First-run theaters aren't the only ones getting a crapload of new content this holiday weekend. No fewer than seven films make their discount theater debuts, as well. ---
At the top of the list is Moneyball, director Bennett Miller's adaptation of the nonfiction book about how Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) -- faced with limited financial resources -- tried to re-invent the way baseball evaluates players. Screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian find a lively energy to match the performances, but the film is even smarter at matching the narrative's ideas in re-inventing the idea of a baseball movie as something un-romanticized, slick and entertaining.
More formulaic -- but still surprisingly satisfying -- is the science-fiction/action/sports mashup Real Steel, with Hugh Jackman as a washed-up ex-boxer training one of the robot fighters who have replaced humans in the ring. While it's basically Rocky Sock'em Robots -- an underdog sports flick for the Transformers era -- the sentimentality and genre conventions work together.
The action is a bit more uneven in Tower Heist, with Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy leading a crew out to steal millions from a crooked banker (Alan Alda). Some solid comic-action set pieces don't entirely make up for the missed opportunities to wrestle more Ocean's Eleven-style charm out of the cast.
The rest of the new arrivals: the animated spinoff Puss in Boots; the George Clooney-directed political drama The Ides of March; the inspiring fact-based drama Courageous; and the it's-not-just-the-chimney-that's-smoking comedy of A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas.