Battle of the Sexes – An Ace For Fans

Starring Emma Stone & Steve Carell, Battle of the Sexes is the dramatization of the real life events in 1973 which lead to the creation of the WTA, the Women’s Tennis Association.

Battle of the Sexes takes a look back at the monumental clash between former men’s Number 1, Bobby Riggs (Carell), in the twilight on his career. Up against one of the top women’s players at the time, Billie Jean King (Stone) in an open challenge to the Women’s tour.  Back in the early 70s, the Women’s game was highly disregarded in the male dominated game, with far less pay and recognition than their male counterparts. So the consequences of this clash would go far beyond the court.

Though the subject of the movie may be Tennis, the film takes a greater look into the inner conflicts and demons that our two protagonists are facing. King is struggling to deal with her sexuality, and the pressures of being away on tour from her husband. Whereas Riggs is trying to balance the end of a career with his increasing gambling addiction, which is causing immence strain in his relationship with his wife.

Battle of the Sexes is a slow burner, as the first hour focuses mainly off the court, with both Stone & Carell excelling in their performances. Though the role is far more serious than what he usually does, Carell still brings his trademark flair to the role of Riggs, bringing sympathy to a character who revels playing the pantomine villain in this show.  

The struggles faced especially by King, against a system which simply does not treat her colleagues as a serious threat and the credibility they deserve provides the movie with an antagonist we can all get behind, the USLTA commsioner Jack Kramer (Bill Pullman). Sarah Silverman also shines bright as the resourceful & sassy manager of the breakaway LTA organisation.

Battle of the Sexes is a must watch for any fan of Tennis, as the influences of this event still reverberates today. It may feel like it does drag on at times, and the actual showdown isn’t as hyped up as it could have been, it feels like the drama on the court could have been built up far more greater. The 2 actors are not known for the physical roles, so it probably was expected to reduce the on court scenes in a minimum. However it’s the players personal battles off court, that soar above their battles on court. 

Victoria and Abdul: Beautiful and True…..Mostly

This is a story that you might find difficult to believe. Adapted from a book written by Sharabani Basu, which is based on the journals of Abdul Karim recently discovered in India; we see an unlikely friendship develop between a common Indian Muslim man, and the Empress of India and Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

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I personally don’t think there’s a cast or director out there who could have done a better job portraying this particular story. Dame Judi Dench (James Bond, Philomena, Mrs Brown) once again takes on the role of Queen Victoria, alongside Ali Fazal (Furious 7) as Abdul Karim; surrounded by other brilliant actors (Michael Gambon, Eddie Izzard, Tim Piggot-Smith, Olivia Williams) playing the members of the court disgusted and insulted by the development of this relationship. All led by the director Stephen Frears, who was present for a Q&A after the screening, his most recent successes include The Queen with Helen Mirren, Philomena with Judi Dench, and Florence Foster Jenkins with Meryl Streep.

The film begins in India and follows Abdul’s journey to England to be involved in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee; after some actions deemed highly inappropriate by the court, the Queen decides to keep Abdul close and begins to learn much about India and Islam from the man the court repeatedly referred to as “one of the Hindus”. She confides in Abdul, revealing her more vulnerable side to the audience, regarding her feelings towards her position and life in general. Although the beginning is quite humorous with many good laughs from both Dench and Fazal throughout, the film takes a darker path as we continue to learn about the Queen’s difficult life, and the court’s ignorance and prejudice against Abdul.

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The Queen’s household united against Abdul

It is a difficult time, with Muslim-led mutinies against British rule breaking out in India, and some deceptions by Abdul does not help his case against the accusations by the court and Prince Edward or “Bertie” (Eddie Izzard). Regardless, the Queen keeps him on as her “Munshi” (teacher), she describes herself as being truly happy for the first time in a long while, and likely as an intentional provocation. Despite numerous attempts to discredit Abdul and blackmail the Queen, Abdul was in the service of the Queen for the final 15 years of her life. This, along with many incidents in the film, appear to be close to the real events that took place over 100 years ago.

I believe that the performances in this film were emotive and believable. It was quite a different kind of performance from Eddie Izzard than what we are used to, but he gave a strong and compelling portrayal of the jealous heir to the throne. One character who may not get as much notoriety is that of Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), he is the other Muslim, Indian man involved in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. However, he is not lucky enough to have captured the Queen’s attention and is kept in England against his will and in detriment to his health. Nevertheless, he remains faithful to his Indian brethren despite attempts of the court to get him to disclose information about Abdul. Of course, Dench and Fazal are touching in their representations; you laugh when they laugh and you cry when they cry. You feel as amazed as Abdul does in his new experiences, and you feel as trapped and depressed as Victoria does as monarch.

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Ali Fazal, Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Frears (Director), Eddie Izzard.

The Q&A with Stephen Frears gave an interesting insight into the making of this film. He was very blunt and to the point in his answers, extremely matter of fact. We found out that it only took 10 weeks to complete filming and it was the first production allowed to film inside Osbourne House, a former Royal residence on the Isle of Wight. He admitted he enjoys making provocative films that test the waters and opinions of the time; despite this fact, we were told the actors were professional and generally of a liberal mindset, this meant the idea of pushing any boundaries or causing controversy did not phase anyone involved.

In conclusion, I highly recommend seeing this movie; it’s fun, silly and emotional, with stellar actors who perform to a high standard. The story is simple but not one that’s been told before, and will make you want to more about this beautiful, heart warming, and unlikely friendship.

Our Last Tango – It Takes Two!

Going into this movie, I wasn’t too sure what to expect! I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of Dance, nor am I familiar with the famous names associated with the Tango. But this does give me a chance to watch ‘Our Last Tango’ with a neutral position, with no bias. Any documentary can attract the attention of the fans it’s aimed towards, but a great documentary can intrigue even the most casual of fans!

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Our Last Tango’ is the journey of Maria Nieves & Juan Carlos Copes, the dance partners who took the Tango, which at the time, was relatively unknown, all the way to the international stage. The couple were praised for their intensity & ingenuity, which has made the Tango what it is now. But they were only a couple on the stage, this compelling documentary takes a look at what eventually became a tumultuous relationship. With the two dancers taking very different trajectories in life.

The film is split into two distinguishable parts. You have the standard documentary format, using interviews from Maria & Juan, among others, and the use of stock footage from the archives. Then there are the dance segments, in which various actors are used to dramatize certain parts from days gone past. These are vibrant displays of Tango which really display how much the couple loved what they do, and how their journey from their roots, all the way to shining lights of Broadway developed. It is very similar in format to ‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’, which also released earlier this year.

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Director German Kral does a stellar job in weaving the flamboyant fiction with the more sombre factual interviews. Their relationship is at such a point, the two partners, rarely see each other, but at the same time, it is important to see what they did in their glory days, and the joy they bought to their millions of fans around the world.

Even though I didn’t have much of a connection with either of our couple beforehand, ‘Our Last Tango’ does a grand feat in making the audience feel empathy. The story of Maria is especially poignant, as she was truly devoted to Juan, but in the end, it just did not work out for her. Juan was dedicated to his goal of making the Tango world renowned, after all, it was his unique idea to dance on a table up on stage, but he never truly envisioned a life together with Maria as life went on. The scene where she receives an emotional standing ovation, by the fans she though did not care for her is very stirring, and almost makes you want to join in with the applause too!

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Overall, the film will intrigue anyone who has an interest to the Tango, and if your into your cultural arts, you will certainly appreciate this, but it did terrifically to make me feel as much as I did!  The dancing scenes are spectacular, with the ‘Dancing in the Rain’ sequence being the highlight on the film by far, but it’s the sentimental story behind all the glitz and glamour that really gives ‘Our Last Tango’ that emotional grip on our attentions.

3 word reviewvibrant and emotional

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