Friday Night Lights

Rated 4.0 Football is more like a religion than a sport for most of the folks trapped in the small town of Odessa, Texas. New coach Gary Gaines (an excellent Billy Bob Thornton as sort of an earthy pigskin pastor) attempts to shepherd the Permian High Panthers into the state championship while just as much drama erupts in the personal lives of his players as on the gridiron. The film is brilliantly edited, and Thornton delivers one of cinema’s most understated, compelling halftime speeches as elements of The Last Picture Show, North Dallas Forty and Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” melt and run together. The cast includes Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) as an arrogant running back and Lucas Black (who worked with Thornton on Sling Blade and All the Pretty Horses) as a brooding quarterback. The script is based on H.G. Bissinger’s 1990 best seller and is directed and co-written by his cousin Peter Berg (The Rundown).