A MONSTER WITH 1000 HEADS

MotherSonWriter Laura Santullo has teamed with director Rodrigo Plá to create a superlative adaptation of her novel Un Monstruo de Mil Cabezas. Since it hasn't been translated into English (yet), I am going to guess that the novel has interior monologues that get into the heads of her characters.

Onscreen, however, Santullo and Plá go straight for the jugular, filming a woman from the outside-in as she desperately fights against the clock to move a monstrous bureaucracy.

A Monster with a Thousand Heads is not only brilliant in itself, but a riveting metaphor for our times. (JLH: 4.5/5)

Review by FF2 Media Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner

"Sonia Bonet" (Jana Raluy) is awakened one night by the sound of soft moaning. Her husband is in pain, and she is instantly alert. Bright lights sting her eyes and chase away sleep as she calls for help, but when the paramedics arrive, there is little they can do for him.

The next day, one woman walks towards one desk on one floor of a huge modern office complex. She is ready to begin her daily routine, but this is no ordinary day. Sonia has summoned all of her courage--and a mountain of paperwork--to plead for relief, and this woman is the unwitting gatekeeper.

At first, Sonia is polite but determined. She has been waiting for hours. One receptionist has already come and gone. Sonia has been told the doctor is in. The clueless new receptionist confirms that he is, and, with some exasperation, she gives Sonia a mini-lecture on patience. But when the doctor, determined to stonewall Sonia, tries to sneak out of the building, Sonia snaps.

The screenplay is based on Laura Santullo novel Un Monstruo de Mil Cabezas, which I have not read. (As far as I know, it is not available in English.) Perhaps Santullo has provided a backstory in print--telling us more about exactly what is wrong with Sonia's husband and what she has already done to try to get their insurance carrier to provide better care--but if so, Santullo and director Rodrigo Plá have excised all of that from their film. From the moment Sonia decides to chase the doctor down to the parking lot, A Monster with a Thousand Heads--which is only 74 minutes long--lunges forward with relentless speed and intense narrative drive. SonStressed

The POV is deliberately third-person. People are always watching as Sonia and her son "Dario" (Sebastián Aguirre) work their way link-by-link up the chain of command of a heartless insurance company  A woman is interrupted in the middle of preparing a meal. She goes to her door, looks at the screen on her security system, and buzzes Sonia in. Why should she fear Sonia? How is she to know that Sonia has been following her husband--the doctor--from where he works to where he lives?

But the only thing the doctor can do for Sonia is tell her where to find his boss. And so it goes, each person pointing to the next as Sonia becomes increasingly frustrated and Dario becomes ever more unhinged. We see Sonia and Dario pass in front of a window as it is being washed. We see Sonia and Dario through the eyes of someone working in a convenience store who then sees their images in his TV screen.

Voices break through the heavy curtain of ambient sound and begin describing their movements, but who is speaking? Finally it become clear that Sonia is now on trial, and these are the people--mostly nameless and often faceless--who are testifying against her.

A Monster with a Thousand Heads is a brilliant title for our time. Although Sonia's "monster" is an insurance company, who among us has not faced a bureaucratic impasse at one time or another? Sonia is a member of the middle class. What is she to do when the company she trusted denies her husband's undoubtedly expensive treatment? Isn't that why she has dutifully paid her premiums for decades? Isn't that their part of the bargain now that he is ill?

Jana Raluy's taut performance dominates the screen. She is in every scene, and the audience needs no any backstory to know what she is thinking at every moment. It is a masterful performance that has already received acclaim at numerous international film festivals. Brava!

© Jan Lisa Huttner FF2 Media (5/13/16)

MomMaxedOut

Top Photo: Jana Raluy as "Sonia Bonet," with Sebastián Aguirre as her son "Dario."

Middle Photo: As the police close in on them, Dario takes a call from his aunt.

Bottom Photo: Veronica Falcon as one of the insurance company's shareholders. Sonia has been offered one too many excuses, and her patience is exhausted.

Photo Credits: Music Box Films

Q1: Does A Monster with a Thousand Heads pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test? GreenA2016

Yes!

From the receptionist to the doctor's wife to the insurance company shareholder, Sonia interacts with several women as she ascends towards the top of the hierarchy. And it is the women--rarely the men--who seem to have some appreciation for her plight and do what they can to help her (if only to get her to move on).

When Sonia arrives at the doctor's home, for example, the doctor's wife buzzes her in and calls up to her husband, asking him to come downstairs. Sonia is a middle class woman, clearly not as wealthy as she is, but certainly respectable. She lets Sonia into her home because she fully expects her husband to do something to help. She clearly has no idea that her husband has a history with Sonia (let's call it a "pre-existing condition"), and she has no reason to suspect that her husband is actively trying to avoid Sonia.

The doctor, however, acts guilty, and also a bit pig-headed. So it is not clear if his macho pride would have allowed him to tell Sonia where to find his boss, even at gun point. His wife, however, provides the information Sonia needs, and Sonia leaves immediately, taking Dario with her to the sports club.

Q2: Where is A Monster with a Thousand Heads set? 

I assume the answer is Mexico, although I don't remember if a location was ever specified. However, even though Sonia and Dario move around by car quite a bit, I frankly don't know enough about Mexico to identify any of the local landmarks. So if anyone knows the location for sure, please add your insights in the comments section.

But I honestly don't think it matters, I think A Monster with a Thousand Heads could be set in any large city in the Hispanophone world. This film is not about poverty, pervasive income inequality, or rampant corruption. This film is about throwing oneself against the ramparts of the highly bureaucratized world in which most people in the industrialized world--call us "the lucky ones"--actually live.

According to Wikipedia, Laura Santullo and Rodrigo Plá are both from Uruguay, although they now live in Mexico. Wikipedia also says Santullo and Plá are not just a creative team, but also life partners as well. This is their second film together (the first one is called The Zone), and they are also the parents of two children. Just sayin'

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HIGH-RISE

Screen Shot 2016-05-15 at 2.15.49 PMTom Hiddleston stars as an eccentric doctor in this bizarre, brutally boring adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel, High-Rise. Amy Jump’s screenplay on social commentary might appeal to fans of science-fiction/horror, but the average moviegoer may miss the “comedy” in this so-called “dark-comedy” entirely. (BKP: 2.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

There are people who understand the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, and there are people who do not. Breaking the code of never-use-first-person, I was one of those viewers who sat in my theater seat as the credits rolled, dumbfounded as to what I just saw. None of it made sense to me: it wasn’t scary, it wasn't interesting and it was, for lack of a better synonym, boring. All work and no play made The Shining a dull film.

I experienced the identical feeling at the end jeremyof High-Rise, wishing I could pull up a seat at an empty ghost bar and grunt, “Things could be better, Lloyd.” Tom Hiddleston stars as “Dr. Robert Laing,” a man haunted by the death of sister. When he moves into a darkened and futuristic skyscraper, he meets an architect, “Royal” (Jeremy Irons), one of the many eerie elements of the social structure.

The building, used as a metaphor, has the rich at the top and the poor at the bottom, aiming and failing to create some shift in society.

Although the impressive cast (from Hiddleston and Irons to Elisabeth Moss and Sienna Miller) is engaging solely based on their recognizable names and faces, they do little to enhance this mess of story.

The science-fiction/horror aspect of the film is gruesome, with Tom Hiddleston’s character peeling back skin layers on a skull. For viewers fascinated by all things creepy, maybe High-Rise might seem appealing. But for those with a weak stomach and little tolerance for extremely slow plot developments, warning: stay far away.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (5/15/16)

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Top Photo: Tom Hiddleston as “Dr. Robert Laing" and Elisabeth Moss as "Helen"

Middle Photo: Jeremy Irons as "Royal"

Bottom Photo: Tom Hiddleston as "Dr. Robert Laing"

Photo Credits: Recorded Picture Company

Q: Does High-Rise pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

No.

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LOVE ADDICT

love-addict-movie-poster-2Love Addict is a flailing effort at a bearable romantic comedy. Director Charis Orchard’s film follows “Owen Maxwell” (Elliot Haddaway), a successful divorce attorney and grotesque womanizer, as he faces the greatest challenge of his life: instead of helping to alleviate his cigarette addiction, his hypnotherapist hypnotizes him into developing an allergy to his favorite pastime, sex. A mixture of terrible acting, shallow characters that enforce ridiculous stereotypes, a bad script, and poor editing, this film was difficult to watch. (RAK: 1.5/5)

Review by FF2 Intern Rachel A. Kastner

“Owen Maxwell” (Elliot Haddaway) became a lawyer because of the money, cars, and girls that the title brings him. He is a successful divorce attorney, living in a huge bachelor pad with two live-in housekeepers, and he has the “magic touch”. No matter where Owen goes, he can pick up any woman he wants in under a minute – and he doesn’t even bother to ask or remember their names. The only thing he doesn’t like about himself is the fact that he smokes.

The first twenty minutes of the film follow Owen, giving the audience a glimpse into his unrefined and gross lifestyle. He repeatedly chases dumb women who he deems hot. When his best friend is having a release party for a novel, Owen brings a beautiful but dumb date. When he sees someone more attractive, he ditches his date to flirt on the terrace with this new ‘eye candy’ in an attempt to bring her home with him. Sitting on the other side of the terrace is “Eileen Jenkins” (Alyshia Ochse), another guest of the party. Eileen sees Owen seduce this woman by talking about his job and money, and calls him out for being a pig. Unbothered, Owen leaves that night and sleeps with the girl he picked up.

The next day, Eileen Jenkins walks into a law firm looking for a lawyer to help her with her divorce. She is divorcing her husband but is looking for a lawyer to help her keep the rehabilitation facility that she manages. To her dismay, the man who was recommended for the job is Owen Maxwell. At first, he doesn’t even recognize Eileen, mistaking her for someone he must’ve slept with. Eileen is extremely offended by him but decides to work with him on her case because supposedly, he is the best divorce attorney there is.LA Middle

Later that day, Owen, at the recommendation of a friend, goes to see a hypnotherapist in the hopes of curing him of his addiction to smoking. Owen doesn’t recognize “Dr. Candi Barnes” (Nicole Helen), but she recognizes him from a night they spent together a year prior. In a ploy of revenge, Dr. Candi Barnes hypnotizes him to have a physical aversion to sex. The results are severe. Every time Owen is turned on or interested in a woman, he immediately vomits and becomes very ill.

Owen attempts every form of rehabilitation, and ultimately has to employ the help of his own client, Eileen, seeking rehabilitation in the facility she manages. Through rehab sessions in which Owen has to participate in activities that have nothing to do with women or sex, Owen is supposed to overcome his aversion to sex and survive through his detox.

Throughout the film, Owen is also given important divorce cases to work through at his office, with the incentive of becoming a partner of the law firm. He also employs his friends to help him find Candi Barnes, so that he might be able to undo the hypnotherapy. Ultimately, Owen is able to learn from his time with Eileen that there is more to life than sex and more to women than their bodies.

Although the initial idea of the plot seems amusing, “hypnotherapy-gone-awry”, the execution of this script and production lead to a very disappointing product. The majority of the characters in the film are shallow and underdeveloped; almost every female character reinforcing grotesque stereotypes (even if it is supposed to be a comedy and a farce of these stereotypes, the film is still hard to watch), and most of the dialogue is superfluous and uninteresting. A few very funny lines save the film, but they are few and far between. The film wraps up in contradictions and although the writers try to tie a bow on top of the whole thing, the ending just isn’t unbelievable. In terms of production quality, the film is way too long for what it is, and the poor quality of the ADR throughout was extremely distracting.

Usually, I can forgive plot failures in rom-coms if they either are genuinely funny, or provide a real love story, but Love Addict served neither. Sadly, I wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone looking for a quality rom-com.

© Rachel A. Kastner FF2 Media (5/23/16)

Top Photo: Love Addict promotional poster.

Middle Photo: Eileen Jenkins visits Owen in his home.

Bottom Photo: Owen becomes ill when he goes to speak with a beautiful client.

Photo Credits: Tricoast Productions

Q: Does Love Addict pass the Bechdel Test?

 No.

There are very few conversations in this film that don’t focus on sex or Owen Maxwell.

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MONEY MONSTER

Opens today (5/13/16) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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1920 LONDON

YellowSariGiddy comedy/horror mash-up from India has all the familiar Bollywood elements--gorgeous people dancing around sumptuous sets--so expect it to be what it is... and enjoy. (JLH: 3.5/5)

Review by FF2 Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner 

"Princess Shivangi" (Meera Chopra) arrives at her family home, runs up the stairs, and throws herself into the arms of her astonished mother. Her father is alarmed. Her brothers are enraged. Surely Shivangi must know that now that she is married to "Veer Singh" (Vishal Karwal), her place is with her husband??? What will her in-laws think when they learn she has returned to India... alone?!?

As the opening credits roll, Shivangi pleads with them to pity her predicament: Life in London with Veer Singh was perfect. He was a model student (receiving his law degree with honors) and a model husband (showering her with affection). Picnics on green English lawns! Dances in ornate English ballrooms! Sex in their grand English mansion (but never any kissing of course), followed by dreams of the children to come!

But after announcing the name of director Dharmendra Suresh Desai on the screen, the music suddenly stops.

One day, out of the blue, Shivangi and Veer Singh receive an expensive gift from India. It is a beautiful amulet from an unknown source and while they sleep, dark vapors seep from the center of the amulet and radiate down hallways and up staircases. Sensing danger, Veer Singh rises from their bed and slowly walks though ominous, dawn-lit rooms. Suddenly he sees a crow perched on a tree just outside the room with the amulet. The crow begins to craw and Veer Singh doubles over in pain.

Shivangi rushes Veer Singh to a hospital where white-coated doctors babble in English about tetanus, but Shivangi knows better. This is Black Magic... she knows the answer must lie in India... And now we are all caught up!

Writer Sukhmani Sadana (working from a story by Vikram Bhatt and assisted with dialogue from Girish Dhamija) has produced a screenplay that does everything required to keep things moving from start to finish. Her heroine is beautiful and brave, passionate and virtuous, and having been run through her paces for two hours, Shivangi is fully deserving of her happy ending. BlackTub

But none of this would be half as much fun without the work of master choreographer Harish Shetty (assisted by a newbee named Pratap), and a visual design team lead by art director/production designer Jayant Deshmukh and costume designer Falguni Thakore.

I went into my screening cold, so I had no idea until later that 1920: London is actually the third in a series that began with Vikram Bhatt's original 1920 (from 2008), which he followed with 1920: The Evil Returns (in 2012). So I was a bit mystified by the invocation of the year "1920" when some of the cars and clothing suggest a more current date. But even as I watched, I knew not to be worried by anything overly logical. 1920: London is fun for fun's sake, loosely tied to an already successful franchise. As far as I can tell, the director, the screenwriter, most of the crew, and all of the cast members are new.

One negative: If you are into special effects, then stay home. Although I am not the best source on this subject, even I could tell that Dharmendra Suresh Desai's idea of demonic possession had not advanced much beyond The Exorcist. What happened to poor Regan scared the %$#@ out of me way back in 1974, but at this point, watching Veer Singh undergo the very same torments just looks silly. And needless to say, Veer Singh--forced to spend most of the film covered in goop--is not the actual hero of 1920: London.

The male lead is Sharman Joshi (an award-winning comedian), who stars as "Jai Singh Gujjar." Jai is the commoner who dared to love a princess. Remember Shivangi's awful brothers? For this transgression, they had Jai sent to prison for five years, and that's where he learned the secrets of the dark side.

This part of the story is told midway through in an extended flashback--more singing! more dancing!--when Shivangi pleads with Jai to return to London with her to save her husband. Then Jai summons the crows in an obvious homage to The Birds (my all-time favorite Hitchcock film), and the moment filled me with an adrenaline rush of pure pleasure that propelled me full speed ahead to the grand finale.

© Jan Lisa Huttner FF2 Media (5/13/16)

CandlePrayers

Top Photo: Meera Chopra as luminous "Princess Shivangi."

Middle Photo: As virtuous as she is beautiful, Shivangi bravely faces danger in order to save her husband.

Bottom Photo: Shivangi convinces Jai (Sharman Joshi) to use this powers on her behalf. They pray for success in India and then head to London.

Photo Credits: Reliance Entertainment

Q: Does 1920 London pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

Not really.

There is one brief scene in which Shivangi's London companion "Tantrik" (Gajendra Chauhan) offers a half-baked story about Veer Singh's supposedly evil stepmother. But once Shivangi is in India, she never has any contact with anyone in Veer Singh's family, so Tantrik's explanation of events in London become a red herring which somehow escaped the eyes of the editor.

On the other hand, the opening moments seemed to promise mother/daughter scenes, but if they were ever filmed, they never made it to the screen.

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DARK HORSE

dream0Louise Osmond’s Dark Horse is an inspiring story of a Welsh horse’s journey to being a Grand National contender. This feel-good documentary is riveting, on-the-edge-of-your seat enjoyment from start to finish. (BKP: 4.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

If you haven’t heard of the racehorse “Dream Alliance,” you will be in for a treat as this documentary follows this amazing underdog story of the horse and its owners from a small town in the South of Wales.

As the new millennium rolled in, a bartender, Janet Vokes, and a tax advisor, Howard Davies, found themselves purchasing an hot-tempered mare with the hopes of breeding and racing it, all for a relatively inexpensive price.

With the help and added financial support of their village - also known as their “syndicate” - each dedicated person (like a cast of characters right out of a storybook) agreed to pay 10 pounds per month to keep up with the increasing costs for the horse. And like any inspiring story, they kept with it until Dream Alliance met its goal. The way the film is edited, with talking heads, a chronological narration and actual horse racing footage, makes it a nail-biting experience, especially for those - like yours truly - who had no idea how the story ended.

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But the heart in Dark Horse is almost entirely found in the people that rallied around that underdog horse. Their wishes, hopes and dreams for their beloved mare that came true is something any viewer can cheer for and wholeheartedly support.

Watching these working-class neighbors work so hard to make their dream (no pun intended) a reality is the true underlying theme of this spirited documentary. The funny, eccentric members of that Welsh community, difficult-to-understand accents and all, make their journey that much more enjoyable.

Dark Horse may be compared to the likeness of a Disney movie or a picture perfect for a feature film, but that does not necessarily it’s a bad thing. In a time when so much dark material, edginess and pessimism fills the airwaves, Dark Horse is a welcome change. It touches on the privilege of the wealthy without being overtly political. It touches on the sense of community without being cheesy. Louise Osmond manages to craft this story in a way that engages every viewer through suspense, humor and heart. What more can you ask for in a documentary?

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (5/07/16)

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Photos: Janet Vokes and Howard Davies with “Dream Alliance”

Q: Does Dark Horse pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?GreenA2016

Although it’s a documentary with talking heads, they do discuss their community and the women that made Dream Alliance’s journey a possibility.

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MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS

Mothers-and-Daughters-MovieTold through the lens of single photographer “Rigby Gray” (Selma Blair), Mothers and Daughters is both lighthearted and touching. Screenwriter Paige Cameron expertly weaves multiple narratives together; each painting a different picture of motherhood, and the bond that exists between mother and daughter. (JEP: 3.5/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

“Rigby” (Selma Blair) is career driven, a photographer in the prime of her career. Newly single, after the handsome “Bill” (Gilles Marini) suddenly breaks it off with her in order to give his marriage another try, Rigby wholes up on the couch with a box of tissues. After days of mourning her failed love life, Rigby realizes the ill feeling she’s been having is more than just post-breakup blues. When she goes to see her physician “Dr. Hamilton” (Quinton Aaron), he delivers the last news Rigby expects to hear. She is pregnant. Single and set to go out on tour to photograph musician “Nelson Quinn” (Luke Mitchell), a baby is not part of Rigby’s plan.

“Rebecca” (Christina Ricci) is ignoring all phone calls. “Beth” (Courteney Cox) is the one making them. Beth and her husband “Peter” (Paul Adelstein) kept a life-altering secret from Rebecca her entire life. Only after Rebecca’s mother passed away did Peter and Beth decide it was time to share their secret. Now Rebecca is left with questions she doesn’t want the answers to.mothers1

“Gayle” (Eva Amurri Martino) and her husband “Kevin” (Paul Wesley) are struggling for money after another of Kevin’s failed ventures. He’s now moved on to the dream of opening his own cupcake shop in the city, and Gayle is growing tired. But when Kevin encourages Gayle to reach out to her estranged mother “Millie” (Susan Sarandon), it may be just what Gayle needs.

“Georgina Scott” (Mira Sorvino)’s luxury bra line is taking off and “Nina” (Sharon Stone)’s publication has decided to do a feature on Georgina’s line. During their Skype meeting, Nina introduces her daughter “Layla” (Alexandra Daniels) to the designer. Everything is happy-go-lucky until Georgina receives a letter from the child she gave up for adoption twenty-something years before. Meanwhile, Layla is dealing with her own troubles, helping a sick friend and hiding her true career dreams from her mother.

Screenwriter Paige Cameron expertly interweaves her narratives together to deliver a cohesive feature about the special bond mothers and daughters share. Although some storylines are stronger than others, Mother’s and Daughters features a talented and cast and endearing character relationships, making each story as enjoyable as the next. Touching and emotional, the film was perfectly timed with a Mother’s Day release, a great watch for mothers and daughters everywhere.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (5/20/16)

MothersandDaughters_Trailer

Top Photo: Photographer “Rigby” (Selma Blair), studies her subject.

Middle Photo: “Beth” (Courteney Cox) and “Rebecca” (Christina Ricci) come together on Mother’s Day despite a complicated relationship.

Bottom Photo: “Nina” (Sharon Stone) and her daughter “Layla” (Alexandra Daniels) embrace after a heart to heart.

Photo Credits: Robin Holland

Q: Does Mothers and Daughters pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?GreenA2016

You bet!

With a cast full of strong female characters, the film passes the Bechdel test many times over, filled with conversations between mothers and their daughters, daughters and their mothers.

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PHANTOM OF THE THEATRE

phantom1Phantom of the Theater is a grand spectacle of color and splash rolled into a bizarre plot of horror and mystery. Screenwriters Yang Mei Yuan, Li Jing Ling and Manfred Wong tell the story of a restored movie house, haunted by the spirits of the people who perished in a theater. Although potentially appealing to fans of Chinese horror genre, opening the Disney vault and watching Phantom of the Megaplex might be a more enjoyable use of 103 minutes. (BKP: 2.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Set in 1930s Shangai, a young filmmaker “Gu Weibang” (Tony Yang) has just returned from France and is ready to shoot his next project in a newly restored movie theater. Despite claims that the theater has been haunted by the people that died in the theater’s fire 13 years earlier, Weibang continues on his endeavor. He hires an up-and-coming actress, “Meng Si Fan” (Ruby Lin) who has won a contest to be in the film along with a leading man and sleazy producer.

And things don’t go well.

In a series of unfortunate events, including phantom2spontaneous combustion, horrific things start to affect the lives of everybody on set. Unlike a masked killer on set of a film (Scream 3, for example) this supernatural, horror mixture is all sorts of crazy.

Phantom attempts to dip into every genre (including romance in the third act), but ends up being a mismatch of different visions. Early on, there is kill after kill before slowing down into … a love story? Even for those who relish in anything and everything scary, there are many more moments of confusion than actual fear. The actors give the material their best efforts, but are overshadowed by the big, bold, chaotic setting and story.

From slit throats and bulging eyeballs, the visual effects, however, are what gives this movie its appeal to audiences much more than the plot itself. The costume and set design are the most impressive elements: rich, vibrant colors and fanciful attire. The post-production team’s efforts are shown through the use of CGI, impressively following through on what the filmmakers most likely intended.

It’s loud, it’s noisy, it’s in-your-face … and there is a portion of the movie-going crowd that wants to escape into that world. With an even score on Rotten Tomatoes, there are obviously viewers who enjoyed the experience of watching Phantom of the Theater, but with an obscure plot derived from Phantom of the Opera, uneven pacing and bizarre twists, this is one theater to walk out of.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (5/17/16)

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Photo: Ruby Lin as “Meng Si Fan” and Tony Yang as “Gu Weibang”

Photo Credits: Well Go USA Entertainment

Q: Does Phantom of the Theater pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?

No.

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THOSE PEOPLE

Opens tomorrow (5/6/16) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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3RD STREET BLACKOUT

570b307bdc748413afa58cfaWritten, directed, and starred in by Negin Farsad and Jeremy Redleaf, 3rd Street Blackout is a quirky comedy about a tech-loving couple who must reevaluate their relationship when a storm hits Manhattan causing a blackout. (JEP: 3.5/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

“Mina Shamkhali” (Negin Farsad) and “Rudy Higgins” (Jeremy Redleaf) are a tech-consumed couple, often relying on technology instead of face to face interaction. Case in point: the film opens on Mina sitting on a park bench, hair blowing in the breeze… texting. Cut to Rudy who is leaning on a railing by a river, checking his phone as well. He laughs at the text jokes Mina sends him, and promptly responds back. Then Mina takes the leap and asks Rudy to move in with her (over text of course). He responds, “Hmmm…” as Mina stares at her screen in anticipation.

Suddenly, Rudy’s voice pulls her face away from the phone screen. Cut to a wide shot only to reveal that Rudy is actually standing just steps away from where Mina is sitting on her bench. Verbally, he states his conditions for moving in: his Netflix account, her cue, he’s allowed to bring his Xbox along, and theirs must be a two Roku household. Mina has joined him now for the rare “in person” conversation. She readily accepts his terms, celebrating this new step in their relationship.

This is Rudy and Mina; this is how they function, technology co3rd_street_blackout_stillming in at a close second to one another. Flash forward to a year later. Rudy and Mina have grown comfortable in their shared apartment. But when a massive storm hits New York City resulting in a citywide blackout, Mina and Rudy are left at an impasse without their technology, forced to confront the state of their relationship.

Flash back to a few days before the blackout hits. Mina delivers a Ted Talk, presenting her research to the masses. At the event she meets “Nathan Blonket” (Ed Weeks)—handsome, British, and a potential investor for her research. Mina and Ed get too close too fast, and she soon finds herself keeping a relationship-defining secret from Rudy. Flash-forward once again to the days of no cell phones and no electricity. Without the technological distractions, Mina soon discovers that during a blackout, secrets are hard to keep from the ones you love.

While highly entertaining, I personally think there was a better way to tell this story. A way that finds a better approach than the use of the disjointed flashbacks Farsad and Redleaf chose to utilize in their filmmaking. That being said, 3rd Street Blackout succeeds in many other areas, the filmmakers intriguing their audience from the very beginning.

Moreover, Farsad and Redleaf must be applauded for successfully co-writing, co-directing, and starring in both a highly entertaining and relevant film. The pair made a great team on screen, and clearly behind the camera as well, delivering a cohesive, laugh out loud, quirky comedy about the difficulties of navigating a relationship in the digital age.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (5/10/16)

3rd-street-blackout-indie-movie

Top Photo: 3rd Street Blackout poster.

Middle Photo: Mina and Rudy have a serious discussion during the blackout, the only light coming from their cell phone flashlights.

Bottom Photo: During the blackout, Mina and Rudy hold a party at their shared apartment.

Photo Credits: Paladin

Q: Does 3rd Street Blackout pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?GreenA2016

Yes!

Before her Ted Talk, Mina is given encouragement to go on stage by a crewmember—mysteriously uncredited, but played by Sasheer Zamata (SNL). Mina also has numerous meaningful conversations with her neighbor “Susan Sussman” (Phyllis Somerville).

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