Based on a True Story Blu-ray Review

Major League Blu-ray Review: Million Dollar Arm

October 11, 2014Ben Mk


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Underdog millionaire...

Everyone loves a good underdog story. But there's something moviegoers love even more, and that's a good sports underdog story. From Cool Runnings to The Blind Side, we can't seem to get enough of them. Why? Because they're like chicken soup for the soul. In that regard, it's hard to top the incredible real-life journey of Dinesh Kumar Patel and Rinku Singh, two young men who overcame humble beginnings in India to secure a shot at big league baseball in America. And they owe it all to one man, sports agent J.B. Bernstein, and his brainchild, the Million Dollar Arm.

   

The Film Jon Hamm plays J.B., who, along with his business partner, Aash (Aasif Mandvi), runs Seven Figures Management, a fledgling yet woefully unsuccessful L.A.-based athletic talent agency. The problem? Seven Figures needs clients. Badly. But so far they haven't had much luck signing them, what with rival ProCorp snapping up the most valuable prospects left, right and center.

Desperately searching for an outside-of-the-box solution to their problem, J.B. has a sudden flash of genius. One night, while flipping through TV channels, he stumbles upon a broadcast of a cricket match, followed by an episode of Britain's Got Talent. Cricket. Talent. Cricket. Talent. India. America. Baseball. A lightbulb goes off in J.B.'s head, and the Million Dollar Arm pitching contest is born.

It doesn't take much effort on J.B. and Aash's part to persuade their boss, Mr. Chang (Tzi Ma), to let them pursue the idea — to travel to India to find a couple of talented unknowns and bring them back to the States for a Major League tryout — provided they can accomplish the audacious feat within 12 months. So with no time to waste, J.B. jets off to the world's second-most populated country, setting up shop in Mumbai and getting to work.

With baseball scout Ray Poitevint (Alan Arkin), local baseball coach/translator Amit Rohan (Pitobash Tripathy) and local businessman Vivek (Darshan Jariwala) in tow, J.B. travels the country — auditioning pro-ballplayer-wannabes from Nashik to Jaipur, New Delhi to Chandigarh, Lucknow to Kolkata and Bangalore to Goa — hoping to find a few potential candidates who can chuck a baseball faster than 80 miles an hour. And after much searching (and a final championship throw-down in Mumbai) he flies back to the US with the winners, Dinesh (Slumdog Millionaire's Madhur Mittal) and Rinku (Life of Pi's Suraj Sharma).

But though it may feel like the end of a long journey, it's really just the beginning. Dinesh and Rinku must now work hard to prove themselves worthy of J.B.'s efforts to groom them for their Major League tryout, all while trying to acclimate to life on the other side of the ocean. Meanwhile, J.B. is about to learn an important lesson about where his life's priorities should really lie, and maybe he'll even emerge a better man for it.

It's "Inspirational Moviemaking 101", no doubt about it. But director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Thomas McCarthy handle the mechanics of the story well, providing the requisite quota of feel-good and emotional moments without going so far as to turn the film into a Lifetime movie-of-the-week. Likewise, Hamm, Mittal and Sharma exude ample sincerity and charm, making it easy for their characters to endear themselves to audiences. The script also gives the actors — especially Arkin and Tripathy — a chance to flex their comedic muscle, providing fine supporting roles for Lake Bell (who helps bring a little gender diversity to the film as J.B.'s tenant/love interest, Brenda) and Bill Paxton (in one of his more reserved roles, as Major League baseball coach Tom House) as well.

Audio/Visual Fidelity Million Dollar Arm batters up on Blu-ray with a perfectly pleasing A/V presentation. It's nothing mind-blowing, but it's certainly got it where it counts. The hi-def transfer maintains a consistent level of sharpness, ensuring that fine detail in the image — from the stubble on Hamm's face to the multitude of seats that fill a stadium in the background — is always plainly visible, with satisfying contrast and black levels and colors that are well-saturated while still retaining that realistic look, whether it's the green turf on a baseball field or a necklace of orange flowers strung around the characters' necks. The picture is suitably paired with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack, which has no issue rendering the film's soundstage. Dialogue is intelligible, environmental effects (such as the cheering of a crowd at a basketball game) are appropriately enveloping and composer A.R. Rahman's score — which blends traditional Indian rhythms with a hip-hop sensibility — comes through loud, clear and distortion-free.

Special Features Disney's Blu-ray release includes an iTunes digital copy of the film, as well as 17 minutes of HD special features, leading off with a Training Camp featurette that spends 6 minutes with Mittal and Sharma, as they train for their roles. This is followed by the 3-minute Their Story, which contains snippets of interview footage with the real J.B., Dinesh and Rinku, as they talk about how the Million Dollar Arm contest changed their lives. Then there's Million Dollar Music by A.R. Rahman, a 3-minute look at the music composed for the film (in particular, Rahman's collaborations with Iggy Azalea, Wales and KT Tunstall). The extras are rounded out with 2 minutes of Deleted Scenes ("JB's Problem", "Sold" and "I'd Take Ten Dollars"), a 1-minute Alternate Ending and 2 minutes of Outtakes.


The Bottom Line Million Dollar Arm doesn't break any new ground, but it knows what it is and it does what it does well, delivering an entertaining mix of humor and heart, all wrapped up neatly in an inspirational true-to-life story with something for everyone (not just baseball fans). It's exactly as advertised, which is more or less the same thing that can be said about Disney's Blu-ray release. The extras are quite light, but Million Dollar Arm on Blu-ray features a dinger of an A/V presentation. Viewers won't be disappointed.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  








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