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

LBJ

How many times do I have to watch JFK get shot? I mean, I am a young guy, so not as many times as some people who were alive back in the early ’60’s. But just last year we had Jackie, Parkland was about his death, and he probably died in The Butler.

And now we have a film about a president, who has been in other films recently, like Selma, All The Way, and uhhh, The Butler, again. But usually he is a smaller part. This movie, LBJ, is about LBJ and only LBJ.

Just kidding, a lot of it is about JFK getting shot, because it is super important to him getting presidency. Sucks to not be the 100% star of your own film. But LBJ would look at this and probably say something like “Doesn’t matter, Had Presidency.”

Sworn In
Blood still on the coat.

In Dallas, JFK (Jeffrey Donovan, Mr. Burn Notice himself), is shot and soon dead in a hospital. His wife (Kim Allen) is in shock, his brother Bobby (Michael Stahl-David) has become withdrawn, and a nation is on the edge of their seats wondering what will happen next.

And in walks Lyndon Baines Johnson (Woody Harrelson), vice president, Texan, to swear himself in during a tumultuous time. And not just because of an assassination. Civil Rights riots are at an all time high, and the Southern Democrats are not willing to let the equal rights act go through. But it was one of JFK’s visions, and the best way to honor him would be to get his vision into reality.

But Johnson isn’t just some goddamn JFK puppet. He is a doer, not a talker. He ran the Senate well and made sure things happened. So even though he was never voted the president, he is going to rock that White House, pass some bills, and try and make America better.

Also starring Bill Pullman, Brian Stepanek, C. Thomas Howell, Michael Mosley, Rich Sommer, Wallace Langham, Richard Jenkins, and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Ladybird.

JFK
“You know presidents, bunch of bitchy little girls” – Bruce Campbell, probably.

LBJ is not a linear film nor does it actually begin with his death. We get to see parts of Johnson’s life before he decided to run for president as Senate majority leader, losing to Kennedy in the primaries, agreeing to accept the VP position, attempting to bring about the Civil Rights Bill as VP, then the president dying, taking over his duties, and trying to be president. Technically, just a few years of his life, and a lot of it is focused on his relationship with the Kennedy brothers.

And again, that is all out of order, telling the story of the last president to voluntarily not run for a second term.

In terms of acting, Harrelson knocked it out of the park. He still had a bit of his woody crude streak going on, but for all I know, maybe LBJ was just like that. The make up work done to him was incredible and he really transformed into this president, I quickly forgot it was actually Harrelson. A very well done performance. Jenkins and Stahl-David also do relatively good performances, and I am still on the fence as Donovan as JFK. It is one that is just very hard to see.

The story is the weaker aspect of the film. It is a very standard feeling biography. It is only on the most important years of his life, it hits upon a very big current issue, and it puts a weird spin on it with him just wanting to be loved. Apparently. I don’t know how much of it is true, but it comes across as false. Thankfully the film is only a little bit more than 90 minutes, which almost seems strange to have it so short despite being a presidential bio film.

For LBJ, stay for the acting, but maybe read up on a history lesson to get a more complete view of the man that isn’t bogged down on specific themes.

3 out of 4.

Independence Day: Resurgence

What can we say about a film Independence Day: Resurgence? A summer blockbuster to one of the best summer blockbusters, Independence Day.

I loved Independence Day. It has good jokes, good characters, good action, great speeches, and a super patriotic feel by the end. It is wonderful. A sequel has a lot to live up to for it and one that would be really hard to match, let alone surpass.

But also, also. If you didn’t know, the studios decided to cancel all Press Screenings for this film, outside of like a world premier and day of screenings. My reps thankfully let us watch it the Thursday night of at a regular show time, so I of course went the full on IMAX 3D for the full on spectacle. But cancelling press screenings is probably the worst thing you can do to drive up hype. It didn’t work for No Good Deed, and it certainly wouldn’t work for this film.

Smug
Take that smug look off of your face Liam, you don’t know if this movie is any good.

Twenty years ago, the world stood up to an alien invasion and destroyed those fuckers to save the human race. Good job everyone!

This led to World Peace, as we knew our petty squabbles were complete bullshit. Earth Defense was the most important thing. So we all worked together and used Alien technology to rebuild. Our destroyed cities became more high tech (more TVs?). We got sweeter weapons. We got an Orbital defense system, sweet ass jet fighters that can go into space, and a fucking moon base!

Former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) is an old man who has strange dreams and keeps imagining some strange symbol. His daughter (Maika Monroe), grew up to be a fighter pilot as well and now works for the new president (Sela Ward). David Levinson (Jeff Goldbloom) is now an Alien expert working for the UN and currently in Africa to speak to a warlord (Deobia Oparei). The warlord killed a lot of aliens in combat, but is now seeing things and tech is being strange. Also in Africa is a Alien psychologist (Catherine Gainsbourg), and some reporter maybe who is a poor mans comic relief (Nicolas Wright). David, sadly, doesn’t hang out with his dad (Judd Hirsch) as much as he used to.

Oh yeah, speaking of fighter pilots, the president’s daughter is dating Jake (Liam Hemsworth). He is a hot headed kid, really great pilot, but a risk taker. His co-pilot is a smart guy/old friend Charlie (Travis Tope). The actual best pilot is Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher), the step son of Will Smith’s character. Smith isn’t in the movie, because he died 11 years prior to this movie doing test pilot stuff. But the mom (Vivica A. Fox) is still around! And China’s best pilot is Rain Lao (Angelababy), people love her too.

So many people, so little time. Aliens are coming, bigger than ever. This time the spaceship is over 3,000 miles long! They really want our planet, damn it. Brent Spiner and John Storey return to their old roles, William Fichtner plays a general, and Chin Han is a moon base commander.

Lock
The aliens sure do have this planet on…lock down. Yeaaaaaaaaaaah!

When you have a sequel, you are allowed to compare it to its predecessor, no matter how long it took to come out. So let’s do it over and over again to get my points across.

In the first film, we have world wide destruction. All of the major cities get hit and more. Armies are wiped out. In the second film, the only places hurt are a moon base, some of Area 51, and wherever the ship decided to land its planks. Literally no big attacking or trying to wipe out of any threats.

In the first film, we have one of the best speeches ever given by President Whitmore. It makes me tear up thinking about it. In the second film, he gives another speech and it is pointless and lame. We also get a different half-assed presidential speech after that, also pointless, given how World Peace was already established.

In the first film, our leads were a president, a fighter pilot wanna be step dad and wanna be astronaut, and a smart dude who worked in television. In the second film, our leads are the president’s daughter, the pilot’s step son, a new character who is connected to the first two in age and experience, and the same smart dude with less quirks. A lot of new cast members we are supposed to care about because they are related to people we cared about in the first film, without developing them in anyway at all.

In the first film, our characters had heart, emotions, and as a viewer the whole experience was fun. In the second film, the heart and sadness is taken away, and I am not having fun, just waiting for the thing to finish.

Science
Although the return of Dr. Brakish Okun was the smartest move on their part.

Independence Day: Resurgence had some nice moments. I liked what they did with the Queen at the end of the movie, giving us something unique. But our final explosions of the bad guy ships were practically non existent and ended quickly. Resurgence had a ton of editing issues, where so many parts felt rushed, yet the ending with its stereotypical count down clock dragged on and on.

There were so many characters introduced and barely used, yet the sequel is almost 30 minutes shorter than its predecessor. An African Warchief why? Because he had swords? Angelababy’s character was supposed to be the second best pilot or something and despite her role, her character’s name wasn’t even uttered in any form throughout the film. That pisses me off so much. I shouldn’t have to wait for credits to find out something as important as a character’s name.

There will be more Independence Day movies, but the future of this franchise is going to be something completely unlike the 1996 classic. In fact, a big part of this film is dedicated just to setting up future films and maintaining a pointless mysterious air, instead of focusing on the film at hand. It is no wonder they canceled the press screenings. They barely even released a coherent film this time around. You’d think after 20 years they’d be able to focus on this one task and not have their eyes towards the future.

1 out of 4.

American Ultra

I don’t know a lot about American Ultra. I do know that it has some nice buzz words to get more butts in the seats though.

A lot of big movies have American in the title now. American Sniper destroyed the box office, so people really love American shit. Then we have American Beauty, American Psycho, American Pie, you name it! American to start off your movie is like a golden ticket.

And then of course whe have Ultra. That puts it at the top tier, and it sounds a lot like Ultron. Maybe they want people who love America and love the Avengers to see their film. If they can bring in those two demographics, they would be walking their way over to the billionaire club.

Again, knowing nothing about the movie, this has to be their plan right?

Freeze
“And bring in an established couple from other movies! Like those kids from Adventureland!” – Movie Exec

Mike Howell (Jesse Eisenberg) is a small town, do nothing, stoner. He has never left his West Virginian town and any time he attempts to leave he ends up having a panic idea. The thought of going places just freaks him the fuck out.

Thankfully he has weed. And the love of his life, Phoebe Larson (Kristen Stewart). She is basically perfect and deserves someone way better than him, as he is a constant screw up. But for whatever reason, she loves him back. Even when he kills two men outside of the convenience store that he works.

Shit. Shit shit fuck. He didn’t even know he could kill a man, and technically they attacked him first. He already has enough trouble with the law, weed smoker and all. It has something to do with the strange lady (Connie Britton) who came to his shop and basically said just gibberish. Next thing Mike knows, other strangers are trying to assassinate him and wouldn’t you know it? He can fight back! Magical Stoner Powers activate! Sometimes it can be good to be a government sleeper agent.

Also starring Tony Hale as a CIA employee, Topher Grace as a mean CIA dude, Walton Goggins as a hitman, John Leguizamo as a dealer, Stuart Greer as a sheriff and Bill Pullman as “mysterious CIA man.”

Leguizamo
To John Leguizamo, Thanks For The Drugs, Jesse Eisenberg.

One exciting fact about American Ultra is that it written by Max Landis, who also wrote Chronicle. Huh. Chronicle. The great movie that was directed by Josh Trank, who recently directed a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad Fantastic Four movie as his next main project. So weird that two guys who worked on an indie movie both got much bigger movies that were released in the same month three years later.

One thing I hate as a movie watcher is hearing other people echo commonly held complaints that they just regurgitate from the internet, without realizing they never gave it any thought. For example, a very popular “opinion” is that Stewart is terrible and cannot show emotion. People of course got confused with her real self and playing a hated character. For those that think that, they will be happy to know that Stewart shows a lot of emotion in this film: fear, sadness, extreme happiness. She is all over the place. And she also does a fine job.

As for the rest of the movie, American Ultra is a very strange film. Not fully comedy, not fully action, and not really a normal action comedy. And don’t even think it, because it is definitely not a stoner action comedy either, like Pineapple Express. It is a strange mash of all of these genres, and not in a normal or bad way. It reminds me of Red State. Red State was a hard movie to describe, clashing together different genres and keeping you on your toes. This film is of course nothing like the actual Red State, but I think you get my meaning.

American Ultra almost perfectly embodies the 2 out of 4 rating on this website. It is an enjoyable movie yes. Sometimes the jokes work really really well, thanks in a lot to the chaotic nature of a few scenes. And sometimes the movie feels like it drags and you just want to get to the next scene. We call that pacing issues in the biz, and it can make or break or apparently average out a film. But it did have some nice acting from our leads and some pretty slick shots at the same time. It can be worth a watch eventually. I think the people who love it are going to just really love it.

2 out of 4.

Peacock

I love it. This is another example of one of those “Hey look, I know some actors in this. Let’s watch it”.

I mean, Peacock? That is vague, so who knows. But this movie went places. Scary and odd places.

But not bird places. Just the film takes place in (fictional?) Peacock, Nebraska.

Nothing creepy
Definitely nothing sketch going on with this group of characters.

John Skillpa (Cillian Murphy) is just your average bank worker. Goes to his job, rides a bike, goes home. Has his breakfast prepared for by Emma, who also does all the chores and the shopping. Very mysterious family, more or less.

Mostly because John is Emma. He has multiple personality disorder, and potentially came about through some childhood trauma (from an abusive mom), and can’t actually “control” his Emma side. But she only does those three things, so not that bad. But while coming back from a shopping trip, a train caboose derails and comes crashing into their backyard and almost hits Emma who faints. What in the what, train!? She kind of faints and wakes up to a big crowd. Not what she needs and rushes in side and goes John.

Fuck, fuck, fuck. All these people! In his yard! This is bad. He knows about Emma, and he can’t have them knowing his secret. This is a small town in the south, damn it! Turns out it takes a while to get a train piece that crashed into the ground to go away. Especially when they want to make a political spectacle of it.

Susan Sarandon is the mayor’s wife, who also runs a women’s shelter; Ellen Page is a single young mother, who knows some information about John’s past; Josh Lucas is a local cop and friend of John; and Bill Pullman plays the bank boss. Will all this unwanted attention utterly destroy John? Or will his Emma ever leave?

CM
Who would have thought they were the same person? They look…okay they look alike.

Needless to say, this film was very different from the start. There was always an eerie overtone thoughout, and although it was about a disorder, you knew there was a lot more up that the movie was choosing to not tell you right away. And it was creepy. Not that people who dress up in drag are creepy, but doing so against their will, from their own mind? Makes it a bit unsettling.

The film had a decent plot, but I felt it moved a bit too slowly at points. Also, Cillian when he was John after the first five minutes I didn’t like. This was post train scene, so he was shaking a lot, and scared of the attention, but it all felt like too much. His character barely was able to speak at times, and it was just weird. Him as Emma? Down right creepy, based off how little she talked in general.

Some of the plot points came off a bit confusing too, but they weren’t that big of a deal. Just enjoy the creepiness, and then never again.

2 out of 4.

Bottle Shock

Bottle Shock is a movie about Wine in the 1970s and how America is better than France. Honestly, if you made it past the first half of the sentence congrats, because you got to see the second half, and realized that it is in fact awesome. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

USA
Coming this summer on NBC.

Based on a real story, this tales the story of how Napa Valley, California made its mark in the world. They had winos there, but the rest of the world didn’t seem to care. Including Alan Rickman, a British man who really really loves his wine so he moved to France and opened up a wine shop. But none of the French people will invite him to their wine games. His friend says he is way too culturally wine-ist. He doesn’t even give USA wine a chance. So he says, fuck it, lets go to America.

In Napa, Bill Pullman is running his own wine colony. Left a high paying job, is a perfectionist, but no one cares. He is divorced, and his no good son Chris Pine is a damn hippie, despite it being the 70s still, and way too free spirited. Not to mention Freddy Rodriguez is working on his own secret bash. He also has to worry about the new intern Rachel Taylor screwing everyone really.

Rickman’s character travels around the US to find the best wines, even paying for samples. He wants to set up a blind taste test, the first of its kind. Where the judges give ratings without knowing what they are drinking. Something about French bias, but apparently it was never done before. Lot of drama occurs, lack of funds, wine going bad, fear that Rickman is just setting them up to bring them down, and questioning life choices. But since this is a real story, yes, the Pullman wine ends up winning, despite the judges best attempts to pick a french wine.

U-S-A!
Those hippies have such soft hands.

Oh yeah, Eliza Dushku is in here too, as a sleezy bartender. What what!?

Now, parts of the movie seemed slow, and some of the drama associated with it seemed a bit unnecessary. The Rodriguez plot line, which you assume will be a major player, turned out to, well, not matter. Also, not as much Dushku as I’d have guessed. Also, pretty obvious at what would happen in the movie.

But hey, at least it was decently funny and entertaining!

2 out of 4.