January and September are two of the weakest months of the year for quality movies, but September has something that January doesn’t: – at least one pre-awards season contender. Opening this week is 2011’s September contender. No, I’m not talking about the dumb dolphin movie, the bad action movie with Jason Statham, or the other bad action movie with Taylor Lautner. I’m referring to the film starring Brad Pitt.
Like I said when ‘Warrior‘ opened earlier this month, sports dramas don’t usually hold my attention. However, like ‘Warrior’, ‘Moneyball‘ sure did.
Anyone who follows baseball knows the true story of Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s general manager who revolutionized the way the game was played 133 years after the creation of Major League Baseball. After losing to the Yankees in the 2001 American League Division Series, Beane kind of freaked out. In ‘Moneyball’, this is portrayed like a mid-life career crisis. Not only did his $38 million team lose a ticket to the World Series against a $120 million team by only one point, but the A’s also lost their three best players. Beane’s insane recruiting techniques for the 2002 season appeared rash at the time, but Billy followed a unique plan that has been put into use by every team in the MLB since then – he gave “Moneyball” a major league shot.
The idea behind Moneyball is that every player can be given a numerical value based on performance. Through mathematical equations, an all-star team of misfits can be assembled, leveling the playing field for the small budget-less teams against giants like the Yankees. Brad Pitt brings Billy Beane to life in ‘Moneyball’. At this point, it’s possible we could see Pitt receive Oscar nominations for both this and ‘The Tree of Life’. But the real shocker comes from Jonah Hill’s performance as the Peter Brand, the genius who gave the idea of Moneyball to Beane. For the first time, Hill plays an actual character, not himself.
Taylor Lautner’s (supposed) star power is put to test this week in Lionsgate’s ‘Abduction‘, the action thriller about a teen who discovers that he was kidnapped at a young age too early to recall. When he starts inquiring about his past, people start dying. Lautner takes to fleeing from what appears to be a conspiracy cover-up. Because the man-boy has insane physical skills, I’m assuming that ‘Abduction’ is nothing more than a rip-off of this year’s earlier ‘Hanna‘. The film wasn’t screened for press in my region, so I can’t bash it from my own experience. All of the negativity I give off comes from reading quick reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. No matter what the reviews say, ‘Abduction’ is somewhat critic-proof because hoards of ‘Twilight’-loving ‘tweens will see it no matter what.
How a movie like ‘Killer Elite‘ gets a wide release is beyond me. We deserve action movies of high caliber, not cliché-ridden, run-of-the-mill garbage like this. In the film, Jason Statham must kill a ton of dudes to rescue Robert De Niro from bad guy Clive Owen. For me to see this movie, Statham would have to rescue De Niro from making another ‘Fockers’ movie. Considering how far downhill De Niro has fallen in recent years, that’s about the only plot I want to see him involved with. Statham and Owen have become such B-movie actors that the majority of their work is repetitive. Also not screened for press, the action shown in the trailers is so bad that it belongs in WWE-produced movies, not wide releases with named actors.
Surprisingly, the widest movie opening this weekend is ‘Dolphin Tale‘, a family flick about a kid who helps rescue a beached dolphin that got its tail stuck in a crab trap’s rope. As he helps nurture the tail-less dolphin back to health, he makes more friends than he’s ever had – his best friend being the handicapped dolphin “Winter.” Knowing that he’s finally found friends and passion, the boy’s mother (Ashley Judd) lets him hang around the marine animal hospital day and night to help Winter accept her new prosthetic tale made by Morgan Freeman – who is playing his exact same inventive Wayne Enterprise character from the ‘Batman’ movies.
If I was a kid under the age of 10, I would love ‘Dolphin Tale’. But I’m not, so I’m distracted by the annoyingly slow central character, the clichéd plot points, the random unnecessary drama, the terrible CG scenes, the ‘Wimpy Kid’-esque childish nonsense, the 113-minute runtime, and the fact that this movie has absolutely no need to be in 3D.