Million Dollar Arm (2014)

millionDirector: Craig Gillespie

Writer: Tom McCarthy (Screenplay)

Starring: Joe Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Alan Arkin, Lake Bell, Tzi Ma, Bill Paxton, Suraj Sharma, Madhur Mittal

 

Plot: A sports agent stages an unconventional recruitment strategy to get talented Indian cricket players to play Major League Baseball.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: What Sports is All About

 

Story: Million Dollar Arm starts JB (Hamm) a sports agent trying to make his own company reach new levels with his partner Aash (Mandvi) only to find himself stuck behind the higher-level competition. Losing the star client to the competition the two search for a new potential income as they search for new clients in new fields.

JB new idea is to bring over Indian cricket players and turn them into baseball pitchers within a year and recruiting pitching coach Tom House (Paxton) now he needs to find a scout to travel with him to find the best prospect.

JB must work with Vivek (Jariwala) to get his equipment retired scout Ray (Arkin) and Amit (Pitobash) a baseball coach in India who wants to work him for free. The search for the Million Dollar Arm is on sweeping through India. With the competition in full flow they find two players Rinku (Sharma) and Dinesh (Mittal) to take back to America.

As the two boys struggle with the new culture JB must keep the business together while the two players must learn to improve their skill in 6 months can it be done and the seemingly impossible risk can become sports new miracle.

 

Thoughts on Million Dollar Arm

 

StoryThe story follows the true story of how one sports agent takes the chance to bring Indian crickets to America to become baseball pitchers. On the surface this is a marketing campaign but the story itself gather heart because of the bond between JB and the boys. This is an underdog sports story with glimpses of the clash of culture between both sides of the world. This shows you can succeed with the effort and determination of the people who support you and that you could find success in any story.

Sports/DramaThe sports drama is very interesting because baseball isn’t a sport I have any interest in watching but the scouting and training in any sport do interest me a lot, this had my full attention as we see how it can be the personal life that cane make you a better athlete when it comes to competing because having the people supporting you can make you succeed.

Characters/PerformanceJon Hamm as the selfish sports agent that takes a risk with a new investment but his character never seems to support the boys he takes the risk on once they are back in America. Jon Hamm give us a great performance stepping up from television to the big screen. Sharman, Mittal, Pitobash, Mandvi and Jariwala all give great performances in their roles as we see the characters must deal with a new culture as well as new sport in what is a once in a life time opportunity. Alan Arkin has a small role but gets good laughs as the retired scout.

SettingsThe settings are used excellently with to show the different cultures being used through the film as we see the American fast forward glamorous lifestyle while India shows how together the people are with the religious beliefs going on there.

Final ThoughtsThis is a very interesting and compelling sports drama about showing how you can achieve what seems impossible to others by just take the chance, I feel everyone who likes a success story will enjoy this one even if you are not a baseball fan.

 

Overall: Delightful sports drama that can be enjoyed by all.

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Soul Surfer (2011)

soulDirector: Sean McNamara

Writer: Sean McNamara, Deborah Schwartz, Douglas Schwartz, Michael Berk, Matt Allen, Caleb Wilson, Brad Gann (Screenplay) Bethany Hamilton, Sheryl Berk, Rick Bundschuh (Book)

Starring: AnnaSophia Robb, Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Carrie Underwood, Keven Sorbo, Ross Thomas, Chris Brochu

 

Plot: Teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton overcomes the odds and her own fears of returning to the water after losing her left arm in a shark attack.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Inspiring Film

 

Story: Soul Surfer starts as Bethany Hamilton (Robb) born in Hawaii to surfer parents Cheri (Hunt) and Tom (Quaid) to grown into a teenage surfer wanting to make herself a true professional along with her older brothers Noah (Thomas) and Timmy (Brochu). When Bethany gets her first sponsorship deal on the verge of national championships even against the religious beliefs under Sarah Hill (Underwood). When Bethany stays to continue her training, disaster strikes when she has her arm torn off by a shark.

With her life changed forever the island makes Bethany a celebrity because of the story of how brave she was during the attack. Her own life is what is going to be difficult though as she must learn to live with just one arm, but her biggest desire is to get back in the water and do the thing she loves the most, surf. This is the incredible story of how Bethany never gave up on her dreams despite what happened to her.

Soul Surfer is the amazing true story of the bravery of teenager Bethany Hamilton as she has to show all the courage to not only survive the shark attack with such calm but never wanting to give up on her own dreams and desires to be a professional surfer. Myself knowing nothing about surfing other than it is done in the water, I found myself on edge through every single surfing scene wanting to see just what could be pulled off through one of these waves.

AnnaSophia is brilliant in this leading role showing us all that Freddy Highmore wasn’t the only star out of the children in Charlie and Chocolate Factory. Quaid and Hunt are great as the parents feeling natural throughout the whole film with their concern to their support of Bethany’s decisions. Using Hawaii as a back drop for this film also isn’t disappointing because it is always a stunning vision to witness. This film would inspire all the underachievers out there who know they are capable of anything with the hard work needed to achieve it.

 

Overall: Easily one of the top inspirational sports and human stories out there.

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Genius (2016)

geniusDirector: Michael Grandage

Writer: John Logan (Screenplay) A Scott Berg (Book)

Starring: Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Laura Linney, Guy Pearce, Dominic West, Vanessa Kirby, Mark Arnold

 

Plot: A chronicle of Max Perkins’s time as the book editor at Scribner, where he oversaw works by Thomas WolfeErnest HemingwayF. Scott Fitzgerald and others.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Solid History Lesson

 

Story: Genius starts in New York 1929 where Maxwell Perkins (Firth) an editor for Scribner who is considered the best in his office that others come to with work they believe need to be appreciated. The latest work is from Thomas Wolfe (Law) and it has taken his breath away even though it has been reject by all the rest of the publicist around New York.

Seeing the greatness in the novel Max works with Thomas to trim the work so the mass audience will go out of their way to read the next American classic. We continue to see how Max worked with best minds including F Scott Fitzgerald (Pearce) and Ernest Hemingway (West) as we see how Maxwell was the man behind who made some of the biggest books happen. We do focus on the Maxwell and Thomas relationship as they spend years working on the latest work which will become one of the biggest in American history but will also test the men’s personal relationships.

Genius falls into yet another history lesson of a great mind that didn’t get everything out before he was taken from this world. This time we focus on author Thomas Wolfe and the unique style he went to make sure he could get out his stories. We get to see the relationship with the man behind the work who helped make it the legendary book he could tell. The film is slightly slow in places and we don’t get a full extent of the time period it is all set over which disappoints in places. It was nice to learn more about certain men in history but it is also a film that I wouldn’t be re-watching any time in the future.

 

Overall: Solid history lesson but disappointing with how much detail it does into everything.

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Lion (2016)

lionDirector: Garth Davis

Writer: Luke Davies (Screenplay) Saroo Brierley (Book)

Starring: Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, Sunny Pawar, Divian Ladwa, Priyanka Bose, David Wenham, Abhishek Bharate

 

Plot: A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Bring Your Tissues

 

Story: Lion starts in 1986 India when Saroo (Pawer) and his older brother Guddu (Bharate) both part of a poor Indian family, when the two travel for work the five-year-old Saroo can’t keep his eyes up and being left at the train station to wait for Guddu, Saroo finds himself on a train with the destination unknown he finds himself on the busy streets of Calcutta 1600km away from his home.

Lost, alone and terrified on the streets Saroo fends for himself before he gets taken into an orphanage who do search but can’t find his mum. Saroo finds himself getting adopted by Australian couple John (Wenham) and Sue (Kidman) where he must start a brand-new life in Australia.

20 years later Saroo (Patel) embraced this new life he was given but his fellow adopted bother Mantosh (Ladwa) never managed to take this chance given to him. Saroo heads to Melbourne to study where he meets Lucy (Mara) who along with fellow classmates push him to looking into his past using Google Earth to try and figure out where his mother is. This is the beginning of the incredible journey to find the truth about what happened to his family.

 

Thoughts on Lion

 

StoryThis story is one of the most amazing human stories in recent history, it has aspect of heart, courage, hope and unknown. I will warn the pacing of the first hour of this film does only focus on the young Saroo and his lost journey and while we do have other films that are all travel looking for the answers this is just a click and play on Google Maps. The story is going to have an ending you are expecting and needless to say bring your tissues.

BiographyLooking at this incredible story Saroo goes through from the streets of India to Australia before searching for the answers he could never know about what his family did without him around after he went missing. While the other real people involved are all great it is Sue the adopted mother who is also another stand out character with the heart she shows to give these orphaned Indians a home.

The performances here are fantastic from Patel, Kidman and new comer Pawer who gives truly heavyweight performances throughout.

Characters/PerformanceSaroo is the character that is based on the real boy to man whose life was turned upside down, he represents all of the people out there who got separated from their family and never knew but always wanted to know what their family did without them.

SettingsEach setting is designed to show us the different time periods and life Saroo has found himself living, we see the streets of India to the comfortable life in Australia,

Final ThoughtsThis is an incredible story that does pull on the heart strings, but it does also take a little while to get going.

 

Overall: Easily the most emotional film of all the Oscar nominations.

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Malcolm X (1992)

malcolmDirector: Spike Lee

Writer: Arnold Perl, Spike Lee (Screenplay) Alex Haley, Malcolm X (Book)

Starring: Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Albert Hall, Al Freeman Jr, Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Theresa Randle, Kate Vernon

 

Plot: Biographical epic of the controversial and influential Black Nationalist leader, from his early life and career as a small-time gangster, to his ministry as a member of the Nation of Islam.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Denzel’s Powerhouse

 

Story: Malcolm X starts as Malcolm X (Washington) himself tells us all about his childhood and troubles with the white clans men his parents had. We pick up his story as he works with Shorty (Lee) during ‘war time’ (I am not sure which war though). We see how Malcolm starts working for gangster West Indian Archie (Lindo) who enjoys how street smart Malcolm is.

Betraying Archie, Malcolm finds himself trying to go out on his own only to find himself in jail and this is where he gets taught the ways of Elijah Muhammad (Freeman Jr) who teaches him the way of God and Islam so when he is free from prison he can preach against the white men in America. Malcolm X went onto become one of the most iconic figures in the equal rights movement even if he ways were different to Martin Luthor King.

Malcolm X is an extremely long look at one of the iconic men in the equal rights movement in America. We get to see his full transformation from gangster to preacher to revolutionary leader. The story is extremely detailed but it would be fair to say we could have had a lot cut out from this film so it doesn’t take nearly 3 and half hours to get through. This is a good history lesson in the end but I would say it is only a one-time watch.

Denzel gives us a brilliant leading man performance showing all his potential to be one of the biggest stars in the industry. When you look at the supporting cast we don’t get too much out of most of these characters which is disappointing as their story is just as important to Malcolm’s and with a film this long we could have done more to create a more equal story for these characters.

 

Overall: This is a good even if long history lesson.

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