WATCH: Trailer for the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs movie ‘Battle of the Sexes’

We’ve been excited about the film Battle of the Sexes ever since we saw the first stills of newly-minted Oscar winner Emma Stone and Steve Carell as dead-ringers for tennis greats Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, who fought a famous charity tennis match in Houston back in the early 1970s pitting the top female tennis player of the time against an older, more experienced and heavily delusional Riggs. The event really kick-started feminism, gave rise to the term “male chauvinist pig” and cemented King as an icon. Now the trailer is available for the film, which comes out in September. Take a look!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

First look at Emma Stone as Billie Jean King in ‘Battle of the Sexes’

BOTS_2016Screen shot 2016-04-13 at 4.18.26 PMFox Searchlight is making Battle of the Sexes, the screen adaptation of the famous face-off between male chauvinist tennis hustler Bobby Riggs and world champ (and secretly lesbian) Billie Jean King in Houston. A TV version with Holly Hunter has already been aired, but this new version features Steve Carell as Riggs and Emma Stone as King. The film has just started shooting, and we have this photo …. which we will compare with an actual picture from 1973. Wow!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Rocca ages

WAIT, WAIT! DON’T TELL ME! | That nerdy comedian is Mo Rocca!

Need salt? Don’t ask Mo Rocca — but as the Texas vet gets older, he keeps getting better

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

You know that man on CBS Sunday Morning who’s really funny and kind of nerdy? That panelist with the nasally voice on NPR’s Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me quiz show. The guy you can’t quite describe other than from the kinda geeky-gay vibe he puts out, but in the nicest way. That’s Mo Rocca.

He’s the face you might recognize but not be sure where from. Rocca is everywhere, whether he’s reporting newsy features for CBS in his special snarky way or adding to the fun on Wait, Wait (or maybe you recall him from the heyday of The Daily Show when he, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell dominated the reports). Now he’s added to his resume as the host for Cooking Channel’s Food(ography) — perhaps the last show he thought he’d be on.

“I was approached to host this and seemed like an odd fit,” he says. “My only experience with cooking food at all is none. I don’t even have salt in my apartment. My kitchen is totally virgin territory. But I needed the work!”

What he didn’t want was to look a fool on camera — although he admits knowing nothing about cooking, he didn’t want to be put in the position of looking like he knew nothing. Instead, the show allows Rocca to use both his comic and journalistic talents to tell the stories of food and its history and how it becomes something else altogether.

“Food has become more the portal into discussing food and history and life. Getting through to people through the stomach because hopefully we all sit down to eat. This is my long way of saying I like talking about history and I get to do it through food.”

He’d dare to call it the best show he’s worked for … this coming from the guy with no salt.

“I went in for a paycheck and have fallen in love with it.”

Rocca juggles that gig using his shtick on the as-fun radio show Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me, which covers current topics with a rotating panel of guests (including fellow queermedian Paula Poundstone) as they test their knowledge with hilarious results.

“Oh, it’s both fun and easy,” he says. “I didn’t know the show because I don’t listen to radio, but I’m able to be funny because I don’t have to create the stuff. It’s there already.”

Which means less work for the clever comedian. With his wit, funny would seem to come as second nature. Instead, Rocca makes it sound oh-so-painful.

“Making something funny is hard work,” he says with breathy emphasis on the hard work. “If I do a piece for CBS Sunday Morning, it’s like crapping out a pineapple. It is so hard to get that thing out.  I think President Reagan used that term first.”

With NPR being in such hot water these days, Rocca didn’t pull out the whole pledge plea. He thinks NPR could actually go in a different direction with funding.

“I do feel badly about [the scrutiny] and it is tricky,” he says. “This is a great product, but if it’s so great then why do we need taxpayer money? I am reluctant to say that, but the reality of it is, it sure would be a whole lot more convenient. But if we didn’t have NPR, the void would be filled by more opinion. And that’s just what we need!”

He jests of course.

Rocca will appear in North Texas Monday as part of the Dallas Museum of Art’s Arts and Letters Live series, but he’s no stranger to the area. His first job in television was here, writing and producing for the children’s show Wishbone. The gig was great, but he does have his regrets.

“I used to live in Plano,” he says. “It was such a mistake. I thought I needed to live near work and the studio was in Plano. You know, plano means flat in Spanish, and it was and there were all these McMansions… ugh.”

If only Rocca had gotten the show he really hoped for when he got there.

“Yeah, I didn’t get the gig at co-hosting Plano Tonight.”

He jests again — but who would put that past Plano?

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

La cage aux fools

Remake of Veber farce a showcase for Carell

DINNER PARODY | Paul Rudd and Steve Carell spiral out of control in laugh-filled French farce remake.

3 out of 5 stars
Steve Carell, Paul Rudd.
Rated PG-13. 105 mins.
Now playing wide release.

With the one-two punch of Despicable Me and now Dinner for Schmucks, Steve Carell will be hard to beat as the summer’s King of Comedy.

Schmucks is based on the 1998 French comedy Le Diner de Cons by Francis Veber, writer of La Cage aux Folles. With typical American excess, it’s half an hour longer than the French version (about 15 minutes too long) and includes the eponymous dinner, which Veber left to the imagination. Still it’s a top screen farce featuring moments of inspired silliness.

A farce by its nature requires lots of expositional set up, so your patience is tested at the beginning, but the payoff is worth it. Tim (Paul Rudd) is a hard-working analyst for Fender (Bruce Greenwood). With a connection to a wealthy Swiss wastrel (David Walliams of Little Britain) and the help of his secretary (Kristen Schaal), Tim may advance from the sixth floor to the seventh: Moving into the company’s inner circle gets him invited to a monthly dinner party where idiots are invited and mocked.

Tim has begun making frequent proposals to his girlfriend Julie (Stephanie Szostak), an art curator promoting the career of pretentious painter Kieran Vollard (Jemaine Clement). Tim promises not to participate in the dinner until he meets socially awkward Barry (Carell), who fits the idiot profile so perfectly it seems like fate.

Tim invites him to the dinner, giving him a license to cling. Barry sets about systematically but inadvertently destroying Tim’s life, hilariously involving his own boss at the IRS (Zach Galifianakis) and a stalker (Lucy Punch) with a near-fatal attraction to Tim.

Because the p.c. police are watching, the dinner guests not only have to have some kind of alternate intellect, but must be extraordinary people with specialized skills or hobbies they engage in obsessively. We’ve already seen Barry’s work in a fascinating opening montage: He dresses up dead mice and poses them in elaborate tableaux.

In classic fashion, it’s always clear where Dinner for Schmucks is headed but not how it’s going to get there. Each of Barry’s blunders is just a bit more outrageous than you think it’s going to be. Carell, skillfully delivering malapropisms like “the fecal position,” can take over the late Ed Wynn’s title of the Perfect Fool. Rudd makes an equally perfect straight man, though the character and situation may be too close for comfort to what he played in I Love You, Man.

The supporting players overact appropriately, with Szostak and Punch likely to raise their profiles significantly. It’s a treat for Flight of the Conchords fans to have Clement and Schaal in the same vehicle, even if they don’t get to interact.

Director Jay Roach almost makes up for those dreadful Austin Powers movies here. A moment when Barry’s backstory is told in three photos is surprisingly subtle and touching, reminiscent of the marriage montage in Up. If you like to laugh, you’d be a schmuck to be late for Dinner.

— Steve Warren

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 30, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas