Tag Archives: Emma Stone

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.

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La La Land

Movie:  La La Land

Rating:  4 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:    Remember all those great musicals from the 1950s when Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds danced in the rain, and Fred Astaire danced on ceilings?  Those movies are gone forever.  Or are they?

Cut to modern day Los Angeles, where hundreds of automobiles have ground to a halt on the expressway.  People are scrunched up in their vehicles, frustrated and hot under the collar.  Then shazam!  One young woman gets out of her car and begins to sing and dance, and soon everyone has exited their vehicles to join in a spontaneous celebration of a joyful day, just like they were in a big Broadway musical.  It’s wonderful, it’s marvelous!

Then we meet Mia (Emma Stone), an actress wanna-be (like half of LA).  She is marking time in a pastry shop to earn a few bucks, then frantically scurries off to cattle call auditions, waiting for her big shot at stardom.  Walking the same streets is Sebastian (Ryan Gosling).  He’s not an actor, he’s a musician.  A jazz man to be exact.  He’s paying his dues as well, playing for peanuts in a piano bar, and dreaming of saving enough money to open his own jazz club.

Naturally when the planets align, Mia and Sebastian are bound to meet, and when they do sparks erupt.  But will they live happily ever after with a big Hollywood ending?

Movie fans want to know – is this retro type musical worth their time to go to the movie theater?  The answer is a resounding yes!  The story is good, the acting better, but the major enticement has to be the musical numbers.  To be brutally honest, Stone and Gosling are pretty average vocalists, and neither have the athletic dancing ability of a Gene Kelly, or the elegant grace of Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron.  Having said that, the musical dance numbers have some magic in them that will make you glad you came to the movie, especially the number at the Griffith Observatory.  Trust me, Oscar nominations will be all over this film.

Mini Trailers: 

Sebastian – “I had a very serious plan for my future.  I got shanghaied.”

Sebastian to Mia – “I remember you.  I was a little curt the other night.  All right, I was an asshole!  I can admit that.”

Mia to Sebastian – “I should probably tell you something right now.  I hate jazz.” 

Sebastian – “Jazz was born in a flophouse in new Orleans.  It’s conflict, it’s enterprise, it’s new every night.  It’s exciting!”

Mia reading in an audition – “We can do it two ways.  Either follow my rules…” “THANK YOU!” (Director)

Mia – “It matters that if you give up your dream, the music you like playing.”  Sebastian – “Maybe I’m not good enough.  Maybe I’m one of the sad people that always wanted to do it, but it’s a pipe dream.”

Mia’s Apartment – Love those old movie posters on the wall:  The Killers (with Burt Lancaster), The Black Cat, and The Dove.  Best of all is the wall size photo of legendary beauty Ingrid Bergman.

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Aloha

Movie:  Aloha

Rating:  3 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:    Come to beautiful Hawaii, the tropical paradise of the Pacific.  Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) has returned to Hawaii and Hickam AFB, although he is no longer an air force officer.  And his former girlfriend Tracy (Rachel McAdams) is now married to Major John Woodside (John Krasinski) and has two children.  So as Sam the piano player once famously said to Ilsa, a lot of water has gone under the bridge.

These days Brian Gilcrest is a contractor, working for billionaire Carson Welch (Bill Murray) on a hush-hush space satellite program.  As a VIP of sorts, Brian has Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone), F-22 fighter pilot, assigned as his escort officer to assist him in his duties.  Captain Ng is a native of the state, 1/4 Hawaiian, 1/4 Chinese and 1/2 Swedish, and insists on giving Brian a running commentary on the island’s history and customs.  Gilcrest, having been stationed there as an air force officer, believes he knows enough about Hawaii without her help.  As if the satellite program wasn’t enough to worry about, Gilcrest is tasked to negotiate with the native Hawaiian tribal government on rights to a new gate for the air force base.

If there wasn’t enough on Brian Gilcrest’s plate, he has four star General Dixon (Alec Baldwin) on his back to not screw up the high visibility satellite program, code named Brave Angel.  While we don’t get a lot of background, there is obviously some history between the two men from the time when Gilcrest was on active duty.

This is a very good movie, character driven with darn good acting.  The only problem is there are too many major plot lines struggling to be resolved in just two hours.  There is the troubled Brian Gilcrest coming back to Hawaii with all sorts of unresolved feelings for former flame Tracy, and her issues for Brian and the husband as well.  The attractive and ebullient Captain Ng has inserted herself into Brian’s life and mission.  There is a brief treatment of the native Hawaiians and their attempts to maintain relevance in their own land.  Oh yeah, and then there is the enigmatic and charming Carson Welch and the all important satellite project.  It just feels like none of the story lines had enough chance to breathe on their own, but it was a brave effort anyway.  Worth seeing, especially in the summer season of movies that mostly blow stuff up.

Huh?  What the….:  Emma Stone as half Hawaiian and Chinese?  Those other Swedish genes really kicked butt!

Actor To Watch:  This movie would have benefitted with more of Alec Baldwin in it.  He has become one of the best character actors in the business, with a real flair for comedy.  If he ever gets the right vehicle he should win an Oscar.  Just saying.

Dialogue Nuggets:   Gilcrest – “Colonel, I am here to save you and your big, white obsolete whale.”

Gilcrest – “I don’t even remember why we broke up.”   Tracy – “We broke up because you didn’t show up for a vacation!”

Gilcrest – “I saw that missile coming and I didn’t get out of the way.  I didn’t care.”

“We have stuff to deal with before the famous Gilcrest exodus.”

Tracy – “Was he angry?”   Daughter – “He decapitated Santa Claus!”

Carson – “You can’t stop the future with one silly desperate act.”

Gen Dixon – “One more thing, Mister Three Day Beard Guy.  Stay away from Allison Ng!”

Gilcrest – “Well, I remember the good times.”   Gen Dixon – “THERE WERE NO GOOD TIMES!”

 

Birdman

 

Movie:  Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)

Rating:  4 1/2 Stars (Out of 5)

Review:   Riggan Thomson’s (Michael Keaton) life is in crisis mode.  Once on the top of the Hollywood Heap due to his starring role in the Birdman franchise, in recent years his star has fallen.  Thomson spurned the opportunity to do Birdman 4, and ever since then he has struggled to be relevant as an actor.  His marriage to Sylvia (Amy Ryan) fell apart, and his daughter Sam (Emma Stone) is recently out of rehab for drug addiction.  His fortune is gone, but with the help of his attorney and close friend Jake (Zach Galifianakis), he has cobbled together the resources to stage a new play on Broadway at the venerable St. James Theater.  Riggan intends to show the world he has serious acting chops, and is staging What People Talk About When They Talk About Love, an adaptation from a book of short stories by Raymond Carver.   It is a serious dramatic play with a minimal cast, including Lesley (Naomi Watts), Laura (Andrea Riseborough), and Broadway heavyweight actor Mike Shiner (Edward Norton).

The movie focuses on the last few days of rehearsals and preview performances leading up to opening night on Broadway.  All of the actors are feeling the crushing pressure of preparing for the play’s opening, as well as dealing with multiple personal issues and personality conflicts with the other actors.  Riggan Thomson feels pure angst at all times, tortured by the idea that he was never a good actor, just a movie star who needed a bird suit to be rich and famous.  He is constantly reminded of his former glory by Birdman himself, an inner voice that follows Thomson around scolding and cajoling him about every decision.  The pressure is steadily ratcheting up on the middle-aged former star, and Thomson is like an untested performer going out on a high wire without a balancing pole or safety net.

This is a fascinating movie on several levels; it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before which alone makes it worth seeing at the theater.  Much of the movie consists of tracking shots of the actors as they move about in close quarters in back of the stage and dressing rooms.  Many of the takes are 8 to 10 minutes of unedited action which is rarely done in movies, but it gives the movie an extremely realistic vibe.  The camera work is sensational, and the movie is driven along like a heartbeat by the urgent improvised drum score of Antonio Sanchez.   This is Oscar material all around; a sure bet for a Best Actor nomination for Michael Keaton.  This was the role he was born to play.

Actor To Watch:  You may not even recognize Zach Galifianakis.   Great job in a really straight up dramatic role.  He will surprise (and impress) a lot of people in this film.

Dialogue Nuggets:  “Get that smile off your face.  You’re freaking me out!”

“What can I say?  My life lasted longer than the money.”

Riggan:  “Why did we break up?”  Sylvia:  “Because you threw a kitchen knife at me, and an hour later you said you loved me.”

“You couldn’t get it up for six months, and then you want to f*ck me in front of 800 strangers?”

“You went to rehab?  Cool!”

“Blood coming out of his ears is the most honest thing he’s ever done.”

Huh?  What the ….:  Right around the end of the movie you’re going to think, “What the hell just happened?”

Weird Credit:  If you follow the post movie credits, you will see a very minor actor by the name of Bomber Hurley-Smith.  Who names their kid “Bomber”?