PING PONG SUMMER is a comedy that takes place in 1980s in Ocean City, Maryland. Rad Miracle and his family have driven to Ocean City for summer vacation. His father is a frugal state trooper who drives a police car to their vacation bungalow to save on gas. Upon arrival, Rad is warned about their “creepy” next-door neighbor, a strange recluse.
Rad soon meets Teddy, a chatty and friendly African American his age, who is also on summer vacation. The two share their love for hip-hop and ping-pong while becoming best friends. Rad also meets Stacy and is instantly smitten, but she is the girlfriend of Lyle, an over-privileged teenager from the richest family in Ocean City. Lyle makes it completely clear he wants Rad to stay away from Stacy. He also bullies Rad and Teddy just because they’re different, from out-of-town and not filthy rich.
When Rad can take no more of Lyle’s treatment, he challenges Lyle to a table tennis dual. Lyle, having already brutally beaten Rad and humiliated him in front of Stacy, is sure this is an easy win. Rad and Teddy have no idea how Rad will beat Lyle that Saturday, but Rad feels proud to have stood his ground.
As reality sets in that Rad has no idea how to beat Lyle, he looks for his neighbor. When she doesn’t answer, he goes around to her garage/shed to look for her there. Typical of any nosy teenager, he cannot resist looking under a tarp covering something. He discovers trophies and that his neighbor was a hotrod, bowling and ping-pong champion!
When Rad finds the recluse Randi Jammer (Susan Sarandon) at the dock with a fish she just caught, he asks if she’ll help him with his table tennis game. Randi gives Rad a few pointers and tells him to keep the distractions out of his head and find a way to relax and regroup during his game. Will Rad be able to handle the pressure?
PING PONG SUMMER is very entertaining. Having grown up in Ocean City, Maryland in the eighties, MOVIEGUIDE®’s reviewer attests that the scenery, shops and spots of the Boardwalk in the movie were spot-on and filmed on location. The throwback to the 1980s is also well done. The thick eyeliner and eye shadow, hairstyles, zipper pants and other clothes, and boom boxes with cassette tapes bring a pleasant authenticity. Although some of the dialogue, Teddy’s rapping and Rad’s dancing are a bit cheesy, this could also be viewed as an authentic performance by un-cool kids who are just trying their best to be cool. A caution is advised for older children due to a few obscenities (including the sister giving the middle finger), some racial remarks and a scene with minors Lyle and Stacy drinking alcohol and kissing.
PING PONG SUMMER has a light moral worldview as Rad stands up for justice against the snobby bullies, Lyle and Dave. The movie makes a point of exposing some of the racial polarization and stereotypes of the times. For example, Lyle and Dale make several negative racial remarks to Rad and Teddy. Overall, however, PING PONG SUMMER is a nostalgic coming of age comedy that made me smile.
LOVE IS STRANGE is about a homosexual couple in New York City and their relationships with one of the men’s family. The movie focuses on the homosexual couple’s relationship, but it’s also about the relationships among all the family members. As such, it has a very strong Romantic, liberal worldview that also takes the time to make some statements supporting big government, social welfare programs. The movie’s not as dogmatic or didactic about these things as it could be, but it’s clearly a work of political propaganda that tries to provide some insights into personal and family relationships as well. As the Marxists are wont to say, however, the personal IS political. That’s why today’s leftists have become so annoying: they want to make every issue so politically charged that the government practically becomes completely totalitarian by default.
The movie opens with the homosexual couple, George and Ben, tying the knot after 39 years of being together. However, the “marriage” forces the Catholic school, for whom George works as a music teacher, to finally get rid of him. As a result, Ben and George have to sell their apartment and temporarily live apart as they search for another one. So, Ben moves in with his nephew, Elliott, and his nephew’s wife and teenage son, Kate and Joey. Meanwhile, George moves in with two younger homosexual men who also happen to be cops.
The new living arrangements turn out to be a burden on everyone. Ben, who’s a bit older than George, tends to be a rather talkative senior citizen, which grates on Kate’s nerves. Also, Ben’s great nephew, Joey, doesn’t enjoy having to share his bedroom with Uncle Ben. Meanwhile, George doesn’t really fit in with the two homosexual policemen’s younger lifestyle.
Making matters worse is that George and Ben are having trouble finding an apartment they can afford, even if Ben gets some financial help from New York’s complex, bureaucratic welfare programs. Also, Joey is having some growing pains, which causes some problems with his parents.
The problem with LOVE IS STRANGE is that the family relationships are more interesting and dynamic than the movie’s depiction of homosexual relationships or its leftist political slant on the inadequacies of the social welfare state America has created in New York. The homosexual relationships lack any real conflict, and the movie doesn’t spend enough time on its social welfare subplot. At one point, George writes a letter to the Catholic school’s board of directors complaining about his dismissal, but, other than that, the movie drops this storyline and its potential for creating some dramatic conflict. At another point, the movie implies that Ben cheated on George when they were younger, but this plot idea also just remains an afterthought, a piece of background information that does little for the movie’s eventual storylines or character arcs.
There is, however, a touching scene where Ben tells his great nephew, Joey, that, if he likes a girl, he should tell her, because life’s too short to let shyness stop him from making a friend. This scene is eventually followed up with lyrical shots of Joey and his new girlfriend skateboarding together on the streets of New York while the sun sets. In another touching scene, a family tragedy finally affects Joey, who’s trying to act tough and cool throughout the movie. The scene shows Joey finally giving into his tears while standing alone in a stairwell with his skateboard.
Frankly, these scenes show that the real story in this movie isn’t the homosexual relationship between the elderly uncle and his partner and their problems getting a new apartment. The real, and better, story is Joey’s coming of age and how his uncle affects that. Clearly, the filmmakers’ leftist politics and pro-homosexual agenda have gotten in the way of their filmmaking.
This problem is reflected in how the movie’s leftist filmmakers treat the Catholic Church and its stance on homosexual behavior and same-sex “marriage.” One scene shows that George clearly opposes the church’s stance, even though he claims in that scene that his Lord and Savior is still Jesus Christ. Of course, the movie never wonders why, if Jesus is really George’s savior and Catholicism is George’s preferred Christian sect, why he has renounced the Jesus Christ, the Bible and the Catholic Church’s clear teaching on these matters. A clue to this is revealed in another scene where George misquotes 1 Corinthians 13:6. In that passage, the Apostle Paul writes, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” However, George misquotes it while defending homosexuality and same-sex marriage, saying, “Love does not delight in injustice but rejoices with the truth.” To distort a biblical passage to make a political point, or to excuse one’s personal, immoral behavior, is one of the most egregious moral, theological, political, and spiritual errors one can commit. It truly is evil. George’s distortion of the biblical text shows that leftists and pro-homosexual activists like the filmmakers behind LOVE IS STRANGE are not interested in moral or spiritual truth. Instead, they want to invent phony issues about “justice” and sexual politics to serve a vacuous intellect, a corrupt heart and a shallow imagination.
Thus, despite some touching elements, interesting story developments, nice acting, and eloquent technical flourishes, LOVE IS STRANGE is a cinematic, dramatic disappointment with an abhorrent, confused, leftist perspective that’s politically correct and often immoral. It contains strong foul language and some homosexual kissing.
IF I STAY is about a teenage girl who gets in a car accident with her family, has an out of body experience, and must decide to live or die. IF I STAY has a strong pagan worldview mixed with Romantic elements, lots of foul language and implied teenage fornication.
Mia is a high school student in a very musical family. The rest of Mia’s family enjoys rock music, but she loves classical and has a passion for learning the cello. When the family has a snow day off, they decide to take a drive. They are hit by an oncoming car, and Mia wakes up and sees the wreck. Surprisingly, Mia sees herself and realizes she’s having an out of body experience. Mia’s body is taken to the hospital, but she doesn’t really know what has happened to her family.
Flashbacks start to come to Mia. They begin when she first met someone she loved dearly, Adam. Adam had seen Mia playing the cello at school. Being a musician himself, he admired her. Adam asks Mia out for a date. They go to a musical performance and a romance begins.
Meanwhile, Adam’s band has been gaining recognition. So, he starts to travel more and more for different concerts. At the same time, Mia has decided to audition for Julliard but hasn’t told Adam yet, because she fears he’d be sad since they had decided to get a place together once she graduates from high school.
Once Mia tells Adam about her plans, he becomes enraged that she hadn’t told him before about the possibility they won’t be living together. Mia has to make the decision whether or not she should go to Julliard if she is accepted, even though she will be away from Adam.
As these memories are coming back, Mia is in and out of the hospital. She learns both her parents have died in the accident, and her brother may not make it. Ultimately, Mia must decide if she should fight to live or just give it all up.
Based on a young adult novel, IF I STAY has a strong pagan worldview mixed with some Romantic elements. It seems as if Mia is presented with the option of living or dying by walking into “the light.” In reality, humans don’t have that kind of control, only God does, through faith in Jesus Christ. The only supernatural indication in the movie is the tunnel of life, with no mention of God or Jesus or heaven, as described in the New Testament. As the Bible tells us, we must accept Jesus in this life in order to get to heaven.
Other problems with IF I STAY include implied sexual relations of unwed teenagers, underage drinking and parenting with no discipline. The movie shows no repercussions for these actions, but actually seems to glorify them. Mia’s parents tell her she can do whatever she pleases. In fact, they even prompt her to “have fun,” which is destructive advice because it is so vague and doesn’t seem to come with any objective standards for living one’s life. Thus, IF I STAY presents a completely unrealistic, false view of reality.
Though the question of what Mia will decide is absorbing enough, the story in IF I STAY doesn’t flow very well as it transitions from reality to flashbacks. The movie does this constantly, which leads to rather awkward pacing. Also, the movie’s dialogue is somewhat trite, even for a mainstream romantic movie. The most successful element is the cinematography, but, overall, media-wise viewers probably will think the movie wasn’t worth their time and money.
THE FATHER’S LOVE is about Sarah, an aspiring filmmaker who’s enjoying the New York City lifestyle as a single woman. She regularly dates more than one man at a time, sometimes even in the same day, but Sarah’s best friend Tricia warns her that she’s playing with fire. Will Sarah ever take her friend’s advice to heart?
When Sarah was just a little girl, her parents split up. Fond memories of her father are now painful reminders of the unreliability of men. Still unable to forgive her father, Sarah hides her pain and refuses to read the letters that he had written to her. Her friend, Tricia, who just started going to church, tries to influence Sarah positively, but Sarah is set in her promiscuous ways.
When Sarah starts dating Reece, the perfect man of her dreams, everything seems right. He’s thoughtful, polite, kind, and even knows quite a bit about Sarah’s Malaysian cultural background. Things seem to be going perfect for Sarah, when Reece suddenly starts acting suspicious. Canceling out on weekend getaways and missing special dates, Reece’s behavior worries Sarah’s friends, but she refuses to see past his charm. When Reece reveals a secret to Sarah, her whole world is turned upside.
Will Sarah ever be able to trust again?
THE FATHER’S LOVE is an engaging story with an important message about love, faith, purpose, and meaning. The story, while a little slow at the beginning, builds momentum and emotion as it goes. Helping the entertainment value is a great cast that gives a fun authenticity to their characters. Sarah’s journey from not trusting anyone, to trusting the wrong man, to trusting in Jesus shows good character progression and leads to a satisfying conclusion.
The Christian message in THE FATHER’S LOVE is strong, but not heavy handed, thanks again to good performances. The Gospel is shown, a life is redeemed, and transformation is made. Sarah’s lifestyle is anything but godly at the beginning, where she misleads people and sleeps around with men. Thankfully, the director shows some creative restraint and tastefully implies her promiscuous behavior. THE FATHER’S LOVE also has some light profanities that warrant caution.
All in all, however, THE FATHER’S LOVE is a good movie showing older teenagers and young adults the pitfalls of a life without Jesus and the benefits of salvation through Jesus Christ.
WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL tells the true story of a high school football team that had a 151 game winning streak under coach Bob Ladouceur.
The opening montage informs viewers of how the De La Salle Spartans, a high school football team, has remained undefeated for many years through hard work and discipline. Though the coach has worked hard to get the team where it is, his goal has never been to keep the streak alive. Instead, he wants to make sure that his players grow into men with integrity and character.
After yet another successful undefeated season, the pressure is high for Coach Bob and his team. When Bob has a heart attack, it becomes apparent that the stress has taken a toll on not only him, but also his family, whom he’s neglected.
To make things more difficult, one of Coach Ladouceur’s most promising graduates, a man who has learned to be a good, godly man and who has just received a full-ride scholarship to play division one football, is gunned down tragically on the streets. After this incredibly dramatic event, all of the football team is shaken up, especially Coach Bob. This causes the rest of the team to lose sight of the coach’s main purpose not to win but to grow into God-honoring men. Their 151 winning streak is lost on the first game of the season.
With a tough schedule ahead and a town that’s disappointed in them, the team has to learn to rely on each other and reevaluate why they play the game.
WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL has a strong second half that ends on an inspiring, tear-jerking note. Though the acting is good, much of the story is disjointed, mostly in the first half. At times, it feels as if the characters have too many goals, and it’s hard to discern where the movie is going. This doesn’t take away much from the entertainment value, but the emotional impact of the story could have been much stronger. The football games are riveting and well shot and the characters are genuine.
All through the movie, it’s clear that Coach Ladouceur has been teaching the boys on his team the importance of humility. In one very touching scene, he brings his dejected and downcast team to a wounded veterans hospital to learn about serving others instead of serving yourself. The biblical themes are extremely apparent in WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL. It’s encouraging to see such a positive representation of the Christian faith, especially among young people. Ladouceur and his family had a realistic family dynamic, and the conflict that comes with it. However, the subplot that was supposed to tackle the ever-relevant issue of fatherhood and work/life balance was left underdeveloped and unresolved.
Overall, WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is a movie that bucks against a culture that’s all about glorifying one’s ego and seeking personal pleasure. Instead of pursuing individual accomplishments and individual fame, the movie promotes an ideal of pursing the exaltation of others. It overtly highlights Matthew 23:12 (“Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted”) as an example for living. WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL is a moving story for families with older children and teenagers that inspires love and humility.
Principles To Live By:
An Exclusive Interview with Jim Caviezel of WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL
By Evy Baehr, Executive Managing Editor
This month, the new faith based movie called WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL comes to theaters. The movie stars Jim Caviezel as Coach Bob Ladouceur, the coach of a winning team. When Coach Bob suffers a heart attack and the team loses one of its players, he must teach the team the values that can get them back on track.
MOVIEGUIDE® had the opportunity to speak with Jim about the movie and his role.
MOVIEGUIDE®: What did you know about this team or how was this personal?
Jim: When I grew up, every summer I was at basketball camp. My vacations were going to basketball camps. My personal experience was when we were playing, in order to qualify. . . they were the number one team in the state, and it looked like we had no chance. They were bigger, faster, stronger, all this. The next day, we watched movie called HOOSIERS, a movie about a big basketball powerhouse playing a little high school basket team and the basketball team won. That night, we went out and we won that game. My teammates were like brothers to me. I was fearless. … You’re not going to let them down. When I read the script, I felt like this was that story. I take movies on personal stories. That was one of the best experiences of my life, and I thought, here’s the power of film that had such effect on me and maybe I could have the effect of this story, on others. Get it right, that was the other thing.
MOVIEGUIDE®: What is the coach talking to his players about beyond the field?
Jim: Two of the things he is talking about are trust and honesty. There is a segment in the movie where they have commitment cards. They have three goals. One would be a game goal, another would be a practice goal, and another would be a weight lifting goal. . . . Having the courage to say, this is who I am, can I help you? It begins sometimes with a painful evaluation of our strengths and weaknesses. Letting yourself open to be vulnerable, but it is only through this process that the real growth and change can occur. To fool ourselves into believing that we have arrived is just closing the door on life itself. The other parts of those virtues are courage. This does not mean just brave in the face of a tough opponent, but rather having the courage to conquer our own cowardly spirit. The voice inside of us saying, “Well, I can’t, or I’m not good enough.” The biggest reason why we don’t achieve is that we don’t believe that we can.
MOVIEGUIDE®: What other messages does the movie have?
Jim: Brotherhood. It understands that one must lose some of myself in order to find others. Individual egos must die in order for a team to live. Learning how to be a team player. A good team player simple means I know how to sacrifice for a just cause. Respecting the dignity of others. He’s not focusing on winning. When he focuses on their virtues, the byproduct of that is winning, but on a level that most people will never achieve. Why is that? Most people don’t want to give up their ego. Someone told me a long time ago the ego means to etch God out, without God one is not that strong. He sees us.
By Tom Snyder, Editor
Several actors have starred in three or more movie franchises, but there’s only one star we can think of who actually created three of the franchises in which he starred, and that’s Sylvester Stallone, the creator of the ROCKY and the RAMBO movie series.
Stallone’s third franchise, THE EXPENDABLES, released its third movie this weekend.
Stallone, 68, sounded like a human Energizer Bunny while talking about his new movie and his career at a recent press conference in Los Angeles.
“Age is a state of old mind,” Stallone said. “It gets to a point where, if you get old enough, you forget how old you are, and that’s the best thing….
“I’m not ready to sit at home and play with my Pomeranians 12 hours a day,” he added. “I’m just not ready. Remember in old vaudeville, there was a cane that snatched you off the stage? Well, I’m waiting for that. Actors don’t want to retire. They’re usually forced to retire, and that’s a sad thing because you really do get better as you get older. You may not remember as much dialogue [but] what dialogue you do remember, you’re better at it. We’re just all children. We’re there to perform, and when that’s taken away. . . I’ve always said the artist dies twice. And, the first death is the hardest, which is the career death, the creative death. . . . So, I just think everybody should just keep going.”
Stallone and some of the other actors starring in EXPENDABLES 3 discussed what it was like working with each other.
“It was a great opportunity to work with some of the best actors that I’ve always admired,” Wesley Snipes said.
Snipes added that it was also great to “act a little crazy again” after being away from movies because of some troubles with the IRS.
Stallone and Mel Gibson, who plays the villain in the new movie, were asked what it was like doing the big fight scene between their characters at the end of the movie.
“Mel is a great actor,” Stallone said. “He’s very fast, very strong, and it was great being punched by him.
“It was fun being shot full of holes by Sly,” Gibson joked.
“There were a lot of characters,” Gibson said about his first impressions on reading the script. “I didn’t know how they were going to jam it all in, but somehow they managed to do it, and everybody got a fair shake, and there’s a lot of people here. So, hats off to Sly for enabling that to happen.”
Harrison Ford co-stars with Stallone, Gibson and Snipes in EXPENDABLES 3.
“Harrison is very intelligent and funny, very funny, very witty and dry humored,” Stallone said. “Harrison is special, very unique. He can bring a lot to a scene with minimal effort.”
“At first, there was a surprise that Kelsey Grammer was going to be on this ride, but I’m tougher than a lot of people think,” Grammer (of TV’s CHEERS and FRASIER) said. “If you know anything about my personal life, you’d realize that. I’ve always wanted to work with Sly. I love working with Sly. It was a revelation to me in terms of just how smart and how improvisational Sly can be as well. And, generous with his time and generous with his acting. I just had the best time ever. . . and I’ve been impressed ever since. I hope [my character] comes back. I’m working out. I’m punching people on the street just to see if I can do it [laughter].”
Stallone remembers how, when he first had some success with ROCKY in 1977, John Wayne just came up to him and said, “Hello, my name is John Wayne, and I want to welcome you to the business.”
“I’ll never forget that,” he said.
Mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey, who plays one of the new Expendables, said, like John Wayne, “Everybody [on the set of EXPENDABLES 3] was just so welcoming and warm. Everyone, really, went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. I couldn’t have asked for a better first project. I’ve always been the one shaking it down with all the guys anyway. I would have felt more uncomfortable if I were in SEX IN THE CITY 4.”
“These guys are all one of a kind,” Stallone said about his cast, both the veterans and the new people. “We’re not coming this way again. You seriously have a real bouillabaisse of talent here, and it’s great to be in the kitchen mixing it up.”
That said, he also joked, “After the fifth EXPENDABLES, you start wearing Dependables.”