Monday, June 25, 2012


Viewers beware; yes this movie is about baseball, but not necessarily the game as much as the numbers behind the game.  Anyone can learn how to play baseball and knowing that might bring you to this movie, but that still doesn’t mean you are going to know what anyone is talking about.
Moneyball is about the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, Billy Beane(Brad Pitt) and how with the help of a computer analysis(Jonah Hill) he attempts to put together a winning baseball team on a shoe string budget.  In the process they start to re-write the rule book on creating a team, from finding stars to finding stats.
As much as this movie is about the process of baseball, it is also the story of Billy and how he got to this point in his life.  His whole story and if he is a likeable person hinges on the main actor’s performance.  Luckily for the viewing audience that actor is Brad Pitt.  As much as there is big hype over Pitt outside of acting, there is no denying the man is also good at his profession.  Pitt spends most of the movie either thinking or quietly intimidating everyone around him, which could be a really boring performance if handle by someone else.  Luckily, Pitt who has previously had experience with this, like in Assassination of Jess James and Tree of Life, knows how to make such a quiet role likeable and powerful at the same time.  It also helps that in between his quiet moments, Pitts gets some really good regular guy dialogue that allows the audience to see him as a normal guy in an impossible situation. 
To offset Pitt’s power is an unlikely partner in Jonah Hill as Peter Brand the computer analysis.  Hill has come a long way since Superbad.  He finally gets to show in this role that he has a serious side.  As intimidating as Pitt is, Hill manages to bring a quiet fear to his role.  Almost the entire film he portrays Brand as a fish out of water numbers boy in the room with a bunch of baseball men.  Finally seeing this after the academy awards, kind of makes me wonder what the academy saw to nominate Hill for an Oscar.  I don’t deny his acting was good, but I don’t think he did anything so impressive to get a nomination over others like Albert Brooks in Drive or Viggo Mortensen in A Dangerous Method. I almost think he mostly got the nomination, because this role is such a departure from all his previous roles. 
I think where this film fails is also its strongest aspect, the writing.  The film was written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin.  The same team that produced the screenplay for the academy award winning The Social Network last year.   As powerful as what is written in this film, it also at times is too smart for its own good.  Unless you are a huge fan of baseball and statistics, then every time people start talking numbers in this film it becomes very easy to get lost and honestly I got lost a lot.  Where this type of writing worked in The Social Network it fails in Moneyball.  Let’s be honest brainy smart talk sounds a lot better coming from a bunch of college computer nerds , then from a bunch of baseball guys. 
                This movie was made more for the thinking man then the baseball fan.  If you can get past the numbers, then the film is successful in that at the heart is the story of a man just trying to make a difference.  If you come to this film looking for the next The Rookie you are probably going to be a tad surprised, but fans of The Social Network and Field of Dreams might find a decent drama underneath the smart talk.
4 out 5  

Man on a Ledge

                How do you make a movie about a man standing on a ledge for two hours entertaining?  First step, fill it with some good acting and second, don’t make most of the movie about the man actually standing on the ledge.
                Nick Cassidy(Sam Worthington) is pushed to the edge literally.  Set up for a crime he didn’t commit, Nick steps out of a Hotel window and on to a ledge to prove his innocence and clear his name.  Lydia Mercer(Elizabeth Banks), a disgraced police officer, is called into try and talk him down.  Meanwhile Nick’s brother Joey(Jamie Bell) and his girlfriend Angie(Genesis Rodriquez) have an agenda of their own. To say anymore would give away half the fun of watching the movie.
                Since his breakout performance in Avatar, Sam Worthington has been playing the likable hero that everyone can get behind.  There is a reason for that, because he is good at it.  As Nick, Worthington doesn’t break any new ground, but he doesn’t need to.  He handles the action with ease and the drama parts he plays with a brooding silence.  The real stars of the movie are Jamie Bell and new comer Genesis Rodriguez as Joey and Angie. They bring a lot of the action and most of the fun humor to the film.  They have great chemistry together and brought a good sense of realism to a task that is otherwise unbelievable as average joes.   Elizabeth Banks as Lydia is probably the hardest to believe.  It is easy to see Banks as the understanding psychologist that is willing to help Nick out.  The hard part comes in believing she is a cop.  Banks is just too much of the girl next door and just not gritty enough. 
                The story is fun with plenty of twists and turns throughout.  It is a nice mix of crime thriller and heist movie in one.  One of the nicest touches comes in a small shout out to a similar film, Dog Day Afternoon.  If you are a fan of that film the small reference will make you smile.  
                Man on a Ledge doesn’t offer anything new to the crime and heist genre, but if you are a fan of these types of films you will most likely enjoy this film. Also, if you like Sam Worthington then this is another decent one from him.  Fans of The Town or Ocean’s Eleven will find this film enjoyable. 
3 out of 5