Trouble with the Curve- 2.5 (out of 4)
Life is all about curveballs. For example, no one expected Clint Eastwood to debate an empty chair at the RNC. Likewise no one expected his first acting role since 2008’s Grand Torino to be in something so draggy and lightweight as “Trouble with the Curve.”
He plays Gus, a walking old-guy cliché. Growling, stubborn and constantly agitated (look out furniture), he’s a baseball talent scout who hates the fact that computers are taking over his business. He also happens to be going blind, a worrisome fact to his lawyer daughter Mickey (Amy Adams), a baseball-savant herself who harbors resentment towards her father for his abandonment during her childhood. Despite her workaholic ways, she agrees to take care of him during a scouting trip to Carolina, where she meets Flanagan (Justin Timberlake), a former player turned scout for a rival team who lobbies for her affections.
“Curve” lets you know right from the start that it just wants to be a predictable, non-threatening hallmark movie. It’s not a very deep father-daughter drama. There’s one heavy plot point which is quickly forgotten by the next scene, while other lesser problems that exist between them seem to just dissolve by movie’s happy end. There are some crabby laughs (Gus and buddies play a game where pissing each other off is the objective) but not so much to really call it a comedy. As Mickey manages to cut-loose with Flanagan, there is a likable chemistry there that you wish you could see more of.
And so it comes down to Eastwood, nicely playing a man who can’t accept his own frailty, and Adams, tomboyish and carrying the hurt of a neglected childhood, and they hit the only real home runs here. Timberlake is fine when not called upon to be an annoying sitcom-like comic relief role. Otherwise this is a movie about people talking and bonding over baseball. It’s fine, but a little bit too forgettable to recommend.
End of Watch- 3 (out of 4)
Writer-director David Ayer really likes cop movies. He’s done all kinds, from frivolous fun (S.W.A.T) to police corruption (Street Kings, Dark Blue, Training Day). These movies have all been riveting in their own way and “End of Watch” is no exception, but this is fairly new territory in that it really breaks down the brotherhood of cops.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena play Brian and Mike, South Central partners declared ready to return to active duty once a shooting of theirs is deemed justifiable. Their patrol consists of the usual dirtbags, intolerable cruelty, and chances to play hero (save some kids during a house fire, make a huge drug bust) but its on an assignment that they hope could up their pay grade to detective that they discover drugs are not the only thing being bought and sold.
Ayer has constructed a drama that has all the single-camera grittiness of some of the best cop shows like “Southland”, the blood, violence, and street slang are all there. His one misstep is confusingly filming most (all?) of this through the camcorders or button-cams of his characters, at times its difficult to determine who is and how are they filming this shot. But mostly this is about guys united by a job to serve and protect, not just the community, but each other. Gyllenhaal and Pena have a perfect comradery, from the way they joke around to how they talk about personal relationships to the close Uncle-like way they fit into each others families. They also work well in action scenes, taking on a no-nonsense intensity.
While cops having loyalty and infinite gratitude for the guys they stand with, and the guys who have fallen in the service of saving their partners and others, is not exactly anything new, “End of Watch” portray a partnership that is actually pretty hilarious and surprisingly touching, and it succeeds in being a respectful, truer version of guys doing the job than you usually get to see.
Arbitrage- 2 (out of 4)
There’s been talk of Richard Gere’s performance possibly getting award recognition, but after just seeing Jack Black in “Bernie” and knowing Daniel Day Lewis is coming soon with “Lincoln”, it’s hard to get too excited about Gere.
He stars as hedge-fund manager Robert Miller, trying to merge his company with a large public bank while hiding the fact that he’s lost nearly all of his money in an investment deal. But this is only the beginning of walls that are about to close in. Eventually he is involved in a car accident that kills his mistress (Laetitia Casta), putting rich-despising street detective Bryer (Tim Roth) on the trail of Jimmy (Nate Parker), the son of Robert’s former chauffeur and his getaway driver on the night in question. Robert’s daughter (Brit Marling) has also discovered that the company’s financial balances are being manipulated.
Nicholas Jarecki’s film is neither a character study of a man manipulating the system or a thriller about a man trying to evade capture; it rests some place in between. The first half centers on an audit of Robert’s company, hardly riveting stuff, and problems with his mistress, who wants him to leave his wife (Susan Sarandon) when we already know he won’t. The second half gets a little better but not by much. The cops seem to treat the murder case as open and shut, there’s no real investigation or much for Miller to do. In fact it becomes Jimmy’s movie instead of Robert’s, the “will he or wont he flip on Robert” being the only real suspense.
Gere is slick and handsome, the very visage of corporate America, but not terribly interesting. I always enjoy Roth though, his uncouth speech and body language a stuck-up middle finger to jerks like Miller everywhere.