Mike Kueber's Blog

August 4, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies #79 – Orange is the New Black and Everybody’s All-American

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 7:27 pm
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Orange is the New Black is the latest series (13 episodes) to be presented by Netflix.  Although it has received outstanding reviews, I was tardy checking it out because I loved the recently-viewed, syndicated Felicity series (1998-2002) so much that I decided to watch all 84 of its episodes a second time.  When I finally got around to watching Orange, I was unable to get excited by it.  The leading characters are lame and the supporting cast of characters are eccentric.  And the setting – women in prison – doesn’t interest me.  By contrast, I was fascinated recently by a book about men in prison – Law Man.  After four episodes of Orange, I called it quits.

Because I so much enjoyed watching the TV show Friday Night Lights (FNL) about young men and their glory days, a friend suggested that I would certainly enjoy the 1988 movie, Everybody’s All-American.  He was right.

While FNL was about a high school football hero in west Texas, Everybody’s All-American was about a college football hero (Dennis Quaid as “the Grey Ghost” Gavin Grey) in Louisiana who went on to a successful pro career before finally having to face the real world.  Gavin seems like a level-headed guy who didn’t take his athletic success too seriously, but gradually his inability to do anything productive starts eating at him, especially when his adoring public continues to insist that he play the role of football All-American.

Grey’s journey into the real world is both helped and hurt by his wife Jessica Lange.  It is helped because Jessica is a loving, considerate, hard-working wife; it is hurt because Jessica is a homecoming queen who had married into athletic royalty.

The third important person in this drama is Gavin’s young nephew played by Timothy Hutton.  Initially, he is a wide-eyed observer, but gradually he becomes important to Lange as someone she can talk to.  Imagine the contrast between Everybody’s All-American and a sensitive kid who eventually gets a doctorate and becomes a college professor.

The Rotten Tomato scores were a complete surprise – 30% by the critics and 46% by the audience.  I loved the movie, especially the ending, which was much more upbeat the Frank Deford’s novel upon which it was based.  The movie works because all three of the principal characters are endearing and sympathetic, especially Gavin.  I give it three and a half stars out of four.


June 22, 2013

Saturday Night at the Movies #74 – Friday Night Lights (the movie)

Filed under: Movie reviews — Mike Kueber @ 12:22 am
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A TV show based on a movie is rarely as good as the original movie.  That is not the case with Friday Night Lights (the movie – 2004).  The 76-episode TV show, which I reviewed a few weeks ago, was so good that I decided to re-watch the critically acclaimed movie (81% by the Rotten Tomato critics, 84% by the audience) that I had watched many years ago.

The result?  I found the original movie less satisfying than the TV show.

Why?  I loved the TV show because of its memorable characters, while the movie focuses on a more prosaic subject – high school football in Texas.

An excellent contrast between these two approaches can be shown with the only two actors that appeared in both – Connie Britton plays Tami Taylor, the coach’s wife, and Brad Leland plays Buddy Garrity, the team’s biggest booster.  In the movie, both characters are superficial and have no depth.  In the TV show, however, they come to life and become interesting and important roles.  Plus, the TV show has a coach, Kyle Chandler, who is immensely more charismatic than the movie coach, Billy Bob Thornton.

FNL is based on a true story so the storyline isn’t quite as incredible, but as an editor in the movie The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence suggested, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”  FNL also contains better football action sequences.  In the end, however, I love the characters in the TV show, and missed them terribly in the movie.  I give the movie only two and a half stars.