posterWriter/Director Afia Nathaniel captures a mother’s fierce protection of her 10-year-old daughter by escaping an arranged marriage and fleeing the oppressive cultures of Pakistan. Translated in English to Daughter, the heartfelt and hopeful story can resonate with audiences around the globe. (BKP: 4.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Set in a small village in Pakistan, “Allah Rakhi” (Samiya Mumtaz) takes care of her tiny household, cooking for her husband in between English lessons from her intelligent 10-year-old daughter, “Zainab” (Saleha Aref). But living in a culture with blood feuds and arranged marriages comes at a price: Zainab, still a child, is promised in marriage to a malicious tribal leader.

Refusing to let her daughter’s innocence be taken away at such a young age, Allah Rakhi flees the village with Zainab by her side. The two women venture out into the harsh conditions of the Pakistani terrain, desperately trying to hide from the tribal leader’s henchmen - and Allah Rakhi’s vengeful husband.

Along their journey, Allah Rakhi and Zainab encounter an ex-Mujahid truck driver, “Sohail” (Mohib Mirza) who kindly gives them a place to hide, a place to escape and a place to start over. The relationships between these three characters catapults the remainder of Dukhtar into two love stories: one between a mother and daughter and the other between a refugee and savior.

Witnessing the intense, harrowing journey to the Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 12.53.20 PMcity of Lahore is eye-opening for viewers. Inspired by a true story of a mother kidnapping her two daughters for a better life, filmmaker Afia Nathaniel traveled back home to her roots and accomplished a task that nobody has done before - a 30-day film shoot in territory between Pakistan and India.  

In that small time frame, with harsh shooting conditions, Nathaniel managed to bring this heartfelt story to life and make it relatable to viewers from all backgrounds. Whether in the Middle East or the United States of America (... or anywhere in between) meaningful relationships between parents and children remain constant. Like Allah Rakhi wants a better life for Zainab, parents around the world strive for better lives for their sons and daughters.

Samiya Mumtaz, drawn to strong female roles and known for Sabiha Sumar’s Von Müttern, Mäusen und Heiligen, plays “Allah Rakhi” as a compassionate, aggressive mother who goes to great lengths for her daughter. The chemistry between Mumtaz and the charming Saleha Aref is evident from their very first scene together until the final frame. Despite its serious tone, the sweet-natured romance developed between Allah Rakhi and Sohail provides the film with a touch of lightheartedness it needs to balance out the tone.

The intense narrative is filled with beautiful imagery, strong characters and a perfectly-paced “chase,” but Dukhtar will resonate with viewers thanks to Nathaniel’s universal theme of a mother’s love. It is a simple premise, but strong enough to carry the entirety of the film.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (10/04/15)


Photos: Samiya Mumtaz as “Allah Rakhi” and Saleha Aref as “Zainab” 

Photo Credits:  Zambeel Films & Shotwell Media

Q: Does Dukhtar pass the Bechdel Test?RedA


Although the premise is centered around a mother trying to keep her daughter from an arranged marriage, the men are on the outskirts. It is truly about the bond between the two women and their journey to a better life.

Posted in Bechdel List, Reviews: B-D | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


tumblr_nos9ajMFdq1rgos3ko1_500Addicted to Fresno, written by Karey Dornetto and directed by Jamie Babbit, is a quirky comedy about two sisters living monotonous lives as hotel maids, when everything is suddenly turned upside down when they find themselves covering up a murder. (JEP: 3.5/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

“Martha” (Natasha Lyonne) is satisfied with her life. She’s a homeowner, has a steady job, and a routine. But when her sister “Shannon” (Judy Greer) moves back into town—all her baggage included—Martha’s normal life gets turned on its head.

Shannon is a recovering sex addict, whose life has fallen apart to the point that she’s been forced to move back home to Fresno and into her little sister’s house. Martha gets Shannon a job working with her as a hotel maid. Naturally, Shannon takes none of it seriously.

Shannon is also sleeping with her married ex-therapist “Edwin” (Ron Livingston). One day, while at work, Edwin calls Shannon to deliver the good news that he has left his wife (just like Shannon previously asked him to do) and only loves her. Shannon’s reaction: to freak out when actual feelings are involved, and to use sex to alleviate the pain instead. So after yelling at Edwin, and calling him a fool, Shannon walks over to the room of a male hotel guest and asks if he wants to sleep with her.

Naturally, Martha is concerned about her flighty and troubled sister who has suddenly disappeared from work, and goes looking for her. Walking in on Shannon and said male hotel guest, Martha assumes that he is taking advantage of her sister. A commotion ensues, and Shannon accidentally…. kills him. Oops.fresno

As a registered sex offender Shannon insists that they can’t call the police. Martha reluctantly agrees to help Shannon cover up the murder, and they bring the body to another of Shannon’s ex-lovers “Gerald”—played by the always-hilarious Fred Armisen—who runs a dog cremation business. He agrees to cremate the body, but only if they bring him $25,000 so he can leave Fresno and start a new life in another obscure town with his current girlfriend. Sufficiently blackmailed, the two sisters set off to acquire twenty five grand, and the plot gets more and more ridiculous (but in a good way) from there.

With appearances by other hysterical actors, such as Molly Shannon and Aubrey Plaza—as "Kelly," Martha’s gym instructor who has no qualms about expressing her romantic feelings for her—Addicted to Fresno is charming, quirky, and unexpected. Filmmakers Jamie Babbit and Karey Dornetto have done their jobs, bringing together a great cast and an original narrative.

The film boasts a wonderful female cast, and Greer, Lyonne, Shannon, and Plaza all deliver strong comedic performances. As incredible as all these women are here (and in every role they take on), the surprising scene stealer was actually Malcolm Barrett who had a small role as Greer’s love interest “Eric.” His performance was so open and endearing, I found myself wondering why I hadn’t seen him in more films, and disappointed when his character suddenly disappeared from the narrative.

Thoroughly entertaining, Addicted to Fresno was quirky, funny, and ridiculous yet grounded in the familial bond between two sisters.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (10/4/15)3050614-poster-p-1-how-jamie-babbit-and-karey-dornetto-got-addicted-to-fresnoTop Photo: Martha finally decides to let Kelly in.

Middle Photo: Shannon and Martha on the job, adorned in their hotel maid uniforms.

Bottom Photo: The two sisters rob a sex toys store to get their $25,000. Unfortunately, all they manage to steal is a cart full of dildos.

Photo Credits: Aaron Epstein

Q: Does Addicted to Fresno pass the Bechdel Test?RedA


“Kelly” (Aubrey Plaza) has a heated discussion with “Martha” (Natasha Lyonne) expressing the feelings she has towards her, and questioning why they aren’t enough. Martha truly is dealing with the stresses brought on by her sister and the murder, but her excuses no longer cut it with Kelly.

Posted in Bechdel List, Reviews: A | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Opens tomorrow (10/2/15) in NYC. Review coming soon :-)

Posted in Reviews: N-P | Leave a comment


Opens tomorrow (10/2/15) in NYC. Review coming soon :-)

Posted in Reviews: T | Leave a comment


Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 12.56.07 PMMurder mysteries can be an enjoyable watch, especially in Bollywood. Inspired by a true story, Talvar takes the audience on intense, suspenseful ride as they examine the murder case of a teenage girl and her boyfriend. (BKP: 4/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Director Meghna Gulzar based her Hindi “whodunnit” off of the infamous 2008 double murder case of a 14-year-old girl (Aarushi Talwar) found dead with her family’s 45-year-old servant (Hemraj Banjade). In Talvar, the family’s servant is much younger and the details are condensed into a simple, easy-to-follow narrative.

When young “Shruti Tandon” (Ayesha Parveen) is found lifeless in her bed, with gruesome injuries to her body, the murder case is thrust into full force. But when the police fumble the evidence (i.e. thinking blood spatter is simply “rust”) an investigator “Ashwin Kumar” (Irrfan Khan) takes the case to the Central Department of Investigation. Khan is the standout performer here. His portrayal of the off-beat Ashwin is enthralling as he interrogates and uses brutal tactics against potential suspects. The character grounds the story and gives viewers someone specific to root for and focus on as chaos surrounds the supporting characters.


Using a docudrama style, the police and investigators try to piece together the events of the double murder. Different scenarios are played out through various reenactments, examining all the possibilities of that deadly evening. Gulzar keeps the audience guessing, and in doing so, grips their attention for the entirety of the film.

When done properly, a whodunnit-film can be an enjoyable, satisfying ride. Whether viewers tune into the small screen to watch Detective Olivia Benson in Law and Order: SVU or pop in a VHS tape of I Know What You Did Last Summer, figuring out a mystery has become a fun, wildly popular staple of modern storytelling.

That being said, every detail the audience hears has the potential to be vital information for solving a mystery, something subtitles can complicate. So while the film is visually interesting and - at times - hard to stomach, some of the attention is taken away and drawn towards the text. The highlights of Talvar come during the reenactments of the murder, when dialogue is a rarity.

The overarching theme is based in truth and justice, a theme which Director Meghna Gulzar and Writer Vishal Bhardwaj encapsulate in the film’s briskly-paced 132 minutes. Murder mysteries are abundant in today’s storytelling population, yet something about Talvar feels fresh and different. Nothing becomes too complex or twist-y, making the experience somewhat easy to follow, understand and thoroughly enjoy.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (10/04/15)


Top Photo: Irrfan Khan as investigator “Ashwin Kumar”

Middle and Bottom Photos: Konkona Sen and Neeraj Kabi as Shruti’s grieving family.

Photo Credits: Reliance Entertainment

Q: Does Talvar pass the Bechdel Test?RedA

Yes! But somewhat on the outskirts …

When “Shruti” (Ayesha Parveen) is murdered, her funeral and cremation are heartbreaking to see through the eyes of her family (particularly her mother, played by Konkona Sen). Shruti’s presence is felt throughout the film as other women grieve together and try and figure out the exact events of that night.

Posted in Bechdel List, Reviews: T | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


maxresdefaultFull Title= A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story

A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story is a stunning documentary that tells the story of one incredible woman named Lizzie Velasquez. Lizzie was born with an extremely rare syndrome that affects her physical appearance, as she is unable to gain weight. As a young girl she was tormented and bullied for her appearance, but fought back through light and positivity. Today she is an incredibly influential speaker, fighting for safe schools and fighting against bullying. (JEP: 5/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

Directed by Sara Bordo, A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story is an inspirational documentary about a young woman who overcame adversity, standing up to bullies in a unique way.

Lizzie Velasquez was born with an undiagnosed syndrome that does not allow her to gain weight and also left her visually impaired. Her parents loved her for exactly who she was, never raising her any differently from other children. Up until the time Lizzie started school, she had no idea that she looked different from everyone else. So the day she started kindergarten was a terrible awakening for this five year old; the other students were afraid of Lizzie, they did not want to include her, and the bullying began.

While in school, Lizzie faced torment and constant bullying for her unique appearance. One day when Lizzie was “supposed to be doing homework,” she decided to search YouTube for new music instead. She happened upon a video entitled “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” When she clicked on the video, a photo of her face came up on the screen—8 seconds, no sound, just a still photo with over 4 million views and a slew of hateful comments that no one should ever have to read about themselves.

But while this film begins Lizzie's hardships and the bullying she endured, its true focus is on Lizzie's achievements including--but not limited to--her fight against bullying.

After seeing the YouTube video Lizzie fought back, not by bulling, but by encouraging the exact opposite. She started her own YouTube channel with the goal of helping to make the Internet a happier and more supportive community. Each week she would put up a new video, and slowly but surely the comments went from being largely negative toimg_7929-jpg almost entirely positive. As her YouTube presence grew, so did her confidence. Her successful channel then led to an invitation to give a TED Talk.

Note: The film contains some footage of her incredibly inspirational TED Talk (which now has over 9.5 million views) but it is an absolute must watch from start to finish in addition to the film!

Since the TED Talk, Lizzie has become a successful motivational speaker, traveling the world to tell her story and to fight against bullying. In addition to speaking, Lizzie has traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby for safe schools, and continues to inspire others through a multitude of avenues.

She stresses that what other people say about you does not define you. Instead, you are the one who gets to define you. Insofar as Lizzie wanted her achievements and successes to define her--not her outward appearance--she has certainly accomplished all this and more.

I cannot express how wonderful this documentary is. Lizzie’s story, her incredible personality, and her perseverance make for an inspirational feature. Director Sara Bordo utilizes interviews with Lizzie, her family, and her teachers to tell the story. Paired with footage from Lizzie’s speeches and encounters with important figures (such as Hilary Clinton), Bordo has brought us a winner.

Bottom line. Do yourself a favor and see this documentary. See it now!

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (9/26/15)lizzeBrave-900x506Top Photo: Lizzie mid TED Talk.

Middle Photo: Lizzie and Tina Meier prepare to lobby in D.C.

Bottom Photo: A poster for this award-winning documentary.

Photo Credits: Cinedigm

Q: Does A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story pass the Bechdel Test?RedA

100% yes!!!!

Lizzie has conversations with her mother, sister, Hilary Clinton, Tina Meier (cyber bullying advocate and mother of teen Megan Taylor Meir who committed suicide after being bullied online), and more.

Absolutely NONE of their conversations revolve around men, but instead, focus on embracing yourself for who you are and advocating to stop bullying.

Posted in Bechdel List, Reviews: A | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


goodnight-mommy-posterWriters Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz conjure up a terrifying psychological thriller about twin boys and their unrecognizable mother. A beautifully-shot, disturbing take on family drama. (BKP: 3.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Unlike the abundant, low-budget flicks in American cinemas, Goodnight Mommy (aka Ich seh, Ich seh) is an Austria-based thriller teetering more towards high-brow horror. Like last year’s breakout hit The Babadook, this film takes another look at the traumatizing relationships between mothers and sons.  

The English-subtitled story thrives in its simplicity. Set around a remote, placid lake, twin brothers “Elias” and “Lukas” (real-life twins Elias and Lukas Schwarz) live with their single mother (Susanne Wuest) who is recovering from facial cosmetic reconstruction. While she sleeps around the clock, her sons spend their time swimming, hiking and enjoying their quiet - albeit creepy - surroundings together.


With her head entirely wrapped in bandages, she is an unrecognizable woman - and not only physically. The boys notice something different about her. She’s mean, cold and only acknowledges one of them. What happened to her? Why is she acting like this? Why has their life turned bleak and depressing? … The boys conclude that this new, strange mother of theirs must be an imposter. The remainder of the film is something to witness on your own, filled with gruesome violence (one scene, in particular, which involves the mother’s mouth, super glue and a box cutter) and a not-so-shocking twist in Act Three.

The eery look of the film is stunning, thanks to Cinematographer Martin Gschlacht setting the uneasy tone from the first frame. Because there are only three characters, the audience can feel the loneliness and the seclusion that Elias and Lukas are feeling. Their questions are your questions. Their fears are your fears. Although there are typical scares like creepy-crawlers and the mother’s bloodshot, the most terrifying element is seeing the world through the eyes of these vulnerable children.

Like the aforementioned The Babadook, and countless other films in the same genre, the horror and psychological aspects are used as allegories for dark, tumultuous relationships. In this case, it is about a mother not protecting her children. It is a frightening look at what happens when that bond is ripped apart and how detrimental it can be to a person’s psyche.

However “scary” or disturbing, there isn’t too much that is new in Goodnight Mommy. The final plot twist resembles of one of the most popular films in the horror genre - a title I will not spoil for obvious reasons. What makes it stand out, however, is the quality. From the acting and the cinematography, to the spook-tacular elements that make the audience’s skin crawl, it is an accomplished work of art.   

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (9/25/15)


Middle and Bottom Photos: The "mother" (Susanne Wuest) recovers from facial reconstruction surgery

Photo Credits:  Radius-TWC

Q: Does Goodnight Mommy pass the Bechdel Test?


Posted in Reviews: E-G | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Three views, two reviews: Brigid & Jessica both say their say about The Intern, then Jan weighs in with her own two cents :-)

intern1Review of The Intern by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky 

Robert De Niro leads a classic-Nancy Meyers comedy about a 70-year-old intern working opposite 30something boss Anne Hathaway. A refreshing, heartfelt film about friendship and pseudo-parental guidance. (BKP: 4.5/5)


If your father ever worked an office job for decades, carrying a worn leather briefcase in his hand and a handkerchief tucked in his pocket… Writer/Director Nancy Meyers might kill you with emotion. When “Ben” (Robert De Niro) becomes bored with retirement, he accepts a “Senior Internship” at an online clothing outlet, assisting a fashionable, workaholic mother “Jules” (Anne Hathaway). Watching Ben become acclimated to the millennial workplace is an amusing wakeup call to how things have changed: he dresses in a suit and tie rather than a sweatshirt, brings a calculator instead of an iPhone, and prefers to talk face-to-face rather than sending an email.

Hathaway rekindles her comedic timing and slides back into a relatable, awkward role as successful businesswoman Jules. With her company booming, she feels pressure from her Board to hire an "experienced" [read male] CEO, as well as pressure from her husband "Matt" (Anders Holm)--a stay-at-home Dad--to slow down. Her nervousness and dissatisfaction become apparent to the most observant person in the office - Ben.


Through circumstantial events, Ben not only becomes her assistant, but also becomes a chauffeur, a babysitter, a shoulder to lean on, a friend and a father-figure to Jules. Witnessing the arc of their relationship is satisfying and tear-inducing (see above: Nancy Meyers killing you with emotion).

With talented actors like De Niro and Hathaway, it would be too obvious a statement to say they are perfect in their roles. Supporting actors Andrew Rannells (Girls), Adam Devine (Modern Family) and Zack Pearlman (Mulaney) round out the gang of sarcastic, endearing characters who create the setting of a modern, 21st-century workplace.

As strong as the “A” storyline is, there are a few “B” plots that add unnecessary time to an otherwise enjoyable film. When Ben and the young interns go on a heist to retrieve Jules’ mother’s laptop from her home, the entire sequence feels out of place - like a deleted scene that accidentally made it into the final cut.

Aside from a few weak spots in its final act, The Intern is a welcome change from superheroes, spy missions or teenagers facing the apocalypse. The film touches on serious subjects like gender roles and age discrimination, yet channels those messages through believable, realistic characters without being too preachy. In typical Nancy Meyers form, she makes you laugh and makes you cry; makes you smile and makes you think. She reminds you that older people might not know how to sign up for Facebook or use an iMac, but they can use their life experience and wisdom to give you advice that Siri can’t.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (9/25/15)


Photos: Robert De Niro as "Ben" and Anne Hathaway as "Jules."

Photo Credits:Warner Bros.

Q: Does The Intern pass the Bechdel Test?


Jules feels judged by other moms at her daughter’s school. The scene actually seems a bit judgmental in itself, stereotyping all stay-at-home mothers as caricatures of mean-spirited Stepford wives who gossip in the park.

However, there are other elements that also pass the Bechdel Test: Jules is very demanding of her 24-year-old assistant “Becky,” (Christina Scherer) a young Penn-graduate who provides much of the comic relief. Jules also has a sweet young daughter, “Paige” (JoJo Kushner) who bonds with her fill-in babysitter Ben.



Review of The Intern by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry 

Writer/director Nancy Meyers brings us another feel-good film about retired widower “Ben” (Robert De Niro) who returns to work as a “senior intern” for an online startup. Working under founder “Jules Ostin” (Anne Hathaway), the two find they each have things to teach the other and a friendship grows. (JEP: 4/5)


“Ben” (Robert De Niro) is a retired widower. His wife passed a few years back, and the sad truth is that attending friends’ funerals is becoming a fairly regular occupation. It’s not that Ben is unhappy; he just needs something new to keep him moving, to keep from dwelling on the monotony that has become his life.

A flyer on the street catches his eye. It is advertisement for a startup company that is seeking “Senior Interns.” The humor isn’t lost on Ben, but he decides to apply anyway. In a brilliant opening sequence, Ben records his video interview for the position, and simultaneously captures the audience in his first few words.

“Jules Ostin” (Anne Hathaway) is a mother, wife, and the dedicated founder of an online fashion site. Her business has grown exponentially in the past few months, and things are getting hectic. Jules has no time, juggling all her work responsibilities, while trying to be there for her family in the process.

One hectic workday, Jules is reminded of the “Senior Intern Program” (which she does not remember agreeing to), and “to set a good example”the-intern-press_0 agrees to hire Ben as her personal intern.

So Ben begins his internship the Brooklyn based company, with a few other new members, including only one appropriately intern-aged intern “Davis” (Zack Pearlman).

After working together for just a little while, Jules wants to move Ben to a different department. Her reason? He is too perceptive, and with her guard up high, perception is not a good thing. But Jules begins to realize that maybe Ben is just the kind of “intern” she needs, someone with a world of experience and the advice to ground her in the huge shifts going on in both her personal and professional lives.

De Niro and Hathaway both shine in their respective roles. And as a growing fan of Adam DeVine, I thought he was just as funny here as “Jason”—the young employee who seeks relationship advice from Ben—as he is in Pitch Perfect and Modern Family. The Intern is a well-made, well-acted, and feel good film, with a stellar cast and a whole lot of heart.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (9/30/15)enhanced-6862-1431538939-20

Top Photo: Ben brings little Paige to a birthday party in the park.

Middle Photo: Jules rides her bike through the office to make up time.

Bottom Photo: Jules and Ben laughing on a business trip.

Photo Credits: Warner Bros.

Q: Does The Intern pass the Bechdel Test?RedA


Jules has a brief encounter with two catty and antagonistic moms who resent her for being a working mother. They tell Jules that she must bring guacamole for the school gathering, but she can just buy it since she obviously won’t have the time to make it by hand.

Jules and her adorable daughter “Paige” (JoJo Kushner) also talk about birthday parties and mommy daughter days.


I basically agree with Brigid & Jessica that the office scenes in The Intern are perceptive as well as fun. For those of us who think The Devil Wears Prada is an underrated classic, watching “Jules Ostin” transform into "Miranda Priestly" is highly satisfying evolution for Anne Hathaway (who has had a few unfortunate cinematic disasters--like Song One-- since winning her Oscar as "Fantine" in Les Miserables a couple of years ago).

What didn't work--for me--were the scenes with husband Matt (Anders Holm). Learning Matt was cheating on Jules was a cliched time-waster that bogged down Act Three. I would have much preferred to spend more time with Ben and "Fiona" (Rene Russo)--now THAT's an affair to remember :-)

Score? JLH: 3.5/5

THE INTERNBottom Photo: Ben's first meeting with in-office masseusse "Fiona" (Rene Russo) proves to his young colleagues that the old guy's still got "it" :-)

Posted in Bechdel List, Reviews: H-J | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Opens tomorrow (9/25/15) in NYC. Review coming soon :-)

Posted in Reviews: K-M | Leave a comment


Opens tomorrow (9/25/15) in NYC. Review coming soon :-)

Posted in Reviews: K-M | Leave a comment