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Battle Of The Sexes

Movie:  Battle Of The Sexes

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   In 1973 women’s professional tennis was simply not getting much respect, especially from the tennis professionals on the men’s tour.  If anyone doubted that fact, the ladies on the tour would point out that the prize money for their tournaments were often 1/8 of what the men could earn for winning.  Morale could not be lower among the women on the tour trying to make a living.  To save money they had to drive in their personal cars to the tournaments, and share rooms with other players.  To add insult to injury, 55 year old Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) publicly announced that he could beat any woman in the world, and was eager to prove it.  Of course, prize money had to be involved.

Margaret Court (Jessica McNamee), the Australian woman who was ranked #1 in the world at the time, accepted Riggs’ challenge.  In a much ballyhooed match, Riggs whipped Court 6-2, 6-1, much to the delight of chauvinists such as former professional tennis star Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman).   This loss was a severe blow to the fledgling new women’s Virginia Slims tour, and forced #2 ranked Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) to pick up the gauntlet thrown by Riggs, thus setting up the match forever known as The Battle Of The Sexes.  The match took place on September 20, 1973, and was watched by 50 million Americans, the most ever for a television event in history for many years.  The repercussions as a result of the match were dramatic, and changed sports and culture in this country.

This is an excellent film with a compelling story.  It is always tricky to do a movie about real events and people, and maintain a degree of accuracy and hold the interest of the viewers.  It helped to have great actors like Carell and Stone who actually looked a lot like their real life counterparts, and for the tennis scenes to be believable.  The movie was also rich in background, as we were able to see much of the man behind the Riggs extroverted showman persona as he dealt with his need to compete and be a factor 20 years after his professional tennis career was over.  Billie Jean had her own personal battles to deal with, from her sexuality to her drive to be the champion of equal rights for women.  There’s a lot going on in this movie, and all story lines converge in the Houston Astrodome in 1973.

Mini Trailers:   Jack Kramer – “The men are simply more exciting to watch.  It’s not your fault, it’s biology.”

Riggs – “I’ve got a great idea, Billie Jean.  You and me, 3 sets or 5, your choice.”

Riggs at Gamblers Anonymous – “My name is Bobby and I’m an addict.  You people are not here because you’re gamblers.  You’re here because you’re terrible gamblers!”

Jack Kramer on TV – “The thing about women is they find it hard to consistently handle the pressure.”

BJ King to husband Larry – “Call the bozo.  Tell him it’s on!”

Riggs to bookie – “Jimmy, put fifteen big ones on me to win.”

Girl Friend to BJ King – “Do you really intend to wear blue suede shoes?”  King – “If they are good enough for Elvis they’re good enough for me.”

TV person – “Any last words, Bobby?”  Riggs – “The male is king.  The male supreme.”

Tennis Play – For viewers who know something about tennis, the scenes where Riggs and King are playing look authentic.  Both Carell and Stone were given extensive lessons to become competent in the close-ups, but the clever editing allowed former top professional Vince “I ain’t afraid of ya” Spadea to play Riggs in the distant shots, and current pro Kaitlyn Christian filled in for King’s shots.  And yes, the film got the rackets right.  Bobby Riggs played with a metal Head racket, while Billie Jean had her trusty wooden Wilson racket.



Movie:  Mother

Rating:  1 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   In an old farm house in an isolated location, Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) happily toils away renovating her house.  She obviously adores her husband (Javier Bardem), a writer and poet of distinction who may be going through an extended period of writer’s block.  One day a stranger (Ed Harris) happens by (or has he sought out the poet?) and is taken in for the night.  Mother is a bit put out that her husband has offered the stranger a room for the night, but he is an orthopedic surgeon and appears to offer no threat.  Nevertheless, Mother feels the equilibrium of the home has been put off kilter.  The next day the stranger’s wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) appears at the door, and suddenly the house seems to have residents that may be staying a while, much to Mother’s chagrin.  Something about the guests bothers Mother, something seems wrong, possibly even ominous.  Then more people show up at the house, unexpected things happen, and Mother loses control of her little world….

First off, as a reviewer let me say that Jennifer Lawrence is my favorite movie actress and is a major talent.  Javier Bardem and Ed Harris are top shelf actors as well.  The problem for me is writer/director Darren Aronofsky has attempted to make a film so artsy and riddled with allegories and high brow intellectual “stuff” that most viewers are going to be totally lost by the end of the film.  The first half of the film was actually quite interesting, and could have developed into a compelling suspense story.  But that isn’t what happened.  The plot came to the proverbial fork in the road, and Aronofsky put the pedal to the metal and took the “Schlossen Cutoff” and eventually went over the same cliff as Thelma and Louise.  The box office for the movie tanked, and cast and director felt the need to explain the brilliant allegories they were acting out, but viewers don’t want to sit through a movie with a copy of Cliffs notes to figure out what the hell is going on.  Sorry, this movie is a stinker.

American Assassin

Movie:  American Assassin

Rating:  4 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) had some tough breaks in his young life.  His parents died in a car crash when he was just 14, and his fiancé, the love of his life didn’t fare too well either.  So when life handed Mitch lemons, he decided to make some sour lemonade.  He created a personal training program that included firearms training, martial arts, and a knowledge of Arabic and Islamic theology to make himself a one man bounty hunter of terrorists.  Not surprisingly, this crusade of Mitch’s does not go unnoticed by the counter-intelligence wing of the CIA, and Mitch is recruited by Deputy Director Irene Kennedy to become a legitimate agent for the CIA.

Soon Mitch is whisked off to a top secret training facility in the Roanoke Valley of Virginia, where he and other wannabe agents are to be broken down and molded into killing machines by former navy seal and all around badass Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton).  Many are weeded out in the rough and tumble training site, but Mitch perseveres and is chosen for an overseas assignment.  The mission is a ballbuster, as terrorists are on the loose in the middle east putting together a nuclear device.  Complicating matters is the activity of a former CIA operative gone rogue known as the Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), who has a grudge against his former bosses.  So team leader Stan Hurley leads an operation to stop the latest terrorist threat, assisted by his maverick protégé Mitch and the very fetching Annika (Shiva Negar).

This is a terrific action film with a good plot and fine cast.  Michael Keaton is at his best as a tough guy trying to keep a rein on the impetuous rookie operative.  The action sequences come often enough to hold your interest throughout the film, but thankfully without a lot of special effects.   This film is a good one, and welcome as we await the next batch of blockbusters in November.

Mini Trailers:  Mitch to Terrorist – “I am prepared to die a martyr.”

Dep. Dir. Kennedy – “You wouldn’t have made it there another 20 seconds alive.”  Mitch – “I guess we’ll never know.”

CIA Director – “This kind of psych file scares the hell out of me.”

Stan Hurley – “You go down out there you’re a ghost.  No one is coming back for you.”

Ghost – “Thousands of Americans are going to burn, Stan.  All because of you.  Enjoy the show.”

Mitch – “You shouldn’t have come back for me.”  Stan – “Don’t get used to it, Kid.”

Stan – “What the hell you looking at?”  Dep. Dir. Kennedy – “You look like a mummy.”  Stan – “Yeah, mummies don’t have to write up a report.”

Rough Night

Movie:  Rough Night

Rating:  3 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Way back in 2006, there were four BFFs in college who swore they would always be there for each other.  Ten years have gone by, and while they have kept in touch, they really haven’t seen much of each other.  But when Tess (Scarlett Johansson), in the midst of running for public office, announces she is getting married, her gal pals decide to reunite for a badass bachelorette party.   Uninhibited Alice (Jillian Bell) flies into Miami along with professional political activist Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and soon to be divorced Blair (Zoe Kravitz), and the ladies waste no time getting down to party.  One more bachelorette appears, a friend of Tess, in the person of Aussie girlfriend Pippa (Kate McKinnon).

The night is young, and the five women engage in the usual bachelorette activities of consuming alcohol, snorting cocaine, wanton dancing with secret code words (tampon!), and eventually make their way to a gorgeous house by the ocean to continue their non-stop party ways.  But something happens to change the festive mood in an instant, and their lives change dramatically.  While they scheme to stay out of jail, the ladies find that being under emotional duress brings out feelings that have been pent up too long, most of them quite unflattering about each other.  Meanwhile, the fiancé is wondering what in the world has happened to Tess as she is incommunicado, sending Peter (Paul Downs) on a bizarre search and rescue mission to Miami.

What to say about this film?  To say it is an uneven story is to damn with faint praise.  After the first half of the movie, I was about to write it off as one of those heavy-handed rude and unduly crude comedies (yes, Seth Rogen, I am talking about Neighbors and Neighbors 2), but then there was that event in the movie that caused the plot to shift gears into a totally different film.  Let’s just say it started out as a wacky comedy, and turned into a new genre,  a comedic film noir, where things turn very dark indeed!  So while this is not a great film, I must admit it kept my attention riveted to the very end.  So I would give this movie one thumb up….(nod to Siskel & Ebert)

Mini Trailers:  Frat Party Dude in 2006 – “Stop making me horny and shoot!”

Bachelorette Girls (BGs) – “What is that?”  “It’s my vibrator.  It randomly turns on and off.”

Tess to a Campaign Staffer – “My opponent tweeted out a dick pic!”  Staffer – “He apologized for it.”  Tess – “Yeah, he said it was the wrong dick pic and then he tweeted out another!”

Alice – “I don’t want to do anything illegal tonight.”  “Frankie – “You just snorted a mound of cocaine!”

Pippa – “This is a poltergeist situation.  I’m not doing anything!”

Peter’s Buddies to Peter – “You want to get Tess back, right?  Then you’ve got to go astronaut, Bro.”  “Let’s get some adult diapers!”

Tess – “We promise to spend the rest of our lives being better people.”  Other BG – “We suck.”

BG to Pippa – “How are you alive?”  Pippa – “I don’t know but I’ll take it.”  Other BG – “She should get a CAT scan.”

BG – “How many strippers did you order?”

“Now by the power invested in me by, I now pronounce you….”

Cameo:  Quickie appearance by Demi Moore.  Where have you been, girl?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:    Hard to believe 5 people fit in a Smart car.

Harder to believe Weenie Linguine is a real thing you can buy.    Another sign of the apocalypse….

Astronaut Diapers:   For those of you who may think the reference in the movie is phony, it is not.  There actually was a female NASA astronaut who allegedly wore the space diaper (known officially as the Disposable Absorption Containment Trunks) so she could drive many miles to kidnap the love interest of her one-time boyfriend.  Ick!

Post Credits:  This is one movie that is really worth it to stay until all the credits have run.  There are two extra scenes, and the last one explains a key mystery from the movie.

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