Screening Room: ‘Battles of the Sexes’

Battles of the Sexes, the serio-comic new movie about that time Billie Jean King played a washed-up ex-tennis champion for $100,000 and the chance to show up the male gender, is playing in limited release.

My review is at PopMatters:

When Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) is at the salon and finds herself falling deep into the eyes of her hairdresser, Marilyn (Andrea Riseborough), it’s not as though the married tennis star is free to fling open the closet door. Billie might not be able to shake the electric sensation of that meeting, but there’s a tour to go on, not to mention sponsors and a public who wouldn’t approve…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘La La Land’

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling kick up their heels in 'La La Land'
Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling kick up their heels in ‘La La Land’
Damien Chazelle’s first film, Whiplash, was a taut and vicious melodrama about perfectionism. His second is a giddy musical about hopes, dreams, and Hollywood. Somehow they make sense together.

La La Land is opening this week, and it’s just about the best thing in theaters right now. My review is at PopMatters:

It starts on a car-choked overpass and ends in a kind of heartbreak. But in between those moments, Damien Chazelle’s giddy La La Land conjures up much the same exuberant yet melancholic fizz evoked by the Golden Era musicals it harkens back to. Fortunately, it doesn’t feel constricted by the rules of those old studio vehicles…

Here’s the trailer.

New in Theaters: ‘Gangster Squad’


The new year’s slate of movies is starting off with a bang…actually lots of bangs. The star-packed Gangster Squad (Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Emma Stone, and so on) was originally a fall 2012 release before getting bumped to mid-January. Its high-wattage cast and liberal gunplay would probably make sure that it would do decent business no matter what time of year it came roaring onto screens:

An internal Los Angeles Police Department report once counted the number of gangland killings in the city between 1900 and 1951: They came up with 57. Roughly that many people are rubbed out in less than two hours during Ruben Fleischer’s showboating, bullet-pocked, fist-to-the-face period gangster film. Former homicide detective Will Beall’s lunkish screenplay for Gangster Squad is nominally based on Paul Lieberman’s Los Angeles Times articles about the LAPD unit that spent the late-1940s and ’50s targeting East Coast mobsters with strictly off-the-books tactics. Taking them up to Mulholland Drive and putting a gun to their ear was a standard stratagem. But the film that Zombieland director Fleischer brings to the screen is more interested in gaping flesh wounds: This gangster squad puts bullets in nearly everything that moves…

Gangster Squad opens wide on Friday.

My full review is at Film Journal International.

You can watch the trailer here: