SECOND probably only to boxing, baseball has provided fertile ground for film drama down the decades, and this true story of how California team The Oakland Athletics changed the game is the latest to tap into the sport's inherent romance.
In 2001, the A's lose badly to the New York Yankees, with the massive difference in their spending budgets exposing the gulf in quality.
Worse is to come, as they're also about to lose some of their best players and don't have the finances to replace them.
The A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is tasked with rebuilding the team, but he can't even scrape together bargain basement swap deals and it seems like an impossible job.
That's until he happens across a young analyst, Peter (Jonah Hill) working for a rival team, who seems to have the inside track on how valuable players really are.
Using nothing but statistics, Peter reckons they can find players that other teams have overlooked, perhaps because they're too old or have an injury and are undervalued as a result, meaning they can get them for a steal.
Billy's experienced scouts think he's mad, but the statistics say these players will get the job done, though moulding them into a successful team is another matter.
That hardly seems like a hotbed of dramatic conflict, and indeed it is mostly just a bunch of guys trying to win a ball game.
Yet it's thoroughly and consistently engaging, thanks to the personalities, the actors playing them and the witty dialogue all serving to make the stakes tangible.
Credit screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (in conjunction with Steven Zaillian) for repeating the trick he pulled with The Social Network and turning a potentially dry subject into invigorating cinema.
It delves into minutiae without blinding you with stats, and while some understanding of the basics of baseball would help, you don't need to be an expert by any means.
An unusually normal role for Pitt sees him coming across really well, smart but never smug, not trying to be larger than life, and fitting in with the aesthetic of a movie that's fresh and natural.
Hill is also a revelation, leaving his schlubby comedy persona far behind, though Philip Seymour Hoffman is rather underused as the team coach.
Refreshingly free of the motivational speeches that often blight sports movies but still able to be stirring when the moment calls for it, this is light but not lightweight and hopefully it can be embraced as warmly in the UK as it has been in the States.
Director: Bennett Miller
Running time: 133 mins
TAKE SHELTER (15) Shannon is oustanding in a quietly gripping disaster movie
BLUE COLLAR family man Curtis (Michael Shannon) has vivid dreams of ominous dark skies, oily rain and vast clouds of birds, leading him to build a tornado shelter in the back yard, much to the concern of his wife (Jessica Chastain).
Whether this is a vision of things actually to come or a symptom of his mental collapse is the basis for a quietly gripping indie disaster movie that delivers a steady and controlled series of events that at times take on the intensity of a horror, and it is as much about socio-economic breakdown as mental.
Though it loosens its hold a shade in the middle and some of the plot developments signpost themselves as it trundles on a bit, Shannon's outstanding performance always keeps it going, until it becomes all about how it resolves, and in that regard Take Shelter satisfies.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Running time: 121 mins
RESISTANCE (PG) Confused war drama is too boring
IN this alternate history drama adapted by Owen Sheers from his own novel, Germany has invaded Britain following the failure of D-Day, sweeping through the south of England and into the Welsh valleys where this story takes place.
Far from being played as an adventure, it's actually not about resistance at all, but how a young woman (Andrea Riseborough, right) develops a growing friendship with a German captain.
An intriguing idea is offset by drabness, and drama that becomes increasingly lifeless until it generates outright boredom, with the fact it is partly told from the sympathetic German's point of view the only real thing of interest.
It is comprised of a lot of disparate bits and pieces that often seem like they could be played in any order, and it just ends up confused and pointless.
Director: Amit Gupta
Running time: 91 mins
THE DEEP BLUE SEA (12A) It may look good, but it's entirely lacking in human warmth
BASED on the play by Terence Rattigan, this foosty drama is Terence Davies' first narrative feature in a decade.
It is set in London in 1950 where judge's wife Hester (Rachel Weisz) has an affair with Tom Hiddleston's war veteran, goes from rich to poor in the process, doesn't get on with him either and attempts suicide.
While interesting in its early stages when you're unsure what is real and what's part of Hester's pill and gas induced reverie, it soon becomes clear there is very little to it.
So very staid and brittle, it's a stuffy melodrama heightened by very actorly acting and screeching violins on the soundtrack.
Though it looks painterly, it is entirely lacking human warmth, making it difficult to care about any of the characters, meaning any investment in what may happen to them is impossible.
Running time: 98mins
50/50 (15) 'Cancer comedy' is emotionally credible when it needs to be
THE title of this so-called 'cancer comedy' refers to chances of survival given to Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a healthy young man who discovers he has a rare spinal tumour.
But it's not a comedy as such, it's just that most of the situations are laced with humour, much of it brought by Adam's brash but loyal friend (Seth Rogen) or the fellow patients with whom he undergoes his chemo.
When it is not being funny, how people react to Adam's illness, particularly his mother (Anjelica Huston) and girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), forms the drama part.
It might be irreverent, but it's the only way to do the subject matter justice.
It doesn't become schmaltzy, but obviously it is still about terminal illness and is therefore balanced with ups and downs, and so still manages to be emotionally credible when it needs to be.
Running time: 100 mins