30 for 30: Big Shot (Film Review)

30 for 30: Big Shot (Film Review)

John Spano was supposed to save the New York Islanders. A team mired in a ton of poor decisions, from the players on the ice to the management choices at the top, they had quickly turned from legendary dynasty at the start of the 80’s to the laughingstock of the NHL. And rightfully so.

They even messed with tradition, trading out the iconic Islanders logo for the new fisherman jersey in the mid-90’s, leaving fans crying out for changes all the way through the organization.

bigshotSpano, a business man from Dallas, stepped up and was going to buy the team, keep them on Long Island, and return them to the form of their glory days.

But there was a problem.

He had no money.

As always, ESPN manages to tell a really interesting story here in their 30 for 30 series. Big Shot lets us know how a man could possibly buy a professional sports franchise without any capital, and in the meantime, lets us behind the scenes into the minds of the long-suffering Islander fans, and their further dashed hopes of organizational stability.

Directed by Entourage alum and Islander die-hard fan Kevin Connolly, they story in Big Shot is solid. He goes back to tell the tales of the making of the team, and their rapid and sad fall from grace. The buffoonery of the 90’s is brought out with candid interviews with key players, like Mad Mike Millbury, and Spano himself. It weaves an interesting story, of how he actually did manage to gain control of the team, based on lies and promised bank loans, lame excuses, and really, only a $17,000 deposit on the team. It tells us the story about how it really is more important to know rich and important people than it is to be a rich and important person yourself.

This series is so consistent in its level of storytelling. A fan of the New York Islanders myself, the subject area is definitely of interest, even if this is not the best 30 for 30 out there. One of the major flaws is Connolly himself. While he proves adept at putting together a documentary, telling the story, and directing it, his major flaw was using himself as a narrator. Not that he was terrible, and his personal connection to the Isles definitely added to the story, but his voice just doesn’t sound…right for the part. Although this is only a superficial complaint, it really did take a little bit away from the story, hearing him jump in with his stories. It was hard not to picture Eric chiding Vince on screwing up another movie role on Entourage.

30Besides that, you get what you expect here: another great behind-the-scenes look at a strange moment in sports history. The Islanders still have not fully recovered from their disastrous 90’s, and only with their impending move to Brooklyn next year is there a glimmer of hope for the franchise to truly begin turning things around.

For fans of hockey, this one should definitely be high on the list of great stories from the series, if only because there aren’t that many stories about hockey.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season 1 (TV Review)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season 1 (TV Review)

New to Netflix this month is the first season of the Emmy Award-winning TV comedy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, starring Andy Samberg.

The plot of the show is fairly simple. It is an ensemble comedy focused around the lives and work of a Brooklyn detective precinct. That’s it. Pretty simple, really. And it really, really works.

Perhaps the biggest strength of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is that it manages to be a true ensemble comedy, with all of the characters able to generate their own laughs. This isn’t a show that relies simply on Samberg’s goofiness and a bunch of slugs surrounding him to set up the laughs. Each character gets in on the act, able to make their own humour fit nicely into the concept of the show, and play off one another.

The 99th precinct is full of archetypal cop characters: the straight-laced Captain, the goofy, but successful detective, the brown nosed ladder climber, the hard-edged female cop, the goofy sidekick, the teddy bear sergeant, the incompetent old-timers, and the borderline psychotic secretary. And each one is able to come into their own, and not be overshadowed. The ensemble arrangement of the cast is perfect, allowing us to see, and like, each of the characters, without getting too tired of them. Obviously, Samberg is the main character, but he doesn’t really hog screen time, and his comedy is dead on. He takes the set ups perfectly, has witty, less obvious jokes, and manages to become a really likable character as the season progresses. It is a perfect blend, and well done by the show.

The hard edge and the do-gooder.
The hard edge and the do-gooder.

The supporting cast is really strong, and if the show continues, it could become one of the questions of “who is your favorite cop,” much like other ensembles in the past, like deciding who your favorite Friend was. Through season 1, I am taken by Stephanie Beatriz, who plays the black leather clad, unsmiling, tough-as-nails female cop Rosa Diaz. Not only is she intimidatingly attractive in her gothic attire, but her hard nosed cruelty is generally hilarious. She owns the character, and she plays well with the others around her. Diaz is always good for a smirk, or a commentary on how she loves when things go wrong.

The plots of the episodes are what would be expected of a comedy set in a police station. There are crimes, they solve them. But that is not really the focus of the show. It is more about the interaction of the characters that drives this series forwards. And these interactions are fantastic. The back and forth between Jake Peralta and his Captain are priceless. The constant bickering between Peralta and the goodie-two-shoes Amy Santiago gives way to some excellent one-liners. And pretty much everything that the extra-quirky secretary Gina offers up is priceless.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is funny. Something that is increasingly rare on a network series. There are laughs in every episode, and it is currently hitting its stride as a show. The drama hasn’t yet crept in, something that eventually will affect every sitcom, so right now is the glory years of the show. And yes, I understand it is only the first season. But winning the Emmy for Best Comedy and Best Comedy Actor in its first year pretty much assures us that this show will be around for a few years. It will fall, and the jokes and characters will become tiresome. But for now, it is fresh, it is fun, and it is pretty damn hilarious.

Definitely add Brooklyn Nine-Nine to your summer watch list, it will be well worth your time. Once you have adjusted to the new characters, you will start to like them, and the way they play off one another is great. Well worth watching, and enjoying.