Monday Morning Critic – Eight Film & Television Projects I Want to See as an MMA Fan (UFC, Kevin James)

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

Normally there’s some brilliant column about to come out about Argo coming out as a historical piece while the Middle East goes through a similar process to what it did 40 years ago but I have to be honest. The film is ridiculously good, as I saw it a little while back, and trying to discuss it without the context of a proper review doesn’t feel right. It’s also coming out on a fairly stacked weekend, as well, with Seven Psychopaths and Atlas Shrugged Part 2 getting wide releases. And another film, too, the one I ended up writing about this week.

The film that intrigued me this week enough write about this week was Here Comes The Boom. It’s a horrible title for a film, honestly. Won’t Back Down, a veritable passion play about school choice, sounds more like an MMA film than Here Comes the Boom. It’s the same title as a Nelly song used in another Happy Madison film, The Longest Yard remake, and kind of sounds like POD’s “Click Click Boom.”

For those who don’t know the film’s premise it’s simple. Kevin James is a high school physics teacher trying to become an MMA fighter in order to save fine arts and stuff. Budget cuts are bad and he’s putting himself on the line to save them. His goal is to make enough money in a certain amount of time, of course, and he winds up in the UFC somehow. Here Comes the Boom is the first film that’s been able to use the UFC trademarks on screen. Zuffa hasn’t licensed their usage to anyone beforehand and it left a lot of films feeling a bit awkward because they weren’t able to use the signature marks that most casual MMA and sports fans would recognize.

It’s like being a football film without being able to use NFL trademarks; it doesn’t quite feel right, like in The Last Boy Scout.

The film’s trailer is solid and the film has been in post-production hell for some time due to two films: Warrior and The Fighter. The latter caused the former to be delayed by a year, as two films about combat sports in the same year would dilute the audience apparently. Hollywood wants a time and place all to itself for some projects. Thus this film got delayed and now comes in a fairly stacked weekend for new releases. James had The Zookeeper a year ago that solidified his spot as a comedic leading man and now comes a film that could give him some more credibility in that department.

James’s physical transformation for the film was remarkable; the guy just didn’t show up as Paul Blart: Cagefighter. He trained significantly for the film to make it believable, which is something that’s commendable. James could’ve showed up as a big tub of goo like he usually does for films and it probably wouldn’t have made a huge difference. The fact that he did shows a passion, which is admirable. It’s not like he’s not an athletic guy. He wrestled in high school with future WWF star Mick Foley, which is a cool factoid, and has like a 2nd degree black belt in kung fu or something. I’m not sure what exactly but the guy has more athletic pedigrees than most Hollywood types do.

James has been a fan of the UFC and of MMA long before it was cool to do so as well. I remember seeing him in the crowd in the early 2000s when the UFC first got back onto PPV. Now he and other celebrities are staples but he was there when it wasn’t fashionable, which says a lot. It’s like seeing famous celebrities at big boxing fights; there are some that are there because they’re fans and others because they want to be seen. James was there because he’s a fan and I can respect him for that.

It’s odd to think that two of modern television’s more famous father figures, James (The King of Queens) and Ed O’Neill (Married with Children, Modern Family) are both big MMA fans with pedigrees in the martial arts to boot. O’Neill talked about in depth, too, and he holds a BJJ black belt from the famed Gracie clan.

O’Neill actually was featured on the web series “Gracie Breakdown” where the family’s prodigal sons Ryron and Rener Gracie break down aspects of BJJ as related to fights. It’s kind of cool to see the television star working on something outside the usual. For those reading this column for the first time I’ve been an MMA fan for some time and been writing about it on Inside Fights for about two years now. Rarely do I get to talk about MMA in my film column without it either being a review or in passing. It’s kind of nice to keep those writing areas separate, of course, but I’ve always wanted to try and mesh them together.

I kept thinking after the UFC on FX card this past Friday as a random thought in my post- card column wound up getting kind of amusing to me. And from there I opted to get a little quirky for this week’s column:

Eight Film & Television Projects I Want to See as an MMA Fann

8. Life Truths … with Mac Danzig

Mac Danzig is best known for winning a season of “The Ultimate Fighter” and being a UFC mainstay for quite some time. But if you’ve ever listened to him in an interview Danzig is MMA’s truth-teller. Give the man 30 minutes once a week and let him just tell the truth about anything. Listen to his epic interview with Joe Rogan on Rogan’s podcast to hear the man speak. Me, I say give this guy a radio show and just let him dole on out the truths of this world.

7. A remake of Tango & Cash … with Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar

What the world is missing is mismatched buddy cop action films with guys cast in completely the wrong roles? Yeah, we need the guys from the epic fight that launched the UFC in an action film together. Griffin, a bit of a goofball, needs to be straight laced Ray Tango. Bonnar, MMA’s comedic straight-man, needs to be the wacky Gabriel Cash.

6. Big John McCarthy Ref the Presidential Debates

I watched maybe five minutes of the last debate, if only because my phone and Twitter feed blew up with people’s reactions, and I was bored at the PBS guy’s moderation. You know who’d have been better? Big John McCarthy.

McCarthy, for those of you who aren’t MMA fans, is the first famous ref in MMA history. He’s the Ed Hochuli of MMA for NFL fans. McCarthy is a big dude who doesn’t take crap from anyone. Would Romney or the President think about getting out of line in a debate? I don’t think so with Big John there.

Imagine it … “Governor Romney, are you ready? President Obama, are you ready? LET’S GET IT ON!”

5. Dana White’s Apprentice

Donald Trump is a guy who’s not really all that successful in anything in life but gets to be a rich jerk because his daddy actually was good at making money. His show has to recruit d-level celebrities these days to maintain good ratings; it could use a bit of a makeover. Imagine Dana White holding the reins over 16 business school/MBA types as they compete in his world? It would probably have to have the world’s greatest censor, of course, but it would certainly beat a pretentious doucher like Trump any day. Imagine this speech to a bunch of b-school grads:

4. The Chael Sonnen Hour

You know what made the ‘80s and ‘90s the best for trash television? You had Oprah, Donahue, Sally Jesse and a couple others all battling for the right to have teenage moms, Klan members and the Cycle Sluts From Hell on their show. Not too many people remember Oprah as this low-rent Phil Donahue, rather as this humanitarian who brought wisdom and quack doctors to the world, but for eons she essentially stole his show format for ratings. She was the undisputed “Queen of Trashy Talk Shows” until abandoning that format. My guess is that she felt so dirty that she’d rather let Ricki Lake and Jenny Jones deal with that stuff instead. Now it’s Maury Povich and Springer but the world needs some change in this area. They’re old and busted; we need some new hotness. What could it use?

Chael P Sonnen, the #2 ranked middleweight in the world, Olympic alternate and one of MMA’s most divisive figures. Why is he so divisive? Dude was blessed with the gift of gab and needs a bigger stage.

Imagine him doing paternity test shows like “I’ve tested 800 guys and no one’s my baby daddy yet” for the sheer ridiculousness of it. MMA’s best talker would be epic running a tabloid talk show that’s all sorts of sleazy. Besides, he could host the Cycle Sluts on his first show. He could probably run it out of Mean Streets Pizza in Oregon, as well, so he doesn’t have to leave the Pacific Northwest. He’s already a best selling author, as well, imagine him introducing these gals for a live performance:

3. Ronda Rousey … Action Movie Villain

You know what would’ve made Dredd so much better? If you had Ronda Rousey as the main bad guy, of course. Bad gal to be more accurate, technically, but she would be awesome in that role. Nuts for nothing, as Lena Headey is a talented actress, but being a bad ass villain is a lot different than being a villain. And if you’re going to try and blow the doors off the old Sylvester Stallone version of the comic book property you need a bad ass villain. Headey, even a bit off kilter, isn’t quite all that bad ass. Still evil but not quite intimidating, I thought, as she lacked that physical presence that would make her feel like a more worthy opponent for Judge Dredd.

I think it would almost be scary just shaking her hand just because I have a feeling that she might be go “you know, I haven’t collected an arm today” and then BHAM! The world has a famine for good female bad guys in action films, especially ones that are legit badasses. Instead of fearing Headey cutting people in Mega City 1, they could fear the arm-bar of the Olympic medalist judoka.

2. Renzo Gracie “Fighting Around The World”

Remember that episode of South Park where Russell Crowe beats people up on a television show? It bugged him to becoming a better man, apparently, and he’s not the first person with celebrity status to be getting into fights. Renzo Gracie, one of the greatest BJJ players from the first family of the sport, live tweeted his beatdown of a couple muggers. The stories of Renzo’s street fights are kind of legendary; we need a show where Renzo just travels the world, bringing ass-kickings everywhere to those who deserve them.

Seriously … any guy who chokes out a mugger and tells him “this is what death feels like” right as they go to sleep is one of two things usually. He’s either a sociopath or the greatest man alive. Me, I’ll go with the latter.

1. An MMA version of The Fan with Jacob Volkmann and Greg Jackson

I touched upon this in my UFC on FX 5 aftermath but something was up with Jacob Volkmann. Dude wanted to finish like no one’s business; he wound getting the victory in the first after just going to town. For those who are film fans, not fight fans, Jacob Volkmann is a fighter who’s normally known for being fairly boring. He’s a grinder, a guy that puts your back on the mat and won’t let you back up for the round. Lots of fans don’t like his style because it’s not aesthetically pleasing at times but it’s incredibly effective because Volkmann is a really good wrestler. But what if someone kidnapped his wife or his kid, or something like that, and made him finish guys quickly or else?

Yeah, I was of Wesley Snipes and Robert De Niro in The Fan.

You could throw in Greg Jackson, the man Dana White and Zuffa blamed for “killing” UFC 151, as some sort of Snidely Whiplash character twirling a moustache as a villain. He’s got Jacob Volkmann’s wife and if he doesn’t finish his next opponent in the first round she’s going to die.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Orthodox Stance

Since this week we’re focusing on combat sports related stuff, why not a film about an Orthodox Jewish Boxer? With nothing screaming to me and enough time to get a film in before Bears/Jaguars, Hulu is a beautiful thing.

Dmitriy Salita is an Orthodox Jewish boxer who competes and is always remarkably devoutly religious as well. The film focuses on this seemingly incompatible world between the two aspects of his life and his struggles to keep them both in check. It’s an interesting glance into the world of an elite level athlete that doesn’t want to skimp on his spiritual obligations as an observant religious type.

Mixed in with some fight clips that show that he’s quite the boxer, as well, it’s an interesting documentary on the sweet science.


What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Argo – The true story of how the CIA used a fake film to get out six people trapped as crazies in Iran took over.

See it – I’ve seen it already and can tell you this. It might be the best film of the year. Review coming but Ben Affleck has topped both The Town and Gone Baby Gone.

Here Comes the Boom – Kevin James becomes a fighter to save the school he teaches at.

See It – James got in great shape, et al, for this film. That says a lot about the effort put in to make it good.

Seven Psychopaths – Sam Rockwell kidnaps Woody Harrelson’s dog with Christopher Walken. Colin Farrell is somehow involved in all of this.

See It – The trailer doesn’t impress me but the cast does. So I’ll give it a chance.

Sinister – Ethan Hawke buys a house to write. A ghost thingie tortures his family instead.

Skip It – Ethan Hawke shouldn’t need money this bad.

Atlas Shrugged Part 2 – An entirely different cast tackles the tale of a bunch of people fighting a crazy government and whatnot. The second part of the trilogy made and distributed despite not setting the world on fire.

Skip It – I may have been the only person in the world who genuinely liked Part 1 but no one saw it and it didn’t set the world on fire on DVD. That doesn’t bode well considering they replaced everyone in the cast for the sequel.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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