Moneyball – Movie Review

Moneyball, based on the book of the same title, is a movie about a baseball team manager, Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), in his quest to build a formidable team that can go through the year long tournament. To do so, he enlists the help of Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who has a theory that building a team not based on a player’s reputation but based on his statistical averages is the way to go. The idea proves tantalizing for Beane seeing as his team, the Oakland Athletics, has a very dismal budget to begin with. As he put it, “There are the rich teams, then there are the poor teams, then there’s 50 feet of crap, and then there’s us.”

So instead of splurging on A-list players, Beane hunts down players whose days are apparently behind them. Some have nerve injuries to their elbows, some are too old to play and others have a bad reputation behind them. The critics will rise against Beane and his experiment but he perseveres in an attempt to prove everyone wrong. Moneyball is based on a true story.

To say Brad Pitt delivers a tour de force performance as Billy Beane would be an understatement. I have not watched all the Oscar nominated actors yet but I can safely say that among all the actors who have gotten and are getting award-hype this season, Brad Pitt is without a doubt my favorite so far. He’s being pitted against George Clooney in The Descendants (check my review) as the frontrunners. No offense to George Clooney but Pitt’s performance is lightyears better. It is more engaging, more thrilling, more interesting, more nuanced. It is exquisite. He portrays his character with the exact amount of strength and emotion that it needs. At times, he shows Beane’s fragile side as he faces the looming fear of failure and at other times, as he sits in the changing rooms behind the stadium, he shows undeniable resolve. Sometimes he shows both in one frame. You can actually say that Moneyball is Billy Beane and Billy Beane is Moneyball. The symbiosis between this character and the movie is that strong. Brad Pitt embodies Billy Beane perfectly.

Jonah Hill is very interesting as well as Beane’s assistant. His performance has been rightfully nominated for many awards, including an Oscar. In fact, one of the driving forces for Moneyball is the chemistry exhibited on screen by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill’s characters. Philip Seymour Hoffman, as the Athletics’ manager, is great as always in a more silent yet comical performance.

Moneyball has a great screenplay as well, as only can be expected from The Social Network‘s Aaron Sorkin (check my review of The Social Network) and Steven Zaillian, responsible for this year’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (check my review), to accompany the all star cast it enlists. The movie flows smoothly, never feels slow. And for a movie about baseball, a sport that I don’t particularly understand, it rises above the toughness of the game and turns this movie into one that is truly heartfelt, comical at times and entertaining throughout.

At the end of the day, Moneyball isn’t a movie about baseball as it is about changing the game, defying the system and breaking the boundaries imposed by other people on you. It is a movie that defies the baseball genre in which many people categorize it and rises above every single other baseball movie ever made. In fact, Moneyball might even be the best sports-related movie ever made because it doesn’t dwell on the technicalities of the sports it portrays, it rises above it to show a humanitarian aspect that everyone can relate to.

9/10

 

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Top 13 Movies To Be Excited About in 2012

Since 2012 is a few days away, I figured I’d make a small list featuring 13 movies that will be released in 2012, which I am personally excited about. So without further ado, let us begin:

13 – Titanic – 3D

This movie is on my list simply because of the magnitude of its initial version. Like it or not, think it’s been turned into a useless cliche or not, it was until very recently the biggest movie in history.

12 – Men In Black III

Because the first two are fun. Hopefully the third one won’t put a damper on the whole franchise.

11 – Snow White and the Huntsman

This movie is on my list simply because Charlize Theron looks (and sounds) absolutely chilling in it. “Hair black as night, lips red as blood. Give me your heart my dear, dear Snow White.” Also, the TV show Once Upon A Time has boosted my Snow White interest as well.

10 – The Avengers

Most superhero movies we watched were a preparation for this. We liked some and hated others. This, however, should be brainless good fun.

9 – The Master

Amy Adams joins Philip Seymour Hoffman in a 1950s-set drama about a cult leader. What more can you ask for? I’ve decided to include this movie even when there’s neither a poster nor a trailer available to it, mostly based on the caliber of its cast, coupled with the intrigue in its story.

8 – The Amazing Spider-Man

A reboot of the franchise. I hated the third movie but hopefully this will be a much needed return to basics.

7 – Prometheus

Gladiator Ridley Scott’s newest movie. I am a big fan of Scott with his movie screen and TV screen work (The Good Wife for instance). So this movie is definitely on my list.

6 – Skyfall

The new James Bond movie. I personally loved Casino Royal and hated Quantum of Solace. So third time will be the charm for Daniel Craig’s bond.

5 – Les Miserables

We’ve all read the book. We’ve also watched the Liam Neeson version many times when we were younger. But there’s a new version coming to theaters and Victor Hugo’s masterpiece will hopefully be more than well represented. Again, this movie has no trailer nor a poster.

4 – Kill Bin Laden

I hated Kathryn Bigelow’s last movie The Hurt Locker. But this movie, about the operation leading up the assassination of Bin Laden from a Navy Seal’s perspective, looks more interesting and promising. No poster and no trailer available for this as well.

3 – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Having read the book, I can safely say this will be a brilliant movie. The trailer can’t but get you über excited as well. And it’s Peter Jackson at the helm after all. You simply can’t go wrong with anything Lord of the Ring related.

2 – The Hunger Games

I really can’t wait for this. March is just so far away when it comes to The Hunger Games. The books are epic. The trailer looks brilliant. The song of the movie is stunning. It has Jennifer Lawrence, one of my favorite new actresses. What more can you ask for?

1 – The Dark Knight Rises

Because no other movie deserves to be here other than this. One of the most anticipated sequels to one of the best movies I have ever watched. Christopher Nolan’s Batman is back.

Is there any movie you think should be on this list that I’ve missed? Let me know.

The Ides of March – Movie Review

If you’re like me and had no idea what “Ides of March” meant until after the movie, it’s interesting to note it’s Roman for the 15th of March.

The Ides of March is the story of the days leading up to that day, on which a heavily-contested Ohio Democrat primary is supposed to take place between governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) and senator Pullman. Morris is the frontrunner but not by much. He is easily able to inspire many by his rousing speeches and his ability to draw empathy out of his audience. He is seen by his campaign managers as the best candidate to ever grace the US political scene up to the point where they’ve come to believe they cannot be disappointed by him.

Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is one of the top managers in Morris’ campaign and he’s also one of those people. After an attempt by the opposing Pullman camp to court Meyers and have him join their side, Meyers will start discovering an aspect to the political life he loves so much that is much darker than he thought. And as his closest friend in the field, journalist Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei), had told him without him believing: “[Morris] is a politician. He will let you down — sooner or later.”

The movie itself is highly engaging. It has a dark, somber mood to it that doesn’t let down from the get go, making it highly enriching for you to sink your senses. The movie sets itself as a political drama from the first minute and stays as such for the course of its ninety minute run.

Scene after scene, the movie builds the tale of how Americans elect their leaders. It forms a plot of corruption that goes on behind scenes we can never see and it illustrates the brutality of people towards each other – how in politics, playing everyone is key to survival. This teaches the main character, Stephen Meyers, an invaluable lesson, one that he wished he’d never learn: to reach places in the political world, you have to give up your basic principles in life. And seeing Meyers transform from the utopia boy at the beginning of the movie to the pragmatic man at the end is a very engaging journey.

The acting in the movie is top notch, as is expected from Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney. As mentioned previously, Gosling provides the movie’s crux when it comes to the acting with the other actors and actresses coming in as accessory to his story. You can sense his anger when he is so, you can feel his sadness when he’s devastated. He slightly reminded me in The Ides of March of his outstanding performance in Blue Valentine, although this still doesn’t come close to that.

George Clooney starts off by portraying a leader you all want to follow: one that shouts integrity and honor and respect. His speeches captivate you, his ideas engage you… and sooner or later, with the twists in the story coming to surface, the leader loses that gleam of pride in his eyes and he becomes someone you can’t but run away from. The transition is performed very subtly by Clooney.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is the angry campaign manager whose goal in life is to get Morris to the White House. And as is expected from Hoffman, his performance is top notch.

The script, co-written by Clooney, is very sharp and that is overly obvious by the way it flows and by the realism it exudes. It’s so realistic, in fact, that it could have easily been a conversation between a bunch of people prior to any elections. The movie has many of the issues people discuss and these issues have been weaved into a highly interesting political movie canvas that doesn’t come off as preachy or trying to convince you of one point or another.

Clooney, as a director, provides good subtle nuances. One particular scene that comes to mind is one where Morris is delivering a speech on one side of the American flag, while Gosling and Hoffman are panicking about the campaign on the other side. Such scenes, although mostly go unnoticed, reveal a high attention to detail, one that you cannot but credit.

The Ides of March, however, is far from being perfect. Sure, it’s highly engaging. But the twist in the movie is highly predictable, which ultimately makes the plot more on the deja-vu side, but it’s the kind of deja-vu that remains interesting. And even though you feel connecting to the characters on screen, towards the end of the movie you get disconnected from everyone as they change to characters you don’t want to relate to. The movie leaves you with an ending that feels lacking. You want more mostly because you want to feel that this man you cheered for is better than what he turned out to be.

At the end of the day, The Ides of March remains a highly realistic movie that is sure to please anyone with an interest in politics in general and political movies in particular. It’s a very tightly-produced drama that doesn’t ask much of you except to concentrate and watch, ultimately inherently asking fundamental questions about the values of democracy we all consider a given.