By Lynn Venhaus

Let’s hear it for the risk-takers. A fascinating underdog story about a game-changing move in corporate America that revolutionized celebrity endorsements is personality-driven, thanks to an all-star cast and savvy script in “Air.”

How Nike was victorious in courting then-NBA rookie Michael Jordan for a shoe campaign in 1984 is told through the eyes of Nike staffers, especially marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon), advertising manager Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman), shoe designer Peter Moore (Matt Maher), and co-founder and chairman Phil Knight (Ben Affleck).

Tightly constructed, Alex Convery’s first-time screenplay highlights the key elements — a growing niche footwear market; the arrival of the greatest player of all-time, Michael Jordan, on the professional basketball scene; a protective mother’s fierce negotiations; and a think-outside-the-box company located near Portland, Ore. This inspired-by-true-story is an energetic, entertaining film with a lasting impression — and not only for sports fans.

In his first directorial effort since 2016’s lackluster “Live by Night,” Ben Affleck is back to triple-threat greatness, shepherding this crowd-pleaser with smart moves and a keen sense of time and place. After all, his storytelling is on fine display in “Argo,” “The Town,” and “Gone Baby Gone,” too.

Ben Affleck as Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight

With considerable skill, he steeps what’s essentially a story of contract maneuvers and phone calls into a culture-defining era, from Knight zipping his purple Porsche with his personalized license plates into the Beaverton headquarters after a run, to Vaccaro buying his Wheaties in a Mary Lou Retton-Olympics box and a Sports Illustrated at the mini-mart.

The year is 1984, and the movie is drenched with a kicky ‘80s soundtrack of MTV classics that sets the mood, and quick news-and-photo montages encapsulates the Reagan years.

At the time, third-best Nike was known for its running shoes, and the upstart company viewed themselves as renegades, while entrenched Adidas and Converse were known for their basketball lines.

In 1984, Jordan left North Carolina after his junior year and was third in the NBA draft, going to the Chicago Bulls. His ability to leap and slam-dunk gave him the nickname “Air Jordan,” which Nike capitalized on as an innovator — and a lasting global brand. It’s a remarkable American ingenuity story.

As Sonny Vaccaro, Matt Damon is forceful and earnest about having a hunch about Jordan and following it through with bold aggressive moves. Sonny develops a special relationship with MJ’s Mom, Deloris Jordan (Viola Davis), that is instrumental in sealing the deal. Damon’s character is as appealing as he was in “Ford v Ferrari,” that likeable real-life guy committed to his convictions and smart enough to carry his plan through

In a small but pivotal role, Davis is masterful as the mom whose belief in her son changed celebrity endorsements and deals for athlete’s families.

Before making the film, Affleck said Michael Jordan had one request – that Davis play his mother. His father, James, is genially played by Davis’ real-life husband, Julius Tennon. Affleck focuses on the close relationship Michael had with his parents, and Davis and Tennon depict it beautifully.

Affleck also decided to have an actor play Michael only as a physical presence, preferring to use archival footage, and that works – creating more of a mythology around this larger-than-life mortal. Damian Young is credited but has no dialogue.

Relationships are key to this story’s success, and the long legendary friendship of Damon and Affleck elevates the story as well. Oscar winners for screenplay in “Good Will Hunting,” this is their 20th collaboration, and their first pairing since the underrated “The Last Duel” in 2021 is as dynamic as ever. Word is that they both contributed rewrites to Convery’s original screenplay, and they have an unmistakable rhythm/shorthand with each other.

With its folksy charm and crackling dialogue, “Air” delivers a well-acted and written story that appeals beyond the sports market. It’s a dream team of natural actors defining these colleagues so that we can celebrate their considerable achievements.

Matt Maher, Matt Damon, Jason Bateman

Chris Tucker is well-suited to play Howard White, one of the inspiring former college players on Nike’s roster who helped Air Jordan take flight. He developed relationships with young athletes, including Jordan. Marlon Wayans is seen briefly as Olympics basketball coach George Reveling, who coached Jordan the summer of 1984, and that powerful scene is an important foundation piece. Jordan did not want them left out of his story.

Chris Messina plays Jordan’s bulldog agent David Falk with fiery abrasive bluster.

Matt Maher, who works frequently with Ben and Casey Affleck, deftly portrays the genius shoe designer Peter Moore, who also designed the icon symbol of Jordan taking flight.

It’s a collaborative effort, indicative of a workplace drama-comedy, and gives the real-life people their due for their efforts. Even though we know what happened — but not the particulars per se — we still are enthralled by all the developments. The results-wrap-up is truly remarkable, how such a deal had tremendous ripple effects and outcomes.

It’s early yet, but “Air” is likely sturdy enough to be among the last movies standing at year’s end and will make my short list for Top Ten. Yes, it’s that meaningful, fun and enjoyable.

“Air” is a 2023 sports biopic drama directed by Ben Affleck that stars Affleck, Matt Damon, Jason Bateman, Chris Tucker, Chris Messina, Viola Davis, Julius Tennon, and Marlon Wayans. It is Rated R for language and run time is 1 hour, 52 minutes. Movie opened in theaters on April 5. Lynn’s Grade: A.

By Lynn Venhaus

Here’s some things going on now, this week and news in pop culture land.

Movie: Family-friendly Halloween fare?

Here you go. “The Curse of Bridge Hallow” on Netflix.

Starring Marlon Wayans, Kelly Rowland and Priah Ferguson. Supporting roles feature reliable John Michael Higgins as the school principal and Rob Riggle as the neighbor/police officer.

OK, this is average at best but when you need something to pass the time with the kids – particularly something holiday-themed, you can do worse than this amiable comedy-adventure featuring some decent thrills, good production design and well-done visual effects. It’s rated TV-14 and is 1 hour, 29 minutes.

The Plot: A teenage girl accidentally releases an ancient and mischievous spirit on Halloween. It causes decorations to come alive and wreak havoc, so she must team up with the last person she’d want to, to save their town – her father.

Fun Fact: I had the pleasure to interview Marlon Wayans when he was promoting “A Haunted House 2” in 2014, and he was one of the most delightful experiences with a ‘celeb’ that I have had during my writing career. The Belleville News-Democrat article is no longer accessible online.

X cast from A24.

Scary Movie: X

Now available on Showtime or for rental on multiple platforms, Ti West’s “X” is one of the best new horror movies of 2022, according to reviewer Alex McPherson and my colleague Max Foizey of “Max on Movies” on KTRS Radio.

The film is about the production of an amateur porn movie on a remote farm, where the members of the cast and crew meet a grisly fate. It’s set in 1979 and recalls the slasher films from that era.

Here is Alex’s review:

Shopping: Sold Out!

Mattel reports that the Tina Turner Barbie Doll that was released Thursday, is now sold out.

“Barbie celebrates the unprecedented music career and journey of Tina Turner. She is a Grammy-winning, chart-topping singer, and one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. This doll commemorates her smash hit “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” and the design is inspired by the iconic outfit Tina wore in the music video.”

Our Tina Turner doll wears a black mini dress paired with a denim jacket, sheer black tights, and black heels. Her signature hairstyle, drop earrings, and a microphone accessory complete her look.

She is the fifth artist to be inducted into the Barbie Signature Music Series, with this sixth overall doll in the collection. Designer is Bill Greening.

The doll normally retails for $55, but indirect websites are selling it for much more.

Read more:

TV: Second Chances on “Jeopardy!”

Starting today and for the next two weeks, 18 contestants return to the long-running game show in a “Second Chance” Tournament. Three semi-final games will lead to a two-day final each week. Both winners of the mini-tournaments will earn a spot in the Tournament of Champions that starts Oct. 31.

Food: Soccer & STL Made

Pork steaks, kebab wraps, burgers, hot dogs and more – including vegan and vegetarian options! City SC today announced five of the 25 restaurants that will serve signature food items at the soccer stadium: Balkan Treat Box in Webster Groves; Beast Craft BBQ Co. of Belleville (also operates Beast Butcher & Block in the Grove), Steve’s Hot Dogs, Brasserie by Niche and Pastaria Deli & Wine, two restaurants from Gerard Craft’s Niche Food Group.

Craft is the Chief Flavor Officer for City. The other restaurants to make up “City Flavor” will be announced later. Centene Stadium has 22,500 seats and will be the home of the Major League Soccer expansion franchise St Louis City SC, which starts play in 2023.

For more info, here is St Louis Magazine article:

There are episodes 1 & 2 about the City Flavor efforts.

Today in St. Louis History:

The syndicated daytime tabloid talk show “The Sally Jessy Raphael Show,” with radio host Sally Jessy Raphael, debuts on KSDK on Oct. 17, 1983.

It would be filmed in St. Louis until summer of 1987, when it moved to New Haven, Conn., and later Manhattan, where it lasted until 2022.

Three years before Oprah, the show, later just called “Sally,” was one of the first audience-participation, issue-driven talk shows hosted by a female.

Playlist: Supergroup

The Traveling Wilburys release debut album “Volume 1”– featuring the single “Handle with Care”; and the band members include Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty.

Word: Arthur Miller, who was born on this date in 1915

“We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!”

John Proctor in “The Crucible”

Looking ahead:

On TUESDAY: Baseball Playoffs!

MLB postponed the fifth game of the ALDS because of rain Monday in the Bronx. The Cleveland Guardians will now face the New York Yankees on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 3 p.m. CST on TBS.

This is the last piece of the puzzle, as the San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies and Houston Astros have moved on to the league championship series.

‘Tis the Season:

Not-so-scary Halloween celebration “Boo at the Zoo” tickets on sale

Fun for the whole family, including fabulous decorations throughout the St. Louis Zoo –  Skeleton Soiree, Monster Mash, Pirate Pointe, Haunted Harvest, Coachman’s Junction and a giant cauldron photo opportunity in Fragile Forest.

You can view the crawling and slithering animals at the Herpetarium and Insectarium. Enjoy some fall-themed treats at Zoo restaurants, including Halloween-dipped pretzel sticks, apple cider floats and adult ice cream cocktails for those 21 and older. For an additional fee, enjoy a ride on the Zooline Railroad.

Entertainment, including jugglers, magicians, stilt walkers and more will roam Zoo grounds each event night. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 5:30 p.m., catch live stage shows from local entertainers.

Tickets for Boo at the Zoo are now on sale for Oct. 21-23, 24-27 and 28-30

Free for children under age 2.

Your ticket includes admission into Emerson Dinoroarus, Mary Ann Lee Conservation Carousel, Stingrays at Caribbean Cove presented by SSM Health and “Chaos in Wonderland” at the 4D Theater.

For tickets and more information, visit

Thank you to our sponsors: SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital, Wells Fargo, Mid America Chevy Dealers, Caleres, Prairie Farms Dairy.

Halloween Costume Policy

– Family-friendly Halloween costumes are encouraged.

– No scary costumes are permitted.

– Costume appropriateness is up to the discretion of the Zoo.