SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY

Opens Friday 12/5 in NYC. Review coming soon…

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TAKE CARE

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 2.47.36 PMReview of Take Care by Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

Writer Liz Tuccillo’s new comedy starring Leslie Bibb and Thomas Sadoski tells a story about letting go or holding on to past loves. What had the potential to be a home-run romantic comedy ultimately ended up feeling lackluster and uninspired.

A love/hate dependency theme is ever-present in Tuccillo’s directorial debut Take Care about a woman’s struggle to recover after being hit by a car. The film begins hectically with disabled “Frannie” (Leslie Bibb) being carried up her apartment’s staircase by friend “Laila” (Marin Ireland) and sister “Fallon” (Nadia Dajani) with some help from her hunky neighbor “Kyle” (Michael Stahl-David). Quickly turning down an offer to live in New Jersey with her sister, Frannie is left with her friend Laila – but no for long. Minutes after Fallon leaves, Laila tearfully runs out of Frannie’s apartment in a panic about her impending breakup. Left to her own devices, Frannie worms her way around the floor of her apartment with two broken limbs. Somehow, she ends up sliding her way to Kyle’s apartment and begs him to turn his music down – along with one other request – she asks him to make her a sandwich.

In typical romantic comedy form, you’re led to believe Take Care will ultimately be a love story between a grouchy hunk coming to the aid of his beautiful, damsel-in-distress neighbor, but not so much. Instead, and unfortunately, the story goes in a completely different direction. We learn about Frannie’s past and how she took care of her boyfriend “Devon” (Thomas Sadoski) for two grueling years while he suffered from colon cancer. She did what she thought was right for the man she loved; she quit her job and tended to his every need, so we’re told. As soon as Devon recovered, however, he dumped Frannie for a blonde bimbo and sold his technological company for millions of dollars. He no longer talks to his mother for the fear of her emotional attachment and is nicknamed by Frannie and her flamboyant male friends, “Devon the Devil.” Somehow, instead of more screen time with cute, sandwich-making Kyle, the audience is forced to get to know Devil-Devon as soon as Frannie calls him in a moment of desperation.

She invites Devon to her apartment so she can show him her broken arm and leg. He expects she wants money from him, but instead, all Frannie wants is for Devon to take care of her like she did for him (a weird request, mixing retributive justice with flat-out revenge). With the permission of his girlfriend, Devon obliges and tends to Frannie while they watch Law and Order, try and guess the celebrity murderer, and relive their past relationship. Although it does feel like these characters have lived a past life, the unsettling plot and lack of chemistry between the two leads makes it difficult to root for their rekindled relationship. Instead of using the plot device to evolve Frannie as a character or make her realize her self-worth, she manages to regress by Act Three. Each actor gave decent performances as their respective, albeit flat, characters but the translation from page to screen was nothing spectacular.

relatedWhen Tuccillo’s short-lived dramedy Related hit The WB airwaves in 2005, the theme song lyrics summed up the show’s theme perfectly: I hate you. I love you. You know too much about me. I have to just kill you. But then who’d tell me how to live? Just tell me how to live. Just tell me I’m all right. Just shut up. Why do I ask you anyway?

The fun, complicated, and upbeat tone Tuccillo accomplished in Related and other past credits, including Sex and the City and He’s Just Not That Into You, failed to deliver in Take Care. Dealing with a heavy issue like cancer can be used in light, comedic ways (like Will Reiser’s 50/50 or Jason Katims’ Parenthood) but something was off in Tuccillo’s script. It was as if they glossed over what Frannie’s “care of” Devon when he was sick actually meant. She mentions hospital visits and his never-ending complications, but it seemed like there needed to be more detail, more emotion, more of everything. Although the film had promising moments, mostly in Act One, the film I was looking forward to loving didn’t amount to much in the end.

TakeCareLeslieBibb

Review © Brigid K. Presecky (12/4/14)

Top Photo & Bottom Photo: Leslie Bibb as the physically-limited “Frannie.”

Middle Photo: Cast of Related (from left to right: Kiele Sanchez, Jennifer Esposito, Laura Breckenridge, and Lizzy Caplan).

Q: Does Take Care pass the Bechdel Test?

Not really.

Frannie has brief scenes with her friend Laila and her sister Fallon as they visit her apartment sporadically to check in on her, but the scenes are mostly revolved around her new caretaker, Devon.

Frannie and Devon’s girlfriend “Jodi” (Betty Gilpin) have an elongated scene where they awkwardly meet and make small talk over cupcakes, but their tension is centered on their mutual love of Devon.

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ZERO MOTIVATION

Two young women are assigned to the HR Dept at a remote military outpost. Yes, they are soldiers in the mighty Israeli army, but they spend most of their time pushing paper and playing computer games.

Hilarious consequences ensue… By the time Zohar (Dana Ivgy) & Daffi (Nelly Tagar)—armed with staple guns—had their final shoot-out, I was laughing through my tears. (JLH: 4.5/5)

Totally exhilarating MUST SEE film written & diected by Talya Levie. Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. Highly Recommended by BOTH of us :-)

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Top Photo: Armed with a staple gun, “Zohar” (Dana Ivgy) goes over the edge.

Bottom Photo: “Daffi” (Nelly Tagar) tries to make it through yet another training session.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Zeitgeist Films

Q: Does Zero Motivation pass the Bechdel Test? RedA

Absolutely!

While there are certainly men in this film–men who serve on the base as well as men who visit the base–they are definitely secondary characters.

Zero Motivation is totally centered on the relationships between women at various levels in the hierarchy, and how the cope–or fail to cope–with the tedious tasks assigned to them by the Macho Military.

 

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THE BABADOOK

Babadook1“Amelia” (Essie Davis) comes undone in this excellent Australian drama about a young widow locked in a deteriorating co-dependency with her young son “Samuel” (Noah Wiseman).

Is The Babadook a psychological thriller or a horror flick? I choose to think shrink because writer/director Jennifer Kent carefully sets the timeframe before events get nuts… But see The Babadook for yourself and you will likely agree that either way, The Babadook is a winner! (JLH: 4.5/5)

Written & directed by Jennifer Kent. Click HERE to read our FF2 Haiku. NOT YET SEEN BY RICH.

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Review by FF2 Associate Editor Brigid K. Presecky

The Babadook, from writer/director Jennifer Kent, is the Australian psycho thriller about a single mother “Amelia” (Essie Davis) trying to rid her house of the demonic spirit that looms in the wake of her husband’s death. In the film’s opening sequence, Amelia floats above her bed in a dreamlike trance, reliving the car accident that killed her husband seven years earlier. The specifics of the accident are unclear other than they were en route to the hospital for the birth their son “Samuel” (Noah Wiseman). Now a troubled young boy, Samuel struggles to make friends and find his way in the world. His mother, protective and doting to a fault, hasn’t been able to move on with her life and subconsciously blames Samuel for the death of her husband.

Their stressful lives take a dramatic turn when Samuel begs his mother to read a pop-up book (a la Wheels on the Bus) entitled Mr. Babadook, consisting of threatening poetry and disturbing images of a monster with a black cloak and top hat. Among the other cartoon-like images are Amelia choking her dog and slicing her neck with a kitchen knife. From that point on, the film takes on several elements of horror film classics to disturbing effect, from the shaking bed in The Exorcist to gut-wrenching suspense in The Omen. Samuel makes it his mission to save his mother who is unable to save herself as she continues to be lured into the demonic grasp of Mr. Babadook. Any more information on how they accomplish that mission would be a spoiler, but the symbolic role of the “monster” changes as Samuel and Amelia struggle to stay awake, alert, and alive.

Essie Davis is brilliant as the sleep-deprived, lonely, and overwrought Amelia reminiscent of Ellen Burstyn in Requiem for a Dream. But the standout performer is young Noah Wiseman as Samuel, the hyperactive misfit who is constantly reminded that he is fatherless and linked, since birth, to his father’s death. His unrelenting need to act out leads to a barrage of situations that unravels his grieving mother. But by Act Two, the audience shifts from intensely disliking Samuel and his antics to rooting for him – a testament to the carefully contrived script.

The film contains graphic violence, piercing screams, and vulgar language to aid in the spine-tingling scenes. It contains all the typical elements like unexplained sounds and loud noises to amp up the fear factor, along with a chilling score that stops and starts at the exact right moments. The cinematography and camerawork show close-up shots of tired, fearful eyes that make the viewers feel like they are equally exhausted as the mother/son duo. All though some parts were bizarre, The Babadook is impressive for its focused script, acting as a giant metaphor about either letting our demons take over of our lives or learning to keep them at bay, no matter how scary it may seem.

Babadook2

Review © Brigid K. Presecky (11/30/14)

Top Photo: “Amelia” (Essie Davis) goes through a nightly ritual–searching in the closets, looking under the bed–all to convince her son “Samuel” that no monsters will disturb his sleep…

Bottom Photo: But what if she is wrong? What if there is a monster in their house?!?

Photo Credits: Matt Nettheim

Q: Does The Babadook pass the Bechdel Test? 

RedA

Yes!

Amelia has to deal with her sister “Claire” (Hayley McElhinney) who no longer has much patience with Amelia’s ongoing angst. When Claire’s daughter taunts Samuel about not having a father, he inadvertently breaks the girl’s nose, which gives Claire ample opportunity to lash out at Amelia about controlling her son (“and the Worst Sister of the Year Award goes to … “).

Amelia’s only true ally is her neighbor “Mrs. Roach” (Barbara West), an elderly woman with Parkinson’s who befriends Samuel and looks after Amelia with sincerity and love. After a tough day at work and fighting with her son, seeing Mrs. Roach through the window watching television gives Amelia an immediate sense of relief and comfort. Although few words pass between them, Mrs. Roach’s simple act of being there provides Amelia with a bright spot in her otherwise dark life – most definitely passing the Bechdel Test.

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REMOTE AREA MEDICAL

PopUpChairFor one weekend, the NASCAR speedway in Bristol, Tennessee is transformed into a hub of pop up medical care… and boy do local people need it!

Prospective patients start arriving days in advance–camping out in their cars–so they can be sure of getting a precious admission ticket.

Heart-breaking & inspiring, & probably relevant to almost every rural community in the USA. (JLH: 4/5)

Co-directed by Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman. Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. NOT YET SEEN BY RICH.

PopUpCare

Top Photo: The view from one chair.

Bottom Photo: Up & down for one weekend.

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Jeff Reichert & Farihah Zaman

Q: Does Remote Area Medical pass the Bechdel Test? RedA

Yes.

Interviews are evenly distributed between the men and women who arrive for care, and the dedicated people doing their best to provide it. The care teams are comprised of physicians, dentists, nurses, techs, and aides–and men and women are shown filling all of these roles.

In addition there are teams of people providing clerical assistance–filling out medical information forms, etc–as well as people doing crowd control before and clean-up after.

This is not a film that lionizes a few heroic male father figures; this is a film that shows the full complexity of a massive endeavor taken on primarily by volunteers who could surely find a million other ways to spend the weekend.

So BRAVO to Reichert &  Zaman for making sure that we really do see “The Big Picture.”

 

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THE RULE

Opens today in NYC. Review coming soon.

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A GIRL WALKS HOME…

InHerLairFull Title = A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Weird and exhilarating vampire film set in a mythical Iranian nightscape called “Bad City” (although it was actually filmed outside LA).

“The Girl” (Sheila Vand) prowls the dark streets of Bad City covered by her black chador, preying on low life scum. Then she meets “Arash” (Arash Marandi) who is conveniently dressed in a Dracula costume, and she falls head over heels.

Amirpour creates a velvety B&W tableau, adds a hypnotic sound track, and… WOW! (JLH: 4/5)

Written & Directed Ana Lily Amirpour. Click HERE for our FF2 Haiku. NOT YET SEEN BY RICH.

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A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iranian vampire movie set in the mythical town of “Bad City.” Although starring native Iranian actors and spoken in Farsi, Amirpour filmed the black-and-white western in the Iranian community of Bakersfield, California.

The story centers on a good man caught in a bad situation. Young Arash has to deal with a nasty, evil dealer “Saeed” (Dominic Rains) on behalf of his drug-addicted father and surrenders his car as repayment on his bills. Saeed takes off in Arash’s car with prostitute/pimp “Atti” (Mozhan Marnò) and grotesquely makes her service him. While she’s tending to his needs, Saeed catches a glimpse of a weird apparition in his rear view mirror and tosses Atti out of the car. But before Saeed can get away, a shadowed figure catches up to him. In a hilariously funny sequence, The Girl traps Saeed, gobbles him up, and uses vampire tactics to do bad things to him. Wearing the traditional Iranian black chador, The Girl proceeds to stalk other people in the darkened streets of Bad City.

Meanwhile, gardener-by-day Arash finds Saeed’s body when he goes to retrieve his car and takes back his keys, along with drugs and money to keep his father supplied. Fully stocked and feeling a sense of relief, Arash attends a costume party dressed as Dracula and is quickly seduced into taking ecstasy. Not used to taking drugs (for the fear of turning into his father), he starts hallucinating and wonders into the street only to meet The Girl vampire. Seeing a handsome man in a Dracula costume catches her eye and confuses her: Is he one of her ilk or is he normal?

The Girl and develops a relationship with Arash and a sweet and tender friendship with unhappy Atti. Although the plot is difficult to explain, it isn’t really the point. The film is beautiful to look at, spooky and haunting with black and white imagery – on one hand pulpy but on the other, romantic. Between the Iranian pop music and the Farsi dialogue, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is clever, beautiful, and well done.

Brava to Ana Lily Amirpour.

Review © Jan Lisa Huttner (12/9/14)

OnTheProwl

Top Photo: By day, The Girl (Sheila Vand) lives alone in a tiny room.

Bottom Photo: By night, The Girl prowls the streets of Bad City.

Photos courtesy of Kino Lorber.

Q: Does A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night pass the Bechdel Test? RedA

Yes!

Exhibit One in the “low life scum” category is a drug dealer named “Saeed” (Dominic Rains) who has cheated Arash and brutalized a prostitute named “Atti” (Mozhan Marno).

After The Girl is done with Saeed, she has a heart-t0-heart chat with Atti. Touched by the fact that someone has seen her and empathized with her unhappiness, Atti feels a stirring of hope for better future.

Gentle, touching scene in the midst of mayhem ;-)

 

 

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BAD HAIR

Opens tomorrow in NYC. Review coming soon.

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FOOD CHAINS

Opens tomorrow in NYC. Review coming soon.

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STONES IN THE SUN

Opens tomorrow in NYC. Review coming soon.

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