PosterJessica Biel leads an all-star cast in a comedy flop about a waitress who tries to navigate life and love...  with a nail lodged in her head.

Screenwriting team consisting of Kristin Gore, Matthew Silverstein and Dave Jeser all still have their names attached, but director David O. Russell was somehow able to hide behind the name "Stephen Greene” on IMDb. (BKP: 2.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

What strives to be a comedic political satire is actually a cringe-worthy mess of a film. When rollerskating waitress, “Alice” (Jessica Biel) gets engaged to her screwball boyfriend “Scott,” (James Marsden) a freak accident leaves her with a nail wedged into her head. Surgery? Not an option.

When the emergency room doctors discover that Alice does not have health insurance, they immediately halt the procedure. Instead of helping a person who cannot pay the bills, the doctors throw insults and munch on fast food. The in-your-face political commentary is humorous (at times) but quickly feels like a Saturday Night Live sketch that has run 100 minutes too long.

While Alice raises money and fights for her “nail-in-her-head” cause, she falls in love with a hunky congressman (Jake Gyllenhaal). Since Scott no longer wants to marry a girl with a nail in her head, the new congressman seems like a better, sexier Option Number Two. Meanwhile, as Alice becomes somewhat of a celebrity around Washington D.C., wacky characters come her way: a man with an anal fixation (Tracey Morgan) and a reverend with a painful, permanent erection (Kurt Fuller) --- to name a few.

The most interesting part of the film (written by Kristin Gore, Matthew Silverstein and Dave Jeser) is the endless amount of celebrity cameos. From Bill Hader and Beverly D’Angelo to Kirstie Alley and Catherine Keener, the talented comedians are always a welcome surprise. But with each “celebrity” appearance, the enjoyment dwindles further, with not even brilliant comedic talent able to save the weak script.

Maybe the high expectations of the film’s cast are to blame for the disastrous project that led to original director David O. Russell’s disownment in 2010, and a change to the film’s IMDb page with the director now credited as “Stephen Greene.” Originally beginning production in 2008 (with the title Nailed) the film stayed in distribution purgatory before its eventual release in 2015. Thankfully, the limited release will help ease the blow of Accidental Love’s disappointing turnout and save the cast and filmmakers the embarrassment.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (7/10/15)


Photo: James Marsden as "Scott," comforting fiance “Alice” (Jessica Biel) after she is denied surgery from her doctors (with M.D. cameo from Bill Hader).

Photo Credits: Millennium Entertainment

Q: Does Accidental Love pass the Bechdel Test? RedA


“Alice” (Jessica Biel) has scenes with her mother “Helen” (Beverly D’Angelo).

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meet_me_in_montenegro_stillMeet Me in Montenegro tells the story of two ex-lovers who are both down on their luck. By chance the two reunite in Berlin and lean on each other for support as their careers weather many ups and downs. A love story cleverly told, by filmmakers Linnea Saasen and Alex Holdridge, one of forgotten romance found again. (JEP: 3.5/5)

Written by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

Loosely based on writer/director pair Linnea Saasen and Alex Holdridge’s lives, Meet Me in Montenegro tells the story of two ex-lovers who find each other again after years apart. The two wrote, directed, and starred in the film, cleverly bringing their own experiences to the screen.

Meet Me in Montenegro opens in flashback. With “Anderson” (Alex Holdridge) telling us how Montenegro was magic, until the girl he loved—the girl who made him feel alive—left without a word, leaving him alone in a beautiful seaside town.

As an American screenwriter, Anderson has been down on his luck. A script he’s been working on for years gets one last chance when an actor in Berlin agrees to a meeting. However, Anderson all but refuses to take the meeting because the girl who broke his heart lives in the very same city. But he’s broke and out of options, so reluctantly, Anderson jets off to Berlin.

While in Germany, Anderson is staying with an old buddy “Stephen” (Rupert Friend) and his girlfriend “Friederike” (Jennifer Ulrich). The couple is interested in exploring new things sexually with other partners. This B storyline runs throughout Meet Me in Montenegro offering the viewer a glimpse into another broken love story.

Stephen tells Anderson that the girl who broke his heart still lives in town. And while Anderson may have told himself that he moved on, the opposite proves true when he finds himself seeing a film at the theater she always went to on Friday nights. Amazingly (and a bit predictably) she—“Lina” (Linnea Saasen)—happens to be there. The two lock eyes, and so it begins…again.

Lina is an optimist, Anderson a realist, but life has got them both at a crossroads. Lina is a dancer and has been offered an arts residency in another country. Anderson’s script has been green lit by the studio, and his career is in LA.

So the two plan to spend their last days in Berlin together and then part once again. But as both of their careers are thrown into upheaval by forces out of their control, Lina and Anderson find themselves at a crossroads of choosing between love and their careers.

Alex Holdridge fumbled in a few areas of his performance as Anderson, but never enough to take me out of the film. Linnea Saasen’s performance, on the other hand, was engaging and compelling, giving the film its light.

Meet Me in Montenegro was a story seen before, but told from a different perspective. Was it superb? Maybe not. But do you want to stay with Lina and Anderson in their love story until the very end? Definitely.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (7/17/15)

Meet Me in Montenegro

Top Photo: Lina and Anderson contemplating returning to Montenegro.

Bottom Photo: Love rekindling

Photo Credits: ???

Q: Does Meet Me in Montenegro pass the Bechdel Test?


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ConsolationStrangerland, a high-profile new release from Australia, promises more than it can deliver.

Excellent performances from Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, and Hugo Weaving are undone by a weak screenplay--by Michael Kinirons and Fiona Seres--which totally collapses in the third act.

Director Kim Farrant shows great promise, but she needs to keep a tighter reign on her screenwriters in future. (JLH: 3/5)


"All dressed up with nowhere to go." That was the phrase that kept repeating itself in my head--in an endless loop--during the third act of Strangerland.

It's a real shame, because the first two acts of Strangerland promise genuine tension. Terrific high profile actors create intriguing characters and I am totally invested in their fate... and then... splat! Despiration

Strangerland is set in the Australian Outback, in a town at the edge of nothingness. "Matthew Parker" (Joseph Fiennes) has moved his family here deliberately because of trouble in the recent past which--after much teasing--is eventually revealed midway through act two. Suffice it to say that his wife "Catherine" (Nicole Kidman) understands their predicament and is doing her best to make do, but their teenage daughter "Lily" (Maddison Brown) is furious.

Meanwhile their young son "Tommy" (Nicholas Hamilton) is caught in the middle. Matthew insists that Tommy monitor Lily's behavior, so Lily punishes Tommy by daring him to tattle. Sensing her power to make Matthew nuts, Lily's behavior becomes increasingly provocative.

Exhausted by the tension in her home--which is exacerbated by the unrelenting heat beating down on their town--Catherine takes to her bed. When she wakes up later than usual the next morning, the house is cool and quiet. At first she is relieved, but all to soon she realizes Lily and Tommy--assumed to be in school--have in fact gone missing! Where could they be?!?


Top Photo: "Catherine Parker" (Nicole Kidman) seeks comfort in the arms of police detective "David Rae" (Hugo Weaving).

Middle Photo: "Matthew Parker" (Joseph Fiennes) rescues his wife after she has an emotional breakdown.

Photo Credits ©Parker Pictures Production Photographer Ross McDonnell. All Rights Reserved

Bottom Photo: "Lily Parker" (Maddison Brown) forces her brother "Tommy" (Nicholas Hamilton) to stand on the sidelines while she flits with some townies at a skateboard park. Photo Credit: Mark Rogers.

Q: Does Strangerland pass the Bechdel Test?


In addition to early interactions with Lily, Catherine also pleads with a woman in the grocery store, throwing herself on the woman's mercy in the hope that the woman--who is of Aboriginal Australian/Indigenous Australian ancestry--can help her find her children. It's preposterous of course, and the woman quickly rejects Catherine's condescending assumption that she has "magic powers."

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ThreeCheersDebra Granik made the great film Winter's Bone a few years back, so I was eager to see her follow-up. Alas, Stray Dog is so dull I could barely stay awake.

While Ron Hall seems to have lived a paradigmatic Middle American life, Granik's "fly on the wall" approach fails to illuminate any of it. And her adamant refusal to treat Ron as a "character" and give him an arc, turns others on the periphery into cinematic hostages. (JLH: 2.5/5)

Review by Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner

In 2010, filmmaker Debra Granik released a terrific little film called Winter's Bone--her second feature--which Granik and her writing partner Anne Rosellini based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell. It was incredibly successful in Indie terms, receiving four Oscar nominations (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor), plus two Gotham Awards (Best Film and Best  Ensemble Cast) and two Independent Spirit Awards (Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor), as well as an assortment of additional honors.

Then Debra Granik disappeared from view while her teenage star Jennifer Lawrence--an actress who was barely known by anyone when Granik cast her as "Ree Dolly"--went on to become one of the biggest pop stars on the planet.

I loved Winter's Bone, so I have waited a long time to see Granik's follow-up. I went into Stray Dog expecting to love it... But sad to say, I could barely stay awake...

Ron Hall aka "Stray Dog" appeared in a small but critical role in Winter's Bone, playing the dangerous Ozark patriarch "Thrump Milton." Looking back however, it now seems that in that case, less was more. A full length documentary about Hall--with a 98 minute runtime--quickly exhausted my interest. I am baffled by the big buzz and notable nominations for Stray Dog. A 2015 Independent Spirit Award nomination in the Best Documentary category... Really? Why?

It is certainly true that Ron Hall seems to have lived a paradigmatic Middle American life: He grew up in rural Missouri, went off to fight in Vietnam, came home with nightmares, and has spent the rest of his life carrying on. But Granik's "fly on the wall" approach fails to illuminate any of this.

And so we see Ron and his friends at home and on periodic trips to honor the friends--especially military friends--lost along the way. There is some talk about the new generation of vets, but I'll be damned if I understand how Ron really feels about the military and/or the latest round of post-Vietnam wars.

To be blunt: I picture Ron walking into a voting booth, but then I have no clue what happens next. From all external indications, one would guess he votes straight Republican, but Granik's point seems to be that we shouldn't judge "this book" by its "cover." So maybe Ron votes Democrat or at least splits his ticket sometimes? It sure would be nice to be a "fly on the wall" while Ron and his buddies have an actual discussion about issues of international importance--after all, they are all citizens of the USA and therefore they are voters--but no such luck.

Granik avoids anything potentially controversial. Instead of engaging our minds, she goes right for the heart, feeding us cinematic Soft Serve aka "Gerber's Vanilla." Ron plays with his dogs. Ron bounces babies on his knee. Are they grandchildren or great-grandchildren...? I think the later, but I don't dare swear to it. We spend a great deal of time observing the tender relationship between Ron and his wife Alicia, but I'm not sure how long they have been married, or how many wives--if any--Ron had before Alicia.

Are women-troubles, multiple partners, and abandoned children part of Ron's past? Is that why Ron--now a Santa Clause clone with a big belly and a lush white beard--is so determined to bring Alicia's sons under his ample wing? Alicia's sons are Mexican, with only a minimal command of English. Ron dutifully attempts to learn Spanish online and drives around parroting Spanish phrases, so I guess he gets points for trying, but he hasn't gotten too far.

Ron acts like he is doing something wonderful by bringing these young men north, but when they are alone together, Angel and Jesus--Angel and Jesus!--sound like they would much rather be back in Mexico City. Since we know so little about how Ron and Alicia became a couple--including how long she has been away from her children, how she ended up in rural Missouri, where she first met Ron, how long they have been together--I found myself looking at Alicia's sons as if they were hostages in a weird cinematic experiment on The Hawthorne Effect.

I think we're supposed to think that we--urban liberals--are biased against people like Ron. I think we're supposed to think that we--urban liberals--see an old coot in biker gear and make prejudicial assumptions. So maybe audiences at film festivals are determined to like Ron just to prove the point about their own open mindedness? Stray Dog wins awards in Atlanta, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Sarasota, and Minneapolis, not to mention London and Zurich!!!

Well call me what you will, but I am just not drinking this Kool-Aid :-(

© Jan Lisa Huttner FF2 Media (7/10/15)


Top Photo: Three Cheers for the Red, White & Blue?

Middle Photo: Ron mourning one of his fallen brothers.

Bottom Photo: Ron at home with Alicia.

Photo Credits: © 2014 Life At Ease, LLC

Q: Does Stray Dog pass the Bechdel Test?


Although Ron's wife Alicia is a constant presence, I can't think of a single moment when I saw her interacting with another woman onscreen...

On the other hand, I can't honestly say I saw every single minute of Stray Dog... I had a hard time concentrating, and it is quite possible that I dozed a bit...

Do I hold myself responsible? In this case no. I saw Stray Dog at an AM screening after a good night's sleep and a nice cup of coffee. If Debra Granik was unable to hold my interest, I honestly think that reflects poorly on her decision to take the "fly on the wall" approach rather than treat Ron as a "character" and give him an arc.

At this point, all I can do is be honest about my own reaction. Readers: I was bored to tears :-(


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ConradBainWriter/Director Amy Berg unveils the harsh realities of the sexual predators that circle around young Hollywood. By documenting first-hand accounts from sexual-abuse survivors, Berg exposes the deep, dark abyss of fame taking hold of innocence. (BKP: 4.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

On February 5, 1983, NBC aired a "Very Special Episode," of the hit sitcom, Diff'rent Strokes. The primetime broadcast opened with the show's lead actor, Conrad Bain, urging parents to watch and discuss the episode with their children. But what  subject could a family-friendly sitcom tackle with such serious warning? The 16th episode of the fifth season, titled "The Bicycle Man," introduced a bubbly, energetic character who turned out to be a pedophile. The shocking twist resonated with viewers, along with the show's star, Todd Bridges.

An Open Secret begins with clips from the infamous episode, setting the stomach-churning tone for the remainder of the documentary. Various young men are introduced - some familiar, some not - as flashes of famous child stars fade in and out of the frame. Berg eases into the issues: children arriving in Hollywood, their constant rejection and the varying degrees of stage parents.

But what happens when children are left BicycleManunsupervised with greedy, needy managers? Who are their trusted allies? Who has their best interest in mind? Evan Henzi, Michael Egan III and Mark Ryan, to name a few, answer those questions with heartbreaking honesty. Each young man recalls his own experience with a manager (or photographer, publicist, agent, etc.) with whom he trusted. Like "The Bicycle Man," these pedophiles looked and acted like ordinary people - men that parents trusted, ones who acted like uncles, brothers or buddies.

Each of Berg's interviews exemplifies bravery and activism, in the hopes that aspiring actors/models/singers are aware of their surroundings. From the first frame to the last, An Open Secret is engaging and thought-provoking. It feels like a highlight reel of Dateline or To Catch a Predator, wrapped up in a well-done documentary. Nonetheless, some of the stories are difficult to wrap your mind around. You cannot imagine going through these difficult (and graphic) situations, and knowing these children have endured such abuse is a tough pill to swallow.

Although it focuses on young Hollywood, it is ultimately a human story about innocence being taken away. This happens everywhere, not just to young children living in Los Angeles or in a rerun of a dated sitcom.

Like that 1983 episode of Diff'rent Strokes, Amy Berg acts as a Conrad Bain of the 21st Century, urging people to look around, be aware and be brave enough to start a discussion.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (7/13/15)

AmyAndEvanTop Photo: February 5, 1983, Conrad Bain addresses America before the airing of an episode of Diff'rent Strokes

Middle Photo: Still from "The Bicycle Man," Season Five, Episode 16 of Diff'rent Strokes

Bottom Photo: Director Amy Berg talks to singer Evan Henzi

Photo Credits: Doc NYC & NBC

Q: Does An Open Secret pass the Bechdel Test?

No, but there are prominent females who sparked an investigation into a predator selling pictures of children on eBay. Although they do not necessarily have scenes together, they do serve a great purpose. Highly recommended.

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KatherineHeiglWriter/director Ami Canaan Mann tells a sweet love story between a modern-day train hopper and a struggling single mother, brought together by their mutual love of music. Although the light romance drama has engaging moments, it feels like a familiar hybrid of Nicholas Sparks films and ABC primetime soap operas. (BKP: 4/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

The film opens with “Ryan” (Ben Barnes) riding the train rails with nothing but a guitar in his hand and a dream of a recording career on his mind. When Ryan ends up in a snowy town in Utah, he checks up on an absentee friend’s wife “Virginia” (Clea DuVall) and is immediately snapped back into reality. Her husband, “Cowboy” (never shown) was pressured by all of his adult responsibilities and left her alone with a baby boy. DuVall is convincing and heartbreaking in her limited role, giving it her best for her limited screentime.

While Ryan contemplates his life choices, he sits in the streets of Ogden, Utah, and plays his guitar to passing strangers. Everything changes when he sees formerly-famous musician named “Jackie” (Katherine Heigl) get knocked over by a car, and he--quite literally--sweeps her off of her feet. Jackie cooks Ryan dinner to thank him, and predictably, the two start to develop a connection. While he patches up her roof and woos her by guitar, Jackie struggles to come up with money to fight for custody of her daughter. DSC_1248

The story is simple and sweet, never too showy or too dramatic. When Katherine Heigl’s character Jackie stares at the mirror, she asks herself, “Where am I going to go next? How am I going to get there?” That question makes Jackie seem relatable to the audience. Can they relate to a washed-up, struggling musician? Maybe. Can they relate to being wooed by a talented hobo? Probably not. But can they relate to a person struggling financially and emotionally, wondering what the next chapter of life looks like? Most likely. Those elements make the film unique, endearing and enjoyable.

Barnes and Heigl have wonderful onscreen chemistry, having worked together as a brother-sister duo in The Big Wedding. Heigl, in particular, is convincing as a single mother in a career slump. Whether or not real-life circumstances influenced her performance as Jackie, she brought believable warmth and humanity to the character.

Despite the actors’ performances, certain plot devices never quite feel realistic, giving it that shallow, glowy romance feel. It is beautifully shot with entertaining musical moments, but the dialogue seems better-suited for a novel.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (7/3/15)


Top/Middle Photos: Katherine Heigl as former singer "Jackie."

Bottom Photo: Ben Barnes as hobo "Ryan" with Katherine Heigl.

Photo Credits: Main Street Films

Q: Does Jackie & Ryan pass the Bechdel Test? RedA


Jackie lives with her supportive mother “Miriam” (Sheryl Lee) and young daughter “Lia” (Emily Alyn Lind). Both of those relationships are central to the story as Jackie fights for custody of Lia.

There is also a moment when Jackie looks for a new job and the recruiter asks about her former music career. “Do the limos have candy cups? I hear limos have free cups of M&Ms, Skittles …” It is both humorous and sad at the same time.

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Ever wish you could go back in time and punch your past self in the face? Arnold Schwarzenegger gets to do just that in Terminator Genisys, a surprisingly entertaining continuation of the James Cameron classics. In a sea of reboots and sequels, screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier manage to capture the essence of the original films while balancing audience expectations of slimy robots, loud gunfire and 3D explosions. (BKP: 3.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

IMDB takes the complex Terminator mythology and simplifies the plot down to one sentence, “John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.” In other words, think Back to the Future: Part II with shape-shifting villains and technological takeovers.

The film opens in futuristic 2029, when the evil Skynet has destroyed most of the earth and inhabited San Francisco with killing machines. A grown-up “John Connor” (Jason Clarke) thinks up a plan for “Kyle Reese” (Jai Courtney) to travel back in time, protect his mother “Sarah Connor” (Emilia Clarke), and stop Skynet from launching their destruction plan, “Genisys”.

Kicking off with an entertaining start, Reese successfully time travels back to 1984 and meets Sarah’s protector, the aged-like-a-human T-800 Model 101 Terminator - aka “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger). He comes face to face with a digitally-remastered version of his 1984-self and the two commence in a bizarre, yet oddly enjoyable, brawl. As predicted, more chaos and fight scenes ensue while the Reese, Sarah and Pops try to defeat Skynet and rewrite their histories.

New information is repeatedly thrown at the audience to keep all four timelines straight: 1984 (the Terminator’s arrival), 1997 (Judgement Day), 2017 (Genisys goes live and destroys the earth), 2029 (John Connor and sends Reese through the time portal). Granted, the filmmakers do their best to explain complex details of the mythology in the 126-minute time frame while keeping the number one goal clear: stop Skynet.

In what could have been two hours of mindless special effects is actually a film with a certain sense of substance. In between oozing robots and crashing cars, there are heartfelt themes, comedic moments and even shades of romanticism. Both Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney, known for the HBO series Game of Thrones and the Divergent series, respectively, bring realism to their roles as tough-as-nails Sarah and brave, loyal Reese.

Action is interesting when you care about the characters participating in the action. Instead of simply showing the Golden Gate Bridge collapse in a doomsday-type effect, the writers have Reese and Sarah dangling from a bus, hundreds of feet above the Golden Gate Strait. You want Reese, Sarah and Pops to live and to defeat Skynet. You want the timeline to work itself out. Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier succeed in making the audience care about every element of the story.

No, Terminator Genisys is nowhere near perfect and or anywhere close to The Terminator (1984) or Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1994). The theme of technology taking over our lives is getting old. The apocalypse and dystopian-centered worlds are abundant in multiplexes. But the film is certainly watchable, and being watchable is much more than I was expecting. Arnold Schwarzenegger, looking much older than he did in the James Cameron days, reminds the audience that he may be old, but not obsolete. Surprisingly, neither is the franchise.


Review © Brigid K. Presecky (7/1/15)

Top Photo: Emilia Clarke as “Sarah Connor” and Arnold Schwarzenegger as "The Terminator/T-800 Model 101 Terminator/Pops"

Bottom Photo: Emilia Clarke as “Sarah Connor” and Jai Courtney as “Kyle Reese”

Photo Credits: Paramount Pictures and Skydance

Q: Does Terminator Genisys pass the Bechdel Test?


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Hooray for GLAMOUR (6/15)

Anna Kendrick for Glamour US June 2015Peek Inside the June '15 Issue of Glamour Magazine

Page 36: Interview with actress Judy Greer “Why should a man make more than me?”

Page 38: Sidebar “Pop Quiz = Who Earned More?”

Page 130: Chat with filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom

Page 160: Cover Story on Anna Kendrick

Glamour: The discussion about gender bias in Hollywood is more public than ever. What do you make of that?

Kendrick: All the films nominated [for a Best Picture Oscar] this year had male leads. Like every single one. So I’m glad that [equality’s] feeling like a bigger issue now.

The Celluloid Ceiling issue has finally entered the mainstream! Why is this happening now?

The answer has directly to do with the release of the “infamous” Sony memos a couple months ago... PopCrop

Several of us have been talking about pay discrimination for women in film for over a decade now, but the response was always: “Yeah, yeah. Keep whining, ladies.” But when the hackers released the Sony memos a couple of months ago, these memos actually detailed systematic discrimination—pay gap/opportunity gap—between women and men in the film world (not just for the filmmakers but also for the actresses).

In particular, there was a big brouhaha because it turned out that on the movie American Hustle, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were both paid less than the three primary actors in the film—Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper & Jeremy Renner—even though Amy Adams was nominated for Best Actress and Jennifer Lawrence was nominated for—and won the Oscar for—Best Supporting Actress. Nevertheless, they both had lower salaries and lower percentages than their male colleagues...

So the Sony memos have had the same effect in the film world that the Lily Ledbetter case has had with respect to the issue of pay equity more generally. Finally women can say: “We’re not just complaining. We’re not just whining. We’re not just doing the same old, same old. Here is proof that everything we’ve been telling you all these years is factual because we’ve got the memos and we’ve got the spreadsheets!”

The bottom line is this: Now there is proof and the proof is uncontested. So this has been the defining moment that has finally changed the game :-)

My interview with Martha Lauzen was posted twelve years ago in 2003--2003!!!--so I have been fighting this fight--with Lauzen & others--for a very long time now. How wonderful to finally see some dominoes fall :-)

Click HERE for Judy Greer Interview --> June15P36GLAMOUR



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KateTwenty years after the release of Sense and Sensibility, Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet reunite onscreen in a period drama set in 17th Century Versailles. Rickman, with co-writers Alison Deegan and Jeremy Brock, create their own historical fiction by telling the story of King Louis XIV and his two landscape architects - the real André Le Notre and the fictional Sabine de Barra.

This good story had the potential to be great. It touches on love, loss and modernism with characters embodied by an extraordinarily talented cast. But going into the film with high expectations makes the end result seem slightly underwhelming. (BKP: 3.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

The year is 1682. French Sun King “Louis XIV” (Alan Rickman) is in the process of moving his court from Paris to Versailles, and he wants mastermind landscape designer “André le Notre” (Matthias Schoenaerts) to oversee production on the new Rockwork Garden. If le Notre does not finish “The Bosquet de la Salle du Balin” in a timely manner, or on a budget, he knows that his future may include a guillotine. Feeling like he may have lost his creative touch, le Notre sets out to find another landscape architect to assist with the grand project.

His hiree? Widowed “Sabine de Barra” (Kate Winslet) a modern, talented designer unafraid to get her hands dirty or challenge le Notre’s symmetrical process in order to make things more natural, more chaotic. She charms her way into the likings of Louis’ bisexual brother “Philippe,” who is played by the always-entertaining Stanley Tucci in a role similar to his characters in The Hunger Games and The Devil Wears Prada. As de Barra settles into her new role, a romantic relationship with le Notre predictably comes to fruition.

Their love story is constantly being interrupted by outside forces - either by Notre’s unfaithful wife (Helen McCrory) or Sabine’s haunting flashbacks to her traumatic past. Any tension or realism is bogged down by slow pacing and uncertainty about whether the script is meant to be funny, tragic or an awkward mismatch of both. CourtCrop

One lingering scene does work, however, when Sabine mistakes King Louis (sans wig) for a gardener and the two engage in a long, meaningful conversation. Rickman and Winslet do what they do best, making the film all the more engaging when they do it together.

Curly wigs, intricate corsets and eloquent ballrooms are only some of the colorful imagery in A Little Chaos that gives you something to focus on when the script fails to grab your attention. Nonetheless, the filmmakers’ intentions are evident and director Rickman creates beautiful moments that are scattered throughout. But like Sabine’s garden, many elements feel messy and slightly out of place.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (6/29/15)


Top Photo: Kate Winslet as 17th Century designer “Sabine de Barra.”

Middle Photo: Kate Winslet with director Alan Rickman as "Louis XIV."

Bottom Photo: Kate Winslet with Matthias Schoenaerts as “André le Notre.”

Photo Credits: Alex Bailey/Focus Features

Q: Does A Little Chaos pass the Bechdel Test?RedA


Not only does Sabine find herself feeling out of place at the King’s salon--filled with vain women--but there is also an interesting story arc about Sabine’s traumatic past. (No Spoilers: It is better to see the specific details unfold on screen.)

Furthermore, Winslet’s character is strong-willed, creative and a modern feminist for the era.

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advantageousCo-written by Jennifer Phang and Jacqueline Kim, Advantageous is set in a futuristic society where women have lost footing in the workforce.

A single mother, “Gwen” (Jacqueline Kim) struggles to provide for her daughter. Left with no other options, she must undergo a procedure to keep her job, a procedure that transports her consciousness into a younger, more attractive body. (JEP: 3.5/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

Advantageous was directed and co-written by Jennifer Phang. Her writing partner, Jacqueline Kim, also stars in the film as “Gwen,” a struggling mother in a futuristic society who undergoes a new-age procedure in order to keep her job and provide for her daughter.

Gwen’s world revolves around her daughter “Jules” (Samantha Kim). Just as Jules gets accepted into a prestigious (and expensive) school, which will secure her future, Gwen loses her job. In this society, women have all but been cast out of the workforce. Once their beauty fades they no longer have value.

The company Gwen works for is in the beginning stages of testing a new procedure that will eradicate disease, in that people can transfer their consciousness from their old or diseased body to a new, younger one.

Hoping for a promotion, as the face of this company, “The Center for Advanced Health and Living”, Gwen instead finds herself out of a job entirely. As a result of her age, Gwen has been deemed an unfit face of the company.

Gwen immediately begins to search for a new job, but is unable to get a single interview. After being denied monetary help by her estranged family, Gwen sees no other way out but to undergo the procedure in order to get her job back.

Her coworker, “Fisher” (James Urbaniak), tries to dissuade Gwen from going through with the procedure. She will be one of the first human subjects, and the technology is not yet at the point it should be to provide a seamless transfer. However, with no foreseeable options left, Gwen undergoes the procedure and her consciousness is transferred to a beautiful, younger body.

The new “Gwen 2.0” (Freya Adams) does not have the same connection with Jules; her motherly instinct has all but disappeared. As Jules struggles with losing the mother she knew and loved, we learn that Gwen gave up her life to save her daughter’s. Like Jules, the audience has been deceived, as the new Gwen 2.0 is not the same woman as the one whose memories she now possesses.

Advantageous won the Dramatic Special Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and boasts four wins at VC FilmFest. Although there are undoubtedly some plot holes, the story itself is new and exciting, a concept that draws the viewer in from the very start.

The world of the film was not always believable, as the costumes and set design lacked continuity in their futuristic elements. However, I easily forgave these faults, as I wanted to know what happened next in the story. So although the acting floundered in places and the directing at times felt forced, Kim and Phang’s strong narrative kept me engaged and wanting more.

Review © Jessica E. Perry (6/28/15)

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Top Photo: Gwen ponders her fate.

Bottom Photo: Gwen's Boss, "Isa Cryer" (Jennifer Ehle), prides herself on the procedure's growing popularity.

Photo Credit: Robert M. Chang

Q: Does Advantageous pass the Bechdel Test?RedA

Yes, absolutely.

Gwen and her daughter have many scenes together where they talk about the world and the meaning of life.

In fact, most of the conversations between women in this film do not revolve around men. Instead, importance lies in the job market and the role of women in their New Age society.

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