Directed by Craig Gillespie, Million Dollar Arm is a heart-warming and well-told tale that remains appealing in spite of its unsubtlety, and you certainly don’t have to be a baseball fan to enjoy it.
Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm focuses on J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm), a floundering sports agent who is in desperate need of a big signing. Late night channel-flipping between a cricket match and Susan Boyle’s ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ brings inspiration (as it so often does) and soon Bernstein is journeying to India to host a talent competition that will determine which would-be cricketers have the best chance at being groomed into baseball players. Returning to America with the contest winners Rinku Singh (Life of Pi’s Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) in tow, the two prospects soon begin training under unorthodox coach Tom House (Bill Paxton), but have difficulty mastering both the game and American culture.
The ‘who would beat who in their prime’ filmic boxing debate has always been a popular discussion, an ultimate what-if scenario that almost always yields outlandish answers. One such set-up is that of Rocky vs. Raging Bull, and though the time to see them duke it out at their peak has long since passed, Peter Segal’s Grudge Match (2014) – which pits Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, avatars of the aforementioned characters, as boxing rivals – is still an easy sell for the majority of pugilist-loving punters. An intermittently entertaining sports comedy, for every punch it lands there are several which miss the mark.
If Ben Affleck’s directorial prowess wasn’t already evident with the excellent Gone Baby Gone (2007) and sophomore effort The Town (2010), with his third feature he has further cemented his status as one of the best current filmmakers in the business. One of the best releases of 2012 – an assertion given greater credence following the film’s recent Best Picture triumph – Argo is nail-biting cinema at its finest, blending tension and humour with an incredible story to impressive effect.