JGLThe Night Before tells the story of three best friends who vow to spend one last Christmas together. The film is exactly what you expect it to be, neither good nor bad. But this buddy comedy, led by an always-lovable Joseph Gordon-Levitt, has a sweet message hidden beneath its slapstick, drugged out, holiday adventure. (BKP: 4/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

When teenage “Ethan’s” (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) parents died in a car accident, his two best friends “Isaac” (Seth Rogen) and “Chris” (Anthony Mackie) made sure he would never spend Christmas alone .. they were his new family. That year and every year after, the three best friends honored their tradition of singing at karaoke bars, eating Chinese food and trying to find the best party in town.

But like most things in life, it all changes. While Chris is immersed in his burgeoning football career and Isaac is starting a family, poor Ethan is left alone with his guitar and thoughts about his ex-girlfriend, “Diana” (Lizzy Caplan). The one thing that lifts Ethan’s holiday blues? His traditional Christmas Eve with his best friends, only this time, he holds three invitations to the best party in New York City.


This one-night adventure film is a compilation of random plot lines, from Isaac videotaping himself in a cocaine-fueled haze to Miley Cyrus singing “Wrecking Ball” to half the cast of Freaks and Geeks (thanks to a cameo by James Franco). But when things get a little over-the-top, the script and Gordon-Levitt’s acting ability brings it back down to earth. Despite the expected nudity and profanity, the film’s tone is actually quite sad.

Seeing the world through Ethan’s eyes makes you reflect on your own holiday traditions and how sometimes, every once and a while, you wish the Ghost of Christmas Past could pay you a quick visit. It doesn't have to be a figure from Charles Dickens' imagination; it can be as simple as a dusty old GoldenEye game ready to be played on Nintendo 64.

Thankfully, the writers do not leave you in a emotional rut for very long. The sincerity of the plot and the dynamic of the three main leads make up for any bizarre, kooky plot points that seemed funnier to the actors than to anyone in the audience. Nevertheless, Rogen, Gordon-Levitt and Mackie have a believable chemistry and give a whole new meaning to the social media term “squad goals.”

The Night Before is an enjoyable kick-off to the 2015 holiday season. And if anyone is looking for gift ideas for me, just ask Joseph Gordon-Levitt to wear a Christmas sweater and show up on my doorstep wanting to meet my parents and marry me. Hopefully you can get free shipping and handling.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (11/21/15)


Top Photo: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as “Ethan”

Middle Photo: Seth Rogen as “Isaac”

Bottom Photo: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as “Ethan” with Seth Rogen as “Isaac” and Anthony Mackie as “Chris”

Bechdel Photo: Mindy Kaling as "Sarah" and Lizzy Caplan as "Diana"

Photo Credits: Columbia Pictures

Q: Does The Night Before pass the Bechdel Test?

Not at all.

Mindy Kaling plays “Sarah,” the best friend of “Diana” (Lizzy Caplan) but their conversations are relegated to their respective relationship statuses.


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Opens tomorrow (11/20/15) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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Opens tomorrow (11/20/15) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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THE 33

TopDirected by Patricia Riggen, The 33 is a powerful drama based on the real-life mining accident in Chile in 2010, where 33 miners were trapped 2,300 feet underground for 69 days. The incredible circumstances of the real-life events make for a highly suspenseful and emotional film. (JEP: 4/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

I remember watching news footage of this incredible event when I was 18, and those memories stayed with me five years later as I watched The 33 in theaters. Director Patricia Riggen delivers an emotional feature about the 2010 Copiapó mining accident. Based on the book Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar and adapted for the screen by Mikko Alanne, Craig Borten, Michael Thomas and Jose Rivera, The 33 is a well-paced, suspenseful film based on incredible real-life events.

“Mario Sepúlveda” (Antonio Banderas) is a loving father to his daughter and a supportive husband to his wife “Katty (Kate del Castillo). The day of the accident was Mario’s day off, but he asked his boss “Don Lucho” (Lou Diamond Phillips) if he could take the extra day because he needed the money for his family.

Álex Vega (Mario Casas) has a pregnant wife, “Jessica” (Cote de Pablo). Everyone urges him to take other work and quit his job in the mine so he will be there for his child. But he can’t justify leaving the mine to make only $50 a week elsewhere.

It’s “Carlos Mamani” (Tenoch Huerta)—aka “The Bolivian’s”—first day on the job. Mario takes him under his wing and assures him everything will be all right. Little did they know that day would change their lives forever.

Before the men were dispatched into the mine that morning, Don Lucho found a piece of a broken mirror on the third level, the signal they use to show them when the earth has shifted inside the mine. He warns his superior, but goes unheard, as the owner of the mine is concerned only with bringing in their quota of gold each day. So 33 men go into the mine that morning, just like any other…

MiddleThe men began their day in the mine as usual, until the ground begins to shake and the earth collapses around them, a huge rock with twice the mass of the Empire State Building, blocking their only exit. Miraculously, all 33 men survive the initial collapse.

The 33 do not know if, or when, anyone will come to rescue them. But even as some men begin to lose hope, Mario never does. He easily steps into role as leader, rationing the food and talking the men down when it all becomes too much.

Outside the mine, “Laurence Golborne” (Rodrigo Santoro), a government official, is sent to assess the situation at the Copiapó mine. When he arrives, family members rally outside the gate demanding information. “María Segovia” (Juliette Binoche), the sister of one of the trapped miners, makes Golborne promise that he will do everything he can to save the miners. And even after being told no a thousand times from others around him, Golborne keeps his promise.

After seventeen days, they are able to successfully drill into the refuge where the 33 are located. The men survived underground for seventeen days with only three days of food and water. Everyone outside the mine expected no survivors, but when they pull the drill back up there is a note attached to the drill bit declaring: "We are well in the shelter, the 33 of us." With the knowledge that all 33 men are miraculously still alive, Golborne must now work with field experts to find a way to rescue the 33 men from the earth.

The 33 is a story you know. But artfully told, and wonderfully acted, the film keeps you on the edge of your seat wishing for the men’s safety even though you know the final outcome. Creating that suspense is a testament to Patricia Riggen’s directing. Antonio Banderas and Juliette Binoche deliver standout performances among an already extremely strong and dynamic cast.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (11/15/15)BottomTop Photo: Mario searches for a way out of the mine.

Middle Photo: Mario and his peers celebrating his rescue.

Bottom Photo: The 33 while trapped inside the mine.

Photo Credits: Beatrice Aguirre

Q: Does The 33 pass the Bechdel Test?RedA


The film shares two perspectives: that of the miners, and that of their families—primarily their wives, sisters, and daughters. These women actively fight for the rescue of loved ones in the mine, and all stay together outside the gates of the mine for the full 69 days it takes for the rescue to be completed.

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posterA painfully slow drama about an estranged couple vacationing on the French seaside who begin to mend their marriage when they find common interest in spying on the newlywed couple next door. Written, directed, and starred in by Angelina Jolie Pitt, By the Sea is a wholly underwhelming film with too little story and too much Angelina admiring Angelina (JEP: 2.5/5)

Review by Contributing Editor Jessica E. Perry

First, one must applaud Angelina Jolie for writing, directing, and starring in her own film, as not enough women have such an opportunity or take on such a venture. But just because you have a recognizable name and can get a film made, does not mean you should, if the script, directing, and acting simply are not strong enough to stand on their own or are not cohesive enough to work as one.

I will preface this review with the fact that 7 people walked out of the theater during the movie, and a man yelled, “boo!” when the film finally ended. No one stayed for the credits besides me; it was a full on stampede for the door. Now, I saw this film in Los Angeles, where the average movie-goer usually has some tie to the film world so when this audience can’t get out of their seats fast enough, that is truly saying something.

In an undisclosed year (which IMDB tells me is the mid-1970s) a married couple from New York vacations on the French seaside. “Roland” (Brad Pitt) is a published writer, but has not been able to write anything in quite some time. His wife “Vanessa” (Angelina Jolie Pitt) is a retired dancer and is depressed from some undisclosed trauma, relying on pills to get her through the day. They have come to the seaside in hopes that Roland will find new inspiration to write.by_the_sea_640

Roland leaves Vanessa in the hotel room every morning and stays out late into the night until she has fallen asleep. The two barely spend time with one another, and Vanessa is unable to be intimate.

One day, while alone in the room, Vanessa discovers a small hole in the wall that looks directly into the hotel room next door where a young newlywed couple, “Lea” (Mélanie Laurent) and “François” (Melvil Poupaud), are staying. After growing even further apart from his wife, Roland eventually discovers the whole in the wall as well. When he and Vanessa discover that the other has also been spying, they begin to partake in this voyeuristic act together. The pleasure they get in their secret viewings begins to bring Vanessa and Roland closer together, finally allowing Vanessa to get to a place where she is able to admit out loud what is truly troubling her.

I assure you, the summary sounds far more exciting than the film actually is. For over two hours, nothing happens. You sit in your seat convinced that their must be some twist, some payoff that will make it all worth it. Sadly, there is not. Instead, By the Sea is a self-indulgent drama, riddled with unnecessary lingering shots of Jolie just sitting there, or standing, or walking … and absolutely no story. Yes, Angelina you are a very pretty woman and you have a very handsome husband, but the audience already knew that.

Unfortunately, the dialog was poor, the acting was just fine, and the chemistry was surprisingly all but absent considering the pair is married in real life. I felt like I was back in film school, when you’re forced to watch a particularly painful film for the sake of some point the professor is trying to make. But at least those films had an end goal, had a strength. No matter how well intentioned, By the Sea was just painful. And aside from the beautiful shots of the French landscape, I really don’t have anything good to say about it. In all honesty, I’m worried my 2.5 rating is far too kind.

© Jessica E. Perry FF2 Media (11/15/15)bottomTop Photo: By the Sea poster.

Middle Photo: Vanessa once again begins to find solace in Roland.

Bottom Photo: Emotionally, Roland and Vanessa are so far apart.

Photo Credits: Merrick Morton

Q: Does By the Sea pass the Bechdel Test?RedA

Yes. Vanessa befriends the couple next door, and she and Lea spend some time together while the husbands are out. Lea teaches Vanessa, who insists she does not know how, to play cards. But it seems she’s quite a fast learner, winning every hand.

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Opens tomorrow (11/13/15) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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Full Title = Ingrid Bergman In Her Own Words

Opens tomorrow (11/13/15) in NYC. Review coming soon…

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Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 12.37.41 PMThe entire self-pitying Cooper clan reluctantly reunites for one last family Christmas. Director Jessie Nelson’s well-intentioned holiday movie strives to be a hybrid of Love Actually and The Family Stone, yet the star-studded cast of Love the Coopers never quite amounts to its potential. (BKP: 3.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

The film opens with the holiday season in full swing, with gingerbread cookies being decorated and Christmas lights strung from every front porch. Narrator Steve Martin (If you squeal at the Father of the Bride Martin/Keaton connection, you are not alone) introduces us to the Cooper family. Married couple “Sam” (John Goodman) and “Charlotte” (Diane Keaton) are planning on having one last family Christmas before telling their grown children, “Hank” (Ed Helms) and “Eleanor” (Olivia Wilde) that they are getting divorced. But it turns out that Sam and Charlotte are not the only ones who are miserable during this particular holiday season.

While single father Hank cannot find employment as a photographer, his playwright sister Eleanor anticipates disappointment (or as she calls it, “anticippointment”) from her parents and puts off Christmas dinner by waiting at the airport bar. She just so happens to chat up camo-dressed, Republican “Joe” (Jake Lacey) who is about to be deployed and begs him to come home with her and pretend to be her boyfriend. If this plot sounds familiar, it is because it is. Typically, this formula works, but here it feels contrived due to the lack of chemistry between Wilde and Lacey.

Meanwhile, Charlotte’s sister, “Emma” (Marissa Tomei) shoplifts a Christmas present and spends the majority of the film in the back seat of a cop car, where she bonds with “Officer Percy Williams” (Anthony Mackie). Every one of these stories feels disjointed from the next, never really coming together until the final act of the film. This storyline, in particular, feels especially disconnected from the rest of the film, especially Percy’s suppressed homosexuality backstory. Thankfully, Emma’s story has a sweet resolve that makes the role feel like less of a waste of Tomei’s talent.


In another off-kilter plot, Charlotte’s father “Bucky” (Alan Arkin) goes to the same diner everyday and flirts with “Ruby” (Amanda Seyfried). At first, you are led to believe he’s a grandfather figure to her. But in a bizarre way, they allude to more romantic feelings which feels suited for a different movie altogether.

When the whole Cooper gang sits down for dinner, their separate storylines come together for the climax of the movie. However, the climax comes a little too late. There is far too much time spent apart than together, making the film feel longer than it needs to be. You never quite feel their familial connection because they are hardly together on screen. It almost feels like you are watching a season finale episode of Brothers and Sisters or Parenthood without having seen the previous 21 episodes.

Yet, the theme of being thankful for family, despite our individual problems and “anticippointments,” leaves you walking out of the theater excited for the holiday season. Because every house with twinkling lights, every dinner table full of green bean casserole and half-eaten mashed potatoes, sit families just like the Coopers: people who are divorced or unemployed or unhappy with their lives. When you are reminded of how precious life really is, having an obnoxious family really isn’t all that bad.

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (11/16/15)


Top Photo: Diane Keaton as matriarch “Charlotte”

Middle Photo: Alan Arkin as "Bucky" and Amanda Seyfried as "Ruby"

Bottom Photo: The Cooper family sits down for Christmas dinner

Photo Credits: CBS Films

Q: Does Love the Coopers pass the Bechdel Test? RedA


“Charlotte” (Diane Keaton) has a tumultuous relationship with her younger sister, “Emma” (Marissa Tomei). Since Emma never had a family over own, her anger and jealousy bubbles to the surface until she and Charlotte have a screaming match about their lives.

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manup1Simon Pegg and Lake Bell star in a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy reminiscent of a bygone era. When lonely “Nancy” (Lake Bell) gets mistaken for “Jack’s” (Simon Pegg) blind date, she decides to play along and and have fun rather than reveal her true identity. This sweet, fun story by Tess Morris hits all the right notes and manages to keep you laughing for the entire hour a half. (BKP: 4.5/5)

Review by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Thirty-four-year-old Nancy is not good at the dating scene. Or the party scene. Or any type of scene. She awkwardly says all the wrong things, quotes movie lines nobody understands and flosses jalapeno peppers out of her teeth with the ends of her hair. It is clearly understandable why negative Nancy gives herself a pep talk before entering social gatherings, “Put yourself out there. Take chances. Be more deviant. Learn French. Cook more. Understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict better.”

But on a train trip home for her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party, everything changes when a young, nosey eavesdropper, “Jessica,” (Ophelia Lovibond) encourages Nancy to read a self-help book, Six Billion People and You: A Guide to Meeting Your Mate in the Modern World. Jessica is headed to Waterloo Station to meet her blind date, using her self-help book as an identifier. But according to Nancy, set-ups never work.

When Jessica leaves her book on the train, Nancymanup2 races through Waterloo Station and winds up standing underneath a large clock … where Jack shows up with his copy of Six Billion People and You, mistaking Nancy for his 24-year-old triathlete blind date, Jessica. Taking a chance, Nancy goes along with the blind date, pretending to be this stranger she met hours ago. The situation lends itself perfectly to Morris’ snappy, witty dialogue that Pegg and Lake execute perfectly.

Both Jack and Nancy quote movie lines from Wall Street and The Silence of the Lambs, have a mutual love of spaghetti bolognese and struggle with baggage from past relationships. Pegg and Lake are equally likable and have natural chemistry that makes this film a joy to watch.

Scene after scene, the awkwardness and enjoyability of this blind date keeps the audience thoroughly entertained. For instance, when Jack asks Nancy (who he believes to be Jessica) about her triathlons, Bell awkwardly pauses with her bag of potato chips, coughs and says, “Good. You really have to carb up.” Although film has all of the classic plotlines and a predictable ending, the sharp script and clever dialogue sets Man Up apart from so many 21st Century romantic comedies.

The entire film takes place over the course of one night, much like another FF2 Media favorite Before We Go. This time, however, uproarious comedy welcomely substitutes melodrama. There are always going to be Oscar-winning films and must-see dramas, but there will also be movies, like this one, that you will want to fold up in wrapping paper and give to someone for the holidays. There will be movies you will feel obligated to watch while flipping channels on rainy afternoons. And thanks to Morris’ script and two charming leads, Man Up fits in that magical category .

© Brigid K. Presecky FF2 Media (11/13/15)


Top Photo: Nancy poses as “Jessica” on a blind bowling date with Jack

Middle Photo: Lake Bell as “Nancy” and Simon Pegg as “Jack”

Bottom Photo: Nancy and Jack get to know each other

Photo Credits: Big Talk Productions / DDA

Q: Does Man Up pass the Bechdel Test?RedA

Technically, yes!
Although “Nancy” (Lake Bell) has conversations with her sister “Elaine” (Sharon Horgan) about her love life, they do discuss their parents’ 40th wedding anniversary party and each other's’ well being.

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Opens tomorrow (11/13/15) in NYC. Review coming soon…

Posted in Reviews: Q-S | Leave a comment