Film Review: Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes is an entertaining and competently made film. Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have leaned upon the modern resonance of the film to engage with audiences.

Based on the well-known tennis match, Battle of the Sexes has a wider remit beyond this. Principally the film focuses upon Billie Jean King and her championing of equality, as well as her personal life. The secondary strand is that of her opponent Bobby Riggs. The film spends some time exploring his family life, and his personality. The emphasis is clearly on King however.

The story is told in an engaging manner, with momentum building to the famous match. The film functions as a partial biopic of the two main characters, focusing on their lives at the time of the event. The overriding theme is the struggle for equality. The arguments over women’s pay in tennis is something that continues to this day.

King is a fairly well-drawn protagonist. Although there is activity in her relationships, the film’s focus, like King herself, is on the sport. Battle of the Sexes emphasises the player’s determination, and the reason behind her motivation. This is made clear through a few brief conversations; Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are economical here with backstory, but this works overall.

A distinction is understandably drawn between the two players. King’s earnestness and hard work is set in contrast to Riggs’ braggadocio and relentless hustle. In some ways, King provides the heart and drama in the story, whilst Riggs provides the laughs. It is not quite as clear cut as this, however, as Riggs’ sensitive side gets a hearing.

Emma Stone delivers a strong performance as Billie Jean King. Steve Carell is larger than life as Riggs, and injects much needed energy into the film. Andrea Riseborough is a great chameleon, and is convincing as ever here. Sarah Silverman also stands out in a supporting role.

Battle of the Sexes highlights the achievements of Billie Jean King and others in the 1970s, but also how much further there is to go with regards to equality. The film is well made, but does not elevate beyond this.

Battle of the Sexes is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

Previews: Pitch Perfect 3 Poster, Detroit, More!

This week’s preview of coming attractions includes the latest Pitch Perfect 3 poster, Battle of the Sexes, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Detroit, and more…

Pitch Perfect 3 Poster

 

The Bellas are back in this latest Pitch Perfect 3 poster. The film sees the return of Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and the rest of the gang for one last hurrah. Expect more a cappella tunes as made popular by the first film. The trailer for Pitch Perfect 3 will launch on 25th June, and the film is due for release at Christmas this year.

Battle of the Sexes Trailer

Here is the new Battle of the Sexes trailer. The film is based on the real-life match between women’s number one Billie Jean King (played by Emma Stone) and former men’s champion Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) in 1973. The film also stars Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, and Bill Pullman. Battle of the Sexes is set for release in UK cinemas on 20th October 2017.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Poster

Here is the first poster for sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Not much is know about the film yet, but the film sees the return of Jeff Goldblum as Dr Ian Malcolm from the first series (hence his famous quote being appropriated for the tagline). This sequel to Jurassic World also sees Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard reprising their roles. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is scheduled for release in June 2018.

Annabelle: Creation Trailer

One of cinema’s creepiest dolls is back for another instalment. Annabelle: Creation is a prequel to 2014’s Annabelle, and tells the origins story of the doll. The film is produced by James Wan and directed by David F. Sandberg, who helmed last year’s Lights Out. Annabelle: Creation hits UK screens on 11th August 2017.

Daddy’s Home 2 Trailer

The sequel to 2015’s Daddy’s Home features even more dads. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg reunite for Daddy’s Home 2, and are joined by John Lithgow and Mel Gibson playing their respective dads. This film is set at Christmas, when the two families decide to spend the holidays together. Daddy’s Home 2 is set for release later this year.

Home Again Trailer

Home Again is a new romantic comedy from producer Nancy Meyers. The film stars Reese Witherspoon as a separated mother of two, who decides to take in three young filmmakers. The film also stars Nat Wolff, Michael Sheen, and Candice Bergen. Home Again will be released in UK cinemas on 29th September 2017.

Detroit Trailer

Detroit is about the civil unrest that rocked the city in the summer of 1967. Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, the film stars John Boyega, Will Poulter, Anthony Mackie, and Jack Reynor. Detroit will hit UK screens on 25th August 2017.

Film Review: Dying Laughing

Dying Laughing is a fascinating documentary from directors Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogood. Through their own words, comedians tell the story of making people laugh.

A series of US and UK comedians are interviewed about their stand-up career. The topics that come up in these conversations include the start of their career, being on tour, formulating jokes, and dealing with hecklers…

With Dying Laughing, filmmakers Lloyd Stanton and Paul Toogood paint a portrait of the life of a stand-up comedian. To do this, they speak to a variety of well-known comics; sourcing experience, anecdotes and wisdom from them. These voices have varied experience, but come together to tell a convincing tale.

Dying Laughing is not a laugh riot. This is clear from early on in proceedings. Instead of a collection of witty anecdotes, the film offers a spectrum of stories and emotions as it details the life of a stand-up comedian. It is a richer and more memorable film for this, as it explores both the highs and lows of the vocation.

The filmmakers interview a range of well-known comedians, speaking to some of the most successful faces in the game. These include Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman, and Billy Connolly. The comics featured give a frank portrayal of the world of stand-up comedians, and do not shy away from the less than flattering aspects of the comedy world. There are times when the film goes to dark places, as the interviewees discuss the loneliness of the being on the road, as well as mental health and dealing with the stress of the stage. Yet the film also focuses on the positives, as comedians extrapolate on the joys of a successful gig, how comedy has helped them, and meeting their idols.

Dying Laughing is succinctly edited to create a flowing conversation that lands on different topics in a seamless manner. The passion from the subjects is abundantly clear; Stanton and Toogood give them the space and the structure to tell their own tale.

Dying Laughing is in UK cinemas and On Demand on 16th June 2017 www.dyinglaughingfilm.com and will premiere at the Prince Charles Cinema on the 15th June 2017.

Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph

WRECK-IT RALPHAppearing like the video game version of Toy Story, Wreck-It Ralph is an entertaining Disney animation that should satisfy viewers of all ages.

Ralph is the bad guy in the video game Fix-It Felix. He longs to be a hero, however, and decides to try to achieve this aim by trying out other games in the arcade. Jumping from game to game, Ralph unwittingly unleashes havoc in the form of a deadly enemy…

The premise of Wreck-It Ralph is a great idea for a film. It is not unlike Toy Story in its focusing on a world should not exist. It is the premise of what goes on with the characters after a game has been shut down which is a fantastic hook, much like Toy Story‘s characters coming to life when they are not being played with.

The narrative offers more depth than just this initial good idea. Wreck-It Ralph features characters that viewers can warm to. The film does not go down the well-trodden Disney lane of eliciting strong emotions. Nevertheless, the plot is still engaging and the main characters have enough depth for viewers to care about their outcome.

There are several references to video games, as would be expected given the premise. Some of these will require knowledge of actual games, but most are more general than this. It is a shame that characters from real games do not have bigger roles in Wreck-It Ralph, but this is a minor gripe.

The animation is bright, and the various worlds in Wreck-It Ralph are distinctive. The use of 3D also works well in the film. John C. Reilly is an excellent choice for the voice of Ralph, whilst Sarah Silverman is does a decent job voicing Vanellope.

Despite not quite being classic Disney, Wreck-It Ralph is still a lot of fun.

Film Review: Take This Waltz

Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz is a well-crafted drama. The film offers great performances, writing and direction.

When Margot meets Daniel whilst working away from home, there is an instant buzz between them. The pair get along well except for one hitch; Margot is married. Margot has feelings for Daniel, whilst not wanting to hurt her husband Lou. Margot struggles to know what to do…

Take This Waltz is a character driven film that offers a meaty protagonist. Despite Margot being at the centre of the action, it is the men in the film that elicit emotions however. Lou and Daniel are likely to be the ones that draw a reaction from the audience; Margot is simply the conductor of this.

The pacing in Take This Waltz is good. Writer and director Sarah Polley allows enough time for characters and their relationships to develop. The mood is sombre and reflective for the most part. There are a few cute or amusing moments, but overall the film stays true to its dramatic roots.

The film is reminiscent of Blue Valentine. Rather than for the casting of Michelle Williams as the female lead, the parallels lie in the authenticity of both films. There is something completely believable about Take This Waltz. It is this aspect of the film that is likely to stay with viewers. The scene featuring Seth Rogen’s Lou at the kitchen table in particular is stand out. So much is conveyed from this one-sided conversation. The level of authenticity here makes the sequence a bit difficult to watch.

Performances throughout the film are excellent. Michelle Williams is great as Margot, while Luke Kirby is believable as Daniel. Seth Rogen shines in a more dramatic role than most would associate with the actor, and Sarah Silverman provides good support as Geraldine.

As it deals with emotions that can be difficult to face, Take This Waltz is decidedly sombre. Certainly not a date movie, nevertheless Take This Waltz is a superb watch.