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Volume 68, Issue 105, Thursday, February 27, 2003


Sports night at the movies

'Rocky' leads the way as boxing films pack most powerful punch

Cougar Pause

Geronimo Rodriguez

Movies and sports go together like Rocky Balboa and a swollen eye, like Tanner Boyle and a temper tantrum, or even like Crash Davis and an endless hitting slump.

Aside from the fact that these films attempt to capture the hardships of building a dream the hard way, moviegoers just love to witness the rise of a champion.

Some stories arenit worth their time; but then there are those that deserve to be canonized into the annals of greatest sports movies ever.

The biggest hitters arguably come from the ring. From Rocky to The Hurricane to Raging Bull, boxing sequences offer, pound-for-pound, the most dramatic shots ever to hit the screen. Besides, filmgoers chew up the idea of these dreamers making it big with just their fists.

Rocky made Sylvester Stallone a household name while, in the role of Jake La Motta, Robert De Niro flaunted his nose for acting in Raging Bull.

Even Denzel Washington capped a lifeis worth of fine efforts by taking a jab at a biopic about Rubin "Hurricane" Carter. Norman Jewisonis priceless eye behind the camera also kept the movie on its feet.

One boxing film, Will Smithis fresh Ali, hit the canvas with critics despite the fact that Michael Mann masterfully created a ringside atmosphere.

Moving to the asphalt, Hoop Dreams and He Got Game score more than a three-pointer the old-fashioned way. The former is perhaps the finest documentary ever made, while Spike Leeis joint simply lights up the screen.

Save for The Bad News Bears and Caddyshack, the rest of the sports films leave a bad taste in audiencesi mouths. Either theyire too sappy or too ridiculous.

The overrated The Natural, for instance, is marred by a splintered script; Roy (Robert Redford) was bleeding for God knows how long and Iris (Glenn Close) never aged.

While Washington deserves praise for Hurricane, his barking in Remember the Titans helped seal the feel-good movie label. And any film should lose points for having its cast sing to the same tune.

Another played-out act is that of Kevin Costner. Aside from Crash Davis (Costner) rolling out a fine list of turn-ons, Bull Durham is as weak as Nuke LaLooshis (Tim Robbins) control of his fastball. Field of Dreams has enough sentiment to make par as Titans and Tin Cup.

With age, Costner turned in a solid outing with For the Love of the Game, but his character is tossing and turning over a woman ­ a hanging curve ball and a Barry Bonds swing are the only things aces should lose sleep over.

When it comes to comedies, Caddyshack rises to the top of the list -- no questions asked. A few others are worth mentioning; Necessary Roughness offered laughs and teased men with a Kathy Ireland shower scene and Major League introduced the Wild Thing (Charlie Sheen), mimicking the all-too-familiar mental case in the bullpen. It also reminds guys of the time theyid slide too early back in the sandlot.

Speaking of makeshift baseball fields, The Sandlot ranks second among the most entertaining sports flicks that have kids doing the talking. From Yeah-Yeah to smores to stealing a kiss from the lifeguard, the baseball movie keeps the story chugging along with original laughs.

But The Bad News Bears takes the top slot as one of the most memorable baseball movies of all time. The good thing about the movie is that the team was far from perfect. After the Little League experience, this is a lot closer to reality. A spitball-throwing Tatum OiNeal and beer-guzzling Walter Matthau share the MVP award by adding grit to the film.

When all is said and done, no sports figure in cinema triumphs more than Rocky Balboa. Despite the script having the "Italian Stallion" growing up in the city of brotherly love, the Rocky series belongs to everyone when it hits the screen.

By taking down Ivan Drago, a guy who jeopardized the red, white and blue, Balboa even helped tie up the loose ends left by the Cold War in Rocky IV.

Who knows, maybe Rocky VI will have Stallone pound on Americais latest public enemy. Considering their age, the fight might not go the distance, but Iid still take Rocky over oli George Dubya any day.

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