REVIEW: “BATTLE OF THE SEXES” (2017) FOX SEARCHLIGHT

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“Battle of the Sexes” is the true life story of the behind-the-scenes of the now-famous exhibition tennis match between Women’s tennis star Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and now has-been Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).

The film goes into some major detail here and takes us through the paces of what lead up to this now famous match, but has some serious pacing problems throughout the first half and some overly drawn out scenes tend to make it drag in places. Surprising to me was the film being billed as a “comedy”, as it’s not funny in the typical comedic sense at all except for maybe the fact that you can laugh at how things were back then. With Riggs, once a successful tennis play, now a habitual gambler-schemer of bad business deals, who is lucky enough to have married into money with wife Priscilla (Elisabeth Shue), they smoothly slide over the actual first ‘Battle of the Sexes’ match between Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee) and Riggs, to which she then lost. In goes Billie Jean, whom at that point was leading the way in not only tennis, but fighting the good fight women’s rights and equal pay in tennis along with a great cast of supporting women’s players at the time who risked it all for equal pay.

Thankfully, things start to come together once King and Riggs agree to and start promoting the match and, which we see all the crazy fan-fare that was done at the time. By the end of all it and watching the match, even though you know the outcome, everyone in the theatre (men included) are cheering cfor Billie Jean as we watch her take control and realize what she truly accomplished, can get you a bit emotional to say the least. Stone and Carell are well-cast and do right by their characters. With Stone even going so far as to getting right the slighest things of say, getting the tennis stances of King & Riggs, something as a tennis fan, I notice. In particular, she nails King’s conflict with her own sexuality and the scenes between her and lover Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) are eye-opening especially when you think of all it entailed at the time.

So the script and direction might be a bit uneven, but it’s good enough to make all of us cheer for King by the end and maybe even have a bit of a laugh as it regals us with truly how out of touch the sexism of the early 70’s now seems to us. Sure, there might be some slight deviations from the real events however, Carell does a fine job of recreating the 1-man flying circus that was Bobby Riggs with Stone providing a fine performance as one of the most influential Americans of the last century. Also we can note that when Bobby passed, Billie Jean noted they had become good friends after all in life and she was one of the last people he spoke with.

The history of it all whether you were there or not, is well worth seeing again.

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Friday, September 22, 2017 ~ Courtesy of LACMA/Film Independent
“BATTLE OF THE SEXES” is now playing at select theaters

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REVIEW: “KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (2017) 20th Century Fox

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“Kingsman: The Golden Circle” picks us up after the events of the first film where we were left ‘Firthless’ with the demise of Harry (Colin Firth). Or were we? Kicking off with an extremely high-paced opening scene with Charlie (Edward Holfcroft) whom we thought had met his end as well as one of the blown-up henchmen for Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson), pops up in a “Let’s Go Crazy” taxi-car fight scene with Eggsy (Taron Egerton). Eggsy, now a full fledged Kingsman after the death of Harry, is called into action after a deadly missile strike rocks the organization and leaves him and Merlin (Mark Strong), as the last men standing. With little to no resources to seek retribution and in clear need of assistance, they find a ‘drunken’ clue which leads them to find and turn to “The Statesman,” whom are essentially the American verion of the Kingsman and are based where else, but in the good ol’ whiskey-making state of Kentucky. The Statesman come off as good ol’ country boys who love good whiskey, country music and all things America. Channing Tatum does a spin at cowboy here playing Tequila, Jeff Bridges as the main honcho Champ (short for Champagne), Halle Berry is none other than Ginger as in Ginger Ale and Pedro Pascal is – you guessed it – Whiskey. Together, they must stop Poppy Adams (Julianne Moore), our drug lord villianess du’jour, who has formed an organization called ‘The Golden Circle’ from which she is planning to unleash a deadly disease called the ‘Blue Rash’ thru all kinda of recreational drugs. Holding millions of lives for ransom, Poppy wants to negotiate a deal from the President of the United States (Bruce Greenwood), who is pretending to acquiesce to the demands, but is secretly not going to follow thru as he feels he will then be rid of the scourage of these people. (Doesn’t that last part almost sound as if it could be true…)

There are many twists and turns here with the plot and while maybe everything doesn’t hit the nail on the head – most do. The film itself seems to know at times, how ridiculous it can be and how like the first one, walks a fine line of going over the top or not. One too many fight scenes or one ridiculous gagdet to many, can throw a wrench in all of it. As a result, the jokes land very well for the most part. And while it might not hit the benchmark as much the first Kingsman did, it does well with how it sets up each character. For instance, Julianne Moore simply knocks her villian role out of the park, coming off as both creepy and yet downright sweetly psychotic. With her love of 1950’s memorabilia set-up of the middle-of-the-jungle, Poppyland is complete with 50’s diner, movie theatre includes a kidnapping of Elton John, in a fun spin here, whose only purpose is to play & sing what Poppy wants. The only thing that is not modern about her operation is her use of robots (Including robot dogs) because she claims they obey orders better than humans do.

Egerton and Strong along with Holcroft do very well once again as the main leads. Some of the bigger name supporting cast such as Berry, Tatum and Bridges, are relegated to smaller roles giving them less screentime than I expected. Hanna Alström as Princess Tilde is now Eggy’s girlfriend and this gives her a bit more to do here also. But alas – it is Pedro Pascal and his lasso that steal the show here. In a “Manners Maketh Man” bar scene that rivals any so far, he whips his way through a bar with the best of them.

Overall, Matthew Vaughn gives us yet another crowd pleaser with “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and crossing my fingers we will get another one …eventually.

Spoiler – at the end of the film, the POTUS is impeached.. showing us anything is possible! 😉

Grade:B-
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening ~ Thursday, September 14, 2017 ~ Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE will be released in theaters on Friday, September 22, 2017