Hardball

I have had Hardball on my list of movies to watch for awhile.  Finally I made a point to get my hands on a copy of the DVD, which I popped into the player to watch one evening this past week.

Mere minutes into the movie, I realized, “Oh, wait, I’ve seen this before.”  I had watched Hardball with my brothers shortly after it first was released, but it has been so long that I had forgotten the name of the movie, or even who starred in it.  But I remembered the plot very clearly.

Funny how memory works.

I also remembered enjoying the flick, and so I was more than happy to kick back and enjoy it again. Hardball

Keanu Reeves plays Conor O’Neill, a gambler who finds himself severely in debt with two bookies.  In order to repay the debts, he is receives and offer from a friend in the corporate world, in which he must coach a baseball team of troubled African-American fifth grade kids from the projects in exchange for $500 each week.  Desperate for the money, Conor agrees.

However, Conor doesn’t really care about coaching the kids — at least, not at first.  He shows up at the first practice to be greeted by a group of smart-mouthed, street-smart youngsters who struggle when it actually comes to playing the game.  Various outside forces threaten the team’s season — a teacher (Elizabeth Wilkes) who won’t let a couple boys play until they finish their book reports; an opposing coach going out of his way to try to undermine them; and so on — and Conor realizes that if he is to receive his $500 a week, he needs to keep the season alive.

After agreeing to help ensure the boys’ book reports get done, Conor starts to take practices more seriously.  He convinces the boys on the team to stop trashtalking one another and to start actually behaving like teammates.  While they lose their first game in embarrassing fashion, Conor still treats the team to pizza, which helps to foster a greater sense of camaraderie between the boys.  Finally the team starts winning some games, and Conor works to cultivate a romantic relationship with the teacher, Elizabeth Wilkes.

Throughout the season, both Conor and the team endure a series of highs and lows, during which Conor, at one point, even announces that he’s done with the team.  However, he realizes that he has come to care about the boys too much, and after winning a large bet to dig himself out of his debts, he instead vows to give up gambling and takes the boys to see their first-ever Major League Baseball game.

Just after winning the game that qualifies them for the championship, the team’s youngest player, known as G-Baby, is killed by a stray bullet from a gun fight outside his home.  The team decides they still want to continue on and play the championship game in his honor.

As I mentioned, I enjoyed this movie the first time I had watched it, and I’m happy to say I enjoyed it just as much this time around.  It’s a heart-warming flick that can be pretty eye-opening when it comes to realizing just how good so many of us have it in our own lives, compared to life in the inner city.

 


“Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly

This appears to be a clip from a movie sharing the same name as the song, Take Me Out to the Ball Game.  I’ve never seen the movie, but after watching this rendition of the song (not to mention the tap dancing!), I may have to seek out a copy.


Damn Yankees! (film version)

I have been on a bit of a musical kick lately, no doubt due partly to having seen The Book of Mormon performed a couple weeks ago.  And so long as I have been in the mood to take in musicals, I figured it was about time that I sit down and watch Damn Yankees!

The film was created in 1958, based on the 1955 Broadway musical Damn Yankees!  The protagonist of the tale is a man named Joe Boyd, an older gentleman when the movie begins, and a deeply devoted Washington Senators fan.  Unfortunately for Joe, the Senators are not very good.  One evening, having witnessed yet another loss by his beloved team, Joe rashly declares that he would sell his soul to the devil to see his team beat the Yankees.  His declaration is heard by a man called Applegate, who tells Joe that not only can he make this wish happen, he can also arrange for Joe himself to be the team’s hero.  All for the low, low price of one soul, of course.  Joe, however, manages to arrange an “escape clause,” through which he would be able to exit the contract and return to his current life on September 24th.

damn yankeesThis means, however, that Joe must leave his wife, Meg, behind for the duration.  While Joe sings his heartfelt goodbye to Meg, Applegate works his magic and transforms Joe into a 22-year-old version of himself, calling him Joe Hardy (in addition to playing baseball, Joe will now be solving mysteries with his brother Frank!) and telling folks that Joe is from Hannibal, Missouri.

Joe and Applegate arrive at the Senators’ next practice, where Joe puts on an impressive show, especially with his bat.  Joe is signed to a contract with the team.  Meanwhile, sportswriter Gloria Thorpe nicknames him “Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo,” and she expresses her determination to bring Joe a lot of publicity.

Joe leads the Senators on a long winning streak and becomes a hero.  He misses his wife terribly, however, and finally goes and convinces Meg to take in Joe Hardy as a boarder.  Applegate is concerned that this turn of events could ruin his plans, however, so he summons his demonic right-hand girl, Lola.  Lola was once known as the ugliest woman in Providence, Rhode Island, until she sold her soul to Applegate for youth and beauty.  Applegate orders her to make Joe forget his wife, a task Lola is certain she can carry out.  She receives quite a surprise, however, when she discovers that Joe loves his wife so much that he does not fall for Lola’s attempts at seduction.

Coming upon the end of the season, the Senators are on the verge of overtaking the Yankees.  The sportswriter Gloria Thorpe, meanwhile, returns from Hannibal, Missouri, where no residents remember anybody named Joe Hardy, and she confronts Applegate about Joe’s real identity.  Applegate implies that Joe is actually Shifty McCoy, a corrupt minor leaguer playing under a different name.  Word gets out, and headlines erupt, accusing Joe of being Shifty.  Joe is now required to meet with the baseball commissioner for a hearing or else get thrown out of baseball.  The meeting just happens to fall on September 24th, the day he is scheduled to make his request to switch back to being Joe Boyd.

At the hearing, Meg and her friends arrive as material witnesses, testifying to Joe’s honesty and falsely claiming he grew up with them in Hannibal.  The commissioner acquits Joe, but as the celebrations ensue, midnight strikes and Joe realizes he has missed his chance to escape from his deal with Applegate.

We learn that Applegate has planned for the Senators to lose the pennant to the Yankees on the last day of the season, resulting in thousands of heart attacks, nervous breakdowns, and suicides of Senators fans and Yankee-haters all over the country.  However, Lola is now firmly on Joe’s side, and she lets Joe know she’s drugged Applegate so that he will sleep through that final game.  By the time Applegate wakes up again, the game is well underway.  Angry, Applegate turns Lola back to an ugly woman, and the two race to the ball field.

I should probably stop there, in order to avoid spoiling the rest of the story for anyone who has yet to see it.  Overall, I found the movie quite amusing, even if a bit cheesy.  The combination of baseball and comedy made it worth my while, I felt, and I do like that one doesn’t necessarily have to be a baseball fan in order to be able to appreciate the plot of the film.


The Sandlot 2

A couple months ago, I watched The Sandlot: Heading Home, mentioning here that I had actually been looking for The Sandlot 2 when I stumbled upon that third installment of the series instead.  This weekend, I finally did manage to get my hands on a copy of The Sandlot 2.  sandlot 2

This chapter of the Sandlot series follows the typical formula of all the movies in the collection.  There is the group of main characters comprising the beloved sandlot team, including a leader, a nerdy kid, a chubby kid, and a ladies’ man.  There is a rival, cocky Little League team that challenges the sandlot team and engages in a name-calling contest with them.  And the primary conflict of the film revolves around a battle for the sandlot itself.

The Sandlot 2 introduces us to Johnnie Smalls, who, we eventually learn, is the younger brother of the one and only Scotty Smalls.  Johnnie is the narrator of the story and proves himself just as nerdy as his big brother, spending his time playing with model rockets.  The leader of this story’s sandlot team is David Durango, who also finds himself battling puberty and his sudden interest in girls.

One girl, in particular, is Hayley Goodfairer.  In addition to being attractive, Hayley proves herself a particularly talented softball pitcher.  At first, the boys of the sandlot are miffed when Hayley and her friends start using the sandlot to play softball, but after a couple of contentious face-offs, the boys and the girls agree to join together into a single team.

We learn that the Beast, Hercules, has passed away, but not before leaving behind some puppies.  One of those puppies grew into the newest sandlot terror, known as “The Great Fear.”  As Scotty’s younger brother, Johnnie knows all about the Beast and the Great Fear, and passes the legend onto the sandlot’s latest tenants.

Like his big brother, Johnnie gets himself into a bit of a pickle.  But instead of a baseball, he launches a rocket that does not belong to him, and it lands on the other side of the fence, in the territory belonging to the Great Fear.  The sandlot kids rally, but as before, nothing seems to work to get the rocket back.  Finally, the Benny Rodriguez of this tale, David Durango, decides to step up, facing his own fears as he hops the fence to take on the Great Fear.  James Earl Jones reprises his role as Mr. Mertle, which is certainly a treat for fans.

Aside from the inclusion of girls in the new team, there’s very little in this movie that the original Sandlot doesn’t already offer.  If you’re an especially big fan of the Sandlot and you don’t mind the cheesiness of it all, this is still an entertaining way to pass a couple hours, and it is chock full of nostalgia.  If you’re looking for something new, however, maybe pass on this one.


The Sandlot: Heading Home

A few days ago, I was looking for a fun baseball movie to take in.  I had heard that there was a Sandlot 2, though I didn’t know much about it.  I figured it was as good a time as any to check it out, except that I ran into the tiny issue of the local public library not carrying it.  I did find another movie along those lines, however: The Sandlot: Heading Home.

A sequel movie to the original Sandlot (I’m guessing this is a part three? It’s hard to tell without having seen part two), this installment features an older Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez as well as bringing back Michael “Squints” Palledorous.  When the movie begins, we learn that Benny Rodriguez goes on to become manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the plot of the film actually revolves around one of his players, centerfielder Tommy “Santa” Santorelli.

sandlot heading homeTommy Santorelli is a successful, but exceedingly arrogant, Major League ballplayer who has bounced from team to team in search of more money, more fame, and more success.  During batting practice one day, Tommy gets hit in the face by a pitch, knocking him out cold.  When he wakes up, he discovers that he is twelve years old again and the year is 1976.  Tommy is back at the sandlot where he first started playing baseball during his childhood.

Tommy hesitates to join the sandlot team at first, unable to stop thinking of them as a bunch of kids, in spite of the fact that he is now a kid again himself.  He finally does so, however, as it offers him an opportunity to get back at the town bully, EJ Needman.  EJ also happens to be the son of a wealthy real estate agent who wants to buy the sandlot and develop the land for financial gain.

The sale of the sandlot is a contentious issue throughout town, with the vote split at an even fifty-fifty.  The real estate agent, Earl Needman, proposes the issue be resolved by the all-city championship game, which is set to be played between Needman’s team and the sandlot team.

*Spoiler alert*  (Not that the outcome of this movie would be any kind of surprise, but you know, just in case.)  Of course, Needman’s proposal comes after he has already gone out of his way to speak to Tommy Santorelli, offering to put in a good word for him with a preparatory school with a good baseball program in exchange for switching teams.  Tommy, thinking his entire future hinges on getting into the prep school, agrees to join Needman’s team.

The sandlot team is understandably upset by the betrayal.  Before the championship game even begins, however, Tommy realizes his mistake, and he decides that the friendships he’s developed with the sandlot boys are more important than the fame and fortune his future would have held for him.  He changes sides again, rejoining the sandlot team and helping them on their way to victory.  After another mishap in which he gets hit in the head by yet another baseball, Tommy wakes up as an adult once again.  Predictably, he’s a completely different man from the arrogant prima donna from the beginning of the film.

Overall, while this installment of the Sandlot series offers a nice twist via the time travel plot device, it remains quite formulaic.  All the same, The Sandlot: Heading Home is still a fun baseball film, and heaven knows I can’t help but enjoy a decent baseball film.


Quote of the day

During the off-season, I go to the movies almost every day.

~Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter

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Quote of the day

People are overlooked for a variety of biased reasons and perceived flaws: Age, appearance, personality. Bill James and Mathematics cuts straight through that. Billy, of the twenty thousand notable players for us to consider, I believe that there’s a championship team of twenty five people that we can afford. Because everyone else in baseball undervalues them – like an island of misfit toys.

~Peter Brand, Moneyball

Jonah Hill Moneyball

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