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79 out of 103 people found the following review useful:

A sports movie worthy of non-sports people

Author: trillian28 from Encino, CA
7 December 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is not what you might expect. It is not your typical sports movie, where a disparate team comes together to triumph over adversity as the music swells with a dumb sense of pride. This is a movie about people, kind of like Seabiscuit that way, except less happy and with no horses.

This movie is about Odessa, a medium-sized town in Texas with no economy and nothing to do besides obsess about high school football. It is a town where they pay the football coach twice as much as their teachers, where a boy's best chance out is to get a football scholarship to a faraway college, and where these boys are under so much pressure to win because the town seems unable to succeed at anything else.

A movie like this depends on its actors, because it is a character drama at its core. Much noise has been made of Billy Bob, and how he gives a great performance, and this is very true, but he is not the only star in this movie. The boys all do a great job too, especially Lucas Black. I have never noticed this actor before, but he is so intense as Mike Winchell that he makes you really feel for him. The other boys, including Derek Luke and Jay Hernandez, are also note-perfect.

There is a great moment at the end, after their final game, when they talk about what they are going to do next. They haven't graduated yet, but it is already over for them. There is a sense that nothing else matters. Subtitles tell us what happens to everyone. It is sometimes funny, often tragic, and always ironic, and you leave the movie feeling like you've met some new people who are very real.

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69 out of 103 people found the following review useful:

The Best Sports movie ever made

Author: espenshade55
10 October 2004

This movie was phenomenal in every way. It had incredible performances under a great director with a fantastic story to back it up.

It tells the story of a high school football team in Texas through the course of their 1988 season. Billy Bob Thorton played the coach of the team and give the best performance I've ever seen him give. The film was directed by Peter Berg who gave it a unique film style. He managed to tell this story in a very beautiful way.

Tim McGraw gives a great debut performance of an ex-high school football player who has become the drunken abusive father of one of the players currently on the team. He was almost unrecodnizable in this role and he portrayed it well. He, and the rest of the cast for that matter deserve a lot of credit.

This is the only football film I have ever seen that has done justice to what it feels like to play football in high school. I played under Friday night lights myself, that time of my life ended just a year ago and it still holds fresh in my memory. And because of that I can tell you how accurately this film portray's the sense of brotherhood and friendship that is felt by every team, at least every good football team.

Whether you ever played under Friday night lights yourself or not anyone should be able to appreciate this film.

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53 out of 73 people found the following review useful:

The Real Varsity Blues

Author: zatz-1 from United States
9 February 2005

This is a very dark sports movie. It's about fanaticism, the great weight of importance certain people place on sports. Sports fans often regard their teams as extensions of themselves. In "Friday Night Lights," the entire town of Odessa, Texas collectively puts their town's reputation on the shoulders of a high school football team. It's basically the same exact plot as "Varsity Blues," except a serious version of high school football in small town Texas.

One thing the movie does extremely well is taking hackneyed plots of the individual players (because it's all been done before) and putting them all in the background. So the plots play out not in a cheesy, inspirational, in-your-face way. Instead, they are just there with only as much attention as the viewer wants to put on them. The great aspects of sports are enough to keep us interested and makes the movie incredibly real.

The only character whose plot is really focused on is Boobie, the cocky running back who is injured and tries to defy his own injury. This is a plot in sports movies that has been focused on somewhat - the injured player. But never before has the pain been so real and so powerful.

This movie is heart-wrenching. Sports movies usually have so many moments of redemption and cheesy happiness that often feel false. This movie only has one such moment and it is incredibly powerful. Nothing about this movie is Hollywood. Billy Bob Thorton gives a great, understated performance as the coach, a man who is simply internal, who can do nothing but sit back and watch events unfold, knowing full well the impact that each game has on himself and his family. All the actors playing the football players do a good job, especially the guy who plays Boobie.

Don't expect this movie to uplift you. But it will show you an interesting side of sports you may have never considered. And, in the end, it shows exactly what is great about sports, and it has nothing to do with winning or making a career out of the game. It's about giving all you have for a teammate.

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47 out of 74 people found the following review useful:

Excellent Look at a Small Town's Football Madness

Author: Doris Bell (jabell) from Olney, MD
9 October 2004

To be honest, I went to this movie primarily to see Christian Kane, but the reviews had been excellent. I expected a cross between All the Right Moves and Remember the Titans, but it was nothing like the second, which was about two coaches forced to make their teams blend into one while avoiding racial problems. There were elements of All the Right Moves, though, as several of the young men expressed their desire to get out of Odessa through football, but the movie focused on several of them rather than just one. Its best companion piece in my opinion is the Texas Cheerleader Murder, which shows the same football madness from the other gender as they will do anything to be cheerleaders!

Billy Bob Thornton was excellent as the coach, facing pressure on all sides to win the state championship. An excellent touch was the large number of for sale signs on his lawn after his team was blown away in the game following Boobie's injury. The community put pressure on the boys as well, everyone who owned a state championship ring from prior years pushing them in the kids' faces. Tim McGraw was a revelation as Brian's abusive father, and the actress who was Mike Winchell's mother gave a brilliant performance.

All of the young actors were excellent, especially Derek Luke as the unfortunate Boobie. He made the audience feel his pain and frustration. Lucas Black, who had done such a marvelous job in American Gothic, has a face that reflects his pain as he faces all of his tribulations, which include the pressure of suddenly becoming the team's best hope when Boobie is out and of having a mother with mental and/or emotional problems. Every one of them is a gem.

The cinematography was outstanding, and the shots of the town and the bleak surroundings certainly demonstrated why the kids wanted to get away. Despair hung in the air, with people clinging to their moments of glory as the only happy days of their entire lives. This was its primary likeness to All the Right Moves, although the hated home town was a Pennsylvania steel town (Johnstown, PA, which I escaped from myself), not a Texas prairie city.

And what made things even more intense was that this was a true story. Showing the boys' fates at the end was an excellent conclusion.

And Christian Kane? I knew he only had a cameo, as he had told Peter Berg that he'd love to be in the movie and would take any part there was. He was the man in the restaurant/bar who asked Mike Winchell if he'd take a picture with him & his kid. He was long-haired, unshaven, and, to be honest, if I'd seen him this way first, I'd never have given him a second look. He did a good job as a "good ole boy," though!

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51 out of 91 people found the following review useful:

A review by a football player

Author: pulpface from United States
21 February 2005

"Gentlemen. The hopes and dreams of an entire town are riding on your shoulders. You may never matter more than you do right now. It's time."—Coach Gary Carter addressing his team.

For years, the Buzz Bissinger's book "Friday Nights Lights" has been proclaimed as the greatest football book ever written. The story is about the 1988 Permian Panthers from Odessa, Texas. In the book, Bissinger illustrates how much high school football effects a town in West Texas that has basically nothing to live for. Almost everyone in Odessa is poor, train tracks divide the town the white and black communities and the school system is below average, yet on Friday Nights (as the tag-line of the movie says) "Hope comes alive".

The thing that I like most about the movie was the it didn't go away from the book too much and the movie tried to imply the same themes as the book did. Anyway, let's get to the actual movie now.

Unlike most sports movies where the viewer is spending about two-thirds of the movie trying to figure out who all the characters are, "Lights" actually does a good job in identifying all the characters. For example, you will know who "Boobie" Miles is (the Panthers' star running back) right when the movie starts. Another unique thing about "Lights" is that when watching, it feels like the viewer is watching a documentary, because movie does a great job on including detail on the attitude the town and players carry throughout the story and highlights from EVERY game are shown (something that never happens in sports movies).

The characters in "Lights" make the movie great, especially "Boobie" Miles (played by Derek Luke). Boobie is not only the best runner on the team, he is probably the best running back in the state. On one play, he broke three tackles and burned two other defenders. The only thing that faster than his legs is...his mouth. He makes Terrell Owens and Freddie Mitchell look modest. Whenever a member of the media talks to him, he proclaims that he is God gift to football and how God made Boobie beautiful and all that junk. When asked about his grades he replies "I'm an athlete, I make straight A's". Boobie is obviously not smart, when he was reading one of his recruitment letters from the University of Southern California, he sounded like a five-year old. Football and his uncle L.V. are the only two things that Boobie has going for him.

The main character of the movie is Coach Gary Carter (played by Billie Bob Thornton). Coach Carter's job is not an easy one. Throughout the movie, he is constantly bugged by boosters and supports telling him that he should imply this scheme or this player should play this position, Coach Carter just ignores them, but he knows that expectations are very high in Odessa (especially if they are the favorites to go the Texas Bowl).

Another character(s) that make the movie great is Don Billingsley (played by Garrett Hedlund) and his father Charles (played by country superstar Tim McGraw). Don probably feels the pressure of playing for the Panthers more than anyone because his dad as on a state championship team for the Panthers and his dad is also an alcoholic. During the first practice of the season when Don fumbled the ball, Charles came running out of the stands and when yelling at his son about "some little fumble". Don is ashamed by his father which is why he probably the biggest playboy on the team as well. However, Don is one tough kid (as evident in the final game).

Football is the only thing that Odessa cares about, after a loss a person calls-in a local radio station to say "there's too much learning going on at that school!" On Friday Nights, all the businesses are closed, the Ratliff Stadium (where the Panthers play) is packed an hour before kickoff and everyone is wearing black and white.

The game scenes are the best part of the movie. Some of the hits are so hard, it would put Terry Tate to shame, especially in the final game of the story. That game scene was the best I have ever saw because it captured everything that goes on during a football game (trash talk, adjustments, dirty play, emotion, etc.) Where does Friday Night Lights among football movies? Personally, I think it's the best football movie of all time. I have played football for nine years and I have seen about every single football movie ever made and I will have to say that this film truly captures what football REALLY is. If you are a sports fan, you will love this movie.

GRADE: 9.5 out of 10.

FOOTBALL GRADE: TOUCHDOWN with the 2-point conversion

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16 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

An incomplete pass

Author: ( from Georgia
17 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are some nice touches here, things like the idiots calling in on the radio shows and "for sale" signs on the family's lawn after a loss. But overall I was disappointed. I haven't read the book so I don't know how to compare it with the film, but on its on the movie left me flat. Billy Bob underplays his part nicely, but I NEVER got a sense that this was a veteran high school football coach at one of the more high pressure, high profile programs in Texas. I love that actor who played the QB, but again never saw him as a player of the caliber he was supposed to be. Mostly, he just screwed up. The way Permian suddenly started playing well in the playoffs didn't make any sense. The assistant coaches were non-entities (as they almost always are in football movies.) Would a high school coach not check with a star player's doctor himself if there was an injury question? The flashy black tailback (Booby) and the quiet but powerful black lineman (Preacher) are almost stock characters, though both are well acted. Actually the most interesting character was the Hispanic defensive back, but the movie didn't do anything with him. The climactic game was highly dubious. It's hard to imagine a team being that physically dominant and then suddenly getting pounded for the last two quarters, Again, I didn't read the book, but the movie overplayed Carter's viciousness. Don't refs in Texas throw flags for that stuff? There were more things in this film I liked and more I disliked, but overall it was a disappointment. The great high school football movie remains to be made. I guess I'll have to write it myself.

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17 out of 26 people found the following review useful:

One hell of a sports cliché fest

Author: Michael Morad-McCoy (mmckaibab) from Albuquerque, NM
12 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***Spoilers below***

For the life of me I don't understand how so many folks are so ga-ga over this turkey. For me this was a complete snooze-fest until around half-way through when it got entertaining simply because it was so much fun counting up all the old, tired sports clichés they managed to cram into it.

1. First, there's the setting: small-town, nowheresville Odessa, where high school football is the True Religion, all the kids are desperate to get out, and the football players are the local Gods who get all the free food, booze and sex they want. And, oh yes, there are also the Beautiful Sunset Shots and the Soaring Aerial Views of parts of the town, especially the football field, that tip us off to the fact that something beautiful is really going on under this bleak surface.

2. There's the troubled quarterback with the single mom (who may be seriously ill). Early in the season he's a pretty mediocre player but, when adversity strikes, he steps up and becomes the team leader with skills only slightly less impressive than Troy Aikman's.

3. There's the kid abused by his father and his father's athletic dreams who also, when everything is on the line, suddenly becomes one of the team's stars. He also gets to listen to his father, in a fit of remorse, lecture him on making the most of his senior year because it's all downhill from there and these are the best memories he'll ever have.

4. There's the strutting minority star player with dreams of riding his athleticism to fame and fortune who suffers a serious injury, tries to come back too soon (through the negligent inaction of his coach and his beloved father-figure Uncle), and has his career ended. To drive the point home, the film-makers show us the star sitting dejectedly after his injury watching a group of trash collectors going about their jobs.

5. There's the solid, silent defensive star who has spoken hardly a word, but during half-time of the Big Game he suddenly gives the inspirational speech that fires up the team.

6. There's the calm coach in the center of the storm who, again during half-time of the Big Game, gives the "it's not about the scoreboard, it's all about what's in your heart, it's all about love, and you're all winners" speech. This despite the fact that he has previously (and negligently) ignored what he really knows about his star's serious injury and allows him to play because he wants to win so badly.

**Spoiler follows**

7. Then there's the Big Game itself in which Our Heroic Team gets pummeled by the Bad Guys (including flagrant fouls and one incredibly bad officiating call that make the crisis even worse)in the first half only to suddenly find a way to claw their way back (with accompanying swelling music) to one final last-second try that gloriously fails. Then, for the next several minutes we watch in slow motion shot after shot (from different angles of course) of the stars kneeling in noble defeat next to that football just a few agonizing inches from the goal line.

Then there are the Big Steals from Hoosiers:

1. The "Davids" from Odessa end up in the Big Game playing the "Goliaths" from Dallas Carter.

2. The entire town of Odessa apparently closes down and the entire populace drives across the state of Texas in a long convoy.

3. The "I love you guys" speech transplanted from the coach to the troubled quarterback.

Unless you're looking for a primer on how NOT to make a unique sports film, I'd suggest you avoid this turkey.

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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Adequate Football film, but generic and disappointing.

Author: dmc42c from Columbia, MO
6 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have to say first of all that I had high expectations for this movie. I heard it was supposed to be a very realistic film about high school football. Having heard that, I had in mind a high school equivalent of a movie like Any Given Sunday, which I felt was amazing in representing on-field play and (I imagine) very good about off-the-field goings on. I must say that FNL didn't represent High School football the way I remember it. I played for a fairly small school (about 500 students) in a small but supportive town of 6000. I remember we had about 2000 spectators for one game. The kind of football represented in Friday Night Lights is the kind that may be authentic for the large and rabid Texas town in which it is set, but a brand which seems to me closer to college football than the high school football that I and probably most others remember playing.

I think the weakest part of the movie was the character development. By the end, you could tell that certain players were supposed to have been main characters, but yet you're left with a very empty and superficial understanding of who they are. For example, there was one character (who I won't name to avoid any kind of spoiler) who we find out in text at the end went on to a very prestigious profession, and yet we had been left with no particular impression that he was smart or ambitious from the movie to that point. In fact, I felt that I knew almost nothing about the character at all. I did feel a connection to one character, Don Billingsly, although I thought even that was a bit underdone, and to the quarterback Mike Winchell to a lesser extent.

The on-field and other football aspects of the film were alright, although I think a bit generic. They are not particularly inspired though, and don't convey the raw emotion and excitement of being on the field particularly well. I don't know, but I am left to suspect that the director and/or cinematographer may not have experienced high school football themselves.

All that being said, it was still a decent movie. I don't feel I wasted my time in watching it or anything, but it certainly did fall short of expectations, and certainly is not of the same caliber as Any Given Sunday, or even The Program.

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14 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Excessive Camera Movement = Bad

Author: kalvinr11 from United States
13 September 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I honestly expected more from this movie. That may have been the problem. There was not one time when the camera was still - ever. On close ups, the camera shakes, the subjects move, and I get a headache. The cuts are so often and so fast, that the viewer often finds himself/herself wondering what just happened. (LOOK OUT, SPOILER ALERT) And at the end of the movie, when you expect to have a happy ending after being put through so much useless thought to comprehend what is going on, they end up losing. To me, this was a basically terrible movie, wrecked by a camera man with ADHD, and lack of a meaningful meaningful plot.

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15 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Not so good

Author: erosenbluh from Studio City, CA
27 February 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The problem with Friday Night Lights is that the filmmakers let technique get in the way of story telling. Peter Berg employed the same camera style he used on his failed show Wonderland. Multiple hand held cameras constantly shaking around with short snap zooms. It becomes annoying and takes me out of the moment I want to pay attention to. I didn't care about any of these people, because I wasn't sure who I was looking at or supposed to pay attention to. I didn't know Billy Bob had a daughter until an hour and 17 minutes into the movie. Is that important? Probably not, but she was there to deliver a line about the family needing to move again. I didn't care, because I didn't know anything about his family. Either stick with the main characters and main story or figure a way to fit it all in with out annoying technique. Miracle is a good example of a successful sports movie making. It was not gimmicky and we followed a lot more people. It didn't jump up and down and say "Look how clever I am!" I'm also displeased that the story was changed from the semi-finals to the finals. Can the audience only enjoy the movie if the team is playing the big game? Reality and truth can be a lot more interesting than pandering if you have skilled writing and directing. I like Peter Berg as an actor, but he still doesn't impress me as a film maker.

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