Battle of the Sexes

The phrase “battle of the sexes” always feels cringey nowadays, and it has for years. There was a board game with that name recently, and it is just one that is based on poor stereotypes and no one should really ever want to play. And yeah, that is the point of the phrase. To talk about the differences between the most common genders and fuel masculine and feminine behaviors.

But the movie Battle of the Sexes is beyond all of that. First of all, the title is given due to the real event that announcers decided to call it at the time. So they are just highlighting history here, not their fault.

And second, it is a sports film that is also about gender equality and sameness, not stereotypical differences. This is the clincher here, this is why I want to see the movie.

Battle
Maybe the actors involved was another important factor, but don’t tell them. They have big egos.

In the early 1970’s, Billy Jean King (Emma Stone) was on top of the female tennis players world. She was the first female player to ever each $100,000 in a year from prizes, and people really made a big deal about it. Things were on the up and up for the women’s movement too! Except when it came time to sign a new contract with her fellow ladies for the main American tournament. The prize support for the women’s players was significantly lower than the men players, despite sharing the same arenas, drawing the same crowds and all of that. So they decided to just up and leave. They started the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), had Virginia Slim cigarettes as their sponsor, and now had funding to play for real money!

This pissed off a lot of people. But King and a lot of her fellow players were riding high. King also started a relationship with her hairdressed (Andrea Riseborough) while on tour with a husband (Austin Stowell) at home!

This story is also about Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), an older retired tennis pro who used to be number 1. He is a bit of a dick and likes to parade around like a fool to earn money. And he is a gambler. At the lowest points of his life, he decides to challenge Margarat Court (Jessica McNamee) to a tennis match, really playing up the male chauvinist angle. It seems like he is around just to ruin the modern women’s rights movement! The prize amount gets even bigger when he is finally able to challenge King, and it becomes one of the biggest spectacles of the decade, where apparently the question would be settled by the end of who is greater, man or woman.

Also starring Sarah Silverman, Natalie Morales, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming, Elisabeth Shue, Eric Christian Olsen, Fred Armisen, Martha MacIsaac, and John C. McGinley.

Love
Courting in this film holds two different definitions.

Battle of the Sexes is one of those movie trailers you will see and you just know you will have a good time during the film. It is a period piece, so we get to see people we recognize fondly looking, from our current standards, ridiculous. Always a plus.

Stone and Carell have been in films together before, namely Crazy, Stupid, Love, where they played daughter and father, and now they get to play pseudo rivals! Because the reality of this situation is they are not, at all, in any way, real rivals. They would never play each other in a tournament, they both were not at their primes at the same time, they only played the one game together. But their lives are now forever entwined in history due to this moment, this festival, this, well, publicity stunt.

Because in all reality, it seems like it was just all about the money. King may have had other reasons for agreeing to the game (women’s rights in sports and all), but all the people pulling the strings from behind the scenes just wanted to get rich. The events of this film are almost unbelievable, this is a time when reality if it was written as a screenplay would be lauded as ridiculous. But hey, what’s the point of life if not to get really ridiculous every once in awhile?

I like that this story told much more than the game. A lot of the film is NOT tennis, but about tennis players. Finding out about King’s husband and other relationships felt realistic and sad. Riggs himself was in a sad state in his life and he wasn’t even a bad guy, he just played it up for publicity. And in all honesty, I didn’t know who won going into the movie, so I am glad I never looked it up. It is interesting that the game was held in Houston though, in the now defunct Astrodome.

That last sentence is meant to appeal to the locals.

3 out of 4

Strange Magic

Where does one begin when talking about Strange Magic? Well, first of all, it basically came out of nowhere. There were two main “kid” movies out in January. Paddington, which had tons of press and was actually pushed a little bit from December, and Strange Magic which had maybe 1 poster hung up somewhere in America.

I mean seriously, I saw no trailers ever, nothing on TV, no screening events, no kiddy toy promotion with a major realtor or fast food store. Did anyone know this movie was happening? Oh, George Lucas apparently knew it was happening. It was a Lucasarts film, which is now owned by Disney, but apparently it has been in development/production for FIFTEEN YEARS.

Anything that takes that long has to have some bad moojoo on it. Remember Duke Nukem Forever? There is attempting to make sure everything is perfect and forcing a boulder up hill.

Troll
And then there is this awkwardly realistic and equally awkwardly not dude.

The movie begins with the (world?) divided into two lands, a fairy land that’s all light and happy, and a bog land that is dark and scary. Immediately you might be thinking of Epic or even Secret of the Wings, it is a popular trope. The movie then begins with a very familiar tune.

Then there is singing. Singing of old songs. What is happening. Oh, not only was this movie mysterious, but it was also a JUKEBOX MUSICAL. So many of the characters sing real popular-esque songs. However there is no theme here like in Mamma Mia and they are just all over the place.

Ugh. Anyways. Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood) is a fairy princess. She is going to get married to Roland (Sam Palladio) but finds him kissing another fairy on their wedding day. So she goes a bit gothic and swears to never love again. Years later, her sister Dawn (Meredith Anne Bull) is in love with everything and everyone, much to her annoyance. Roland is still around, trying to marry Marianne just to control the army and become a powerful ruler.

So what does Roland do? He convinces Sunny (Elijah Kelley), an elf with a crush on Dawn, to get a love potion made so that they both can use it and get what they want. The only person who can make a love potion is the Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth), who was captured by the Bog King (Alan Cumming), because he hates love and love potions, or something.

I mean, he has a point. They are pretty rapey. Needless to say, shenanigans happen thanks to the Bog King also kidnapping Dawn after she gets hit with the potion. So back and forth they go, singing and dancing, and stopping overall bad stuff from happening. Hooray kids movies and learning to love again!

There is also Alfred Molina and Maya Rudolph voicing royal parents, and Peter Stormare and Bob Einstein voicing random shit.

Fight
First we battle in an epic fashion, and then we dance!

How much do you really want to hear strange covers of Sugar Pie Honey Bunch and Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)? You don’t, you are right. This movie is full of songs you might have got to sing for public school middle school chorus classes or hear all the time at karaoke bars. Not having a theme isn’t an issue. Moulin Rouge! had no theme for the songs and they kicked butt.

Honestly, this movie in a vague description sounds like something I would love. I love musicals. I don’t mind fairies. I like nice CGI movies. But somehow this movie managed to fire on zero cylinders. Nothing felt like it worked. Parts of the animation were nice, and other parts looked like complete shit. They had really good voice talent, and wasted it on one of the most boring lists I have ever seen. None of the songs are really trying, they are all super safe and lazy. I Want To Dance With Somebody? Great song. Terribly easy to put into one of these and force a context for though.

Ugh. It ended up not being funny, not looking very pleasing on the eyes, and even made me dislike singing. How that is possible, I won’t ever know. I mean, I even gave Walking On Sunshine a 2 out of 4. This one just felt like an awkward mess. Knowing that Disney now owns Lucasfilms, it must have been in the buyout that they had to help fund or release this movie, and they just tried to sneak it out hoping no one would notice.

0 out of 4.

The Smurfs

A live action movie about The Smurfs? How can that smurfin’ work? That doesn’t make any smurf sense. But, by the end, it was definitely pretty smurfy.

Smurfs
Oh don’t worry, I am done doing that.

I won’t explain the back story of Smurfs. Should be pretty public knowledge. But in their magical world, before the Blue Moon festival, a few of the smurfs accidentally get transported, along with Azrael and Gargamel (Hank Azaria)! They must figure out how to return, and you know, not turn into magic juice.

Also! Neil Patrick Harris and Jayma Mays are expecting a baby, while NPH has to make a new ad design for the cosmetics company he works for and his boss Sofia Vergara (from Modern Family).

Which smurfs made the cut into reality? Of course Papa Smurf (Jonathan Winters) and Smurfette (Katy Perry). Without them, who would watch? We also got Brainy Smurf (Fred Armisen) for “problem solving”, Grumpy Smurf (George Lopez) for “lols”, and Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin) for conflict building. I think Gutso Smurf (Alan Cumming) was created for the movie, but they needed a more kick ass smurf I guess. A lot more famous people for other smurfs, but those smurfs aren’t as smurf important.

This movie (or at least NPH) ask a lot of questions normal people wonder. Like if they are named after their major personality, do they get a name later in life, or born with that name. The movie answers the question, kinda.

In terms of CGI, it is pretty good. They fit the smurfs into the real world very well. Nothing (too) cheesy, and I was able to believe it.

Cheesyy
What was pretty weird was the Guitar Hero scene, though. Guitar Hero is dead.

NPH and Jayma were fine. Azaria made a GREAT Gargamel. I was hoping for Danny DeVito to be him personally, just on looks. But Azaria just had it all going for him. Also, super cheesy. But you could hear the Moe Sizlack in his voice. Also interesting.

Story line was also interesting. I was entertained throughout, which is really all you can ask from a family centric movie. There was enough subtle jokes in there too for adults to enjoy as well.

I was going to watch this with “Smurf-O-Vision” too, as it was advertised. With an iPad/iPhone, you could download an app to go with the movie. It made it seem like if Smurfs would fly off of of screen, they’d fly onto the iPad, and other weird things. A new dimension of fun! But what really happens (I tried this for 5~ minutes, app took forever to load too) is a bunch of stupid things. Also it ruins the movie. In this version of the movie, the main smurf cast are also watching, and often the screen will shrink and you will see their reactions too. I was like “okay, as long as it doesn’t ruin the movie”. But then once it shrunk again and the director appeared and talked over dialogue, I was immediately done and calling it a failure. Just meant as a way to distract kids more so, I think.

Besides that, the movie is smurfy.

2 out of 4.