Notes from the Back Row 

Moneyball: money in the bank

Everyone loves an underdog, especially Hollywood. It also loves sports dramas because sports are a shared experience and movies are a shared experience and when you start stacking shared experiences on top of each other there is money to be made.

Certainly, sports dramas are incredibly formulaic - the underdog team/athlete who, against all odds, uses grit and some new ideas (and often an enigmatic leader) to show the world that it's okay to dream. In sports flicks it's even acceptable to lose the big game so long as you gave it your all and no one expected you to get that far in the first place. That's the formula, it works, and Hollywood loves it.

The same goes for real-life. Team sports have become a numbers game because the players all compete at such a high level and by evaluating statistics and running the right formula you can push for glory. Numbers can't guarantee victory, but the law of averages is called a law because it's proven effective. In Moneyball, based on a true story and opening Friday, Brad Pitt plays the guy who figured that out.

Actually, he plays Al Beane, the failed-ballplayer-turned-manager of the 2001-2002 Oakland A's baseball team. Beane is the guy who believed in the guy who figured that out. That guy was Paul DePodesta, an Ivy-Leauge numbers geek who applied numerical formulas and forged a successful team out of non-superstar players with the right statistics.

In Moneyball, DePodesta's played by Jonah Hill ( Superbad, Cyrus) who, together with Pitt, shakes the foundation of baseball's long-entrenched establishment and changes professional sports forever.

It sounds a bit like the Facebook movie for baseball nerds (and The Social Network writer Aron Sorkin co-wrote the Moneyball script) but bear in mind that Brad Pitt is the most trustworthy and consistently entertaining movie star working today - he simply doesn't make shitty movies.

This time Pitt, who's also credited as a producer, knocks it out of the park. So does Jonah Hill. Director Bennet Miller ( Capote) provides a journeyman support cast, there's plenty of room for his actors to have fun, and there's and a zinger-filled, fast-talking script by Steven Zaillian ( Schindler's List, Gangs of New York) and the aforementioned Sorkin.

The result is one of the best sports movies since Murderball and the best baseball movie since Major League. Moneyball is based on a true story and has a realistic feel with unique, funny scenes and enough heart to entertain a wider audience while still stirring up those same old feelings you get with every good sports movie. Moneyball is money in the bank, and Oscar bait to boot.

On the other end of the spectrum, Killer Elite also opens Friday. It's a gritty genre story about assassins trying to kill other assassins while shit blows up all over the place. Sounds awesome right? Killer Elite is not rocket surgery but it was produced by the people behind The Bank Job and for fans of well-made pulpy genre flicks it delivers. Plus it stars Jason Sratham, Clive Owen and has Robert DeNiro shooting a machine gun. 'Nuff said.

The other movie opening is Abduction, a Taylor Lautner ( Twilight) action movie with not much action and too much shirt taking-off. This one will certainly be a shared experience, just not for anyone with nuts or who is older than 16.

Of course, Whistler's blood-soaked, home-grown cinematic highlight is also coming up this Oct. 30 with the Tenth Anniversary of B-Grade Horrorfest. Ten years of local gore, tasteful nudity and artistry on the silver screen. As far as shared experiences go, this beats hanging out in the locker room every time. Tickets go on sale Oct. 1 at www.heavyhitting.com

 

 

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