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Movie Review: “23 Blast” is an Inspiring Tale but a Disappointing Movie

Mark Hapka stars in “23 Blast”

Since Remember the Titans, there has yet to be  a movie based on a real football team or player that is  able to emotionally grab and thoroughly entertain an audience.  It’s a hard feat to accomplish, given that most of these true stories have an enriching plot but struggle to successfully translate their message.  Unfortunately, 23 Blast has fallen victim to this formula.

Based on the true story of Travis Freeman (Mark Hapka), a high school football star, who is suddenly stricken with irreversible total blindness.  Travis quickly assumes his life is over and begins to spend his days at home sulking.  Until one day, his former football coach (Stephen Lang) discovers a way to utilize the team’s key player.

This premise is undoubtedly uplifting.  The thought that a blind student could still play football and have the support of his team and town is incredibly moving.  But, when you choose to tell this story with a weak supporting cast, an unnecessary, forced love story, and an amateur screenplay, it will distract from your inspiring tale.

Though it’s not the best film to put on a resume, 23 Blast does feature a few stand out performances, beginning with their lead, Mark Hapka.  Known for his long running role in Days of Our Lives, Hapka proves that he can take on the big screen and has more to offer than dramatic stares.  He commits to his character and portrays a genuine personality that’s easy to like.  As for Bram Hoover, who plays Travis’ best friend and also co-wrote the script.  His first tackle at the big screen was an upsetting fumble.  The lack of development and cliché dialogue did no favors for the fairly, new actor.  Hoover’s attempt to shine as the supporting star was intercepted by Glee’s Max Adler, who starts as the film’s antagonist.  But like his character on Glee, he’s the bully who turns a new leaf.  There is a quality in both, Hapka and Adler that shows true potential for these talents.

23 Blast offers a remarkable story that is trying to stay afloat from its sinking surroundings.

23 Blast hits theaters October 24.

Rating: 2/5

“23 Blast” Official Trailer HD

Interview: Director Thomas Carter discusses new film, “When the Game Stands Tall”

When the Game Stands Tall is inspired by the true story of celebrated football coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), and the personal trials he endured while leading the De La Salle High School Spartans on a remarkable 151-game winning streak.  But, this film isn’t about a high school football team wanting to win.   It’s about being able to accept their losses and learning that there is much more to life.

I got a chance to sit down with director Thomas Carter (Coach Carter) talk about his new movie, his fears, and the other films that have given him inspiration.

There’s a great part when the Spartans play Poly and the quarterback, Chris Ryan, gets injured.  And he tells his team mate, “The only way I’m leaving this game is on a stretcher.”  What’s something for you that you would have to be practically dying for you to miss out on it?

“(Laughs) You know that’s a big if, I mean I love film making and just being involved in filmmaking is just something I care about that much.  You know I would never want to not have been able to do what I get to do in my life.  I made a choice to be in film, first to be an actor and then to be a director. And I’ve been able to that, so I’ve been very lucky.”

There’s a great message in the film, “it’s about the man next to you.”  Can you kind of discuss the meaning behind that quote?

“Well this is a team that won 151 games straight.  A 151 winning streak over 12 years, never lost a game, you know, how do you do that?  The truth is, in high school, when you have different teams coming through, you have different students coming through, and you’re not doing that just because you’re teaching X’s and O’s on the field.  You’re doing it because you’re instilling in those kids what you know is a life lesson that is something that lasts forever, that’s permanent, and that’s what Bob does, you know.  What he teaches is not football, but who are you to your fellow player? A sense of brotherhood, a sense of love, a sense of responsibility that you have that he wants you take not just on to the field but off the field as well.”

The film is also about facing your fears, the Spartans certainly do that when they play Poly.  What is a fear of yours that you maybe have already faced or hope to face someday?

“(Laughs) Well I’ll tell you, my biggest recent fear in the last year was that I would make this movie and Bob Ladoucer would not be happy with it.  That was the biggest challenge for me, that was the most important thing for me, and luckily he’s blessed the movie and given it his stamp of approval.  And I think that’s something that’s just really gratifying to me more than any other kind of approval that I have gotten, so I’m glad that happened.  It’s a movie, it’s really good I hope, and I’ve seen people respond, so I know it’s emotional, I know it’s inspiring to people.  I’ve seen them react to the football action, so I know people are responding, but you know we only really tipped the iceberg of what they really do at De La Salle.  The kind of training, the kind of love, the kind of commitment that the coaches show to these kids and the kids show to each other, so I wanted the audience to just have a taste of that, so hopefully we’ve given them a good taste of it.”

Yeah for sure, this is one of those movies that while you’re watching, it’s both uplifting and inspiring.  So, do you have another movie that also gets you in that inspiring mood?

“I have movies that I really like because I’m inspired by the artistry of the film, not necessarily that it’s an inspiring story.  You know watching The Godfather, one and two, is inspiring to me as a filmmaker.  So my inspiration as an artist, I think, comes from watching people work at a really, really high level.  But, I am a fan of other sports movies.  I’m a fan of Remember the Titans and I cried three times every time I watched that movie, I think so many things are really effective in the way that movie is done.”