Archive for February, 2022


Posted in Action, Adventure, Thriller with tags on February 28, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Actor Tom Holland is having a very good year. Spider-Man: No Way Home may have been released in 2021, but it has earned a staggering $166 million in the U.S. in 2022 alone. That means it’s currently the biggest box office hit of this year as well as last. The picture continues to earn money. It hasn’t left the Top 3 since it debuted 11 weeks ago.

Now on the heels of that success comes this fun action-adventure starring the web-slinging actor. This time he plays Nathan Drake. He’s working as a bartender in New York City when we meet him. His flirtatious flair for making drinks gave me flashbacks of another Tom…Cruise in Cocktail. However, Nate uses his job to pickpocket the patrons. We see him lift an expensive bracelet from a young woman. Noticing his “talent,” he’s approached by a fortune hunter named “Sully” (Mark Wahlberg) who offers him a job. Sully wants Nate’s expertise to steal a gold cross that is being auctioned off. Nate declines. Then later realizes Sully swiped the bracelet from his back pocket and left his business card in its place. Nate ultimately agrees to work with Sully. Thus begins a collection of escapades that the mismatched pair hope will lead to riches.

Uncharted the film is based on a series of games for PlayStation consoles. So full disclosure, I’m not a gamer. I have zero familiarity with the franchise that inspired this picture. However, knowing its origins had me worried. Movies adapted from video games don’t have an illustrious history. Expectations were low, but to my delight, this entertaining saga stands on its own. The popcorn movie is easy to enjoy as a swashbuckling adventure in the vein of National Treasure inspired by Indiana Jones. A big distinction is that Tom Holland’s character is a younger protagonist with a baby face. It’s an odd casting choice. Holland doesn’t look like a rugged hero. He is an everyman and though he is capable, he always seems a little out of his depth. I rather enjoyed his incongruous presence.

Uncharted excels in emphasizing the palpable chemistry between Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg. Both actors rest heavily on their movie-star personas. Mark Wahlberg has played tough guys before. Meanwhile, Tom Holland is doing Peter Parker goes treasure hunting. Nate and Sully are like siblings with a competitive relationship. Their witty repartee is highlighted in a screenplay written by Rafe Lee Judkins, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway. The two stars bicker back and forth tossing off an array of amusing quips in an ongoing effort to top one another. Sure there’s plenty of action and it’s well-staged by director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Venom). The opening sequence of Nate falling through the sky out of a cargo plane is a wow. However, films of this genre often deliver computer-enhanced FX thrills. It’s the banter that kept me invested. I was entertained.


2022 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Part 2 of 3)

Posted in Drama, Shorts with tags on February 24, 2022 by Mark Hobin

ShortsTV has made the Oscar-nominated short films (animated, live-action, documentary) available to audiences since 2006. The 17th-annual theatrical rollout of films nominated in the live-action, animated, and documentary short categories begins February 25. To learn more about the participating theaters and how to purchase tickets, visit the website here. The program will play in theaters only for the first four weeks. They then will be released to VOD via iTunes, Amazon, Verizon, and Google Play beginning March 22.


American singer Nina Simone once said, “An artist’s duty is to reflect the times.” So if aliens wanted to understand the human experience through the Oscar-nominated live-action shorts this year, they would have to conclude that life on planet earth is pretty awful. That’s not to say there isn’t some interesting work here, but every single one is blighted by misery. As a personal challenge, I tried to list them in order of enjoyability.

USA | 19 MIN | 2020

In the near future, a young man is informed by his phone that he is under arrest. A police drone apprehends him without explanation. He’s brought to a holding facility using a fully automated system without a human being in sight. This portrait of an American justice system gone wrong takes the frustrating experience of navigating a computerized phone-system maze to its horrific extreme. A perfectly realized idea is masterfully executed. I guess I should watch the British anthology series Black Mirror (itself based on The Twilight Zone) because I’m told this melding of science fiction technology and a dystopian society is like an episode of the TV show. I was captivated throughout. This is director Kristen (K.D) Davila’s directorial debut.

DENMARK | 18 MIN | 2021

A forlorn chap goes for a walk and winds up in a bar. He orders a quadruple pour of whiskey. As he’s about to leave, he spies a microphone. “Is that…karaoke?” he asks. This 18 minute short is all set up which unnecessarily draws out a simple idea. He wants a recording of himself singing the classic “Always on My Mind” for his wife Trine. The story is pretty lethargic, but it admittedly builds to a touching conclusion in the last 3 minutes. The somewhat clumsy execution feels like the work of a student filmmaker. However Danish director Martin Strange-Hansen won in this category for This Charming Man back in 2003.


The Academy adores films that highlight “barbaric behavior that is the normal practice of a certain country.” They usually appear in the “Documentary Short” category, but this Live Action short continues the perpetual tradition. 19-year-old Sezim wants to study in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek through a college scholarship. However, her plans are thwarted when she is forcibly kidnapped by a group of young men and taken to the hinterland. There, she is forced to marry a stranger against her will. If she refuses she will become a social pariah. Sezim is tormented by the traditions of Kyrgyz culture. She desperately seeks a way out. “Ala kachuu” is a form of bride kidnapping. Sources suggest that currently a third of brides are taken against their will in Kyrgyzstan. My respect if you can pinpoint that country on a blank map. This admirably exists to highlight an appalling practice, but it’s a chore to watch. The extreme length doesn’t help. If it were 2 minutes longer, this 38 minute “short” would have to compete as a feature.

UK | 12 MIN | 2020

Islamophobia in a post-Brexit UK is the topic at hand. Riz and his family are in the middle of preparing a wedding celebration when a far-right rally arrives on their doorstep. After they shockingly kill everyone in his life, he starts beatboxing. It’s an odd development until you realize that The Long Goodbye is also the name of actor and rapper Riz Ahmed’s second album. This long-form music video of sorts is a collaboration with director Aneil Karia. A political statement with a raw, brutal, and depressing view of contemporary British society. Racism is quickly becoming the topic to win in this category. Skin and Two Distant Strangers – the respective winners in 2019 and 2021 — both focused on the subject. If current predictions hold, this frontrunner will also take home the gold.

POLAND | 30 MIN | 2020

Julia is a lonely maid in a Polish motel who just wants to be normal. As truck drivers come and go, she meets a handsome fellow who becomes the object of her desires. He likewise expresses an interest in taking her out on a date. She now must find a nice dress that will fit her. The 30 minute short has moments of poetic beauty. Given the setup, I suspected this would be a poignant tale. It’s not. Unpredictability can be an asset. Still, it’s hard to award points for upending expectations when a development is so disturbing it destroys any initial feelings of goodwill. The portrayal of an abusive act is hard to watch. Of all the shorts, this epitomizes what critics have derided as “misery porn.” Actress Anna Dzieduszycka is a charismatic presence in the lead, but she deserves a better film.


2022 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Part 1 of 3)

Posted in Drama, Shorts with tags on February 22, 2022 by Mark Hobin

ShortsTV has made the Oscar-nominated short films (animated, live-action, documentary) available to audiences since 2006. The 17th-annual theatrical rollout of films nominated in the live-action, animated, and documentary short categories begins February 25. To learn more about the participating theaters and how to purchase tickets, visit the website here. The program will play in theaters only for the first four weeks. They then will be released to VOD via iTunes, Amazon, Verizon, and Google Play beginning March 22.


Family-friendly entries have long dominated this category for decades. However, this year’s selection of animation shorts came with a boldface warning: * for mature audiences only. They’re not kidding. With one exception, the collection of nominees this year is NOT for children. I was originally dumbfounded when Us Again from Walt Disney Pictures somehow failed to get a nom on the morning of February 8th. It now makes perfect sense. Unlike 4 out of the 5 nominees, it doesn’t feature nudity. First time since 2009 that Disney is omitted from the Top 5. Nothing from Pixar was nominated in this category either. I’ve ranked these shorts in order of their ability to inspire. It was difficult.

RUSSIA | 15 MIN | 2019

A lithe ballet dancer and a hulking boxer meet and fall in love. Obviously, Olya and Evgeny live in two very different worlds and this chronicle explores that contrast. Opposites attract. The idea may be as old as time itself. There are no words. The intersection of the worlds of their realities is purely visual. Their tour of an art museum à la Ferris Bueller is delightful. A 1986 song called “Balance” by Soviet new wave group Kofe is now my current jam. Olya makes a questionable decision. Meanwhile, the boxer behaves admirably. The portrait is intellectually unsophisticated, yet it has a whimsical style that ultimately champions love so it’s hard to resist. I suspected these two might have a future together right at the outset. Simplicity is the short’s greatest asset.

UK | 31 MIN | 2021

A young robin –appropriately named Robin — is raised by a family of mice. She questions where she belongs and sets out on a fearless journey to figure it out. Robin meets a materialistic magpie who tells her about Christmas. It’s worth mentioning actress Gillian Anderson purrs seductively as a cat. The title character is cute but I’m more fascinated by what makes the single dad mouse tick. He’s admirably raising four child mice and a bird all on his own. The chronicle is a heartfelt, sweetly rendered fuzzy-felt creation that really takes a lot of time to tell a predictable tale. At 31 minutes, it’s double the length of the other nominees in this category, but it’s also the only one you can show your kids. This Christmas special from Aardman Animations is a co-production with Netflix. Aardman has been nominated 8 times in this category and won 3. Their last win (in this category) was 26 years ago in 1996 for Nick Park’s claymation short A Close Shave featuring Wallace & Gromit. Prognosticators are predicting that animators Dan Ojari and Mikey Please will change that this year.

CHILE | 16 MIN | 2021

Based on a true story, a woman works for the secret police of Chile in 1975 during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Her intensely close relationship with her dog suggests a highly disturbed individual. This demonic woman trains her German shepherd to do unspeakable acts. To be fair, it’s unclear what this unsettling short is really trying to teach us. It prompted research on my part. I learned things I wish I hadn’t. To present depravity without the historical context of who Íngrid Olderöck was, renders this short incomprehensible at best and exploitative at worst. Hey, I’m well aware there is unmitigated evil in the world. I suppose I wasn’t prepared for a stop motion cartoon to capitalize on the idea.

SPAIN | 15 MIN | 2021

A man sits inside a cafe, smoking a pack of cigarettes, and ruminates over the question “What is love?” He is merely a framing device for a collection of fragmented vignettes ostensibly presented to provide an answer. A woman wearing nothing but a bikini bottom sits next to her fully clothed boyfriend at the beach. Two Tinder users in a grocery store inadvertently select one another on the app — oblivious they are standing side by side. A homeless man is captivated by a mannequin. A woman commits suicide by jumping off a building. This may be director Alberto Mielgo’s first Oscar nomination, but he is well regarded in Hollywood. The animator is known for his visually distinctive contributions to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018) and the adult animated anthology TV series Love, Death + Robots (2019). The hyper-realistic animation featured here uses keyframe software to animate characters into digitally painted backgrounds. I wish the heady visual style — which resembles rotoscoping or motion capture — had something interesting to say. It’s a nihilistic view of relationships by someone who has seemingly never been in a positive one.

UK/CANADA | 16 MIN | 2021

Beryl is obsessed with drawing and holds determinedly grand artistic ambitions. This is filmmakers Joanna Quinn and Les Mills’ fourth short starring the 59-year-old working-class Welsh housewife and the first to get nominated. In Beryl’s latest adventure, we are introduced to her eccentric family. The depressing lot provides a window into Beryl’s unpleasant personality. It begins and ends with her husband descending a staircase nude à la Duchamp. As a child, her sister Beverly abuses animals like a future serial killer. The hand-drawn character designs are grotesque which matches the subject matter I guess. Originally, I thought the nadir was when Beverly tortures a mouse to its eventual death on a toy train set. The short manages to go even lower. She later gets into taxidermy and stuffs the family dog — through the rectum. Absolute dreck.


Parallel Mothers

Posted in Drama with tags on February 17, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Director Pedro Almodóvar’s Parallel Mothers is such an accessible marriage of glamorous actors and sumptuous set design that it’s easy to forget his raw beginnings. Back in the late 1970s, he had more in common with experimental talents like Andy Warhol and John Waters. His first full-length was an underground flick called Folle… folle… fólleme Tim! My apologies to Spanish speakers for the language. The ultra-low-budget 1978 comedy was never even released. Since that inauspicious debut, he’s been showered with accolades. By 1988 most North American art house aesthetes became aware of his talent with Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. It was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. An Academy Award in 2003 for Best Original Screenplay (Talk to Her) followed. Almodóvar is the most internationally acclaimed Spanish filmmaker since Luis Buñuel. The evolution of his career has been kind of extraordinary.

His latest Parallel Mothers is a highly polished drama that examines the traumas of Spanish history by way of two women about to give birth. Janis (Penélope Cruz) is a fashion photographer and Ana (Milena Smit) is a single teen mother. The father of Ana’s baby is not in the picture, but Janis does have contact with her baby’s father. Arturo (Israel Elejalde), a forensic anthropologist, is married and their tryst was a casual fling. He’s also not present at the delivery either. The women’s shared experience unites them. Their lives become inextricably linked from that day forward.

Director Pedro Almodóvar has such a rapport with actress Penelope Cruz. Their association goes back to 1997’s Live Flesh. Over the past 25 years, the actress has become his muse. He has extracted some of her best performances. Volver in 2006 is a perfect example. This is her seventh collaboration with the auteur. Here again, she is luminescent in the starring role. She gives a multifaceted Oscar-nominated performance in a role that is remarkably subtle. This entertaining movie kept me transfixed for the entire runtime.

Parallel Mothers is an elegant production with a lot of working parts. There are abrupt flashbacks, melodramatic situations, and odd tonal shifts in the narrative. The glossy production vacillates between comedy to drama employing the developments of a soap opera. At one point, Janis makes a shocking discovery. The tale becomes about that information and then whether Janis will reveal this bit of news to anyone. The sweeping romantic score by Alberto Iglesias (which also got an Oscar nomination) emphasizes this.

I do contend that an understanding of the period known as Francoist Spain is helpful. The account is bookended by the history of the people who opposed dictator Francisco Franco during the Spanish Civil War and lost their lives. Janis wants to excavate an unmarked gravesite that may contain her great grandfather. The ability to connect the dots between that painful past and the story presented here is important. It’s an artistic choice to frame the picture at the beginning and the end with this plot. Almodóvar is making a pointed political comment on his country’s past. Tellingly Spain did not submit this much-lauded release for Best International Feature. Therefore it wasn’t even eligible to compete in that Oscar category. (Fernando León de Aranoa’s comedy The Good Boss was submitted instead). Almodóvar’s refined movie is conventional when compared to the director’s earlier work, but four decades later, the director still manages to ruffle some feathers.


Death on the Nile

Posted in Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller with tags on February 15, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Director Kenneth Branagh is having a moment. On February 8th, Belfast was nominated for an impressive 7 Oscars — including Best Picture. The celebrated filmmaker has followed up his movie with the more box office-friendly Death on the Nile. It was the #1 movie in theaters this weekend.

The mystery is of course based on the 1937 novel by Agatha Christie. Kenneth Branagh is not only the director and producer, but he also reprises his role as detective Hercule Poirot. It’s a sequel of sorts to his remake of Murder on the Orient Express, a monetarily successful adaption that came out in 2017. I wasn’t a fan, but I’m happy to report this one is significantly better.

All aboard the S. S. Karnak! This trip down the river Nile is an old-fashioned throwback — in a good way. Where Orient felt tired and stuffy, this is lighthearted and fun. Screenwriter Michael Green (Logan) even gives us a bit of a backstory of Hercule Poirot and why he has that immense mustache. The collection of stars is enjoyable to watch. In any large ensemble, the ability to stand out can be a challenge. Gal Gadot is perhaps the most memorable as a wealthy English heiress but Sophie Okonedo makes an impression as an American Jazz singer. Annette Bening, Russell Brand, Emma Mackey, Ali Faza, Dawn French, and Jennifer Saunders are among the other actors that show up. Note: It would be insipid to list the entire cast so the omission of any actor should not be viewed as a deliberate choice.

This interpretation is the kind of fluffy diversion I enjoy while watching but completely forget about days later. The thing I do remember most is how much CGI is used to make it look like they’re in Egypt. It’s quite obvious this wasn’t filmed on location. Credit goes to VFX Supervisor George Murphy and his team who utilize a London soundstage and an “extravagant” dependence on green screen. That does take away from the authenticity of the experience. The 1978 version of Death on the Nile with Peter Ustinov WAS a production that was famously shot in Egypt. This revision doesn’t top its glorious predecessor for style or opulence. Let’s face it, that’s a major component of these Agatha Christie adaptions. I’ll concede the story moves briskly, however. The chronicle is not a chore to sit through. Thankfully this is just slightly over two hours. In an era where movies hew closer to three hours than two, that’s a welcome surprise. It’s nothing to die for, but still a solid piece of entertainment.


Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on February 15, 2022 by Mark Hobin

On Sunday, January 16th, I reviewed SCREAM (2022), still the biggest hit of 2022. I also discussed then potential Oscar contender LICORICE PIZZA (it got three nominations including Best Picture). My segment begins 2 minutes into the 2:30 – 3:00 section (about 28 minutes from the end). Click below and enjoy!

Source: The world’s biggest sports radio station | talkSPORT

Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on February 15, 2022 by Mark Hobin

On Sunday, January 9th, I was on talkSPORT radio where I discussed DON’T LOOK UP which had just broken a Netflix record for the most-watched movie in a single week. THE LOST DAUGHTER — also available on Netflix — was also a topic for conversation. My segment begins 8 minutes into the 2:30 – 3:00 section (about 22 minutes from the end). Click below and enjoy!

Source: The world’s biggest sports radio station | talkSPORT

Drive My Car

Posted in Drama with tags on February 10, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

It’s a simple tale. A theater actor named Yūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima) mourns the death of his wife, Oto Kafuku (Reika Kirishima). He’s directing a multi-lingual production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima. The play features performers who speak Japanese, English, Korean, and even sign language. The international cast includes a hot-tempered star named Kôshi Takatsuki (Masaki Okada). The lothario was one of his late wife’s lovers. Meanwhile, Yusuke is assigned a personal driver, Misaki Watari (Tôko Miura). She is an expressionless young woman, cold and reserved. Misaki predictably warms up in conversations while driving Yūsuke around in his Saab 900.

This meandering contemplation isn’t about the plot. This is an account of the inner feelings of its main character. Drive My Car is based on Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s atmospheric short story of the same name. It runs no more than 40 pages. So it’s telling that director Ryusuke Hamaguchi has taken that whisper of a narrative and expanded it into a patience-testing three-hour assemblage of chats. The opening credits appear 40 minutes into the movie after an extended prologue that is the superfluous background for the proper saga. The drama basks in a disquieting atmosphere of navel-gazing.

Murakami’s lugubrious meditation has critics universally heralding it as a profound exploration of grief, trauma, and Chekhov. This garnered 4 Oscar nominations including Best Picture, the first Japanese film ever to do so. Impressive, although expanding the pool to 10 nominees (for the first time since 2010) undoubtedly helped. Critiquing a film like Drive My Car is an exercise in futility. It’s kind of like reviewing an autostereogram. A major part of the op art’s appeal was the effort. The payoff is such an individual satisfaction. Whenever that 3-D shape would pop out from behind the colorful patterns, I would inevitably say “That’s it?” Such is director Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s tale. The allure lies in the joy of an expected result after staring at it. The difference is that this picture demands 3 hours of your time. I adore the filmmaking of “slow cinema.” Recent movies like Roma (2018) and First Cow (2019) were among my favorites of their years because the experience was so rewarding. This ambling rumination? Not so much. Sorry, but this doleful Saab story is not my Ford Tempo.


The Worst Person in the World

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Romance with tags on February 9, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Actress Renate Reinsve is Julie, a beautiful, witty, and capricious young woman. She is unsure of what she wants to do with her life. When we are first introduced, she is a medical student in Oslo. Then she chooses to pursue psychology. After looking at some photos she has taken with her cell phone, she decides to become a photographer. Later she takes a job in a bookstore to support herself.

On the social front, she is in a serious relationship with boyfriend Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie). He is a successful comic-book artist. Aksel wants to have a child and start a family. She is not ready. Then one night, Julie crashes a random party while walking home and meets Eivind (Herbert Nordrum), a coffee barista. They form a connection. Her life is further complicated. The Worst Person in the World is like a rom-com filtered through the dark lens of existentialism. The ironic title could more charitably be christened “Four Years in the Life of a Free-spirited Woman.” Despite her obvious shortcomings, the film celebrates this impulsive individual. She is confident and self-possessed. The description isn’t literal, but a rather sarcastic comment on how the main character feels. Julie isn’t bad per se, merely directionless.

Julie will surely resonate with a population of Millennials who are approaching middle age. An ever-increasing segment of aimless society struggles with the so-called requirements of becoming an adult. That is, to succeed professionally, find a spouse, settle down, and have children. The drama is a tale of reality but occasionally injected with bursts of fantasy. At one point, Julie puts her commitment with Aksel on “pause” in the middle of a discussion. Time literally stands still while she sprints across town to see her lover Eivind. People, cars, and bikes are all frozen as she runs past. The trek represents a betrayal to her boyfriend. Yet this cinematic manifestation of her inner desires is a spellbinding presentation.

At the heart of the portrait is a captivating performance by Renate Reinsve. She won the Best Actress Award at Cannes in July 2021. Julie captures the audience’s attention with wit and charm. Despite this, she is a desultory and indecisive soul. Director Joachim Trier’s latest follows his earlier works Reprise (2006) and Oslo, August 31st (2011), melodramas set in Norway’s capital city. Now in retrospect, Trier has begun referring to this trio of films as his “Oslo trilogy.” The chronicle is divided into 12 chapters including a prologue and epilogue. The bit of organization is amusing given the protagonist’s complete avoidance of structure. This increasingly whimsical character is a personality defined by her relationships. Unfortunately, Julie remains just as frustratingly vague at the beginning as she does in the end. There is no development to her identity. That may effectively emulate real life, but it isn’t a satisfying resolution to a movie. Nevertheless, Renate Reinsve is very good in the role. Julie had my sympathy.


American Underdog

Posted in Biography, Drama, Sports with tags on February 3, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Pride of the Yankees, Hoosiers, Miracle…in the genre of sports movies, they don’t get more inspirational than American Underdog. The biographical sports film is about National Football League quarterback Kurt Warner who became a superstar with the St. Louis Rams. How a decent, hardworking guy went from stocking shelves at a supermarket to becoming NFL two-time MVP couldn’t be a more unbelievable fable if you created it out of whole cloth. That’s what makes this saga so captivating. Sometimes nice guys don’t finish last.

The account details an unlikely rise to the top. The future NFL Hall of Famer initially plays for the University of Northern Iowa. Kurt is a talented player, but he’s often sidelined on the bench because he defies his coach Terry Allen (Adam Baldwin). Kurt moves “outside the pocket” when the defense attacks. Following his fifth year of college, he goes undrafted in 1994. The Green Bay Packers cut him before the regular season. Then Jim Foster (Bruce McGill) offers him a position on the Iowa Barnstormers of the significantly smaller Arena Football League. Kurt would much rather play for the NFL, but he takes the job just to make ends meet. He would play for them for three seasons. Then he catches the attention of the St. Louis Rams in 1998. The rest is history.

At the heart of American Underdog is a portrait of the man himself. Actor Zachary Levi physically embodies the broad-shouldered, handsome athlete but with the genteel humility of a sweet good-natured fellow guided by an enduring faith in Jesus Christ. This is the sixth feature directed by the Erwin Brothers. Andrew and Jon have specialized in films influenced by their Christian beliefs (I Can Only Imagine). Yet this uplifting tale (based on Warner and Michael Silver’s book All Things Possible) is a universal one. It should appeal to anyone who simply enjoys a feel-good experience. I mean the title should clue you in. This is about someone who triumphs over the odds. The reliance on hope and optimism is de rigueur for sports biopics, but his path to the NFL is anything but predictable.

This tale is uniquely more about the man himself than what he accomplished on the football field. Oh, there’s plenty of gameplay action in the second half once he signs with the Rams. His interactions with head coach Dick Vermeil (Dennis Quaid) are particularly supportive. However, his courtship of future wife Brenda Meoni (Anna Paquin) is the foundation of this chronicle. Brenda is a single mother with two kids — including Zack, who is legally blind. In one memorable scene, he walks three miles to her house just to get her number. He instantly bonds with her son in an impulsive but touching moment. Through it all, Kurt has an unfailing devotion to football but also the woman he loves guided by his strong beliefs. His affable charm is hard to resist and so is the movie.