Movies in Theaters on Friday, September 23rd, 2011
This weekend's cinematic offerings show us that baseball is an exact science; you're never too old to break the law while rocking out to a Scorpions song; some of God's greatest soldiers were once the scum of the earth; and we're all getting really, really old if it's true that Pearl Jam has been around for 20 damn years. See which of these might be worthy of your moviegoing dollars.
A rare true-life sports story that takes place more behind the scenes than in the field, Moneyball depicts the long, hard road that Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), the general manager of the near-bankrupt Oakland Athletics, took to put together an A-list team by using computer-generated techniques to create a sort of hand-picked baseball equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys. Beane rejected the decades-long practice of traditional baseball recruitment (what was influenced by a bunch of hopelessly behind-the-times old-timers) and swung for the fences with a plan that was so strange and just plain out there that‚ well, it's no wonder that it actually worked! Pitt is the perfect choice to play Beane, a man on a mission whose only ally is a statistics whiz kid right out of college (Jonah Hill, who's doing rather well with these grown-up kinds of roles); you also get Philip Seymour Hoffman (who does little more in the trailer than look worried) reuniting with his Capote director, Bennett Miller. This one's already got all sorts of Oscar buzz -- it might be worth purchasing your pre-season ticket already.
What's this movie actually about? As far as we can tell, it's basically little more than a showcase for Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro to mug, scowl and look cool as they shoot guns and crash through panes of glass as the Scorpions' "Rock You Like a Hurricane" plays full-blast from the gates of Hell itself. You'd think Statham would be as sick of making these kinds of movies as we are of him being in them, but the "British Bruce Willis" shows no signs of slowing down -- or taking on a role where he actually gets to display a little humility and, you know, other stuff that real human beings do. Statham's so "cool," it's exhausting, and, quite frankly, it's a little depressing how old Robert De Niro has gotten -- which leaves us with Owen, sporting a gross moustache and giving his trademark "You can tell I'm concerned and confused because I'm staring" look. Oh, what are we complaining about? This thing's going to be awesome.
We should definitely thank director Marc Forster for giving Gerard Butler a role in something that's not a lame romantic comedy co-starring Jennifer Aniston or Hilary Swank or Katherine Heigl or whoever else he's starred in a lame romantic comedy with over the past few years. Don't let the B-movie-ish, Hobo with a Shotgun-esque title throw you off -- Machine Gun Preacher is the strange but true story of Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing biker who found God and became a crusader for hundreds of Sudanese children and later founded the Angels of East Africa, an orphanage in Nimule, Sudan. Whatever inspired a hard-drinking thug to shun his devilish ways and go save the children in the name of the Lord can only be described as being something of a modern-day miracle -- call this a Saul/Paul yarn for those who know their Bible, and Childers certainly knows his. However, for all the good intentions and inspiring life-changing activities going on in this, we're mostly looking forward to seeing Butler indulge in his first truly manly role since hollering about Sparta at the top of his lungs as Leonidas in 300.
We're very, very happy that there's a documentary chronicling twenty years of a planet with Pearl Jam on it, and we're even happier that this documentary was directed by Cameron Crowe, the man who gave them a cameo appearance (and put them on the soundtrack) when they were just young up-and-comers in Singles, way back in 1992. Crowe's a master at putting together a great soundtrack, and he's got nothing if not a wealth of riches here to choose from -- and a ton of back story as to where this great grunge act came from in the first place, and why it survived when so many others from Seattle didn't make it past, oh, 1995. We're looking forward to seeing what the ever-opinionated Eddie Vedder has to say about the last two decades, and of course we're totally psyched for all of the never-before-seen concert footage that's undoubtedly sprinkled throughout; whether Pearl Jam Twenty has anything of interest for non-fans remains to be seen, but we're not too concerned about what those people think.