HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Million Dollar Arm
HTS Overall Score:77
I hate watching sports, but I LOVE a good sports movie. I grew up watching “Rudy”, “Hoosiers”, “Remember the Titans”, the list goes on and on. There’s just something about the inspiration and hope that a spots movie imbues upon the viewer, allowing us to live a dream of doing something exciting. Most people have played some sport or another during their formative years, some were even blessed enough to do it in college and professionally, but Baseball has been known as the American sport since the early 1900s and it shows in ticket sales. People love baseball, and more importantly we love the players that fuel the insanity that is sports cards. I honestly didn’t know ANYTHING about “Million Dollar Arm” until recently. I had glossed over it in the theaters and put it on the back burner till I got the press release and started digging into the tale a bit further. Coming from Disney made me a little nervous and a little excited, for Disney has this ability to either make something either really great, or really cheesy in their live action films. Interestingly enough, “Million Dollar Arm” blends both positives and negatives together in a way that creates a heartwarming sports story that manages to stay “fun” and enjoyable as well as tense and exciting.
J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is a struggling sports agent on his last prayer. He used to be a high priced agent working for a major firm, but decided on branching out and going into business with himself and his friend Aash (Aasif Mandavi) only to find out that going into business by yourself can be a bit rocky. Losing his last hope at scoring a major NFL client, J.B. pulls a Hail Mary in the form of tapping a brand new market, India. Realizing that India has over one BILLION people that already watch or enjoy Cricket, he decides to go over there and scout out some players in the form of a contest called “The Million Dollar Arm” and score the next big thing for American baseball. Traveling to India is the easy part, actually getting a good player is something else, and J.B. finds that there is a bit of a culture clash, both in terms of Cricket players actually being able to pitch like a Baseball player AND with the people themselves. This all changes when he runs across two promising young boys, Rinku (Suraj Sharma), and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal). Ironically enough, Rinku and Dinesh aren’t cricket players at all, but rather an ex field hockey player and a javelin thrower in school.
Coming to America along with Amit, a fiery little Indian intern who desperately wants to be involved in the sport, no matter the role, the two boys have only one years to go from newbie to pro and that means some hard work. Under the tutelage of Tom House (Bill Paxton), one of the greatest pitching coaches in Baseball, the two boys work night and day in order to achieve their dream. Things start to fall apart when J.B. stops giving his full attention to the boys and their needs and tries vainly for that million dollar NFL player that will give him a chance at gaining back the riches and fame that he gave up after striking out on his own.
Giving the boys tutelage on actual life is J.B.’s live in tenant, Brenda, who, while studying for medical school, gives a nice balance to the hectic life of Baseball and coaches and stressed out managers. Soon enough Brenda also acts as an anchor for J.B. as well, giving him a different perspective about the boys other than the harsh realities of making promises to greedy investors. Brenda, RInku, Dinesh and J.B. relearn what makes sports so enticing to being with. It’s not the riches, it’s not the fame, it’s about the sheer enjoyment of playing a game and doing something well. If you’re not having fun at what you’re doing, there’s very little point at doing it and it’s something that all three men need to remember, amidst the hectic drive to get a major league team sign the boys.
“Million Dollar Arm” is not going to be an epic inspirational sports story ala “Hoosiers”, “Rudy” and the like, but rather takes an entirely different perspective on the game. The movie’s main focus is about not only working hard, but having fun at what you’re doing. Those simple little pleasures of the sport are why most people start out playing it when they’re younger, but can be lost as time passes and age catches up with all of us. From beginning to end Disney did a great job of infusing a light hearted and heartwarming tone to the movie that just oozes a good time. Rinku and Dinesh and Amit are all new to the U.S. and it shows in their nervousness, and the big league investors are chewing down J.B.’s back, but the whole time you have this light smile on your face, truly enjoying the boys and their evolution over the course of the two hour runtime. Brenda is a breath of fresh air in the film, alleviating what would normally be very tense situations that would play out with much more intensity and drama in a different sports movie.
Amusingly enough, Disney embraces many of the cliché’s of these types of movies, from the outcome that we all know is coming, to those dramatic moments where the music swells and we all know that this is supposed to be a tear jerker moment. Strangely enough they aren’t eye roll worthy, because the movie doesn’t take itself so seriously that it can’t roll with the punches and have fun in the moment. “Million Dollar Arm” is most definitely a family movie, without the insane drama and adult nature that so many other sports movies tend to deviate towards and I have to say that I truly enjoyed it from beginning to end. There are some great performances, especially with Amit and the two boys. Bill Paxton plays a much more subdued version of himself this time around and Alan Arkin….well he plays Alan Arkin like the old man who knows that he can get away with anything he wants because he’s old and no one will argue with him. He loves to play himself that way, and it’s always a fun time watching him do it. I had to chuckle that we have BOTH Pi’s from “The Life of Pi”, as Aasif Mondavi played the older version of Pi in the film, and Suraj Sharma (Rinku) played the younger version of Pi for the majority of that film. With that being said, I have to say that Pitobash, as Amit, was my absolute favorite character of the movie. His passion for the role and the characters passion for baseball in the film itself was so palpable and invigorating that you just can’t help but love him.
Rated PG for some Mild Language and Suggestive Content
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=28817[/img]“Million Dollar Arm” was shot with a mixture of digital cameras as well as traditional film, which blended together creates a great looking image. Sometimes the movie is crystal clear and riddled with fantastic amounts of clarity and detail, while other times, especially in wide angle shots, the picture is a bit soft and diffused. Most of the time the detail is incredibly well done, with the ability to see imperfections in the skin, as well as the beauty and exotic nature of the Indian local. When it gets a bit softer, that detail is a bit less noticeable and blurred out. Given a slightly desaturated look, the color palette tends to not pop as much as you’d expect, except during the time spend in India itself, where the amazing colors and textures literally pop off the screen with exquisite reds, blues and yellows. Black levels look great, with only minor instances of banding and some greying of the blacks in certain scenes. I didn’t notice any macroblocking or other compression issues pop up and I must say, except for the minor flaws I mentioned above, the movie looks simply fantastic.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=28825[/img]Disney’s 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is a good mix that lends itself well to the mainly dialogue driven movie. The vocals are locked firmly in the front of the soundstage and allow for some nice panning effects during the training sequences. Surrounds are a bit sparse, popping to the foreground with actual baseball scenes, and the Indian inspired sound track, but then fade into the background during the rest of the film and leave the front 3 speakers to do the majority of the heavy lifting. Fidelity is quite good, as with most modern films, there are no issues there and we even have some very nice LFE moments, mostly during the above mentioned Indian flavored score. “Million Dollar Arm” isn’t a power house action movie, but neither is it a weak dialogue driven flick, and has some very nice ambient nuances that give the track an edge over others in its genre.
• Training Camp
• Their Story
• Million Dollar Music By A.R. Rahman
• Alternate Opening
• Deleted Scenes
• Promo Trailers
“Million Dollar Arm” is based off of a true story of Dinesh and Rinku’s trials and tribulations of becoming the first Indian players to play on a U.S. professional baseball team (the Pirates to be exact). As with most of these stories, the events were drastically altered to make for a more engaging movie, but the basic premise, including the characters are very much real and no less inspiring than the fiction of the silver screen. It may not be a perfect movie that will be watched in high schools before sporting events for decades to come, but Disney did a great job at creating a fun family oriented sports film that certainly left me satisfied and wanting to watch it again. The audio and video are excellent and I have to give it a full thumbs up recommendation.
Starring: John Ham, Aasif Mandavi, Pitobash, Suraj Sharma
Directed By: Craig Gillespie
Written By: Thomas McCarthy
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: ENGLISH: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Runtime: 124 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 7th 2014
Buy Million Dollar Arm Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It
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