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

Colossal

Colossal is one of those films that I knew I couldn’t wait to see from the first trailer and concept leak. The idea sounded original, and originality in films is a rarity.

But it also had two of my favorite people! Anne Hathaway, who has been making a lot of stronger choices lately in her career, and Jason Sudeikis, who is normally pushed off as a side character and still rarely given his chance to shine.

So why not shine with giant monsters attacking South Korea? Who is excited? Just me?

Hand
This guy is totally excited!

Gloria’s (Anne Hathaway) life is shit. She got out of her small town to live in a big city, but she lost her sweet writing job and hasn’t found work in a year. She has been living with her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens) who has had a stable job and a stable life. But Gloria has decided to spend most of her days sleeping, because she is up all night with some friends drinking, getting nothing done. Thanks to her lack of willingness to change and lies, she gets kicked out of the apartment and finds herself broke and alone.

So of course she heads back to her old home town, that she left so long ago. She can stay at her parents old place, because they still own it and it is empty. But hey, she will get an inflatable mattress and figure it out.

It doesn’t take long for her to run into an old friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who gives her a place to hang out (his bar), some house supplies, and a part time job. Heck, she gets some new friends in “crazy man” Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) and Joel (Austin Stowell).

And after a night of drinking and sleeping all morning, she wakes up to find that Seoul, South Korea got totally fucked up by a giant monster. And after few nights of attacks, she starts to notice that its mannerisms seem familiar. Could…could she be controlling the monster? But why? How? Those hundreds of dead people…

Eyes
It is hard to reconcile your emotions when you know you wiped out hundreds, but no idea how.

If you watch a trailer for Colossal, it will look like a Comedy with some Sci-Fi elements, but it is so much more than that. As far as I can tell and hope, no trailer really just spoils the whole thing, but they all give the same sort of vibe.

Apparently this is the year of genre-bending films blowing me away, as this is only my 4th 4 out of 4 on the website from 2017 films, and 3 of them don’t get easily defined by one genre. Split, Get Out, and now this, all have multiple elements and tonal shifts that keep you on your feet and help reflect a grander film experience. Some would dock points off of Colossal for that, by being “scatterbrained” but that is only an issue if the film does not succeed on the multiple levels it tries to reach. But Colossal handles the later film drama extremely well, and the early film comedy/awkwardness/mystery elements.

Acting is top notch for our leads of Hathaway and Sudeikis. Hathaway made me hate her character, until it didn’t anymore (growth!), but I always hated her hair. Sudeikis had a lot more subtle great moments early on, before rising up to a level I have not seen before with him by the end.

Colossal is a film that is better the less you know about it, and I ensure you, I barely talked about any of the many intricacies of the plot. But spoilers be out there, so go out and swiftly see this film which deals with important subject matters in a rather unique way.

4 out of 4.

Bridge of Spies

Lies have got to be very sturdy. Lies can make a foundation for buildings and relationships, so lies have a lot of use. The more you lie, the more weight it can hold, I guess.

After all, you can have a throne of lies. So they must be able to support your weight and be at least a little bit comfortable.

I just don’t know if I’d trust a bridge of lies. Bridges usually have to hold dozens of cars at once, including the things that cars hold. Those bitches need to be super sturdy.

I’d want more than lies. I’d want some cement too. And I dunno, a couple engineering and psychology students to supervise the mixing of cement and lies. And if that isn’t enough, the actual physical embodiment of lies, to make it mostly a Bridge of Spies. Then it becomes something I’d stand on to hang out and shit.

Bridge
I wasn’t even considering weather. Snow can add a lot of weight to it all.

In the 1950’s, everyone was afraid there would be a Nuclear Holocaust across the globe thanks to the cold war. Hell, people (including me) still are hugely afraid of this occurring. But back then it was new and caused kids to cry and shit. The information age was rampant, so there were spies everywhere. We sent guys over there, they sent Keri Russell over to us.

They also allegedly sent to us Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). He did some USSR spy stuff. He was also found by the US Government, so everyone in America collectively wanted him dead for being a traitor. But to prove we are better than them, we have to put him on trial with a real lawyer. They settle on James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), an insurance lawyer who did some criminal stuff in the past. Thankfully, Donovan is a good man and he does the fuck out of his job to defend his client, even if all of America hates him for doing his patriotic duty.

Since this is a true story, allow me to go further. As Donovan is the only man that Abel is willing to trust after awhile, Donovan starts getting used as a pawn by the USA government. He is brought in to try and trade Abel for a captured US Soldier, Francis Powers (Austin Stowell). He has to go to East Germany right as the wall is being built, while the East Germans have captured a US college student, Frederic Pryor (Will Rogers). That is two FPs. I smell a conspiracy. And Donovan wants to get both of them back, and not leave one to torture or worse.

Man, what’s a scumbag insurance lawyer going to do? How bout be a hero! FOR AMERICA! And one Russian spy.

Amy Ryan plays his wife, Alan Alda his boss, and Sebastian Koch / Mikhail Gorevoy are his main negotiating partners. I was going to mention the main US Agent in East Germany too, but I can’t find him on the list at all. Generic white dude.

Lawyer up
That perma-frown face, if turned upside down, somehow stays a frown.

Steven Spielberg is the main reason I wanted to see this film. He hadn’t directed a film in about three years, and damn it, I wanted more. Lincoln could only hold me off for two of those years. He is a magical little man that can make phenomenal movies.

With Bridge of Spies, he tried a little bit hard and didn’t come across as honest as some of his past films. Maybe done intentionally, given the subject matter. The filter to make the film look like it was “set in the past” generally bugs me, and this time was no different. Despite the color scheme, the film was beautifully shot. I especially enjoyed the rain scene.

The acting from the big names was acceptable, but Rylance stole the show. Quite a few realistic jokes and an unflinching sense of awareness that nothing he could do could change his situation. Nothing ethical, a least from his point of view. Hanks was pretty good too, but the last third of the film just featured him playing sick with coughing during negotiations. The character itself was annoying at that point, somehow making it seem like he both didn’t care about the exchange and cared more than anyone else.

My overall complaint with the film is that it just felt far too long. The true story subject is quite a long one, but it seemingly skimmed over areas I thought would be more prevalent (court scenes), and spent far too much time on other plot points(the US Pilot training to be a spy, in particular). Thankfully they didn’t also spend a lot of time trying to humanize the college student. The one scene before he gets arrested felt like it was too much already.

A decent movie, but one that only excels in smaller doses and doesn’t feel as grandiose as the subject matter deserves.

2 out of 4.

Whiplash

Whiplash snuck into theaters way back in October was a limited release and I obviously didn’t get to see it. It left theaters quickly, and I was left on the internet cold and sad. You see, people kept talkin’ ’bout Whiplash. About how good the acting was. What a surprise. How cool it was.

And I was all like “But, but, but, but…I don’t know anything about this movie! :(“. And then they laughed at me of course.

But now I am back, having seen Whiplash, before I compile any sort of top of the year list for myself. It feels good to watch things before awards season. It must be similar to how people feel reading a book before it was even announced that a movie version was going to come out. Pretty intense, I do say.

Mouth2
You can tell you are being intense if you have your mouth open.

Andrew (Miles Teller) is a drummer. He likes to drum, he is in a great music school for bands, and he thinks he is decent. But he is his biggest fan, and who cares what his opinion is.

You see, there is an elite jazz group at his school, led by the legendary Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). Everyone is crisp, always finely tuned, always with the right tempo, and always winning awards.

Andrew wants to be apart of that band, but Fletcher is mysterious and only has surprise auditions in the middle of other classes. And somehow, Andrew is able to win himself a spot.

Fletcher seems nice to him at first, but it turns out he is kind of a hard ass. He yells, he screams, he demands perfection and he can tell who is the best after only a couple of seconds of play. He wants to develop the next great star by forcing people to move out of their comfort zones and become an elite player. He also likes to mind fuck people, which I am sure is very helpful.

(Zany announcer voice) It looks like Andrew should have been careful what he wished for!

Also with Paul Reiser as his dad, Melissa Benoist as his girlfriend (and yes, she was on Glee), and Nate Lang/Austin Stowell as other drummers.

Mouth
The closed mouth next to the open mouth amplifies the intensity levels.

Intensity is the key word of the review, because getting whiplash is an intense injury. Not as intense as a broken bone or falling off a cliff or anything, but it exists. The film is called whiplash for the feeling and the jazz song which is one of the main two pieces their group ends up playing.

And it is also the only way to describe J.K. Simmons’ character. I could listen to him yelling at teenagers every day of my life. His voice is why he became J. Jonah Jameson and is why this role was made for him.

In fact, I am pretty sure this movie exists entirely to get him an award, because he was a huge asshat and acted his hatass off.

Whiplash on its own is also a very entertaining film. A lot of energy is put into what most people would assume is just a drummer in a jazz band, but the quest for greatness has its costs. Hell, even the cinematography was great. The ending is basically a giant ball of emotion wrapped that is looking to escape, and then does, and hey credits.

Nothing I just said makes any sense. So I should just use the word intense again.

4 out of 4.

Love and Honor

I saw the trailer for Love and Honor accidentally before the movie As Cool As I Am.

I didn’t like As Cool As I Am, and usually I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch a movie that I saw previewed before a lame movie, if I have never heard of it.

But here I am! The trailer made me kind of interested in the movie. War! Love! Going AWOL! Hot and sexy topics, and all dealing with the little brother of Thor, who of course never disappoints.

Liam Hemsworth
Except for Paranoia, Empire State and The Last Song.

This story is set in 1969, so we get to hear Spirit in the Sky and Magic Carpet Ride, because sometimes filmmakers don’t want to be creative with their song choices anymore.

Dalton Joiner (Austin Stowell) and Mickey Wright (Liam Hemsworth) are both soldiers in the US Army, over at Vietnam. They are volunteers and are halfway through their year long tour. After six months, they have earned a whole week off! They get dropped off in Hong Kong to have a week of fornication, tomfoolery, and who knows what else, as long as they are back at that airport to leave in 7 days.

But Dalton has other plans. He was dating this girl, Jane (Aimee Teegarden), but she broke up with him while he was away from the war. The only thing keeping him going was the thought of going back to her, so he was super good at finding traps and shit. His plan is to fly back to America, because troops fly for free, see her again, and that will rekindle everything they had, and she will know that waiting is the best thing.

So of course his buddy Mickey goes along for the ride.

But when they get back to the states, things have changed. Jane has become Juniper, and she is living in a house of war protesters. Hippies. She broke up with him because she couldn’t support the war (and probably started protesting because it took him away!). She is a free spirit now, perhaps too free, but Dalton doesn’t care. They lie and say they abandoned the war in protest, in order to help win her back, but the lies build, and bad things happen. Also Mickey falls in love with Candace (Teresa Palmer). That is important too, I guess, because they become our main characters.

Girl Liam Likes
Hey, girl from Warm Bodies (warm bodies). I like Aimee better, no lie. But you are cool too.

The movie being set in the 1960s was actually surprising. I mean, it makes more sense, but I am still surprised.

From the trailer, it looked like bad stuff would go down hard. Like they didn’t make their flight in time and getting arrested for AWOL charges, then presumably a big political affair that would change everything and end Vietnam.

But when they were arrested? They solved the problem in a few minutes, tricked one officer, and that was it. Too quickly, leaving me with nothing but romance based drama. Silly, romance based drama, because it is just all based on lying to loved ones, like most uncreative movies. I give this one props for technically trying a different angle, only by setting, but this isn’t a fantastic romance story in any way, and the romance between Stowell and Hemsworth doensn’t feel real at all. No chemistry, no tissue box for my tears.

1 out of 4.