Tag Archives: Film

Moneyball [2011]

Bennet Miller, the man who brought us the excellent Capote in 2005, hits a triple with Moneyball, a film about the 2002 Oakland Athletics, their historic twenty game winning streak in that year, and the men behind the team’s success. The title is pretty self explanatory–in 2002 the Oakland A’s had the lowest salary budget in the MLB. Moneyball is the story of how they beat teams like the Yankees despite exponential gaps in assets. Brad Pitt and a still-fat Jonah Hill (I think I liked him better before he got all lithe and debonair) star in this one, and their chemistry on screen is a blast to watch. Pitt plays Billy Beane, a former first-round draft pick who failed to perform in the MLB and continues as the A’s GM to this day, while Jonah Hill portrays the fictional Peter Brand, a recent Yale graduate with a degree in economics, some powerful number crunching skills and a passion for sabermetrics–the art of examining (and hopefully, winning) baseball through statistics. Neither role is a far cry from what these gents are used to doing on screen, but their chemistry is excellent and they’re a blast to watch together. Hoffman, who took the Academy Award for Best Actor in his portrayal of Truman Capote in Miller’s only other feature film, plays Art Howe, the A’s stoic coach who buts heads with Pitt’s character continually throughout the first half of the film until the Athletics start winning. PSH, a purported method actor, is always excellent because he really becomes the character he portrays without bringing personal baggage or aspirations into his work. He’s not afraid to underact, even if it makes him and his character come off as boring. It’s the same in this film, and Spike Lee’s 25th Hour comes to mind as well, a film in which he plays the support role of an introverted school teacher who’s mopey and drab, and not much fun to watch. Hoffman would rather play the character the way it was written than entertain the viewer, which I feel shows his maturity and seriousness toward his craft.

At 133 minutes, Moneyball’s a long flick, but it didn’t feel that way. Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay is tight and full of delicious tech-y jargon, which is enjoyable, even for those who aren’t big fans of baseball (like yours truly). Pitt’s Billy Beane is a deliciously flawed character, and he makes for a great anti-hero. Though we’re sometimes appalled by his cutthroat tactics, we’re excited to cheer him and his team on, and we’re elated when they start winning. Though MB gets bogged down a bit by some filial stuff and some tacked-on-feeling flashback scenes, we’re reminded that this is a Hollywood flick, and the speed and taste with which even the stickier scenes are done keep everything palatable. There are also some examples of amazing cinematography–a couple long, sweeping locker room one-takes come to mind. The ending is timed just right, and the viewer’s left satisfied. Moneyball is a good film and an excellent sports flick. Just don’t watch it with the girlfriend unless she likes sports–things can get pretty dry in the land of sabermetrics.

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No Strings Attached [2011]

Lots of dressing/undressing in this film.

My first reaction upon seeing the movie poster for the first time on the subway platform was an audible “What the fuck?!” The cover looks like a parody of a bad romance comedy, with a bare legged Natalie Portman smiling plasticly as she stands next to a bed on which sits a chipper-looking Ashton Kutcher, nearly as tall as his standing co-star while sitting, both of them cheerfully getting dressed. Well, you can’t judge a film by its cover (the darkly stellar Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead springs to mind), and in the case of No Strings Attached, this lighthearted rom-com, with its strong cast and interesting characters, is good for a few laughs, while avoiding the common pitfalls of this genre–well, some, at least. Continue reading

Limitless [2011]

Jump already.

Imagine if a drug could increase your brain speed and awareness, opening up your frontal lobe and the rest of your gray matter, allowing you to utilize all of your brain. Imagine if you could not only absorb information at incredible rates of speed, but could utilize said info to effortlessly out-think those around you, trumping competitors in terms of creativity, analysis and outpout? No, I’m not talking about crank or blow. I’m talking about a fictional experimental compound, NZT-28, the source of Limitless’ protagonist’s seemingly boundless powers. Continue reading

Staten Island, New York [2009]


View of Manhattan from Staten Island

First time director James DeMonaco’s quirky yet satisfying crime film is a sleeper hit. I hadn’t heard a thing about this one, and luckily I waited ’till after watching it to look at Rotten Tomatoes, where it enjoys an abysmal average of 22% from only nine reviews. It goes to show you can’t trust the critics (except me, of course). You gotta watch what you like, and I really liked Staten Island, New York. My friend and co-author Jesse and I have discovered a complicated but brilliant method of picking apart the copious films we view. It goes something like this: Please, I want to enjoy your movie, so don’t fuck it up. Continue reading

Review: Taboo (Gohatto) [1999]

Gohatto stars Beat Takeshi, Asano Tadanobu and a fifteen-year-old Matsuda Ryuhei as the beautiful son of a well-to-do merchant who joins the Shinsen Gumi militia in Kyoto for the “right to kill,” and ends up doing so both by his sword and his good looks. Gohatto explores themes of jealousy, madness and destruction within the context of bushido homoeroticism; not only does this violent love story play out within the bounds of same-sex relationships, but within a single militia. Continue reading

The Grizzly Man Diaries [2008]

Title screen

The Grizzly Man Diaries is a documentary series that originally aired in 2008 on Animal Planet in 2008. Eight episodes document Timothy Treadwell’s excursions to “Bear Country” in Alaska’s Katmai National Park through live footage and still photographs by Timothy and narrative excerpts from his journals. Timothy lived among the bears, foxes, moose and other wild creatures of the park, often camping for weeks or months on end in a grizzly-packed area known as “The Maze.” Timothy developed what he felt were deep emotional relationships with the bears and foxes especially, and he enjoyed greater proximity for extended periods of time with these animals than possibly any other naturalist to date. He and girlfriend Amie Huguenard were eventually killed by a grizzly during Timothy’s thirteenth consecutive year at Katmai, on the last day of that excursion. The Grizzly Man Diaries should not be confused with Warner Herzog’s Grizzly Man [2005]. Unlike that feature film documentary, Diaries‘ directing credit goes to Timothy himself, and he’s the only human you see on screen during the four or five hours it takes to watch this strange, poignant nature doc.  Continue reading

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