MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE quick review

You’d have to pay me a significant amount of money for me to not be interested in anything that Liam Neeson does, and I don’t care what kind of negative reviews are out there.

The story is based on true events. I can’t claim to have paid attention in history class, so all I can recall about the Watergate Scandal is that… well, it was bad. Yeah, I paid that little attention in school. Politics and history and I never got along. Well, let’s hope this movie provides a level of education for me, or enough to pique my interest in learning the facts that this movie fudged or overlooked.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Liam Neeson (A MONSTER CALLS [2016], TAKEN [2008], LES MISÉRABLES [1998], and the upcoming THE COMMUTER [2018]) and Diane Lane (PARIS CAN WAIT [2017], JUMPER [2008], JACK [1996], and the upcoming JUSTICE LEAGUE [2017]). In support, we have Marton Csokas (LOVING [2016], THE DEBT [2010], and THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING [2001]), Maika Monroe (INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE [2016], IT FOLLOWS [2014], and LABOR DAY [2014]), Michael C. Hall (GAMER [2009], PAYCHECK [2003], and TV show DEXTER [2006 – 2013]), Tom Sizemore (BLACK HAWK DOWN [2002], SAVING PRIVATE RYAN [1998], and HEAT [1995]), and Bruce Greenwood (KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE [2017], BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD [2010], THE CORE [2003], and upcoming films GERALD’S GAME [2017] and BATMAN: GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT [2018]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing, we have Peter Landesman, known for CONCUSSION (2015). Composing the score is Daniel Pemberton, known for KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD (2017), THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015), video game LITTLEBIGPLANET (2008), and the upcoming MOLLY’S GAME (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Adam Kimmel, known for LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (2007) and CAPOTE (2005).

Overall, if I were to hazard a guess, most of the negative reviews are due to an abundance of historical inaccuracies and such like that. There’s probably nothing wrong with the acting or the drama, or the writing outside of the historical hiccups. I suspect I’ll be in the minority when it comes to liking it.

This is my honest opinion of: MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE

(SUMMARY)

Mark Felt (Liam Neeson) has been a career agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for thirty years. Though he was up for J. Edgar Hoover’s position upon his death, it was given to Pat Gray (Marton Csokas). But Mark’s disappointment doesn’t last long as he becomes embroiled in what is now known as the Watergate Scandal and his information leaks to the press.

(QUICK REVIEW)

And… yeah, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy some of it. It is fun to see Neeson get his G-Man on, but it’s a pretty forgettable film.

I could tell pretty early on that I wouldn’t understand this film, with all its political talk and what not. Hell, it got to a point where I stopped bothering to take notes because I didn’t know what to write down. I couldn’t even follow the main plot point. Even if I went full kindergarten on this, I wouldn’t understand anything. So, I know that Mark leaked information to the press. I don’t know what he leaked. The best I understood was that he bugged the homes of political rivals, but I never saw him or anyone shadily under his employment do that, so the connection between what he was doing and what he was leaking to the press didn’t feel very strong, or even all that relevant to each other. This is kind of a shame because that’s probably what would have made the film a lot more interesting, watching these FBI guys listening in on politicians secrets that would ultimately be filed away. Not that this movie wouldn’t tread into the territory of “slander” if they had gone that route, but something along those lines would have made this film much juicier. Instead, what you get is a ton of scenes showing a frustrated Neeson with a bunch of talking about why, instead of showing why.

It also doesn’t look like I’m wrong about all the negativity surrounding the film: inaccuracies. Apparently, Felt didn’t leak information to the press because of patriotism, but rather to fuel his ambitions, he never wanted to get Nixon out of office, he really wasn’t “the” guy that “brought down the White House” as there were a dozen factors that lead to that, and a whole bunch of other stuff that I’m sure more informed people can list for me. I think the ultimate reason why this film was made was to show the parallels between what was going on in the White House then and comparing it to who we have now (Trump). If I remember correctly, the FBI was investigating Trump and he fired the director of the FBI, or something to that effect. Like I said, more informed people can point that stuff out.

All I can say is that this film is pretty boring, and that’s not how I want a Liam Neeson film to be described. Even if his movie isn’t good, it’s still fun to watch him do things and that’s precisely what we don’t get: things. We just get a crap-load of talking and that’s not very riveting. My recommendation is… viewer beware. I may not recommend it in theaters. Save it for a rental at best. I’ll leave the politically savvy folks to tear apart the inaccuracies, but as for me, it’s pretty blah as a movie. The man who brought down the White House also brought down my interest in the subject matter.

My honest rating for MARK FELT: THE MAN WHO BROUGHT DOWN THE WHITE HOUSE: a weak 3/5

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VICTORIA & ABDUL review

Say what now?! This is a sequel?! *Wikipedia search* Well skin me alive and call me naked, this is a sequel! Specifically to the film MRS. BROWN (1997), and Judi Dench is reprising her role as Queen Victoria. I guess if you wanted to make another movie about her and her wacky adventures in her later years, why not make it a sequel? Oh, and it’s also based on a book? Jeez, this Queen certainly gets around in media.

The story looks like it’s about Victoria and she’s become tired with her life and role. But then she meets a young Indian servant and the two strike up a friendship, asking him to teach her all about his culture and reinvigorates her love of life. But it comes at a cost. Her peers start to think that she’s lost her mind, playing nice with a servant. Hence the conflict. It looks like it could be decent and anything Dench touches is golden, so I’m all on board.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Judi Dench (TULIP FEVER [2017], CASINO ROYALE [2006], SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE [1998], and the upcoming MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [2017]) and Ali Fazal (FURIOUS 7 [2015] and 3 IDIOTS [2009]). In support, we have Eddie Izzard (ROCK DOG [2017], ACROSS THE UNIVERSE [2007], and THE AVENGERS [1998]), Michael Gambon (KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE [2017], THE GOOD SHEPHERD [2006], and SLEEPY HOLLOW [1999]), Tim Pigott-Smith (JUPITER ASCENDING [2015], V FOR VENDETTA [2005], and CLASH OF THE TITANS [1981]), Adeel Akhtar (THE BIG SICK [2017], PAN [2015], and THE DICTATOR [2012]), and Olivia Williams (MAN UP [2015], PETER PAN [2003], and THE SIXTH SENSE [1999]).

Now for the crew. Directing is Stephen Frears, known for FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (2016), THE QUEEN (2006), and HIGH FIDELITY (2000). Penning the screenplay is Lee Hall, known for WAR HORSE (2011) and BILLY ELLIOT (2000). Composing the score is Thomas Newman, known for PASSENGERS (2016), WALL·E (2008), THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994), and the upcoming THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Danny Cohen, known for FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, ROOM (2015), and PIRATE RADIO (2009).

Overall, I’m very curious. Not super hyped, but call me eager.

This is my honest opinion of: VICTORIA & ABDUL

(SUMMARY)

Set in early 1900. Queen Victoria (Judy Dench) is still a revered queen, now serving as the longest running monarch in history. However, she’s grown tired of her position. Her loved ones have passed on and she’s become both apathetic to her own appearance and position. But all of that changes when she meets Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), an Indian servant, who eventually becomes Victoria’s closest friend, teaching her of Indian culture and slowly regains her love of life, despite the deeply rooted arguments from her staff.

(REVIEW)

This was a really good movie. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

The movie opens on a pretty humorous line. “Based on real events” pause for a second, “… mostly.” This movie had me at “hello” and I was already giggling.

However, and this is pretty consistent for the first half hour or so, the movie loses its momentum. There’s clichés, like the intro of the protagonist running late for work, and the movie isn’t all that funny for awhile. I mean, some gags land, like when a servant tries to wake up Victoria, but all she does is groan. I thought that was hilarious. But for awhile, the humor really falls flat. Hell, fifteen, maybe even twenty minutes into the movie is when the title of the movie appears. That was weird. Why bother by that point?

Having said all that, there is a… I’m not sure how to describe it, but a level of engagement to Dench’s performance in the beginning. She’s so tired, possibly bored, and gives zero shits about everything that’s going on around her. She eats at her own pace, forcing her peers around her to eat quickly, or else their food will be taken away.

About the only saving grace in the film’s comedy in the beginning is Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), who coud have so easily been that panicky hysterical character that no one likes, but for whatever reason, his exaggerations of what he believes the English do in their spare time is so funny. He does get a little grating later in the film, but he has a bad-ass scene that makes up for all of it.

But honestly, after that first half hour of lackluster comedy, the laughs, as well as the story, pick up immensely. Abdul is impossibly charming and likable. You immediately feel for Victoria and everything that she’s lived through. All of her loved ones are gone and all that’s left is her position and her ambitious and unlikable children who want her power. But meeting Abdul, she learns to find happiness and learns about the Indian culture. There’s this infectious chemistry that Dench and Fazal share, an energy that constantly makes you smile as he describes the Taj Mahal, or teaches her Indian languages and how her eyes light up as she learns, it’s such a beautiful connection that they share. At some point, Dench’s performance gets a little hammy, but it’s so brief that you almost have to remember that it gets there, and it’s not like it isn’t explained (she gets a little drunk), but this is what makes up the entire movie: their friendship and it is really heart-warming to watch just how much she defends him despite all the criticism from those around her.

As much praise as I have with the film, there are a couple elements that I complain about.

A smaller issue is that we never see enough of Abdul and Mohammad interacting. Every scene they share is Abdul being excited, and Mohammad being nervous. We don’t see enough of the two actually being friends. Sure, that would take away from the focus of the relationship between him and Victoria, but it still would have been nice to dedicate a five minute scene of the two men really interacting like friends.

But the bigger issue I took was Abdul’s wife. I believe her involvement in this story is pure fluff. We don’t see hide or hair of her, or even get a single reference to her existence until the one hour mark, and even when she does show up, for all the build-up to her, she barely contributes to the story. Sure, sure, you could argue that it’s all a set up to learn about Abdul’s… procreation issues, or whatever that was, and Victoria’s council to try and get him sent back to India, but I feel like this is where creative liberties would have been needed and find something more sensible to get that kind of information.

Also, there were two incidences that involve Victoria being upset with Abdul. One being when she discovered that it was Muslims, or another Indian group that I can’t remember, were at the head of some revolt that took the lives of British soldiers and then later for another reason that I can’t remember either. All I remember is that these two scenes were resolved as quickly as they were introduced and happen pretty close to each other, so I kept wondering why the writer didn’t just pick a problem and go all the way with it, or combine the two problems into one dramatic scene.

Overall, I really liked this movie. The core characters are ridiculously wonderful to watch and hang out with, it’s funny, dramatic, all around fun for anyone even half interested in this story. I highly recommend this in theaters. It doesn’t have the widest of releases, so you may need to really look for it, but I say it’s worth the effort to see in theaters. History’s most unlikely friendship is arguably one of its most endearing.

My honest rating for VICTORIA & ABDUL: a strong 4/5

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STRONGER review

This is the second movie in less than two years revolving around the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013, seconded by the outstanding film PATRIOTS DAY (2016). Although, instead of focusing on the investigation into the event itself, we’re focusing on the city hero, Jeff Bauman. As I’m sure there’s more than a few people out there that don’t know his story, we’ll use that as my impression of what the movie is about. Bauman and his wife Erin Hurley were participants in the Boston Marathon. As Bauman waited for Hurley at the finish line, he was caught in the blast radius of one of the bombs the terrorist planted. He was also the subject a famous photo taken that day.

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The image is cropped… don’t want to traumatize anyone with the whole thing, but to put it blunt, he was rushed to the hospital and both of his legs were amputated at the knee. It should give you a pretty good idea of what you’re in for in the first thirty minutes, I imagine. The movie looks like it’s going to be about how he worked his way back up, got his strength back and readjust to life. I can already tell this is going to be a tear-jerker because I’m getting a little choked up just typing this out. But I think it’s a safe bet this’ll be a damn good movie.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Jake Gyllenhaal (LIFE [2017], ZODIAC [2007], and OCTOBER SKY [1999]) and Tatiana Maslany (THE WOMAN IN GOLD [2015], THE VOW [2012], and TV show ORPHAN BLACK [2013 – 2017]). In support, we have Miranda Richardson (CHURCHILL [2017], FRED CLAUS [2007], and THE KING AND I [1999]) and Clancy Brown (THE GUARDIAN [2007], STARSHIP TROOPERS [1997], video game MASS EFFECT ANDROMEDA [2017], and upcoming films THOR: RAGNAROK [2017] and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS 3 [2019]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have David Gordon Green, known for OUR BRAND IS CRISIS (2015), YOUR HIGHNESS (2011), and SNOW ANGELS (2007). Penning the screenplay is John Pollono, primarily known for television. Composing the score is Michael Brook, known for TALLULAH (2016), THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER (2012), and INTO THE WILD (2007). Finally, the cinematographer is Sean Bobbitt, known for QUEEN OF KATWE (2016), ROCK THE KASBAH (2015), and 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013).

Overall, I’m calling it, bring a box of tissues. But I’m expecting something great.

This is my honest opinion of: STRONGER

(SUMMARY)

Set in Boston, Massachusettes, circa 2013. Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an average guy from Boston. He drinks beer with his buddies while watching sports, works a normal job, and wants normal things, like his ex-girlfriend Erin Hurley (Tatiana Maslany) to take him back. And when she tells him that she’s going to be running in the Boston Marathon, he decides he’s going to meet her at the finish line. Unfortunately, when he does, a par of bombs go off and Jeff loses both of his legs in the attack. He survives, his legs are amputated at his knees, and though he’s considered a hero to the city, he also struggles with everyday mundane things, just trying to keep everything together.

(REVIEW)

I want to say that this is a great movie, and in more aspects than I might mention, it is, but there are some serious problems that I have with this movie. At least, for what I was expecting out of it.

You know what, let’s tackle the problems that I had. There were some odd-ass choices that this movie made. For example, in the beginning of the film when Jeff is at the finish line waiting for Erin and he gets caught in the explosion that would ultimately take his legs, here’s how the scene is shot. It’s totally in Erin’s perspective as it happens. One explosion, pan around to her covering face in horror, and then for a good ten to fifteen minutes, Jeff is just no longer in the movie. You never see him rushed to the hospital, nothing. It cuts to some camera footage and news reels from the actual event, if I remember correctly, but what I do remember is that this entire time is dedicated to Jeff’s family. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if they didn’t feel like such clichés, constantly shouting over each other aggressively. Not to mention, while they do freak out about Jeff’s well-being, it’s not consistent. Sometimes they talk about money and financials, or just things that don’t feel like a real family concerned about their son being caught in a god-damned terrorist attack. And like I said, this goes on for a good ten or fifteen minutes before Jeff is reintroduced into the film.

But more than that, littered throughout the film, there’s moments where Jeff has to stop what he’s doing and has flashbacks to the bombing. Again, this wouldn’t be a bad thing. PTSD is real and would have been a great addition to the story if it was done well. But what they do is show quick snippets of the bombing itself. It’s only until toward the end of the movie, or at least well past the half-way point where we actually see Jeff on the ground, covered in soot, and with graphic imagery of his legs shredded. This confounds me because… I’m not sure what the purpose was in showing this later as opposed to showing it right then and there when the actual bombing takes place.

But otherwise, this movie is fantastic.

Gyllenhaal sells it like crazy and really delivers on a complex performance. He’s a guy who means well deep down, but because of what happened to him, his trauma causes him to lash out at everyone, no matter who they are. Be it mother or his girlfriend. He often gets drunk to the point of making him sick, or incredibly difficult to be around. But it’s hard to be very upset with his attitude because, he’s a survivor of a terrorist attack. That’s… what can you say to something like that? Incredible? Lucky? Miraculous? Whatever your choice of words, I think we can all agree that even though he’s treated like the city hero, he sure doesn’t feel like one, even if he was instrumental in identifying one of the terrorists involved, and he’s struggling with all of the baggage. The interviews, the borderline exploitation from his family, and just simply going the bathroom, it’s all its own personal hell for him and your heart breaks at all of it, and none of that would mean anything if Gyllenhaal wasn’t on his A-game.

But not just him, Maslany does a fantastic job as well. Erin is a woman who has always had romantic problems with Jeff, due to him having a knack for not showing up for her in the past. But after the bombing, she never leaves his side. She’s there for him to take him places, or pick him up. She puts up with him when he’s shouting and screaming at her, and does a magnificent job of putting up with his mom when she starts attempting to take charge of what he does with his life. You really feel for how much she’s trying to keep up with Jeff and even take her side during his tantrums as he barely shows any respect for how much she sacrificed for him. She quit her job, putting a serious stop on her own life because he keeps crying out for her, and it’s hard for her to tear herself away from him.

Overall, this is an acting powerhouse from the central leads. Gyllenhaal and Maslany make this movie great. It’s a tear-jerker, so I recommend seeing this with a box of tissues at the ready. Speaking of recommending, I highly recommend this. It’s a heart-wrenching journey of a man who’s trying to pick up the pieces of his life, fail more often than not, but leaves you truly inspired and rooting for him all the way through. Yeah, I think there were some bafflingly weird decisions made, both narratively and artistically, but this is a fantastic film if you can get past the problems I personally had, which may very well just be me.

My honest rating for STRONGER: a strong 4/5

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AMERICAN MADE quick review

There’s two things to expect in a Tom Cruise movie. Running, and airplanes. I mean what else is there?

The movie is based on a man named Barry Seal, who looks more like Patrick Wilson than he does Tom Cruise. He used to be an airline pilot and eventually became a big smuggler for Pablo Escobar’s organization and became an informant for the DEA. I gotta say, this sounds a hell of a lot heavier than the movie is making it out to be. The movie is making it look like a comedy. But hey, what can you do? And I don’t know what to make of the story itself. It looks like Seal was a smuggler before becoming an informant, but the trailer that I saw made it look like he was an informant before he became a smuggler. Eh, bad trailers to good movies exist, so we’ll see what happens. Other than that, it kind of looks like any other generic “American dream” movie. Dude down on his luck, falls into a situation that nets him money, shit hits the fan. Pretty formulaic if you ask me. But Cruise usually churns out a fun performance, so even if the story is copy and paste, you can’t copy/paste Cruise.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Tom Cruise, known for THE MUMMY (2017), MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE II (2000), and RISKY BUSINESS (1983). In support, we have Domhnall Gleeson (MOTHER! [2017], BROOKLYN [2015], ABOUT TIME [2013], and upcoming films GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN [2017] and STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI [2017]), Sarah Wright (WALK OF SHAME [2014], 21 & OVER [2013], and THE HOUSE BUNNY [2008]), Jayma Mays (THE SMURFS [2011], and TV shows THE ADVENTURES OF PUSS IN BOOTS [2015 – ongoing] and HEROES [2006 – 2010]), Jesse Plemons (BRIDGE OF SPIES [2015], BLACK MASS [2015], and LIKE MIKE [2002]), and Caleb Landry Jones (GET OUT [2017], STONEWALL [2015], X-MEN: FIRST CLASS [2011], and upcoming films THE FLORIDA PROJECT [2017] and THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI [2017]).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Doug Liman, known for THE WALL (2017), EDGE OF TOMORROW (2014), THE BOURNE IDENTITY (2002), and the upcoming LIVE DIE REPEAT AND REPEAT, no release date announced. Penning the screenplay is Gary Spinelli, known for STASH HOUSE (2012). Composing the score is Christophe Beck, known for TROLLS (2016), DRILLBIT TAYLOR (2008), BRING IT ON (2000), and upcoming films HOLMES AND WATSON (2018) and ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is César Charlone, known for THE CONSTANT GARDNER (2005) and CITY OF GOD (2002).

Overall, not overly excited, but I think I’ll like it enough.

This is my honest opinion of: AMERICAN MADE

(SUMMARY)

Set in the 1980s. The story follows Barry Seal (Tom Cruise). He’s an airline pilot who has a hidden secret of smuggling Cuban cigars into the states. Of course, his secret is no secret to Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) of the Central Intelligence Agency, who wants his flight skills to take pictures of South American insurgents with their special spy plane. He naturally accepts the job and eventually grabs the attention of some drug lords and does business with them on the side.

(QUICK REVIEW)

Well this was enjoyable. Probably a little moreso than I thought. But I wasn’t wrong about the story. It’s been done. But as far as “been done” stories go, it’s entertaining enough to be worthwhile.

About the best part of the movie, as he usually is with any movie that he’s in, is Cruise himself. When Barry is offered an opportunity to do exciting things with his flying skills, in the name of his country no less, he gets really excitable and Cruise’s energy is really infectious. And there’s a particular enjoyment watching him getting involved with the drug cartel and the CIA turns a blind eye to him, letting him work for both the good guys and the bad guys at the same time and no one cares and he’s just riding the money train. Cruise’s performance is what makes this movie.

Gleeson is delightfully spy-ish, pretending to not care about things until it directly affects him, his deadpan but smirky delivery of his lines, I will always enjoy him in a movie. The comedy really shines through as well. One of my favorite scenes is when Barry is caught and everyone, the DEA, state police, ATF, and FBI all swarm him at one time, it’s beyond hilarious. As you can probably tell, the story is upbeat when it needs to be, constantly putting a smile on your face. Hell, even the intricacies of his delivery methods are easy to follow, but I can see smarter people than me feeling like the movie is talking down to them because it does use cartoony visuals to explain everything. But speaking as a not smart person, I appreciated that because I wouldn’t have been able to follow it. I’m a visual learner, leave me alone.

Sadly, it’s not all good.

Like I said, probably for the millionth time, the story’s been done before and is pretty by the numbers. Dude in need of a financial break gets one, and then loses it all. The wife, Lucy (Sarah Wright), has no real personality other than being the character that’s supposed to be worried and scold him for his decisions. In fact, you can pretty much say that about all the secondary characters outside of Gleeson. They either range from bland and uninteresting, or downright unlikable. Lucy’s brother JB (Caleb Landry Jones), is probably the worst offender. But then again, his final scene is… quite satisfying.

The movie’s nothing particularly special and nothing that hasn’t been done before. Your enjoyment of the film rests squarely on whether or not you like Cruise because he barely shares any screen time with anyone else. If you’re a fan, you’ll like it just fine. But the lack of originality and formulaic structure is pretty obvious, and the fact that with as wide of a cast list as there is, only two characters are at all interesting. It’s a fun movie regardless and I do kind of recommend it as a matinee screening or a discount day at the cinemas.

My honest rating for AMERICAN MADE: a strong 3/5

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BATTLE OF THE SEXES review

I can’t claim to know anything about the the real events that this movie is portraying, but based on my dollar tree-worth of research, Billie Jean King, whose husband is famed talk-show host Larry King, is considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time. I’m guessing it’s no accident that she’s not considered one of the greatest “female” tennis players of all time, a testament to her talent, no doubt. Bobby Riggs was also a heavy-weight for his time and the two essentially get into a tennis match. Riggs taunts King into it, he was in his fifties, and she was almost thirty. Summed up, she won, but even that victory had its controversies, citing that it was King’s age that won the match.

As for the movie itself, yes, I’m looking forward to this one the most this week. I’m always down for a good feminist flick and who doesn’t love an ass-kicking woman humbling a sexist jack-off?

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Emma Stone (LA LA LAND [2016], THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN [2012], SUPERBAD [2007], and the upcoming CRUELLA [2018]), and Steve Carell (DESPICABLE ME 3 [2017], DATE NIGHT [2010], BRUCE ALMIGHTY [2003], and the upcoming MINECRAFT: THE MOVIE [2019]). In support, we have Bill Pullman (INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE [2016], SCARY MOVIE 4 [2006], CASPER [1995], and the upcoming THE EQUALIZER 2 [2018]), Elisabeth Shue (HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET [2012], PIRANHA 3D [2010], THE KARATE KID [1984], and the upcoming DEATH WISH [2017]), Sarah Silverman (THE BOOK OF HENRY [2017], THE MUPPETS [2011], THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY [1998], and the upcoming RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET: WRECK-IT RALPH 2 [2018]), Natalie Morales (TV shows TROPHY WIFE [2013 – 2014] and PARKS AND REC [2009 – 2015]), and Alan Cummings (STRANGE MAGIC [2015], X2: X-MEN UNITED [2003], and GOLDENEYE [1995]).

Now for the crew. Co-directing, we have Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, both known for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006) and a bunch of music videos. Penning the screenplay is Simon Beaufoy, known for EVEREST (2015), THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE (2013), and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008). Composing the score is Nicholas Britell, known for MOONLIGHT (2016), A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS (2016), FREE STATE OF JONES (2016), and the upcoming OCEAN’S EIGHT (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Linus Sandgren, known for LA LA LAND, THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (2014), PROMISED LAND (2013), and upcoming films FIRST MAN (2018) and THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS (2018).

Overall, I’m super stoked for this. I can’t wait.

This is my honest opinion of: BATTLE OF THE SEXES

(SUMMARY)

Set in 1973. Billy Jean King (Emma Stone) has just been marked as the most successful women’s tennis player in the world. However, despite the great strides that women have been making in the world of sports, the higher ups believe that men are more marketable, despite evidence suggesting that women are just as popular a draw. Repulsed by the lack of equality, she founded the Women’s Tennis Association with some other great female tennis players. Billy Jean’s success eventually catches the eye of former great tennis player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell), who is eager to join the bandwagon in proving that men are superior to women in sports and challenges Billy Jean to a Battle of the Sexes match.

(REVIEW)

I like it. I’m really happy I got to see this.

Okay, I think if there’s anything that should be mentioned is that this isn’t exactly a sports biopic. At least, not all the way through. Much of the marketing strictly revolves around the match between Billy Jean and Bobby. And while that is a central and integral element to the story, people should be aware that it gets pretty personal for both people. We’re shown how Bobby is an addicted gambler and shows his failing marriage to his wife. We’re also shown Billie Jean’s homosexual awakening and her affair with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough). In fact, a lot of time is devoted to that and how it affected her marriage to Larry King (Austin Stowell). In fact, a lot of time is dedicated to this, which might throw a few people off wondering what this has to do with the famous tennis match. Truth is, probably not much. But that’s not to say that it’s not effective. Stone’s performance as a sexually confused Billy Jean is very engaging and perfectly acted. On the one hand, she’s utterly guilty with how it would affect her marriage to Larry, and due to the 70s, would give a bad name to her new organization. On the other hand, it’s a new side of herself that she wants to explore and understand better and despite her cheating on Larry, we want her to be happy. She’s a feminist, a supportive friend, an iron-clad determination, and an all-around down to Earth gal. There’s real stakes in this story and no matter what Billy Jean does, she’s sacrificing something for what she believes is the greater good.

Even the stuff with Bobby isn’t short-changed. We see a man who is a loving husband and father, just trying to find his way in the world post-tennis greatness, but sadly fell into gambling and can’t give it up. He lies to his wife Priscilla (Elizabeth Shue) about it, which deteriorates their marriage understandably, but believes himself to be changed when he gets back into tennis. He loves his family dearly, and even when he’s playing up the Chauvinist Pig persona in the media, you never really get the sense that he’s one-hundred percent sincere about it. He’s doing it for the publicity and sponsorships, so it’s hard to see him as the villain. Easy to root against, he’s an egotistical jack-off, but not so easy to hate.

The performances are really what holds the movie up. This is arguably my favorite live-action performance by Silverman, who is so much fun watch here, Pullman’s a delicious asshole, Shue is incredibly sympathetic as Rigg’s wife, it all carries the film incredibly well.

I suppose if I had any real complaints, it’s the numerous creative liberties that were taken. But to be clear, I’m only going off of what I’ve read off of Wikipedia, which has a nasty habit of getting facts wrong, so if anything I mention is either false or not entirely true because you read some book that Billie Jean wrote, feel free to comment. I’ll post the link below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Sexes_(tennis)

First, the discrepancies. Billie Jean and Marilyn didn’t meet in 1973 as depicted in the film, they met in 1971. And unless “secretary” has an incredibly generalized definition, Marilyn wasn’t a hairdresser, she was Billie Jean’s personal secretary. During the match itself, Billie Jean was getting her ass handed to her early on, but the film depicted it as pretty even split.

Now, here’s my issues with these. While I can’t claim to know how long Billie Jean’s affair was with Marilyn, maybe it lasted a very brief amount of time, maybe it lasted from ’71 to ’73 throughout the Battle of the Sexes match, but it seems strange that they threw it in like that. If it didn’t last two years, then this relationship was used as an excuse to throw in more sympathy for the lesbian community. Not that this is bad, of course, Billie Jean was a champion of women’s rights, but the subject matter in itself does a fine job of that, promoting fair and equal pay for women in sports. Who’s not down for that? Adding a lesbian sideplot almost seems contrived. But then again, this is a biopic of Billie Jean’s life and her affair with Marilyn is a part of her life, and I think the writer was trying to make this movie a little more all-encompassing of her life. After all, a two year separation from the real events and the events depicted in the film really isn’t that big of a deal, especially since the film does place an importance on their relationship, which was a big deal in Billie Jean’s life.

But seriously, why is she a hairdresser and not a secretary? Isn’t that distinction kind of necessary? If Marilyn was Billy Jean’s secretary, the relationship might have felt a little more organic instead of a single encounter in a hair salon. Having her as a secretary, depending on how long they’d known each other before the affair and how long they’d known each other in general, would have shown that there was history and chemistry, which would create that sexual tension and just make more sense. A one off encounter in a hair salon just seems a little too “love at first sight” to me, and making it lesbians doesn’t make it okay. I have a problem with it even it when it involves heterosexual people. Gays don’t get a free pass in this.

Swinging back around to Billy Jean’s personal life, she did had an abortion in 1971. If gay rights are a hot button topic in 2017, despite the legal advances that have been made in recent years, then you sure as shit better believe that abortion is a hot button topic as well, which remains just as controversial today as it’s ever been. . Why wasn’t this something added to the movie? I have my theories. One, if they did add it, they risk both making the movie longer and more unfocused. Or two, they made a choice. Talk about a subject matter that lights fires under countless asses, or showcase Emma Stone making out with a chick. Well… sex does sell… and boom, we have this. I think a better, smarter writer could have used the abortion angle and made a really impactful film. But then again… maybe that’s why it wasn’t used because the writer wouldn’t have known what to say about it and or didn’t have anything smart to add, so it was decided to leave it out. Either way, it’s a shame.

And for the match itself, making it a little too even split at the beginning, wouldn’t it have been more dramatic to see Billy Jean losing while Bobby taunts her? And when she makes her comeback, that’s when Bobby takes his jacket off and stops his clowning around? I feel like it would have served the film much better, but what do I know?

To be fair, I can’t claim to know why these creative liberties were taken. Maybe Billie Jean herself requested certain elements not be included. But regardless, as much as I ragged on the liberties, it’s a solid film and I do recommend it. I don’t think it’s the must-see movie of the year or anything, but if you’re a fan of the cast, enjoy a good feminist movie, or even sports films, then this is worth your time.

My honest rating for BATTLE OF THE SEXES: 4/5

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9/11 (quick) review

Oh no…

This movie has not had a single trailer released in theaters. I literally have no idea what this movie is. I found out about it just a few hours ago. As I speak, I’m writing my initial impressions in the theater while the trailers are playing. All I know is that it’s about a group of people trapped in one of the towers, specifically an elevator and try to escape before it collapses. Considering that it has a 3.2/10 on IMDb (as of 9/11/2017), I am expecting something pretty tasteless or inaccurate.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Charlie Sheen (MACHETE KILLS [2013], SCARY MOVIE 3 [2003], and PLATOON [1986]), Gina Gershon (P.S. I LOVE YOU [2007], FACE/OFF [1997], and SHOWGIRLS [1995]), Luis Guzmán (KEANU [2016], PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE [2002], and BOOGIE NIGHTS [1997]), Wood Harris (CREED [2015], DREDD [2012], and REMEMBER THE TITANS [2000]), and Olga Fonda (LITTLE FOCKERS [2010], and 1 episode of HAWAII FIVE-0 [2010 – ongoing] and 12 episodes of THE VAMPIRE DIARIES [2009 – 2017]). In support, we have Whoopi Goldberg (TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES [2014], RAT RACE [2001], and SISTER ACT [1992]), Jacqueline Bisset (DOMINO [2005], MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [1974], and BULLITT [1968]),  and Prestyn Bates.

Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing Martin Guigui, known for a bunch of unknown projects. Co-writing is Steve James Golebiowski, known for unknown stuff. Composing the score is Jeff Toyne, known for unknown stuff. Finally, the cinematographer is Massimo Zeri, known for unknown projects.

Overall… what do you think? I’m not looking forward to it. Hell, half the reason I even gave this movie the time of day was to test out my MoviePass card.

This is my honest opinion of: 9/11

(SUMMARY)

The story follows five people trapped in an elevator in one of the Twin Towers just as the planes strike and desperately try to escape before the tower collapses.

(QUICK REVIEW)

This is arguably one of the most tasteless films I’ve seen this year. Oh my god, the more I think about this movie, the dirtier I feel.

I’m probably going to keep this short, but the reason why I hate this movie so much is that it uses this day in history, a day that not only affected every American, directly or indirectly, but also the entire world, where nearly 3,000 people lost their lives, over 6,000 were injured, and this movie’s primary focus is on something that it should never have focused on: a divorce case, a dad missing his daughter’s birthday, a hot chick leaving her sugar daddy, and a dude who didn’t take his wife to Hawaii. These characters are so bland, so uninteresting, and to make them the highlight of the film and to push the events of 9/11 into the background… who was this movie made for? Who even made this?! Who thought this would be a good idea?! Is the play any better?! I honestly don’t even care if my questions are answered because this pile of garbage… it’s amazing what this movie got away with. The acting is horrible, as I never got a sense of fear from these people that they were in the eye of the storm of a terrorist attack; just trapped in an elevator. So by extension, piss poor direction

Oh, but pouring sprinkles on this shit-flavored cake, the movie ends with, “Dedicated to the victims and the first responders. Never forget.” Wasn’t planning to, movie, but you did a fairly decent job of not caring about the very people you dedicated your movie to. Need I say more? Don’t see this movie. If you can’t find it, then stop looking for it. I found it in one of the lesser movie theaters near me, so I think that’s a good sign. Don’t even rent it. Remember 9/11, but don’t remember this movie.

My honest rating for 9/11: 1/5

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REBEL IN THE RYE (quick) review

Not much to say. I didn’t know this movie was getting made and I don’t know who J.D. Salinger is. Should prove to be educational.

Ah… and so it is. So the title wasn’t weirdly named similarly to the novel The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger is the author of that book. Boy, the things you never paid attention to in school. This story is about the life of Salinger, a student and an aspiring writer who also fought in World War II. He has parents who don’t think his writing is useful, but he has a tough-but-awesome teacher who believes he could be great. Seems like a standard kind of “artist in the making” film now that I’m saying it out loud, but it’s about a writer, and there’s something that I can relate to.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Nicholas Hoult (COLLIDE [2017], EQUALS [2016], WARM BODIES [2013], and upcoming films X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX [2018] and TOLKIEN, no release date announced) and Kevin Spacey (BABY DRIVER [2017], ELVIS & NIXON [2016], and THE USUAL SUSPECTS [1995]). In support, we have Victor Garber (SELF/LESS [2015], LEGALLY BLONDE [2001], and TV show LEGENDS OF TOMORROW [2016 – ongoing]), Sarah Paulson (CAROL [2015], SERENITY [2005], TV show AMERICAN HORROR STORY [2011 – ongoing], and upcoming films GLASS [2018] and OCEAN’S EIGHT [2018]), Zoey Deutch (BEFORE I FALL [2017], EVERYBODY WANTS SOME!! [2016], VAMPIRE ACADEMY [2014], and the upcoming THE DISASTER ARTIST [2017]), Lucy Boynton (SING STREET [2016], MISS POTTER [2006], and the upcoming MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS [2017]), and Celeste Arias (THE BIG SICK [2017] and KATE CAN’T SWIM [2017]).

Now for the crew. Writing and directing is Danny Strong, known for directing 3 episodes of TV show EMPIRE, but is known for writing THE HUNGER GAMES: THE MOCKINGJAY – PART 1 (2014) and 2 (2015), and THE BUTLER (2013). The composer of the score is *double take* Bear McCreary?! Dude, I love this guy! Anyway, he’s known for COLOSSAL (2017), 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (2016), TV show BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004 – 2009), and the upcoming HAPPY DEATH DAY (2017). Finally, the cinematographer is Kramar Morgenthau, known for TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015), THOR: THE DARK WORLD (2013), FRACTURE (2007), and the upcoming TV movie FAHRENHEIT 451, no release date announced.

Overall, I’m probably more excited that I should be. That’s what happens when you put music by Audiomachine in your trailer.

This is my honest opinion of: REBEL IN THE RYE

(SUMMARY)

Set in the 1930s through the 1950s. Jerome David Salinger (Nicholas Hoult), better known as Jerry, is a lousy student and has been kicked out from more than a couple schools for his sarcastic nature. But one day, he decides that he wants to pursue writing as a career and go to school for creative writing. Though his father Sol (Victor Garber) thinks his writing won’t amount to anything, his equally sarcastic, but supportive teacher Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey) challenges Jerry to push the boundaries of his own thinking and to dig deeper, making him a better writer, especially after creating a wonderful character named Holden Caulfield, who deserves his own novel, something Jerry doesn’t think he’s ready for. But once he enters the war, Jerry pursues the prospect of writing his novel, eventually returning home. Having seen so much horror overseas, it becomes a struggle for Jerry to regain the spirit he had for writing.

(QUICK REVIEW)

What is up with critics lately? I really like this movie! Okay, it’s not perfect, but it’s a good movie.

Maybe I should get the negatives out of the way first. It’s impossible to deny how cliché this movie really is, which is something I called in my initial impressions. Structurally, it really is a standard “artist in the making” story. You have a young man who wants to be a writer. He has family that thinks it’s not a real profession and want him to get a real job. You have a teacher who is quirky and funny who pushes the boundaries of his imagination and encourages him to go through with his passions. It’s about as copy and paste as you can get. So because of this and that the movie doesn’t really do anything particularly new with its own idea, objectively speaking, it’s not a great movie.

Having said that, I still really like it and you can probably accurately call me out as bias toward it because, yes, I am also a writer. Struggling artist characters are pretty easy for me get sucked into if they’re likable and that’s where this movie does its best. Usually, I’m pretty indifferent to Nicholas Hoult. I like him as young Beast in the prequel X-Men films, but, more often than not, I haven’t really seen him in anything that totally blew me away. But this was a really great role. Whether or not this was true to Salinger’s actual personality, he’s a wise-ass, but he’s got this vehement sense of realism and can’t stand fake upscale people, despite being an upscale person himself. He’s got a load of charm about him that makes him an absolute delight to follow. Even when he goes off to war, experiences the trauma he went through, he’s still an incredibly engaging character, struggling with PTSD, and it’s really heartbreaking to watch him try and fail to write. But it’s also all the more rewarding to see him overcome his struggles and to even come back as a better writer for it. But he’s by no means a perfect person. He’s been a bad husband more than once and a pretty negligent father to his children with Claire (Lucy Boynton). But this is the story of the young man who wrote one of the great novels of all time, so it’s hard to chock him up as a bad guy. I sure don’t always agree with Salinger as a man, but as an artist, I do admire his commitment and dedication… if the movie is accurate, of course.

The other characters are also incredibly well done as well. Spacey is always reliably entertaining. He’s legitimately funny, but also poignant. There’s such passion in his voice, such gravitas that listening to him alone becomes an obsession. If there’s anyone who can get students to be interested in school and pay attention in class, it’d be this man. And what a refreshing role to see him in too! Usually, I associate Spacey with roles that make him out to be an asshole, or weird, powerful, or manipulative. When was the last time he took a role that was just a guy. Just a regular guy doing regular guy things? I weirdly love his performance in this. The other major players are oddly engaging as well. Garber as Salinger’s father is great and Paulson as his agent is really fun as well.

Look, it’s no masterpiece, I can admit that. But I can’t fathom the cynical mindsets that make this movie out to be anything less than average. Sure, if the distracting clichés are too much for you to ignore, I can see that hurting the film for you and it really does hurt the movie. But the performances are outstanding. The drama is heartfelt. There’s too much that this did right for me to completely write it off. Maybe it’s just the writer in me, but I like this movie and I recommend it. I think it’s got a pretty limited release, so it’s likely you might have to go out of your way to find it. But if you’ve got the time, check it out and see for yourself.

My honest rating for REBEL IN THE RYE: 4/5

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