After Clint Eastwood's hatchett job on "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," there was plenty of cause for alarm when it came to his J. Edgar Hoover biopic "J. Edgar" (Warner Brothers Home Video). Was he the right director to tackle a subject rife with queer innuendo? Once you get past the gnarly old-age make-up and Leonardo DiCaprio's inconsistent accent, "J. Edgar," with a screenplay by Dustin Lance Black ("Milk") isn't half-bad.
Throughout the film, Hoover (DiCaprio, who has played gay before, as poet Rimbaud in "Total Eclipse," for example) goes through a series of FBI agents/writers, to whom he dictates his version of his life story. Naturally, Hoover's account may not be entirely accurate and gay screenwriter Black does what he can to fill in some of the blanks.
Beginning in 1919, before there was a Federal Bureau of Investigation, "J. Edgar" follows the driven (or one might say, obsessive) Hoover's rise through the ranks. From his time at the Department of Justice and his contribution to the cataloguing system at the Library of Congress to his spearheading the creation of the FBI, "J. Edgar" attempts to portray the man as someone with a compulsion to please his manipulative mother Annie (Judi Dench) at practically all costs. Because most of what Hoover did professionally (re: radical revolutionaries, gangsters and the Lindbergh baby) is on record in history books, for example, this biographical aspect, especially when combined with that of his personal romantic life, is what makes the movie compelling.
The entrance of Clyde Tolson (sensitively portrayed by Armie Hammer) into the socially inept Hoover's life, is tastefully presented. The homoeroticism of the relationship, in which Tolson moved from assistant to paramour, is handled with respect and the relationship feels genuine, for the most part. When Hoover tells Tolson he needs and cares for him, you believe it. Black deserves credit for the way he brings it to light and the actors, particularly Hammer, should also be commended. All in all, "J. Edgar" goes on about 20 minutes too long, but it is still worth seeing. Special features on the Blu-ray/DVD set include an Ultraviolet Digital Copy for instant streaming and the "J. Edgar: The Most Powerful Man in the World" featurette.
Nominated for six (really?) Academy Awards, "Moneyball" (Columbia/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), based on the true story of Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane's (Brad Pitt) efforts to change the business of baseball is a baseball lover's dream come true. But not so much for the rest of us. Not even an exceptionally fit Pitt or a locker room full of fully-dressed (!) ballplayers can make this one interesting.
Opening in October 2001, with a game featuring the extremely well-funded New York Yankees playing the bargain basement A's, Beane comes to the realization that his team simply can't compete against the deep pockets of the Yankees' $120 million payroll. Things begin to get technical (read: BORING) after this, as Beane meets with scouts, managers, team owners, players and the like, to figure out how he can construct a winning team. A former player himself, he is simply at a loss. That is until he encounters Peter (Jonah Hill), a Yale-educated economics grad who has a unique system for figuring out the value of players.
Their unique working relationship results in the team's 20-consecutive-game winning streak. But that's just not as exciting as it sounds because you have to sit through dull analysis and even more tedious personal details. There are probably even some sporty gays who will find this tiresome. Blu-ray special features include the "Brad Loses It" blooper, three deleted scenes, a selection of featurettes and more.