Moneyball (2011) Written by Steve Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin Directed by Bennett Miller
The Oakland As general manager Billy Beane has just watched his team suffer a brutal defeat in the playoffs which leads to the departure of the team’s “superstar” players. With 2002 looming on the horizon, Beane has got to assemble a team who stands a chance in the division. On a trip to make trades with the Cleveland Indians, Beane meets Peter Brand, a statistician who sees the key to baseball as not finding stars but cultivating the guys who get hits and get on base. Beane and Brand present their potential players to the scouts and the team’s coach only to be met with stiff resistance. As the new team comes together, everyone must work to overcome the conflict, with Beane’s primary goal being an outcome that shows the Major League teams that baseball is more than a game of spending millions.
Killing Them Softly (2012) Written & Directed by Andrew Dominik
In the fall of 2008, with the presidential election and the financial crisis playing out in the background, Frankie and Russell carry out the robbery of a Mafia-run poker game. Planned by their friend Johnny “The Squirrel” they target a competition run by Markie, a man who once held up his own game and so now suspicion surrounds him. They figure everyone will think Markie did it again and he’ll feel the brunt of the mob. However, the Mafia calls in Jackie, a well-known hitman who immediately knows Markie isn’t this stupid. It’s only a matter of time until all parties involved in the heist are found and Jackie has to deliver his revenge. From there, things get dodgy as the film meanders off, focusing on side characters and slowing the momentum of the story way down.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) Written & Directed by Barry Jenkins
Tish is in an incredibly tough spot. Her boyfriend Fonny has been arrested and accused of a rape he didn’t commit. Now Tish has found out she is pregnant with his child. Everything feels impossible as she gathers up the courage to tell she and Fonny’s families. Money is crucial because the family needs every resource they have to pay legal costs to prove Fonny’s innocence, working against a system that was stacked against them before they were born. The film cuts back and forth between the present struggle and the early days of Tish and Fonny’s love story, showing us why they fight so desperately to regain the future that is being stolen from them.
Backstabbing for Beginners (2018) Written by Per Fly & Daniel Pyne Directed by Per Fly
As I’ve watched my way through A24’s catalog of films, there is one thing that always seems to signify you’re in for a bad time: The DirectTV logo. The co-productions with DirectTV are almost always a guarantee you’re in for a bad to mediocre time. Backstabbing for Beginners is no exception. The film adapts the memoir of Michael Soussan, a journalist who worked for the United Nations’ Food for Oil program. His fictional avatar in the film, Michael Sullivan holds the same job under Cypriot diplomat Costa Passaris. Sullivan quickly discovers that the system to trade Iraqi oil for food and medicine to benefit the struggling people of that nation is deeply corrupted. Sadaam’s people have allowed a black market for medicine to build up while delivering expired meds to ailing children. It’s as obvious as a sledgehammer to the face that Costa is in on the scam and so Sullivan has to gather enough evidence to take his boss down.
Widows (2018) Written by Gillian Flynn & Steve McQueen Directed by Steve McQueen
Veronica Rawlings is alone in the world. Her husband Harry, a famous thief in the Chicago area, was killed in a heist gone wrong. Harry always knew which authorities to butter up and how to stay ahead of the law, so Veronica has become accustomed to a very luxurious lifestyle. The men Harry stole from turn up a couple of weeks after the funeral with demands for the money. They give her two weeks to come up with it, or they will return to make her life the repayment. Veronica reaches out to the widows of the men that were killed alongside Harry and shares his notebook with them, a leather-bound journal detailing a series of future robberies he was planning. Veronica plans to pull off one of these crimes to pay back the men looming over her and escape to start a new life.
Written by Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tony Kushner
Directed by Steven Spielberg
The American Civil War has been slogging on for four years. Hundreds of thousands are dead, and many in the North want it to end. President Abraham Lincoln has been elected to a second term by a landslide and has one thing he wants to spend his political capital on The 13th Amendment. Members of his cabinet and the Republican party are highly skeptical of betting all their chips on this risky Constitutional move. Lincoln is steadfast and works every angle possible to garner the votes. Meanwhile, a peace commission has been sent by Confederate leader Jefferson Davis to end things, but Lincoln knows if peace without the freedom of slaves is on the table the legislators will likely go with peace and nothing else. Time is running out, more than even the President realizes.
The Sisters Brothers (2018)
Written by Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Eli and Charlie Sisters are hitmen that work for the wealthy Commodore. Their most recent assignment is to catch up with Hermann Warm, a prospector headed west in search of gold. Eli isn’t sure why they are going after this seemingly innocuous man, but Charlie assures him that this is in their best interest. Detective John Morris has been hired as an advance man to tail Warm and leave word of his progress at stops along the way for the Brothers to pick up. As the Sisters brothers make their way across the rugged landscape, they encounter natural obstacles and growing interpersonal strife. Eli believes they can leave this life one day while Charlie seems resigned to be a killer forever.