*NEW* BATTLE OF THE SEXES REVIEW *NEW*

A sterling turn from Stone lifts this easygoing sports biopic from TV movie-land.

The true story of the 1973 tennis match between World number one Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and ex-champ and serial hustler Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell).

The opening got straight to it. Clocking bonus points for shooting the opening credit sequences in all its 70s glory. Retro.

Stone was brilliant as King. You really felt for her as the world’s number one female tennis champion threw everything on the line to make a stand. She carried the film and, if anything, her Oscar was awarded for the wrong film.

It bumbled along at an easy going pace as King argued biology and tackled sexism. A simple request. Same stakes. Same prize money. As the women were only awarded an eighth of the mens’.

I’m not the biggest fan of Sarah Silverman BUT she delivered a decent turn as King’s long suffering agent. Doing her utmost to source an alternative tournament with no backing or money.

The risk King took. Jeopardising the chances of Grand Slam and Wimbledon for her cause. I couldn’t believe it.

I’m sure it was supposed to be a stark contrast watching King struggle to make ends meet while Riggs (Carrell) smoke, drank and gambled in the background.

BUT it felt like a waste of Carrell’s talents. Anyone could have played him. It was only at the 45 minute marker that the man had a little more meat to chew on. His outburst at a gamblers anonymous meeting spoke volumes: “You’re not here because you gamble. You’re here because you lost!”. Mental.

Carrell played the part well BUT I didn’t know what to make of Riggs. A washed up chauvinist? Or a player in every single aspect?

It felt like Riggs used the chauvinism angle as a mere ploy to antagonise his opponents and help ramp up the PR. By the end, I didn’t know whether the sports star was really that deluded or just desperate for one last pay out.

The ultimate irony being that Riggs was burning through his wife’s (A role that was a waste of Elisabeth Shue’s talents) inheritance to fund his expensive habits while she continued to make a living. Quietly observing from the side lines.

I was surprised at the star-studded cast involved; Bill Pullman, Andrea Riseborough, John C. McGinley and Alan Cumming. It was a shame that they didn’t really bring much to the fold.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Riseborough had good chemistry with Stone as King came to terms with her sexuality after falling for a hairdresser.

I was actually on tenterhooks when King’s husband unwittingly stumbled upon their union.

The only problem with BOTS was that in an attempt to focus on every aspect, it didn’t really provide much depth to the majority of the characters involved other than Riggs and King.

I couldn’t believe the PR up to this “Battle of the Sexes” match. I was baffled when the end credits showed the real life footage of the promotion (I thought the majority of it had been exaggerated for dramatic purposes).

The celebrity endorsements surprised me! Oh Lloyd Bridges, say it ain’t so!

Riggs wasted so much energy on showboating and mockery instead of on the actual match. I have to commend King for trying to change opinion and making a stance.

It was engaging enough BUT I expected (with the talent involved) this biopic to pack more of a punch. The social commentary still struck chords with the present. A shocking comparison by its own right.

BUT it was all rather tame. After all that build up, the BIG match was brushed over so quickly that the ending went out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Don’t get me wrong, I was still rooting for King. And surprisingly, I didn’t know the outcome of this historical game.

I was mortified at the change of tide during the match commentary as they realised Bobby was feeling the strain. I couldn’t believe after all those jibes and digs about King’s looks and build that they used Rigg’s age as an excuse when she was getting the better of him?!

Madness. Funny that wasn’t an issue when he beat Margaret Court in the same year. Hmmm . . .

If this biopic didn’t have such a talented cast at its disposal, I felt this premise may have gone straight on the box.

It certainly killed the time and entertained BUT will stand the test of time like the very much it focused on? Not so much.

A stand out performance from Stone does just enough to serve up a watchable drama.

3/5

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST REVIEW

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A Million Ways to Die Laughing! Unfortunately not. MacFarlane takes on the Wild West and comes out more battered and bruised than his heroic counterpart. Applying his Family Guy spiel, this cowboy comedy yields mixed results this time round.

Now for the record I am a big Family Guy fan and thought Ted was a return to form from MacFarlane as Family Guy teetered on lacklustre but watchable.

His second feature to hit the big screen and a western. My hopes were high. The trailers signed me up from the get go. Job done as always. However, it seems a case of ‘best bits in the trailers’ syndrome. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad but it’s not all great either.

The main issue, two hours? Too long. It was only after the first 30-45 minutes that the film got into its stride. The story line is hardly original, merely a rehash of a classical western storyline. Probably one of the reasons why westerns are no longer plaguing our screens.

Local coward finds bravery and confronts nastiest gunslinger to win the town and the girl. Yadda, yadda. I really hoped for a demented Blazing Saddles but only got mildly hot flip flops. The lovely Charlize Theron and McFarlane were fantastic together. Good chemistry. You could see where they were improvising which made the banter all the more entertaining.

However, the main jokes and punch lines are few and far between. The bigger, better gags have been heavily advertised to get you to watch this mildly entertaining affair.

Seth MacFarlane’s rants felt, at times, like nothing more than him trying to do improvised stand up. Some parts fall flat on its backside, other bits bring the odd laugh. His speech on the law and order of the town was very good; “There is the mayor. He is dead”.

MacFarlane manages to carry enough charisma to keep his stocky character going. The funniest moments in the film for me were the unexpected blink and you’ll miss it cameos, containing the likes of Ewan McGregor, Ryan Reynolds and . . . my God, two brilliant cameos that were nearly worth the ticket. I won’t say for once.

Cameos you would have expected from MacFarlane but still manage to surprise and get a laugh.

Considering the number of musical montages in Family Guy, there is only one song and dance number. An irritatingly catchy one, at that. A missed opportunity in my opinion. I kept expecting Mr Conway Twitty to appear. Alas to no avail. Of course not literally as the poor man passed away some time ago.

I admit I did have to check Google on that. My bad.

In all fairness, the supporting characters bring the better jokes but they are barely in it. You feel that they are brought in to help the slackening pace or when MacFarlane and Theron have stopped messing around.

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) was very funny as the mustached lothario Foy with his ridiculously cringeworthy but hilarious pun based insults.

It was great to see Liam Neeson as the villain. Unfortunately he plays it very dead pan. So serious, in fact that his character is just a stocky and highly unmemorable clichéd cowboy killer. I expected at least a Taken parody or something. Nope. At least he didn’t try and do an American drawl again after Seraphim Falls.

The same could be said for Amanda Seyfried who was nothing more than a bland caricature used as a plot device to spur our protagonist. Shame. A joke about her eyes brought an unexpected titter.

Sarah Silverman and Giovani Ribisi were hilarious together. However, they are only resorted to a drawn out gag about having a prostitute as a girlfriend and not sleeping together before marriage as it is not very Christian. The gag gets a little stale but the characters were funny enough to warrant more screen time than they got.  Inevitably, there would be a meeting with the Indians, I mean, Native Americans and a certain taking of various substances, leading to a trippy and surreal sequence that reeked of desperation, more than creativity.

Inevitably it all ends very . . . predictably which leaves you somewhat disappointed (if it hadn’t already).

It’s watchable at best. But I have later series of Family Guy for that. It kills the time, brings the odd laugh but hardly must see viewing. If you are looking for a laugh out loud rowdy riot of a western in the style of Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles, then I recommend . . . Blazing Saddles 2.5/5 for me.

Currently ranks #130 out of 179!