Posts Tagged ‘movie review’

Moneyball

Moneyball

I was a huge fan of the book. So why did it take me a year and a half to see a movie that normally I’d rush out to see in the theaters?

Simply, I didn’t want to be let down.

I’d read all the reviews which were glowing which made me more open to seeing it, but I was just sure the movie was going to be average at best. In my mind, I envisioned a version of how “Hollywood” would make this movie and I just didn’t like it. Much to my surprise, the movie managed to take all of the good elements about the book and not dumb them down.

Brad Pitt stars as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane. He’s the focal point of the movie as he was in the book. The book did a much clearer job of giving you his history of coming up with Daryl Strawberry and the Mets, but I thought Moneyball did a passable job of portraying the history of Billy Beane. There definitely was some “Hollywood” drama (all of the Art Howe and/or Scott Hatteberg scenes, especially), but overall I thought the movie did a very good job of capturing the feel of one of the all-time great baseball books.

I haven’t read the book in about 7-8 years and I almost forgot that the A’s played the Twins in the playoffs. Once they got to that scene in the movie, I was pleasantly reminded how the Twins won the fifth game in Oakland (I was at games 3 & 4 in Minneapolis that year).

Overall, a great baseball movie. It’s not among the top 5 best baseball movies of all-time, but I think it slots comfortably into that next tier of fantastic baseball movies.

8.0

out of 10

04

02 2013

seven2

Seven Psychopaths is somewhat unfortunately named. At first glance, it seems like the name of a terrible horror movie that was released straight to dvd instead of an incredibly funny dark comedy that it really is.

Seven Psychopaths seems like a mixture between a Tarantino movie, Breaking Bad, The Big Lebowski, Ocean’s Eleven, and Very Bad Things. It’s uber violent. If your wife (or fake dead girlfriend) is at all squeamish at the sight of violence/blood, she’s probably not going to love this film. However, the violence is all for a reason. This isn’t violence for the sake of being violent. The acting and cast – including such big hitters as Colin Farrell, Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, and Woody Harrelson – is fantastic. Walken and Harrelson are almost playing a parody of past Walken and Harrelson roles which, in turn, made the movie all that much more enjoyable to me. The real star here, though, was Sam Rockwell. It’s somewhat ironic that he’s playing a role that would’ve been perfect for Walken 30 years ago since he’s become somewhat of a go-to guy for weird roles lately.

The story, which much like a Tarantino story is actually multiple separate storylines, is Marty (Farrell) plays a writer who is trying to write a story about seven different psychopaths. His best friend Billy (Rockwell) is a guy who makes a living by kidnapping dogs and collecting reward money along with his partner Hans (Walken). They find themselves in trouble when they kidnap the beloved shih tzu of a hardened gangster (Harrelson). As the movie progresses, it becomes more and more of a satire (nearly entering the “Lebowski zone”).

Overall, it’s a very enjoyable watch. I have a real strong feeling that it would be a movie that would be way more enjoyable on the fifth viewing than on the first viewing. There are some movies I “grade” the same, but have no real strong desire to watch again. However, I definitely will be popping this in for a repeat viewing sometime. It also makes me want to watch In Bruges which I apparently incorrectly discarded as an artsy-fartsy movie (a la “Beast of the Southern Wild” this year) that wouldn’t interest me.

8.0

out of 10

31

01 2013

The Other Dream Team

otherdreamteam

When anyone thinks of 1992 Olympic basketball, we think of MJ, Larry, Magic and the Dream Team. Numerous books have been written on the subject solely of the dream team – “Dream Team” by Jack McCallum and the underrated “The Golden Boys” by Cameron Stauth. “The Jordan Rules” by Sam Smith had a particularly entertaining segment about Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan wanting to take it to future Bull Toni Kukoc. “Once Brothers” – the NBA-produced 30-for-30 piece featured a story about Vlade Divac and Drazen Petrovic that touched on Croatia’s appearance in the 1992 Olympics.

At the time, I was too young to realize it, but the 1992 Olympics was a memorable Olympics solely on the basis of what countries were competing for the first time as a country (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia-Herzegovina), the first time in a while (the united German team, South Africa) as well as who wasn’t competing (USSR was no more, so they competed as the “Unified” team).

“The Other Dream Team” is the story about the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball team. It starts with the 1988 Russian gold medal win over the United States. Of the 12 players on the Russian roster, four starters were from Lithuania. The team also included players from Latvia, Estonia, and the Ukraine. As excited as the four Lithuanians were to win gold, there also was a certain amount of disappointment with the situation that surround USSR and Lithuania.

You don’t particularly need to be a basketball fan to enjoy “The Other Dream Team.” In fact, I enjoyed the stories about the political and cultural climate of Lithuania of the early 90s more than the basketball itself. I particularly enjoyed stories about bringing clothes and electronics home from America along with the stories about how The Greatful Dead got involved. While I don’t need to rush out to watch the movie again immediately (although I would), I did check where I could buy the tie dyed tshirts. Overall, I’d say this isn’t a movie that you’ve got to rush out and see immediately, but it’s well worth a view.

7.5

out of 10

23

01 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

zero-dark-thirty

Over the past few weeks, Zero Dark Thirty has been the source of some controversy due to the alleged “pro-torture” stance the movie takes along with allegations of partisanship. I’m sure people voicing these complaints would much rather see another Underworld sequel or a third Ghost Rider film, but I’ll gladly take a controversial film that delivers in nearly every aspect over most of the mindless Hollywood garbage that is spurned out on a pretty regular basis.

As you have no doubt heard, Zero Dark Thirty is a movie based on the 10-year manhunt for Osama bin Laden culminating with the assassination in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan (spoiler alert?!?)

Having watched this movie and Argo in the past few months, I’m starting to wonder if having a story where basically everyone knows the ending going in somehow enables the writer to focus more on the story as a whole and less on trying to set everything up for a memorable cinematic ending.

Jessica Chastain stars as Maya, a young female CIA official who has spent the majority of her career trying to find information about post-9/11 Osama bin Laden/al Qaeda. Chastain gives as strong of a lead actress performance as I’ve seen in years. If she isn’t rewarded with a Best Actress Oscar, I’d be extremely disappointed.

The movie, much like Full Metal Jacket, is almost two movies. The first movie (first two hours of the film) is manhunt for Osama. There is so much going on it’s almost hard to describe. You see waterboarding (which I don’t know if I’ve ever seen depicted on screen before) of detainees. You see the political process of the CIA/military. You see suicide bombers. Attempted assassinations. Bribery. Surveillance techniques. It’s all very captivating. The second movie (last 40 minutes) is a military movie on the attack on Osama bin Laden’s compound. Both “movies” could easily exist on their own, but together they form one of the more brilliant movies released in a long time.

Even before this movie was released, I knew it wasn’t going to win Best Picture simply because their are too many “anti-war” people in Hollywood. Honestly, I think it’s the same reason the more-than-deserving Saving Private Ryan didn’t win in 1998. I was shocked when Katheryn Bigelow wasn’t included in the Best Director category (even more so when I saw the director of Beasts of the Southern Wild in the list).

Quite simply, this was my favorite 2012 movie that I’ve seen thus far and I highly doubt any movie will top it. A great storyline, great acting along with great direction from Katheryn Bigelow have resulted in one of the more memorable films in a long time. Kudos to all involved for coming very close to cinematic perfection.

9.5

out of 10

16

01 2013

Haywire

Approximately 22 new action movies show up on video shelves every single week (this is just a guess). Since about 1% of these movies are actually watchable, I usually wait to hear from a few different sources that a movie is worth watching before I drop the $1 at Redbox.

Haywire, a 2011 spy thriller from Steven Soderbergh, seems to attempt to capture the spirit of the Bourne series. Female MMA superstar Gina Carano stars as Mallory, a secret agent who is running from her life for reasons that are, at the start of the movie, unknown. The movie starts with a fighting scene in a diner between Mallory and Aaron (Channing Tatum). Mallory escapes and tells her story to the customer at the diner who intervened and allowed her to escape. The next 2/3 of the movie is told through a series of flashbacks before we get to the present time finale.

The action in Haywire is very precise, clean, and unique. I particularly enjoyed the very subtle sounds dubbed into the action scene. Instead of the traditional punch sound you are used to hearing in movies, Soderbergh took a more realistic (and well appreciated) approach to the sound. Gina Carrano might not be the next Oscar winning actress, but I could certainly see her carving a career as the first (???) major female action star.

The cast (Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas) is quite impressive. It has a good look and feel. I enjoyed the pacing, but ultimately it’s somewhat forgettable. It’s probably worth watching once, but it’s not worth racing out to buy immediately, either.

7.0

out of 10

06

12 2012

The Campaign

After the onslaught of months and months of negative political campaign ad after negative political campaign ad along with debates, commentary, and analysis that could drive anyone insane, why would anyone want to watch anything that has to do with politics right now?

Imagine Will Ferrell in his George Bush character playing a parodied version of John Edwards. He’s been in his fair share of mediocre movies, but when he’s on (Anchorman, Old School, Step Brothers), there is no funnier comedic actor in Hollywood.

The plot of the movie is quite simple. Will Ferrel stars as Cam Brady, a misogynous and immoral North Carolina congressman who is running for office unopposed. After leaving an inappropriate message on the answering machine of one of his many mistresses, corrupt corporate business leaders The Motch brothers (Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow) decide to throw money behind goofball Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis) to try to take over Brady’s congress seat and make profits from Chinese companies posing as American companies. Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) is hired as the slick campaign manager who is trying to reinvent Marty’s image.

The movie is flat out funny. Having not heard a whole lot of rumblings about this, I assumed this movie might have been another one of Ferrell’s swing-and-misses, but I was dead wrong. I would even go as far to say as this movie would sit on my “Will Ferrell movie mantle” just a rung or two below the king – Anchorman.

It’s crude, it’s rude, and it’s inappropriate, but it’s certainly Will Ferrell at his finest. If you are a fan of having fun while being entertained, I highly recommend checking out this low-brow, high-laughs comedy.

8.0

out of 10

15

11 2012

Pelada

Pelada movie

The word pelada is a Brazilian term for pick up soccer (it’s also Brazilian for “naked” so be careful when doing a Google Images search). Former division one soccer players (and boyfriend/girlfriend) Luke Boughen and Gwendolyn Oxenham, not quite good enough to make it to the next level but also not ready to completely quit the sport, decide to go on a tour of 25 countries to play pickup soccer.

They start in the cultural center of street soccer – Brazil. They meet an up-and-coming teenage girl who has dreams of one day being a great for the Brazilian national team. They also meet a girl who once had the same dreams, but now works in a factory painting plastic toys and playing street soccer in her free time.

From there, we are taken all over the world. We see them going to Argentina and getting rejected to play in pickup games in the expensive clubs only to head to one of most dangerous neighborhoods (former home of Carlos Tevez) against the advice of police. They travel to Japan where the only place to play is one rooftops. They travel to South Africa where they see the construction workings building the stadium that is to host the 2010 World Cup skipping lunch and playing pickup games instead. We see them bribing their way into a prison in Bolivia to play a pickup game with the talented prisoners. They travel to Austria to watch Euro 2008 where they have a chance to watch the best of the best only to buy fake tickets and be detained by the police. We see them involved in a heated game between the Arabs and the Jews in Jerusalem. Finally, we see them go to Iran where Americans and not well liked and women are not allowed to play soccer.

One thing that really shined through while watching “Pelada”… both Luke and Gwendolyn really love soccer the way that we kids love sports. It’s really fun to see them interacting with different people from all different socioeconomic classes and share that common experience. In my own life, I’ve told many of my friends how lucky I feel in coaching basketball and cross country to be around other coaches and kids who share in my passion. It’s equally as fun to watch people in film who are passionate, as well.

By no means do you have to be a fan of soccer to enjoy this movie. Although the movie is based on sport, the cultural, political, and human stories are what make the film memorable. I found myself making a real emotional connection to a bunch of people I’ve never met travelling to a bunch a countries I’ve never been to.

As someone who’s made a movie that I feel has a really great story that relatively nobody has seen, I almost feel like it’s my duty to demand you check this movie out. You can pick up a dvd at pelada-movie.com or find it streaming for free if you are a subscriber of Netflix or Amazon. Do yourself a favor and check out “Pelada.”

9.5

out of 10

04

09 2012