Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Movies: Day and Date Theater

Once more into darkest cable box, armed only with blog and remote, to spotlight a pair of movies released to theaters and on demand simultaneously.

Arbitrage. There are heroes, and then there are protagonists. Richard Gere clearly plays the latter here. His Robert Miller is a respected financier, an oracle of Wall Street. Only he’s shorted himself on magic. Having taken a multimillion dollar bath on Russian copper, he’s borrowed a fortune to make his firm seem solvent in order to hoodwink a competitor into buying it. The papers haven’t been signed yet, and his CIO daughter is on the trail of his skullduggery. What he needs is a relaxing night upstate with his French mistress. But Miller dozes off behind the wheel, wrecking the car and killing her. He flees the scene with the aid of his late driver’s son, unintentionally putting the young man’s future in jeopardy.

Astonishingly, you end up rooting for Gere’s master of the universe to get away with, if not murder, then massive fraud and manslaughter. As writer/director Nicholas Jarecki provides a behind-the-velvet-ropes-and-curtains tour of Manhattan’s tonier precincts, the film plays like a particularly luxe episode of Law & Order with no order and precious little law. (You do get Tim Roth as an outer borough Columbo who knows Miller is guilty and will cut corners to prove it.) A terrific Gere is ably supported by several actors portraying the celestial objects drawn into Miller’s orbit, like Susan Sarandon as the wife who has learned a thing or two about negotiating and Stuart Margolin as his cagey attorney. A sleek, suspenseful look at how the other 53% lives.
Knuckleball! In some sense, this engaging documentary came out a year early. It focuses on the 2011 baseball season as Tim Wakefield prepares to close out a lengthy career based on the fluttery pitch of the title, leaving the Mets’ R.A. Dickey as the game’s last such hurler. One season later, Dickey is an All-Star and a factor in the Cy Young conversation, having notched 19 wins and counting, leading the league in ERA and innings pitched, and ranked second in strikeouts. In perfecting an 80 mph version of the knuckler, Dickey has come as close as anyone to doing the unthinkable: inventing a new pitch. A brief primer on mechanics would have been welcome, but otherwise the film does an admirable job explaining the commitment required to master a pitch that, in the words of Jim Bouton, demands “the fingertips of a safecracker and the heart of a Zen Buddhist,” as well as profiling the handful of members of the brotherhood.