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Red Army *****


Put this one on your list.

You don’t have to be a hockey fan (neither I nor my wife Ellen is) to be mesmerized by this documentary.

If you are a hockey fan, so much the better.

Actually, if you like any particular sport, then I suspect you’ll find much to like in Red Army.

But know that the hockey here is not the primary reason for why this film is captivating. It’s about the athletes themselves, particularly the “Russian Five,” and about friendship, loyalty and betrayal.

It’s about how the Soviet Union used these athletes throughout the Cold War to project supremacy. It’s about the price these players paid for their fame.

And it’s about what happened to these players when some (eventually many) of them came to play in the US in the NHL, and, in some cases, became “athletes without a country.”

It’s almost as much about politics as it is about hockey. It’s about the Cold War. It’s about the Soviet Union, Russia, and the US.

Writer and Director Gabe Polsky uses a combination of archival footage and interviews to tell how the Soviets used hockey as propaganda and the price the players paid for that decision. He does that well.

Trust me on this one. You do not have to know, care about, or like hockey to learn something and to thoroughly enjoy this film.

Foxcatcher ****


Another sport’s movie that isn’t so much about a sport (Olympic wrestling in this case) as it is about the three characters at the core of the story.

Although not a documentary, Foxcatcher is based on a true story, a grim one, about  the multimillionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) and two world class wrestling athletes, brothers, Mark and David Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo).

In many ways the film is a painful one.

The true story itself is painful. And Director Bennett Miller (Moneyball & Capote) and writers E. Max Trye and Dan Futterman have chosen not to ease the pain, neither for the characters nor for the audience.

There are terrific performances, starting with Carell but also excellent ones from Tatum and Ruffalo. There is also a minor part (Jean du Pont) played with her usual brilliance by Vanessa Redgrave.

Know that it is not an easy film to watch, not because of any physical violence but because of the story itself and the way that story is portrayed.

*               **               **               **               **               **               *

In a post several days ago, I listed my Favorite Films, 2014.  Some readers have told me that many of these films are not available where they live. Two things: Some of these films have not yet been released nationwide, so keep your eye out for them. However, some are already available through Netflix, for those of you who enjoy watching films at home. Larry Makinson, friend and MillersTime reader, has kindly identified which of those from my list are currently attainable. Check back to Favorite Films, 2014 to see which ones you can see right now.