ESPN Films Starts Winding Down Its Latest Series With “This Is What They Want”

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN Films’ Peabody Award-winning series 30 for 30 continues next Tuesday, October 29th with another brand new film.  Next Tuesday, ESPN and ESPN films take audiences into the tennis world in This is What They Want.  The film focuses on tennis star Jimmy Connors and his unbelievable run in the 1991 US Open.

Connors was thirty-eight years old when he entered the 1991 US Open, and was nearing his thirty-ninth birthday.  At the time, he was ranked 174th in the world.  And it had been eight years since he had earned his last Grand Slam singles title.  For those not familiar with the tennis world, this is not a good sign for someone coming into one of tennis’ biggest events.  Connors was close to being eliminated in the tournament’s first round.  But then something incredible happened.  Connors went on a tear that included a contest with Aaron Krickstein on his way to the semi-finals.  Connors’run through the tournament is richly detailed and examined thanks to director Brian Koppelman and David Levien.  The pair have been producing and directing movies since 1997.  Their list of credits includes: Rounders, Oceans Thirteen, The Illusionist, and the new hit movie Runner, Runner.  The pair included in this film, interviews with veteran tennis players John and Patrick McEnroe, Mary Carilo and Jim Courier along with Kirckstein.  Through their interviews and classic footage, This is What They Want examines not just Connors’ run but also what made him such a talked about figure in the tennis and sports worlds.  It shows how he helped make tennis the equally talked about sport that it is today.

All films in the 30 for 30 series will be available for download the day after their broadcast via iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.  The remaining films in the series are listed below.  A special six-disc collector’s edition Gift Set containing the first fifteen films from 30 for 30 Volume II will be available in stores and online Tuesday, November 26, 2013.

The remaining films of the fall slate will air as follows:

  • Tuesday, Oct. 29, 8 p.m. –This      is What They Want (Directors: Brian      Koppelman and David Levien)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5, 8 p.m. –Bernie      and Ernie (Director: Jason Hehir)

 

More information on all things 30 for 30 is available online at http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30, http://twitter.com/30for30, and http://www.espn.com/30for30.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Big Shot A Gripping Sports Scandal Story

Courtesy:  ESPN/ESPN Films

Courtesy: ESPN/ESPN Films

ESPN is set to release the next collection of films in its Peabody Award winning series, 30 for 30next month. As ESPN’s fans count down the days to the release of ESPN Films Volume II, the “Worldwide Leader In Sports” will debut another film likely to be included in the set Tuesday October 22nd in the form of Big Shot. The nearly ninety minute film is a must see for any hockey fan regardless of team allegiance. It follows the story of how one man conned the entire New York Islanders organization from top to bottom and its waning fan base. Throughout the course of the film, director Kevin Connolly presents to audiences how John Spano conned the sports world into believing he was a Texas billionaire.  It presents his rise to power as the head of a struggling NHL franchise that once boasted four NHL Championships, and his eventual downfall after being revealed as the fraud that he was. As with every one of the films in the 30 for 30 series, the very story itself is reason enough to watch this film. Just as much reason to watch it, those closest to the scandal share the story in their own words. This includes Spano himself. From former players to sports writers and others, the whole twisted tale is told in depth. And sealing the deal for this film is once again the inclusion of classic game footage and newspaper articles to help drive the story along and illustrate everything that happened throughout the ordeal. Together, they make yet another film that proves once more why ESP continues to earn the title of the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

The story behind Big Shot alone is reason enough to watch this film.  The story follows John Spano’s deception of so many people.  From the Islanders to the team’s fans to the NHL as a whole, Spano deceived so many people.  Through it all, he seemed to have no remorse at all for his actions.  This is the case even in one-on-one interviews between director Connolly and Spano for the film.  He didn’t try to make himself a victim.  But he seemed to have had no remorse at all for what he did.  Just as incredible is that he was able to fool so many people for so long, despite certain parties openly crying foul.  The sports world is no stranger to scandals.  But this is one of the rarest scandals ever to have hit the sports world.  The closest that any sports organization comes from the world of NASCAR.  Both times, they involved team owners facing criminal charges for fraud.  Keeping that in mind, Spano’s scandal is even more eye opening.  It is one that any sports fan should see.

The story of Big Shot is an eye opener.  It will keep any sports fan engaged throughout its near ninety-minute run time.  The story by itself wouldn’t be as interesting as it is though, without the interviews with those closest to the scandal.  Those interviewed for this film include former Islanders greats Clark Gillies, Bob Nystrom, and former coach Mike MIlbury.  Even Spano himself is interviewed, as noted previously.  The interviews with Milbury and Spano show that while the scandal has long past, there is obviously still some bad blood between them in regards to everything that happened.  Audiences should be warned that some language used in the interviews may not be suitable for all viewers.  Also interviewed throughout the film are professional sports journalists that covered the Islanders’ struggles and Spano’s impact on both the team and the league as a whole.  Their stories help to even better illustrate just how deep the scandal went and how it managed to go on for so long.  It’s one more positive to what is yet another success from ESPN and ESPN Films.

Both the interviews and the story of Big Shot make this film yet another gripping sports story.  There is still one remaining factor to be examined that makes this film as interesting as ESPN Films’ other stories in its 30 for 30 series.  That factor is the vintage newspaper articles and game footage used throughout the film.  Viewers get to see the Islanders’ heyday from the early 1980s thanks to the footage used in the film.  Also included are newspaper articles used to help illustrate Spano’s rise and eventual fall.  They are good visual aids for viewers.  They make the discussions raised by the interviewees clearer for viewers.  Together with the interviews in question, the game footage and the film’s story, it makes this piece another “win” for ESPN and ESPN Films.  It debuts tonight at 8pm ET on ESPN.  More information on this and other films in the 30 for 30 series is available online at http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30 and http://www.espn.com/30for30.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

30 For 30 Series Continues With NHL Documentary “Big Shot”

 

Courtesy:  ESPN/ESPN Films

Courtesy: ESPN/ESPN Films

 

The next film in ESPN’s Peabody Award winning series, 30 for 30, airs next Tuesday.  Big Shot is the next film in the hugely popular series.  It is directed and narrated by Kevin Connolly. Mark Ciardi (Million Dollar Arm, Secretariat) and Ted Schillinger (Benji) produced the film.

Big Shot follows the issues that plagued the NHL’s New York Islanders after the team was bought by Dallas businessman John Spano in 1996.  Spano bought the beleaguered team for $165 million.  His purchase of the team looked like a good thing on the surface.  But, not everything was as it seemed for the Islanders and the team’s fans.  Big Shot presents as part of its presentation, the only interview that Spano ever gave about the Islanders deal.  Audiences will see in this film just how the scam went undetected by so many for so long.  A trailer for the film is available online at http://espn.go.com/30for30/film?page=bigshot.

Each film in the 30 for 30 series will be available online via iTunes and Amazon Instant Video the day after its broadcast.  A special collectible six-disc DVD set featuring the first fifteen films from 30 for 30 Volume II will be available in stores and online November 26th, 2013.  The remaining films in this season of ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 are listed below.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m. – Big Shot (Director: Kevin Connolly)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29, 8 p.m. – This is What They Want (Directors: Brian Koppelman and David Levien)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5, 8 p.m. – Bernie and Ernie (Director: Jason Hehir)

More information on this and all things 30 for 30 is available online at http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30 and http://twitter.com/30for30.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

“No Mas” Another Knockout Film From ESPN Films

Courtesy:  ESPN/ESPN Films

Courtesy: ESPN/ESPN Films

No mas. No more. They are two small and simple words. But these two words had a massive impact on the future of two men. Those two men were boxers Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard. And they are the focus of the latest film in ESPN’s hugely successful film series, 30 for 30. In No Mas, Leonard and Duran each provide their side of the story in the now infamous matchup in November 1980 that ended with Duran quitting in the middle of the 8th round in a matchup from their previous fight mere months before. That matchup resulted in Duran taking Leonard’s WBC Welterweight belt. It is a story that whether one is an avid boxing fan or just a casual viewer, any sports fan will enjoy. First and most obviously, audiences will appreciate this latest film from ESPN Films’series because of the story itself. It’s not just another underdog story. It’s a story of he said, he said. It’s a story of a one man’s ego versus another’s athleticism and pride and their eventual coming to terms with their past. The story of No Mas is just one reason that audiences will appreciate this film. The interviews culled for the interview add even more interest to the boxers’ story. In the same vein, audiences will appreciate just as much as the interviews, the original footage taken from the fighters’ personal interviews before and after their matches and from their fights themselves. Together with the interviews of those closest to the rivalry and the story itself, No Mas is more proof of why ESPN is “The Worldwide Leader in Sports.”

The primary story of No Mas centers on the rivalry between veteran boxers Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran over the course of two fights in 1980.  The first of those fights was the now famed “Brawl in Montreal.”  The second was the pair’s rematch only months later in New Orleans, Louisiana.  Those two matches have become two of the most talked about matches not just in boxing history but in sports history.  That is because of the deeply rooted emotions involved in each match.  This is something that is certain to keep viewers fully engaged throughout the course of the documentary’s nearly ninety-minute run time.  Viewers will be amazed to discover that Duran came into the first of the pair’s fight with what was in his own mind, a sense of vengeance.  He explains throughout the film that at the time of the fights, he felt like he was essentially representing his people.  He explains that he felt a real hatred toward Leonard because he saw Leonard as a rich, spoiled fighter.  On the other side, Leonard was the exact opposite.  He didn’t harbor any deep emotions toward Duran.  However, the emotions caused by his loss to Duran made his story even more interesting.  Of course, those emotions don’t last forever, as audiences will see in the film’s final segment.  It gives viewers full closure.

The story presented in No Mas is another powerful piece from ESPN Films.  However, there is more to consider about this latest film in the 30 for 30 series that viewers will appreciate than just the film.  They will also appreciate the interviews included in the film.  Those closest to the rivalry share their thoughts on the matches.  Duran’s personal trainer is interviewed, along with Leonard’s ex-wife, one of Panama’s top political figureheads and many more.  Former boxing legend Mike Tyson and certain sports media figures share their thoughts on the film, too.  The commentary by these figures helps to better illustrate just how intense the rivalry was between the two men.  And it serves to make the entire presentation that much more engaging.

The story and interviews assembled in No Mas make this film another “knockout” (bad joke fully intended) for ESPN and ESPN Films.  As impressive as they are both alone and together, there is one more aspect of the film that must be addressed here.  That aspect is the inclusion of footage from both the “Brawl in Montreal” and its follow-up in New Orleans.  Audiences get to see just how intense the fights were between Duran and Leonard.  They also get to see firsthand how Duran just gave up in the middle of the pair’s rematch in New Orleans.  It’s one thing to hear about his actions.  But to actually see what he did and to hear his excuses as to why he quit makes this moment even more powerful.  It’s sure to create quite a bit of discussion among both boxing fans and sports fans in general.  And those discussions are the crowning jewel of this film.  They are sure to go on long after the story has ended, proving once again the value of the 30 for 30 series and why ESPN is truly the worldwide leader in sports.  No Mas airs tonight at 8pm on ESPN.  More information on this and the films to follow in the 30 for 30 series is available online at http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30 and http://www.espn.com/30for30.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://philspicks.wordpress.com 

Boxing Veterans Take Center Stage In October 15th Edition Of 30 for 30

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN’s hugely successful 30 for 30 series rolls on through the month of October when it premieres the boxing documentary No Mas.  The documentary, which premieres Tuesday, October 15th, follows the rivalry between boxers Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.  The documentary attempts to find out why Duran gave up in the second round of the second of the fighters now five legendary fights.

Leonard and Duran were two of the biggest names in the boxing world during the 1980s.  Leonard became a national hero after bringing home gold for America in the 1976 Summer Olympics.  The win led to Leonard earning a number of sponsorship deals for himself. But for years, the words “No mas” would echo in both fighters’ ears until Leonard traveled to Panama in the search for closure between the two men.

Each of the films in the 30 for 30 series will be available for download via iTunes and Amazon Instant Video online the day after its broadcast.  The current schedule of 30 for 30 specials is available below.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 15, 8 p.m. – No Más (Director: Eric Drath)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m. – Big Shot (Director: Kevin Connolly)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29, 8 p.m. – This is What They Want (Directors: Brian Koppelman and David Levien)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5, 8 p.m. – Bernie and Ernie (Director: Jason Hehir)

 

More information on ESPN Films’ 30 for 30 series is available online at http://www.facebok.com/espn30for 30 and http://twitter.com/30for30.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks.wordpress.com  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN’s 30 For 30 Series Continues With “Free Spirits” Tuesday Night

Courtesy:  ESPN

Courtesy: ESPN

ESPN is set to debut the latest installment in its hugely successful 30 for 30 series presented by ESPN Films.  The series continues next Tuesday with the brand new film, Free Spirits.

Free Spirits follows the short-lived but successful career of the St. Louis Free Spirits of the American Basketball Association.  The film follows the team’s fight to prove it could hold its own after the dissolution of the American Basketball Association in 1976.  The team featured players that while entertaining, were also at times controversial.  Among those players were: Marvin “Bad News” Barnes and James “Fly” Williams.  Also along for the ride was then very young broadcaster, Bob Costas calling the play-by-play of each of the team’s games.  It goes on to explain what has become of the St. Louis Free Spirits since the team’s glory days.  It will premiere Tuesday, October 8th at 8pm on ESPN.

Each of the new episodes of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series will be available for download via iTunes and Amazon Instant Video the day after it broadcasts.  A complete six-disc collection featuring the first fifteen films from 30 for 30 Volume II is currently scheduled to be released in stores and online just in time for the holiday shopping season on November 26th.

The current slate of films in the latest ongoing 30 for 30 series is available below.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 8, 8 p.m. – Free Spirits (Director: Daniel H. Forer)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 15, 8 p.m. – No Más (Director: Eric Drath)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 22, 8 p.m. – Big Shot (Director: Kevin Connolly)
  • Tuesday, Oct. 29, 8 p.m. – This is What They Want (Directors: Brian Koppelman and David Levien)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 5, 8 p.m. – Bernie and Ernie (Director: Jason Hehir)

 

More information on these films or anything else related to ESPN’s 30 for 30 is available online at http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30 and http://twitter.com/30for30.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

espnW, ESPN Films’ Nine For IX Gift Set Available This Fall

Courtesy:  ESPN Home Entertainment

Courtesy: ESPN Home Entertainment

Nine for IX, the latest film series from espnW and ESPN Films, wraps up tonight.  But that doesn’t mean that it’s completely done.  The complete Nine for IX series will be available on a special DVD gift set this Fall courtesy of ESPN Home Entertainment.  It will be available on October 15th.  All nine films will be featured on four discs.  There will also be two additional films as an added bonus for audiences as well as director’s commentary, deleted scenes and extended interviews.  Those two films are the award-winning shot, “Coach” and SEC Storied film, “Abby Head On.” 

ESPN Films Vice President Connor Schell discussed the film series in a recent interview.  “Title IX Indelibly changed the world of sports, creating new opportunities for women to get involved with sports at the collegiate and professional levels,” he said.  “The Nine for IX series celebrates Title IX with an extraordinary collection of inspiring stories directed by a powerhouse group of Academy and Emmy-award-winning female film makers.”

The Nine for IX series gift set can be pre-ordered beginning September 3rd online via ESPNShop.com and Amazon.com.  It can also be pre-ordered at Wal-Mart and other retail outlets nationwide.  It is expected to retail for $29.95.  For more information on the set’s upcoming release, go online to http://www.facebook.com/espnW, http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30, http://www.espn.com/30for30, and http://espnW.com

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

“Branded” Closes Out Nine for IX Film Series Next Tuesday

Courtesy:  ESPN/espnW

Courtesy: ESPN/espnW

espnW and ESPN Films’ Nine for IX series winds down next Tuesday with the last film in the series. 

Branded will air next Tuesday night on ESPN at 8pm ET.  The last film in the series, it examines the double standard placed on female athletes in competition and in the marketing world.  Women in sports are expected to compete to the best of their abilities in their respective profession.  But when not competing, media outlets and major corporations expect them to be sex symbols.  Co-directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady take a look at this double standard placed on female athletes to this day in their film. 

Branded examines the double standard placed on female athletes through stories shared by a number of female athletes who have personally faced this issue first hand.  It questions whether or not female athletes will ever have equal footing with their male counterparts in the sports world or will the drive to sell sex always keep progress from happening. Former gymnast Mary Lou Retton, sprinter Lolo Jones, professional volleyball player Gabbey Reece, and former professional tennis star Chris Evert share their own stories as part of the presentation.

Each film in the Nine for IX series is available for download the day after its broadcast via iTunes.  A special collector’s gift set with all nine films will be available for purchase on October 15th, 2013.  Audiences can find out more about this and other special series from ESPN Films and espnW online at http://www.facebook.com/espnW, http://espnW.com, http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30, and http://www.espn.com/30for30.  Audiences can also get more information via Twitter at @30for30 and @espnW. 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Nine For IX’s Penultimate Production Airs Tuesday

Courtesy:  ESPN/espnW

Courtesy: ESPN/espnW

The Nine for IX series winds down next Tuesday, August 20th with the penultimate film in the Summer-long film series from ESPN Films and espnW.  The 99ers premieres Tuesday night at 8pm ET on ESPN.  It focuses on the 1999 U.S. women’s national soccer team.  On July 10, 1999, the U.S. women’s national soccer team turned the women’s sports world on its ear when the Women’s national soccer team defeated China’s women’s national soccer team at the famed Rose Bowl to take the Women’s World Cup.  The victory came in front of more than 90,000 fans in attendance and an estimated 40 million fans watching on television.

The story of the iconic victory is told by longtime U.S. Women’s national soccer team captain Julie Foudy.   It’s through Foudy’s own words that audiences gain an understanding of the mentality that led the U.S. women’s national soccer team to victory over China.  It uses not just interviews with Foudy, but behind-the-scenes footage shot by members of the team that have never before been seen.  It reunites key players from the 1999 U.S. women’s national team for the story, directed by Erin Leyden and produced by Foudy. 

The 99ers is the second to last film in the Nine for IX series this Summer.  The series’ final film, Branded airs August 27th at 8pm ET on ESPN.  Each film will be available for download via iTunes the day after its broadcast.  A collectible gift set containing each film will be available on October 15th, 2013. 

More information on the Nine for IX series is available on ESPN’s 30 for 30 Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30 and on Twitter at @30for30 and @espnW. And to keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

ESPN Films, espnW Wind Down Nine For IX Series Starting With “Runner”

Courtesy:  ESPN/espnW

Courtesy: ESPN/espnW

Nine for IX, the summer-long film series from ESPN Films and espnW, continues with another new film next Tuesday.  Runner is the seventh film in the nine-film series.  The story of Runner centers on distance runner Mary Decker.  More specifically, it focuses on Decker’s Olympic debut in the 3,000 meter race at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.  The film follows Decker’s highs and lows as she rose to fame over the course of her career while still having to overcome the tribulations of missing the Olympics three times before her 1984 debut.  As the film presents, her debut was set to literally be Decker’s “Golden” moment.  But a fateful on-track accident with another runner would ultimately seal Decker’s fate.

Audiences hear from Decker herself as she explains how she had to overcome her initial feelings of anger towards rival racer Zola Budd.  It was Budd with whom she collided on track, causing both women to wipe out.  Budd would go on to finish seventh in the race.  Decker shows in the film, that despite those memories still burning in her mind, she has largely gotten past her original feelings of ill will toward Budd.

Award-winning film maker Shola Lynch directs this bittersweet story of hope and determination.  It will air next Tuesday, August 13th at 8pm on ESPN.  Lynch herself is a former track star.  She had been labeled “the next Mary Decker” at one point.  The Columbia University graduate is currently working on a companion book for her new film on Decker.  Her previous documentaries include Free Angela and Political Prisoners.

Only two films remain in the Nine for IX film series.  Those films are The 99ers (premieres August 20th) and Branded (premiering August 27th).  Each film is available online the day after its broadcast on iTunes and Amazon.  A collectible gift set will be available for audiences on October 15th.  Audiences can keep up with all the latest on the Nine for IX series on Twitter at http://twitter.com/30for30 and http://tiwtter.com/espnW.  Audiences can also keep up with all of the latest on the Nine for IX series on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/espn30for30 and http://www.facebook.com/espnW.

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.