Friday Flicks: Will Brad Pitt’s ‘Moneyball’ Hit a Home Run or Strike Out?

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Columbia Pictures

Brad Pitt, left, and Jonah Hill star in Columbia Pictures' drama Moneyball.

Grab some popcorn! NewsFeed’s Glen Levy brings you the movies you should check out (or avoid) this weekend.


Tagline: What Are You Really Worth?

It’s impossible to ignore the irony when it comes to how Moneyball finally got the greenlight (and that’s not remotely an end to the baseball-related puns). The first two directors who signed on to the adaptation of Michael Lewis’s sensational story about how the Oakland Athletics circa 10 years ago managed to punch above their weight, David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) and Steven Soderbergh (who most recently helmed Contagion), were pulled and the call to the bullpen went in. Out ran Bennett Miller, who pitched his most famous complete film on Capote.

Indeed, his Oscar-winning star, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, appears for Miller’s team once again (playing the A’s field manager Art Howe) but the real All-Star, of course, is Brad Pitt, who plays the A’s general manager Billy Beane (still there to this day). Beane was among the first to utilize unconventional thinking about numbers in the sport: to him, a walk is as good as a hit and, as he can’t hope to compete financially with baseball’s big boys, he turns to Peter Brand (Jonah Hill, who is actually portraying the exec Paul DePodesta, who asked for his name to be changed), an economics major from Yale with no sports background whatsoever. He’s in his first job, and probably thinks that ERA is a period in time, WAR is a lengthy fight, and as for WHIP, don’t even go there.

Moneyball‘s author, Lewis, didn’t have the faintest idea how Pitt (who seems to have become consumed by this project, which is easy enough to understand if you’re as equally fascinated by the source text which is, possibly, the greatest non-fiction book ever written about sports) was going to be able to turn his words into a movie. But when the studio can call upon the likes of Scott Rudin to produce and Aaron Sorkin to write (the Scott Boras and Hank Aaron of their respective professions, if you will) then you’ve got yourself a roster destined for the Hall of Fame. We can add the cinematographer, Wally Pfister, to that line-up (and he knows a thing or two about being the underdog as he beat odds-on favorite Roger Deakins at this year’s Oscars for Inception). And history favors the current cast and crew because the last time a sports book by Lewis became a movie — The Blind Slide — it won Sandra Bullock a Little Gold Man.

But most will pay their entrance fee for Pitt’s performance as Beane, the man who couldn’t quite make it as a player but remained determined to make his name in the national pastime. Some are calling it the role of Pitt’s life, and it’s apt that he both channels and looks like Robert Redford. We should call him The Natural.

(MORE: TIME’s review of Moneyball)


Tagline: The Fight For The Truth Will Be The Fight Of His Life.

Sometimes, there’s nothing in the world quite like press notes, those helpful guides that are there to explain away the movies we so desperately want to enjoy. Case in point? Abduction, the new vehicle for Taylor Lautner, he of the ripped abs who sets hearts aflutter in a certain franchise called Twilight.

But perhaps not here. Because, “For as long as he can remember, Nathan Harper (Taylor Lautner) has had the uneasy feeling that he’s living someone else’s life. When he stumbles upon an image of himself as a little boy on a missing persons website, all of Nathan’s darkest fears come true: he realizes his parents are not his own and his life is a lie, carefully fabricated to hide something more mysterious and dangerous than he could have ever imagined.” Exciting stuff, right, especially if the over/under on Lautner removing his clothing is 5.

And there’s more: Nathan is targeted by a team of trained killers, resulting in his going on the run with his neighbor, Karen (Lily Collins). “Suddenly, everyone around me is dying,” he remarks. We also get, “Who are these people?” and “They can’t be trusted.” Oh yes, it’s that movie, with the likes of veterans Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver and Mario Bello on call to lend a hand.

Exactly 20 years ago, Abduction‘s director John Singleton caused a significant stir with his sensational debut feature, Boyz ‘N the Hood, becoming, at just 24, the youngest person and first African American to be nominated for Best Director at the Oscars. But is it progress that he’s now helming the same kind of generic movies as everyone else?

NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: It’s not even a close pitching duel between two evenly matched teams this week. Moneyball is the Grand Slam winner.

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Glen Levy is an Executive Producer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @glenjl. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.