Movie Review: ‘Stuber’ Sends Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista Running L.A. Around With Their Heads Cut Off

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CREDIT: Karen Ballard/Twentieth Century Fox

Starring: Kumail Nanjiani, Dave Bautista, Natalie Morales, Betty Gilpin, Mira Sorvino, Iko Uwais, Jimmy Tatro, Karen Gillan

Director: Michael Dowse

Running Time: 105 Minutes

Rating: R for Explosive Police Detective Work and a Visit to a Strip Club

Release Date: July 12, 2019

Humor hits different people in different ways, so while it’s theoretically possible that some viewers may find Stuber hilarious, I must be honest and admit that I found it tiresome almost immediately. It all starts, or fails to get into gear rather, with that title. Stuber looks completely meaningless, and it essentially is, as so many nicknames are. The “Stuber” in question is Stu (Kumail Nanjiani), a big box employee who also works on the side for a ride sharing company that offers the perfect opportunity for an unremarkably simple portmanteau. Is this one big 90-minute long product placement vehicle for Uber? Eh, who cares, we’ve got bigger problems to deal with.

Anyway, Stu finds himself picking up a passenger who keeps him on retainer over the course of one very long day. That would be Dave Bautista as Vic, an LAPD detective who’s supposed to be taking some time to relax because his boss told him that a big drug case is being taken over by the feds and also because he’s temporarily blind from laser eye surgery. So of course Stu and Vic don’t see eye-to-eye, as that is how unlikely buddy comedies work. Alas, everything’s too loud and predictable to be endearing. Although at one point some guy does get his face blown up by a propane tank, a moment that kind of shocked me back to life. So overall, that’s about a minute worth of fresh material.

Stuber is Recommended If You Like: Action Comedies That Don’t Know When to Quit

Grade: 2 out of 5 Uber Stars

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Battle of the Sexes’ is More Than Just a Tennis Match

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CREDIT: Melinda Sue Gordon/20th Century Fox

This review was originally posted on News Cult in September 2017.

Starring: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Bill Pullman, Elisabeth Shue, Austin Stowell, Alan Cumming, Natalie Morales

Directors: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris

Running Time: 121 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Systemic Sexism and An Eye-Opening Affair

Release Date: September 22, 2017 (Limited)

The mark of a great biopic is how it transcends its time. It not only illuminates the period it is set in but also the era in which it is released and potentially remains relevant into the future. Battle of the Sexes, a dramatization of the same-named 1973 exhibition tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs and the events leading up to it, is filled with social issues that are still urgently pressing in 2017. When you consider the full scope of human history, the fact that a fight to be taken seriously has lasted at least 44 years ultimately does not seem that unprecedented. But it is frustrating regardless, and it is also galvanizing enough to make a crowd-pleasing narrative out of.

As King, Emma Stone must embody a straightforward, but recognizably human, conflict. She struts around with the indomitable spirit of conviction when fighting for women to be treated equally with the men in her sport, but her personal life is searching for the right identity. She instinctively understands that the real roadblock in her professional fight is not her clownish opponent, but rather, folks like ATP Executive Director Jack Kemp (Bill Pullman), who casually reinforces the status quo with subtly aggressive comments like, “the thing about women is they find it hard to consistently handle the pressure.” But of course King can handle the pressure of tennis’ old guard. What she cannot quite handle, at least not yet as a young adult, is her path towards coming to terms with her own sexuality. The presence in this film of a tantalizing but unsettling affair with another woman is crucial, demonstrating that the political is always personal.

As Riggs, Steve Carell reveals that the trolls of today (who couch their racism and sexism with the “I’m just kidding!” defense) come from a long line of deliberate offenders. He is happy to play the male chauvinist pig, but mainly for the purpose of getting eyeballs on his stunts (though he does play the part quite convincingly). But what drives this long-since retired former world number one is not a desire to reinforce the status quo but an inability to give up the hustle. You could roll your eyes at him all you want, but it is hard not to root for him a little bit, because you can actually see how he might be able to be a better human being.

As a compelling story, Battle of the Sexes is undeniably winning. As cinema, it mostly coasts by on that strength but does not add any particularly unique techniques to the inspirational sports genre. The acting is top-notch, the understanding of the subject matter is astute, the pacing is solid, and the attitude is appropriately calibrated. It is not hitting aces with every scene, but its service game is never broken.

Battle of the Sexes is Recommended If You Like: Bend it Like Beckham, Legally Blonde, Cool Runnings, Scheduling your year around the Grand Slam calendar

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Serve and Volleys