This Is a Movie Review: Ralph Breaks the Internet

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CREDIT: Disney

Ralph Breaks the Internet presents a remarkably satisfying and accurate (such as it is) cinematic version of the Internet (minus all the porn, of course). It’s filled to the brim with buzzy avatars representing pushy autofill, distracting suggested ads, and the like. There are also scores of little blue birds tweeting a bunch of nonsense (there should probably be even more of those). If the references look like they will be instantly dated, look again, and see that it is actually an ouroboros/phoenix of eternal present and unceasing nostalgia constantly eating itself and being reborn. The story zips along weightily with the technical dangers of a connected world grounded metaphorically in the emotional lives of Ralph and Vanellope. And the much-hyped inclusion of all the Disney Princesses is more significant than expected, with the ladies proving to be narratively essential as they also remain thematically true to themselves. All in all, as much as constant connectivity has transformed society (often for the worse), Ralph Breaks the Internet demonstrates that there is still room for friendship.

I give Ralph Breaks the Internet 23,000 Hearts out of 27272 Viruses.

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

This Is a Movie Review: The Book of Henry

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The Book of Henry has been hailed by some as the next so-bad-it’s-good classic and by others as just one of the worst movies ever. But as I finished watching it, my reaction was, “What’s the big deal?” As I thought it over, though, I realized that some pretty crazy things did happen – Naomi Watts plays video games and buys a gun, Sarah Silverman kisses an 11-year-old on the mouth, Bobby Moynihan doesn’t debut a new catchphrase – but that lunacy does not really take this film to the realm of The Inexplicable. That is because when it comes to the strangest examples of cinema that truly need to be treasured, it is about tone more than plot – the how, not the what. And Book of Henry’s tone just isn’t that singular. It’s maudlin, bland, middle-of-the-road. All the actors are too traditionally competent and/or understated for the weirdness to really land.

Jacob Tremblay is still adorable, though.

I give The Book of Henry 400 “They Did That’s” out of 1000 “Whatever’s.”

SNL Recap October 4, 2014: Sarah Silverman/Maroon 5

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SNL: Sarah Silverman, Maroon 5 (CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot)

This review was originally posted on Starpulse in October 2014.

It has been 20 years since Sarah Silverman was an “SNL” featured player for a single season.  In the past year, she had a stand-up special on HBO and guest starred on a few episodes of “Masters of Sex.”  This is all to say, she does not have any major projects at the moment, nor does she have that strong a connection to “SNL,” so there was no obvious reason for her to be hosting at this time.  The episode she hosted ended up having a similar vibe, insofar as most of the sketches did not have an immediate reason for existing.  That is not necessarily a bad thing, and it points to the show’s willingness so far in Season 40 to avoid relying on recurring material.  Ultimately, this episode was not cohesive enough to have any truly classic moments, but it was quietly encouraging, if you allow yourself to view the show with a generous spirit.  Let’s take a closer look at each of the sketches:

60 Minutes – There is a certain concept in improv and sketch comedy known as “game.”  It is the unusual thing about the scene that is built upon and explored as the scene progresses.  In this interview with the president courtesy of Steve Kroft, the game appeared to be ISIS members tweeting a series of tweets that inexplicably combined plans of jihad with more secular sentiments, such as an emoji of a ghost with an eyepatch or the hashtag #TheVoiceIsBack.  But that gag lasted only about a minute, while the rest of the sketch was a bunch of less fully-formed ideas. C+

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