Follow the basketball wonder LeBron James and the St. Vincent-St. Mary High School basketball team as they rise to (the) stars in More Than a Game, the documentary that has now reached Shanghai movie theaters.
It’s a classic success story with a “larger-than-life” theme and a soundtrack fueled with megastar hip hop and RnB. With such a recipe, could anything possibly go wrong? The maker of the film, Kristopher Belman, was a newbie in film making who, according to a BDL-interview, “barely knew how to use a camera” when he took on the project. He had enrolled in an “Introduction to Documentary” film class, and the assignment was to make a 10-minute short film.
Belman decided to devote his 10 minutes to this “amazing group of basketball players” at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School that he had heard about. What especially caught his attention was that some of them had played together for five years already before entering high school, a fact that made him realize that “there was serious potential for some amazing off-the-court relationships.” And so the 10-minute short film grew into 105 minutes, and is now reaching out to cinemas around the world.
The film plot goes like this:
They may be the best high school basketball team ever. From humble beginnings, future NBA superstar LeBron James, along with boyhood friends Dru Joyce, Sian Cotton and Willie McGee, began a journey that would take them from local fame to national acclaim. Joined by Romeo Travis in high school, the five fused their talents and, with the help of a dedicated coach, rewrote Ohio basketball history. Now, experience their trials, tribulations and triumphs in this inspirational film about five young men who became more than a team.
Yes, they became the”Fab Five”. Sure, most of us know that this is an epithet used by many celebs and wonders throughout history, everything from Broadway musicals, Disney characters, band members and sports idols – there are even several “Fab Fives” within basket ball already – but what the heck, why not reuse something that sounds epic.
Music-wise, the film features the single Stronger by Mary J. Blige, which she released in support of the film. On the soundtrack you can also hear Jay Z, Soulja Boy, Chris Brown, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Eminem, Toni Braxton, JoJo, Jordin Sparks, Ya Boy, Omarion, and Faith Evans. La crème de la crème, that is. To add on to the epic effect, More Than a Game also features some rare home videos from way back when the five ballers were pre-teens.
So how is this movie really? Well, all we can do is give some different voices from the net, and then leave it up to you to decide on your own. Some netizens are…somewhat cynical:
Some documentaries tell stories that are so suspenseful and crowd-pleasing that one would swear they were written by Hollywood screenwriters. The extraordinary series of events chronicled in “More Than a Game” has a trajectory and formula straight out of a classic “rags to riches” sports picture. Let´s hope Sandra Bullock doesn´t star in the remake.
While others are a bit more excited:
What a stroke of luck to undertake a basketball documentary about a grade school team that includes the undiscovered future NBA star LeBron James! Using film and game video footage interspersed with computer effect enhanced photographs, excellent editing and well-mixed music we get a compelling revealed story about four boys turning into men under increasingly intense public scrutiny.
Then there are those who are somewhere in between, like in this lengthy review.
Crowd pleasing or not, compelling or not, whatever description serves your liking, More Than a Game might still be interesting and educating as a document of sports history. See for yourself – here’s where you can catch the movie in Shanghai.
Check out what other movies are showing in Shanghai this coming week. Links lead to info about times and venues.
ENGLISH LANGUAGE MOVIES
- Secret Garden: Vienna Café screening this coming Thursday. Helmed by Polish director Agnieszka Holland, this BAFTA-nominated family drama is based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1909 novel of the same name. Check out British actress Kate Maberly’s outstanding performance as a young girl who was born and raised in India but has to start her life anew in Britain after her parents die in an earthquake. In English with Chinese subtitles. RSVP required. Free. 7:30pm.
- Sherlock Holmes (大侦探福尔摩斯): Sherlock Holmes, the creation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who first appeared in publication in 1887 has made it to movie theatres in many different versions. This time under the direction of Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Detective Sherlock Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson engage in a battle of wits and brawn with a nemesis whose plot is a threat to all of England.
- Avatar: (阿凡达): James Cameron is back with this super expensive sci-fi thriller in 3D. Follow ex-marine Jack (Sam Worthington) as he explores planet Pandora as an avatar; a human mind in an alien body. On this paradise-like planet, he faces hostilities from exotic life forms and falls in love with a female alien. This movie used ground-breaking techniques and is being shown in 3-D. In English or Chinese depending on the cinema.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks (鼠来宝：明星俱乐部): The Squeakquel: Three sensational and oh-so-cute chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore are returning to the silver screen. They end up living with owner Dave’s nephew Toby and meet their equally talented female counterparts, the Chipettes. In English or Chinese depending on the cinema.
CHINESE LANGUAGE MOVIES
- Turning Point 1977 (高考1977): Set at the close of the Cultural Revolution, Turning Point 1977 tells the story of a group of young idealists battling for the right to return home and restart their lives after years of toil on a state run re-education farm in China.
- Season of Good Rain (好雨时节): This is director Heo Jin-ho’s most recent romantic movie after “Christmas in August”, “One Fine Spring Day”, “April Snow” and “Happiness”. A traveling architect meets an old friend from his student years; the pair realize their connection has always been a romantic one. The film is in English, Mandarin and Korean.
- Storm Rider – Clash of the Evils (風雲決): This animated feature film directed by Dante Lam is based on the Wuxia Chinese comic series Fung Wan by Ma Wing Shing. The film is a spinoff of the original story and the two protagonists Wind and Cloud. The residents of Sword-Worshipping Manor, which houses the best sword-smiths in the world, are brutally massacred after they are alleged to be plotting a rebellion against the government. The young master of the manor, Ngou Kuet, is the only survivor. Ngou Kuet vows to finish forging the “Kuet” Sword, a task passed down by generations of his family which has yet to be completed. Ngou Kuet attacks Tin Ha Wui and battles with Wind and Cloud to obtain the blood of the Fire Kirin which can unleash the power of the sword. As the blood of the Fire Kirin runs in Wind’s veins, he becomes Ngou Kuet’s primary target.
- 72 Tenants of Prosperity (七十二家租客): A “throw-in-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-oh-what-the-heck-throw-that-in-too comedy”. The story is a love triangle – two men in love with the same girl. One wins, the other loses, and they become enemies. But something larger happens that forces the men to form an uneasy alliance, along with their 70 fellow shopkeepers on the street: An evil landlord is set to raise the rent on the 72 tenants, threatening their economic survival.The film is a Lunar New Year’s comedy, a movie genre that is often unabashedly silly with a childlike playfulness, with the simple mission to instill 90 minutes of happiness. “72 Tenants of Prosperity” certainly aims for that, but producer-director-star Eric Tsang has something more on his mind. His inspiration is the 1973 classic “The House of 72 Tenants,” a film that broke Hong Kong box-office records set by Bruce Lee and became something of a cultural phenomenon. Tsang opens his film with the same style of credits, the same opening gag, and a spot-on re-creation of 1970s Hong Kong filming style.
- Little Big Soldier (大兵小将): Little Big Soldier is a 2010 Chinese action-adventure/comedy film directed by Ding Sheng and produced and written by Jackie Chan, also starring Chan and Leehom Wang. An old soldier kidnaps a young general of an enemy state and takes him on a long journey to collect the reward.
- True Legend (苏乞儿): Set at the turn of 19th and 20th century, the story of begins with Su Can, a wealthy man who loses all his fortune and reputation as a result of a conspiracy against him. After being forced out onto the streets, he dedicates his life to martial arts and reemerges as a patriotic hero as he challenges foreign fighters at a boxing ring. The story is loosely based on the life of Su Can, nicknamed Su Qi Er (Su the Bagger), who developed his own fighting style, known as “drunken fist”. This is Yuen Wo-Ping’s first directorial work since 1996 and may also give a major boost to the career of 37 year old China’s born martial-art star Zhao Wenzhuo.
- Hot Summer Days ( 全城热恋): “Hot Summer Days” unites a galaxy of stars in China’s show business, including Jacky Cheung, Rene Liu, Nocholas Tse, Barbie Hsu, Daniel Wu and Vivian Hsu. The romance is slated for release across China in February the 11th. The film consists of six intertwining love stories, all set in a stifling and sultry summer. As Valentine’s Day this year falls on the first day of Chinese lunar new year, the release date for “Hot Summer Days”, February 11th, was chosen to coincide with the big occasion, aiming for a lion’s share of the movie market.
- All’s Well Ends Well 2010 (花田喜事): Director Raymond Wong heads up another all-star Lunar New Year comedy. “All’s Well Ends Well 2010” stars Louis Koo, Sandra Ng, Raymond Wong, Ronald Cheng, Lam Tze-Chung, and “Ip Man” co-star Lynn Xiong. Plot: Princess Pearl of Flowerland is sent to Midland at a young age to learn her ceremonials duties. Her mother, the Queen Mother misses her daughter very much that the King orders his sister, the princess, to return home. However, the princess has fallen in love with Gerenal Wing of the Midland army and is reluctant to part from him. As their boat approaches the Flowerland border, Pearl & Wing save the life of a girl named Ying, who seeks to throw herself into sea after running away from an arranged marriage. Pearl, Wing and Ying are attacked by pirates and Pearl falls overboard in the ensuing chaos. On arrival in Flowerland, the King mistakes Ying for his sister, while Pearl is saved by Ying’s father, Million.
- Fortune King is Coming To Town (财神到): This Chinese New Year celebration comedy tells a story that is very similar to “Santa Clause is coming to Town”. Fortune King is a Chinese god who comes down from heaven to the earth to give money to people, similar to what Santa does for children. In this flick The God of Fortune is rushing to Earth, and a congregation of people must first finish a hilarious joke of a financial task before he comes. Lead Actor Tan Yonglin says the Fortune King only help people who watch out. “Our film is more than fun. If you don´t work hard, Fortune King will know and refuse to help you. The movie also tells us to open our heart and love others.”
- 14 Blades (锦衣卫): Daniel Lee´s martial arts epic stars certified Kung Fu badass Donnie Yen in the role of Qinglong, or Green Dragon. He is the best of the so called Jinyiwei, an imperial elite force of assassins recruited from street orphans. Jinyiwei were masters of the 14 Blades, eight being for torture, five for killing, and the last blade being reserved for suicide when a mission failed. When the emperor is kidnapped and the court taken over, Qinglong takes on the mission of restoring the emperor to power. Also starring Vicki Zhao and Chun Wu.
- Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf (喜羊羊与灰太狼之虎虎生威): This movie is from the same title Chinese Animated Television series which tell stories of bouts between Family Sheep and descendants of wolf on the grassland. This time, the story happens in the world of snail. There is a serious bale coming to snails. The biological warfare happens between two of bacterial kingdoms, “Black Null” and “White Null”, who exist on antennae of snails. The White Null Kingdom recruits all military force around the country to perish the black-hearted Black Null Kingdom. Sheep Xiyangyang sides with White Null Kingdom, and Wolf Huitailang is siding for the opposite.
- McDull Kung Fu (麦兜响当当): In animated feature “McDull Kung Fu Kindergarten,” Hong Kong’s most iconic cartoon porker goes to learn martial arts at Wudang, birthplace of Taichi, to prove that pigs can fly-kick at a national championship.
- Royal Tattoo (Huang Jia Ci Qing, 皇家刺青): The film is a costume kung fu comedy with a mix of a Chinese version of Prison Break. It´s a humorous reinterpretation of a classic plot about a Qing Dynasty royal secret treasure and tattoo treasure map.
- The Story of Hong Mao Lan Tu Huo Feng Huang (虹猫蓝兔火凤凰): The cartoon has a fan base of millions because of its TV version and tells of the adventures of a blue rabbit and a red cat.
- Jing Tian Dong Di (惊天动地): Local directors Wang Jia and Shen Dong´s latest disaster flick was shot in the earthquake-stricken areas of Sichuan, “Jing Tian Dong Di” recalls the quake by following one of the PLA´s rescue troupes in this fictional retelling. The cast of well-known actors includes Li Youbin, You Yong and Hou Yong. Mandarin only.
- Da You Cun Bright Future (大有前途): Da You Cun Bright Future, directed by Deng Zhiheng, may be the best comedy of this movie-packed season. Focusing on a group of people living in Da You Cun, a poor village, the movie tells the story of making dreams come true. The head of the village, Li Biao, who wants to improve people’s lives, comes across a Taiwan hotshot who promises to invest in the real estate market. Unfortunately, all the money is lost and the village becomes even poorer. But the simple but optimistic villagers decide to build back their lives. After a series of battles with city folk, they eventually build a movie base in the village. Da You Cun Bright Future is a good choice for those who just want to kick up their feet and have a good laugh.
OTHER LANGUAGE MOVIES
- We Are From the Future / Back in Time (古墓迷途): This russian flick from 2008 takes place in sunny, groovy present day St.Petersburg and during the fierce defence of the city in 1942. Four friends, a student, a skinhead, a geeky gamer and a rapper make their cash looking for Nazi relics from WWII. Motivated by greed they are hip, cynical and have no respect for the past. During a dig they stumble upon a bombed out bunker full of valuable treasures but also something strange. Among the documents belonging to a Red Army officer they find a photograph of themselves. Trying to come to their senses they dive into a nearby lake and surface… to a spray of gunfire in 1942.
- Sinking of Japan (日本沉没): “Nihon Chinbotsu” as the film is called in Japanese, is a 2006 tokusatsu film (action movie based on superheroes and special effects) directed by Shinji Higuchi, and a remake of the 1973 screenplay based on a 1973 novel by Sakyo Komatsu. Japan will sink down to the deep sea. The governments only hope is evacuate all Japanese to some other countries. The film stars Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Kou Shibasaki, Etsushi Toyokawa, and Mao Daichi, and was released on April 15, 2006. It was parodied in Nihon Igai Zenbu Chinbotsu (“Everyone but Japan Sinks”).
- The Host (汉江怪物): The film, which also goes under the name of “Gwoemul” (meaning “Monster”) is a 2006 South Korean monster film, which also contains elements of comedy and drama films. A monster emerges from Seoul’s Han River and focuses its attention on attacking people. The film was directed by Bong Joon-ho, who co-wrote the screenplay, along with Baek Chul-hyun. Starring in the film as members of an unremarkable family thrust into the middle of extraordinary events were Song Kang-ho, Byeon Hee-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doona and Ko Ah-seong. A combination of blockbuster plot and political commentary, the film also deals with the implications of America’s military presence in Korea.
- La habitación de Fermat / Fermat´s Room (极限空间): Fermat’s Room is a 2007 Spanish thriller film directed by Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopeña. Three mathematicians and one inventor are invited to a house under the premise of solving a great enigma, and told to use pseudonyms based on famous historical mathematicians. At the house, they are trapped in a room. They must solve puzzles given by the host, who calls himself “Fermat,” in order to escape the slowly closing walls of the room.Four mathematicians who do not know each other are invited by a mysterious host on the pretext of resolving a great enigma…
- 7th Grade Civil Servant / My Girlfriend is an Agent (特工强档): This slick and tense thriller with comedic elements from South Korean director Shin Tae-ra concerns an aggressive unit of the Russian mafia, detached to infiltrate Korea and filch a cutting-edge chemical weapon. The Korean government issues two secret agents to stop the Russians – both masked by undercover identities: Ahn Soo-ji (Kim Ha-neul), a tough-as-nails female martial arts pro who continues to draw the envy of all of her colleagues, and her male counterpart, klutzy and inept rookie Lee Jae-joon (Kang ji-Hwan), whose unfortunate presence leads to a series of outrageous blunders. Complicating matters, it seems, is the fact that the couple (polar opposites, who hate each other passionately), were once romantically involved.
- Ne te retourne pas / Don´t Look Back (不要回头): A 2009 psychodrama about a photographer whose pictures tell a different story to that of her perception. Directed by Marina de Van and starring Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci. The film is in French and Italian.