SURPRISING STAR TURN Face it. When you hear the name Adam Carolla (right), the phrase "master comedic thespian" generally doesn't rush to mind. But as an over-the-hill boxer in The Hammer—the year's best sports comedy—the former Man Show co-host was something George Clooney (Leatherheads), Will Ferrell (Semi-Pro), Simon Pegg (Run, Fatboy, Run) or Matthew McConaughey (Surfer, Dude) weren't in 2008: consistently hilarious.
PLEASING AURAL EXPERIENCE Adam Yauch's full-length directorial debut, Gunnin' for That No. 1 Spot, looks at the lives of eight top high school basketball players as they prepare to play in an all-star game at Harlem's Rucker Park. It has its insightful moments and Yauch has a good eye for action, but what really gives the film its energy is the sound track, which is loaded with tunes from Jay-Z, Nas and, naturally, Yauch's group, the Beastie Boys. Because of licensing issues, though, the sound track wasn't released as a CD, so the only way to hear it is to pick up the DVD.
INSPIRING OLD MAN Spirit of the Marathon, which follows six runners of varying pedigrees—ranging from a newbie to 2004 bronze medalist Deena Kastor—as they prepare for the 2005 Chicago Marathon. The star of the show is Jerry Meyers (left), who ran his first marathon at 65. Jon Dunham's documentary, a heartfelt examination of the reasons people have for subjecting their bodies to hours of torture, is bound to make nonrunners feel lazy. But they can always heed Meyers's message: It's almost never too late to get off your butt and start running.
INTERESTING LOOK AT STEROIDS With interviews from Congressman Henry Waxman, Floyd Landis and Ben Johnson, Christopher Bell's Bigger, Stronger, Faster* challenges virtually every piece of conventional doping dogma. It also puts into legal and medical context the kind of smart, basic questions that often fail to get asked by grandstanding politicians and athletes. Like, Do steroids really kill? Bell doesn't preach or wag his finger; he just shows how deeply PEDs are ingrained in American culture.
VALUABLE HISTORY LESSON Dan Klores's Black Magic deftly examines the role basketball played in the civil rights movement. It begins with a fascinating look at a little-known event: a secret game between an all-white team from Duke and a squad from the North Carolina College for Negroes. In an empty gym on a Sunday morning in 1944—and in violation of segregation laws—Duke got hammered 88--44, a result that triggered a hoops revolution.
AUG. 11: ESPN BEGINS AIRING SPORTSCENTER LIVE FROM 9 A.M. TO 3 P.M. • AUG. 27: MICHAEL PHELPS LANDS $1.6 MILLION BOOK ADVANCE • NOV. 2: NEW YORK TIMES PUBLISHES LAST ISSUE OF PLAY • NOV. 9: ABC BUMPS END OF NASCAR RACE TO ESPN2 FOR AMERICA'S FUNNIEST HOME VIDEOS
HAMMER THE MOVIE/PHOTOFEST (CAROLLA)
LAND OF THE GODS, LLC (MEYERS)
BEN LIEBENBERG/WIREIMAGE/GETTY IMAGES (PASTRANA)