Stone and Carell serve up a winner in still timely ’70s tennis drama      

Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) play to the crowd at a press conference preceding the Battle of the Sexes.

Opening nearly 44 years to the day after the famous tennis match it’s named after, Battle of the Sexes chronicles the much publicized and widely watched (90 million viewers tuned in worldwide) 1973 match between then 29-year-old women’s champion Billie Jean King and former men’s champion 55-year-old Bobby Riggs. Billed as the ultimate Battle of the Sexes, the match became much more than just an exhibition game; it took on a life of its own, and, after King’s resounding defeat of Riggs, it became a touchstone for the growing women’s equality movement of the early 1970s. Husband and wife directing team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (127 Hours; Slumdog Millionaire) wonderfully capture the zeitgeist of the period down to the smallest details, and have assembled a stellar cast to bring this often infuriating but always engaging true story to life.
[read the whole post]


Film Review: Brad’s Status

by Carrie Kahn on September 22, 2017

A midlife crisis worth watching: Stiller shines in funny and poignant story  

Brad (Ben Stiller, l.) reflects on his life while touring colleges with his son Troy (Austin Abrams). 

Ben Stiller, who can play middle-age angst like no one else (see While We’re Young, for example), is in fine form in writer/director Mike White’s new film Brad’s Status. Although the film’s premise about a soon-to-be-50 straight white man facing an existential crisis as he grapples with his life choices may sound like the epitome of naval-gazing white privilege, the picture touches on some universal themes with sensitivity and wry humor, thanks in large part to Stiller’s well-tuned performance and White’s sharp screenplay (White is perhaps best known for the 2000 cult hit Chuck and Buck and this year’s social satire Beatriz at Dinner).
[read the whole post]


Film Review: mother!

by Chris Piper on September 15, 2017

If a stranger knocks at your front door…

Jennifer Lawrence’s Mother struggles with hostess duties as Javier Bardem’s poet entertains.

Standing before an unpainted bedroom wall, a young and thoroughly domesticated woman ponders which shade of eggshell will look just so. She mixes up a tester, applies a strip, and steps back to regard her work. Elsewhere an older man inhabits his writing study, conjuring magic onto the page and thence to his readers. Later the two will enjoy her hearty meal, and settle into reading by the fire.

But something isn’t right. A sound, or maybe a feeling, forces the woman to cock her ear. She moves as quietly as possible, propelled by a feeling she can’t explain, to peek in on the man. He isn’t writing. He’s just sitting, waiting, watching. Something isn’t right.

Such is the ominous atmosphere of Darren Aronofsky’s latest film mother!, which only partly succeeds, through the use of the horror genre overlaid with biblical themes, at offering a portrait of female anxiety.

[read the whole post]


Film Review: Home Again

by Carrie Kahn on September 8, 2017

Reese goes home again, but that doesn’t mean you have to    

Lillian (Candice Bergen, l.) and her daughter Alice (Reese Witherspoon) delightedly share breakfast with the three total strangers that Alice has let in her home (from l., Nat Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, and Pico Alexander).

With Home Again, writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer’s debut feature, we see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. The daughter of filmmaker Nancy Meyers (The Intern; It’s Complicated; The Holiday; Something’s Got to Give), Meyers-Shyer here copies her mother’s patented feel-good glossy, Pottery Barn-infused style to create a romantic comedy that is blandly harmless at best and ludicrously insipid at worst. That Meyers herself produced the project is no surprise, as the entire picture feels like Mom just handed her daughter the keys to the family car and admonished her to drive it exactly as Mom would.
[read the whole post]


Film Review: Patti Cake$

by Carrie Kahn on August 25, 2017

Straight outta Jersey: Portrait of an unlikely rap star makes for one of the summer’s best films    

Aspiring rapper Patti, AKA Patti Cake$, AKA Killa P (Danielle Macdonald), makes a grand entrance at the pharmacy where her friend Jheri works. 

New Jersey filmmaker Geremy Jasper got his start making music videos, so it makes sense that his first foray into feature films is a picture about an aspiring musician. With Patti Cake$, Jasper draws on both his New Jersey upbringing and his music video experience to bring us the thoroughly entertaining story of one Patricia Dombrowski. She’s Patti to her friends and family and Patti Cake$ or Killa P in her brilliantly constructed rap songs, but, either way, Patti is one of the most unique and unforgettable characters to grace the silver screen this year, and her story makes for a great way to close out the summer film season.
[read the whole post]


Tonally uneven film obscures provocative premise   

Social media obsessed Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) moves to L.A. with a plan to befriend her Instagram idol.

If you sometimes worry you may be checking your Facebook and Instagram feeds just a little too frequently, rest assured that you’ve got nothing on Ingrid Thorburn. As portrayed by an exceptional Audrey Plaza, the social media obsessed heroine of Ingrid Goes West becomes a poster child for smart phone restraint. Unfortunately, first time feature writer/director Matt Spicer and his co-writer David Branson Smith run into tone problems, turning what could have been a brilliant satire into something mildly amusing but ultimately unsatisfying, almost to the point of troubling.
[read the whole post]


Film Review: The Only Living Boy in New York

August 11, 2017

Let your honesty shine, shine, shine… Except when it doesn’t, like in this phony, affected picture    The word “serviceable’ gets bandied about quite a bit in director Marc Webb’s new film about a young writer, which is ironic, since The Only Living Boy in New York is anything but. In fact, serviceable is actually […]

Read the full article →

Film Review: Brigsby Bear

August 4, 2017

Mooney’s funny and poignant film Bears witness to the restorative power of art  If you watch Saturday Night Live regularly, you know that cast member Kyle Mooney seems like the kind of smart-but-nerdy guy who probably spent his middle school years making goofy action-figure based short films with his friends. Fast forward some 20 years […]

Read the full article →

SFJFF37 Spotlights: The Boy Downstairs / Mr. Predictable / A Classy Broad / Bombshell

July 30, 2017

The 37th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, showcasing over 60 films from more than a dozen countries, opened on July 20th, and runs until next Sunday, August 6th. This year, the Festival boasts over 15 West Coast premiers, and more than 40% of its films are directed by women, including both its opening and closing […]

Read the full article →

Film Review: Atomic Blonde

July 28, 2017

Theron heats up a cold city Take a world nearing collapse, a main character with oodles of bitchy beauty, add some cold-war cloak and dagger spycraft, throw in some “fluid sexuality,” lots of fight scenes, and just a pinch of back story. Good so far? Not so fast. Take away the script. Take away the […]

Read the full article →