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Tag Archive: Brad Pitt


Review by C.J. Bunce

When Brad Pitt has another winning performance you find you’re glued to the screen.  From Twelve Monkeys to Meet Joe Black, Ocean’s Eleven to Inglourious Basterds and Moneyball, Pitt has range, plus the charisma and presence that translates to star power.  As with Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp, if you can strip away the celebrity and focus on the performance, Pitt seems like he just can’t fail.  Pitt is just as mesmerizing as any character in his past body of work in the new film War Machine.

In another time War Machine would be a theatrical release–it carries the production values, cast, script, and studio support as much as any other movie, and is produced by Pitt’s own Plan B Entertainment, the same company that garnered a Best Picture Academy Award for 12 Years a Slave.  But we’re now in No Man’s Land.  With Netflix making not only its own competitive, award-winning shows for the small screen, it has moved on to the theatrical film that simply isn’t intended for a theatrical release.  War Machine is based on Rolling Stone writer Michael Hasting’s book The Operators, a biographical account of now retired General Stanley McChrystal that was expanded from the piece he wrote when he was embedded with the general and his men.  You’ve heard the story, the one that took down the general’s career as he was attempting to gain traction in his efforts in Afghanistan in 2010.  McChrystal’s was an American story, one that has plagued leadership in wartime notably since World War II– how do you win a seemingly unwinnable war?  You’ll be hard-pressed not to find story elements from Vietnam days in War Machine, but also echoes of the Persian Gulf War, and other actions where data, facts, politics, economics, miscommunication, and personalities muddled direction and purpose.  Only War Machine isn’t about McChrystal really–Brad Pitt’s character is only based on McChrystal.  For storytelling purposes it’s close enough, and fortunately allows the viewer to enjoy the fictional story being told without the effort of comparing the story to the real events the underlying book was chronicling.  So throw out your own politics for a few hours and get ready for an interesting character study.

Were War Machine released in theaters, there’d no doubt be discussion of the film as the next chapter in a line of films with Twelve O’Clock High, The Best Years of Our Lives, Apocalypse Now, Patton, Full Metal Jacket, and Born on the Fourth of July.  Pitt’s General Glen McMahon is Pitt aged a decade or so, sporting gray hair and a fixed sideways sneer, a raised eyebrow, and a stature (especially when running exercise laps before the other troops awaken) that makes him almost unrecognizable.  McMahon is smart, fierce, determined, and strong–the perfect selection for someone who has been appointed to complete an impossible task–in essence, do all that needs to be done to fix Afghanistan and get ready to leave without bringing in more troops–when he should have known he was doomed to failure from the beginning.  Don’t we want our generals to be confident, strident, and to a certain extent, bold risk takers?  McMahon is quirky, just a little bit off, while exhibiting a bravado and charisma–albeit awkwardly packaged–that entrenches the picture in believability.  Pitt believes in his character so we do as well.  This includes the loyalty of his men, which begins to form the movie’s all-star cast, including McMahon’s obnoxiously loyal, angry, and mouthy#2 man played by Anthony Michael Hall (the film’s take on then-Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served 24 days recently as national security adviser) and an image guy played by Topher Grace.  The cast is rounded out on all sides by Ben Kingsley as President Karzai, Alan Ruck and Griffin Dunne as Administration policy wonks, Tilda Swinton as a German politician, and Meg Tilly taking on the role (brilliantly) of McMahon’s wife (plus a nicely handled cameo by Russell Crowe).

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rocket

Our annual “All the Movies You’ll Want to See…” series has been one of the most viewed of all of our entries at borg.com each year.  So this year we again scoured Hollywood and its publicity machine for as many genre films coming out in 2017 that have been disclosed.  The result is a whopping 58 movies, many you’ll probably want to see in the theater or catch on video (and some you may want to skip).  We bet you’ll find a bunch below you’ve never heard of.  Bookmark this now for your 2017 calendar!

Most coming out in the second half of 2017 don’t even have posters released yet.  We’ve included descriptions and key cast so you can start planning accordingly.

What do we think will be the biggest hits of the year?  How about Star Wars: Episode VIII or Wonder Woman?   Luc Besson’s Valerian and the City of 1,000 Planets?  Ghost in the Shell?  Or Beauty and the Beast? 

justice

You’ve heard endlessly about Logan and Justice League, but 2017 will also see numerous other sequels, like Alien: Covenant, Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, and sequels for Underworld, Resident Evil, Planet of the Apes, Pirates of the Caribbean, XXX, John Wick, King Kong, The Fast and the Furious, Cars, The Kingsman, Transformers, Despicable Me.   And The Six Billion Dollar Man is finally on its way.  Look for plenty of Dwayne Johnson, Tom Cruise, Vin Diesel, Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson, Zoe Saldana, Hugh Jackman, John Goodman, Michael Peña, Ryan Reynolds, Sofia Boutella, and Elle Fanning in theaters this year.

So wait no further, here are your genre films for 2017:

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chris-pratt-moneyball

It’s that time of year again.  The 2016 World Series is now in full swing with the first game a sweep by the Cleveland Indians.  How will the Chicago Cubs fare in Game 2 tonight?  If you’re not in the baseball frame of mind yet, we have five of the all-time best baseball movies you can stream right now for free or for less than four dollars on Amazon Prime’s streaming service.  Most of these can also be rented on Netflix.  And let’s face it–everyone should own our fifth movie on the list.

Have you seen them already?  Then you know these great films can be watched over and over again.

Let’s start with a classic:  Gary Cooper as Lou Gehrig in Pride of the Yankees from 1942.  The movie recounts the then-recent personal triumph and tragedy of what baseball as an American pastime has created over and over for more than a century: baseball players as American icons.  Pride of the Yankees shows the personal side of being a famous baseball player, and features real-life legends Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel, Mark Koenig, and Bill Dickey, all playing themselves on-screen.  Academy Award winners Teresa Wright and Walter Brennan co-star.  If you want to see classic baseball from a contemporary view, this is your movie.  Although the story is certainly bittersweet and a tear-jerker, it reflects baseball as more than just a game.

pride-of-the-yankees-babe-ruth-gary-cooper

The most recent movie on our list is Moneyball, from 2011, a modern classic we’ve already watched over and over.  Moneyball reveals the game as a modern business.  The conflict between playing the game as classically envisioned and the game as seen from an analytical angle is wrestled with from the real life mostly true story of the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane as he turned the team around in its 2002 season.
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cover_template_text    STII vinyl

The great composer James Horner died last year in a plane crash, leaving behind a legacy of some of the biggest and most memorable soundtracks that defined nearly 40 years of film history.  One of the most memorable for sci-fi fans is his score to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  To celebrate Star Trek’s 50th anniversary, Mondo–the guys known for their redux poster interpretations–are releasing an extended LP edition of Wrath of Khan with music never before available on vinyl.  And the release includes Mondo’s killer level of artwork interpreting Khan and Kirk on Ceti Alpha V and the Genesis Planet.

But Mondo didn’t stop there.  The vinyl albums reflect the look and colors of the Mutara Nebula, where the Enterprise and the Reliant faced off.

10WoK-Discs2--FINAL2_1024x1024    STII LP reverse

Horner’s work on Wrath of Khan is impressive and established Horner as a major film composer.  His score adapts themes from Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky and Romeo and Juliet, and Horner would work cues from classical masters in many of his film scores over the course of his career.  Order your copy of Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 2-LP set today here at the Mondo shop.

Never heard of James Horner?  You certainly have heard his work.  His last score will be featured in the remake of The Magnificent Seven due in theaters September 23, 2016, but the variety of films he wrote for is unprecedented.  He wrote themes that made many an actor look good–many in multiple films, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sigourney Weaver, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Matthew Broderick, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts, and Brad Pitt, and collaborated on movies with the likes of big filmmakers, including Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Phil Alden Robinson, Wolfgang Petersen, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Michael Apted, Joe Johnston, and Edward Zwick.

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12 Monkeys Syfy

Terry Gilliam’s 1995 sci-fi thriller 12 Monkeys is every bit a genre classic.  Starring Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, and Brad Pitt–each in one of their best film performances–Willis plays James Cole, a time traveler from the future, Stowe plays Kathryn Railly, a psychologist in the past, and Pitt, in a supporting actor Oscar-nominated performance, as a mental patient who masterminds a terrorist group called the Army of the 12 Monkeys, and is the son of the wealthy Dr. Goines, played by Christopher Plummer.  So how about 12 Monkeys as a television series?

How would you approach it?  Use the same world but send another group of people back to try to “prevent the future” by trying again to pinpoint the source of a virus that will destroy everyone?  Or would you use the same characters?

Aaron Stanford star of 12 Monkeys

In the January 2015 TV series 12 Monkeys, James Cole will return, played this time by Aaron Stanford, who played X-Men mutant Pyro in the Marvel Comics movie series.  And this time Cassandra Railly (not Kathryn), played by Amanda Schull (Suits, Psych, Grimm) sends Cole back in time (is this Kathryn’s daughter?  Coles’ daughter?) to meet with… Cassandra, to try to change the future.  Character actor and guest actor of every other series on TV, Zeljko Ivanek (White Collar, Argo, House, M.D., Live Free or Die Hard, Lost, Bones, Homicide, Donnie Brasco, The X-Files, and Tex) will play a lead role as Leland, who is key to changing the future.  Kirk Acevedo (Grimm, Fringe, Walking Dead, Rise.. and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) plays a friend of Cole.

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Tank in Fury

Not too long ago it would seem a decade would pass before someone was even remotely considering putting a big budget World War II movie on the screen.  Now they’re popping up pretty frequently.  Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima in 2006, Bryan Singer’s Valkyrie in 2008, Quentin Tarentino’s Inglourious Basterds in 2009, George Lucas’s Red Tails in 2012, and we just reviewed George Clooney’s Monuments Men here, released in theaters earlier this year.  But movies about WWII tanks or tank battles?  With the importance of tanks as a tool of war in WWII you’d think we’d see more of these.  Although there are plenty of American films with scenes of tanks, is there any that would qualify as a great tank movie?

As movies with tanks go, the recommended viewing list we’ll offer up includes Kelly’s Heroes (with Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland and Telly Savalas), Back to Bataan (with John Wayne), The Guns of Navarone (with Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and David Niven), and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has a great tank scene with Indy (and the film takes place in 1938 so we think that counts).  Now Brad Pitt is taking another crack at WWII following up his superb performance as a soldier in Inglourious Basterds, with the David Ayer film Fury.

Brad Pitt in Fury

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Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys

Count it among the best performances of both  Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, the 1995 Terry Gilliam modern sci-fi 12 Monkeys is the kind of brilliantly written, post-apocalyptic science fiction movie that would receive a best picture Oscar nod today with the Academy’s pool of 10 potential nominees.  It’s serious, dramatic science fiction, not the typical stuff of your average Syfy Channel made for TV movie.  But today the Syfy Channel announced it has ordered a pilot for a TV series based on the movie.

The movie 12 Monkeys followed an unstuck-in-time convict in the year 2035 named James Cole, played by Willis, who is repeatedly sent back into the past to uncover the source of a plague reputed to be spread by an “Army of the Twelve Monkeys”–a plague that will one day kill most of the population of Earth unless the scientists can stop the virus in its inception before it mutates.  Unfortunately the future’s time travel technology is flawed, and Cole is shot farther back in time than planned, to 1990, where he is arrested and kept in a mental institution.  Madeleine Stowe played a psychiatrist in the film and Brad Pitt a patient with Cole, making a sort of odd coupling like Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman in Papillon. 

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Originally slated for December 2012 release date which was pushed by Paramount Studios in favor of the Tom Cruise movie Jack Reacher, the zombie movie World War Z release was kicked out all the way to June 21, 2013.  Although Brad Pitt holds his own as usual in the first trailer, released this past weekend, the zombies in this preview look like… ordinary people.  En masse they flow like liquid or carpenter ants crawling over each other around their little anthill homes.  Like many previews released this year, we bet the production is saving a lot for later, or maybe they haven’t yet finished off their CGI work.

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By C.J. Bunce

It’s All Star Major League Baseball week, and if you’re roaming around host city Kansas City this week, don’t bother trying to figure out those big symbols painted on the street at intersections throughout the city.  You’re probably better off not looking at the pavement as you drive, anyway.  They’re just ads for the event.  Planning and reporting for this week’s festivities made me ask myself:  How many host cities are asked to tear down dozens of houses to improve the appeal of major events?  That’s right, part of the deal to get the big MLB extravaganza into town was agreeing to tear down a bunch of abandoned east side homes near baseball fields holding related games.  Those supporting the action say it caused the city to get off its rear and act on something they needed to do anyway.  But local elected officials have been voicing their dismay on behalf of neighborhood residents–why do we need a sporting event to clean up our city?

This same week, halfway across the country, 150,000 or so fanboys and fangirls will descend upon San Diego for the annual International Comic-Con. It makes you wonder–how many houses are getting torn down in San Diego?  Both All Star Week and Comic-Con bring in money for their towns, and from a city management standpoint, that’s all that matters.  For a city like Kansas City, you don’t get many bites at the apple, not many chances to bring in national events, although the city has built up major convention centers like the Sprint Center and Kauffman Performing Arts Center–facilities that rival their counterparts across the country no matter what size the city, and these venues are attracting the commensurate talent. Kauffman Stadium, where the All Star game will be played Tuesday, is without dispute one of the best venues to see baseball anywhere–its giant scoreboard video screen is one of the top of its kind in the country.

Sponsors have dumped hundred of thousands of dollars into promotions for All Star week.  Nike, Chevrolet, Bank of America, even the Budweiser Clydesdales are all at the stadium, despite temperatures nearing 100 degrees (plan on buying a lot of bottled water if you’re going in person).  At the Sprint Center even more promotional activities are underway at the “Fan Fest,” including members of the original women’s baseball league featured in the movie A League of their Own.  Again, baseball is about money, money and money.  And so is Comic-Con.  If you’re a fan of either, you just ignore all the glitz and go after what you want–watching the baseball game (which seems like it may be an afterthought with all the promotions) and meeting your favorite comic book artists and writers and your favorite TV and movie stars, once you make it through the crowds at Comic-Con.

So I figured, what better way to start out All Star Baseball and Comic-Con week than revisiting the successful Brad Pitt movie Moneyball?  Last October, borg.com writer Jason McClain was a bit dismayed with the film.  He had read the source material, based on actual events and real people, and I think his best praise was that the film was just OK.  After finally seeing it, if you’re like me–less of a diehard baseball fan and more of a baseball movie fan, you may very well love Moneyball.  In fact, I’d argue inclusion of Moneyball is a must on a future borg.com Top 10 baseball movie list.

Jason identified the best part of the film, namely Pitt as protagonist Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, and young Yale economics grad Pete Brand (name changed from the original person in the story) played by Jonah Hill (Superbad) in a much deserved Academy Award-nominated role for best supporting actor.  In an attempt to encourage Beane to push everything aside and do the right thing for himself, Pete shows Beane footage of a classic baseball moment–Jeremy Brown rarely takes the chance to round first and break for second base.  This one time he does he screws up and tries to make it back to first, getting tagged by the first baseman in the process.  What Brown didn’t realize was that his hit made it over the wall.  He’d hit a home run and didn’t know it.  Pete’s point?  Beane was a success and just didn’t know enough to stop and soak it up.

Moneyball is obviously about money in baseball–not just how baseball has changed from its origins into this established, maybe bloated system that resists any effort to change with the times.  It applies to movie stars in NYC and Hollywood, too, but you have to ask: Does anyone deserve $7 million for whatever they do?  I once made it to a day game to see the Yankees play in the Bronx.  Strawberry struck out at bat.  Twice.  Pretty underwhelming game.  But what was memorable was all the local kids at the game.  Each one had a well-marked season’s scorecard with plenty of margin notes.  These were the diehard fans.  And when you think about increasing prices everywhere, including tickets for baseball games or movies, you wonder at what point fans will just stop going.  Or for a change, when prices actually drop.  But that would require thinking differently.  That would require real change.

More than money, Moneyball is simply a great sports story.  Brad Pitt offers one of his less difficult but most subtle and smartly played roles.  For the first time since Twelve Monkeys I saw Pitt in the big leagues as an equal to the likes of Robert Redford in The Natural.  (One humorous bit is every scene he is stuffing his face with some kind of food or having a dip).  The fact that he is willing to stop and change when no one else wants to is inspiring.  As strange and unlikely as it seems, Pitt mirrors Gregory Peck’s role in the Hollywood classic Twelve O’Clock High.  In that film, the Allies keep fighting but keep losing at the same time.  It’s a war of attrition, and hard decisions must be made that affect lives of airmen but actually the fate of the world is at stake.  Peck’s role is clean-up man.  He’s the fixer.  In Moneyball, the stakes are different, but for Pitt, this could be the end of his world if he is not successful.  Can he change the very nature of baseball so his ball club can survive?  Years ago a CEO who was about to get the axe asked me for advice.  “Where did I go wrong?” he asked.  Set in his own ways, he resisted change.  I recommended he watch Twelve O’Clock High for some inspiration.  But it was advice asked and given too late.  Resisting change is natural, and it is powerfully hard to do.  That’s why those people who are successful at moving forward in the face of huge resistance make great stories.

As for criticisms, I will leave those to Jason–he noted (probably justifiably so) that the filmmakers (and underlying source work) may have been harsh in its portrayals of real-life coach Art Howe and scout Grady Fuson.  In brief, these guys are used to the old rules and resist change.  As the story of Moneyball is about change, and as those resisting it, they become the villains.  Whenever you portray real-life people in movies or non-fiction works, someone isn’t going to like the portrayal (particularly the public figures themselves).  Yet you always have to ask whether there is at least a grain of truth in these portrayals.  In what is one of the best pieces of storytelling of all time, Jon Krakauer’s account of a failed attempt of several climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest was met with much opposition, by nearly every other guy who climbed the mountain with Krakauer.  But that does not detract from the fact that the story told by Krakauer is gut-churning, nail-biting, and exciting.  Ultimately accounts of real life can seemingly take on their own lives.  The events of May 1996 on Everest are separate and apart from Krakauer’s bestselling memoire Into Thin Air.  So, I think, may be the film Moneyball versus its source material, the Michael Lewis book Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, or even the real events that summer where the Oakland A’s broke baseball’s winning streak records.  We don’t really know what Beane and the man Pete was based on were like then, but we know the characterization of these guys in the film was superb.  And we can love the film whether it got everything real life right or not.

Whether you’re in it for the fandom or the money, this is bound to be a great week from Kansas City to San Diego. Bring on the fans!

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