<p>Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill co-star in the exceptional new film 'Moneyball'</p>

Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill co-star in the exceptional new film 'Moneyball'

Credit: Columbia Pictures

Review: 'Moneyball' features Brad Pitt at his best and strong script by two of Hollywood's best

HitFix
A
Readers
B+
Jonah Hill gives a career-changing performance in supporting role

Anytime I write reviews involving sports movies, particularly if they're based on real-life incidents, I brace myself for the inevitable corrections to something I've said.  I don't pretend to be an expert on every subject dealt with in films, but one of the things I love about film is the way it offers you windows into every other world, into all sorts of professions, and for the two hours while watching that film, I love the feeling of understanding that world, if only for that moment.

"Moneyball" is the sort of picture that could easily be an inert piece of drama, a dry recitation of facts and events, or it could easily tip the other direction and be a goosed-up piece of over-dramatic piffle.  This is not easy material to boil down to a movie, and so before I say anything else, let me offer up praise to the screenplay credited to Steven Zallian and Aaron Sorkin.  No surprise that big brains like those could crack the non-fiction work by Michael Lewis, but it seems like a combination that's just right for this material.  Zallian is brilliant, but sometimes, his work can seem emotionally remote.  Sorkin is equally smart, but I've never seen him pass up a cheap Hollywood moment if he knows it will play.  Somewhere in the middle of those two sensibilities, there's a smart, adult, emotional zone, and that's where "Moneyball" lands.

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<p>Gavin O'Connor is all smiles now that he's finished 'Warrior,' but it was a long hard road to get the film made</p>

Gavin O'Connor is all smiles now that he's finished 'Warrior,' but it was a long hard road to get the film made

Credit: HitFix

Watch: 'Warrior' director Gavin O'Connor talks about directing the emotional fight drama

Plus we talk about Nick Nolte's piercing performance

Gavin O'Connor has had a very interesting career, but in the sort of slow-motion that only Hollywood seems able to manage.

"Tumbleweeds" was his breakthrough moment, critically speaking, and I liked that film a lot. It featured a great performance by Janet McTeer, and it was a controlled, intimate movie.  His sports movie "Miracle" was a conventional Hollywood treatment of a great true-life story, and it worked well enough.  His last film, "Pride and Glory," was a strong movie with Colin Ferrell and Edward Norton starring in it, but it felt slight, and it was treated poorly in its release.  Three movies since 1999, and each one seemed like it took quite a bit of effort to get it going in the first place.

But of all of his films, "Warrior" appears to have been the hardest one to get off the ground, which sort of surprises me.  MMA is so huge right now, so high profile, and there's so much money behind it that it would seem to me that making a film set in that world would be very appealing to studios.  Instead, O'Connor was turned down by studio after studio, and it was an act of faith for Lionsgate to sign on and make the film, particularly with two leads who were essentially unknown.

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<p>'The Human Centipede'</p>

'The Human Centipede'

'Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence' to open Fantastic Fest

Morgan Spurlock doc 'Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope' making U.S. debut

Get the family together and start making plans for a road trip to Austin -- the influential genre-embracing Fantastic Fest has announced its final wave of feature films, and the world premiere of "The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence" has been selected as the opening night film.
 
The first "Human Centipede" -- engrossing for some, just plain gross for others -- premiered at the Texas event in 2009, winning awards for Best Horror Film and Best Actor (Dieter Laser). Director Tom Six and producer Ilona Six will attend to talk about the film in what's sure to be an animated discussion. But the gross-out fun won't stop there -- the opening night party will include live music from The Charles Edward Cheese Band and an attempt to break the world record for the longest human centipede conga line.
 
The fest will close with the U.S. premiere of "Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope," directed by Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me"), which will be presented by Aint It Cool's Harry Knowles, Marvel legend Stan Lee and "Avengers" director Joss Whedon. The documentary follows five fans as they explore the insane geekery of Comic-Con.

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<p>Really, what could I say to make this picture any better?&nbsp; God bless 'Star Wars'</p>

Really, what could I say to make this picture any better?  God bless 'Star Wars'

Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

The Motion/Captured Podcast: 'Star Wars' on Blu-ray - The Pre-Game Show

The first of of a several-part podcast series in September about the 'Star Wars' Blu-ray release

Kevin Smith should look on the bright side... there was a time I swore I'd never write about George Lucas and "Star Wars" again, too.

As I'm sure you're aware by this point, whether you care to be or not, the "Star Wars" films are coming out on Blu-ray this month.  All six of them.  And this pains some people.  More than that, though, even the original films are showing up only in special edition form, and this isn't the special edition you've already seen.  It's another extensive overhaul.  He's done a lot of little nips and tucks.

In other words, fandom has once again lost its damn fool mind.

That is not to say that anyone having any reaction to this information is wrong, but I think there is a predictable drumbeat that begins right away that is little more than anger at the very nature of the person being discussed.  George Lucas is George Lucas.  The sky is blue.  Gravity works.  The sun is in the sky.  These things simply are.  You cannot change them by being angry about them or railing against them or signing petitions.  Ain't gonna happen.  Ain't gonna change.  And so it is.

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<p>Bill Bailey and his 'Dandelion Mind' tour are currently working their way through a very short US&nbsp;run, and I hope it's a hit so he'll come back and hit the west coast, too</p>

Bill Bailey and his 'Dandelion Mind' tour are currently working their way through a very short US run, and I hope it's a hit so he'll come back and hit the west coast, too

Credit: Glassbox Productions

Interview: A quick look inside the 'Dandelion Mind' of UK comedian Bill Bailey

Plus details on his too-short US tour

If you're an American comedy fan, I don't think it's unlikely that you might ask "Who is Bill Bailey?"

But if you're a fan of English comedy, you already know the answer to that question, and no doubt you're looking forward to his brief live tour here in the U.S., a rare opportunity to see the man work a stage.

If you're a comedy fan in general, but you don't know Bailey's work, then hopefully that is about to change for you.  The first thing I would recommend is tracking down the series "Black Books," which is available on Hulu.  In that show, you'll get a good long look at Bailey as Manny, a sort of Zen hippie foil to Dylan Moran's lead character, the foul-tempered Bernard Black.  Bailey is a blissed-out marvel on the show, strange and funny and almost always living in his own strange world.  You may also have seen him in a very sly and surreal turn as twins in "Hot Fuzz," but you may not have known who he was.

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<p>A year ago, they got together for Stallone to pick up an award, but now Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone may co-star in the 'Expendables' sequel</p>

A year ago, they got together for Stallone to pick up an award, but now Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone may co-star in the 'Expendables' sequel

Credit: AP Photo/Chris Pizzello

Willis and Schwarzenegger said to have 'substantial' roles in 'Expendables' sequel

Could the sequel turn out to be more fun than the original?

If it's true that Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger are going to play major roles in the new "Expendables" alongside Sylvester Stallone, and that this is going to be more than just another cameo moment for the trio of '80s action icons, then that is indeed a major story.

I'm not sure I think it'll make a good movie, but it's certainly a major news story.  Right now, Deadline is reporting that the two guys, who showed up for one non-action scene in the first "Expendables" have signed on to take "substantial" parts this time.  This is in addition to rumors that Chuck Norris, John Travolta and Jean-Claude Van Damme are signing up to join original cast members Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren, and Mickey Rourke.  I've heard conflicting reports about whether or not Jet Li will return, but if he does, this will become one of the single biggest collection of action icons in one movie ever.

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<p>Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton co-star in the MMA drama 'Warrior,' in theaters this weekend</p>

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton co-star in the MMA drama 'Warrior,' in theaters this weekend

Credit: HitFix

Watch: Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton step in the ring for a conversation on 'Warrior'

The battling stars of this weekend's fight drama sit down to talk about their work

When "Warrior" opens this coming weekend, I have a feeling it's going to find an audience.  Lionsgate knows what they have, and they've been smart about how they've promoted the film.  Doing a paid sneak the weekend before is a confident move, and it shows that they know that word of mouth is the best friend they've got on this film.

I have seen some serious pushback from some critics because they can't get past the contrivance of the film, and I understand that.  Yes, it is is a very contrived situation.  Yes, it takes a lot of heavy lifting to build to a point where you have two brothers fighting for the $5 million prize money in this MMA tournament.  Yes, the film is unabashedly trying to tug the heartstrings.

Yet, as I said in my review, that doesn't matter to me in this movie.  I grant them all of that happily because the film gets it right emotionally, and much of that comes down to Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy and the way they orbit around the great wounded animal played by Nick Nolte.

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<p>'What do you mean my movie is overhyped?&nbsp; I will bootstomp your head open like a ripe melon if you say that again.&nbsp; Now excuse me... I'm sensitive.'</p>

'What do you mean my movie is overhyped?  I will bootstomp your head open like a ripe melon if you say that again.  Now excuse me... I'm sensitive.'

Credit: Film District

The Motion/Captured Podcast: Movie God, a new game, and a fear of overhype

Is it possible to give a movie too much love?

I am filled with shame.

It turned into a big crazy week, and I ended up with this edited podcast sitting here on my desktop waiting to be posted, and I just plain never got around to it.

Now, hopefully, you'll still enjoy the contents this week since it's not tied to a particular release date.  We discuss this week's new releases a little bit, but since I was still embargoed on "Apollo 18," you won't really hear me work up a full head of steam about how much I hated it.  Lucky you.

Instead, we spend a good chunk of time talking about the dreaded demon of "overhype," and the way it can kill a good film by the the time an audience actually gets to lay eyes on it.  It's on my mind right now as we gear up for the release of "Drive," a very good film that my critical brethren are in danger of destroying for the general public because they're pumping it up as the single greatest thing to ever happen in a movie theater.  Which it's not.  And I worry about this when I'm crazy about a new movie like "Attack The Block," and always working to strike a balance so I don't make you hate something by the time I'm done talking about it.

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<p>Kate Winslet is just one of the big names facing a nasty case of the flu in Steven Soderbergh's unsettling new drama 'Contagion'</p>

Kate Winslet is just one of the big names facing a nasty case of the flu in Steven Soderbergh's unsettling new drama 'Contagion'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Review: Soderbergh's 'Contagion' features an all-star cast, smart paranoid script

HitFix
A-
Readers
B-
What if the year's scariest movie isn't a horror film at all?

The last time Steven Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns collaborated, the result was "The Informant!", a film I quite admire.  I love how the film manages to walk the fine line between silly and honest, somehow seeming to be both at the same time while telling a very strange story overall.  Now, based on the evidence of "Contagion," their new collaboration, I think it's safe to say that they can do whatever they want when they're working together, and I hope this is the beginning of a long relationship.

In other words, Mr. Soderbergh, we do not accept your retirement.  You can knock that talk off right now.

One of the reasons I love Soderbergh is because he's a great filmmaker who doesn't feel the need to impose one style on everything he shoots.  Instead, he lets the material dictate what he shoots and how he shoots it, and in the case of "Contagion," he's outdone every virus movie I've ever seen by making the actual transmission of illness into the main character of his movie.  The script by Burns juggles a fairly sizable ensemble with ease, but the way Soderbergh, working as Peter Andrews, shot the film is a study in tension and paranoia.  It's incredibly smart stuff on all fronts, and considering how horrible the film made me feel, it is a true pleasure to watch something made this well.

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<p>'It could be worse... we could be in 'Apollo 18''</p>

'It could be worse... we could be in 'Apollo 18''

Credit: Relativity Media

Review: 'Shark Night 3D' is bloody good fun with a bite

HitFix
B-
Readers
A
Plus how wrong can you go with Katharine McPhee in 3D in a bikini?

When I left the house this evening to take in a midnight screening of "Shark Night 3D," I did so after pressing publish on my "Apollo 18" review, and I was worried that I was walking into the same experience all over again since Relativity decided not to screen the film for critics at all.

Silly me.

Why was I worried?  After all, David Ellis is a reliably enjoyable maker of self-aware trash, and the film is called "Shark Night 3D."  That's one of those things that seems pretty hard to screw up.  Then again, Ellis is the guy who fumbled the should-have-been-hilarious-fun "Snakes On A Plane," so there's always the chance something like this won't work.  Thankfully, this is "Final Destination 2" David Ellis this time out, and the result is nothing I would call brilliant, but it is indeed heaps of intentional fun.

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