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: “NOCTURNAL ANIMALS” (2016) Post: Q & A ~ Tom Ford

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If you’re looking for a sequel of sorts to  A SINGLE MAN, it won’t be found anywhere in “NOCTURNAL ANIMALS”. Tom Ford’s take on this tale of redemption, revenge, love and cruelty, terrified me at times, but in all the right ways.
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NOCTURNAL AMINALS is a dark, yet stylish thriller directed by a man who knows a thing or two about style – having previously worked as creative director for both Gucci and YSL and now of course, his own design firm, Tom Ford. So to say his delving into film could have been less than stellar or have gone in all the wrong directions, wouldn’t be absurd. He could have gone style over substance, thankfully, here we get both and Ford’s perfectionism makes this one of the most powerful films I’ve seen all year.

This is really a story within a story with the perspective coming from Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), an art gallery owner who spends most of her life at home alone, with her often out-of-town husband Hutton Morrow (Armie Hammer), pursuing his ‘business’. Randomly, (so we think) Susan gets a manuscript for a novel written by her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal), whom she hasn’t heard from in over 15 years and as curiosity gets the best of her, she starts reading it. Almost immediately she finds herself completely absorbed with the story, so much so, we see it as she herself ‘see’s’ it to have happened. As she continues to read, she has flashbacks to how her own relationship & marriage with Edward broke down as well as perceived thoughts that the way she is ‘seeing’ this violent thriller could maybe some type of veiled threat against her from Edward. nocturnal-animals-3

Edward’s novel provides the film with its dark soul, the story of Tony Hastings (also played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) & daughter India (Elle Bamber), who run into trouble when traveling through some back country Texas roads late at night, you know the type they make movies about how not to ever drive down. It’s pretty heavy stuff to watch it all, and I couldn’t help but clench the seat while watching it all unfold, but it all plays out as essential in making this such powerful watch.
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The rest of the cast features the always scene-stealing, can-we-just-give-him-an-Oscar-already Michael Shannon, as Bobby Andes, a career best performance from Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who is truly vile, creepy and just plain terrifying as the Ray Marcus, and Laura Linney’s appearance as Susan’s mother, Anne Sutton, who even in the short space of time we see her, makes an impact.

Gyllenhaal is good here doing dual roles though playing Hastings is seemingly the much harder performance, I just feel like he’s trying these same type of thriller roles out one after another to see which one hits hardest. Amy Adams is quite brilliant and it’s this role that should garner her another Oscar nomination at the least. It seems some don’t like Aaron Taylor Johnson’s performance, probably because if anyone knows how to bring the ‘pretty’ to a film, it’s Tom Ford and Johnson along with Hammer and a few others are the ‘pretty’ to be sure. But he also knows how to bring a performance, and for me, I like it when I get surprised by one and Johnson’s did that for me.

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This is one damned good film and I’m thinking it’s going to garner itself a few award nominations.

Grade: A
@pegsatthemovies

Screening courtesy of Hammer Museum ~ The Contender Series
NOW SCREENING NATIONWIDE

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Post Q & A with Tom Ford
First off, I can’t say enough on how congenial this man is. He has been quite brilliant as not only a designer, but so far, as a filmmaker also, and yet is more than pleased to answer any and all questions posed and makes you feel as though your friends after only a few minutes conversation.

Mr. Ford acknowledged the fact that he’s been so very lucky in being able to make his films his way so far. After being in the same industry for so long (30 yrs. in design) he says it’s been nothing but a blast for him to be able to do this and he loves it for being so different.
He also notes it’s been great getting the cast he wanted as he really had to find two people who could span a 20 year time frame, and in doing so, both look it and be able to act it out. He felt Amy Adams just resonates so much expression on screen with just looks as she doesn’t speak as she reads the novel, but expresses it.
He noted that while they took some liberties with the film over the actual novel by Austin Wright, it would have been almost impossible to have filmed it exactly as written so deep a story it is. My favourite statement of his was that he wants you to remember this film..not just one day after you see..not just a few weeks later..but still be thinking about a year later and remember how it made you think and feel.
I think he will get his wish on that one. 🙂

REVIEW: “BIRDMAN” (2014) ~ Fox Searchlight

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Ok.. I will admit, I’m rather breathless right now.. I was fortunate enough to see a special screening (thank you EVER so much Jason Watters) of this movie and to simply say it’s fucking BRILLIANT feels like I’m almost understating it.. To say I’ve never seen anything like it and I’m going to venture out on a limb here and say I don’t think most have either..But I’m pretty sure in my stating that fact. It’s almost to difficult to put into words what exactly this movie is about, because it’s that different and special, but when you see, trust me, you will get it, and that gettin is oh so good of a film.  From the 4th or 5th minute in this movie..YOU ARE IN IT..it feels that way..and as they say..’in it to win it’.. And you don’t want to leave it.

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To sum it up as best I can without ruining or revealing to much of the plot of this SUPERBLY acted play within a movie, within a play, yes you read that correctly, starting with a simply superb performance as “Riggin Thomson” is Michael Keaton, playing a washed up actor who in a twist of fate that could possibly be based on a bit of real life (hmmm), once played an iconic superhero character named ‘Birdman’, got pigeon-holed by sequels and has been type-cast ever since.  He is attempting to mount a ‘comeback’ of sorts by doing a Raymond Carver play which he wrote. is directing and starring in and what entails during the 3 preview showings of the play is what this somewhat fantastical, oh so cherry-red, dark comedy takes us through. All the while ‘Birdman’ seems to be a voice in his head telling him things, but is it just a voice and are all the fantastical things he can do all real?  This is all part of the wonderfully different ride you will be on while watching the film feeling you are on the rollercoaster right along with him,  birdman 3

Stealing the show and his play within a movie within a play..ha! I just love saying that..is Riggin’s co-star in both “Mike Shiner” (Edward Norton), who really does a fantastic job here of making us think or believe his character is either completely insane or completely normal. You get to decide while you either shriek with laughter or dis-belief at this guy.  While some of the supporting cast here is so-so for me in this movie. as I’m not fond of either character of “Lesley” (Naomi Watts), who is the rather neurotic lead of the play  or “Sam” (Emma Stone), who plays Riggin’s re-habbed daughter/theatre assistant/stoner/ends up sleeping with Mike role, I did however love Andrea Riseborough as “Laura” who plays quite comically, Riggin’s girlfriend, and “Brandon” (Zach Galifianakis) his agent/lawyer/comic best friend.

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I will sum this up for you very simply, this is probably one of the best films I’ve seen, this year for sure. It’s so original, well thought out and If anything, you must give a huge shout-out to not only the director, Alejandro González Iñárritu for his amazing vision and what he accomplishes in this film with it, but the WHOLE film crew from the producers and most especially the camera crew as noting they did in the Q & A afterwards with producer John Lesher & the film’s star, Michael Keaton, what a great job was done by all in a very short period of time on a very low budget, you will be amazed by what you see and hear as the soundtrack is just as good as the film itself.  This movie has you giving knee-jerk reactions in some scenes that parlay into completely different situations than you thought possible, it will make you think, it will entertain you and end with a scene which is one you will not soon forget, Lastly you will talk about this movie for a long time afterwards. Is this what you might call a “comeback” for Michael Keaton, yeah..it is, and we all know how much not only Hollywood, but we ALL love comebacks, My suggestion to all is run..don’t walk..do not pass go, just get to the theatre and see this very very good movie when it’s released. For me, this would get Oscar nods for film, lead actor Michael Keaton, and supporting actor, Edward Norton.  I’m going to bet on this one that I am right..:)   

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Producer Josh Lesher & Michael Keaton

Producer Josh Lesher & Michael Keaton

Grade:  A (Oscar-worthy)

(see grading scale)

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