Star – Baseball
Genre – Family > Comedy> Biopic> Sports
Run Time – 124 minutes
Certificate – PG13
Country – USA/India
Awards – 1 Win & 2 nominations
Amazon – £4.75 DVD £12.49 Blue Ray
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After South East Asia practically bailed out Hollywood just after the ‘Credit Crunch’ (a lot of Indian and Chinese money poured into the studio system) it felt like The Academy returned the favor by awarding the excellent Slumdog Millionaire 8 Oscars, including Best Picture. Subtitled films do not win the main Oscars. It’s unheard of. To be fair Danny Boyle’s movie was well worth the Oscar glory but a certain bias was applied that year for me, Fox Searchlight Studio benefiting the most as it was to be their highest grossing film to date at $337 million dollars and the second highest grossing subtitled film of all time in the West behind the Passion of the Christ ($611 million). Because of that success Disney thought they may as well have a crack at India with ‘The Million Dollar Arm’, based on the true story of an American sports agent who set up a competition in cricket mad India to find a golden arm quick and accurate enough to sign a professional baseball contract in America. It was a success and this is his story.
• Jon Hamm as J. B. Bernstein
• Aasif Mandvi as Ash Vasudevan
• Suraj Sharma as Rinku Singh
• Madhur Mittal as Dinesh Patel
• Bill Paxton as Tom House
• Lake Bell as Brenda Fenwick
• Alan Arkin as Ray Poitevint, a sports scout
• Pitobash Tripathy as Amit Rohan, a baseball fanatic hired by Bernstein
• Allyn Rachel as Theresa, Bernstein's assistant
• Darshan Jariwala as Vivek, a local Indian guide
• Tzi Ma as Will Chang, a sports business investor
• Bar Paly as Lisette
• Rey Maualuga as Popo
J. B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) is a big time sports agent who, along with his business partner Ash Vasudevan (Aasif Mandvi), decides to go it alone and form their own sports management company. But most of J.B.'s clients have retired or moved on and when he fails to reel in star college football player Popo Vanuatu (Rey Maualuga) after 6 months of wooing, it feels to them that the project has stalled. Popo demands a million pounds cash to sign with JB and so loses his client to another agency.
Desperate to find new clients, J.B. is looking for inspiration. Then one night alone in his big house flicking through cable TV channels he happens upon a cricket match in India on one channel and Britain’s Got Talent on another, a Simon Cowell moment flashing through his mind, the plan to exploit that massive untapped market in India and why not hold a contest to turn some cricket mad Indian bowlers into baseball start pitchers in America? A Chinese basketball player had made it in the NBA and that Chinese market was proving lucrative and India also has a billion people so why not?
JB approaches investor Mr. Chang (Tzi Ma) with his proposal and will call the contest "Million Dollar Arm.". He will tour India to find two players from open auditions. Contestants score points by demonstrating they can pitch a baseball with speed and accuracy, a million dollar contract split between two winners. The two winners will be flown to the U.S. and receive coaching to become legitimate baseball prospects within two years. Chang commits to providing the funding; only if the prospects are ready within 12 months. With no alternative, J.B. reluctantly agrees with Chang the winners will be ready for a major league try-out within one year.
J.B. now needs a team to set up the operation and join his Indian fixer Vivek (Darshan Jariwala) on the ground. He asks maverick veteran baseball pitching Coach Tom House (Bill Paxton) to train his Indian’s in the US to be ready to pitch in the national trails one year from now. House is not convinced the timeline will work as cricket bowling very different to baseball. But he agrees and now JB just needs a scout to come to India, deciding on curmudgeonly and boozy Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin).
India’s bustling chaos, bewildering traffic, insane overcrowding and lax business ideals are discombobulating for the pair and they will need help. A local Indian, and a rather jolly baseball fan, Amit Rohan (Pitobash Tripathy), has heard about the contest and blags his way to be interpreter as the boys hit the road.
After lengthy try-outs in numerous hectic city and town turnouts and local TV coverage - but not much talent - two youngsters emerge as the winners - Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal), not hitting the target NBL speed of 90mph but mid 80s and so good enough for the stunt. As it turns out nether play cricket. They are both from poor families and their parents reticent to let them go. The boys are also overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of America and soon booted out of their hotel and living with JB, pretty neighbor Brenda Fenwick (Lake Bell) is the only person who genuinely seems interested in their well-being as the try-outs near.
Although not right up there with other Hollywood sports biopics its good fun. It’s rather light and friendly postcard India and so made not to remotely offends and so draw that likewise South East Asian audience. It’s pretty accurate as far as the real story goes and the likeable Indian leads as humble as the real two Indian guys. Although Dinesh Patel had a good first year in the minor leagues, he struggled in his second and was let go. He is now back in India studying to be a teacher. Singh has had more success. He is still on the Pirates' books, but for the past two years has struggled with injury. It was a gimmick PR stunt to a point but that sort of thing nothing new in modern sports. Manchester United have bought numerous average players over from emerging markets that play for a season or so just to sell United shirts and the team in those emerging markets, Kagawa from Japan and Dong from China to name but two. Teams will even ask to change the Premier League kick offs to later ones so they can play their average players on prime time Asian TV slots.
As with all of these based on a true story biopics if you know of the real story then they can be rather bland. I didn’t know the true story and I lob cricket and so extra interest for me even though there isn’t much cricket in the movie. The two winners were actually college javelin throwers.
It’s a slow boil though and two different movies, one about the contest and then another about the reality check that this may well just be a PR stunt and the boys will look ridiculous when it comes to tryouts. There is also the un-need love interest between bachelor JB and the girl next door that is part of the reason why the film is flabby in places.
As a sports biopic its nothing like the power and passion of Mark Walberg’s ‘Invincible’ (also Disney) or the fun and frolics of Eddie the Eagle but entertaining all the same. There are some funny little bits based on Indian wobbly head stereotypes and innocents abroad but nothing really of substance on the industry in the Jerry Maguire sense. They could have shaved 20 minutes off it as there isn’t anywhere near two hours plus of good stuff here. It does the job though. It’s a well made fun family Disney adventure.
For its $25m budget it did a useful $46 million back so fair play to director Craig Gillespie for making the most of a film that is more Indian than a baseball film Americans would generally approve of and be drawn to. Let’s face it; Million Dollar Arm has a lot of competition, Kevin Costner alone having four baseball belters.
Imdb.com – 7.0/10.0 (36,995votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 63% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com –56 % critic’s approval
We meet the two Indian actors in baseball camp learning to ply the basics. Then we meet the real Rinku and Dinesh. Although Patel had a good first year in the minor leagues, he struggled in his second and was let go. He is now back in India studying to be a teacher. Singh has had more success. He is still on the Pirates' books, but for the past two years has struggled with injury.
Quite a few
Paulo Alto Review –‘The art of the deal gives way to matters of the heart, giving viewers a game changer both charming and uplifting’
Observer –‘Craig Gillespie's by-numbers schmaltzathon never transcends its tourist's-eye views of India or patronisingly cliched views of its people’.
The San Francisco Times –‘...has trouble finding the strike zone, and in the baseball-movie canon, is likely to be relegated to the bullpen.
Movie Talk –‘Jon Hamm turns on the charm and scores a home run’.
Scotsman –‘A cross between Bend It Like Beckham and Cool Runnings, you can see what Disney is pitching from a mile away, but it's polished and pleasant’.
Independent –‘In its own gently comical way, Million Dollar Arm plays up the misunderstandings between Hollywood and India -- as well as the mutual fascination’.
The Mail-‘Though it doesn't offer much by way of freshness, Million Dollar Arm is about as enjoyable as a predictable film gets, thanks to a feel good mix of genuine heart and wit’.
Daily Express –‘It might sound like a superhero movie but Million Dollar Arm is a stirringly human drama based on a true story and a welcome reminder that extraordinary feats can be achieved by mere mortals’.
Guardian –‘A cold, hard business story, reshaped by Disney into a warm, fuzzy hug’.
The List –‘Hamm's charm works well playing a debonair scoundrel on television but in this bland, family friendly offering, it's a resource that's quickly drained’.
All Hallows Conference Centre is part of All Hallows College. It is situated in Drumcondra, quite close to the centre of Dublin.
Purcell House, the main conference centre, is a large 19th Century building. The building is beautiful and has been adapted for conferences and accommodation with great skill and care for visitors.
There is good wheelchair access and a lift to all floors at the side of the elegant main central staircase.
As All Hallows is a collegiate college, the buildings are set out in a fantastically well kept 15 acres. The conference centre is fronted by a vast lawn and flowerbeds. The whole area is surrounded by lovely old trees and bushes.
I was fascinated to see how many herons and other waterfowl came down onto the lawns to forage for food. It was a delight to look out of my bedroom window and watch them. At one stage there must have been ten herons wandering about. It was very restful.
Statuary is dotted about the drives and gardens.
Most of the grounds is surrounded by a high sandstone wall but there is a gate at the back of Purcell House to make trips to the local shops and buses easier for pedestrians.
Dublin City centre is easily reached by bus in about twenty minutes.
It's a great City to shop, eat or sightsee in.
If you walk out of the gates you are in Drumcondra which is a busy little place with plenty of venues to drink, eat and be merry. We found some very good restaurants and cafes within a ten minute walk of the conference centre.
There are at least six conference rooms available to hire. They range from massive wood lined echoing places which would accommodate over a hundred to smaller more intimate rooms which hold about twenty.
The chairs are comfortable and the light is good in all of the ones I saw. All the rooms had a large screen tv/monitor in them or available.
The reception is manned (or womanned) by an extremely proffessional and helpful staff. Anything we needed was provided, from flip charts and pens to internet connection. The staff really knew their job and were very obviously happy to help in any way they could.
I had spoken to them prior to arranging the workshops I was running and they managed to meet all the requests I made with no difficulty. (No small task when running a centre as large as this.)
There are more than fifty newly refurbished en-suite bedrooms. They are comfortable with a decent amount of storage space so you can unpack comfortably and don't have to keep tripping over your suitcase.
The bathrooms are a decent size with good showers. Sometimes large old houses have problems with water pressure and temperature but I had no problem and I was on the top floor.
The single beds were comfortable and fitted with duvets. Spare pillows were available. My room had a desk and chair which was very useful. Tea and coffee making equipment was provided too.
They are not large rooms but they are all you need for a few days.
They cost 50 Euros per night with breakfast.
Breakfast was a toast and cereal affair with fruit juice, teas or coffee.
The toaster was one of those that you put your bread in and it rolled over elements and popped out the bottom. To say it was a bit temperamental was an understatement! It took about three goes to get the bread to change colour at all. It was fixed by the third day I was there. (A bit of a shame really because it started the day quite humorously whilst the guests dicussed the best way to use it.)
Breakfast and dinner were taken in the refectory. A large glass room situated off the main corridor in the building next to us. It was a fairly long trek to breakfast, you had to set out before you were hungry!
The refectory was set out with large wooden tables and was very pleasant and airy. There was a high standard of cleanliness. You were expected to serve yourself and clear the table afterwards. There were staff available at all times.
Lunch and dinner had to be pre-ordered and consisted of soup and sandwiches sort of thing for lunch and a hot meal for dinner. There was not a huge choice, most of our group went out to eat.
The food was well cooked and tasty when we did eat in.
Because of the international nature of the college, there was always someone interesting to talk to at meal times if you wanted to. (And sometimes even if you didn't want to!)
All Hallows was originally a monastery, mission and school. It is a very large collection of large old buildings housing student accomodation, a church, classrooms, refectories, coffee rooms, long long corridors. All of it looks well tended, I don't know how such a large place can manage to look so well kept but it does. It was obviously originally a religious house and to a large extent still is. Many churches, missions and outreach workers use the extensive facilities and accommodation. However, it is well adapted to secular use too, the religious origins of the centre are not overwhelming they are just there.
All Hallows is a well run, conveniently situated, comfortable place to run or attend a conference.
I would recommend it to anyone who needs a facility like this.