' Trouble With the Curve'
3 stars = Good
Remember those grizzled scouts who were considered obsolete in "Moneyball"? Well, this is about one of those guys, who wants to see and hear a prospect instead of scrolling through stats on a laptop or iPhone.
Clint Eastwood, 82, is Gus, a grumpy old baseball scout for the Atlanta Braves who literally growls at times as he copes with failing eyesight, an art that has become an impersonal science and a job that could disappear in three months. He's been a widower since 1984 but still wears his wedding ring and visits his wife's grave to update her on their now-adult daughter, Mickey (Amy Adams).
She has baseball in her blood but is on the verge of becoming a partner in her law firm. She hasn't taken a Saturday off in seven years, but, after getting a visit from her dad's friend and fellow scout Pete (John Goodman) and making inquiries about her father's health, she hits the road.
Mickey joins Gus as he tracks a power-hitting prospect who has also lured rival scout Johnny Flanagan (Justin Timberlake) to the field. The road trip to North Carolina reopens old wounds for Mickey, offers the promise of a stepping stone for ex-pitcher Johnny, and proves to be make-or-break (meaning retire) for Gus and a high school kid who might be headed to the bigs.
Mr. Eastwood's longtime producing partner Robert Lorenz ("Mystic River," "Letters From Iwo Jima") makes his directing debut here with a screenplay by Randy Brown that lacks the consistently snappy, smart Aaron Sorkin patter from "Moneyball."
"Trouble With the Curve" is not a monster homer. It is, thanks to stars, a solid triple.
' Pitch Perfect'
2 1/2 stars = Average
Perfect it's not.
"Pitch Perfect" seems like a mashup of stage play and reality TV show, borrows from other movies ("Best in Show," "Step Up") and features Anna Kendrick and Skylar Astin as a potential couple, but they have zero chemistry.
The music is fun, even if there's too much of it, and Aussie native Rebel Wilson ("Bridesmaids") emerges as the breakout star. She brings the necessary note of zaniness to a movie about the cutthroat world of college music competitions featuring a cappella singing groups. Who knew?
In the hands of director Jason Moore, a Tony nominee for "Avenue Q" and "Shrek the Musical," and screenwriter Kay Cannon (TV's "New Girl"), it rarely hits or sustains the high notes.
"Pitch Perfect" never allows you to get a sense of how popular a cappella groups are across the country so the march through the national competition means little. Lively, excellent singing is plunked into a mediocre story, and, on stage, that might save the day, but it doesn't on screen.
' Total Recall'
2 1/2 stars = Average
At the end of the 21st century, the shrunken, shattered world has been divided into the haves and have-nots in "Total Recall."
The haves live in the United Federation of Britain and the have-nots in The Colony, a gray, rainy, depressing place where Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) resides. He's a prisoner of routine and recurring, disturbing and vivid dreams. Every workday, he leaves his wife (Kate Beckinsale) and their apartment and boards The Fall, a giant elevator connecting the two remaining habitable chunks of the planet.
The elevator rockets through Earth at astonishing speeds and delivers the men to their factory jobs. It's not enough for Quaid, who feels like he's doing something that matters, something important, but only in his dreams.
He succumbs to the siren call of Rekall, an outfit that makes memories for people and implants them in their brains. And then something goes awry, and the factory drone finds himself facing a dozen cops. He also could hold the key to the balance of power in the world, with the UFB chancellor (Bryan Cranston) on one side and the resistance leader (Bill Nighy) on the other, where the literal woman of his dreams (Jessica Biel) resides.
How does this "Total Recall" stack up against the 1990 original with Arnold Schwarzenegger? He was all muscle and red-hot anger on the red planet while Mr. Farrell makes you believe he longs for something more, and when he leaves a trail of bodies at Rekall, he's astonished at what just happened. With the former bodybuilder, nothing seemed impossible.
Keeping the action on Earth means no robot-driven Johnny-Cabs, Mars mutants or creepy humanoids. It does mean hover cars, airborne vehicles that look related to The Bat from "The Dark Knight Rises" and extended chase scenes that become exhaustive.
During the early going, this version had the edge. But it introduced and then largely abandoned all sorts of provocative ideas about memory, identity, reality, fantasy and even anarchy.