‘Gridiron Gang’ Goes For It on Fourth and Life

January 29, 2008

With the Super Bowl just around the corner and no games on TV this past weekend, my husband and I turned to a movie to get our football fix.  Our pick for the week was Gridiron Gang.

Gridiron GangThis inspirational movie is based on a true story about how football changes the lives of kids in a juvenile detention center. 

Sean Porter (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), a probation officer at the center, was tired of watching the kids that came through his center leave with little hope of a better life.  Turned back out onto the street many of these kids ended up back in the system or worse – dead.

Football, and a caring mother, had made the difference in Porter’s life.  He was hoping that football could do the same for these kids so he fought to bring a football program to the center.

Starting the program was a challenge, but, as you can imagine, a far sight easier that finding other teams willing to play a group of thugs and killers.  But in the end he succeeded.

What followed was an interesting story of how structure, teamwork and a shared goal bonded these boys together and transformed them from thugs into kids with heart. 

But the transition wasn’t easy and eventually the past life of one of the players threatens to bring down the whole team. 

I was most impressed with Dwayne Johnson as Porter.  I thought it was the first role where we got to see Johnson as an actor instead of The Rock.  There were no raised eyebrows, no bring it hand gestures; just Johnson filling the shoes of the motivating Porter.

L. Scott Caldwell (Lost‘s Rose) was a fabulous addition to the cast as the mother than never gave up on Porter.

The movie did a great job of wrapping up the story by telling you what happened to each of the players.  I’ll warn you, it’s not all happy endings.

Overall a feel-good story worth watching.

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Fill the Football Void with a True Story Football Movie

January 24, 2008

The Superbowl is still more than a week away and there will be no playoff games on the tube this weekend.  Going through football withdrawals?  Then grab a beer, settle in the recliner and put in a football movie.

That’s just what I did the other weekend.  My husband was busy cheering his Chargers to a win (a lot of good it did them) over my Colts (I couldn’t watch.  So I snuggled on the couch in the other room with a couple football movies.  But not just any football movies, but those based on real stories.

InvincibleInvincible

First up was Disney’s 2006-release Invincible, the story of Vince Papale, a South Philly bartender who secured his spot on the Philadelphia Eagles team in 1976 as a walk on.  It was a great feel good story. 

Mark Wahlberg portrayed Papale as such a down-to-earth regular guy that I could help put cheer for this unassuming man who lost his job teaching, whose cold-hearted wife left him taking everything and leaving only a mean-spirited note and who at 30 was well beyond the normal rookie age.

His own personal “rising from the ashes” was nothing compared to what his success did for the city.  He became this symbol of hope for a city in despair.  For those out of work or on strike, Papale was a sense of pride.

I’m too young to remember the 1976 Eagles, but I really enjoyed the movie.

We are MarshallWe are Marshall

The second movie in my double feature, We are Marshall, was about the rebuilding of the Marshall University football program after a 1970 airplane crashed killed most of the team.

This movie starts out with this huge tragedy that not only wipes out the sport program for this school, but also deeply impacts this college-based West Virginia town and it’s hard to get past the weight of that lost in the rest of the movie. 

But when Jack Lengyel (Matthew McConaughey) arrives as the new head coach you can’t help but be hopefully for healing in light of his determination and enthusiasm for rebuilding the program.  I don’t know if Lengyel was really that eccentric or if that’s just McConaughey’s portrayal, but you have to admit that his ‘think outside of the box’ attitude is endearing.

However, I had a harder time connecting to assistant coach Red Dawson.  I’m not sure if his survivor’s guilt was hard to watch or if I didn’t like Mathew Fox’s acting in this role.

This movie does have some gut-wrenching moments so have a box of tissues handy.

If you could only watch one of the two movies, I’d recommend Invincible.

What’s your favorite football movie based on a true story?