DVD review from The Movie Snob.
The Bad News Bears (B-). The pickings are a little slim in theaters right now, so I thought I’d try to watch some of these DVDs that have been gathering dust on my shelves for years. I hadn’t seen this movie since I was a kid–undoubtedly in a bowdlerized TV version. In the unlikely event you haven’t seen it, it’s the story of a drunken bum named Buttermaker (Walter Matthau, I.Q.) who gets hired to coach a terrible Little League team called the Bears. He recruits his ex-girlfriend’s daughter (a cute Tatum O’Neal, Paper Moon) to pitch and a motorcycle-riding juvenile delinquent (Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children) to field and hit, and of course the Bears ultimately go to the championship game. And it’s all set to the music of Carmen. It’s a pretty good movie, but shocking to modern sensibilities for the vulgar language spouted by the kids–including some epithets that have become strictly taboo. It’s like a time capsule from the 1970s….
A second opinion, from Motor City Reviewer.
Trouble with the Curve — A nice movie, but not one anybody should rush out to see. The premise is an aging baseball scout (Eastwood) is reunited with his somewhat estranged and emotionally unavailable daughter (a hard charging, big law associate – Amy Adams), and Justin Timberlake plays the love interest (someone Eastwood once scouted who hurt his arm and is now out of baseball). Some mildly amusing moments. Eastwood, Adams and Timberlake have good chemistry. It is a little too formulaic, a little too predictable. If you are paying attention, you should be able to guess the ending a third of the way into the movie.
New from The Movie Snob.
Trouble With the Curve (C-). I am not a particularly big Clint Eastwood fan, but I think Amy Adams (The Muppets) is a good actress and as cute as a button. So I went out and saw this new release, fortified by a favorable review in the Dallas Morning News. I was disappointed. Eastwood (Unforgiven) plays Gus, an aging and ailing baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves. Gus has been a widower for like 30 years, and he is not close with his only child, a daughter (Adams) named Mickey after Mickey Mantle. She’s a driven lawyer on the verge of making partner at some big Atlanta law firm. But when Gus’s pal Pete (played by a truly walrus-like John Goodman, O Brother Where Art Thou?) tells Mickey that Gus is having health problems (especially with his eyes), she drops everything to go on one last scouting trip with her old man. As they follow some high-school hotshot through various podunk towns, Mickey attracts some romantic attention from Johnny (Justin Timberlake, The Social Network), a washed-up pitcher turned baseball scout. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but the movie just isn’t very good. The scenes and the dialogue are sort of clunky, and the big reveals that are supposed to explain these characters’ foibles aren’t very convincing. And the romantic subplot feels tacked-on and arbitrary. Sorry, but Trouble With the Curve struck out with me.
A new review from Movie Man Mike.
Moneyball (B+). Baseball is such a game of numbers and statistics, and this film takes the numbers to a new level. I gained a real appreciation for baseball and for what Billy Beane tried to accomplish—to level the playing field and overcome the inequities in payrolls between ball clubs. While I don’t follow baseball closely, I suspect that if all teams adopt the approach he championed, then the financial inequities are still there. Nevertheless, the story is a perfect story of how the little guy triumphs now and then. Brad Pitt gives a convincing performance as Billy Beane, General Manager of the Oakland A’s. Jonah Hill is perfect as the egg-head, whiz-kid who runs all the numbers on the players and challenges the old ways of recruiting players. One of the weaknesses in this story, in my opinion, is that Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays the coach of the Oakland A’s, is relegated to more of a background role. I would have liked to have seen more direct evidence of the conflict and attitude he had with the new system. It’s there, but it’s almost secondary because the story is presented through the eyes of Billy Beane. I have to wonder if there was concern about changing the story from “the Billy Beane story” into the “Art Howe story.” In any event, a very entertaining film and worth watching (even if you don’t follow baseball).
DVD review from Nick at Nite
Not the best baseball movie I have ever seen. The best is either Bull Durham or The Natural. I’d watch either repeatedly. Moneyball not so much. I’ve read the book. It was engrossing. Every baseball fan should read the book. The movie – well – I got bored. The book is an interesting blue print for making the Oakland A’s, the Red Sox, the Rangers, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays so successful (the A’s have fallen on hard times again). I digress. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are an interesting odd couple. The muscled (Pitt) and the out of shape (Hill prior to whatever brilliant diet he is on) trying to piece together a baseball lineup after the departure of the roided up Giambi and his mates. They have little money so they must ignore their baseball scouts and put together a team based on what the statistics tell them. It is a movie for nerds. Baseball nerds. I give it a “B.” I do not give it a Golden Globe or an Oscar.
Dan in Reel Life sends this review to the plate.
In the film adaptation of the Michael Lewis best-selling book, Brad Pitt (The Mexican) stars as Billy Beane, general manager of Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics. Beane has a big problem: how to compete against rich large-market teams like New York and Boston with the limited funds of his small-market Oakland organization. Following an extremely successful (but non-championship) season, Beane can only watch helplessly while his marquee players are pillaged by wealthier teams during free agency. Unwilling to be satisfied with anything less than ‘winning the last game of the season’, he becomes increasingly convicted that the A’s will not win it all using the conventional wisdom of scouting and roster-building followed religiously for years in the big leagues.
While on a trip to Cleveland to deal for players to replace his lost stars, Beane notices that an extremely young, decidedly ‘non-baseball’ person named Peter Brand (Jonah Hill, Superbad) is wielding tremendous influence in the Indians’ front office. Intrigued, he digs deeper and discovers that this Yale prodigy has a radical approach to evaluating baseball talent; instead of the long-utilized statistics combined with a sort of ‘baseball sixth sense’ usually employed by talent evaluators, Brand’s method is based almost exclusively on the quantitative conclusions drawn from his studies of economics and statistics. Sensing that Brand’s unorthodox thinking could be the new philosophy he needs to compete with the big guys, Beane hires Brand away from Cleveland and bets the farm on his approach.
As surely as people hate change, Beane encounters resistance from within and without the organization as he makes drastic moves to implement Brand’s unconventional strategies. As his character attempts to navigate this turmoil, Pitt’s trademark charisma pulls you in and quickly has you rooting for Beane’s success. The mentor/mentoree scenes with Beane and Brand are all memorable as Hill plays off of Pitt perfectly. The trials and tribulations of the inexperienced Brand are relatable to anyone who’s endured a bruising post-college encounter with the ‘real world’. Watching the initially hesitant Brand, suddenly plucked from cubicle-ville and promoted to assistant GM, come of age as a baseball front-office professional under Beane’s tutelage is a large part of the fun of this movie as well.
In Beane’s refusal to accept mediocre small-market standards for success we see inspiring hope for the little guy. This movie is a home run, go see it.
From the desk of The Movie Snob
Whip It (B). Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut stars current It Girl Ellen Page (X Men: The Last Stand) as Bliss Cavendar, a misfit high schooler not unlike the title character in Juno. Bliss is stuck in the tiny Texas town of Bodeen, her mom insists that she compete in local beauty pageants, and she is just generally depressed with her lot in life . . . until she discovers roller derby. Before you can say “elbow pads,” little Bliss has survived open tryouts and joined the Hurl Scouts, a team in the Austin roller derby league. It strains credibility how quickly Bliss makes the transition from Barbie skates to league stardom, and how hard she falls for a homely, grungy singer in a two-bit rock band. But I can’t deny that I enjoyed watching the last-place Hurl Scouts claw their way up the standings for a climactic Bad News Bears style battle with the reigning Holy Rollers. And who didn’t get a little misty-eyed when Bliss’s disappointed mama nevertheless shows up to watch the big game? Well, I didn’t, but I bet a lot of people did.