FlixChatter Review: Million Dollar Arm (2014)

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We all know Disney is capable of creating compelling stories, and Million Dollar Arm is no exception. While some may prematurely write this off as just another sports flick, they’d be missing the opportunity to see a fun, light-hearted film. Million Dollar Arm is based on a true story about two young Indian teenagers who were plucked from obscurity and thrown in to the sports spotlight.

JB (Jon Hamm) is a sports agent who once was mingling in the upper echelons of athletic society but now is struggling to sign clients and make ends meet. After losing out on a deal that would save his lifestyle and business, JB is offered a Hail Mary. Flipping between the channels, “Britain’s Got Talent” and a game of cricket catches JB’s eye. (Fun fact, the footage of BGT is of Susan Boyle’s iconic rendition of I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables.) JB, initially prejudiced against the game, is flabbergasted by the bowler’s speed, even if the form is a little nontraditional. After a creative stroke of genius and with the help of an investor, Hamm strikes a deal to run a talent contest in India. The two most promising candidates will not only have the chance to win $1,000,000 but also come to America, in order to be groomed for a professional baseball tryout. Hence the name: Million Dollar Arm.

As I said, the film is primarily light-hearted, but it also touches on the poverty in India. It doesn’t do a deep dive by any means, but goes from one sweep of the Taj Mahal and wider shots to show the disparaging shacks and murky communal waters. With that said, I was thrilled the film didn’t go in the opposite direction by showing uber cheesy Bollywood stereotypes. The brief glimpses we do see of India, gives a good sense of what the culture and people are actually like. Some parts are quite humorous (“we never bribe in India, we just pay money to bypass the system”) and others are very emotionally charged. The village, where the two boys are from, has what appears to be a religious dedication/blessing ceremony. We see traditional dancing, Hindu marking and the fact that it literally takes the entire village to properly see them on their way. These themes are carried throughout the entire film.

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The two young boys, Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) captured my heart. On one hand they were typical teenage boys interested in the goings on of the girl next door, but on the other hand showed maturity well beyond their years. These boys were thrown into something so far beyond their comfort level and experience, but they handled the pressure with grace. Another fun fact, we learn neither one of them like cricket and had never thrown a baseball in their entire lives!

I absolutely loved Brenda (Lake Bell), and thought she offered the perfect mix of comedic relief and concerned mother. She actually befriends the boys and learns about their struggles with not only learning American customs but also trying to perfect the techniques of baseball in only a few months’ time. We see her participating in yoga sessions and offering late night/early morning advice (she’s a night-time RN). Brenda is the moral compass of the film, while the boys are the heart and soul.

Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of Jon Hamm; however, I do enjoy Mad Men. I felt like his portrayal was too similar to Don Draper, and found his performance a bit distracting to watch on screen. I think someone like Aaron Eckhart may have been better suited for the role. Eckhart has proven he can play the suave jackal and redeeming father figure (think Thank You For Smoking). With that said, it was fun to watch Hamm’s character arc from selfish ladies’ man to surrogate father.

Overall, this movie does not disappoint, and offers a little something for everyone. And, as a bonus, the score and/or soundtrack was super fun. The sound was a hip hop/Bollywood fusion. Million Dollar Arm is humorous, serious and, even though it’s a true story, will have you on the edge of your seat!

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PostByAshley


What do you think of Million Dollar Arm? 

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Weekend Roundup: Wreck-It-Ralph & catching up on Downton Abbey

Happy Monday all! Well, it’s not quite Spring yet at least not weather wise, even though we’ve sprung forward one hour. That also means we lost one hour this weekend :(

Downright addicted to Downton Abbey

I’ve only managed to see one movie this weekend, as I’ve been catching up on Downton Abbey. I’ve even dedicated a post on it this weekend, there are just so much to love on that show. I could make an entire post just on Dame Maggie Smith alone (come to think of it, I just might). The acid-tongue Violet Grantham and her unabashed upper-class snobbery is just so amusing. Julian Fellowes really picked the right thespian to deliver those lines! Not only are the quotes memorable, her cantankerous expressions are to-die-for!

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The many faces of the Countess of Grantham

Here’s a clip of the Crawleys at the dinner table and the Grantham’s family’s reaction when Matthew told them he has job as a lawyer. Violet’s ‘Wh.. what is a week-end?’ sums it all, and her delivery is practically iconic!

Well, I would’ve given you a review of Oz The Great and Powerful but I had to miss the press screening last Monday because of the darn snow! Apparently it was a huge hit for Disney, making $80 million bucks at the box office this weekend. Check out my friends Adina’s review who saw it in Indonesia and Terrence’s in New Mexico to see how they like the movie. Seems that both have differing opinions about James Franco’s casting. I’d think Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp who were both offered the role of Oz would’ve been so much better! I do love the three female cast though.

Well, I ended up seeing a movie by Disney as well, Wreck-It-Ralph. Here’s my mini review, I pretty much echo what Cecilia said in her guest review last Fall.

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Doesn’t this poster remind you of Monsters Inc.?

I’ve been hearing a ton of great things about this one and sure enough, it was massively entertaining. The story reminded me a bit of Toy Story at first, but overall it’s got its own unique spin and like a lot of Pixar movies, it offer more than just fun and games, but a heartwarming story as well.

The big burly Ralph is a video game villain of Wreck-It-Ralph. Every day he longs to be loved and accepted like the game’s hero Fix-It-Felix who could fix anything that Ralph has destroyed. He thinks that by getting a big shiny medal like Felix, people would finally accept him.

Now, I’m not a gamer, I can count with one hand how many times I’ve been to an arcade, but I don’t think that lessen my enjoyment watching this movie. Surely people who played the games a lot would get an extra kick out of it, no doubt about that. Visually this movie is just brilliant and spectacular to look at. The concept itself it so imaginative that it was a wholly entertaining ride from start to finish.

The world of Sugar Rush could practically get you on a sugar high just from watching every colorful sweet stuff imaginable. Everything is just sooo darn cute in this universe. Here is where Ralph meets Vanellope von Schweetz who’s a loner and outcast just like him, something about her being a glitch that the King of Sugar Rush forbids her from participating in a go-kart race. Of course it’s no surprise that the two ended up forming an unlikely friendship (isn’t that the best kind?) and their journey together is fun to watch, with a few really moving moments along the way. The last third of the movie is full of action as Ralph & co. tries to stop the escaped Cybug that threatens the livelihood of the whole video game universe. Some of the scenes are pretty intense and kind of gross, I’d imagines the very young kids might be petrified by them.

WreckItRalph_VanellopeThat said, the story has a universal themes love, sacrifice and friendship that every kid and adult can identify with, and who hasn’t felt like an outcast at one point or another? Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is definitely a lovable big guy you can’t help rooting for, and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) is just too cute for words! The relationship between the smitten Felix (Jack McBrayer) and the bad-ass Hero’s Duty heroine Jean (perfectly cast Jane Lynch) is a hoot as well! The music by Henry Jackman is a highlight with all the retro soundtrack that enhances the video game experience.

Wreck-It-Ralph certainly rates as one of the most fun animated features I’ve seen. A far cry from the mediocre and forgettable Hotel Transylvania that started out promising but riddled with too much clichés. I don’t know if it will be as iconic as Toy Story but no doubt it’s a wonderful addition in the massive Disney cannon. It also has a great replay-ability value, a joyful ride the whole family can enjoy over and over again.


4 out of 5 reels


So how’s your weekend viewing looks like? Seen anything good?

Five for the Fifth: November 2012 Edition

Hello folks, welcome to another 2012 edition of Five of the Fifth!

As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here. So let’s get started, shall we?
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1. Well, despite the name, Wreck It Ralph certainly is no box office wreck. In fact, the opposite is true! The movie grossed nearly $50 mil in just three days! Seems like a lot of people affected by Hurricane Sandy were looking for some fun distraction and there were reports that many kids being out of school because of the storm also help with strong matinee business on the East Coast on Friday. Well I haven’t seen it yet but my friend Terrence gave it 4/5 stars and it does sound like a lot of fun!

According to Gold Derby, this movie is one of the 21 films that have officially been submitted for consideration for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.

If you’ve seen it, what did you think? How does it rank amongst your favorite Disney movies?

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2. Y’all already know my undying love for Superman since a wee girl. So when my friend Michael tweeted a post by Flights, Tights and Movie Nights blog on this 11-min short called One on One, I was intrigued! I love it when filmmakers highlight the ‘human’ side of a superhero story, without making it too overly-sentimental. The subtle hints about the reporter’s identity is handled very well in this short, plus it’s so well-shot and well-acted all around.

Do check out Bubbawheat’s interview with Jake Thomas, the creator of the short film, on how he chose to focus more on a random Metropolis teenager and her interaction with Clark Kent, instead of the typical action/special effects/stunts style story.

Check it out below:

I should thank my hubby who saw the tweet when I woke up this morning and we both watched it twice as we’re relaxing in bed enjoying the extra one hour from the end of Daylight Savings’ Time :)

Well, what do you think of the short film?

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3. November 5 is Tilda Swinton’s 52nd Birthday! Wow, I had no idea she was already in her 50s! I first noticed the Scottish actress in the first Chronicles of Narnia movie where she played the White Queen. She appeared in Danny Boyle’s The Beach but I didn’t realize who she was then. I’ve seen her in five other films since the two I mentioned, but I think my favorite role of hers is the one in Michael Clayton. It was a well-deserved Oscar win surely.

Some trivia about miss Swinton:

Her family is one of the oldest in Scotland, but her mother is Australian. Her father is Major-General Sir John Swinton, whose ancestral home has been within the family since the 9th century. She attended West Heath Girls’ School, with Princess Diana as one of her classmates, and later Fettes College. Gave birth to twins, a daughter named Honor Byrne and a son named Xavier Byrne, in November 1997. The father of her children, John Byrne, is a Scottish artist and writer.

I’m very curious about her next film Only Lovers Left Alive, about two vampires who have been in love for centuries, co-starring Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska and John Hurt.

What’s your favorite role of Tilda Swinton?
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4. Now, my fourth question is not exactly a new news. Tons of films have had advanced tickets selling weeks in advanced, so the fact that The Hobbit tickets are going to be on sale this Wednesday online and in theaters across North America, a month ahead of its December 14 release doesn’t exactly surprise me.

Just like Nolan’s Batman movies, there’s also a scheduled marathon screenings of Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy in Extended Cut editions on Saturday, December 8th, and Sunday December 9th. Oh geez, I don’t know if I could handle seeing nine-hours worth of stuff on the big screen, though if I have the fortitude I might watch my already-purchased extended edition Blu-rays in the comfort of my own home.

Now, the only advanced screening tickets I bought about a week ahead of the film’s release was The Dark Knight Rises on IMAX.

Out of curiosity, what film(s) have you bought advanced tickets for and were they worth it?
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5. One of the things I like about Wes Anderson’s films are the stellar ensemble cast and he seems to be doing the same thing for his upcoming feature The Grand Budapest Hotel. So far the four major stars confirmed are Wes’ regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, and two British thespians Ralph Fiennes and Jude Law (and reportedly Jeff Goldblum is now confirmed to join the cast as well). Fiennes will be playing the lead role as Mr. Gustave, and the film will focus on the troubles and tribulations of the hotel’s perfectly composed concierge. Well, thanks to Julian who tweeted me the news, my favorite Irish young star Saoirse Ronan has now joined the cast as the female lead! Anderson will once again work with Scott Rudin and Steve Rales who produced Moonrise Kingdom.

I know the film hasn’t opened until December 2014 but I definitely will be on the lookout for it. Here are additional info about the movie according to Filmofilia:

The Grand Budapest Hotel takes place 85 years ago in a Hungarian hotel, and is partly inspired by the witty films of Billy Wilder and Ernst Lubitsch.

Oh, I like that premise already! And with this cast, it surely becomes one of my anticipated holiday movies of next year!

Well, my last question to you is: are you anticipating this one, too?


Well, that’s it for the November edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! :D