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A&E Blog

Now-a-Dollar Dec. 23

by Scott Renshaw
Posted // 2011-12-23 -

First-run theaters aren't the only ones getting a crapload of new content this holiday weekend. No fewer than seven films make their discount theater debuts, as well.

At the top of the list is Moneyball, director Bennett Miller's adaptation of the nonfiction book about how Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) -- faced with limited financial resources -- tried to re-invent the way baseball evaluates players. Screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian find a lively energy to match the performances, but the film is even smarter at matching the narrative's ideas in re-inventing the idea of a baseball movie as something un-romanticized, slick and entertaining.

More formulaic -- but still surprisingly satisfying -- is the science-fiction/action/sports mashup Real Steel, with Hugh Jackman as a washed-up ex-boxer training one of the robot fighters who have replaced humans in the ring. While it's basically Rocky Sock'em Robots -- an underdog sports flick for the Transformers era -- the sentimentality and genre conventions work together.

The action is a bit more uneven in Tower Heist, with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy leading a crew out to steal millions from a crooked banker (Alan Alda). Some solid comic-action set pieces don't entirely make up for the missed opportunities to wrestle more Ocean's Eleven-style charm out of the cast.

The rest of the new arrivals: the animated spinoff Puss in Boots; the George Clooney-directed political drama The Ides of March; the inspiring fact-based drama Courageous; and the it's-not-just-the-chimney-that's-smoking comedy of A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas.

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