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‘Air’ Review: Ben Affleck Turns Nike’s Quest to Sign Michael Jordan Into This Generation’s ‘Jerry Maguire’



Americans spend tens of billions of dollars on basketball sneakers every year. Sure, everybody needs shoes, but it shouldn’t matter if your choice bears the Nike swoosh, Adidas’ three stripes or the Converse star. In most cases, consumers aren’t simply buying footwear; they’re investing in the fantasy of walking in someone else’s shoes — a sports star or personal idol — of believing that switching one’s kicks has a direct impact on your potential for greatness.

As the Nike marketing gurus in Ben Affleck’s “Air” put it, “A shoe is just a shoe until someone steps into.” If you’ve been alive on earth in the last 40 years, then you already know what happened when a rookie named Michael Jordan let Nike put his name and likeness on their shoes. But “Air” isn’t about convincing the greatest basketball player in the history of the game to sign with Nike, although a “Jerry Maguire”-desperate Matt Damon — as paunchy, flop-sweating Sonny Vaccaro — might trick you into thinking this is just the (admittedly very entertaining) anatomy of a landmark business deal.

Instead, “Air” ought to be taken as the ultimate example of the American Dream, a Cinderella story of sorts about how the third-place sneaker brand wished upon a star, and how that man — and his mother — were smart enough to know their value. “Air” reveals how an exceptional Black athlete leveraged his talent and the power of being pursued by a bunch of white men in suits, to change the game. Not just basketball, but the whole field of celebrity endorsements. It’s remarkable and fitting that Affleck focuses these negotiations not on Michael Jordan but the woman he trusted most, his mom, Deloris (Viola Davis).

The year is 1984, as an opening pop-culture montage reminds/educates audiences about the early days of the ultra-sophisticated advertising world we now live in: Apple hired Ridley Scott to direct a Super Bowl commercial; Wendy’s turned “Where’s the beef?” into a national catchphrase, and sports stars were everywhere from Wheaties boxes to TV commercials. Nike had branded itself as a running shoe company, and no serious basketball player wanted to sign with them. Sales were down, and company founder Phil Knight was ready to pull the plug on the entire division.

In a sly move, Affleck casts himself as Knight, playing the OG “shoe dog” as a comic figure with an ill-fitting wig and an aloof sense of timing. Most corporate CEOs step on other people’s sentences, butting in before their underlings have finished speaking, but not this guy. He waits a beat before responding, as if his attention might be divided between the conversation at hand and a dozen other thoughts. On the wall of Knight’s office hangs a giant sign listing the 10 rules by which Nike operates. Rule No. 2 reads, “Break the rules.” But in 1984, Nike was a publicly traded company, and boards expect rules to be observed.

Enter Vaccaro, Nike’s in-house basketball guru, whom “Air” introduces as a betting man: He stops by Vegas after a scouting trip, and loses it all on craps. But it’s more than a hunch that tells him Nike should invest its entire quarter-million-dollar basketball marketing budget on one player, as oppose to spreading it among several lower-ranked draft picks. Never mind that Jordan is an Adidas guy; forget that the German company (at which “Air” takes a few sharp digs) can outspend anything they offer.

Jordan’s genius on the court practically goes without saying, and yet screenwriter Alex Convery shrewdly decodes the 21-year-old’s potential, spelled out after Vaccaro studies tape of Jordan’s first year on the University of North Carolina’s team. This and other key moments play like classic Aaron Sorkin scenes, blending the inside-baseball insights of “Moneyball” with “The Social Network”-style power games. His characters aren’t quite as compelling as Sorkin’s, but they express themselves beautifully. Between nostalgia-baiting ’80s radio hits, they walk and talk strategy (around production designer François Audouy’s great sets) or else cut one another down in private (as old friends Damon and Affleck do at several points).

In the film’s most galvanizing monologue, Vaccaro finally gives Jordan (whose face appears only in archival footage) and his parents (Davis and Julius Tennon) the pitch. Who knows what Vaccaro really said in that room, but this speech — intercut with the triumphs and pitfalls of Jordan’s career — summarizes everything Michael Jordan means to us, his fans and the legions of Americans he inspired. To get to this moment, Vaccaro must first convince Knight to endorse his plan; he has to deal with Jordan’s agent, David Falk (Chris Messina, hilariously hostile); and he has to drive out and face Deloris in person.

Casting Davis was the smartest thing Affleck could have done, as the EGOT winner is to acting what Jordan is to sports: Her strength inspires, and she can move us to tears while making it look easy. We all know what happened with the Air Jordan deal — the shoe launched the collectible sneaker culture that surrounds us today — and yet, Davis forces Damon to work for the family’s approval.

Meanwhile, as Vaccaro, Damon channels the same nervous energy that defined his underrated, but career-best performance in Steven Soderbergh’s “The Informant!”: At times, the entire scheme seems to be cratering around him, and in that moment, Damon brings the same competitive spirit we associate with sports movies into the boardroom. It’s too bad the character doesn’t have a personal life to speak of. At least Nike marketing exec Rob Strasser does (played here by Jason Bateman), spelling out the stakes in a touching birthday scene.

Memorable parts by Chris Tucker as Howard White, who traded his basketball uniform for a corporate suit, and Marlon Wayans as 1984 Olympics coach George Raveling notwithstanding, “Air” often seems to be focused on the whitest guys in the room. But Affleck is hardly blind to the racial dynamics underlying this whole saga, revealing how Deloris ensured that corporate America couldn’t exploit her son.

Then and now, Nike’s shoes weren’t necessarily any more stylish or advanced than their competitors’ — although the original Air Jordans are a thing of beauty. The company’s sneakers owed nearly all of their mystique to the athletes who wore them. In 1984, Michael Jordan was still a rookie rather than a myth, and yet the movie works because everybody knows what he went on to become. The last of Knight’s 10 rules reads, “If we do the right things we’ll make money damn near automatic.” The Jordan deal saved the company. The rest is his story.

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Bobby focuses on creating higher margins while investing in society. He believes that our World has room for improvement, and one of his goals is to be part of the evolutionary process. What makes him successful is the collaboration with founders and partners. Bobby has a successful track record in envisioning and creating deals and opportunities from scratch in various industries.


TCM Sets Warner Bros. 100th Anniversary Program Slate Including 10 Restored Classic Films



Warner Bros. will commemorate its 100th anniversary with a block of programming on Turner Classic Movies starting April 1.

TCM will broadcast remastered and newly restored versions of 10 classic Warner Bros. films, each featuring an introduction from a filmmaker or film expert culled from the network’s ongoing partnership with the Film Foundation, a non-profit preservation and exhibition organization. The program coincides with the April 13-16 run of the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood.

On April 13, a new 4K restoration of 1959’s “Rio Bravo,” Howard Hawks’ classic western starring John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson and Angie Dickinson, will premiere on TCM and serve as the opening night film of the festival. Dickinson will attend the in-person event, while Martin Scorsese will introduce the film on TCM’s small-screen presentation. Similarly, Warner Bros. will premiere a new 4K restoration of Elia Kazan’s “East of Eden,” starring James Dean, on both the big screen and the network, the latter featuring an introduction by filmmakers Wes Anderson and Joanna Hogg.

Other films planned for broadcast on TCM include “Land of the Pharaohs” and “Storm Warning” (both introduced by Scorsese), “Rachel, Rachel” (introduced by Ethan Hawke), “Safe in Hell” (by Alexander Payne), and “A Lion is in the Streets,” introduced by Daphne Dentz and Robyn Sklaren of the Warner Bros. Discovery Library.

TCM additionally plans to program trailers, archival interviews, documentaries and other ephemera from Warner Bros., complementing festival programs such as “Looney Tunes at the Oscars” and “Warner Bros. Coming Attractions,” panels exploring the studio’s extensive history.

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Jeff Goldblum Addresses His Jurassic Park Costar’s Cancer Diagnosis



Jurassic Park star Jeff Goldblum has addressed his costar Sam Neill’s diagnosis of stage 3 blood cancer. Goldblum portrayed mathematician Dr. Ian Macolm in the first Jurassic Park film opposite Neill’s paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant. He returned to his role as Ian in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and in Jurassic World: Dominion, the latter of which saw him reunite with Neill in the franchise for the first time since Spielberg’s original film.

Speaking with Evening Standard, Goldblum opened up about Neill’s diagnosis of stage 3 blood cancer, which the Jurassic Park actor revealed in his recent autobiography. He quietly spoke about Neill’s remission, hopeful that the actor would recover soon. Read what Goldblum had to say below:


“He shared it with us early on. He’s been in constant touch with me and, well, he looks fantastic, he sounds great. Hopefully, he’s as healthy as a horse now. I just adore him.”

How Jeff Goldblum & Sam Neill’s Jurassic Park Roles Defined Them

Having starred in Jurassic Park in 1993, Goldblum and Neill have continued to be friends since taking their roles in the dinosaur franchise. During the production of Jurassic World: Dominion and while dealing with the Covid pandemic, the duo began singing and posting cover songs online. The pair are good friends, which makes Goldblum’s well wishes for Neill’s recovery process all the more heartwarming.

Goldblum and Neill are also the only actors whose Jurassic Park characters visited Isla Sorna on the big screen. Ian Malcolm went to Site B in The Lost World: Jurassic Park to document the dinosaurs, while Alan Grant visited the island in Jurassic Park III after being hired to find a lost boy. Their return in subsequent Jurassic Park sequels underscores their roles as the heart of the franchise, made all the more prominent because of their reunion in Jurassic World: Dominion.

Thankfully, Neill’s cancer has been in remission for the last eight months, indicating the treatment he went through has been working to save his life. The talented actor is already filming a new project as well, having reassured his fans in an Instagram post earlier this week that he is doing well. Goldblum’s concern for his friend is one of many well wishes the Jurassic Park star has received as he continues to recover from his diagnosis.

Source: Evening Standard

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Vanessa Hudgens Sets Philippines Travel Documentary Exploring Her Family’s Asian Heritage



Vanessa Hudgens, the Asian American actor whose career kicked off in Disney’s “High School Musical” series, is set to shoot a travel documentary in the Philippines, the country of her mother’s birth.

The untitled project will shoot in Palawan and Manila in March. Paul Soriano is attached as a director, producer and executive producer. Mark A. Victor of TEN17P will also serve as executive producer. No distributor, broadcaster or streaming platform has yet been disclosed.

Soriano’s recent credits include directing the 2019 film “Mañanita” and Manny Pacquiao biopic “Kid Kulafu.”

The documentary is said to showcase the relationship between Hudgens and her Filipino mother, Gina, who emigrated to the U.S. at the age of 25, as well as Hudgens’ sister, Stella.

Since “High School Musical,” Hudgens has notched up key roles in “Spring Breakers”, “Gimme Shelter,” “Bad Boys for Life,” and the Oscar-nominated Lin-Manuel Miranda-directed musical “Tick, Tick …Boom!” Hudgens executive produced and starred in the film “The Knight Before Christmas” and all three installments of “The Princess Switch” series for Netflix. Hudgens is next set to star in the upcoming films “French Girl” and “Bad Boys 4.”

“I feel like ours is such a relatable story to so many women all over the world,” Hudgens said in a statement announcing the documentary. “The more that we can share, the more we can lift each other up.”

“We are honored to work with Vanessa for this film project. It’s inspiring to note that with everything she has achieved in life, she wants to discover her Filipino roots and pay homage to her mother’s country. Hopefully, this opens doors for many more collaborations to come,” said Soriano in a statement.

Soriano previously produced “A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery” (2016), which won a special film award at the Berlin International Film Festival, and “Transit” in 2013, which was selected as the Philippines’ entry for the foreign language film category at the Academy Awards. He is also a presidential creative adviser to the Philippines’ government.

Hudgens is repped by CAA, Untitled Entertainment, the Lede Company and Ziffren Brittenham.

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