Cool Kids Don’t Cry is a hopeful and touching film about a vibrant eighth grade girl who contracts leukemia, and how she and her classmates respond to her illness as it progresses.
Paloma Pujol is on a mission in Madrid. She is a world class, professional female freestyler. But amongst 100 freestylers in Spain, she is the only female. Paloma sets out to change that.
First of all, let’s set the record straight. Soccer Mom Madam is not a soccer movie. But its provocative title is going to occupy any search for the keywords “soccer mom movie”, so I am posting this review as a public service to soccer fans. 🙂
Keith Phipps recently lamented in The Ringer that sports movies as a genre have generally lost their way to the multiplex. Space Jam: A New Legacy, whose theme is to tie big brands together into one movie, is an example of where the genre might be heading. But Phipps notes that the new economics of streaming might open up more opportunities for independent films.
Released just 2 months after Bigil, one might write off Champion as a literal poor man’s version of that big budget production. Champion‘s star (Vishwa K as Jones) is an unknown newcomer, there are no dance scenes or music videos, and there is no CGI. Both films relate to criminal life in the slums, but the 2 films don’t really compare.
Afghanistan has been in a state of civil war since 1992. For almost 30 years, lives have been violently torn apart by the Taliban, ISIS/ISIL, Pakistan, and the USA. So why is this film titled Men of Hope? Because when Afghans can watch their National Team play, it brings hope to locals, migrants, and refugees, that the homeland can return to normalcy.
LFG, the new documentary on HBOMax, is about a mission that is right and just. From other reviews on this website, you know that I am 100% behind the USWNT’s fight for equal pay. But LFG (Let’s F**king Go!) is in some ways a disservice to the cause, because the film is too long and becomes boring. The first rule of soccer movies should be: Don’t take more than 90 minutes to tell your story.
When creating a biopic about a footballer, who you claim to be one of the best that ever played, the rule is that the film must have some football in it. At least have enough soccer to show the viewer that the player’s greatness cannot be denied.
Greg Clark’s documentary Real Kashmir FC makes you wonder if being a football coach is a career, a calling, or a sheer act of stubbornness. In the case of former Rangers player David Robertson, it appears to be a tasty stew of all three.
Child sexual abuse is a topic that society sweeps under the rug, even though the effects on its victims and their families are lifelong. When child sexual abuse happens within an organization’s purview, it is a huge liability for which many deny responsibility.
Imagine a film where Cinderella goes to the ball, has her magical moment, and then returns to the cinders to make the best of her life as a servant to a cruel family. If you know Cinderella, you know she is resilient, and she will keep singing and will find friendly relationships to sustain her, even if they are only animal friends.
Strike is the story of Mungo, a footballing mole with a goal to win the Wild Cup for England. Mungo is torn, because like many footballing greats from the olden days, he has to work in the mines and uphold the proud tradition of his forefathers and everyone else at the Diggington gold mine.
A rather sinister story
For Mungo and his friends, working in the mine is enjoyable, even though the gold mine seems to be a bit of a bust. But Mungo still has a dream to play football and is afraid to tell his father what he really wants to do.
From that point, the story gets a bit convoluted with bad guys who want to take over the mine; they resemble James Bond villains and the cartoon duo Boris and Natasha. The villains also, for some reason that I can’t recall, sabotage the England team by poisoning the players. A social media video of Mungo’s footballing skills inside the mine gets him a call up to a depleted squad for the Wild Cup.
The bad guys also enlist a seemingly kindly old rat to sabotage the mine by blowing it up while Mungo’s dad is inside. To keep Mungo out of the final against Germany, they kidnap his mom and friends, feed the rat to piranhas, chase Mungo and his friends back to the stadium, and and and use a giant magnet to whip Mungo’s goggles off his head.
I failed to mention Mungo’s goggles. My 5 year old granddaughter asked why Mungo wears goggles to play soccer. The dark goggles are invented by his friend Hedy to allow the mole to play in the bright stadium lights. Hedy is a girl (possibly a badger) who is a bit on the autistic spectrum and hence a fabulous innovator; she also maintains the equipment in the mine.
The film was privately financed by producers Jeremy Davis and Edward Catchpole. First-time Director Trevor Hardy has said that when the film suddenly got the go-ahead, there was no pre-production phase, and writer Neil James put the script together in 22 days.
That would certainly account for the ideas that don’t seem very child-friendly, such as children going off to work in the mines, and the National Team manager sidling up to Mungo’s newly widowed mom after the WC.
A good film for fans of stop motion
For fans of stop motion, such as John Ikuma of Stop Motion Magazine, the low budget nature of the film is actually one of its selling points. The detailed artistry of the puppet and set makers excels at charming the educated viewer. The model making work is provided primarily by students from Northbrook College. Ikuma’s Nov-2020 Facebook interview with Director Hardy is very informative on how things were done.
The animators did a pretty fair job on the stop motion football play. It conveys the game with a lot of spliced shots, similar to most live action soccer movies where the actors don’t know how to play.
Missing a market window
On the business side, Strike is an example of what happens when a movie misses its market widow. Most soccer movies are timed to hit theaters in the first half of a World Cup year, and I assume filmmakers Gigglefish Studios, who began collaborating in 2016, meant to release ahead of WC 2018.
However, midway through production, they learned that Aardman (makers of Wallace and Gromit) was producing Early Man. I think the Aardman film was reviewed by every English-speaking newspaper in the world. But Gigglefish’s Strike didn’t hit theaters until 2019, and like most soccer movies, it is pretty difficult to find a review of it. It also doesn’t help that the film is low-budget (£13M versus Early Man‘s £69M) and looks low-resolution.
In a key way, Gigglefish’s marketing situation was analogous to the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and the 2020 Olympics: too little too late turns a project into an afterthought.
After seeing Early Man, watching Strike often reminded me of the 60+ year old TV series Gumby, whose characters had very limited mobility (they slid everywhere) and weird mouth movements. Cath Clarke of the Guardian thought viewers might find the puppets twee. And that sums it up for me as well — the film’s a bit twee, but it’s watchable by adults. Whether or not it is appropriate for children is up to their parents to decide.
6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6
In the drama A Barefoot Dream, Kim Won-kang is a former youth national team footballer for South Korea. In adulthood, he has never succeeded in anything, losing his own money and that of family and friends. He heads to the newly independent country of Timor-Leste (East Timor) to get rich quick and redeem his reputation, but the money doesn’t materialize, and his real redemption comes from the change he effects within himself and others.
The Netflix documentary Pelé has all the makings of a prestige film: a man known as the greatest footballer in the world, the only player to have won 3 World Cups, and celebrity in the historical context of a brutal dictatorship. The twist in the story is that you see an aged man at his most physically vulnerable, who cries at remembering all the pressure he withstood to make his fans happy.
Once you’ve served prison time for match fixing, what is the easiest way to keep making money? Claim yourself notorious, become a consultant, and get paid to give interviews about corruption in FIFA.
The story of match-fixer Wilson Raj Perumal first broke in 2010, when as a FIFA Match Agent, Perumal arranged an international friendly between Bahrain and a fake team from Togo. The resulting outrage brought the match-fixing to light.