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Ghost Canyon

'Goal! The Dream Begins'
(Kuno Becker, Alessandro Nivola, et al / DVD / PG-13 / 2006 / BVHE)

Overview: Like millions of kids around the world, Santiago harbors the dream of being a professional footballer. However, living in the Barrios section of Los Angeles, he thinks it is only that - a dream. Until, one day an extraordinary turn of events has him trying out for Premiership club Newcastle United.

DVD Verdict: `Goal!' is part of the trilogy that will be concluded the next year, featuring the ambitious football player Santiago Munez. The likable hero is played by Mexican actor Kuno Becker who was impressive in `Lucia Lucia.' American actor Alessandro Nivola plays the role of the star player of Newcastle United Gavin Harris while from UK side Stephen Dillane, Anna Friel, and Sean Pertwee appear. As a little boy Santiago and his family moved to Los Angles illegally from Mexico. Now a grown-up and working with his father, Santiago is also a gifted soccer player in the local team and his talent is found by one English traveler Glen Foy (Dillane). Foy leaves his card, and tells Santiago that if he wants to be a professional football player, he should come to Newcastle, England. If I say Santiago really flies to this northeast industrial city, helped by his kind-hearted grandmother, it would not be a spoiler anyway because `Goal!' gives away where it is going from the very beginning. It treads well-known course of popular rags-to-riches story, and in spite of that formula - or because of that formula - the film works as enjoyable football version of fairy tale. Well, sort of. Of course, those who watches the football games in Europe every week would know that his success comes too easy, and these days the process of becoming a pro football player is more complicated. But I didn't hate the story. No, what I didn't like is not that part; it is the football sequences that are not convincing enough to me. Don't get me wrong here because the film captures the atmosphere of the pitch very well. However, despite the clever choice of Newcastle, and its powerful footages of the football games and its enthusiastic fans (and they are real ones as the film wisely secured the approval from every party involved, including FIFA), the scenes where Kuno Becker plays are obviously helped by editing and special effects. Becker does his best, and I like his character and his (too) straightforward approach to it, but the gaps between his scenes and those of the real game are too conspicuous. And there are cameos from real football players like Beckham and Zidane. It is surely amusing to see them delivering their lines rather awkwardly. Football, or soccer, is no stranger to films, and you may remember films like John Huston-directed `Victory,' `Mean Machine,' and of course `Bend it Like Beckham' with Keira Knightley The city of Newcastle, its football team and its dedicated supporters can also be seen in `Purely Belter." But as far as I can remember, `Goal!' is the first example of a film that takes up football game itself as the theme and presents it as entertainment. It is a success, but I cannot be sure whether the second one can keep up with the expectation of the fans now eagerly watching the World Cup worldwide. This is a Widescreen Presentation (2.40:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Commentary by: Filmmakers Danny Cannon, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais
Extended PG-13 version
The Beautiful Game: Featurette about the fast-paced, exciting worldwide phenomenon of soccer
Behind the Pitch: Making-of featurette about how the film's intense soccer action was integrated with real matches played by superstar athletes
Happy Mondays music video: "Playground Superstar"
Golden Moments of the FIFA World Cup featurette