Posts Tagged ‘LIFE OF PI’

MILLION DOLLAR ARM: 3 ½ STARS. “wears its heart-on-its-sleeve.”

Million-Dollar-Arm-WeLiveFilm-Movie-ReviewJ.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm) finds inspiration in the strangest places. The movie “Million Dollar Arm” would have us believe the down-on-his-luck sports agent channel surfed his way into an idea that would change his life and the lives of two Indian athletes.

Flipping between Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed a Dream” on Britain’s Got Talent and a cricket match on ESPN, he is struck by the idea to scout Indian cricket players who could be converted into big league baseball pitchers.

Luckily he didn’t come across “Mad Men,” or “Million Dollar Arm” might have ended up being called “Don Draper goes Bollywood.”

Based on a true story, Hamm plays Bernstein, the founder of 7 Figures Management, a small sports management agency whose clients are being stolen by a firm with deeper pockets.

As his business situation worsens he hits on the idea of recruiting Indian crickets players by way of a contest called the Million Dollar Arm. First and second place winners will receive cash and a chance for a tryout for a US team.

After spending three months in India he finds two promising players, Rinku (Suraj “Life of Pi” Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur “Slumdog Millionaire” Mittal), but back in the states Bernstein is told it’s not impossible that his new finds will become professional baseballers, “just highly improbable.”

“Million Dollar Arm” lays on the sentiment like a thick layer of lanoline on a new Rawlings Baseball Glove. It’s about underdogs and second chances, about finding the love of the game (and maybe some less metaphysical comforts as well). It’s about finding a balance between the business of the game versus the fun that should be inherent in the playing.

It is conventional in its approach, but hits a home run with the cast. Hamm’s gruff Don Draper-esque exterior will be familiar to “Mad Men” fans, but he has great chemistry with Lake Bell, who plays his tenant, spiritual guide and love interest.

Also appearing are Alan Arkin, who revisits his old coot routine to play baseball scout Ray Poievint, and Bill Paxton whoi is suitable stern as pitching coach Tom House.

Sharma and Mittal, who don’t speak any English until near the end of the film, wide-eyedly portray the inevitable culture clash of two young men leaving home for the first time.

Clichés aside, there is something appealingly old fashioned about how “Million Dollar Arm” wears its heart-on-its-sleeve.

ALL IS LOST: 4 STARS. “All is Lost is The Poseidon Adventure without Shelley Winters.”

all-is-lost-robert-redford640“All is Lost” is like “Life of Pi” without the tiger. Or like “The Poseidon Adventure” without Shelley Winters. Or Red Buttons. Or Gene Hackman… or anyone, except Robert Redford.

Redford is a nameless sailor on a solo yacht trip on the Indian Ocean. When his thirty-foot boat collides with an abandoned shipping container he must use all his resources to survive.

That’s it. The old man and the sea… and a yacht with a hole in the side. Like “Gravity,” the other recent “adrift in the great yonder” movie, “All is Lost” is an exercise in immersive cinema. Story is secondary to the character’s journey. There is virtually no narrative, just a boiled down man-against-nature plot and a growing sense of desperation as the sailor’s supplies dwindle.

The drama comes from the surroundings, the harsh world recreated by director J.C. Chandor (whose last film “Margin Call” was an overlooked gem). It’s claustrophobic, made doubly intense by watery sound effects and a building feeling of helplessness portrayed on Redford’s face.

The actor is in every frame of the film and although he only speaks a dozen or so lines—many of which are the monosyllabic utterances of distress you’d expect—he manages to create a compelling persona despite the lack of backstory, context or any of the traditional hangers characters get hung on. He is the essence of the film, a man hell bent on survival against increasingly difficult odds.

“All is Lost” is probably more audacious than it is entertaining, but it showcases Chandor’s nimble footed technique and Redford’s effortless star power. Alone and figuratively naked, he holds the screen for the entire 106 minutes, eloquently commenting on the human condition with no words, just action.


Life Of PiI have a feeling that “Life of Pi’s” success as a novel—it sold 7 million copies and won the Man Booked Prize—lay in its ability to be all things to all people. Readers projected their own interpretations on the story of a boy set adrift in a small boat with only a tiger for a companion. Some saw a touching coming-of-age story, others an adventure tale, while other saw it as a spiritual allegory à la Saint Bette of Midler’s “God is watching us… From a distance,” scripture.

The movie, from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” director Ang Lee, brings all those themes to vivid life in a film that adheres to the book but is completely cinematic.

Based on Yann Martel’s popular 2001 novel, Suraj Sharma stars as Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a sixteen year-old boy orphaned literally set adrift after the freighter his family was taking from India to a new life in Canada, sinks. He escapes in a lifeboat with a several wild animals, refugees from Pi’s family zoo–an orangutan, hyena, a wounded zebra and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Using ingenuity, plus his instincts for survival and spirituality, he keeps the tiger tame until his destiny becomes clear.

“Life of Pi” is a risky movie that doesn’t take many big chances. Bringing this metaphorical and introspective story to the screen was a challenging and risky venture in itself, but in its execution Lee leans on old-fashioned storytelling. Two thirds of the movie involves man and beast, alone at sea and while there is considerable use of computer generated images–the computer generated tiger is completely believable, and beautifully done—the focus is always kept on the Pi’s journey from inquisitive kid to self-reliant survivor.

It’s during this long section that Lee’s hand is most evident, particularly in a few tense moments when the main character and the tiger try to forge an uneasy truce. The unusual story is complimented by many startlingly beautiful images, like a full moon illuminating a sea brimming with jellyfish, turning them into incandescent underwater lanterns or an island overflowing with meerkats.

The segments that book end the film, however, are less successful. The set-up involves a writer (Rafe Spall) discussing the wild story with a middle-aged Pi (Irrfan Khan). It’s an old-hat way of providing context, and while Khan’s performance is terrific, the exposition that drives these scenes is of the “so what happened next” variety.

Like the main character “Life of Pi” drifts off course from time to time, but despite some ill advised magic realism and some repetition, Lee steers the story into safe, comforting waters.