Pretending I’m a Superman: The Tony Hawk Video Game Story


Tony Hawk, just like Superman, defies gravity.

(2020) Documentary (Wood Entertainment) Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero, Rodney Mullen, Chad Muska, Jamie Thomas, Aaron Snyder, Scott Pease, Mick West, Jay Bentley, Elliott Sloan, Christian Hosoi, Aaron Homoki, Silvio Porretto, Jordyn Barratt, Walter Day, Nolan Nelson, Keire Johnson, Larry Lalonde, John Feldmann, Chris Rausch, Eric Koston, Cara Beth Burnside. Directed by Ludvig Gür

 

It’s hard to believe now, but it wasn’t all that long ago that skating culture was on the fringes of society; there weren’t a lot of skaters and while they were incredibly passionate and innovative, they didn’t have the kind of numbers that they have today. Skate parks weren’t as prevalent as they are now and professional skaters weren’t household names. Tony Hawk changed all that.

Well, not single-handedly of course, but he had a large hand in it. His Pro Skater video game series caught the imagination of an entire generation; it was one of the best-selling games of its time and inspired lots of young guys (and gals too) to get themselves a board and find their own style.

This documentary does an admirable job of explaining the background; first the state of the sport for skateboarding, which when the game debuted was in a waning phase. Gür also does a good job of setting the stage in the videogame industry. Interviews with pro skateboarders, some who appeared in the game and of course, Hawk himself, lend some context. For example, did you know that Hawk had been approached to lend his name to a video game, but refused because none of the games brought to him were games that he’d want to play himself.

In fact, when you think about it, it seems incredible that nobody really connected the skaters with the videogame audience, even though a lot of skaters were – and are – dedicated gamers as well. Still, I don’t think anybody including Hawk himself could have predicted the hold the game would have on the gamer community and the long-term effect it would have on the sport of skateboarding itself – which as this is written, is actually an Olympic sport. Who could have predicted that?

>Gür wisely doesn’t reinvent the wheel here. The film is brief and informative. If there’s a criticism to be made, it is likely to appeal mainly to gamers and skaters and probably not very far beyond that – and both of those groups tend to prefer gaming and skating to watching documentaries about gaming and skating, but still this makes for informative viewing if you’re looking to find out how skateboarding exploded from being driven largely underground in the 90s to becoming a multi-billion dollar industry that it is today.

REASONS TO SEE: Gives a good sense of the impact the videogame had on skating culture.
REASONS TO AVOID: A very niche core audience.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some mild profanity and some rude gestures.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The first two games in the series have been remastered and were re-released in September 2020.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Google Play, Microsoft, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/16/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Thank You for Playing
FINAL RATING: 6/10
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Behind the Line: Escape to Dunkirk


A horse as a matter of course.

(2020) War/Sports (Picture Perfect) Sam Gittins, Joe Egan, Jennifer Martin, Chris Simmons, Joel Phillimore, Michael Elkin, Tim Berrington, Jake J. Menlani, Ryan Winsley, Toby Kearton, Antonio Bustorff, Guy Faulkner, Sam Newman, Chris Shipton, Mirsad Solakovic, Sammy Measom, Patrick Capaloff-Fowler, Leo Wherrett, Geir Madland, Adam Braddock, James Haynes, Neale Ricotti. Directed by Ben Mole

From time to time, we’ll watch an old movie and sigh to ourselves “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.” On extremely rare occasions, we see a new movie that puts lie to that cliché.

It is 1940 and the British army is being pushed back into the channel, seeking to escape at Dunkirk and facing complete annihilation. A group of soldiers are captured in the countryside of France, including Danny Finnegan (Gittins), who happens to be a world champion boxer. The German commandant, who fancies himself a sportsman, recognizes Danny at once at determines to stage an exhibition match between Danny and one of his men, mainly using the bout as an opportunity to impress his superior officer who also happens to be a boxing fan. Danny is loathe to take part, but eventually relents when one of his buddies is brutally beaten by the man he’ll face in the ring.

In the meantime, the soldiers are aware that the clock is ticking. Soon, they’ll be transported to Germany and where escape will be extremely unlikely. The time to get away is now, with Danny’s bout providing a distraction that will allow them to get to Dunkirk before the entire British army is evacuated, but getting away won’t be so easy. They’ll need help, and there a pretty French farmgirl (Martin) with a grudge against the German commander is their only hope – but it will all be for naught if Danny is unable to stretch the fight out long enough for his mates to get away.

This is an interesting genre mash-up between a war movie that harkens back to some of the contemporaneous “stay calm and fight on” films of the postwar era, and the sports movie that could easily be called Rocky vs. the Nazis. Reading this on paper, I admit it sounds a bit ludicrous but writer-director Ben Mole makes it work.

Gittens, who is best known for a recurring role on the British series EastEnders, has an easy screen presence and carries this low-budget affair on his back, largely. Not all of the supporting cast fares as well, sadly; some accents are known to slip in and out of French and German accents, and a few give some fairly stiff line readings. Given the budget constraints, it’s unlikely there was much time for rehearsal and a likelihood that there is a fairly inexperienced cast behind Gittens.

At times the budget limitations are detrimental – the sound effects of guns firing sound like little pops rather than the bangs we’re used to in the movies, for example, but for the most part, Mole makes good use of what budget he has. I wish he’d taken the time to choreograph the boxing sequences a bit better; they are often unconvincing and one gets the sense that the actors are winging it a bit.

But don’t let that bother you, particularly if you like movies that appeal to the male of the species. This hits two sets of feels for the movie guy, who sometimes gets underserved these days in our zeal to make filmmaking more inclusive – which is a good thing, by the way, but still there’s a need for these types of movies as well. Keep an eye out for it on your favorite streaming service if your favorite guy is moping about the house and is in need of an infusion of testosterone, or if you’re someone’s favorite guy and you need it. In that case, treat yourself, by all means.

REASONS TO SEE: An interesting mash-up of genres.
REASONS TO AVOID: The boxing sequences occasionally are unconvincing.
FAMILY VALUES: There is both war and boxing violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The battle of Dunkirk took place between May 26 and June 4, 1940.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, DirecTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/16/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 96% positive reviews, Metacritic: 69/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Victory
FINAL RATING: 5.5/10
NEXT:
Pretending I’m a Superman: The Tony Hawk Videogame Story