3 Best Movies to Watch From Mandalay Pictures

Staff & contributors

, 2023

In 1984, Michael Jordan was a rising star and Nike had yet to make its mark in the basketball industry. With nothing to lose, Nike had to make a choice: settle behind the far more successful Adidas and Converse or shoot its shot and bet everything they have to win Jordan? 

You don’t have to be an NBA fanatic to know what Nike went with. The real-life story of how Air Jordans came to be is compelling in itself, but the dramatized version of it in Air is told with extra verve and charm, with director Ben Affleck and writer Alex Convery successfully turning a business pitch into something funny, moving, and highly watchable, predictable beats and all. 

Air covers the big hits and misses of business (which it buoys with lighthearted jokes and tender backstories), provides an addictive 80s soundtrack (without caricaturing the era), and gives us likable, rootable characters (an impressive feat given that this is, essentially, a Nike ad campaign). Matt Damon and Viola Davis, especially, turn in performances that elevate Air into something quite special. And while this film may be more about the Air than the Jordans, it is still a champion's story—familiar and cheesy at times, sure, but feel good, inspiring, and truly winning. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, History

Actor: Al Madrigal, Albert Stroth, Andy Hirsch, Ari Davis, Asanté Deshon, Barack Obama, Barbara Sukowa, Ben Affleck, Billy Smith, Chris Messina, Chris Tucker, Damian Young, Dan Bucatinsky, Deloris Jordan, Dempsey Gibson, Gabrielle Bourne, Geoffrey Gould, Gustaf Skarsgård, Jackson Damon, Jason Bateman, Jay Mohr, Jerry Plummer, Jessica Green, Joel Gretsch, Joshua Funk, Julius Tennon, Mackenzie Rayne, Marlon Wayans, Matt Damon, Matthew Maher, Michael Jordan, Michael O'Neill, Richard Allan Jones, Tami Jordan, Tom Papa, Ure Egbuho, Viola Davis

Director: Ben Affleck

Rating: R

Big George Foreman ticks all the boxes of what a biopic should be. It shows us his troubled childhood, his bumpy rise to the top, and his eventual reconciliation with fame and boxing. It’s also nicely shot and polished, an accurately dressed period piece that looks and feels the part. But nothing about the film hits you as particularly new or exciting. Prickly topics like faith and infidelity aren’t so much explored as they are simply covered, and the dialogue sounds like something you’ve heard a thousand times. There’s also a sense that the filmmakers noticed this problem because halfway through, the movie switches into a more lighthearted tone, as if it were suddenly bored of itself. Sure, Big George Foreman is easy to follow and nice to look at, but its formulaic structure fails to distinguish itself from a long and ever-growing line of sports biopics.

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Al Bernstein, Al Sapienza, Anthony Marble, Austin David Jones, Azaria Carter, Barry Hanley, Bill Martin Williams, Billy Slaughter, Brian Ibsen, Deion Smith, Deneen Tyler, Dwayne L. Barnes, Eric Hanson, Erica Tazel, Forest Whitaker, Greg Wattkis, Jasmine Mathews, John Magaro, Jonathan Mercedes, Joshua Wade, Judd Lormand, Julia Lashae, K. Steele, Kei, Khris Davis, Lara Grice, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Madison Dirks, Martin Bats Bradford, Matthew Glave, Matthew Rimmer, Michael Harrity, Michael Papajohn, Philip Fornah, Raion Hill, Robert Cicchini, Robert Larriviere, Sam Trammell, Samantha Beaulieu, Shein Mompremier, Sonja Sohn, Sullivan Jones, T.C. Matherne, Tom Virtue

Director: George Tillman Jr.

Rating: PG-13

Surrounded has the bones of a revenge-style Western. It turns the table on the white cowboy hero and gives us (on paper, at least) complex leads in Mo and Tommy. Mo is a young Black woman whose experience as a Buffalo Solider lends her not only the skills of an expert gunslinger but also the anger and motivation to push through any obstacle, while Tommy is the enigmatic thief who Mo reluctantly relies on in her quest for freedom. With all this pent-up tension, the film should work, and it does occasionally thanks to Wright and Bell’s deft performances (Bell is especially exceptional), the stunning mountainous terrains, and the worthy attempts at race and class commentary. But for the most part, the film's ambitions fall flat. The monologues are overlong and too evocative of modern speech to be historically believable. The action scenes, while exciting, only sputter here and there and never gain the momentum the film needs to genuinely thrill. And the thin backstories of Mo and Tommy raise more questions than answers. More often than not, Surrounded looks like a couple of good scenes strewn together on a lousy string; the foundations are off but there’s some enjoyment to be found.

Genre: Action, Drama, Western

Actor: Austin Rising, Brett Gelman, David Manzanares, Jamie Bell, Jeffrey Donovan, Keith Jardine, Kevin Wiggins, Letitia Wright, Luce Rains, Lyle Sandoval, Mark Dalton, Michael Kenneth Williams, Nathaniel Augustson, Peter Diseth, Tatanka Means

Director: Anthony Mandler

Rating: R