Classic Movie Reviews (36)

A universal truth in sports is that it has the ability to bring people of all walks of life together.  Another reality in athletics is that everybody loves a good underdog story.  When you put them both together you have the tonic for an excellent sports film.

American Wrestler: The Wizard takes this formula and adds a Persian twist.  Set in 1980 and based on the real life experiences of producer Ali Ashfar (who pulls double duty as the uncle of the protagonist), the 17 year old Ali Jahani escapes Iran through his family’s assistance to avoid forced conscription.  Sadly for young Ali, the U.S. (Petaluma, California specifically) is not at first the land of opportunity that is often written about.

In 1980, the Iranian hostage crisis occurred and all things Persian were the target of American xenophobia.  Ali (played brilliantly by newcomer George Kosturos) is expectedly bullied by his classmates and even suffers from a lack of support from the school’s principal (played by Jon Voight, who is deep into his Academy Award-winning career) but also faces passive aggression from his uncle who during the hostage situation lost his business and was ostracized from the home he had for years. 

Movie underdogs do not accept defeat easily and neither does Ali. After failing in trying out for multiple high school sports, he eventually finds a loophole where the amateur wrestling team has to at least give him a tryout.  Much to the chagrin of the wrestling coach (William Fichtner), Ali goes toe-to-toe with the school’s top wrestler and makes the team.

Ali, thorough the help of his unknown natural abilities and his uncle, who himself is a former amateur wrestler and becomes the surprise star of the squad, not only earning respect from his teammates but helping his uncle regain his own self-respect.

Sports really can do that.

Overall, the film may feel similar to other underdog storylines (despite being based on a real story), but it's ultimately a feel good sports film that teaches the right lessons not only in athletics, but also in what it means to be American.  This lesson seems to be more valuable now than ever.

Please check out the film at and see for yourself!

This post was sponsored by ESX Productions.

Multiple Maniacs

(1970 American cult film starring Divine and David Lochary;
written, produced, edited and directed by John Waters)
newly-restored screening at tiff. Bell Lightbox
August 7, 2016
by Live Music Head


(2016 American fly-on-the-wall documentary about the sex scandal that was Anthony Weiner
and its impact on his campaign for Mayor of New York City during the 2013 election;
directed by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg)
by Live Music Head
The Falls: a cautionary tale
(1991 Canadian non-fiction film
about mankind's interactions with Niagara Falls,
directed by Kevin McMahon)
Bloor Hot Docs cinema, Toronto
by Live Music Head
May 18, 2016
How To Change The World
2015 documentary film about environmental activist Bob Hunter
and the rise of Greenpeace; directed by Jerry Rothwell)

Bloor Hot Docs cinema, Toronto August 7, 2015
by Live Music Head
Benigni & Braschi at the Lightbox
by Live Music Head

The Last Impresario

The Last Impresario
2013 documentary film directed by Gracie Otto,
based on the life of Michael White,
theatrical producer and film maker
by Live Music Head

Life Itself

2014 documentary on the life and times of Roger Ebert
directed by Steve James
by Live Music Head
July 11, 2014
2012 documentary film about the 1950s pin-up model
Directed by Mark Mori
Featuring commentary by Hugh Hefner
Bloor Hotdocs premiere, Toronto
March 7, 2014
by Live Music Head

360 Screenings

360 Screenings
Ontario Heritage Centre, Toronto
October 24, 2013
by Live Music Head
Filthy Gorgeous:
The Bob Guccione Story

2013 Canadian documentary directed by Barry Avrich
by Live Music Head
Remembering: The China Syndrome
American thriller directed by James Bridges
Starring Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas
Released 1979
by Lisa McDonald
Live Music Head
Remembering: Joe Versus The Volcano
American romantic comedy directed by John Patrick Shanley
Starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan
Released March 9, 1990
by Lisa McDonald
Live Music Head
Remembering: Analyze This
American comedy directed by Harold Ramis
Starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal
Released March 5, 1999
by Lisa McDonald
Live Music Head
Remembering: Norma Rae
American drama directed by Martin Ritt
Starring Sally Field
Beau Bridges and Ron Leibman
Released March 2, 1979
by Lisa McDonald
Live Music Head

Remembering: M*A*S*H

Remembering: M*A*S*H
American satire directed by Robert Altman
Starring Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould,
Robert Duvall and John Schuck
Released January 25, 1970
by Lisa McDonald
Live Music Head
Remembering: The Sopranos
American television crime-drama created by David Chase
Starring James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli,
Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Drea de Matteo
Premiered January 10, 1999
by Lisa McDonald
Live Music Head
Remembering: The Exorcist
American horror film directed by William Friedkin
Starring Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair,
Jason Miller and Max von Sydow
Released December 26, 1973
by Lisa McDonald
Live Music Head