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

The Belko Experiment

The Belko Experiment trailer seemed to come out of nowhere, and it honestly got me really excited.

A Battle Royale experience, with regular office workers, in a potential psychological horror film with difficult moral decisions? That sounds like an amazing film, one that would quickly become a cult film and something that would top my end of the 2017 list!

And to top it all off, it was written by James Gunn, who has been kicking ass lately. Not directed, just written, but he is a pop culture junkie and someone who can really get to the heart of issues with, yes, excessive violence.

But really, the hype was real on this side. Fictional people killing people with office equipment.

Guns
Office equipment, like guns!

Head on down to Bogotá, Columbia, where the sun is always shining and everyone is so happy! And it is also the location of Belko Indutries, a very large office building seemingly in the middle of nowhere. They help hire foreign workers for American companies, or something like that. Hard to say, doesn’t matter, they have sweet government contracts, so life is sweet.

Weird things are afoot today. All of the local workers are being sent home. There is a larger security force than normal, checking cars and looking intimidating. But hey, it is still a work day, so even with some missing people they have meetings and phones to call.

And then, a voice (Gregg Henry) comes over the loudspeaker, that they didn’t even know existed in their building. It said that most of them would die, and that if in the next 30 minutes two people were not killed, then there would be consequences. Ha ha. Must be a prank. And then the office building straight up closes entirely around them, windows, doors, all covered in large metal panels. Fuck! Well, of course no one kills anyone, so then four people die from sudden head explosions. Head explosions! Each person had a GPS tracking device put into their head, in case of kidnappings, because Columbia. Turns out they are bombs and now everyone is even more fucked.

Of course it gets worse. Now they know it is serious. And now they know that with 76 people left in the building, they now have 2 hours to kill 30 people. Or else overall 60 will be killed, randomly. Now it is time to let your animal instincts out. Now is the time to go wild for survival. And hell, a few of the people have some special forces training before this job. Doesn’t look good for your normal receptionist.

And we have a lot of workers, so here they are: John C. McGinley, John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, Melonie Diaz, Michael Rooker, James Earl, and Sean Gunn are some of the bigger players. We also have Brent Sexton, David Dastmalchian, David Del Rio, Gail Bean, Josh Brener, Owain Yeoman, and Rusty Schwimmer.

Final
Blood bath? More like Blood…um. Office. Yes, Blood office.

I wanted so badly for The Belko Experiment to be good.To give me a satisfying psychological horror. To really emphasis the experiment parts, and showcase human spirit and humans in general. And yes, I also wanted it to feature a ton of violence through the use of common office equipment. Things like coffee pots, staplers (of course), paper weights, chairs, paper clips, who knows. And honestly? We maybe got 3. Definitely two that stand out, and of those two, one doesn’t even kill a person, it just injures them.

When it comes to wild and crazy deaths, this film lacks them. It just gives us death. MOST people, out of the 80 starting amount, die from a gun shot wound or from their GPS tracking devices exploding in their head. And I do mean that by most, definitely well over half. We have some knife/cutlery related deaths, a couple accident based ones, and a few explosions, but most of them are just regular violence in what could have been a creative film. The trailer implied a lot different film from the tone given.

A lot of screen time is given to the characters actively trying to escape. Making signs to hang, getting through the metal, taking out their “GPS devices” and so on. Perfectly good rational behavior. And that same behavior is why we never really get the all out blood bath the trailers seemed to imply. We get forced into a situation where a few people with power and guns just start killing off random individuals without the thrill behind it.

Overall, I guess what I am getting at is that the film is too serious. The violence doesn’t lead to the fun deaths which doesn’t lead to a fun movie. But it isn’t serious enough that it makes any point either. It just feels meaningless and hollow.

Sure, we have some interesting characters. Gallagher is our voice of reason. McGinley is a creep. Goldwyn is a typical executive. A lot of people play scared office worker quite convincingly. Surprisingly, Sean Gun, James Gunn’s brother, known basically only for Gilmore Girls, is the most exciting character and his actions are fun to watch, but he can not entertain us enough on his own.

The Belko Experiment seemed like it would be an immediate cult classic, but I doubt even a sequel could save the story it tried to piece together.

1 out of 4.

Get A Job

Anna Kendrick movie tracker #3? Yeah, this is number 3 for the year. Unless I post it before Mr. Right like a jackass. This is the second of the three that is also straight to DVD, what fun!

However, Ms. Kendrick isn’t the focus of the film. She is technically just a side character, in a handful of scenes, and not super relevant to the plot. She is all over the cover of Get A Job though.

Oh yeah, this is supposed to be me talking about the movie. I have no idea what Get A Job is about going into it, but damn it, I surely had some pretty dang obvious guesses.

Sex/!
The over/under for hearing the term Millennials is 15.

This movie is actually about Will Davis (Miles Davis), well known slacker and pothead. Well, only the occasional bong stuff. He is about to get hired at a shitty internet clickbait journalism site, so he is celebrating with his dad (Bryan Cranston) and girlfriend (Anna Kendrick). His dad gives him some money, finally ready for his son to be a man and need no more handouts.

But of course, day one into the job he is fired. Right as he walks into the door, they couldn’t hire like they thought they could. He lives with a group of guys, not his girlfriend. Charlie (Nicholas Braun), a slacker who is getting a job as a chemistry teacher somehow. Ethan (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a slacker who is making an app to help stalk people. And Luke (Brandon T. Jackson), a slightly harder working slacker who is getting a job as a stock broker!

Yay jobs for everyone. Except for Will. And for Will’s dad, who also loses his job despite being with the company forever. Shit, being unemployed is hard, especially in today’s world. Thankfully, Will gets a job that eventually matches his passions, making videos for some corporate company. His boss (Marcia Gay Harden) hates him, the bosses boss (Bruce Davison) likes him, and the other kind of boss (Alison Brie) wants his body, but hey, money is money. And I guess, really, this movie is just about getting jobs in this day and age and the struggles they bring.

Also featuring in smaller roles, Greg Germann, John C. McGinley, Jorge Garcia, and John Cho.

Ties
Corporate jobs means ties. Ties get in the way of food. Corporate jobs hate food.

I expected Get A Job to be a completely shit movie. And honestly, on some levels, it is still that film. It is mostly an incredibly pointless story. It is simple, basic, and more synonyms. The only thing that can possibly make this a worthwhile film experience is if the comedy is on point.

And you know what? It barely reached a good enough level at that. Davis’ character isn’t very funny, being our lead. Cranston is giving a few amusing moments, but he also basically plays a straight man this time around. All of the humor that actually interested me in this movie came from Braun and Jackson. For whatever reason, I found the chemistry/coaching plot from Braun to be almost hysterical. I didn’t giggle out of my seats, but I definitely tittered. Jackson’s scenes, especially with McGinley were a nice change of pace. Higher energy and a bit stressful.

Everything else you can practically ignore. The main plot line is meh. Kendrick is barely in the film. Mintz-Plasse’s plot is pretty shitty.

No one will ever watch this movie and change their life from it. No one will probably really watch this movie over ten times in their life. But for whatever reason, two side character plots just really clicked with me and put this film into mediocre territory.

2 out of 4.

42

First off, I am a bit disappointed. The movie 42 doesn’t get me any closer to figuring out the question of life, the universe, and everything.

Unless that question is baseball related. That’s right, 42 isn’t about The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, but instead baseball, go figure. Not just any baseball story, like the forgettable Trouble With The Curve. This is baseball history! The story of Jackie Robinson, the first black MLB player. Well, technically the first black MLB player in modern, post World War II baseball. After all, Moses Fleetwood Walker played in the MLB for a season in 1884. But after that, sixty years is a pretty long time, with “Negro Leagues” put in place, so Jackie Robinson still turned heads in his debut.

Mirror
Despite the turned heads, he still didn’t help us answer that dang question…
42 doesn’t focus on Jackie Robinson’s (Chadwick Boseman) entire life, but instead about 2.5 years of it. But before we get to Jackie, we first get to learn about Branch Rickey (Harrison Ford), GM of the Brooklyn Dodgers. If we listen to his reasoning at the beginning, he wants to try something crazy. That’s right, a black man on the Dodgers! Why not, that should increase ticket sales, and he will also do whatever he can to get his team a pennant.

So he picks Jackie from the pile, gets him on their minor league team, and hopes he can kick enough ass to make it on the MLB team, while holding back his anger enough to not let the rampant racism get to him.

This is a true story, we all know he makes it to the team after a year in the minors, and the rest, really is history. We also see a little bit into his relationship with his wife (Nicole Beharie), and I do just mean a little bit. There are other members of his team who all embrace in him different ways, some with petitions (Ryan Merriman), some with open arms (Lucas Black). Some managers didn’t give a shit (Christopher Meloni), and some made it their mission to make his life a living hell (The Phillies) (Alan Tudyk). But that is to be expected from a Philadelphia based team I guess.

This also has the smaller, yet still important, story of Wendell Smith (Andre Holland). He was the the first black member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, but first had to travel with the teams for two years, writing articles about Jackie and his struggles. That means Jackie Robinson was influential on more than just the baseball level, he just chose to end racism through beating the other team’s pitchers and stealing bases.

Oh there is also a John C. McGinley cameo as the radio announcer, dropping classic line after classic line of old timey talk.

Gang up
Jackie probably thinks I am talking far too much about white people in this review.
Speaking of white people, I guess Branch Rickey was pretty dang important to this story, but no one really talks about him in popular culture. The filmmaker makes sure you know how much of this all falls on his shoulders, and how it would not have happened (so soon) without him. Yep, this just ends up being another civil rights movie where white people are the saviors. Just like The Help and The Secret Life Of Bees. This literally keeps happening in film, and it is kind of annoying.

Even though in this example it might be true, it is still frustrating to see that it is focused on so heavily just to sell more tickets.

I loved Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson. I am glad they went with a relatively unknown actor for the role, because that was one of my bigger problems with the movie Ali.

Overall, 42 is a feel good inspirational movie and it succeeds at that level. There is some intense emotion in here, but it still ends with everyone smiling by the end. It could have dealt with a lot more of his life, but hey, after his first year, he wasn’t the only guy able to make the switch. He was a great athlete, and this is an acceptable (if not entirely accurate) portrayal of his life. I personally still left the theater happy, despite any real issues.

 

3 out of 4.