Trouble with the Curve

Image_square_webby CosmicTwin3

2012, Clint Eastwood, Amy Adams, Justin Timberlake. Directed by Robert Lorenz. Written by Randy Brown.

Clint Eastwood entertainingly growls and scowls his way through yet another film about an old curmudgeon unwilling to make meaningful connections with the people who want to be close to him.

Trouble with the Curve is this year’s response to last year’s Moneyball. Remember that one? It was the true story of how using a computer to analyze statistics could accurately indicate which players were necessary to build a winning team. This time around we are treated to a story about how no computer program can replace the human instinct for spotting true talent and detecting potential flaws in kids who hope to become the next great Phenomenal Baseball Player. And, of course, there is one outspoken idiot in the organization who insists that the traditional method of sending seasoned scouts to evaluate potential talent is outdated and unnecessary.

Clint Eastwood is Gus, an aging baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves with failing eyesight who is unwilling to admit that he will soon be unable to perform his job. If he can’t see young ball players perform on the field, how can he rate their potential for success in the major league? Amy Adams is Mickey, his successful high-powered-attorney daughter who keeps her distance from her dad and is all but completely estranged from him. Justin Timberlake is a pitcher Gus recruited some years ago who shows up to scout the up-and-coming talent for the Boston Red Sox.

Life has thrown some interesting curves at these people. Gus has had to deal with losing his wife when his daughter was only six years old; Mickey has spent years trying to understand why her father abandoned her – twice; Justin Timberlake blew out his pitching arm and is now hoping for a job as a broadcaster, desperate to remain “in the game.” Trouble with the Curve offers nice performances from all of the actors, right down to John Goodman, Matthew Lillard, and Robert Patrick as the executives in the Braves’ organization.

One thing left me puzzled – even though Atlanta is a huge metropolitan city of great diversity, I expected to hear that pleasant and soft Georgia drawl from at least one or two people who are presumably from there. I mean, even in giant law practices in Atlanta, surely there are some native Georgians? In this instance the director apparently believes that southern accents belong out in the boonies of North Carolina along with quaint little aging motels and bars where young attractive people spontaneously break into a specific type of folk dance known as clogging. The clogging-in-the-bar scene provided an opportunity to let Mickey loosen up a little bit but it felt entirely contrived.

The good old “Hollywood” ending was also completely predictable, yet entertaining and satisfying. Don’t lose any sleep if you miss this one in theaters, but do catch it on cable or disc. Clint Eastwood is still reason enough to see Trouble with the Curve.

Two boxes of popcornRating: Double Serving 

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In Time

by CosmicTwin3

 

2011, Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried. Written and directed by Andrew Niccol.

Let me start by saying that I have a weakness for thought-provoking science fiction movies that are well executed.

Imagine a world where someone has figured out how to capture, add to, and delete from the remaining time of any individual’s natural lifespan. There is no money; anything that can be bought or sold is traded in terms of time – a few minutes for a cup of coffee, a couple of hours for a bus ride, decades for a car. Generations of genetic engineering means no one physically ages past 25 but once you turn 25, you have only one year of free life left.

The poor work every minute they can as soon as that clock starts ticking down to replenish their lifespan time. Most live at a basic subsistence level with barely more than 24 hours left to them at any given point in a day, so they run everywhere they go performing tasks as quickly as possible. They cannot afford the luxury of simply taking a few minutes to enjoy their family or savor a peaceful moment. Conversely, the wealthy have accumulated so much time they can live for hundreds of years – and never look a day over 25. It’s a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer because the rich control the price of everything the poor need to buy.

Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is one of the hardworking poor. So far he has managed to survive 3 years beyond his 25th birthday when he suddenly becomes the beneficiary of a gift he didn’t ask for; a century of time from a man who had tired of being one of the idle rich and wanted to die. At first Will wants a taste of what he’s never had; a glimpse of how the 1% live and the opportunity to experience it for himself. It isn’t long, though, before Will is identified as an imposter in the wrong time zone. Having all that time makes him a threat to the system that allows the very wealthy to live forever and keeps the poor too busy with basic survival to question why the system works the way it does.

Justin Timberlake is very good as Will Salas and Amanda Seyfried does a nice job in her role as the rich girl who may be just bored enough to seek out a little adventure. The way the plot unfolds is pretty standard as a nice young man gets caught up in a situation not of his making and must survive by his wits while he drags a pretty girl along with him. What elevates this movie above just another formulaic ho-hum predictable thriller wannabe is the idea that time has replaced money and everything – from the food you eat to the clothes you wear to the apartment you rent – is valued in time. (This is a very entertaining and original sci-fi movie, but not superior to Source Code. If you missed Source Code in a theater, see it on disc! Director Duncan Jones delivered a Hitchcockian thriller with a mind-blowing premise that will have an observant viewer pondering possible alternative outcomes for a very long time.)

The creepiest aspect of In Time is that there is not a single person who looks older than 25. Everyone appears to be young and healthy as if the Shangri-La of Lost Horizon has grown to encompass the entire globe. But this is no Shangri-La where peace and harmony are valued above all else; when money doesn’t exist, what do greedy people seek to accumulate? What will they do when a Robin Hood-style champion of the people starts taking time from the rich and giving it to the poor? After seeing this movie you won’t be able to use the phrase “living on borrowed time” without thinking about an entirely different meaning.

Three boxes of popcornCosmic Twins rating: Triple Serving