Battle of the Sexes, review

After becoming the most successful female player of all time, Billie Jean King is challenged to a match from retired male player, Bobby Riggs.

Tennis movies are a difficult one to crack. It’s not the most cinematic event to watch and it’s only occasionally exciting. How do you create an exciting film in which one ball gets hit around a court by two people? Well, you cut it out of most of the movie. This is what Battle of the Sexes has done, which focuses more on the of politics of man vs. woman than the sport itself. A smart move from directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

Based on true events from 1973, it begins with Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) winning a pivotal match which makes her the most succesful female tennis player of all time. Shortly after, she’s told by her sassy friend Gladys Heldman (Sarah Silverman, clearly enjoying herself a lot) that the women’s prize money will be considerably less than that of the men’s. This news triggers a surprise meeting with Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman), the man who has made this decision based on his own sexist views which essentially boils down to men are better than women. It’s this encounter which spurs Billie to start a rival tournament.

It’s impossible to keep count of the amount of sexist and patronising comments said by men which, whilst frustrating, serve a narrative purpose to the feminist story being told. Billie takes on the establishment for not helping her and other female tennis players despite selling just as many tickets as their male counterparts. The discourse in female rights, social politics and male dominance is rife throughout the movie’s central plot. Steve Carell’s Bobby Riggs is one one of these men. Frustrated by his post tennis career and working at his father in-laws business, he gets the idea to play against Billie during a late night tennis match which is funding his gambling habbit.

The pacing of the film is perfectly executed, going from the rise of Billie’s defying tournament, and moving on to her personal life whilst weaving it into her career. There’s a real sense of creating a narrative which links together very nearly, and with it’s smart writing from Simon Beaufoy, it achieves this with ease. The tension between King and Riggs builds before the climax towards the end.

Carell and Stone both give perfect performances. The former as the flamboyant, over the top, annoyingly charming (despite his sexist remarks) Riggs. He has channelled what it’s like to go from world phenomenon to working in an office, becoming increasingly irritated by his own mundane existence. The latter convincingly battles with countless men regarding their views on what women can and can’t do as well as concealing her sexuality during a time when it was not considered wholesome to be anything but straight and married with children. At one point she meets the open minded and going with the flow Marilyn Barnett played by Andrea Riseborough. The pair have an immediate spark which is difficult to fake. Stone embodies the most perfect version of Billie Jean King; an activist in a repressive time. 

It’s an impressive sports film without much sport, it deals with the gender politics perfectly and accurately looks at how tough women had it (and still have it). It’s final match fails to get to the lofty heights of excitement you usually witness in a boxing movie however it’s more than that. It shows how far we’ve come and how far we’re yet to go.

4 out of 5. 

Keep. It. Reel.

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BAFTA 2017: Full List of Winners

The 70th BAFTA Awards took place last night and amongst all of the red carpet action, trophies and glamour, there was an underlying political and social theme. Stephen Fry’s shots at the Trump administration, Southern Rail and Danny Dyer were all accurate and entertaining. Starting off with his grandmother’s saying “cop a load of this, bitches” and continued by referring to a recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are, and claimed that Prince William will be “devastated after finding out he’s related to Danny Dyer”. But I think that my favourite was during one of his take downs of Trumps, as his quipped “One of the greatest actresses of all time, only a blithering idiot would think otherwise, Meryl Streep.” Brilliant. You can see more of Stephen Fry’s jokes here.

During the ceremony, La La Land was the most successful, winning five awards, including Best Director, Best Film and Best Actress, making it even more of a front runner than before to sweep up at the Oscars. Other winners include Dev Patel for Best Supporting Actor, Viola Davis for Best Supporting Actress and Kubo and the Two Strings for Best Animated Feature, beating two Disney films.

Not too many surprises altogether this year however I didn’t quite get all of my predictions correct unfortunately. Here were mine for last night, getting four out of six, which isn’t that bad! Anyway, we’ll see if I can improve upon my guesses for the Oscars. Here’s the list of winners in full.

awards

Outstanding British film

American Honey

Denial

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

WINNER: I, Daniel Blake

Notes on Blindness

Under the Shadow

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Rising Star award

Anya Taylor-Joy

Laia Costa

Lucas Hedges

Ruth Negga

WINNER: Tom Holland

Best Make Up & Hair

Doctor Strange

WINNER: Florence Foster Jenkins

Hacksaw Ridge

Nocturnal Animals

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

Best Original Music

Arrival

Jackie

WINNER: La La Land

Lion

Nocturnal Animals

Best Costume Design

Allied

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Florence Foster Jenkins

WINNER: Jackie

La La Land

jackie

Best Sound

WINNER: Arrival

Deepwater Horizon

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

1-arrival

Best British Short Animation

The Alan Dimension

WINNER: A Love Story

Tough

 

Best British Short Film

Consumed

WINNER: Home

Mouth of Hell

The Party

Standby

 

Best Editing

Arrival

WINNER: Hacksaw Ridge

La La Land

Manchester by the Sea

Nocturnal Animals

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Best Production Design

Doctor Strange

WINNER: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Hail, Caesar!

La La Land

Nocturnal Animals

 

Best Documentary

WINNER: 13th

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years

The Eagle Huntress

Notes on Blindness

Weiner

13th-netflix-documentary-trailer3

Best Film Not in the English Language

Dheepan

Julieta

Mustang

WINNER: Son of Saul

Toni Erdmann

son-of-saul

Best Adapted Screenplay

Arrival

Hacksaw Ridge

Hidden Figures

WINNER: Lion

Nocturnal Animals

 

Best Supporting Actress

Hayley Squires (I, Daniel Blake)

Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

Nicole Kidman (Lion)

WINNER: Viola Davis (Fences)

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Best Animated Film

Finding Dory

WINNER: Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

Zootropolis

2-kubo

Best Special Visual Effects

Arrival

Doctor Strange

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

WINNER: The Jungle Book

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

Best Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

The Girl With All the Gifts – Mike Carey (writer), Camille Gatin (producer)

The Hard Stop – George Amponsah (writer/director/producer), Dionne Walker (writer/producer)

Notes on Blindness – Peter Middleton (writer/director/producer), James Spinney (writer/director), Jo-Jo Ellison (producer)

The Pass – John Donnelly (writer), Ben A Williams (director)

WINNER: Under the Shadow – Babak Anvari (writer/director), Emily Leo, Oliver Roskill, Lucan Toh (producers)

 

Best Supporting Actor

Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals)

WINNER: Dev Patel (Lion)

Hugh Grant (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Outstanding British contribution to cinema

Curzon Cinemas

curzon

Best Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water

I, Daniel Blake

La La Land

WINNER: Manchester By the Sea

Moonlight

MBTS_3869.CR2

MBTS_3869.CR2

Best Cinematography

Arrival

Hell or High Water

WINNER: La La Land

Lion

Nocturnal Animals

 

Best Actor

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)

WINNER: Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals)

Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

 

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake)

WINNER: Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By the Sea)

Tom Ford (Nocturnal Animals)

damien-chazelle

Best Actress

Amy Adams (Arrival)

Emily Blunt (The Girl on the Train)

WINNER: Emma Stone (La La Land)

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Natalie Portman (Jackie)

emma-stone

Best Film

Arrival

I, Daniel Blake

WINNER: La La Land

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

la-la-land

Bafta fellowship

Mel Brooks

5235

Keep. It. Reel.

 

Birdman, review

When you type in Michael Keaton’s name into IMDB, the film he’s credited for first, amongst all of the fortunate souls who have similar names, is Batman from 1989. It’s apparently the best film people know him for and it’s been difficult for him to come out of the Bruce Wayne shadow. That’s more than 25 years, being known for one role in two movies and not too much ever since then. He’s had small roles and big ones including Beetlejuice, his part in the not-that-bad reboot of Robocop as well as voicing a couple of Pixar characters however his role as Batman is the one he’s always known for. Perhaps this film will change that.

In Birdman, Keaton plays Riggan, an actor whose most famous and revered role is a fictional superhero known as Birdman, a character who is also Riggan’s alter ego throughout the film, speaking in a very Christian Bale-esque Batman voice. He is trying to recapture the fame he once had by directing and starring in a Broadway play where he has to battle with his ego as well as those of his co-stars and his recovering drug addict daughter who also happens to be his assistant. Keaton’s character is suffering from a loss of identity, not knowing where his place is in the world and everyone has moved onto digital media with a particular reference to Twitter. It’s something that he refuses to accept and it is within his stubborn ways that he has created a very old fashioned bubble in which he likes to live in. He clings onto his Birdman character as if this is the only thing that’s ever mattered to him. But who can blame him? During a couple of scenes, the residents of New York city become very excited when they see him, yelling out references of this old character to him in the street. He also has problems with alcohol, a chaotic relationship with his daughter, he’s not respected by other actors and with all of this going on he has a show to put on.

 

The film is also styled in an interesting way, there is a constant drumming soundtrack throughout the movie which gives the feeling that we are being lead up to something momentous. It’s shot as if it is in one long take which is an ambitious filming technique for the director and it is something that works well with this kind of storytelling. The director, Alejandro Gonzalz Inarritu, has plenty of experience dealing with well-rounded characters and complex story lines, looking at his work with 21 Grams and Babel, both of which deal with the complex human condition in several actors at any one time.

 

There are times when you wonder if Keaton has gone through these problems within his real life and battled with fellow actors for popularity during his career. The similarity between Batman and Birdman is undeniable, both superheroes, both admired. It’s within this that you realise that no other actor could play this role as well as Keaton, he is able to bring the personal experience of his own resume and of his own life. There are scenes in which he is screaming or being screamed at, scenes which make you wonder if art is imitating Keaton’s life. Along with his supporting cast especially Emma Stone and Ed Norton plus a director who is perfect for the job, this makes Birdman a real hero.

Zombie lovin’

Vampires are cool. Vampires are popular. Vampires are hip. Vampires are sexy. I do think we have had enough of these neck-loving fiends. From recent shows such as Vampire Diaries and True Blood to the relatively current Twilight series, there’s a lot of vamps and blood to go around. When it comes to the Twilight films, despite having a supposedly sexy cast, these were a critical flop but a box office smash due to teen girls (and boys) going to watch the pale and pasty Robert Pattinson. It goes to show no matter how attractive or popular your cast and books may be, this can’t guarantee a film or TV show will be remembered for the right reasons. There is something about the slick, smooth and sexy ways to the vampire genre (can you call it a genre??) that feels forced and lazy. No real effort into the “what if this really happened”.

Scariest Monster Zombie

This is not the case when it comes to zombies. I must admit that they do all have the post-apocalyptic feel to them but so they should. The world is no longer what we once knew it was, people have changed, places are abandoned and flesh is being eaten. However, they do deal with problems that come with being on the road with people you don’t know, sticking by your family ring in the gritty, dirty undead of zombies. Zombies are, in their own way, more relatable than vampires. These are essentially former humans who like almost as they used to but everything else that made them who they were has gone. They all have a story that they can no longer tell.

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World-War-Z-2013-Movie-Poster-600x938

Despite the fact that one of the most popular zombie movies came out in 2002 (28 Days Later) it’s taken until now for a big budget movie to be released. World War Z is the first of what I assume will be many made about the undead, it takes the post-apocalyptic world and uses a family man (Brad Pitt) to tell it’s story. It’s great to see a big star on a big set for what hasn’t been the most popular of genres. It comes as the Walking Dead is entering it’s fourth season this year, a show that has been a proven success with both fans and critics alike. And which will likely continue it’s streak of superb episodes that involve not only conflicts with zombies but also other survivors.

zombieland rules

Those sorts of mediums have taken the serious storyline route whereas that’s not all we have in this increasingly popular franchise. What I must say is one of my favourite films has done is combine violence and humour so perfectly, you’ll find yourself howling to a piano falling on and squashing one of these so-called death knights. Zombieland came out at a time when there really wasn’t very much about them and it was just fantastic to watch. Columbus’ (Jesse Eisenberg) friendship with Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) has the makings of a great buddy comedy but with zombies, Bill Murray and two double crossing girls. The rules for survival, Tallahassee being an unadjusted nut case (something tells me he’s always been like this, even before the apocalypse), the never-ending search for elusive and potentially non-existent Twinkies and (sort of) snappy one liners (Tallahassee: “Here’s the deal: I’m not easy to get along with, and I’m sensing you’re a bit of a bitch.”), it brings the zombie genre out of it’s typical serious shell.

warm-bodies-exclusive-stills

As does Warm Bodies starring Nicholas Hoult. I always find it hard to believe that he was ever the little kid from About A Boy, let that sink in… Anyway! This is another ZomCom (I probably heard that elsewhere but I’m going to claim that as my own little phrase. Zombie Comedy, yeah) in which “R” played by Hoult is part of the undead population, but saves a girl who is live from being eaten. It’s in fact a ZomRomCom. OK I think THAT one is Simon Pegg’s for Shaun of the Dead, another example of a Zombie Comedy, but with a British twist. Warm Bodies is yet another clever genre twist in that the undead start to heal themselves but are still hunted down by the ever-brilliant John Makovich.

shaun-of-the-dead1_1

With Shaun of the Dead bringing in some home grown talent and British humour into the zombie wasteland, I would say that this is one hell of a genre! It does baffle me that the vampires get all of the attention, perhaps it’s appealing to the young  masses by having primarily very attractive people in them because let’s be honest, zombies aren’t the most attractive of people. They do look like they have been physically dug up at some point and set to roam around free. Whatever the reason, it looks like zombies are finally getting the attention they deserve and the genre doesn’t look like it’s about to die at any moment soon.

 

A super year for super heroes!

We will never forget the unfortunate and lacklustre comic book films that have come out in recent years including Green Hornet (2011), Green Lantern (2011) and the terrible Superman Returns (2006) but what some may forget is that the studios would never have made these without the aide of Spiderman and X-Men who released their first films 2000 and 2002. They were both huge hits at the box office and comic book fan united and wanted more. Who knew what they’d get some years later is the studios scraping the barrel for film. Even the reboot of Superman films was badly executed. It did to the Superman series what Batman & Robin did to the Batman collective.

But now we find ourselves in 2012, the year of three huge superhero movies, one of which is the concluding chapter in what has already been a brilliant trilogy. Another is a reboot which the fans are more excited about than the original. The final film has already become one of the greatest successes at the box office and This year sees three highly anticipated films released including The Avengers, The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight Rises, with the latter arguably being the most popular release this year.

The Avengers

The Avengers has been in the making since Ironman of 2008, where Nick Fury makes an appearance after the credits and visits Tony Stark to tell him about the Avengers initiative. Since then, in The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America, small hints and clues have been dropped using Nick Fury and the ever brilliant Agent Coulson to start the rumours of The Avengers. A film with more superheroes than you will ever see in one film, unless DC get their finger out and make The Justice League. It’s clear to see why this is a huge release for 2012.

Whilst enjoying The Avengers, please take a minute for poor Spidey  who is not one of The Avengers, despite the fact that they all come from comic super power Marvel. However don’t feel THAT bad for him, after just 5 years since Spiderman 3, he’s been given a reboot. This is no ordinary reboot however, this is one that the fans wanted, the one that gets more to the root of who Peter Parker really is and what happened to his parents. We will also see the character Gwen Stacey introduced, who is a refreshing change from Mary Jane. Andrew Garfield takes up the role of Peter Parker / Spiderman and looks as if he is more suited to this than Tobey Maguire, who I never felt fit the part in the way that he should have! I’m sure I can expect some backlash from that comment!

Now we come the The Dark Knight Rises. The legend that will end this year is the legend we’ve been waiting for 4 years to return. Four years after we saw Batman take the fall from Harvey Dents crimes, he returns. But what he returns to we will have to wait and see. From the three trailers, what we do know is that Bane is his new enemy and he’s causing havoc and devastation in Gotham. What has happened to Batman, we don’t know but chances are when it comes to both brains and brawn, The Dark Knight has finally met his match. This is the third and final Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale Batman flick that we will see. After breaking the the billion dollar barrier at the box office, The Dark Knight has set the bar incredibly high, but knowing what Nolan can do, chances are he’ll Rise above it!

Man of Steel

So a great year for some great some films, and there will be more to come. The Amazing Spiderman 2 has already been announced as as The Avengers 2 and 3. Without a doubt, this will be a super year. And for those of you worried about Superman, fret not dear friend! Take a look above, this is the first images from The Man of Steel, pencilled in for a release in 2013, with Christopher Nolan’s creative input as Executive Producer, working with Zack Snyder as Director, this should have you looking forward to another super year for superheroes.