BATKID BEGINS

batkid-image-8Batkid Begins directed by Dana Nachman is a touching and uplifting documentary about the day a city came together to make a young cancer patient’s dream to be Batman come true. Kudos to wonderful people from Make-a-Wish Foundation for making this day--and so many like it--possible. (JEP 4.5/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

 This incredible documentary was directed by Dana Nachman and co-written by Nachman and Kurt Kuenne. Together, these two perfectly captured the hope and happiness felt the day that "Batkid" took over San Francisco.

Miles Scott was diagnosed with leukemia at 18 months old. The brave little boy loves superheroes, and his wish--as he expressed it to the Make-A-Wish Foundation--was to become “Batkid”. At his parent’s behest, Miles’ wish day would be after he completed treatment. That day came in 2013, when Miles completed his last treatment. He is now in remission.

On November 15, 2013 Miles was able to become Batkid for one day when the entire city of San Francisco banded together to make one little boy’s dream come true.

The film focuses on the events leading up to November 15th and the culmination of all of their efforts, as we watch Miles race down the street in a Batmobile and take down Batman’s enemies.abatkid1

The Foundation’s first goal was to simply find 200 volunteers support Miles on his day. However, as Miles’ story began to circulate on the Internet, it spread like wildfire through social media. As the day was fast approaching, there were over 12,000 confirmed volunteers flying in from all over the world to cheer on Batkid as he saved the city.

Miles was to go on multiple adventures throughout the day. First, he and his partner “Batman” (Eric Johnston) saved a “Damsel in Distress” (Sue Graham Johnston) from an oncoming trolley car. Next, he went on to stop The Riddler (Philip Watt), and then finally raced to stop The Penguin (Mike Jutan) from kidnapping Lou Seal (the San Francisco Giants’ mascot).

This film has all the feels. The footage from the actual day is simply amazing. And the filmmakers captured Miles’ journey just as Batman’s has been documented on the page, by pairing interviews with all the key players with comic book style storytelling.

The number of people who turned out to support this little boy, and the universal feeling of community and happiness felt that day was successfully transferred to the screen. I smiled my way through the entire movie, fully engaged for the one hour and twenty-seven minute runtime. Do not miss the chance to experience this film in theaters; it is an absolute must see!

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (6/30/15)
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Top Photo: Miles as Batkid

Middle Photo: Miles and Eric Johnston aka Batkid and Batman!

Bottom Photo: Batkid and Batman after they stopped The Riddler

Photo Credits: ???

Q: Does Batkid Begins pass the Bechdel Test? RedA

Hmmmm. Not really.

Since the film is made up largely of interviews, women are not really having conversations with each other ... but neither are men.

However, since the director of the film is a woman, maybe she was the one interviewing the many other women in the film? But it's a stretch, since it is unclear in the world of the film if this is the case.

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EDEN

EDEN-Photo7A young man fascinated by the underground music scene in Paris, forms a DJ duo group called Cheers. The film spans about 20 years of music, drugs, and sex, portraying all the ups and downs of the life of a struggling artist. (JEP 3.5/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

 This music centric foreign film boasts a superb soundtrack and spans decades of the underground French music scene. Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, Eden is loosely based on her brother Sven’s (who co-wrote the script with her) life.

The film opens in France in the 1990s, at the onset of “Paul’s” (Paul Valilee) introduction to the world of Garage music. As Paul’s interest in this new genre of music grows, he vows to start a music duo.

Jump ahead to three years later, and Paul has done just that. Living in a small apartment with mattresses on the floor, and drugs at the ready, Paul is making a career (or at least he’s trying to) spinning music and playing small gigs.

This goes on for years, as Paul’s success seems just on the verge of breaking through, yet never really does. While Cheers does take a small tour around the US, playing cities like Manhattan and Chicago, not much more becomes of their success. But all the while, Daft Punk’s growing fame is following Paul around like a shadow.

With a closet drug addiction, slew of girls, and a mounting pile of debt, Paul’s life in music never seems to truly take off. He is unwilling to compromise his style of music for the change times, and years of the industry wear on him. Finally out of money and out of options, Paul takes a desk job in 2013, begins a writing course, and starts anew.

But does he really? When we leave Paul, he has moved very little from the place he started. Eden is not a film that glorifies the music industry nor is it one that captures the success story of a star. Instead, it is a portrait of one man’s reality, as he pursues his passion and a success he never quite reaches, standing still while everyone else has moved forward.

Reader, I will tell you what I told the lovely older couple who asked how the film was as I left the theater and they were waiting for the next showing to begin: the film was good…but long. With a runtime of 131 minutes the story begins to feel repetitive and all the time jumps within the film make for a confusing sequence of events. But Eden is graced with solid performances and a stellar soundtrack, making for an enjoyable afternoon at the theater.

Review © Jessica E. Perry (7/2/15)Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 6.38.07 PM

Top Photo: Paul spinning

Bottom Photo: Paul and longtime girlfriend "Louise" (Pauline Etienne)

Photo Credits: Carole Bethuel

Q: Does Eden pass the Bechdel Test?

No.

The woman in Eden do not interact much with one another. Instead, they love Paul and Paul loves them, before another time jump in the film and a new love interest appears.

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HIPPOCRATES

InternsFull Title = Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor

Two Interns--one a fresh faced newby and the other an Algerian immigrant--test the limits of patient care from inside the hierarchy of a beleagured French public hospital.

Terrific performances by Vincent Lacoste and Reda Kateb. Excellent, low-key direction by Thomas Lilti who collaborated with a screenwriting team consisting of Pierre Chosson, Baya Kasmi, and Julien Lilti. (JLH: 4.5/5)

Review by FF2 Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner

A 23 year old French Intern begins his rotation on the medical floor of a large public hospital. He is young and fresh-faced and eager to learn... Oh boy, does he have a lot to learn!

Soon after, another man--someone much older and far more experienced--also begins his internship. In fact, he is already a doctor, but because he is an Algerian immigrant, he must start at the bottom to obtain French credentials.

Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor is a beautifully-crafted multidimensional drama that touches on many important contemporary topics.

First and foremost, Hippocrates is a hospital story about the care patients can expect to receive even when they are lucky enough to live in a progressive country  like France (which prides itself on universal health care). The truth, as always, is that the only resource that is not in short supply is ego (and most often male ego). Benjamin

"Benjamin" (Vincent Lacoste) is a newby, and so he must learn the hard way that he can't always do everything he wants to do--and often knows he should do--to care for his patients. And "Abdel" (Reda Kateb) who is already battle-weary when he arrives at the hospital, knows that no matter how clearly he writes orders in a patient's chart, someone will make decisions for "his patients" without even bothering to consult his notes.

And yet, in the course of working together, they come to care for each other and see past weaknesses to the genuine strengths of the other. For a lovely moment at the end, prejudice melts away and life in the hospital--grim as it is sometimes--becomes radiant... And then Benjamin begins a new rotation.

According to IMDb, filmmaker "Thomas Lilti is also a general practitioner. He studied medicine and showed some of his personal experiences in his film Hippocrates." He has seven screenplay credits and five director credits (most of which are shorts for which he served as both). Julien Lilti has a much shorter IMDb page, so I am guessing he is Thomas Lilti's son, but I don't know this for a fact. Pierre Chosson has along list of IMDb credits, mostly as a screenwriter, but in a combination of features and documentaries. All three are new to me.

But Baya Kasmi is someone I already know as the screenwriter of The Names of Love, a film from a few years back that I really enjoyed. Like Hippocrates, one of the main characters in The Names of Love has an Algerian background. Her names is "Baya Benhmamoud" and even though she is played by actress Sara Forestier, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that that story was just a bit autobiographical too.

Bottom Line: However they have done it, Thomas Lilti, Baya Kasmi, and the whole cast and crew of Hippocrates: Diary of a French Doctor have made a beautiful film with great resonance and contemporary importance. Bravi!

© Jan Lisa Huttner FF2 Media (6/19/15)

Trouble

Top Photo: Vincent Lacoste as "Benjamin Barois" with Reda Kateb as "Abdel."

Middle Photo: Benjamin buried in patient charts.

Bottom Photo: Abdel finds himself in conflict with "Dr. Denormandy" (Marianne Denicourt). As the head of the unit, she has enormous power over him. If she gives him a bad review at the end of his rotation, his chances of being credentialed--and remaining in France--will diminish. Since he wants to stay in Paris, and one day even bring his wife and children from Algeria, Abdel struggles mightily to bite his tongue. But when Dr. Denormandy removes a self-administering pain pump from an elderly patient for budget reasons, Abdel finally loses control.

Photo Credits: ???

Q: Does Hippocrates pass the Bechdel Test?

No.

Hippocrates is a fine film, but women are definitely on the edges of this drama. A few women do plan important supporting roles in the evolving stories of Benjamin and Abdel, but even the women who have names never speak with one another.

JanRaves

6/22/15 Update: You may not recognize Reda Kateb, appearing in Hippocrates as he does in the clean white lab coats and authoritative poses of an experienced physician, but I sure did.

Just a few short years ago, Kateb was cast as "Ammar," the terror suspect who maintains his dignity through all the unspeakable acts inflicted on him in the first half hour of Zero Dark Thirty.

The New Yorker magazine has just published an excellent article on Senator Dianne Feinstein's attempts to investigate the use of torture by the CIA after 9/11. I read it on my Kindle last week and it appears on newsstands today. And even though he didn't mention this article by name (drunk as me was on the delicious presence of Dame Helen Mirren actually reading from the report), I am sure John Oliver also read this article as he prepared for last week's broadcast of Last Week Tonight.  RedaKatebZD30

So I was not only totally won over by Kateb's performance in Hippocrates, I was also delighted to learn that he had won a Cesar Award for this performance. (The Cesar Awards are the French Oscars.)

From December 2012 through February 2013, I did a great deal of thinking, reading, and writing about Zero Dark Thirty (which I saw four times), and I will not rehash all those arguments here. Suffice it to say that Zero Dark Thirty never showed that use of torture resulted in actionable intelligence, and director Kathryn Bigelow never "endorsed torture" either morally or pragmatically.

But coming out of Hippocrates, I now know something new that I didn't know then: By casting Reda Kateb as "Ammar," Bigelow implicitly put the observant viewer on the side of the victim of torture and not on those who--in their misguided zeal--became torturers. While I am sure he is a good enough actor to be a scary villain when he wants to be, in both of these parts--in Zero Dark Thirty and in Hippocrates--Reda Kateb embodies the best in humanity. Bravo!

ZD30 Photo Credit: Jonathan Olley/Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.

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INFINITELY POLAR BEAR

ItsOwnWay1978: A mother with two young daughters copes as best she can with decisions made in more innocent times. Her husband is suffering from BiPolar Disorder, and "living on love" is no longer an option...

First-time filmmaker Maya Forbes has written and directed a beautiful tribute to her extraordinary parents who--despite it all--managed to steer both her and her younger sister into richly rewarding adult lives. (5/5)

Review by Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner

Infinitely Polar Bear? Infinitely Polar Bear??? These are the extrapolations of a child trying to understand her world. "Amelia Stuart" (Imogene Wolodarsky) hears her parents talking in the next room. Her father "Cam Stuart" (Mark Ruffalo) has BiPolar Disorder (once called Manic-Depression), but how is a child to understand that diagnosis? My father is a "Polar Bear," say what???

The year is 1978 and Amelia is approximately ten years old when we first meet her, meaning she was born around 1968. (In fact, filmmaker Maya Forbes was born on July 23, 1968.)

Readers: Many of you may not remember 1968, so let me just tell you it was a tumultuous time, and yet a more innocent time. "We" (liberal young Americans) believed in "Peace, Love & Understanding." That spirit was to be tarnished somewhat during the Democratic Convention in Chicago in August 1968, but didn't reached its zenith until the Woodstock Music Festival in August, 1969. Then Richard Nixon--elected President of the United States in November of 1968--began bombing Cambodia, four student protesters were gunned down at Kent State University by the Ohio Army National Guard on May 4, 1970, and the rest, as they say "is history"... TheRents

So sure, when Maggie met Cam at WBUR (Boston Public Radio) and fell in love, she knew he had had his "problems." Very likely he charmed her with stories of his expulsions from Exeter and Harvard. But did that mean Maggie had any idea of how arduous life with Cam would be one decade later, once they also had young children to care for? Surely not.

How they deal with these issues, and what personal resources they each bring to the table, well that is for you to discover when you see this beautiful film. Suffice it to say that Maggie lives on the edge, and even though the actual plot of the film revolves around Cam, Maggie is its heroine.

Setting myself up once more for heartbreak: If I ruled the world, then come January 14, 2016--the day that the next set of Oscar nominations are announced--Mark Ruffalo will receive a Best Actor nomination, Zoe Saldana will receive a Best Supporting Actress nomination, and Maya Forbes will receive a Best Original Screenplay nomination. I send this bit of wishful thinking to my Higher Power in the hopes that he/she/it will somehow "Make it so."

© Jan Lisa Huttner FF2 Media (6/19/15)

DaddysGirls

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

***This is the famous first time of Leo Tolstoy's novel Anna Karenina. So is the Stuart Family a "happy family" or an "unhappy family"...? I could say that's for you to decide, but I will walk out on a limb instead. I believe Tolstoy knew full well that most families are sometimes happy and sometimes not so happy, and that is simply the Human Condition. Only a fool would take these words--however famous--at face value.***

Top Photo (from left): Imogene Wolodarsky as "Amelia Stuart," Mark Ruffalo as "Cam Stuart," Zoe Saldana as "Maggie Stuart," and Ashley Aufderheide as "Faith Stuart."

Middle Photo: Cam and Maggie. (Just look at the tender expression on Zoe Saldana's face... This face--with its tired eyes, strained smile, and slightly crinkled forehead--this face says it all!)

Bottom Photo: Cam with his girls in one of a series of wreck-a-rides. Imagine the girls' delight when "Gaga" (Muriel Gould) offers her grandson the use of her Bentley! "But Gaga, I live in a rent controlled apartment..." "I know, Cam. I pay your rent." Back in their latest wreck-a-ride, Amelia demands an answer: "Why couldn't you just take the Bentley and then sell it?!?" "I'm sorry girls," says Cam with great resignation, "but it just doesn't work that way."

Photo credits: Claire Folger & Seacia Pavao/Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Q: Does Infinitely Polar Bear pass the Bechdel Test? RedA

Yes!

Although most conversations revolve around Cam, there are some lovely mother/daughter and sister/sister interactions along the way. Most significant is a conversation that Maggie and Amelia have about race. I may not have the dialogue 100% correct, but it basically goes something like this...

Amelia: Mommy, why am I white if Faith is Black?

Maggie: I'm Black and I'm your mother, so you and Faith are both Black.

Amelia: But the kids will laugh at me if I say this...

Maggie: Tell them your mother is Black!

Amelia (with shrug): OK, but no one will believe me...

RealToReelPenny

Infinitely Polar Bear is based on filmmaker Maya Forbes' real life story. I don't know why she changed her father's family name from Forbes to Stuart although I can imagine that some of her Forbes relatives are none too happy with the way their family is depicted in this film. So hooray for the "purely coincidental" verbiage which typically appears at the very end of a film like this one, but stay in your seat until the final credits roll and you will see a picture of Forbes' real parents with the words "For my parents."

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INSIDE OUT

Joy1There is a common theme that binds all of Pixar’s finest hours together: letting go. Woody waves goodbye to Andy. Marlin watches Nemo swim away. Ellie thanks Carl for the adventure. The long-awaited Inside Out is no different, telling a beautiful and insightful story about life’s curveballs and letting go of childhood. The film exudes a range of emotions - quite literally. Set in the control center of an 11-year-old girl’s brain, the story personifies feelings of joy, anger, fear, disgust and sadness.

The clever and imaginative world takes children on an adventure while quietly making adults reminisce about their own marbles of memory. Bravo to co-directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen as well as screenwriters John Cooley and Meg LeFauve. (BKP: 5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

The audience meets young “Riley” (Kaitlyn Dias) as she and her parents (Kyle MacLachlan and Diane Lane) move from Minnesota to the crowded, narrow streets of San Francisco. The jarring change of location causes Riley to miss her best friend, her hockey team and her comfortable world filled with goofball antics and all-around stability. Cut to her mind’s control center where emotions live as colorfully charismatic figures: “Joy” (Amy Poehler), “Anger” (Lewis Black), “Fear” (Bill Hader), “Disgust” (Mindy Kaling), and “Sadness” (Phyllis Smith).

Back in Minnesota, everything worked perfectly, with Joy at the helm of the control center and Disgust only making an appearance when broccoli was on the dinner plate. The “Train of Thought” zipped around Riley’s islands of personality, with every memory encased in color-coded marbles, each one stored away in its proper place. But when Riley tries to adjust to her new life, things go awry and Joy and Sadness are thrust from the control center into the hectic, imploding world of the mind. The only emotions that remain in control of 11-year-old’s mind? Fear, Disgust and Anger.

At first, the complexity is a lot to take in. There are core memories, long-term memories and personality islands. There are endless aspects of Riley’s mind to keep track of with new characters introduced on a regular basis. Every element introduced, however, serves its rightful purpose and makes complete sense by film’s conclusion.

The clever script by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley has subtle, witty moments that might take a second viewing to appreciate. One, for example, has Joy knocking over a bag of blocks with some marked FACTS and others marked OPINIONS. Worrying they will get mixed up, “Bing-Bong” (Riley’s imaginary friend voiced by Richard Kind) assures Joy that happens all the time.

One scene after the other, Riley’s circumstances pack an emotional punch. Inside Out makes the pain of growing up evident, simple and relatable to most everyone watching. What happens when joy is lost, or if sadness taints our memories? What happens to our personality when circumstances change? The film asks grand questions while tirelessly keeping you, and all ages, entertained. It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. Kind of like life itself.

Review © Brigid K. Presecky (6/19/15)

ControlCenter2

Top photo: Amy Poehler as the voice of "Joy."

Bottom photo: Lewis Black as "Anger," Mindy Kaling as "Disgust," and Amy Poehler as "Joy," with Bill Hader as "Fear" and Phyllis Smith as "Sadness."

Q: Does Inside Out pass the Bechdel Test?RedA

Yes.

As much as the film is about the entirety of Riley’s mind, it is primarily about the journey of “Joy” (Amy Poehler) and “Sadness” (Phyllis Smith) as they try to make their way back to the control center.

JanRaves

Note that screenwriter Meg LeFauve  is also known for her work on Jane Anderson's film The Baby Dance (for which she received an Emmy nomination way back when).

Shout-Out to Skeptics: When you add women to the team, the work generally benefits from multiple points of view. Just sayin'...

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HRWFF ’15

I saw four films in this year's Human Rights Watch Film Festival...

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JURASSIC WORLD

ChrisPratt1Chris Pratt leads an allegorical, action-packed continuation of the Jurassic Park franchise, set 20 years after the events of the original film. Despite a satisfactory script and heavy reliance on CGI, the entertaining Jurassic World takes you on a perilous journey, back to the infamous park that has terrorized audiences for two decades. (BKP: 4/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

The park is reopened. Much like Disney World and countless amusement parks, the sleek and technologically-advanced Jurassic World is monopolized by corporate America. The dinosaur exhibits fit in between a Starbucks and a Brookstone, with Coca-Cola bottles in the background and Mercedes-Benz zipping in and out of the tropical rainforest - an odd blend of the film’s theme and blatant product placement.

Twenty years of visitors viewing the park’s dinosaurs has become as routine as visiting “elephants in the city zoo.” In order to reinvigorate business and generate new interest, things need to be bigger, louder … with more teeth. Enter “Claire,” (Bryce Dallas Howard) Jurassic World’s uptight operations manager trying to balance time with her visiting nephews (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) and keeping a watchful eye on the newly engineered Indominus Rex. But when the hybrid dinosaur becomes a bigger threat than originally intended, hunky raptor-trainer “Owen” (Chris Pratt) steps in to help.

… And the chase ensues. Themes of “Man vs. Machine” and “Man vs. Nature” are obvious and simple, but entertaining enough to make children literally sit at the edge of their seats, eyes wide with amazement at the big screen. However impressive the 21st Century CGI, the animatronics of the 1993 film somehow made the threat seem more realistic, more frightening. Nonetheless, the grand John Williams score transports audiences back to that familiar world, one so much bigger than the multiplex theater.

The script (written by Amanda Silver, Rick Jaffa, Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly) could have been more substantive and is overshadowed by blood and special effects. But watching Chris Pratt stealthily dive under a truck and soak himself with gasoline to avoid a deadly dinosaur attack is merely one example of how the action worked better than the dialogue. Bryce Dallas Howard is given a stereotypical, cold female role but manages to bring emotion - while running in high heels, no less. The standout role, surprisingly, is Jake Johnson as the humorous tech-savvy operator “Lowery.” When so much of the film is saturated with chase scenes and loud roars, the quieter moments allow New Girl’s Johnson to do what he does best - make people laugh.

Jurassic World has lived up to its own hype, already becoming the biggest opening in box office history. Within the past year, Chris Pratt has been a part of three blockbuster hits, including The LEGO Movie and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. All three films are set for sequels, with Pratt’s star power at an all-time high. His role as Owen Grady is the highlight of Jurassic World. No, the film does not quite meet the quality of Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel. However, Jurassic World is a satisfactory tentpole movie to kick off the summer season. On a deeper level, it has allowed people to slip on their 3D glasses, bask in the epicness of a John Williams score and, for a few hours, resurrect the feelings of childlike adventure.

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Review © Brigid K. Presecky (6/15/15)

Top photo: Chris Pratt as "Owen"

Bottom photo: Bryce Dallas Howard as "Claire" with Chris Pratt as "Owen"and Nick Robinson as "Zach" and Ty Simpkins as "Gray"

Q: Does Jurassic World pass the Bechdel Test?

Not really. “Claire” (Bryce Dallas Howard) has two brief scenes with her sister (Judy Greer) but they revolve around the young boys.

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MADAME BOVARY (2014)

MiaWasikowskaPStultifying. That's the only word to describe this latest adaptation of Gustave Flaubert's classic about a woman suffering from "ennui" in 19th Century France. Mia Wasikowska as Emma Bovary drowns in molasses, bringing the whole cast down with her.

Written and directed by Sophie Barthes with co-writer Felipe Marino, credited under the name "Rose Barreneche." (JLH: 2/5)

Review by Managing Editor Jan Lisa Huttner

Stultifying. That's the only word to describe the latest adaptation of the Flaubert classic staring Mia Wasikowska as the eponymous Madame [Emma] Bovary. It's as if Wasikowska--who was so good as Jane Eyre a few years back--is drowning in molasses, and all the other actors swimming around with her go down too.

The only way to excuse this mess is to assume that director Sophie Barthes made her most fundamental decisions for the sake of budget, but all her decision turn out to have been bad decisions, thereby dooming the efforts of all concerned.

Only two people make it onto the life boat: costume designers Chrisian Gasc and Valerie Ranchoux.  Gasc and Ranchoux also worked on the costumes for Farewell My Queen a few years back, for which Gasc (but curiously not Ranchoux...) won his fourth Cesar Award. So clearly Gasc is a reliable "Go To Guy" for costume drama (with or without and Ranchoux). But everyone else should immediately delete Madame Bovary from their cyberspace profiles.

Even though it was written way back in the middle of the 19th Century, Madame Bovary is a story with the potential to say important things about modern life. In the right hands, "ennui" is still a provocative topic. Most of us--as members of what we now call the 99%--can easily empathize with a woman tormented by all the things she cannot have.

Who can blame Emma for wanting the passionate emotional life she reads about in novels? Who can blame Emma for wanting the gorgeously appointed rooms she sees in magazine photos? Is it any wonder that she succumbs to the enticements of men like "The Marquis" (Logan Marshall-Green)--who seduces her for his own pleasure--and "Monsieur L'Heureux" (Rhys Ifans)--who offers her an inexhaustible line of credit, and then sells her loans to a shark?

But Barthes should have spent more money on her male cast members (even if that meant spending less on Emma's dresses), because the actors in the main parts are simply not strong enough to carry them.

Henry Lloyd-Hughes is a bit too good looking and level-headed to be a believable "Charles Bovary." From the moment we meet him, Emma's husband should instantly feel like the wrong fit. And yet, Wasikowska has the very same chemistry with him that she has with her two adulterous lovers, first "The Marquis" and then young "Leon Dupuis" (Ezra Miller). So she gains nothing from her affairs, even on screen.

Reader: The blunt truth is that I trouble staying awake, and since it just so happens that I had a very good night's sleep last night, I'm afraid that says it all :-(

© Jan Lisa Huttner FF2 Media (6/12/15)

MiaWasikowskaL

Top Photo: Mia Wasikowska as "Emma Bovary," out & about in the French town of Yonville in Normandy.

Bottom Photo: Emma moping alone at home. What is "ennui" anyway and why do so many of us believe Flaubert's "Emma" had a condition of some significance? I don't doubt Sophie Barthes' intentions, but I do wish she had done more thinking about the matter before she started filming...

Photo Credits: Carolina Ardizzone

Q #1: Does Madame Bovary pass the Bechdel Test?

Technically yes, because Emma does have a few interactions with her maid, for example this one: "You should wear a uniform. Go see Monsieur L'Heureux and he will fix you up." But even though the credits show the name "Henriette," I don't think Emma actually calls on this put upon young woman by name.

Flaubert readers will know from IMDb know that actress Laura Carmichel is playing the character "Henriette" because Henriette is a relatively important character in the novel. (Someone who appears to be too good to be true, and then turns out to be clever enough to steal everything she can get her hands on at the very end.) But if you don't take any of this information into the theatre with you, then there will be no way to extract it from what is actually on screen.

Emma has no conversations with any other female characters--named or otherwise--in the course of these very long two hours, so I say no. No, Madame Bovary (2014) does not pass the Bechdel Test.

Q #2: Where is Madame Bovary set?

A: In and around Rouen in Normandy (France).

RouenFrance

PageToScreenPenny

Why do I talk so much about budget in my review? For those who have yet to read Madame Bovary, I'm here to tell you that the novel contains two extravagant set pieces which trigger the end to Emma's equilibrium, and both are totally missing from Barthes' version.

The first is an elegant ball given by the Marquis d'Andervilliers, which makes Emma susceptible to seduction soon after by the wealthy rake Rodolphe Boulanger. (In the novel, the Marquis d'Andervilliers and Rodolphe Boulanger are definitely two different people. I have no clue why Barthes and Marino decided to combine them.)

The second is a performance of Donizetti's over-the-top Bel Canto opera Lucia di Lamermoor, which sets up the consummation of her long flirtation with Leon Dupuis. Charles takes special pains to arrange this trip to the opera house in Rouen to cheer Emma up after Rodolphe dumps her. But alas, since he is oblivious to what is really going on, Charles thereby makes an already bad situation far worse.

However, without these two magnificent evenings which are so removed from the humdrum of her daily experience, it is hard to understand why Emma feels so cheated by life.

Regular readers know that my practice is to read the source material after I see a film, however the recent release of Anne Fontaine's wonderful film Gemma Bovery caused me to go all out. I not only read Posy Symonds' graphic novel Gemma Bovery for the first time, I also re-read Flaubert's Madame Bovary too. So all the Flaubertian details are very fresh in my mind.

Honestly, though, I don't think that affected me too much. Regardless of what I had read and when I read it, if I had felt any genuine chemistry between Mia Wasikowska and any of her male co-stars (especially Logan Marshall-Green as the Marquis/Boulanger mash-up), I am sure I would have known it. FoxHunt

This is the point at which I should also say that Ms. Wasikowska was a poor casting choice for Emma for all the same reasons she was such a brilliant casting choice for Jane in Jane Eyre. Even as a teenager--when she first came to attention as the gymnast in the HBO series In Treatment--there was never anything "delicate" about Ms. Wasikowska. She is simply too strong-willed on screen to be believable as ethereal Emma. Furthermore there are no scenes of her escaping into novels, and when she plays the piano, she is so bad that it's painful to listen. Simply put, I saw no longing for transcendance in this Bovary home.

There are many other differences in the screenplay--such as the fact that Emma gives birth to Charles' daughter--but that is only to be expected. As I said above, Barthes had choices to make and unfortunately, too many of them were bad choices. And so it goes...

What to do? Go see Gemma Bovery instead!

Final Photo: Emma with Logan Marshall-Green as "The Marquis." Photo Credits: Carolina Ardizzone

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REDEEMER

Redeemer1In an era of entertainment saturated with superheroes, Redeemer tells a familiar tale about a vigilante whose dark past leads him down the path of justice. The low-budget action film quickly becomes repetitive, relying too heavily on gruesome martial-arts-type fight sequences. (BKP: 3.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

The hooded hero, known around South America as “Redeemer,” has become a legend. Much like Bruce Wayne, Peter Parker and the endless amount of comic book heroes, “Redeemer” is simply an alter-ego for a distraught Chilean man, “Nick Pardo” (Marko Zaror). Pardo’s need for redemption and traumatic loss of his loved ones - perpetuated by enemy “Scorpion” (Jose Luis Mosca) - causes him to don a gray sweatshirt and reinvigorate the meaning of retributive justice.

Instead of listening to a police blotter or scanning security cameras, the extremely religious Redeemer receives criminal intel by sitting in church pews and eavesdropping on people's stories. When one man tearfully begs God for justice after his son is beaten by Neo-Nazis, Pardo switches into vigilante mode and goes after the perpetrators.

Although the film uses English subtitles, words are barely spoken as Pardo routinely kicks, punches and beats a revolving door of wrongdoers. With a significantly lower budget than any of Hollywood’s blockbuster films, Redeemer forgoes the gunfire and uses other blood-spurting methods (like Pardo using pliers to clamp down on a man’s gums to yank his teeth out). Although the stunts are unique and well-choreographed, with handsome and athletic Zaror making every hook and jab seem easy, the action becomes tedious.

Director Ernesto Diaz Espinosa and Script-Collaborator Gina Aguad use countless fight sequences of Redeemer facing his enemies in order to build to the climax of the film. Like any superhero story, the plot is carried out by the continuous threats of the villains, in particular, the cruel and unusual Scorpion and an American drug lord “Bradock” (Noah Segan). With so many scenes filled with graphic imagery - knives through body parts and cut up faces - the filmmakers efforts are apparent. Those efforts, however, do not necessarily add up to enjoyable entertainment, particularly in an age with mass amounts of other hooded vigilantes to choose from.

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Review © Brigid K. Presecky (6/16/15)

Photo: Marko Zaror as "Nick Pardo" aka "Redeemer"

Q: Does Redeemer pass the Bechdel Test?

No.

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VENDETTA

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 3.43.21 PMVendetta follows “Mason Danvers” (Dean Cain) a cop who goes on a killing rampage of revenge after his wife is brutally murdered by a criminal that he put away. What can I say? The film was a mess of terrible acting, predictable plot, and disjointed cinematography. (JEP 1.5/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

Directed by twin sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska, Vendetta tells the story of a hero cop who goes bad when his wife is murdered. When the film opens, “Mason Danvers” (Dean Cain) and his partner “Joel Gainer” (Ben Hollingsworth) are in pursuit of big-time criminal “Victor Abbot” (Paul Wight aka The Big Show for WWE fans).

After a few poorly choreographed fight scenes, and silly blood spurting gun shot wounds, Danvers manages to take down the notorious Victor Abbot. Danvers is the hero cop to everyone around him, but Abbot vows to take him down before he is carted away to jail.

Abbot goes to prison and Danvers goes home to his loving wife. They are a picture perfect couple, in the process of trying to start a family. Then unexplainably (gasp!) Abbot gets released from prison, somehow pardoned for his many crimes. The first thing he does after getting out? Goes to Danvers’ house and murders (with unnecessary and gore and brutality) his wife.

After his wife is gone, a switch flips within Danvers. The hero cop becomes cold-blooded killer on a rampage of revenge. Abbot has been sent back to prison (because he killed a woman obviously), so Danvers’ solution is to get himself sent to prison as well. How does he do it? Well, he goes and kills Abbot’s whole “criminal squad” and gets sent away for murder.

Inside the prison, Abbot is in charge—although in reality he controlled by the corrupt Warden Snyder (Michael Eklund). To tip the balance of power and get his revenge, Danvers begins killing Abbot’s men one by one, until the “final showdown” between Abbot and Danvers (and well, every other inmate and employee inside the prison).

Paul Wight relied more on his large physique (the man is 7 feet tall and 425 pounds) than any acting prowess to play the convincing villain, and he didn’t quite pull it off. Unfortunately, he is not the only one. While Cain and Hollingsworth were both just okay, Michael Eklund who played the corrupt Warden, was an unfortunate disaster. While he did capture the slimy essence of his character, his acting was overly forced and at times laughable. The whole time he appeared to be saying, “look what I learned in my acting class.” Sigh.

For some reason, the Soska sister’s found no fault in using what appeared to be an entirely different camera for the outdoor tracking shots. This decision took a film that could have been decent and made it one I just shook my head at as I left the theater. In all honesty, Vendetta belongs in the straight to video on demand category, as it just does not cut it for the theaters. Go see at your own risk.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (6/17/15)

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Top Photo: Vendetta Poster

Bottom Photo: The Danvers/Abbot Showdown.

Photo Credits???

Q: Does Vendetta pass the Bechdel test?

Not a chance.

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