Friday, September 23, 2011

'Moneyball' aims for the bleachers

By Sarah Sluis

The fall is known for being a quiet time for movies, but this year we're already seeing a potential Oscar contender, Moneyball (2,993 theatres), coming out to entertain adult audiences. Sony appears to be Moneyball brad pitt office repeating the same strategy they used for last year's The Social Network, which opened October 1st and still managed to have a strong presence during awards season. Critic Rex Roberts praises the movie for turning the antics of number-crunching back-office executives into "scintillating cinema" that is "eminently enjoyable." Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, a one-time potential star prospect who failed in the major leagues and now manages the impoverished Oakland A's. With the help of a young Yalie (Jonah Hill), he builds a record-breaking team on a low budget by analyzing little-known stats like on-base percentages. Moneyball could top $20 million, especially as critics pile on their love for the movie, which is currently rating 92% positive on Rotten Tomatoes.

Moneyball's toughest competitor will be a feel-good movie with maimed pets and Morgan Freeman. Dolphin Tale (3,507 theatres) is the latest from Alcon Entertainment, which produced The Blind Side. THR's Todd McCarthy described the movie as "an appealing family film that doesn't know when to quit Dolphin tale pen with the uplift." The true-life story centers on a dolphin with an injured tail who receives a prosthetic appendage with the help of community members (including a benevolent billionaire). The aww factor should bring families to the theatre if they aren't catching up on last week's winner, the re-release of The Lion King.

Twilight fans are expected to turn out en masse for Abduction (3,118 theatres), which stars Taylor Lautner, the werewolf boy in the supernatural series. Those that don't fall into the teen girl demographic should only go if they're interested in seeing "the year's most entertaining bad film," a superlative given by critic David Noh. "Unintentional laughs" come from lines like "There's a bomb in the oven" and the threat "I will kill all your friends on Facebook."

Killer Elite (2,986 theatres), the first film from AMC/Regal-created distributor Open Road Films, is "a confusing, unsatisfying action thriller," according to critic Daniel Eagan. Starring Jason Statham, Robert Killer elite jason statham De Niro, and Clive Owen, the movie jumbles together former secret service agents, fights over Middle Eastern oil, and mercenaries in the "clumsy and preposterous" tale. An opening weekend around $10 million is expected, with Abduction and Killer Elite considered close competitiors.

On the specialty front, Noh praises Weekend (1 theatre) as "one of the best gay films ever made," with an "emotional payoff" at the end that's "beautifully observed and quite devastating." I really hate the title of Machine Gun Preacher (4 theatres), which sounds like an exploitation film but is actually the tale of an ex-con (Gerard Butler) who finds God and goes to Sudan and Uganda to help those in need. Critic Kirk Honeycutt acknowledged that it's "solid, worthy effort, but doesn't like to ask too many questions," or delve into a critique of the main character's choices or methods.

On Monday, we'll see in Moneyball hit it out of the park and if audiences responded to the feel-good premise of Dolphin Tale.

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