Battle of the Sexes
Sort of an object lesson in how to make a bland film, this movie just underperforms at every level, hard to do when you have such a great cast. Not long into the movie, you understand why they wanted Steve Carell, because the character is very funny and wacky in a manner that suits him. Andrea Risborough, best known from Tom Cruise sci-fi stinker Oblivion, creates a nice presence, and kind of steals the movie out from under its bigger stars. Emma Stone is quite good, but nobody has a well-written part to play and the movie can’t decide what it wants to say, or what the story DOES say.
While the movie does a good job of showing us the stakes this particular tennis game achieved, and recreating the times and this early breakthrough moment in mainstream feminism, it has no way to build make-or-break drama, since we all know that basically nothing changed after this game. So it can’t decide what the stakes are, what all of this really matters, and whether it should really just be a character study and focus on the players’ personal development. So you get a lot of great period detail, but in every other way, the film steadfastly refuses to become anything.
Quite, quite good! I actually walked out of the previous Annabelle film because of its violence against pregnant women, but this one shifts the focus to a bunch of kids at an orphanage run by the grieving parents of a little girl whose death caused a bad spirit to focus on this doll. You have a mysterious bedridden woman downstairs in a secret room, a doll locked in a closet covered by bible pages, and a bunch of curious little girls, seeking to look in on both.
Overall it just works, and you get a bunch of pretty good scares, some nice character work by the numerous accomplished actors on hand (including the talented young actress from the last Ouija film) and not much to say about it—hence no review—but it’s all just quite well done and fairly scary.
It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a good old-fashioned serial killer movie, and even though this one got horrid reviews, it still has Michael Fassbender (who really ought to try to do something decent soon), Rebecca Ferguson, late of Mission Impossible 5, and is directed by the guy who did Let the Right One In. And it came up front with stories of production troubles, for example, that they didn’t get to shoot 15% of the script because they ran out of money!
It shows. It is a total bust—it sucks—but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to recommend it. Mostly the scenery and atmosphere, which you can well imagine if you’ve seen Let the Right One In, which lends itself to the serial killer genre, in which the best ones (i.e. Silence of the Lambs) are able to create an autumnal atmosphere that something is broken in the world at large. Other than that, it all feels pretty recycled, and has a number of ridiculous things, such as being able to stand RIGHT next to a car that is sinking through the broken ice of a frozen lake while remaining in complete safety, and the killer’s signature snowman, which becomes a little ridiculous: like WHEN would he have time to make that thing (not to mention such a perfectly art-directed snowman) while enacting his elaborate killings and also taunting the police? The guy really does keep himself busy. The climactic moment is clearly the victim of big production problems, as there is clearly footage missing that would have explained who was where doing what to whom. Anyway, a bust, but if you need a serial killer movie and have low expectations, it WILL fill your screen for a designated amount of time, and there is some value in that.