Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

Million Dollar Arm Swings Wide

posted by jtotey
Photo: Disney

Photo: Disney

The name Thomas McCarthy may not mean much to you, and it apparently doesn’t to Disney as they seem to have misplaced it on the webpage for their latest movie, Million Dollar Arm. McCarthy wrote the screenplay for this movie, and it is for that reason to go see it, not John Hamm. Don’t get me wrong, Hamm is fine in the role of sports agent, JB Bernstein, but it is McCarthy that gives the film its’ heart.

McCarthy is known for his work in the under-appreciated independent film, Win Win, another sports movie, but better known as the guy would made people cry during the first five minutes of the Disney-Pixar’s UP. Yep. That guy.

What makes Million Dollar Arm and Win Win great movies is that McCarthy doesn’t focus on the sports of the movie but rather the human nature of the characters in the sports movies. Some sports movies focus on how much a coach is willing to sacrifice his family for the glory of the game, and when they win the championship, all is forgiven. Not so with these two. Also, sports movies are always filled with majestic music throughout. Million Dollar Arm does feature some of that majestic music, but under director Craig Gillespie’s direction, it is used sparingly and in the right places.

Just as Disney gave us the fish out of water sports movie Cool Runnings about the first Jamaican bobsled team to compete in the Olympics over 20 years ago, Arm is just as unbelievable and yet, it too is based on a true story.

Not that long ago, JB Bernstein was a successful sports agent, but when he and his partner Ash (Aasif Mandvi) decided to go out on their own, it was hard to keep their business afloat. Just before closing their doors for good, JB gets a whim to find the next great baseball pitcher from an unlikely source – India. Baseball is almost unheard of in India while the game of cricket is extremely popular. While watching a game on TV, JB notices how fast the cricket players throw and plans a scheme to recruit one or two of the best and bring them back to America. He and Ash create a competition called the “Million Dollar Arm” and travel to India to find their next golden player.

The way cricket players throw looks very similar to how a baseball players pitch at first, but they soon learn that it actually quite different. Still, the duo bring back two players to America to train and hopefully make them rich. Dinesh (Madhur Mittal from Slumdog Millionaire) and Rinku (Surai Sharma from Life of Pi), two 18-year-old boys, are the chosen ones and embark on a journey that they’ll never forget. Aiding JB and Ash is Amit Rohan (Pitobash), one of the few baseball fans in India who is willing to work as an interpreter and an assistant for free. Back home, JB’s renter, Brenda (Lake Bell), is fascinated with the two boys and interacts with them more than does JB. Alan Arkin plays a grumpy baseball scout which is fun, but sort of a one-note role and Bill Paxton plays the important, but lackluster role of Coach House, a sports psychologist/trainer. (You get glimpse of the real Coach House during the ending credits who has a lot more life in him, than the Paxton version.)

About a fourth of the film takes place in India with incredible photography showing both the beautiful and the absurd. JB is clearly out of his element here, but Dinesh, Rinku and Amit are even more out of place in America. All three are charming characters and totally make the film. All they want to do is please JB, but he appears to be more interested in re-building his wealth.

Arm is rated PG, a rarity for a Disney film, and has a few moments of “mild language and some suggestive content” but is done in such a way that the film is still family-friendly. In the end, it is an inspiring story that might make you shed a tear at the end.

ABC Shares New Shows for Fall

posted by jtotey

We have just made it to the halfway mark in May, and TV networks are already promoting their new fall shows. Yesterday afteroon, ABC held a press conference giving sneak previews to their 2014-2015 line up and you are invited to have a look as well. Here are five new shows to show up on the small screen in this September:

Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m.

ABC Says: “Eliza Dooley has 263,000 followers who hang on to her every post, tweet and selfie. But one lonely day she has a revelation: being friended is not the same as having actual friends. She asks marketing guru Henry to ‘rebrand’ her self-obsessed reputation and teach her how to connect.”

My Synopsis: It is a contemporary half hour sitcom based on “My Fair Lady” with John Cho serving as Henry Higgins and Karen Gillan as Eliza Doolittle – or in this case, Dooley. This one looks like it has potential, but it has a terrible title. At least their drawing from a classic source.

Watch the “Selfie” promo.

ManhattanManhattan Love Story
Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m.
ABC Says: “Have you ever wondered what your date was thinking? This romantic comedy exposes the differences between men and women through the unfiltered thoughts, and often contradictory actions, of a new couple who have just begun dating.”

My Synopsis: This one has a clever idea of hearing the thoughts of the characters while their actions maybe saying a totally different thing. It stars Analeigh Tipton who is obsessed with purses and Jake McDorman who is obsessed with big breasts. Sadly, after only seeing a few minutes of this show, it looks fairly raunchy. Maybe they can clean up their act before the pilot comes out.

Watch the “Manhattan Love Story” promo


Tuesdays at 10:00 p.m.
ABC Says: “Doctor Henry Morgan, New York City’s star medical examiner, has a secret. He doesn’t just study the dead to solve criminal cases, he does it to solve the mystery that has eluded him for 200 years—the answer to his own inexplicable immortality.”

My Synopsis: This one looks intriguing, but I have my doubts. Henry’s secret is that he has died many times over the past 200 years and every time he comes back to life he finds himself in water and naked. Henry is played by Ioan Gruffield and the one man who knows his secret is Judd Hirsch!

Watch the “Forever” promo

Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m.
ABC Says: “Andre ‘Dre’ Johnson has a great job, a beautiful wife, Rainbow, four kids, and a colonial home in the ‘burbs. But has success brought too much assimilation for this black family?”

My Synopsis: This family sitcom starring Laurence Fishburne, Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross looks like a lot of fun as Andre struggles to keep his family focused on their “black” heritage.

Watch the “Black-ish” promo

MurderHow to Get Away with Murder

Thursdays at 10:00 p.m.
ABC Says: “The brilliant, charismatic and seductive Professor Annalise Keating gets entangled with four law students from her class “How to Get Away with Murder.” Little do they know that they will have to apply what they learned to real life, in this masterful, sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller.”

My Synopsis: This one will be either brilliant or ridiculous or both. Viola Davis stars as the professor who appears to have questionable morals and students who are covering up their own crime.

Watch the “How to Get Away with Murder” promo

Fridays at 8:30 p.m.
ABC Says: “In her sixth year of law school, Cristela is finally on the brink of landing her first big (unpaid) internship at a prestigious law firm. The only problem is that her pursuit of success is more ambitious than her traditional Mexican-American family thinks is appropriate.”

My Synopsis: This looks like the Hispanic equivalent to “Black-ish.” It stars Cristela Alonzo as…Cristela.

Watch the “Cristella” promo

‘Moms’ Night Out’: Made for Women, but Men will Like it too

posted by jtotey
Andrea Logan White, Sarah Drew and Patricia Heaton star in "Moms' Night Out." Photo: Sony/Provident Films

Andrea Logan White, Sarah Drew and Patricia Heaton star in “Moms’ Night Out.” Photo: Sony/Provident Films

The new faith-based comedy, Moms’ Night Out, is taking a real beating among critics which is a real shame as this is not only a very well done “Christian” film, but it is also very funny with a storyline that many women can relate to. However, you wouldn’t know by some of the recent reviews of reviewers who were either annoyed or offended by the film’s tame tone. One critic calls it sexist and another says that the moral of the story is to never leave the house or all hell will break loose. Neither is the case of this film – although a lot of “hell” does break loose.

The main character is a stay-at-home mom (gasp!), who has a hard time controlling her children, constantly compares herself to other women and feels bad because she’s not the perfect mom. Yeah. No woman could relate to that. In fact, as of today, Rotten Tomatoes has it at a 17% “rotten” rating among critics but theater-goers gave it a 84% “fresh” rating. It is true that many faith-based films are bad – but this one isn’t one of them.

Manwell Reyes, lead singer of Group 1 Crew and is a huge surprise.

Manwell Reyes, lead singer of Group 1 Crew and is a huge surprise.

Moms’ Night Out stars ABC’s Grace Anatomy’s Sarah Drew as the harried housewife, Allyson. The only thing that she wants for herself is to write her own blog, but with everything else in her life, that too is a disappointment. Her husband Sean (Sean Astin) is a traveling businessman who understands that his wife is unhappy, but isn’t sure how to help. On a whim, Allyson decides to plan a “moms’ night out” with her best friend Izzy (Andrea Logan White) and their pastor’s wife Sondra (Patricia Heaton) who looks like she could use a night away as well. The kids will be taken care of by Sean, Izzy’s husband Marco (Robert Amaya) who has a fear of taking care of kids on his own as well as a number of other phobias, and their gamer friend, Kevin (Kevin Downes) who hates kids. What could go wrong? Everything.

The plot is very complex with too many twists and turns to explain here, but is very clever, enjoyable and (gasp again) clean. Don’t let the trailers fool you. This isn’t one of those silly movies where the kids misbehave and the dads are at a loss on what to do. Well, that happens too, but the kids are just kids. The film focuses on the adults who are just trying to do the best they can given the circumstances that put themselves into.

image16The casting is great. There is no surprise that Drew, Astin or Heaton do a great job with their roles, but audiences will be surprised by the talents of some of the other cast members. Andrea Logan White is a great actress, but many have not seen her work as the bulk of it has been done on straight-to-video Christian films. Trace Adkins is hilarious as Bones, the tattoo parlor artist. Amaya’s (who was in Courageous) role is small, but very enjoyable as well. The biggest surprise is that of Manwell Reyes in his first film role. Reyes is the lead singer of Group 1 Crew and is a huge surprise as the “Tattoo Desk Guy.” And then there’s David Hunt (Heaton’s husband in real life) as a British taxi driver.

Moms’ Night Out is a compilation of Christian filmmakers coming together to create one great film. It is a partnership of Sony, Affirm Pictures Entertainment (Heaven is for Real, Soul Surfer), Provident Films (Courageous, Home Run) and Pure Flix Entertainment (God’s Not Dead). It is written by Jon Erwin, who also wrote October Baby and Andrea Gyertson Nasfell (What if).  It is directed by Andrew Erwin as well as Jon Erwin. The film is also especially important to Heaton and Hunt as they are not only acting in the movie but they serve as executive producers as well.

Moms’ Night Out is not preachy in the least and most moms will be able to sigh in unison that they are not alone in this struggle called motherhood. While there really isn’t anything inappropriate for children in the film, it really isn’t meant for them, so do yourself a favor and get a sitter. What’s the worst that can happen?

Disney to Release a ‘Very Bad’ Movie Which Actually Looks Really Good

posted by jtotey
Guess what this family just found in their doorway. (L-R) Ed Oxenbould, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey and Steve Carell. Photo: Disney

Guess what this family just found in their doorway. (L-R) Ed Oxenbould, Jennifer Garner, Dylan Minnette, Kerris Dorsey and Steve Carell. Photo: Disney

Disney’s live action, family movies are sort of hit or miss adventures. Some are very good while other rely heavily of past formulas that worked in earlier films. Sometimes they try to re-create the magic of their original film with mixed results. (Think The Parent Trap or Freaky Friday.) You can’t really blame them though. Creating a film that everyone in the family will enjoy, let alone relate to, is hard work. However, Walt Disney knew himself that if you don’t have a good story to tell, the movie won’t be worth seeing.

Author Judith Viorst Photo: Milton Viorst for Simon and Schuster

Author Judith Viorst Photo: Milton Viorst for Simon and Schuster

Right now, we’re about five months away from a film that looks very promising since it is based on a good source material. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is based on the novel of the same name by Judith Viorst which was first published in 1972 and has been a favorite of many grade school kids ever since.

With more than two million copies of the book in print, Viorst was inspired by her own children, Alexander, Anthony and Nicholas. In it, Alexander has the worst day of his life, which isn’t really earth-shattering to adults, but horrifying to kids. In the end, his mother assures him that some days are like that and that tomorrow will be better. It became an ALA Notable Children’s Book and won a George G. Stone Center Recognition of Merit, and a Georgia Children’s Book Award. The book was also turned into a half hour HBO TV special in 1990 and a stage musical in 1998 in which Viorst collaborated with Charles Strouse and Shelley Markham. Viorst also wrote three sequels: “Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday” (1978), “Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move” (1995) and the forthcoming “Alexander, Who’s Trying His Best to Be the Best Boy Ever” to be released in September of this year.

Alex3In Disney’s movie version, Alexander isn’t the only one having a bad day. Alex 2His whole family is and from the new trailer just released, it looks like a day that we can look forward to.

Alexander is expected to arrive in theaters on October 10, 2014. It stars Steve Carell, Jennifer Garner, Megan Mullally and is rumored that Dick Van Dyke will have a small with the film as well. It is directed by Independent Spirit Award-winner Miguel Arteta (Chuck & Buck, The Good Girl, Cedar Rapids, Youth in Revolt) from a screenplay by Rob Lieber.

Watch the trailer

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