The Blind Side (2009) -vs- Hoosiers (1986)

November 21, 2009 Mark Sanchez

We cheer as Eliza Doolittle becomes My Fair Lady and when The Soloist Nathaniel Ayers recovers himself through music. Along the way the facts blur that one movie is based on a true story, the other is fiction since both say something meaningful about beating the odds and personal redemption. Sometimes the distinctions don’t matter and sometimes they do.
Few people beat longer odds than Michael Oher, whose life story (the biggest parts) is the heart of The Blind Side. The marketing promos emphasize Sandra Bullock as a comedic southern fried Pollyanna, but not the throwaway kid whose real life – off the football field, and on – gives this material its backbone. It’s a story where the distinctions matter.
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Whip It (2009) -vs- Kansas City Bomber (1972)

October 5, 2009 Bryce Zabel

Roller derby is just one level up from the fake world of professional wrestling, but it’s still a real world. “Kansas City Bomber” isn’t as slick as its competition here, but it feels more real. Do teams really exist in Austin, Texas the way “Whip It” says? Probably not. Ellen Page is good as always, but she feels slight and miscast, seeming like someone who wouldn’t make it five minutes in the world of Raquel’s sport. And, speaking of Raquel, it’s the role of her career. She’s athletic, sexy, aggressive. Before you dismiss it, the uniforms in “Whip It” are far more teasing than anything in “Kansas City Bomber.” When it comes to physical action, it’s done better in “Kansas City Bomber.” Actresses in both films learned to skate, but it was Raquel who played it hard and rough, doing most of her own stunts and breaking her wrist in the process. On the other hand, “Whip It” has Kristen Wiig playing the Raquel single-mom role and she’s awesome.
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Without Limits (1998) -vs- Prefontaine (1997)

July 14, 2007 Bryce Zabel

To this day when the major track running events are held, it’s a safe bet that plenty of people remember the gutsy runner who pretty much owned distance running back in the day, Steve Prefontaine. In the late 90s, Hollywood bizarrely made two films back-to-back about the legendary distance runner, and you may be tempted to go rent one of them to see for yourself what the fuss was all about.

About a decade after that box-office match-up, my wife and I had a Hallmark Channel film shooting out here in Los Angeles, Chasing a Dream, about a high-school athlete who decides to go for a sub-four minute mile. During the time we were polishing up our screenplay’s last draft before production, we looked for a little inspiration and watched both Prefontaine and Without Limits within a couple of days of each other. It was like a film school assignment to see what different production teams and actors could do with essentially the same source material. But there was another element here, for me, that put even this challenge through a separate creative filter.

Steve Prefontaine wasn’t actually a legend to me, you see, because I was there when he was breaking all these incredible records. […]