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Critics choice: Football tapes

Critics choice: Football tapes — ”Heaven Can Wait,” ”The Longest Yard,” and ”Black Sunday” are some of the titles recommended

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For millions of football fans, the Super Bowl is the ultimate bone-crunching extravaganza. But for those who can barely tolerate even ordinary games, Super Sunday is more like Sunday, Bloody Sunday. As the big day approaches, these two camps can face off — zealots warming up with classic football films while football haters retreat to a spare room to escape pigskin hell. Here are some videos to fit the occasion, no matter what your point of view.

Pro Football

Everybody’s All-American (1988, Warner)
An adult depiction of football life, Everybody’s All-American revolves around Dennis Quaid as a star running back determined not to let his transitory fame corrupt him and his family. An underrated, unusually well-acted film (it also features Jessica Lange and Timothy Hutton), Everybody’s All-American is intelligent and heartfelt. A

Heaven Can Wait (1978, Paramount)
Warren Beatty exudes can-do attitude, refusing to let a little thing like his own death keep him from the Super Bowl. A remake of the classic Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven turns the original boxer hero into a second-string quarterback, called to heaven before his time. With the help of a guardian angel, he makes an amusing and winning comeback to life, love, and a key role on game day. A

Knute Rockne — All American (1940, MGM/UA)
Yes, Pat O’Brien does say, ”Win just one for the Gipper” in this movie (referring, of course, to Ronald Reagan as the ill-fated George Gipp). And that basically sets the tone for this irresistible picture, a sentimental, patriotic, celluloid pep rally. Notre Dame coach Rockne is portrayed not so much as a football hero as a national saint. B+

The Longest Yard (1974, Paramount)
In this rambunctious bruiser of a comedy, Burt Reynolds, a former college player himself, plays a pro quarterback-turned-convict who gets to organize a team of prisoners for a game against the hated guards. A cast of wacko characters and Reynolds’ wise-guy expertise deliver a lot of laughs, and the big-game climax is one of the most rousing finishes in a sports movie. A

Semi-Tough (1977, CBS/Fox)
Burt Reynolds returns to the cinematic gridiron. Here he’s in a consistently funny comedy that takes place mainly off the field as he and his teammates prepare for the Super Bowl. It’s part comic love triangle, part jock high jinks, part satire of New Age fads. B+

Anti Football

Beetlejuice (1988, Warner)
A pre-Batman Tim Burton directed this uproarious parade of afterlife oddities, body transformations, and calypso poltergeists. And there’s one added attraction: the recently dead football players who pass through Sylvia Sidney’s afterlife-service office. A

Black Sunday (1977, Paramount)
A football hater’s dream: Bruce Dern launches a terrorist attack on the Super Bowl. In the process, his escapades provide the ! impetus for a high-powered suspense thriller that makes a fine way to pass an otherwise stressful afternoon. B+

Diner (1982, MGM/UA)
There are a lot of reasons for seeing this coming-of-age film: a vibrant depiction of male camaraderie, an engaging seriocomic tone, a cast of then unknowns including Kevin Bacon, Mickey Rourke, Ellen Barkin, and Steve Guttenberg. One other reason: to root for Guttenberg’s fiancée, who has to pass a grueling football trivia test before her wedding can be finalized. A

Horsefeathers (1932, MCA/Universal)
No one has ever made such a complete farce of college football as the Marx Brothers. They are at their funniest here. The football finale begins with Harpo racing a horse-drawn garbage cart onto the field as if it were a chariot and then proceeds quickly to an anarchic, and inspired, demolition of the entire game. A

North Dallas Forty (1979, Paramount)
Possibly the best football movie ever made. Unlike most movies on the sport, North Dallas Forty is an exposé of pro football, an indictment of management’s abuse of its players. Starring Nick Nolte, it’s a skillful blend of drama and comedy with characters that are fully dimensional and appealing, even if they do wear shoulder pads. A