of all the fear-mongering destruction. However, not everyone understands dragons the way Hiccup and his tribe do, which is where the sequel finds itself.

In a similar structure to Ice Age 4, the film combines the same group of lovable characters and sends them on an icy land-to-sea adventure, which sees them outwitting pirates and confronting the legendary Drago. The film's influences don't stop there, taking aspects from AvatarBraveheart, Game of Thrones and even Godzilla to deliver big action, vivid storytelling and emotionally resonant entertainment.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

"...and you see Toothless, this here is Mordor."

Avatar is echoed in the flying animal riders, the mystical lair and the tribal instincts of the characters in their once idyllic existence. Braveheart chimes in with the Scottish culture, the spirited banter, the chest-thumping determinism and the acts of bravery. There's more in the way of medieval politics, kingdoms, warring and dragons, playing into pop culture's current fascination with Game of Thrones. While Godzilla has its claws in the scale of the battle sequences and the epic dragon action.

DeBlois knows how to charm audiences and has a great balance of cheerful comedy, heartwarming drama and some beautiful tear-jerking moments too. We're enchanted by the quirky animation, the fairy tale ambition, the lofty aerial action and the fun-loving characters, who could have been inspired by Asterix.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 features the same voice cast from the original. Jay Baruchel returns to bring life to the unassuming Hiccup. Gerard Butler brings his sonic boom and clout to his father, Stoick. Comedy actors Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller and Kristen Wiig reprise their roles as the ragtag team of young warriors. Then, Djimon Hounsou and Cate Blanchett lend their hefty vocal performances to the characters, Drago and Valka.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is all-round entertainment. There is a point at which it felt like the film was gearing up to a "To be continued..." title screen, before unleashing yet another climax to draw the adventure to a close. While it lingers at this point, it's back to business in no time. While it appeals to all ages, you get the impression, the franchise is trying to grow with its original audience - delivering some heavier themes in the process.

If you enjoyed Brave or the original How to Train Your Dragon, you'll find this new adventure to be exhilarating, entertaining and wholeheartedly enjoyable. While you may feel sorry for the sheep, the film's pacing, well-balanced tone, emotional resonance and great sense of humour will more than make up for any hesitations going in.

The bottom line: Thrilling

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