Friday, 16 September 2011
COURT ON CAMERA
Where Hollywood happens.
By TIM DAVID HARVEY
Cinematic worthy moments happen in this sport all the time. Still, Basketball movies aren't as half-bad as the people who have watched Shaq in 'Kazaam' or Dennis Rodman in 'Double Team' make out. Here's a look at some of the best or at least most entertaining that will give you some basketball action during this lockout. Expect more titles to be added soon.
HOOOSIERS: 'Hoosiers' is THE classic basketball movie and coaching manual. Set in the sort of hoop on farm house Indiana suburbs that birthed the French Licks of Larry Bird (surprisingly though no cameo for a man who is seemingly in every basketball movie), this is how you play ball. 1 through five all as one. No one player greater than another. It takes teamwork to make the...well you know the rest. Hackman and Hopper honour Hickory like the Indiana Pacers with red jerseys and gold short, shorts. Gene leading as the coaches coach and the late, great Dennis earning an Academy award nomination nod for his classic character battling on the sidelines with alcohol abuse. Forget just basketball films, this is one of movies all-time greats. Don't just watch the paint dry...watch this and run the picket fence.
BLUE CHIPS: The chips are down for Nick Nolte in this tale of basketball blues, an amazing actor who would make the perfect coach even if just for the hilariously scary way he rips into his players and storms out the locker room...three times. 30 For 30, ESPN, New York Knick, 'When The Garden Was Eden' documentary director Michael Rappaport dry erases this before its time look at the NCAA violating, under the table, gym bag dealing sports world with the nineties texture of its time. Blue Orlando Magic chips Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal also star and actually act among other NBA greats who make an appearance. Shaq's entrance from the running kids to the middle of a gym in nowhere has an epic Ali feel and presence to it. His devastating dunks even sounding like bags of punches. Its a reminder of what was and still is. Its hardest hit being a pay for play issue that still bankrupts the beauty of basketball and the testament of youth to this day.
ABOVE THE RIM: Tupac Shakur continued to show he was a great actor as well as rapper in this movie that also stars the late, great Bernie Mac. Marlon Wayans (except more of them) brings the comedy but this picture has something serious to say too with standout performances from Leon Robinson, Duane Martin and a stellar soundtrack featuring 2Pac's 'Pain'.
THE BASKETBALL DIARIES: In one of Leonardo DiCaprio's youngest and greatest performances he gives us a brutally honest take on the effects of drug abuse in sports and the youth. Sure basketball is a back-story here but it's not the real issue that needs to be addressed. With great support from Mark Wahlberg and Juliette Lewis this movie slam dunks all over Hollywood shine and censorship.
O: Basketball again serves as the backdrop in this brilliant modern take on Shakespeare's 'Othello' that rivals DiCaprio's 'Romeo + Julliett' in the creativity and integrity courts. Mekhi Phiffer is incredible as 'O', a high-school basketball star and success to be but it's pretty boy, turned good actor Josh Hartnett that pulls all the Converse shoe strings. The bard would be proud.
G.O.A.T.-THE LEGEND OF EARL MANIGULT: Don Cheadle helps tell the story everyone needs to hear about a legend on the street who never made it to the NBA. This frank, moving and insightful story begins with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar telling Chick Hearn that his most difficult opponent was 'the Goat' and then we see the legend on the streets fiending for drugs. With clinical performances from 'ER's' Eriq La Salle and Michael Beach this is a medical issue that can't be ignored. There's some double dunk, quarter off the backboard legend here too. The most entertaining, shiver down the spine moment comes at the Rucker when Wilt Chamberlain (played well here by star Kevin Garnett) dunks on the Goat and stares down at him, boasting; "welcome to the big leagues schoolboy". The Goat responds by fading away from the stilt and back-pedaling down court proclaiming; "Welcome to Harlem...mother#@$%*#"!
COACH CARTER: Samuel L. Jackson teaches a band of brothers how to really play this game and be men, in this educating, game of life, modern-day classic. The sublime performances match the scoring soundtrack throughout and Jackson's never been better in this action. Part 'Remember The Titans' but setting it's own path and legacy this true, legendary story of Carter is loved and influential and inspiring to coaches and teachers alike.
FINDING FORRESTER: Before Rob Brown was being taught the game by 'Coach Carter' he was writing history with Sean Connery. This inspiring, coming of age, wise worded tale is New York's answer to 'Good Will Hunting'. Expect some Madison Square Garden moments too. This belongs in the mecca of underrated, all-round movies. Connery gives us a classic and even Busta Rhymes helps wrap things up right.
HE GOT GAME: This is the legendary one that made Ray Allen an icon as Jesus Shuttlesworth. Ray proved he could do more then hold his own on court as he starred in this classic Spike Lee and Denzel Washington show. This love for the game, rags and riches tale truly plays for it's freedom. Rosario Dawson also stars as does player turned actor Rick Fox and a couple of prostitutes.
GLORY ROAD: Alicia Keys helped score a sensational soundtrack to a real, genuine re-telling of the true story of how a college basketball team overcame racism and all forms of competition for the truest victory. This is stunning, chilling, moving and inspiring and almost puts 'Coach Carter' in his place. Your with it until the end and you'll feel exhausted, elated and a member of this team in this formidable film that brings everyone together.
LIKE MIKE: OK, the idea of Lil Bow Wow playing like the greatest when he finds a pair of Jordan's airs is ridiculous. Still when you combine Morris Chestnut, that cute kid from Jerry Maguire and a roll call of classic cameos from NBA stars are you not entertained? From blocking gladiator Alonzo Mourning to being begged for autographs from Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash this is downright stupid...but funny.
SPACE JAM: Still if you prefer your Mike's real then follow Jordan down the 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' hole as he plays with Bugs Bunny and all your favourite Warner Brothers. Disney missed out on this one. Sure its a mickey mouse film that Bill Murray called his worst but he, Larry Bird and a bunch of cartoon characters brought the laughs as Mike brought the charm and money to the table as he showed why he was the worlds biggest star. The kids loved it too and at least Charles Barkley promised he'd never date Madonna again.
WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP: Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes take shots at each other and racial barriers in this groundbreaking and entertaining comedy. Set in the legendary courts of Los Angeles, the action of these Venice Beach boys look as good as Rosie Perez.
FORGET PARIS: Billy Crystal gives us a funny take on the NBA as a referee who goes to Paris and finds love. This is standard romantic comedy stuff and Crystal gold but what sets it apart are the on court scenes with all the stars of the NBA from the nineties. From Reggie Miller to Muggsy Bouges these are the best, classic cameo's from basketball players on film.
CELTIC PRIDE: Back in the nighties again, Daniel Stern and Dan Aykroyd, two die-hard Boston fans kidnap Utah Jazz star Damon Wayans (remember this is just the movies) so that the Larry Bird-less (he makes a classy cameo) Celtics have a fighting chance in the finals. This film isn't just funny, it reminds you of why you love this game. A young Judd Apatow showed he could write a great and funny basketball movie, showing what was to come next.
SEMI-PRO: Woody Harrelson (you can also see him playing pickup with Justin Timberlake currently in 'Friends With Benefits') re-laces his sneakers and joins Andre 3000's 'Coffee Black' on Will Ferrell's comedic court as the comic genius drops another classic. Portraying the fictional Flint Tropics this is a very real and amusing look at the most entertaining league in basketball history; the ABA. Bears at halftime and other Evil Knievel stunts, this sort of stuff actually happened. You must see this one for a bit of comedy and history. Let's get tropical.
JUST WRIGHT: When top rapper Common was younger he used to mop up the sweat of Michael Jordan and others in the Chicago Bulls in the United Centre, but in this movie for the New Jersey Nets he shows he can do what most rappers want to do and ball. There's cameo's from Dwight, Dwyane and the Rucker, while Robin Thicke's other half Paula Patton gives the word 'beauty' it's significance. Still it's the love and basketball between Common and rap legend/movie star Queen Latifah that hits the shot. Game over. TIM DAVID HARVEY.