FILM: Glory Road, Masters of the Universe

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 19, 2006

'Glory Road' worthy of full court press

By Tessa Strasser

With the Wildcats off to a bleak start, fans may start having to look elsewhere for their basketball fix. At the start of basketball season, Disney offers up "Glory Road," a fast-paced film about the first team to start all-black players in the NCAA National Championship.

Coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) is the head of a winning high school women's basketball team, until he's attracted to a job coaching a Division I college basketball team at Texas Western. The team is pretty shabby-looking, and none of the shining stars of the game want to be recruited to a rundown place like El Paso, so Haskins is forced to look elsewhere for his players. He brings in an unheard-of number of black players from the Bronx and Chicago.

The movie then focuses on how the different styles of playing have to mesh together as one and how the team members deal with the prejudice within themselves and the outside world. Plus, they kind of have to deal with the whole winning thing too.

The film alternates between the seriousness of the racial problems and trying to develop the characters in a funny and interesting way. When one of the players is in danger of not being able to play due to low grades, Coach Haskins calls in his mother to follow him around to classes to make sure he does his work. Haskins' somewhat unusual coaching methods generate most of the laughter in the film.

What can get frustrating about watching the Texas Western team train is that they're supposed to be underdogs, but their level of play never seems to be worse than any of the other teams. Some games are supposed to be close, but the action shots never make it actually feel that way. The team will be making incredible shots, and then the director remembers that they're not supposed to be the dominant team. He then has to quickly make the other team have a comeback in order for the game to seem evenly matched. Planning the depiction of the games doesn't seem as thought-out as the rest of the events in the movie.

What holds "Glory Road" back is the fact that Disney produced it. Every time poor Lucas has to open his mouth to give a line as the inspirational coach, some hackneyed and cliché speech about togetherness and/or hard work pours out. At times, the cheesiness becomes almost too much to take.

The real star of the movie is not the Texas Western team, but the dazzling camera work. The cameras have their job set out for them, panning back and forth with the quick choreography of the game sequences. The editing of the quick cuts and slow-motion shots plays together well and is perfectly timed with the nerve-racking music in the background. It keeps the games from becoming too monotonous and blending into one another.

"Glory Road" is like a beautifully done Gatorade commercial, minus the neon sweat coating its athletes.

Try to forget He-Man

By Nate Buchik

Live-action features based on cartoons have become increasingly popular for both kids ("Garfield") and adults ("Sin City"). Since the well of quality animated material is so large, the genre won't soon die.

Some material, although brilliant in its original form, just doesn't work well in live-action form ("The Cat in the Hat"). Then there is the material that doesn't work well in any form. He-Man fits snugly into this category.

When I was 3 or 4 years old, I failed to understand this, and I loved both the animated series and the live-action feature that followed in 1987, "Masters of the Universe."

In my far-too-emo quest to locate my childhood innocence, I bought the "Best Of" the animated series and watched a few episodes. While I found it interesting how homoerotic the show was, there were no other redeeming qualities to one of my favorite (Was it really one of my favorites? How stupid was I?) shows from my early years.

Surely the epic film, one of the first movies I ever saw in the theater, would prove to save the franchise in my mind.

Starring Dolph Lundgren ("Rocky IV") as He-Man and Frank Langella ("Good Night and Good Luck") as Skeletor, the movie doesn't concern itself with the cartoon world that kids were attached to. The film opens on their home world of Estonia, as Skeletor has captured the powerful Sorceress of Castle Grayskull and is primed to take control of the galaxy. He-Man, ancient warrior Man-at-Arms and his daughter Teela are still on the loose, trying to take back the galaxy and save their sorceress.

Luckily, the good guys run into Gwildor (Billy Barty of "Willow" semi-fame), an inventor who has created the Cosmic Key, which can transport them to anywhere in the universe with the aid of some silly special effects. Unfortunately, Skeletor and company also have one of these keys.

After being ambushed, He-Man and friends desperately transport to a random place in order to avoid being captured.

Thanks to a small budget, they end up in Middle America, where they are soon followed by Skeletor's more powerful goons (Beastman, etc.). They lose the Cosmic Key and need the help of a couple teenagers (one of them played by Courteney Cox) to recover their transport and return home in time to stop Skeletor.

I'll let you guess if they do end up getting back to Estonia and vanquishing the abominable Skeletor.

With plenty of poorly conceived action sequences, terrible acting to spare and dialogue so pathetic it would make George Lucas blush, "Masters of the Universe" is a failure on almost every level.

The biggest problem is that Lundgren's He-Man is completely unlikable because he never appears as his more personable alter ego, Adam. Also, Lundgren can barely speak English, which is somehow Estonia's official language.

The only redeeming quality to this film, and a lot of the other fantasy camp from the '80s, is the music. The Cosmic Key relies on the power of music to help people travel through the universe, and the tune used to get to Estonia is rather nice.

When I think about my experience with He-Man, most of my good memories come from the sweet combo that I created with my imagination plus action figures.

This clearly means that my 4-year-old self was a lot more creative than the hack team behind "Masters of the Universe."