The Perfect Game


Jake Austin is still unsure what to do with the round thing while Clifton Collins Jr. looks on in frustration.

Jake Austin is still unsure what to do with the round thing while Clifton Collins Jr. looks on in frustration.

(2010) Sports Drama (Image) Clifton Collins Jr., Cheech Marin, Louis Gossett Jr., Emilie de Ravin, Bruce McGill, Patricia Manterola, David Koechner, Frances Fisher, Tracey Walter, Jansen Panettiere, Jake Austin, Moises Arias, Ryan Ochoa, Julieta Ortiz. Directed by William Dear

The mightiest heroes can sometimes come from the unlikeliest of places. You never know where inspiration is going to come from. You never know how.

Monterrey, Mexico is as impoverished as it gets in 1957. It’s an industrial community, dirt-poor and with few amenities. The kids of Monterrey don’t have a lot to do, so local priest Padre Estaban (Marin) encourages them to start playing baseball. When he discovers former major league prospect Cesar Faz (Collins) has returned home after leaving the St. Louis Cardinals organization, he enlists him to be their coach.

In fact, the only job Cesar could get with the Cardinals was  as a janitor but still he hoped he could get into their organization but soon it became clear that the ghost of Babe Ruth himself could have proclaimed him a surefire star and the Cardinals still would have turned the other way. Maybe he should have swept the floor for the Dodgers instead.

In any case, he soon realizes that Angel Macias (Austin) has an enormous amount of potential as a pitcher and he takes him under his wing. Under Cesar’s hard but compassionate coaching the Monterrey youngsters soon learn to play as a team and they begin winning. And winning. And winning some more. Soon, they qualify for the Little League World Series.

But the obstacles are many. To get to Williamsport they will need money and there isn’t a lot of that in Monterrey. Besides that even if they get there no team outside the United States had ever won the Little League World Series. How could they even hope to compete with America in their own national pastime?

Because you’ve seen this kind of movie many times before and once you figure out that this is based on a true story (more on that later), you know that Monterrey is going to overcome all those obstacles. Even though you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat for a foregone conclusion, still you will catch plenty of that feel-good effect that so many sports underdog films bring out in you.

This is based on a true story – not the actual story itself. It is fiction, based on fact. That’s something to keep in mind. Those who want to know the real story behind the team will need to look up Los pequenos gigantes, a 1960 documentary made about that team. It’s in English, but it is extremely hard to find.

There is a bit of Bad News Bears here as well as a bit of Miracle. I don’t think there is anything here that really sets this apart from other similarly-themed movies other than that the heroes are Mexican and much of the movie is set there, and shows some of the poverty that was and continues to be an everyday reality there.

The actors playing the kids on the team do all right but they are basically given one-note characters who exist to fulfill a function either within the plot or on the field. Austin’s Angel Macias is at the heart of the film from the kid’s aspect and he does pretty well. Macias is coping with a father who is disinterested in baseball and whose harsh, critical eye drive the young boy to tears sometimes. Fathers can do that when they see their children only as they want them to be rather than as they are.

Collins does a pretty good job as Cesar who has secrets of his own to hide. Marin, who those who loved him in his heyday will have a hard time seeing him as a priest, makes for a decent one. De Ravin plays a cub reporter looking for a big story and finds one, gets a part that seems to have been lifted from a screwball comedy and transplanted here. She’s pretty and sexy in the role, but that doesn’t go well with the rest of the movie – which is a problem with the script more than with her.

Those who love those sports underdog movies will like this a lot. Those who are sick of them should probably steer clear. This is inspiring sure but not as much as the real Monterrey team whose story is Hollywoodized here.

WHY RENT THIS: Has plenty of heart.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Can be overbearing with its message in places.

FAMILY VALUES: Some of the thematic elements might be a bit over the head of the younger crowd.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Real members of both the Monterrey and La Mesa little league teams who played in that championship game can be seen in the stands as fans during the championship game sequence.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: There is a kind of music video (really just a montage of clips from the movie set to music) in both Spanish and English.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $3.9M on an unreported production budget; it’s likely that the production made money.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Miracle Match

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: Shrink

Operation: Endgame


Operation: Endgame

Zach Galifianakis supplements his income with a part-time job at Target.

(2010) Spy Comedy (Anchor Bay) Joe Anderson, Ellen Barkin, Rob Corddry, Odette Yustman, Zach Galifianakis, Jeffrey Tambor, Ving Rhames, Emilie de Ravin, Maggie Q, Brandon T. Jackson, Beth Grant, Bob Odenkirk, Michael Hitchcock. Directed by Fouad Mikati

When you are a highly-trained assassin, paranoia is part of your daily routine. Of course, if you’re locked in a bunker with a group of other highly-trained assassins all of whom seem hell-bent on killing you, that paranoia might seem downright reasonable.

It is the day of new President Obama’s inauguration. In Los Angeles, an underground bunker is the headquarters for a group called the Factory, two teams of highly skilled killers (Team Alpha and Team Omega) are welcoming a new recruit to their ranks. He is codename Fool (Anderson) and no, that’s not a knock against his intelligence; all of the operatives have codenames based on the tarot deck.

However, there is much more going on than meets the eye. There is a traitor in their ranks and when Devil (Tambor) turns up deceased, the facility is accidentally put on lockdown with 90 minutes to evacuate before going ka-boom. With the identity of Devil’s murderer in question, suspicions run rampant and it becomes crystal clear that the orders have come down from on high that the two teams have been ordered to eliminate each other. Who, if anyone, will be left standing at the end is pretty much anybody’s guess.

 The concept is pretty nifty and the cast even more so, so that should make for a terrific movie right? As we all know, that isn’t always the case. The movie is sabotaged by sub-par production values and awkward moments that bring proceedings to a screeching halt every so often, and that’s not what you want to do in a thriller, an action movie, a spy movie or a comedy, all of which this movie has elements of. Maybe that’s part of the problem – too many genres in this soup.

Anderson is a bland lead, although Yustman as the romantic interest (who has a history with Fool) is pretty solid. Galifianakis, who was on the cusp of hitting it big when this was filmed, has little more than an extended cameo as a brilliant but deranged individual haunting the corridors of the bunker. Barkin is wonderful as usual as a cruel chain-smoking bitch who heads one of the teams; I’ve always thought of her as the thinking person’s Cameron Diaz. Corddry also gets kudos for an acerbic foul-mouthed mentor for Fool.

I like that the bunker is more or less a bunch of offices, and the assassins dispatch each other with a variety of office supplies. Some of these murders are rather clever and more than a few are pretty gruesome. The somewhat banal environment accentuates the horror of the bloodshed nicely. These sequences tend to work better than most of the others in the movie. While the cast is impressive, for the most part the characters are kind of one-note and exist to have a cool Tarot-related name and eventually get bumped off.

All of this could have been forgiven if the movie had a little bit more fun in it but the fun felt forced. I would have wished for something with a little more energy; at times, it felt like a direct-to-cable release that in a lot of ways it was. Operation: Endgame got a very brief theatrical release before going to home video which is where you’re going to find it now, assuming you still want to look for it. There are some moments that are genuinely entertaining, but not enough to keep my interest throughout.

WHY RENT THIS: Fun concept and when the movie hits its high notes, it is quite entertaining.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Not enough high notes. Feels more like a made-for-cable movie.

FAMILY VALUES: The violence is pretty much off-the-chart, there are a few sexual references and a good deal of swearing permeates the soundtrack.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was originally titled “Rogue’s Gallery.”

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: Not available.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

TOMORROW: The Change-Up

New Releases for the Week of September 24, 2010


Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

You talkin' to me?

LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE

(Warner Brothers) Starring the voices of Jim Sturgess, Geoffrey Rush, Helen Mirren, Hugo Weaving, David Wenham, Sam Neil, Emilie de Ravin. Directed by Zach Snyder

There is a legend of a group of warriors, those who protect the weak and defend the just. They are the Guardians of Ga’Hoole and for young Soren, there is no owl he wants to be like more than a Guardian. However, he has never seen one and they dwell far away from his people. His brother Kludd scoffs at their mere existence and his jealousy leads to terrible consequences, one in which only the Guardians themselves may save Owlkind.

See the trailer, featurettes and music videos here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D and 3D IMAX

Genre: Animated Family Feature

Rating: PG (for some sequences of scary action)

Bran Nu Dae

(Freestyle) Geoffrey Rush, Rocky McKenzie, Jessica Mauboy, Ernie Dingo. A young aboriginal couple navigates the obstacles of modern Australia – all set to a foot-stopping, uplifting soundtrack. This is loosely based on one of Australia’s most popular stage musicals; the film version won the audience award at the Melbourne Film Festival last year.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Musical

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and drug use)

The Virginity Hit

 (Columbia) Matt Bennett, Zack Pearlman, Jacob Davich, Justin Kline. A group of young men decide to document their attempts to help one of them lose his virginity. From the same minds behind the popular website Funny or Die, namely Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sex Comedy

Rating: R (for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, drug and alcohol use)

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

(20th Century Fox) Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Josh Brolin. 80s icon Gordon Gekko gets out of prison only to find the world has caught up with his “greed is good” philosophy and surpassed it. He also finds his estranged daughter is engaged to marry a young ambitious trader who might be the next Gekko protégé.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language and thematic elements)

You Again

(Touchstone) Kristen Bell, Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis, Betty White. A successful young woman discovers her brother is marrying her high school nemesis and sets out to stop him. Her mother is a bit perturbed at first, until she discovers the bride-to-be’s aunt is her own high school nemesis, and then the games really begin.

See the trailer, interviews, promos, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG (for brief mild language and rude behavior)

New Releases for the Week of April 16, 2010


April 16, 2010

A little girl with a BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIG gun!!!!

KICK-ASS

(Lionsgate) Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Lyndsy Fonseca, Elizabeth McGovern, Craig Ferguson. Directed by Matthew Vaughn

A young suburban high school student and comic book geek decides that he, too, can be a superhero. The lack of super powers is no deterrent; he just wants to do good, fight crime and maybe get some respect. However, when he becomes famous and inspires others to take up cowl and cape, he finds himself drawn into a war between a local Mafioso and a real-life crime-fighting duo. This is not your standard superhero movie!

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use – some involving children)

Death at a Funeral

(Screen Gems) Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Danny Glover. An African-American family is just trying to lay their patriarch to rest. However, nothing goes according to plan in this remake of a 2007 British comedy with a misplaced corpse, a case of a hallucinogenic mistaken for a tranquilizer, a little person with a taste for blackmail, a cranky old uncle and a libidinous son all conspiring to make this a funeral to remember.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language, drug content and some sexual humor)

The Jonses

(Roadside Attractions) David Duchovny, Demi Moore, Amber Heard, Glenne Headly. They appear to be the perfect family, living in a nice home in a gated community with possessions that are all the envy of their neighbors. But the truth is that they’re not a family at all; they’re all employees of a marketing firm whose aim is to get people to want what they’ve got.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language, some sexual content, teen drinking and drug use)

The Perfect Game

(Slowhand Releasing) Clifton Collins Jr., Louis Gossett Jr., Cheech Marin, Emilie de Ravin. The true story of the first non-American team to win the Little League World Series, a team from Monterrey, Mexico that battle poverty and prejudice to eventually triumph.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG (for some thematic elements)

The Runaways

(Apparition) Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Scout Taylor-Compton. The Runaways took the music world by storm back in the late 1970s with their fusion of punk and hard rock, all with a taste of girl power attitude. There had never been an all-girl band like this before – or since. While their career was brief, it influenced rock and roll to this day, and while internal pressures tore them part, their union with impresario Kim Fowley made them legends. This is their story.

See the trailer and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language, drug use and sexual content – all involving teens)

New Releases for the Week of March 12, 2010


March 12

Matt Damon finds out from his agent that he lost the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

THE GREEN ZONE

 

(Universal) Matt Damon, Brendan Gleeson, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Jason Isaacs, Khalid Abdalla, Said Faraj. Directed by Paul Greengrass

It was the job of Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction during the early days of the occupation of Baghdad. It was also becoming increasingly frustrating and suspicious to him that he was coming up empty on every single occasion. He and his men are being sent to a variety of sites based on the intelligence gathered from a single source, the veracity of which Miller is coming to doubt. Needing answers as to why good men are dying for what appears to be no discernable gain, he stumbles upon a massive conspiracy and cover-up that could change the game for an entire nation.

See the trailer and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for violence and language)

Our Family Wedding

(Fox Searchlight) Forrest Whitaker, America Ferrera, Carlos Mencia, Regina King. Two bright young people meet in college, fall in love, graduate and plan to get married. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not when the two are from two different ethnic groups with egocentric, uber-competitive fathers who want to turn the wedding into personal statements. The old adage is that when you marry someone, you marry their family and this comedy plays into that. Can true love conquer all? Seeing as this was made in Hollywood, I strongly suspect the answer is yes.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual content and brief strong language)

Remember Me

(Summit) Robert Pattinson, Pierce Brosnan, Emilie de Ravin, Chris Cooper. A rebellious young New Yorker, estranged from his wealthy father finds himself falling in love unexpectedly with a young woman who has daddy issues of her own. Through their love they find healing where they least expected to find it. Charter members of Team Edward should flock to this one.

See the trailer, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for violence, sexual content, language and smoking)

She’s Out of My League

(DreamWorks) Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, TJ Miller, Nate Torrence. A mild mannered airport security agent with fair to middling looks finds himself in a relationship with a successful and incredibly beautiful woman who has fallen hard for him. He has to figure out a way to make things work with an alpha male ex-boyfriend out to reclaim her and when everyone, including himself, believes she’s way above his pay grade.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language and sexual content)                                                    

The Yellow Handkerchief

(Goldwyn) William Hurt, Kristen Stewart, Maria Bello, Eddie Redmayne. A young girl impulsively accepts a ride from a young man and then the two of them pick up an older man who’s hitchhiking. All of them have something in their past that they are or have been running away from. As they take a road trip in post-Katrina Louisiana they find that the path to true freedom often comes at a heavy price.

See the trailer, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, some violence, language and thematic elements)