ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG

Opens today (2/12/16) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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HOW TO BE SINGLE

Opens today (2/12/16) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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PROVIDENCE

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 5.04.10 PMProvidence is a silent film that tells a simple, beautiful love story of two people whose lives intersect for 40 years. Without using any words, writer/director Sharon Wilharm creates a heartwarming story about the life’s most fundamental values: faith, hope and love. (BKP: 4/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Let me preface this review by saying one thing: I love dialogue as much as Oprah loves bread. I grew up with Kevin Williamson’s teen soap thesaurus and eventually graduated into Aaron Sorkin’s rat-a-tat symphony of sound. So for a film to win me over without using a line of dialogue is an impressive feat.

As the trailer suggests, “What if your soulmate was someone you already knew?” The story of Rachel Cartwright and Mitchel Little is told in three parts: their childhood, their teenage years and their adulthood. The beginning, set in 1974, shows young “Rachel” () reeling from the loss of her beloved Grandma Rose and dealing with her unsupportive mother. Meanwhile, young “Mitchell” (Chase Anderson) finds comfort in his Bible and looks towards a life of ministry. After the two meet each other and become childhood friends, the story flashes forward to their high school years with Stacey Bradshaw as cheerleader Rachel and Josh Allen as bookish outcast, Mitchell. The two friends flirt with each other and teeter on the edge of being together, but their ships-in-the-night story is inevitable as Rachel finds a new boyfriend.

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Providence jumps ahead to 2014, as a distant Rachel (Juli Tapken) and Mitchell (Rich Swingle) struggle with the hardships of their families and their careers … until they see each other again. Between their shared history and their unfailing faith, these star-crossed soulmates find a way back into each other’s lives for good.

This simple, heartwarming story is rooted in faith and recognizing God’s presence in life. For Rachel and Mitchell, it took 40 years for them to realize why their lives kept intersecting. Viewers will most likely see themselves in this story and reflect on their own childhoods, their high school years or their adulthoods. At times, the acting seems a little over-the-top, but since there is no dialogue to work with, that aspect is more-or-less forgiven.

Writer/director Sharon Wilharm brilliantly constructs a film that spans a lengthy time frame while tying it together with catchy original songs and instrumentals by Sean O’Bryan Smith. One song includes called “We’re All Walking Stories” (written and performed by Jilian Linklater) includes the lyrics, “We’re all walking stories, another page to turn. A paperback expression of a life worth being told. Every step we take, another scribble on the page. We’re all waking stories, so what’s yours gonna say?”

Providence may help you answer that question.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (2/12/16)

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 4.59.58 PM

Top Photo: Juli Tapken as Rachel Cartwright

Middle Photo: Juli Tapken and Rich Swingle as adult Rachel and Mitchell

Bottom Photo: Stacey Bradshaw and Josh Allen as teenage Rachel and Mitchell

Photo Credits: Main Street Productions

Q: Does Providence pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?GreenA2016

Yes!

Rachel (played by three different women) has a strong relationship with her grandmother and a weak relationship with her mother. When her mother falls ill, Rachel does everything she can to take care of her. Although, technically, the Bechdel-Wallace Test involves two female characters speaking to each other … this silent film exemplifies the strong bond between Rachel and the women in her life.

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ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 4.26.32 PMSarah Jessica Parker stars as a divorcee on a trip to Italy with her rebellious teenage daughter. Although the story bounces around from family drama to romance to road trip comedy, this comfort-food of a film is an easy, enjoyable watch. (BKP: 3.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Director Ella Lemhagen and writers Josh Appignanesi and Cindy Myers tell the story of newly-divorced “Maggie” (Sarah Jessica Parker) on a plane ride to Italy, accompanied by her pink-haired teenage daughter, “Summer” (Rosie Day). Twenty years prior, Maggie spent summer in a quaint Italian village and believes that if she whisks troubled Summer away to Europe, her problems will be left behind in New York City.

Wishful thinking, Maggie. As the mother-daughter-duo drive through the open roads of picturesque Italy, Maggie throws Summer’s phone out of the car window: maybe that will keep Summer from texting her jailbird boyfriend. The tension continues to build as they arrive at their house and Maggie rekindles feelings for her long-lost love, “Luca” (Raoul Bova).

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Bored without a phone and annoyed by her flirtatious mother, Summer drives out of Luca’s garage in a fancy convertible, with his mother, “Carmen,” (Claudia Cardinale) in the passenger seat. The film ventures into two different stories: the journey of Summer and Carmen and the journey of their followers, Maggie and Luca.

The comedic “chase” scenes through Italy give viewers the opportunity to witness the beauty of the country, especially at times when the film’s pacing slows. Cinematographer Gergely Pohárnok captures the majestic backdrop, making the setting a necessary component.

Although the story relies on romantic comedy cliches and contrived plot devices (two people, one hotel room, etc.) the writers’ intentions are evident.

All Roads Lead to Rome is a story about love: romantic love, platonic love and familial love. Sarah Jessica Parker will draw people to this film, whether they see it select theaters across the country or purchase it on their Video-On-Demand enabled televisions. Her character will keep the audience invested in the story even as the wacky plotlines, like Italy’s ancient roads, take unexpected twists and turns. But the screenplay, like Maggie and Summer, ends up right where it needs to be.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (2/05/16)

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Top Photo: Sarah Jessica Parker as “Maggie” with her ex-boyfriend, Raoul Bova as “Luca”

Middle Photo: Sarah Jessica Parker as “Maggie”

Bottom Photo: Maggie and her daughter, “Summer” (Rosie Day)

Photo Credits: Momentum Pictures

Q: Does All Roads Lead to Rome pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?GreenA2016

Absolutely!

The entire story is based around “Maggie” (Sarah Jessica Parker) and “Summer” (Rosie Day) and their relationship as mother and daughter. Summer also forms a bond with Luca’s mother, “Carmen” (Claudia Cardinale).

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SOUTHBOUND

topWritten and directed by a creative team including Roxanne Benjamin and Susan Burke, Southbound tells the tale of five different horror stories, all taking place along one single stretch of desert highway. Will little story but lots of fright, Southbound is told with a twist ending…so stay in your seat until the credits roll. (JEP: 3.5/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

Southbound is a horror film comprised of five stand-alone, yet interconnected stories. Although the five segments often seem disjointed throughout the film, the payoff in the end makes it clear where each story connects.

When the film opens, “Mitch” (Chad Villella) and “Jack” (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin) drive through the desert with blood stained hands and faces. They’re running from the events of the night before, vowing to return home. The two men pull off at a diner to clean the blood off their faces, but once there, they are haunted by the presence of two demon skeleton creatures. Jack and Mitch hastily flee the diner, but each time they speed away from the dusty parking lot, they find themselves back in the same place—literally unable to escape their demons.

“Ava” (Hannah Marks), “Kim” (Nathalie Love), and “Sadie” (Fabianne Therese)—friends and band members—wake up extremely hung over from the happenings of the night before. The three girls pack up and leave their motel (which just so happens to be directly next to the aforementioned diner) and set off on the road to their next gig. Soon after leaving, their van gets a flat tire, and alone in the middle of an empty desert, the girls agree to take a ride from a suspicious couple. Back at the couple's home, the girls stay for a small dinner party. When things take a turn later that night, Sadie soon finds herself running for her life from her two best friends. middle

“Lucas” (Mather Zickel), drives his Audi down the dark desert highway talking to his wife on the phone through his headphones. While talking, he’s scrolling through pictures of his wife deciding which dress she should wear for an event. Clearly not watching the desolate road in front of him, Lucas does not see the woman run into the middle of the road. After discovering that she is still alive after the car accident, Lucas immediately calls 911. But when the phone operators have a plan of their own, Lucas’ night—and life—is turned upside down.

As Lucas flees, hanging up the 911 call, the film cuts to a woman speaking on a payphone. The mysterious woman hangs up the payphone she was speaking on and walks into a dive bar. When a man barges in after her, gun in hand, he demands to be brought to his sister “Jesse” (Tipper Newton)—who he has been searching for for years. But when he discovers that Jesse didn't want to be found, his night becomes one filled with demonic and supernatural creatures in the same stretch of desert as the others.

Jesse crosses paths with a young girl “Jem” (Hassie Harrison) about to go off to college. She is on one last trip with her parents, and after they check into their motel room for the night, three masked men break in and exact revenge on the entire family for one man’s wrongdoings.

Told with a twist, Southbound is pure horror. Which, unfortunately, means that the narrative is a bit underdeveloped. But if you’re looking for fright over story, Southbound is one to see.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (2/8/16)Bottom

Top Photo: Southbound poster.

Middle Photo: Lucas searching for help in an abandoned hospital.

Bottom Photo: Mitch and Jack drive through the desert after a night of terror.

Photo Credits: The Orchard

Q: Does Southbound pass the Bechdel Test?

Yes!

Ava, Kim, and Sadie share many conversations together, almost none of them about men. In one such instance, the three girls talk about how to get their flat fixed in order to make it to their gig the next night.

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TUMBLEDOWN

Tumbledown PosterWritten by Desiree Van Til and Sean Mewshaw, Tumbledown is a tale of letting go and finding love in the most unexpected of places. “Hannah”—wonderfully played by Rebecca Hall—is unable to move on from the loss of her late husband. But when a New York City writer comes into town, unbeknownst to them both, it is his presence that helps Hannah begin the healing process. JEP: (4/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

“Hannah” (Rebecca Hall) lives alone in western Maine with her two dogs. She is in mourning over the death of her late husband Hunter Miles, a revered musician. In order to cope with her grief, Hannah does her best to pen Hunter’s biography, but struggles to capture the truth of him in her words.

“Andrew McDonnell” (Jason Sudeikis), a professor in New York City, ventures to the same part of rural Maine for research on his own book about the infamous musician. At first, Hannah adamantly rejects any contact with Andrew, refusing to indulge another who wants to exploit the death of her husband like many have sought to do before him.

But Andrew’s work and interest in Hunter’s music is genuine, and once Hannah comes to realize this, she slowly begins to let him in. Hannah asks Andrew to forgo his own book on Hunter to help her write his biography. With the promise of an inside look into Hunter’s musical process, and the truth about his passing, Andrew agrees to co-write the biography with Hannah. Leaving his girlfrimiddle tumbledownend “Finley” (Dianna Agron) behind in New York City, Andrew temporarily moves himself into the spare bedroom in Hannah’s home.

As the two work on his biography, it is Hunter’s memory that brings Hannah and Andrew closer together. They begin to lean on one another for support, and Andrew’s presence—although at first unwanted—may just be what Hannah needs to put her husband’s memory to rest and to let herself move past her grief.

An authentic romance about letting go and finding love in the most unexpected places, Tumbledown boasts a strong narrative from Desiree Van Til and director Sean Mewshaw, and superb performances from the entire cast. Sudeikis and Hall shine both apart and together, and with charismatic supporting performances from Agron, Blythe Danner, and Joe Manganiello, Tumbledown breaks from the mold of a typical romantic comedy.

Even though the film stumbles a bit through its third act, it is grounded in honesty, begging you to pardon any missteps. Genuine and uncharacteristically authentic for its genre, Tumbledown will make you feel it all.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (2/9/16)Tumbledown bottom photo

Top Photo: Tumbledown poster.

Middle Photo: Hannah and Andrew during a night out and away from their writing.

Bottom Photo: Andrew and Hannah grow closer together.

Photo Credits: Seacia Pavao

Q: Does Tumbledown pass the Bechdel Test?

Yes!

Hannah’s mother “Ellen” (Blythe Danner) talks with her about the phases of life, and her wish for a grandchild in this stage of her own. Ellen wants to see her daughter happy and free from the burdens of loss, but until that day, she will continue to love and support Hannah through her grief.

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THE RED CARD

redcardgrass.psdWritten and directed by Dana Brawer, our filmmaker to watch, The Red Card does not shy away from pressing social issues. Instead, Brawer focuses her lens on the realities of sexual assault in high school, effectively opening a dialog instead of closing one.

When “Sam” (Amber Collins-Ives) gets an invite to the most coveted party of the year, a night of booze and fun takes an unexpected turn. As the popular guy, who has been showing her attention all night, begins to pressure Sam into a situation she is not comfortable with, both sides must deal with the consequences in the light of day. (JEP: 4/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

Filmmaker Dana Brawer is one to watch. Her new short film The Red Card has caught attention at numerous festivals, boasting wins such as a Platinum Remi in Worldfest-Houston, as well as having received a nomination for Best Short Film in the Female Eye Film Festival—the only undergraduate film nominated in 2015.

“Sam” (Amber Collins-Ives) and her best friend “Margaret” (Nicole Palermo) walk to school together in the mornings and sit together at lunch. Sam works at the library after school and reads Shadow of Ruin in her spare time. She’s content, but often overlooked by the popular crowd.

The big party of the year is fast approaching, and the coveted Red Card has never quite been within Sam’s reach. Until one day when the hot popular guy in school “Michael” (James Kelly) approaches Sam at the library and the two talk about their shared love of the comic Shadow of Ruin.

The next time Sam opens her locker, a Red Card drops to the floor. Sam has been invited. Margaret rejects Sam’s desire to be included in trivial high school dramas such as this party, but Sam wants to go, and so she does.

Out of place, Sam walks through the woods alone, clutching a big bag of puffs. She hands her card to the “Gatekeeper” (Dom Fera), crosses the makeshift bridge, and enters the surreal world that these teens have created for the night.

Everyone’s drinking and getting high, and an intoxicated Michael is paying all his attention to Sam. When a horn sounds,theredcard_crowd everyone gathers, booze filled cup in hand. The Gatekeeper announces that three Red Cards are to be randomly selected and the numbers that are chosen represent the three “virgins” to be sacrificed that night. The virgins will be free only if they are able to make it across the creek before being caught. Naturally—and quite purposefully—Sam’s number is called, and she finds herself being chased through the woods by a cloaked figure.

When Michael catches up to her, Sam is caught off guard by his expectation of what is to come next. When Sam says no, Michael presses, not wanting to return to his friends without a good story of how he caught and tamed the “virgin.” But Sam fights back, leaving Michael in the woods, and the party experience she thought she wanted behind.

The next day back at school, Sam must deal with the expected backlash from all the whispers of what people think she let Michael do. Michael, on the other hand, must face his choices after he let peer pressure and drunken expectations steer him towards hurting another.

The Red Card opens a dialog on sexual assault that happens all too frequently on both high school and college campuses, yet is often ignored, or acknowledged, but not talked about. Writer/director Dana Brawer does not shy away from these pressing social issues, but instead, begs us to talk about them.

With a compelling performance from Amber Collins-Ives as Sam, and a subtle yet strong social statement from Brawer, The Red Card deserves all the recognition it is earning on the festival circuit. Dana Brawer is definitely a filmmaker to watch, and I can’t wait to see what she does next!

********************

Check out our interview with director Dana Brawer over at the FF2 Blog.

Watch the trailer for The Red Card.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (1/25/16)theredcard_banner_ff2

Top Photo: Sam and Margaret hide out from the rain.

Middle Photo: Partygoers listen intently to the Gatekeeper.

Bottom Photo: Just some of The Red Card's impressive festival standings.

Photo Credits: Dana Brawer

Q: Does The Red Card pass the Bechdel Test?GreenA2016

Yes!

Sam and Margaret get caught in the rain on their walk to school. The two friends hide out in a hay barn while Margaret insists that she is allergic to rain and they should take it as a sign to skip school for the day. Sam, clearly more of the rule follower between the two, insists that they need to get to class.

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IRUDHI SUTTRU/SAALA KHADOOS

SistersFabulous film set in Chennai--on India's southeast coast--uses all the well-known boxing tropes to tell the story of a young woman who refuses to stay down. Kudos to writer/director Sudha Kongara for introducing a new feminist shero girls everywhere will root for with pride. (JLH: 4.5/5)

Training

Top Photo: Sisters "Madhi" (Ritika Singh) and "Lux" (Mumtaz Sorcar) clowning around in the hood.

Bottom Photo: Coach "Adi Tomar"- (R. Madhavan) takes his team on a run.

Q: Does Irudhi Suttru pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

Absolutely!

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KUNG FU PANDA 3

Kung-Fu-Panda-3-Teaser-01Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s Kung Fu Panda 3 reunites “Po” (Jack Black) with his biological father, “Li Shan” (Bryan Cranston) in an enjoyable, heartwarming third installment of the Dreamworks franchise. (BKP: 4.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

When “Master Shifu” (Dustin Hoffman) announces his retirement, he hands the reigns over to Po … and the clumsy, fun-loving student becomes the teacher. Po attempts to teach kung fu to the cast of returning favorites, “Master Tigress” (Angelina Jolie), “Master Mantis” (Seth Rogen), “Master Crane” (David Cross), “Master Viper” (Lucy Liu) and “Master Monkey” (Jackie Chan). Po is immediately discouraged at his teaching abilities and heads home to his adoptive father, “Mr. Ping” (James Hong).

In typical Kung Fu fashion, the film keeps the laughs rolling as Po meets, “Li Shan” (Bryan Cranston) the only panda to beat him at a dumpling-eating contest. The giant panda turns around and declares that he is looking for his son, that he lost him years ago. Po says, “I’m sorry. I lost my father.” This is just one of the many laugh-out-loud moments for any fans of smart comedy. When Po discovers that Li Shan is his biological father, the two hit it off right away, leading to Mr. Ping’s jealousy and a series of events that drives the rest of the visually stunning adventure.  

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Po travels back to where he came from, the Valley of Peace, to be a master of true chai in order to take down an evil leader, “Kai” (J.K. Simmons). With the help of his friends and family, Po learns the secrets of chi, the secrets of life and living up to his full potential.

Unlike the darker tone of Kung Fu Panda 2, the latest film makes it lighter and more fun while telling an interesting narrative. The premise is simple: defeat the villain. What makes it work, however, is the film’s strong protagonist and supporting characters. Jack Black’s talents - even in voiceover - sustain the nonstop energy that is Kung Fu Panda 3.

The action-adventure will keep the young audiences engaged with vivid imagery and physical comedy just as the irony and “inside jokes” will keep adults entertained.

The overall message will hopefully stay with all viewers as this trilogy comes to an end. Each audience member can see themselves in Po or Master Tigress or Master Mantis or any character that Dreamworks has created in this fictional, animated world. Whether they are clumsy and lost or fierce and brave, these characters have no doubt resonated with audiences of all ages and races for the past eight years … and will for quite some time.

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© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (2/01/16)

Middle Photo: “Po” (Jack Black) and his friends “Master Tigress” (Angelina Jolie), “Master Mantis” (Seth Rogen), “Master Crane” (David Cross), “Master Viper” (Lucy Liu) “Master Monkey” (Jackie Chan) and “Master Shifu” (Dustin Hoffman)

Bottom Photo: Clumsy, hungry and loveable “Po” voiced by Jack Black

Photo Credits: Dreamworks

Q: Does Kung Fu Panda 3 pass the Bechdel Test?

Not really.

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RABIN THE LAST DAY

Opens tomorrow (1/29/16) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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