Video Verdict: ‘Moneyball,’ ‘Killer Elite,’ ‘What’s Your Number?’

Brad Pitt, left, and Jonah Hill star in the sports drama “Moneyball.”

This week’s major home video releases include an all-out action film, a by-the-book romantic comedy and an excellent sports drama.

Moneyball

3½ stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for some strong language
Sony
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

“Moneyball,” director Bennett Miller’s fascinating biopic about Oakland Athletics manager Billy Beane, was a critical hit in theaters. Now, it seems primed for an Oscar run. The movie is up for multiple honors at both the Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, and these ceremonies have a good track record predicting Oscar nominees.

Regardless of how the film fares in the Oscar race, movie lovers should seek it out because it succeeds on multiple levels. The subject matter is intriguing, and one needn’t be a sports nut to enjoy. That’s because “Moneyball” is as much about personal relationships and numbers as bats hitting balls.

The film starts with Beane (Brad Pitt) lamenting a post-season loss to the New York Yankees. It then follows his efforts to build a competitive team for the next season. That task is monumental because, as Beane notes, professional baseball isn’t fair. Well-funded teams like the Yankees are able to spend more on players, stacking the odds against small-market organizations like the Athletics.

Still, the frustrated Beane perseveres, eventually stumbling upon Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), a young baseball executive who believes he can field a winning team for pennies on the dollar. Brand’s strategy forgoes traditional scouting routines in favor of finding inexpensive players who get on base a lot.

Although the film, which was adapted from Michael Lewis’ 2003 book, is based in reality, it is fictionalized. Most notably, Brand is a composite character based on more than one of Beane’s assistants. It’s hard to complain about the change, however, because Hill is great. The young actor is most-often tapped for comic roles, and it’s nice to see him stretch out.

Pitt is equally strong, and he paints Beane as a likable and charismatic leader who is willing to risk his career for the things he believes in. Out of necessity, the movie has a few baseball scenes, but most of the action takes place off the field, with Beane and Brand maneuvering to make the A’s better than they should be. That leaves the film accessible to people who aren’t baseball fans, but it doesn’t alienate the faithful.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes, a blooper reel and a featurette on Beane.

Killer Elite

3 stars
Rated R for strong violence, language and some sexuality/nudity
Universal
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

Jason Statham has become a master of the pure action movie: the sort that doesn’t bother with wit or melodrama because it’s too busy blowing things up. That may sound like a slam, but it isn’t. Sometimes, it’s nice to watch a film that wears its testosterone on its sleeve, and “Killer Elite” fits the bill.

Statham plays Danny, a hired killer who retires only to learn that his former partner, Hunter (Robert DeNiro), has been kidnapped. Despite his reluctance to kill, Danny learns that the only way to save Hunter’s life is to complete three additional assassinations. Making the mission particularly difficult is the fact that his targets are former British special forces operatives.

Screenwriter Matt Sherring and director Gary McKendry don’t get any points for originality, but their execution is solid. In large part that’s because the cast is great. Statham never shows much range, but he’s good at playing killers, and he’s charming enough to make them likable, even when their actions are ruthless and immoral. DeNiro isn’t a typical action star, but he is good at playing tough guys, and the swagger serves him well in “Killer Elite.” The cast also gets a nice lift from Clive Owen, who plays a former British operative who learns of Danny’s assassination plans.

The plotting is standard stuff. Danny targets his victims, and the assassinations play out with varying degrees of violence, allowing McKendry to deliver a lot of great action sequences. “Killer Elite” isn’t the sort of film one carefully dissects and continues to talk about days after a viewing. It is, however, fun.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted and extended scenes.

What’s Your Number?

2½ stars
The home video release contains rated and unrated versions of the film. The rated version received an R for sexual content and language
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

When Ally Darling (Anna Faris) learns that the average woman has only 10.5 sexual partners in her lifetime, she flies into a panic. Having already surpassed that number as a thirty-something, she becomes determined not to take new lovers. Instead, Ally decides to revisit past boyfriends and see if time has made them more appealing. Since she doesn’t have the research skills to track them down alone, she enlists the help of her neighbor, a handsome player named Colin (Chris Evans).

The setup has appeal and Faris, who is hit and miss, turns in a fine performance. Unfortunately, the movie suffers from a bad case of predictability. As with most Hollywood romantic comedies, “What’s Your Number?” tips its hand too early, allowing viewers to figure out what’s going on long before the characters.

Faris and Evans do have chemistry, which is half the battle in a romantic comedy. Director Mark Mylod uses them effectively and moves the film at a reasonable pace, so there are many worse options for date night. That’s not saying much, however. “What’s Your Number?” may be innocuous, but it’s hardly must-see cinema.

Both the DVD and Blu-ray releases have a theatrical and extended cut of the movie. Other extras include deleted and extended scenes and a gag reel.

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Boardwalk Empire” – The Complete First Season: First 12 episodes of HBO’s Emmy Award-winning drama about a corrupt political figure (Steve Buscemi) holding court in 1920s Atlantic City. The critically acclaimed series was developed by writer and producer Terence Winter (“The Sopranos”), and Martin Scorsese is an executive director. Along with Buscemi, the cast includes Michael Pitt, Kelly Macdonald and Michael Shannon.

“Transformers” – The Japanese Collection: Thirteen-disc set containing every episode of the three animated Transformers series that ran in Japan in the late 1980s. Available exclusively from ShoutFactory.com, the set features more than 40 hours of material that was previously unavailable in the U.S.

“Higher Ground”: Vera Farmiga directs and stars in this drama about a woman’s ongoing struggle with faith. The cast also includes John Hawkes, Taissa Farmiga and Donna Murphy.

“G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” – Series 2, Season 1: Twenty-four episodes of the 1989 animated series about elite American soldiers and their ongoing battle with the Cobra organization. This release includes the five-part miniseries titled “Operation Dragonfire.”

“Bratz: Desert Jewelz”: Seventy-four minute animated feature centered on the Bratz characters. The plot sends Yasmin, Cloe, Sasha and Jade on a wild adventure where they must find a mystical treasure before it falls into the wrong hands.

“Answer This!”: Comedy about a group of nerds who form a trivia team in hopes of winning some quick cash. Christopher Gorham, Arielle Kebbel, Kip Pardue and Chris Parnell star. Written and directed by Christopher Farah.

Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com.

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