With the new film Miracle, Disney continues a trend of taking an interesting sports story and conveying it with an effective and entertaining picture.Based on the 1980 USA hockey teams surprising gold-medal performance at the Lake Placid Olympics, Miracle works, thanks in large part to a good performance from Kurt Russell.Russell plays Herb Brooks, the coach and mastermind behind the teams success. Miracle follows Brooks from his interview with the U.S. Olympic Committee all the way through the impressive victory against the seemingly unbeatable Soviet Union.From the beginning, its obvious that anything short of victory is unacceptable for Brooks. We learn that Brooks was on his way to being a member of the 1960 gold-medal team, but was cut a week before the game started.Since that time, Brooks has been obsessed with getting the chance to be a part of a gold-medal team, and he sees his chance as a coach of the 1980 squad.Brooks style is unorthodox and his strategies are a far cry from previous teams. Slowly but surely the team begins to jell, and the miracle on ice is born.Russell does a really good job of capturing the intense focus of Brooks. You can see that this guy is hard-nosed, but only because he wants his players to succeed.Director Gavin OConnor wisely keeps Miracle close to the ice, although the moments with Russell and his wife, Patty (Patricia Clarkson), are much better than they should be.Granted, Eric Guggenheims script could have developed the players a little more, but it still works because it understands its subject.In the end Miracle, like previous Disney films The Rookie and Remember the Titans, works not just as a sports film, but as an interesting study of relationships strengthened by sports.MonsterAlso arriving in Bowling Green this week is Monster (C+) the story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, the first female executed in the state of Florida.The film begins with Wuornos (played by Oscar-nominated Charlize Theron) on the verge of suicide. But something changes when she meets Selby (Christina Ricci), a naive young lady who falls in love with Wuornos.Their relationship convinces Wuornos to give up her life as a highway prostitute and try to live the straight and narrow. Ultimately, her intentions sour and Wuornos begins a deadly killing spree that eventually leads to her execution.Theron has emerged as the front-runner for best actress at the Academy Awards on Feb. 29, but her performance is just not Oscar-worthy. Dont get me wrong, Theron does a commendable job, but it seems to be more of an amazing impersonation than it does a true performance. Still, Therons performance does prove to be the best thing about this disappointing film. My biggest problem with Monster is the way writer-director Patty Jenkins seems to portray Wuornos in a sympathetic light. Its an uneasy strategy that left me cold. Regardless of how bad Wuornos life was, I couldnt get over the fact that this woman murdered at least seven people. Theres no way Wuornos is the victim here.A lot of people have praised Monster, with Roger Ebert claiming that it was the best film of the year a claim that still flabbergasts me.Fact is, Monster is nothing more than a somber, manipulative movie of the week that has connected with many people, but not this one.Monster opens Friday at the Great Escape 12. The miraculous, monstrous Micheal Compton, a sportswriter by trade, can be reached for comment by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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