29th Aug2014

Million Dollar Arm – Film

by timbaros
MILLION DOLLAR ARMTwo young men are plucked from their small Indian village to become major league baseball players in Disney’s newest feel good film Million Dollar Arm.

Jon Hamm stars as JB Bernstein – a not very successful sports agent who needs to find a way to make money to save his company, and his career. JB and his right hand man Aash (Aasif Mandvi) are not having any luck in signing NFL player Popo Vanauta, so JB, while watching Britain’s Got Talent at home (with Susan Boyle singing for Simon Cowell) has a lightbulb idea – find a young cricketer with a fast arm, via a contest, and turn him into a baseball star. JB and Aash hear about a very rich Asian businessman, Chang (Tzi Ma), who’s looking to invest in Asian-based athletes. So JB pitches their idea to him – a contest to be called Million Dollar Arm. Chang gives them one year, and money, to pull it off. So JB puts his Los Angeles bachelor life on hold – including liaisons with models –  and leaves his house (and washing machine) in the care of Brenda (Lake Bell), a doctor who lives in the bungalow in his backyard.
JB then heads to India where he starts to assemble a team to help him with the contest. He can’t say no to Amit Rohan (a very good Pitobash Tripathy), a baseball fanatic who practically begs JB to help him. Fliers are made announcing the contest, and it becomes very big news in India. Young boys pass fliers from village to village, and young men from different backgrounds show an interest in the contest – the nation is excited about the prospect of one of their own being picked to be a major league baseball player. JB enlists the help of baseball scout Ray (Alan Arkin), one of the best baseball scouts in the business. Two young men in particular take part in the contest – Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) – who wants to stay loyal to his father by taking over the family’s trucking business yet sees the contest as a great opportunity, and Rinku (Suraj Sharma) – who has one of the fastest pitches JB has ever seen. So with contests taking place in various cities in India, it’s both Dinesh and Rinku who wind up being the dual winners, winning cash prizes and a once in a lifetime and life changing opportunity – to go to America to train as would-be baseball players. The young men have never left their rural villages so upon arriving in America, everything is foreign to them, including escalators, modern technology and the food (pizza!). Amit comes along as a sort of chaperone to the men and as an assistant to JB. They live with JB where they set up a praying temple in one of his bedrooms. They also prepare an Indian meal in the backyard for him and Brenda – realizing that there is a spark between the two.
Having never played baseball before, both Dinesh and Rinku initially struggle to play the game. Sure, they can pitch fast, but there’s more to baseball than pitching. They need to pitch straight into the pitchers glove with the goal of striking out the opposite team’s players. It takes several weeks for the young men to learn the game, and once they do, JB trotts them out to the scouts of some of the major league teams (with the press in full attendance as well). But the boys disappoint, their pitching is all over the place, and not as fast as they needed to be. So JB, with the help of Pitobash’s enthusiasm and rousing speech to the two young men, holds another exhibition, and this time Dinesh and Rinku impress all in attendance, and they are signed to a major league baseball team.
Million Dollar Arms works on all levels. It’s a feel good movie where you are routing for the underdogs and the underdogs prevail. Of course this being a Disney film that will happen. But what makes this movie stand out over others is not just the great acting, the warmth of the Indian people, and the inspirational tone of the film, it’s that Million Dollar Arm is based on a true story.
In 2007, entrepreneurial sports agent JB Bernstein staged a reality show in India to find promising baseball talent amongst the cricket-loving population. In a country of 1.3 billion people, the likelihood of him being successful was very high. Ultimately, Berstein found two ball players – Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel. They not only became an investment but they all bonded with each other as well – and for JB it was like having a family – just as in the film. Both men were eventually signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Jon Hamm is perfect as a sports agent (he would’ve been perfect as Tom Cruise’s role in Jerry Macguire). Hamm even has the look of one – he is easily believable when he drives a sportscar. And with Hamm’s frustration, emotion, comedy and sympathy as JB  – especially as he gets to know the young men he’s taken under his wing – there is a real emotional bond on camera, and we can assume off camera as well. The roles of Rinku and Dinesh were easily cast as well. As Rinku, Sharma brings a sense of vulnerability to the role. Sharma was just incredible in 2012’s Life of Pi, and in Million Dollar Arm he’s just as good. Mittal was brought in to play Dinesh – he’s famous for playing Salim in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire. Mittal has practically grown up in front of the camera and he’s a natural as Dinesh. Alan Arkin is not perfect as the seasoned scout Ray. It’s not Arkin’s fault but the role is poorly written – his character spends most of his time sleeping at the baseball contests until he ‘hears’ a fastball. Arkin is an Oscar-winning actor who has appeared in many acclaimed films in his career and it’s ridiculous to think that a man as successful as Ray would sleep on the job. The most memorable character of the film is Amit Rohan (Pitobash Tripathy). He steals every scene. At just 5’4″, he’s got lots energy, stamina, drive and confidence. Tripathy’s character brings the film funny and lighthearted moments, especially in his excitedness as JB tells him he’s going back to America with him.
While there are times when the filmmakers take stereotypical shots at the Indians and their culture, what makes the movie is exactly that – the Indian culture – the vibrancy, look, feel, sounds, the organized chaos, the beautiful colors and the beautiful people – it’s all there to see on the big screen. Director Craig Gillespie and screenwriter Tom McCarthy bring a true story to vibrant life, and while they take dramatic license to the true events that took place, Million Dollar Arm is the perfect film to end the summer with.
29th Aug2014

The Guvnors – Film

by timbaros

58f5f4e2-ffaa-46bc-a4cc-224803979b42-460x276Do you want to watch a realistic, gritty film about UK gang culture? Then The Guvnors is just the film for you.

Starring an excellent cast, The Guvnors is just that – a film about men in the position of authority in which everyone listens to, and follows. In this film’s case, The Guvnors are the gang leaders, the men who tell other men what to, some of the time to incite violence, other times to commit the occasional murder.
Doug Allen stars as Mitch, now a successful businessman, with a beautiful wife and a young son. When he was younger he was the leader of a violent football gang but has since changed his life around. However, things take a turn to the older days when ex-pro boxer Mickey (David Essex) is killed by a gang of young men at a local pub. You see, Mickey humiliated the group’s leader Adam (the excellent Harley Sylvester of the hip-hop group Rizzle Kicks) after they stormed into a pub and threatened the staff and customers. Mitch gathers up the members of his old gang, some of whom are not too happy to see him after he had abandoned them many years ago. These men include Richard Blackwood, who is now a policeman, Vas Blackwood as Bill – now a very successful architect, Jay Simpson as Neil who runs Mickey’s pub, and a couple other men who are far from their prime. Meanwhile, Adam leads a band of young men who cater to his every whim and bad mood. These men include Charlie Merkell as Trey – a very chilling personality amongst the rest of the young men, who bring fear to their council estate as they dictate and rule the area. This includes Adam slashing people in the face to match the scar he has – a vertical slash on his right cheek – including a young woman who had repeated something she heard that Adam didn’t want repeated. Adam then starts roughing up Mitch’s son which leads to more animosity between the two men and the two gangs. The tension continues to build up with both gangs plotting what their next moves against each other will be, which culminates in an expected ending – a fight to end all fights – and the unexpected death of one of the Guvnors.
The Guvnors is not your typical football hooligan movie. It’s better and more hard-hitting, and realistic, then other films in this genre – including The Hooligan Factory and This is England. What sets The Guvnors apart from these films is the acting and the script. Director Gabe Turner has assembled a first rate cast – there is not one bad performance in the film. Allen is very good as the central character – a man with a past but trying to look ahead to the future. Sylvester will curl your blood – his Adam is pure evil – it shows in his eyes and the way he grits his teeth – with that scar running down the right hand side of his cheek – it’s a scary character and Sylvester owns it. Also matching him is Merkell as Adam’s right hand man. He will do anything for Adam, whose got him under his wing, and under his spell. Sylvester and Merkell’s performances are all too real, and very chilling. At the end of The Guvnors, we are left wondering if Mickey’s young son will follow in his dad’s footsteps – gang culture. The Guvnors is a hard-hitting and realistic look at gang culture.

 

29th Aug2014

Tom at the Farm (Xavier Dolan) – DVD

by timbaros

images-236At only 24 years old, French Canadian Xavier Dolan already has four films under his belt, all of which have been well received and critically acclaimed. In 2009, Dolan directed, produced, starred and wrote J’ai tué ma mére (I Killed My Mother), a semi-autobiographical story about Dolan as a young gay man at odds with his mother, writing the script when he was the tender age of 17. It won 3 awards at the Cannes Film Festival. The next year he wrote, directed, produced and starred (again) in Les Amours Imaginaires (Heartbeats), a story about three close friends who are involved in a love triangle. It was in 2012 that Javier continued his string of emotional and heartfelt films by writing and directing Laurence Anyways. At 168 minutes, it was a bold choice for the young director to make a film as ambitious as this, one about the struggles of a straight man who, over the course of ten years, transitions from male to female and how it affects the relationship with his lover (with amazing performances by Melvil Poupajd and Suzanne Clément). Laurence Anyways won many awards, including two Cannes Film Festival Awards (the Queer Palm Award and Best Actress for Clément). Lawrence Anyways was also nominated for ten Canadian Screen Awards (winning two), and more importantly, at the Toronto International Film Festival it won Best Canadian Feature film. Not bad for a local boy. 

2014 sees Dolan’s most bold work yet. It is a film called Tom á la Ferme (Tom at the Farm), and the Tom in the title of the film is Dolan. For his fourth feature film, Dolan puts himself in the lead in a film that he also wrote, produced and directed. Looking so unlike his usual self, with long blond shaggy hair, Dolan again revisits the themes of homosexuality and the lack of acceptance. Tom, who works in an advertising agency, travels to the Canadian countryside for a funeral. It is not just anybody’s funeral, it is the funeral of his 25 year old boyfriend (Guillaume). The problem is that his grieving mother did not know that he was gay, so she accepts Tom as his friend in the hopes that he can tell her all about his life, as he had not been in contact with her for a long time. This is not the only problem Tom faces. Guillaume’s brother, 30 year old Francis (an amazing Pierre-Yves Cardinal), knew that he was gay and never really could accept it. In fact, nine years prior he had beaten up a man who had been dancing with his brother, and his violent nature and temper has him banned from most places in town. He still lives with their mother, on a farm, that he hopes to one day inherit after his mother passes away (he tells Tom in a highly charged scene that shows them dancing with each other in the barn) as there is no one else left in the family. Francis plays psychological games with Tom, at times beating him up and then at other times charming him. He has some kind of hold on Tom. With mesmerizing good looks and an athletic body, Cardinal commands the screen in every scene he is in. So it’s no surprise that Tom has a crush on him. The mother, Agathe (Lise Roy), is a bit crazy, maternal madness, having lost her husband years ago and now her youngest son that she barely knew. She is introduced to a woman who she is led to believe her dead son was dating, a woman who is a friend of Tom’s where he asks her to visit the grieving mother and pretend that she was his girlfriend. And Francis sets his lecherous ways on her. Dolan has set the soundtrack of Tom at the Farm to Hitchcockian music (by Gabriel Yared), with stunning visual images in the film (as he did in Laurence Anyways) of long shots of a highway, the middle of cornfields, and facial images that will last long after you see the film. 
 
After creating a trilogy of the subject of impossible love (Dolan’s words), he has now changed direction to create a suspenseful film that, while still stays on the subject of homosexuality, is very dramatic and is another amazing creation by a young man who has yet to turn 25. 
 
Dolan got the idea of Tom at The Farm after seeing a play in Montreal with the same name by Michel Marc Bouchard. He had a six month window of time between his next project, and the play and its theme really interested him, so he decided to shoot it as a film. Tom at the Farm screened in the main competition section of the 70th Venice International Film Festival, winning the FIPRESCI Prize (Fédération Internationale de la Presse Cinématographique), and was also shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. 
 
What’s next for Dolan, besides conquering the world? He has mentioned that he wants to make a film in the United States, to be titled The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, which will be about an American celebrity who maintained a correspondence before his success with an 11-year old boy in Britain, causing a scandal once it became known. If his previous films are anything to go by, the new film (and his future films) will be eagerly anticipated and will be must sees. 

 



Tom at the Farm [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, Lise Roy, Evelyne Brochu, Manuel Tadros
Rating: Suitable for 15 years and over

United Kingdom released, PAL/Region 2 DVD: LANGUAGES: French ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), French ( Dolby Digital Stereo ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (2.35:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Interactive Menu, Scene Access, Trailer(s), SYNOPSIS: The story of Tom, who is in the grip of grief and depression following the death of his lover. When he meets the family of the deceased, it is revealed the mother was not aware of her son's sexual orientation, or his relationship with Tom either, for that matter. ...Tom at the Farm (2013) ( Tom à la ferme )
New From: £4.34 GBP In Stock
Used from: £3.77 GBP In Stock