Categories
Kids

‘Strike’ (2019) a kids movie with football, mining, and sabotage

Strike (2019)
Strike (2019)

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.

Such a cute football team from the artists of Strike
Such a cute football team from the artists of Strike

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.

Conclusion

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

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Categories
Documentary

‘Pelé’ (2021) – the game that made Pelé cry

Pelé (2021)
Pelé (2021)

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.

Categories
Suspense

The soccer is murderous in ‘Kick – Sudden Death’ (2015)

Kick - Sudden Death (2015)
Kick – Sudden Death (2015)

Is it fair to write a review when I abhor horror movies? To add to my dilemma, I could not force myself to finish watching Kick – Sudden Death because it simply defied logic. Maybe that’s what horror movies do; since I don’t watch them, I can’t really judge. So to compensate, I will keep this review short.

Categories
Documentary

Strive to be as ‘Unbreakable’ (2019) as Steve Zakuani

Unbreakable (2019)

Unbreakable: The Steve Zakuani Story is an extremely well-made documentary of a man reviewing his chance hit footballing career that ended just short of meteoric. By telling his story, Steve Zakuani hopes to convince every young teenager that they can be at rock bottom but still rise again and ultimately give back.

Categories
Documentary

‘Gascoigne’ (2015) is a warts-free view

Gascoigne (2015)

Should viewers accept a film that focuses on the good side of one of England’s most talented players, who is also a wife-beater, an alcoholic, and a cocaine-addict? Apparently, some reviewers could not, assessing this Paul Gascoigne documentary as the ultimate vanity project (The Telegraph) and ignoring the elephants in the room (Timeout).

Categories
Documentary

‘Iron Men’ (2017) – it ain’t the stadium, it’s the people

Iron Men (2017)

People will travel to see something unique: centuries old castles and cathedrals, or even an old football stadium with 100 years of tradition and raucous, rabid, singing West Ham fans. Iron Men brings us the story of these fans, whose club moved from their 104 year old Boleyn Ground to the former Olympic Stadium.

Categories
Documentary

QPR and the Mumbai Challenge try to wake a ‘Sleeping Giant’ (2012)

Sleeping Giant (2012)

Sleeping Giant sat in my Amazon watchlist for 2-3 years, and now I’m quite sorry I so neglected this documentary. Director Daniel Glynn follows two U14 boys from South Mumbai, who are selected via a tournament to receive 6 weeks of football training at QPR.

Categories
Documentary

A one man show: ‘Jason Marriner – Football Hooligan’ (2009)

Jason Marriner Football Hooligan (2009)

Is there life after football hooliganism? This short documentary on Jason Marriner tells us, if nothing else, that hooligans retain many fond memories, most of which as perpetrators they can’t really talk about on screen.

And the other reason they can’t talk about it is because they want you to read their book instead.

Categories
Comedy

‘Ted Lasso’ (2020) – loved the series, hated the ending

Ted Lasso (2020)

There are so many reviews of this Apple TV+ original series, there isn’t much for me to add. Well, except for that bit about hating the ending. But let me start by saying Ted Lasso is one of few things that I can be thankful for this year, outside of my family and friends. This ensemble piece gives us characters that we care about and watch develop over 10 episodes. It’s almost heartbreaking that we have to wait until next year for season 2.

Categories
Documentary

‘Matthews’ (2017) admire the man but skip the film

The career of Sir Stanley Matthews is so long — he retired at age 50 — and the footage so slim that it is hard to understand why Gary Lineker calls Stanley “the Messi of his day”. 

It’s a difficult mission for the documentary Matthews – The Original No. 7. How do you make a 78-minute film more compelling than Tifo Football’s 5-minute animation “A Brief History of Stanley Matthews”? 

Categories
Documentary

‘All or Nothing: Tottenham HotSpur’ (2020) showcases Mourinho

All or Nothing: Tottenham HotSpur (2020) - TV series

The Amazon docuseries, All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur, directed by Anthony Philipson and produced by 72 Films, has a purpose that can’t be ignored. You can hear a small Gollum whispering in your ear: “Like us,” it says. “England’s biggest newest stadium,” it says. “José Mourinho is really a good guy,” it says.

Wait, stop. Run that by me again? And that’s a thread that ran through my mind the whole series: why would Tottenham create over 7 hours of promo for José Mourinho, the once-adored, now-maligned former (FIFA 2010) best manager in football? Simply put, it’s all about global branding. 

Categories
Comedy

The Supporters are the best part of ’The Bromley Boys’ (2018)

The Bromley Boys (2018)

As an American, I sometimes have a terrible time understanding British humor. The Bromley Boys is one such case. Which in this year of 2020 is quite sad, because I really need cheering up.** Having enjoyed the youtube series Seaside Town by Warren Dudley, I expected his screenplay for The Bromley Boys to be equally fun.

Categories
Drama Romance

‘The Keeper’ (2018) – when good play heals divides

The Keeper (2018)

The Keeper is based on the young life of ManCity goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, whose worldwide fame is due to having weathered the last 20 minutes of the 1956 FA Cup Final with a broken neck.

But fittingly, that incident is a smaller part of the movie, because the real story is how a Nazi soldier and POW became a First Division GK in English football in just a few years after the end of World War 2.

Categories
Documentary

Revisit Barça under Pep in ’Take the Ball Pass the Ball’ (2018)

Take the Ball Pass the Ball (2018)

The Year of the Pandemic has been wickedly bloodthirsty as it feasted on the faltering FC Barcelona. Internal scandals led to Barcelona’s crunching 2-8 exit in the 2019-2020 Champions League quarter-finals, the messy Messi situation, and the attempt of Barça’s fans to expel the board. Even if you’re not a Barça fan, it’s hard to watch such an admired club implode so quickly.

Categories
Suspense

‘The Arsenal Stadium Mystery’ (1939) is a classic football film

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery (1939)

The Arsenal Stadium Mystery is one of those old-time whodunits that would normally disappear in the depth of film archives but for one redeeming grace: it has unique football scenes of Arsenal FC. It is also touted as the first feature film where football is a major part of the story.

Based on a popular 1939 mystery novel of the same name, the movie was released the same year. In the story, Arsenal plays a charity match against the Trojans, the best amateur team in the nation. During the game, a Trojan player falls dead on the field. The game is terminated and rescheduled for the following week, and Scotland Yard is called in.

Leslie Banks plays Inspector Slade, a clever but quirky detective more engrossed in the charity theater revue he is putting on and the hats he wears for different stages of an investigation. In classic film detective trope, the Inspector figures out that ladies man Doyce was poisoned, finds the weapon, lines up the suspects, and figures out how to identify the killer in the Wednesday makeup game. One of the key suspects is model Gwen Lee (Greta Gynt), who is having an affair with Doyce even though she is engaged to his teammate.

A snapshot of that football period

The soccer action is game footage from the last match played at Highbury Stadium before the advent of World War 2, between Arsenal and Brentwood FC. Much like in The Great Game, you get a feel for the crowds, the uniforms, the play, and even how football was filmed back then. I don’t know how authentic the stadium interiors are, such as the dressing rooms and the treatment room that separates them.

The film starts off in Arsenal’s smoke filled screening room, where various players, manager and staff are puffing away while watching the newsreel that will go out to theaters.

Another scene is in an Arsenal meeting room where real-life Arsenal manager George Allison plays himself conducting a strategy session with the team on how the Trojans will play. Unaware of this fact, I remember thinking during that scene that the actor must have really studied football in order to speak those lines so quickly and confidently. 🙂

Also, take note of the makeup of the Trojans — educated men whose careers include chemistry (the maker of the pharmaceutical poison), investors in the pharmaceutical project, and graphical design. No bakers or plumbers on this team!

Conclusion

I most enjoyed Banks’ performance as Inspector Slade, which was apparently a role that went against type. Though he’s only in half the film, Anthony Bushell drew my eye because of his resemblance to a young William Hurt.

I watched this film on youtube but had trouble understanding the audio, which was a bit muffled. If you can find a good copy to watch, The Arsenal Stadium Mystery is a sweet little detective classic, and if you’re really a soccer movie buff, you have to add it to your arsenal.

6 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 6

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