Saturday, December 17, 2011

Reviews - Moneyball, The Ides of March, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Well, three's a crowdpleaser.


I prefer baseball over cricket despite the fact that they're the most boring sports you'll ever sit through. But I was looking forward to this movie because of the fact that the premise of  baseball controlled by statistics looks and sound smart. But after seeing this movie I must tell people who haven't seen it yet - there are literally no games with baseball

Based on a best-selling memoir by Michael Lewis, the always reliable Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, a team that almost made it to the World Series around 2001. Because of that, their three star players are leaving them over the issue in the payroll which Beane finds difficult to solve. Later, he meets Yale graduate Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) who suggests that they use statistics to not only pick players based on their ability on the field, but to gain wins. When Beane adopts the strategy called sabemetrics, the board and many baseball experts oppose labelling it a 'gimmick'.

To reiterate what I said at the first paragraph, I was possibly disappointed at some aspects of the film because of what the film seems to be.  It's directed by Bennett Miller and the screenplay is written by Steve Zaillian (of Schindler's List and American Gangster fame) and Aaron Sorkin coming off his Oscar winning script of The Social Network. Like The Social Network, this is more of a behind-the-scenes movie of the certain subject matter it is covering than an actual sports movie. Sorkin's trademark 'Walk and talk' and fast dialogue made that movie really kinetic and exciting, but not in here which I was most disappointed about since Moneyball has some of the slowest pacing that I have issues with.

There's also Billy Beane that I have a problem with. Although we get an understandable good subplot about his unsuccessful career as a professional baseball player, each time he's throwing a chair or a trash can around, I almost lost respect for him. There's too much footage shown to give any kind of excitement.

However there were some redeeming qualities in this film. The premise is really intelligent as I expected from this film and the performances of Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are both charismatic and phenomenal respectively making most of their characters fascinating at best. The plot doesn't really go into any cliches in any sport movie. There's another subplot involving Beane and his daughter who seems to have some contribution to sabermetrics that seemed convincing to the point that at least he's a caring father. But the great part of Moneyball is the fact that it's not just baseball I feel they have at stake here, but for any and every sport because right at the very end you're thinking what team would use sabemetrics to achieve wins or players.

Moneyball has a lot of flaws including the slow pacing, the absence of anything special by Hollywood's finest screenwriters but it's not enough to prevent this film to become such a crowdpleaser. This film isn't great by any hand but it proves to me this: nerds can't play sport but at least they're powerful enough to say otherwise.

B (6.8)

The Ides of March

I hate politics. Yes. I am turning my back on what seems to be the most problematic, complicated piece of the puzzle belonged by society as a whole. And I don't care if it turn its back on me because I just don't think anything would be solved. I am going off a tangent in this review because nobody especially the government would care about what the people wants. First they never get the fact that they want gay marriage, they censored the Internet for the most laziest industry's sake and worst of all they can't even solve anything that has everyone agreeing (other than the SOPA Act) That's why film, tv or anything related to art concerns me more.

No Clooney. We f...king can't
Anyway let's get on with The Ides of March, a movie in which I convinced my entire Modern History class to see during an excursion because it's perhaps the most mature from the book and the thing is I liked it much more than the entire class, but that doesn't mean that this film takes too much. Adapted from a play, Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) is the fellow intern of Democrats nominee Mike Morris (George Clooney). So the premise is that Meyers is helping Morris win the presidential election (if you never minded George Clooney to become president) and he need at least a few primaries to become a candidate. What's blocking Meyer's path are two campaign managers: Morris's main one Phillip Seymour Hoffman and another one working for a rival nominee Paul Giamatti who constantly pestering him to make him win. Then there's another intern played by Evan Rachel Wood whom Meyers take an interest in.

To be fair, I was going in to this movie still not interested in politics. However given that Australian and American politics are so different, I at least had some knowledge to the latter and this movie got me at least hooked if only at the slightest bit. There are solid performances from an all star cast in particular Ryan Gosling and Phillip Seymour Hoffman who shows some talents here and there. There are moments of twist and there are moments with iconic, patriotic imagery that are really gorgeous. This film isn't actually about politics, this is about the characters

However, my biggest problem with this film is George Clooney's direction. At some point watching this film, I felt that this was a half-assed extended episode of The West Wing with some certain liberal bias when it shouldn't be. The screenplay lacked any dynamic to lift this movie out from confusing people who neither have any understanding of politics particularly American. If the screenplay is written by Aaron Sorkin, then I wouldn't mind this film but it felt like it was written by a pretentious political expert.

But I do like how this film made light and certain relevance of corruption, political scandals and loyalty between one and another giving it some maturity. This isn't a movie about politics nor is it about Ryan Gosling helps George Clooney. It's a movie based on the view that politics require loyalty and trust and anybody who has the balls to participate will be granted no rewards. When the film works, the tension between characters build up and we sense it. When it doesn't, it becomes gradually boring.

B (7.4)

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Suicide would have been under Cruise control.
Having only seen MI3, I went into the movie out of time constraints either seeing this or New Year's Eve (well, why would I other than see how terrible through watch) with no expectations. I can't remember what I thought about MI3, but seeing how that was directed by JJ Abrams, I kinda like it. Seeing how Tom Cruise's career is on the edge of the gutter, I would see that MI4 was a mere cash grab to kick back his stardom he had gained in the past. He's also producing and I wonder how far he would go to convince audiences that he wasn't a nutcase.

IN this installment of his well known franchise, Cruise's Ethan Hunt are on a mission to prevent a Russian nuclear physicist Hendricks (Michael Nyvist) launching nuclear weapons causing absolute annihilation to the States and this entire world itself. Just when Hunt learn that the government are shutting him and the agency IMF down, he teams up with a team of field agents (Paula Patton & Simon Pegg) and a chief analysist (Jeremy Renner) to continue the mission as quick as they can.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is probably the best action film you will ever see this year. Despite the fact that the action isn't inventive, it's pure, fun and most of all entertaining schlock. The film is directed by animation auteur Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille) and his transition into live action is confirmed here as he takes the camera into expansive angles from Cruise climbing the Burj Taraj in Dubai to floating on top of air vents in Mumbai. The scenes are so controlled it isn't sloppy like almost every action flick this year.

Cruise is doing a good job returning back as Ethan Hunt. His character is more fascinating and commanding than ever given the amount of continuity in this film. I liked the comic relief provided by Simon Pegg and Paula Patton's character is given a three dimensional presence. And Jeremy Renner. Man, every time I see him on screen, he keeps getting better than ever. He actually kicked ass here. (there's a scene of him floating evoking a shout out to 2001: A Space Oddysey)

The main problem I have with MI4 is that the screenplay can do better. For instance the villain played by Michael Nyvist should have something better to do other than just be mute throughout the entire film. The action lacks some thrills to make any of the action exciting and if it the script was more clever and tighter than the previous films, I would've liked it better

Here's a movie that know what it wants to be and so well-executed, I didn't really think I should watch the previous Mission Impossibles to know where it was leading into. This is entertaining escapism and for a movie that follows the approach of Christopher Nolan, MI4 should be seen in IMAX.

B+ (7.7)


  1. Moneyball I m considering checking out because it is Brad Pitt. Good reviews,I am with you on politics.

  2. Great reviews! I'm most interested in Mission Impossible 4, not so much cause I'm, a fan (I'm really not) but because the director is Brad Bird so I want to see how well he works as a live action director.