Monday, July 09, 2007

ESPN'S Bronx Tale

Normally, I'd say something snide about ESPN and how it should stick to reporting news rather than making movies, but when the network foists the likes of "Who's Now?" during its broadcasts, what would be the point?

ESPN again ventures into Hollywood tonight with the miniseries "The Bronx Is Burning," (ESPN, 10 p.m.) which tells the turmoil of the New York Yankees. The miniseries is unavailable for preview, so all I can say about it is that I hope it's better than ESPN's other offerings in this genre.

Certainly, there is a lot of material to mine for "Bronx," and the cast is first rate: Oliver Platt plays George Steinbrenner, while John Turturro is Billy Martin and Daniel Sunjata ("Rescue Me") plays Reggie Jackson. The clash of egos among the three even as the Yankees won the World Series in 1977 and 1978 is almost the stuff of legend.

The problem is, ESPN movies rarely find the story when they are made. Take the one with Brian Dennehy as Bob Knight. I didn't have a problem with Dennehy's performance, but the movie itself gave absolutely no insight into Knight - one minute he's a jerk, the next he's a nice guy, and so forth. We don't really learn why Knight is this way, nor does the movie portray many of the infamous incidents that marked Knight's career. Other bits of Knight's life were only mentioned in passing, such as a feud with then-Michigan coach Bill Frieder, without any context for the viewer.

Or take "Four Minutes," written by legendary sports scribe Frank Deford about Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile. The movie does a decent job in looking at Bannister's life and his quest to achieve what was thought impossible, but it leaves out the most interesting part of the story.

Months after Bannister broke the barrier, his own record was broken by Australia's John Landy. It set up one of the most famous races in the history of sports, when the two men competed against each other in a field of the top six runners in the world. In the final hundred or so yards, Landy was leading the race and turned his head to see where Bannister was. Bannister took advantage of Landy's mistake and burst ahead of him and set a new mile record. Despite being one of the most dramatic moments ever in sports, this race doesn't appear at all in the movie except as a footnote at the end.

Hopefully, "The Bronx Is Burning" will have learned from the mistakes of ESPN's other movie attempts.

MONDAY'S BEST BETS: Mondays have been a bit light of late, but not this week.

Because of the baseball All-Star Game tomorrow, "On The Lot" (Fox, 8 p.m.) returns to Monday temporarily to eliminate one of six filmmakers who submitted horror films last week. On the one hand, none of the horror films were that great (I liked the funny one about the old woman making a sandwich the best), but on the other hand, horror is a very tough genre to do, and if none of the directors had an inclination for it before, it makes it very difficult to write and direct a short film with that subject manner. After all, in Hollywood, if you were to make a horror movie, you'd hire someone like Wes Craven or Eli Roth to direct it, not someone who had no background or interest in horror. But I digress. Watch the show.

To wet your appetite for the All-Star Game, catch the Home Run Derby (ESPN, 8 p.m.) tonight.

If sports or movies aren't your thing, there are plenty of first run dramatic programs, including new episodes of "Kyle XY" (ABC Family, 8 p.m.), followed by the series premiere of "Greek," and "Big Love" (HBO, 9 p.m.), and the TNT duo of "The Closer" at 9 p.m. and "Heartland" at 10 p.m. VCR alert - "The Closer" is supposed to run a little long, so set your VCRs and DVRs accordingly.


hotspur said...

Disagree with you about Roger Bannister film which I thought was very good. It was his running of the sub-4 minutes which was important. His defeat of Landy was not nearly as significant. I remember going to school the morning after and we all stood in the morning assembly for 3 58.4.

Track was as important as soccer in those days and Bannister, Chattaway, Brasher and Pirie were as hero worshipped as any British sportsmen.

zodin2008 said...

I generally stay away from ESPN's original programming. That being said, I am surprised you or hotspur didn't mention Tom Berenger as Bear Bryant.

Jonathan said...

I found last night's "On the Lot" to be the best grouping of films yet. Although, I do agree with the two judges that the chick's morality tale felt like being hit over the head with a branding iron. I wonder though if it was the plan all along to start bumping off two filmmakers a week, or if that was a ploy to get the show off the air quicker in lieu of terrible ratings. It's too bad this didn't work because I think it had a lot of potential for future installments.

As for the ESPN movies, I tried watching the Bobby Knight one and couldn't get into it, so I have never watched one since.

Phillip Ramati said...


What I said was the filmmakers left out what I believe to be the most interesting aspect of the story. Of course, breaking the 4-minute barrier was huge; but since everyone knows he did, it takes some of the dramatic tension out of the film. But less people know about the duel with Landy, which makes that race more exciting, especially since Bannister was racing against a person as well as a clock.

Tom Berenger did a good job as Bear Bryant, but the movie was overly melodramatic.

Phillip Ramati said...


I also enjoyed last night's films, except for the one you mentioned. She is the weakest filmmaker still left in the competition. Except for her film about the father-in-law, which was terrific, her stuff has been the weakest and most preachy.

Usually, I like Garry Marshall as a judge, but why he supported her film and attacked the one about the globe - my favorite of the night, even ahead of my man Zach - is mystifying.

I ended up voting for all three of the guys, who have all been among the best competitors in the series.

I think the double elimination next week was planned all along, because at some point, the judges need to whittle down the field, so it makes sense. But I agree, I wish more people had watched this excellent little series from the start.

There is still time to jump on the bandwagon, though. There are new films being debuted every week.

Cindy said...

Daniel Sunjata is a jerk!!! I hate him!!!!! He stole money from me when while we were dating and because of him my childeren went hungery for a week!!!!!! Now I see that he is taking advantage of girls and boys and the elderly and that he is sleeping with casting directors and producers to get all his jobs!!! I am not suprised. He always acted so bougie and like he was better than everybody. So conceited and always looking in the mirror and **** Such a user and a pedaphilly and a gay **** homo. I hope he gets whats coming to him. OOOOO i wish I could slap him in the grill.

zodin2008 said...

Wow. I heard a few rumors about the guy being gay, but Daniel Sunjata sounds like a piece of work. To leave your children without food this man must have no conscience. But I'm not surprised he lies for a living, he's a professional con man. I never understand why women get involved with these people. This guy is a prize example why we shouldn't be putting actors on pedestals. I wouldn't let him take out my trash.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tank 11, SondraOH!

I think you are really Daniel Sunjata himself. Don't ask me how I know, I just do. And before you get all panicky..I mean you no harm.

I sincerely hope you get a peaceful and just resolution to these accusations if true. It seems people are bent on repeatedly publishing these private matter. In keeping with how passionate you seem to be about justice and righting wrongs....if your are indeed sincere and "real about your shit", you no doubt will do/have done the right thing and started appologizing and repairing your relationships with these women. If true, it explains why a wave of anger would come at you when you have a show airing. If you are an advocate for humanity then I'm sure you know that hurting people through deceit is just as punishable and dishonest as the goings on on Capitol Hill. If not, screaming for justice on 911 and sporting 911 Truth gear.... just makes for a very stange and interesting dichotomy. Then again some people get passionate about ethics and religion when they themselves are living in sin. It's called guilty conscience. That's my two cents.

Sidebar: Talk about 6 degrees of separation...Larenz Tate on Rescue Me---I met you before and actually waited on him in a restaurant before about 12 years ago. I vividly remember him saying he does not use profanity (his mum reared him that way) and he's a teetotaler. Very pleasant young man and if I vaguely recollect also from your neck of the woods