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T.A. Moreland

T.A. Moreland

Movie Review: Race

It's 1936. The German government is hosting the Summer Olympics. It plans to not just showcase the thoroughly planned event, but also advance its theory of Aryan superiority. At the same time across the Atlantic, a young black American is becoming a rising college track star. Initially, these two developments seem worlds apart. However, they ultimately collide into a history making event.

In Race, Stephen James stars as Jesse Owens. He chooses Ohio State for college because the reputation of its coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis). It was Snyder with his perspective as a former track star, coach and student of the sport, who first realizes that Jesse has world class athletic potential. In order to realize his potential as a world-class athlete, Owens needs to focus almost exclusively on training. However, the demands of being a single father who needs to work to support his daughter, and go to school in addition to athletic training, Jesse's distracted. Snyder takes care of the financial issue by arranging a well-paying, no need to show up job for his soon to be star athlete.

This is just a small part of a story that is so complex and enthralling that all it needed was a screenwriter to harness it all in one script.

Even Owens' name has a tale attached. James Cleveland is the legal name given to him by his parents, and J.C. became his nickname. When his elementary school teacher thought he said, "Jesse" when asked his name, the respectful young man was reluctant to correct her. Thus, he became known as Jesse.

Later on the national stage, the American Athletic Union and U.S. Olympic Committee battled over whether the U.S. athletes should even participate in the games being staged by the strongly anti-Semitic regime in Germany.

Ultimately, this film Race, wins because it's historical, entertaining, and intriguing. It also displays the contradictions in both the U.S. and German positions. While Hitler refuses to meet with Owens as he promised he would do with all gold medal winners, the U.S. president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt neither invites Owens to the White House nor acknowledges his accomplishments.

Despite Germany's government policy of disdain for non-Aryans, its people welcomed Owens warmly and cheered for him. Their non-segregated Olympics' facilities pleasantly surprised him. After his amazing feats, Owens returned the U.S., where over a million people line the streets of New York City to watch the parade celebrating the four-time gold medal winner. The contradictions continue when a black-tie dinner was held for Owens in Manhattan, but he had to go through the servant's side entrance to attend his own honorary event.

As stated, this rich story is the true star of this film; but it was brought to life by a championship caliber crew. The supporting cast: Jason Sudeikis; Jeremy Irons as Avery Brundage – Chairman of the International Olympic Committee; William Hurt as Jeremiah Mahoney, a member of the American Athletic Union and the United States Olympic Committee; and Shanice Banton as Owen's wife, Ruth, were all outstanding. But a special nod goes to German actor Barnaby Metschurat, as Joseph Goebbels, the steely and icy Nazi German Minister of Propaganda.

Stephen James as Jesse Owens and Shanice Banton as his wife Ruth OwensStephen James as Jesse Owens and Shanice Banton as Ruth Owens, the wife of Jesse Owens

However, Stephen James is a bit understated in the lead role which really called for a more prominent seasoned actor.

Race is a See It. It will captivate you on multiple levels. It's rated PG-13 for its theme and language. It's a long film at 134 minutes. But it's a long story to tell.

Movie Review: Zoolander 2

 

In 2001, Zoolander told the story of two unlikely models Derek Zoolander (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) who took the fashion world by storm. But it was Derek whose unique style and pouty expression mesmerized his league of followers. To show their gratitude and to give back, the two performers designed and built the "Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Good Stuff Too". When a disaster destroys the Center, they are disgraced and even blamed for the tragedy. This humiliation leads them to disband and find their own individual forms of seclusion.

Zoolander 2 picks up 15 years later with Derek and Hansel coming out of isolation and determined to reclaim their mega careers and overcome the lingering effects of their pasts.

Back in '01, the first edition of Zoolander performed poorly at the box office. But it developed a following once it was released on DVD, resulting in this sequel. I didn't see that film. But round two of this story deserves a similar box office fate. This movie is awful. The dialogue is loaded with silliness – not funniness. Writing good humor is an art and these writers assume that anything these offbeat characters blurt out will be comical. Additionally, the story is disjointed.

At some points, it's even painful to watch.

Zoolander 2 also wastes the talent of seasoned performers. In addition to Stiller and Wilson, there's Will Ferrell, Penelope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Fred Armisen, Kiefer Sutherland and a short appearance by Justin Bieber and an even shorter one by MC Hammer. Kiefer Sutherland who has a small but recurring role is actually the funniest. There is a problem when a person on the screen infrequently outshines those who have major roles.

Let's not waste any more time on this debacle and get to our cast diversity rating, Zoolander 2, gets a D. Its diversity is as bad as the rest of the film.

It's rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content, a scene of exaggerated violence, and brief strong language. It gets our lowest rating, Dead on Arrival.

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