Let’s face it, there’s something about a baseball movie that just invites corniness. The hardest hearts soften at the mere sound of a cracking bat. It’s hard for a filmmaker to resist laying the syrup on too thick.
And so it is with the Disney film “Million Dollar Arm,” which makes a direct, uncomplicated, er, pitch for your heart — a pitch that will probably hit its mark, despite your best instincts telling you this movie should really be subtler at almost every turn.
Oh well. Somehow, this flaw doesn’t feel like the biggest crime — especially when you have a high-quality cast at work.
The quality starts with Jon Hamm, who by virtue of his well-known charisma, makes a good case for his future film career, now that his days as Don Draper on TV’s “Mad Men” are sadly ending.
The best parts of the story are actually not about Bernstein, but about the two young Indian men he brings to America in hopes of creating the next international baseball sensation — and opening up a huge, untapped market in the world’s second most populous country. Back in Los Angeles, Bernstein gets to work setting up a Major League tryout, hiring a canny baseball coach (Bill Paxton) to get the boys ready in the impossible time frame of several months — a demand of their financial backer — despite the fact that they’ve barely touched a baseball.
Of course, there are yet more obstacles. The two are homesick. Luckily, the next-door neighbor, Brenda, is a pretty, smart, caring medical student (Lake Bell).
This eventual relationship is telegraphed in such an obvious way, there might as well have been a subtitle when Brenda first appears: “SOON-TO-BE GIRLFRIEND.”
Will the two players overcome their lack of training, their nervousness, and the cynical baseball press corps to have their moment of glory? Uh, have you ever seen a baseball movie? But let’s not nitpick. It’s a baseball movie! It’s heart-warming, and hey, it has Jon Hamm.
“Million Dollar Arm,” a Walt Disney Studios release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America “for mild language and some suggestive content.” Running time: 124 minutes.
No one can blame Gareth Edwards for admittedly feeling nervous when asked to helm a remake of the biggest monster movie of all time. Sure, the only other film he had directed happened to be 2010’s “Monsters.” But this time, it was Godzilla.
Well, the latest iteration of the 60-year-old franchise is in capable hands. Edwards’ “Godzilla” is a well-paced 3-D spectacle that pays chilling homage to the artful legacy of the original 1954 film — Ishiro Honda’s “Gojira” — while emerging as its own prodigious monster movie. Created as a symbol of the nuclear threat following America’s atomic attacks on Japan in World War II, Godzilla’s reappearance suggests the nuclear tests conducted by the U.S. in the Pacific after the war were really meant to hold the radioactive dinosaur back.
Screenwriter Max Borenstein, working from a story by Dave Callaham, doesn’t bombard us with multiple narratives or a multitude of characters. When we finally see Godzilla — just shy of an hour into the film — the anticipation has built to such a degree that we expect to be awe-struck. And we are. The tallest of any Godzillas before him, this one stands 355 feet high — about 30 stories — with glistening, scaly skin and dorsal fin spikes down his back. His terrifying yet textured roar shakes the theater.
Aiming for a realistic take on how we might react to an invasion by giant creatures, Edwards makes sure our view of them rarely shifts from the human perspective.
Honoring the eerie music of the original, this film’s score by Alexandre Desplat (“Argo”) is equally menacing, rich with horns that complement the consistently serious tone of the movie.
Edwards’ version of “Godzilla” remains the ultimate monster movie. The legacy has been upheld.
“Godzilla,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “intense sequences of destruction, mayhem and creature violence. Running time: 123 minutes.