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Five Views: Million Dollar Arm

May 16, 2014

Million Dollar Arm Poster

Million Dollar Arm – A Walt Disney Pictures Release

http://movies.disney.com/million-dollar-arm

Release Date: May 16th, 2014

Rated PG for mature themes

Running time: 124 minutes

Craig Gillespie (dir.)

Thomas McCarthy (screenplay)

A.R. Rahman (music)

Jon Hamm as JB Bernstein
Pitobash as Amit
Suraj Sharma as Rinku
Madhur Mittal as Dinesh
Aasif Mandvi as Aash
Lake Bell as Brenda
Alan Arkin as Ray
Bill Paxton as Tom House

Million Dollar Arm

©Walt Disney Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Dinesh (Madhur Mittal), Rinku (Suraj Sharma), JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) and Amit (Pitobash) in Million Dollar Arm.

Our reviews below:

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Million Dollar Arm Review By John Corrado

***1/2 (out of 4)

From Miracle to Invincible and Secretariat, Disney has a long line of “based on a true story” sports movies under their belt.  Now in the grand tradition of those feel good films comes Million Dollar Arm, the story of the first South Asian players signed to a Major League Baseball team.

JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is a sports agent at risk of losing his job, when he gets the idea to travel to India and hold a contest recruiting the best cricket players to try out pitching for baseball.  Local sports fan Amit (Pitobash) is eager to help and quickly volunteers his services, and they find their men in Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal), two teenagers who are excited about coming to America, but need practice before they have any hope of being signed to a team.

But when the culture shock becomes too much and the three young men are kicked out of their hotel room, JB reluctantly brings them to his house, where they are welcomed with open arms by his likeable neighbour, Brenda (Lake Bell).  Directed by Craig Gillespie from a Thomas McCarthy screenplay, Million Dollar Arm has quite the pedigree behind it, and this is an accomplished and handsomely produced studio picture.  The beautiful golden brown hues of the cinematography vibrantly capture the energy and life of both India and Los Angeles, and the rousing music by A.R. Rahman helps the film come alive.

The cast is also solid.  Jon Hamm is excellent as he plays up his Mad Men persona, but with a genuine heart that emerges as the story goes on, and Lake Bell is wonderful as the neighbour who catches his eye.  It’s nice to see Suraj Sharma succeeding with a different type of role after his breakout turn in Life of Pi, and the same could be said of Madhur Mittal following his work in Slumdog Millionaire.  Bollywood actor Pitobash is hilarious in his Hollywood debut, and Alan Arkin also brings the laughs in his few brief scenes as a talent scout who can literally tell how fast a ball is going with his eyes closed.

There are many wonderful and funny moments throughout Million Dollar Arm, and when the film switches to real footage during the closing credits after a perfect fade to black, the result is undeniably uplifting.  This is an incredibly entertaining and also inspirational baseball movie, and a crowdpleaser that has something for everyone.

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Million Dollar Arm Review By Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm tells the story of sports agent JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) and his unconventional plan that hopes to turn two young Indian men with no baseball experience into pro players in the span of a year.

When JB and his business partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) are struggling to make ends meet with their business, they realize that they are going to have to find new talent to sign or their careers could be over.  With no luck finding baseball players who will sign with them instead of the larger more money-heavy agencies, JB comes up with the idea of finding a cricket player instead after watching the pitching (rather bowling) of an Indian cricket team on TV.

Making the thing into a huge marketing show JB travels to India with scout Ray (Alan Arkin) to run the ‘Million Dollar Arm’ competition – in which local teens and young adults can try out to win a chance to go to the USA to train for a pro tryout and win a million dollars.  As expected, they get a huge turnout as word spreads quickly throughout all of India.  After an extensive search, JB has two finalists – Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal).  Bringing them to the States along with Amit (Pitobash) as a translator, JB realizes that he is not only changing their lives, but his own forever as well.  And for all of them, everything is riding on whether or not Rinku and Dinesh have what it takes to train into pro baseball players.

A classic underdog story, Million Dollar Arm is an uplifting crowd pleaser that audiences are sure to enjoy.  What’s also great about it is that the film will entertain those from older kids all the way to seniors.  When I saw the film, there was a kids baseball team in the audience and they all seemed to really love the film as well.  With summer just around the corner and it being the middle of baseball season, it is the perfect time to go out and have fun seeing Million Dollar Arm.

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Million Dollar Arm Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

Million Dollar Arm tells the true story of the USA’s first Indian baseball players, which was surprisingly as late as 2008.  When failing talent scout Jamie “JB” Bernstein (Jon Hamm) and Aash (Aasif Mandvi) are looking for new talent, Aash suggests recruiting Indian cricket players.  JB reluctantly agrees, and travels to India to sep up a baseball talent contest, called Million Dollar Arm.  They join up with a jovial young man, Amit (Pitobash), who raises the spirits of those around him, except for the serious JB.

It turns out that the talent show attracts more than cricket players.  The prospects with the most baseball potential are two guys who are not even into cricket.  Rinku (Suraj Sharma) is a young javelin thrower, and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) is a truck driver.  JB is quite impatient with them at first, as it takes a while for them to get the hang of pitching and catching a baseball.  But his kindly neighbour, Brenda (Lake Bell) takes a friendly, maternal approach to encouraging these young men who are in an unfamiliar country and miss their own families.

Over time, Rinku, Dinesh and Brenda teach JB the importance of family and faith over fame and fortune.  Million Dollar Arm is a great movie for all ages.  The preview audience I saw it with mainly consisted of a Scarborough children’s baseball team, who all seemed to love it.  Teens and adults will also enjoy this clean, feel good sports movie.  It really captures the cultural differences between the materialistic Western urban society, and the poor rural villages of India.  While living conditions may be Third World, the family and faith values are incredibly rich.  And those skinny South Asian cattle are really cool.

Everything about this film, from the acting, screenwriting and cinematography, to A.R. Rahman’s score which mixes Indian and American elements, is excellent.  Million Dollar Arm is sure to become a classic among sports movies.

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Million Dollar Arm Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

There’s something inspiring about individuals who, despite the odds against them, find a way to fulfill their dreams.  Million Dollar Arm is based on the true story of two unknown athletes from India who earned a spot at American Baseball League pitching tryouts, and eventually got signed as professional players.

Jamie “JB” Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is an ambitious sports agent who usually deals with clients like NFL player Popo (Rey Maualuga) who considers a million dollars upfront to be a reasonable deal.  JB and his business partner Aash’s (Aasif Mandvi) sports agency is struggling financially and they really need a big deal to keep them afloat.  Watching cricket on TV with Aash, JB starts to wonder out loud if maybe the untapped pool of Indian cricket players might be the answer.

So with the financial backing of wealthy Mr. Chang (Tzi Ma), JB heads off to India for project “Million Dollar Arm.”  The goal is to find two pitching diamonds in the rough and turn them into professional baseball players.  With the help of charmingly animated local entrepreneur Amit (Pitobash), and retired American baseball scout Ray (Alan Arkin), JB travels throughout India setting up pitching tryouts.  The enthusiasm he encounters for the project is incredible.  Entire villages come out cheering on the would be pitchers.

The scenes filmed in India are delightful.  There is a real sense of community and a colourful energy that is charming to watch.  The time in India feels authentic.  After hundreds of tryouts, JB and Ray select two young prospects.  Rinku (Suraj Sharma) is a student whose athletic experience is limited to javelin throwing, and the other is Dinesh (Madhur Mittal), a poor delivery truck driver with a naturally strong throwing arm.  JB arranges for Rinku, Dinesh and Amit as a translator to return to America with him.

The three become his houseguests after a disastrous one-night stay at a hotel.  The culture shock that the visitors experience in the U.S. is a source of many funny and touching moments in the film.  JB is very much a type-A person and his large, fancy mansion is a big adjustment for the three guys.  However, with the help of his medical intern tenant Brenda (Lake Bell), everyone including JB manages to relax and settle in so baseball training can begin.

Million Dollar Arm is right up there with other good baseball movies.  Having grown up with the Montreal Expos, I’ve always loved baseball movies.  This is a genuinely inspiring and entertaining true story that director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Thomas McCarthy have managed to translate into something fun, and it’s a real treat to watch.

With good acting all around, excellent cinematography and a perfect score by A.R. Rahman, Million Dollar Arm is a home run of a movie.  Fans of baseball will want to see this one as a fun way to head into the summer.

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Million Dollar Arm Review By Tony

***1/2 (out of 4)

Million Dollar Arm dramatizes the recruitment in 2008 of the first professional baseball players from India. Having left a brilliant marketing job producing tons of merch and other promotions for major accounts, JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) and his partner Aash (Aasif Mandvi) are looking for major sports talent to represent.

With their best prospect snapped up by a bigger agency and facing bankruptcy, JB decides to try an untapped resource, Indian cricket bowlers that might also make good baseball pitchers. The two most promising players chosen in an India-wide Million Dollar Arm reality show would be brought back and trained by the eccentric USC pitching coach Tom House (Bill Paxton), revered as much for his work on the mental game as on skill development.

With tentative backing from tycoon Mr. Chang (Tzi Ma), JB sets out with retired scout Ray (Alan Arkin) for Mumbai. Aided by a seasoned local agent named Vivek (Darshan Jariwala) and enthusiastic local baseball fan with coaching ambitions named Amit (Pitobash) as a volunteer handler and interpreter, JB and Ray are able to manage the culture shock. Two boys are ultimately picked: Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal). After visiting their modest home village to reassure their families, they are taken with Amit to Los Angeles.

Now the culture shock is reversed, as the boys can’t be left alone, forcing them to stay at JB’s place. JB had until then been devoted only to business, his shallow personal life limited to sleeping with models, and barely noticing his attractive coach house tenant, a medical resident named Brenda (Lake Bell). Along with a steep learning curve for the sport, the boys are finding it difficult to cope with learning English and their new lifestyle. With Brenda’s help, JB finally rises to the challenge of caring for people other than himself, enriching everybody’s lives.

Everything comes together perfectly to make Million Dollar Arm a really enjoyable sports film that should appeal to everyone, including non-fans like myself. Directed by Craig Gillespie with a screenplay by Thomas McCarthy, excellent cast and fine A. R. Rahman score, it has us smiling throughout and cheering at the end.

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Consensus: Directed by Craig Gillespie from a nicely written screenplay, Disney’s Million Dollar Arm is an incredibly entertaining and inspirational baseball movie that shares a feel good true story, with vibrant cinematography and an excellent cast. ***1/2 (out of 4)

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