Sunday, September 25, 2011

The BC Review: Moneyball

Each time my husband and I make the mistake of heading to Tysons Corner on a Saturday night we always end the trip with the same refrain, "Never again!". Of course, despite this realization of our faulty judgement, we continue to repeat the act over and over again, and prove ourselves (apparently) none the wiser. As you've probably guessed, last night was no exception.
The opening weekend for Brad Pitt's true-story sports chronicle, "Moneyball" turned out to be quite the popular event with a viewing in the Tysons Corner AMC's largest theatre and a sold out audience. For those (like myself) who may not be familiar with baseball trivia, Moneyball is the true-life story of Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics (A's). In early 2000, facing an ever-growing realization that the A's simply could not compete financially with other big league teams like the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees who systematically bought the team's "A list" roster (including Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi), Beane realizes a different method could make a sizable difference to the team's chances of acquiring talent, and most importantly, wins.
The term "Moneyball" was henceforth coined and with the help of a young economist serving as a baseball statistician, Peter Brand (played by comic Jonah Hill of Superbad and Get Him to the Greek fame). The premise - create winning baseball team using not so-called big, and expensive talent, but skilled players whose ability to "get on base" or "score a run" is the wave of the future. After all, it's all about numbers... the stats are what matters, build a team of less expensive (and by all accounts, overlooked, talent) and you just may see a team make it to the championships spending less than half of what the other teams expend to pay for their talent. Overall, not a bad plan and an exciting premise for a film!
Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, a real-life ex-pro baseball player who was recruited out of high school to play for the Mets but shortly fizzled out. Pitt does a good job in this role - he is able to play Beane with a sense of humbleness, but at the same time, exuding inner strength. As one can imagine, Beane faces some significant criticism both within his own club house and outside from skeptical baseball scouts touting their 30-years of experience in recognizing talent and even his own team manager (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) who refuses to "play ball" with the new scheme. One point of detraction I will make is the film's pace. At 133 min, the film moves at times in a sluggish pace (perhaps mimicking the pace of an actual baseball game!).
So, my recommendation - do not attempt to see this one past 8:30pm on a school night (or else opt to pick up the book of the same title). Moneyball is recommended for baseball fans and true-life stories. It is certainly an inspirational film and may make a believer out of even the most skeptical baseball guru.
The Bee Charmer Review: B

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The BC Review: Blue Valentine

I've been struggling with how to write this review. As I was placing the DVD back into its Netflix (soon-to-be Qwikster) envelope last night I remember liking it. And I think I still do. I'm just realizing the word "blue" in the title is more apropos than I originally thought. I'm not going to sugar coat it, this pick is a doosey. So, with that said, enjoy (?) the review!
At its core, Blue Valentine is a love story (and looking at the movie poster the phrase "A Love Story" under the title confirms my opinion, funny enough I did not notice that before starting this post! Apparently I've taken away from the film the point they wanted me too. Ha ha). The film begs the question, "Maybe not all love is meant to last?" Despite the feelings that exist between two people, in some cases love just isn't enough...(not the most uplifting of films, but valiant in its assertions).
Blue Valentine showcases two people who fell in love as young adults, eloped, and started what they expected to be a happy, if not stable, life together. But that's where the story goes awry... or is it life that gets away from them? As the film opens we see a little brunette girl standing in a field calling "Megan" at the top of her lungs with an exasperated expression on her face. She quickly turns and runs inside to a house with children's playground equipment outside. The little girl jaunts through the back of the house and leaps onto the bed, waking her father, Dean (played by Ryan Gosling) and the two head out to the backyard to inspect a broken fence surrounding a dog house. In the resulting moments the father and daughter run to wake up mom, Cindy (played by Michelle Williams), enthusiastically jumping on her bed and eliciting a tired and tousled mother. A bit of expertly employed foreshadowing is at work here. Life is not as it should be for this rural Pennsylvania family.
Cindy, is the at times confused and utterly unhappy wife of Dean and a medical professional administering sonograms to ebullient expectant mothers with the pained look of a woman suffering from what could only qualify as regret. As we learn, Cindy was full of potential and far-out-shined Dean in the brains department but we get the distinct impression her life has not taken her where she thought she'd be.
The film flashes back and forth between the present (including a slightly heftier version of Dean with less hair and a drunken swagger) to the past, showing us two young lovers who met under atypical circumstances and fell head over heels for each other. I should point out, much to the film's credit and romantic appeal to me, it is the male character, Dean, who was really the initiator of the relationship and questions whether a person can truly fall in love at first sight (Ryan Gosling playing a strikingly similar role in The Notebook ring any bells?).
Following days of tense looks across the kitchen and petty arguments over the trivial goings on of day-to-day life, Dean "whisks" his adoring (?) wife away for a romantic get away to "the future room" (a corny and completely depressing hotel suite) to rekindle what's left of their love life.
*Spoiler Alert* - it does not go as planned.
Blue Valentine is recommended for fans of the King of Indies, Ryan Gosling, and enthusiasts of off-beat loves stories (i.e. 500 Days of Summer).
The Bee Charmer Review Rating: A