Tag Archives: Andrea Riseborough

Battle of the Sexes (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

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Directors: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer: Simon Beaufoy
Stars: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Bill Pullman, Sarah Silverman

I was pleasantly surprised with “The Battle of the Sexes” the primary storyline to the movie is the legendary story of Billie Jean King (Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Carell) going head to head in a showdown match between the legendary women’s Tennis player and Tennis hustler and former men’s Tennis player. But there is more to this movie than just a gimmicky event. This is more about Billie Jean King and her personal and professional battles in the early 1970’s.

Society has came along way since 1973 and let’s be honest we still have a long way to go. But back in 1973 the world was a different place. In the Tennis world the men’s games was rewarding their players with 9 times more pay than the women’s who were pulling in the same crowds as the men’s. Unfair? Well obviously. Not just that but the game and its institutional was favouring the men’s game considerably to the point of chauvinism.

Billie Jean King along with her manager Gladys Heldman (Silverman) were at the forefront to change the face of Women’s Tennis forever by breaking away from the WTA and its President Jack Kramer (Pullman). Also in her personal life, she was battling. Struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, as her friendship with Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) developed throughout the tour.

This is where the story succeeds. The match itself although is billed as the climatic finish to the film, I felt her battle with the establishment and her own personal feelings more compelling. The match versus Bobby Riggs was really just the icing on the cake. As a “get it up you” to Kramer and Co.

Emma Stone must be in the top 5 of Hollywood actresses just now. Her portrayal of Billie Jean King is controlled and composed. She never at any point over does the character or the situation. In fact, I felt her portrayal helped me understand the struggle not just for her but for women in general and not just in the Tennis world. Stone gained 15 pounds of muscle for this film and shows her commitment to the role.

Steve Carell I have been a fan of since 2003’s Bruce Almighty as the irritating Evan Baxter and followed this character up with the less successful Evan Almighty. His next role though was the one that caught my eye in 2007’s Dan in Real Life. It showed to me that Carell could act outside his comfort zone and in The Battle of the Sexes I felt he did well as the serial hustler Riggs. As Billie Jean King said Riggs is more of a clown playing to an audience rather than and out and out chauvinist. Don’t get me wrong there are times when he displays a lack of respect in the film and to be honest I wasn’t sure myself whether or not this was part of his act.

The rest of the cast where mostly consistent and really just add to the occasion. Sarah Silverman is great as Heldman. Andrea Riseborough was fine as hairstylist Marilyn Barnett. Disappointingly Bill Pullman’s portrayal of Kramer is a little flat and uninteresting. Predictable you may say.

Credit to Directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris. What could have been a very run of the mill storyline turned into an interesting drama that flitted back and forth between Billie Jean King versus Bobby Rigg, Billie Jean King’s relationship with Marilyn Barnett and Billie Jean King versus Jack Kramer. The pacing throughout was consistent and was well mapped out. Interestingly I was personally impressed by the inclusion of stock footage of Howard Cosell (Famous Sports Announcer who broke the News of John Lennon’s death on Monday Night Football that dreadful December night back in 1980) using clever CGI wizardry the filmmakers managed to convince the audience that actress Natalie Morales, who played Rosie Casals was being interviewed by Cosell in an almost flawless process. Apparently the most difficult part wasn’t the technical aspects, but getting permission from his estate.

Overall “The Battle of the Sexes” is an interesting film. The look and feel to any historic moment in time is crucial and I feel the makers hit the nail on the head with feel and tone. Stone in particular could be up for an academy award nomination for her portrayal it was that good and the storyline concluded well. If you haven’t viewed this movie yet I can honestly say watch it and you will be entertained. Highly Recommended.

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Oblivion (2013) Movie Retro Review by John Walsh

OBLIVION

Director: Joseph Kosinski
Writers: Karl Gajdusek (screenplay), Michael Arndt (screenplay) (as Michael deBruyn)
Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough

So as I’ve mentioned before, we’ve had countless permutations of Tom Cruise doing the understated superhero thing and the film I’m focusing on today is no different. Directed by Joseph Kosinski and based on his unfinished graphic novel of the same name; Oblivion is undoubtedly beautiful looking, featuring a crisp, clean, cloud abode and shiny modern spaceships to boot. The trouble is that it feels superfluous in this regard and has a distinct lack of much else outwith the superficial.

Set in a distant 2077, it would be fair to say that the Earth has seen a dramatic change in the sixty years that have followed humanities war with a mysterious extraterrestrial species. For one, the planet has supposedly been devastated (there’s little evidence of this to begin with) and a colony has been created on Saturn’s moon Titan with humanity’s former home now serving as a mere source for power via gigantic ocean gurgling generators.

Step forward Jack Harper or “Tech-49” (Tom Cruise), a security technician tasked with keeping armed drones, protecting said generators, functioning in order to stave off attacks from the alien scavengers, hiding in caves, that continuously attack them. Living with him in their cloud skirting, gigantic tower apartment is Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), a strangely emotionless, almost robotic like partner that guides him to downed drones. Jack outwardly appears a normal chap, but as the film progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that mentally all is not what it seems.

He’s been having visions, you see, visions of being on the Empire State Building with a strange woman and when he discovers that the ‘scavs’ have been using the aforementioned building’s antenna to send signals into space he begins connecting the dots. This is only exacerbated when the women from these visions arrives. A strange ship re-enters the Earths atmosphere and crashes, only to be inexplicably attacked by the same drones Jack has been repairing. It’s at this point he discovers Julia (Olga Kurylenko) in a stasis pod and whisks her back to the apartment only to be met by a frosty Victoria.

Needless to say, things take a bit of a turn for the worse at this point. After an enlightening meeting with the savangers led by Malcolm Beech (Morgan Freeman), whos clearly not an alien incidentally, some shocking revelations (totally predictable) are made. Jack is a clone that’s been doing the aliens dirty work for them, with regular mind wipes and replacements keeping the pretence of normality going. The telegraphed twists keep on coming too. The huge ship, Tet, once believed to be a human creation is actually the extraterrestrials mothership and they’ve been siphoning energy from the Earth.

I think the rest of the story is pretty self explanatory from this point, so I’ll not waste any time detailing any more of it. Think Independence Day, happily ever after and you’re half-way there.

Performances. Ok. Tom Cruise does what Tom Crusie does. He puts in a solid enough showing as Jack. It’s his film as you’d expect, but Jack is hollow, like every other character in the film. There’s no presence of a soul in any of them and little to no development. Jack is probably the most developed of them all too. He has his very existence and way of life turned on it’s head and discovers a wife he never knew he had. I won’t be too harsh on him because this wasn’t his fault and he did the best he could.

The only other performance or character that even springs to mind is Victoria. Riseborough gives off a genuinely disconcerting vibe in the film and seems almost robotic at points. There’s a complete lack of emotion that almost mirrors the dense, blonde freaks from the future in the original Time Machine. She does a decent enough job, but again is ultimately let down with a poorly written script that seemed to shirk any focus on the actual characters in favour of a predictable plot and eye candy visuals.

Ultimately, Oblivion is an enjoyable enough watch if you can see past its deficiencies in character development and just watch it as a purely popcorn, sci-fi, action flick. It is visually stunning, especially those scenes in the apartment that gave off major Cloud City vibes, with some decent action at intermittent points and isn’t the worst film in this genre I’ve ever watched. Not by a long way. However, coming off a recent viewing of Blade Runner with its incredible, multifaceted story and performances makes this look pitiful in comparison.

Rating: 2.5/5

Shepherds and Butchers (2016) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

SHEPHERDS AND BUTCHERS

Director: Oliver Schmitz
Writers: Chris Marnewick (novel),  Brian Cox (adaptation)
Stars: Andrea Riseborough,  Steve Coogan,  Garion Dowds

“Shepherds and Butchers” is a beautiful yet shocking film drama set in the apartheid era of South Africa that manages to be sensitive and brutal at the same time. Johan Webber (Coogan) and Kathleen Marais (Riseborough) go head to head in a trial of a young mentally broken prison guard, accused of a multiple murders to a football team of black players facing the death penalty if convicted.

The focus throughout the movie is centred around the courtroom with flash backs and intervals of Webber cross examining his own path and reasoning on why he is defending an accused who is almost certainly guilty of the terrible crime he is being tried for.

Webber’s angle throughout the movie is the accused Leon Labuschagne’s mental state being in close proximity of the inmates on death row and how this has effected his mind resulting in his actions that fateful night.

“Shepherds and Butchers” is a graphic and harrowing movie at times. The story is enthralling for the duration of the movie and really takes the audience on an emotional rollercoaster as you begin to sympathise with the accused on how he went from School Prefect to appearing in Court for multiple murders in the space of a few years.

I’ve followed and been a fan of Steve Coogan since the early 1990’s. Having watched his career mostly in comedy and in particular, Alan Partridge the Norfolk DJ. I grew up watching the development of this character with other Coogan projects in between from The Day Today, Paul and Pauline Calf, Saxondale as well as his voice work in shows like Spitting Image.

So it wasn’t a surprise to me that Coogan at some point would try his hand at drama. Already having a film career that spans almost 20 years in his early work of The Parole Officer and 24 Hour Party People, it was refreshing to see him tackle something with a bit more bite. Already praised for his role as Martin Sixsmith in the 2013 Movie “Philomena” I was already to accept Steve Coogan the actor and not Steve Coogan “the comedy actor” that implies and pigeonholed him in small Hollywood roles which I felt was wasting good talent.

Steve Coogan throughout the movie is the star, who portrays Webber as at first reluctant, then intrigued and finally quite determined as the defence counsel to Labuschagne.

Equally as interesting is Garion Dowds portrayal of the accused and only 17 years old Leon Labuschagne. Dowds introduction as Leon is a convincing redundant young man who appears to have accepted his crime and is preparing himself for execution, something he knows well and has experienced working in that environment for a few years. Dowds surprisingly only has 3 acting credits to his curriculum vitae to date which stunned me when I read this information. Dowds comes across as an experienced actor for someone who is fairly young and his portrayal of Labuschagne is cold, sorry and convincing throughout.

As far as the photography and direction goes, Oliver Schmitz gives a 1980’s feel to the movie in what I can only imagine what living in South Africa during these times must have been. The photography is equally as impressive and beautiful to watch and the execution scene although are expected to be shocking still have shock value in what the victims experience but is balanced throughout those scenes on how it effected the guards who by order suffered physiologically and haunted by those moments and in particular the character of Leon Labuschagne.

The story resolves itself in a way that is more complex than these films usually allow themselves to be. At its climatic conclusion you will be left with mixed emotions that I haven’t felt since Kevin Bacon’s “The Woodsman” satisfied with the verdict? I’ll leave that for you to decide as I don’t want to spoil the ending. I will say that you will be left confused about your emotions and resolve.

“Shepherds and Butchers” is a terrific movie from start to finish from its direction and development of the characters and shot deliberately with a whole load of close ups to capture the reaction and emotions of the people in the courtroom which I believe the audience will experience too. I highly recommend this movie just for Coogan’s performance alone and admit that I will go back and watch this again at some point in the near future.