Movie Review: Fishbowl California

If you’re looking for an indie darling of 2018, look no further than Michael A. MacRae’s Fishbowl California. This charming comedy hits on all fronts with humor, entertainment and characters worth getting to know. Find out why this is a must see movie:

WHAT IS IT ABOUT:

The film centers on a down-on-his-luck guy named Rodney, played by Steve Olson (more on him later). Everything in Rodney’s life is falling apart. He’s lost a hold of his surroundings. Girlfriend issues, issues with work, nowhere to live. It’s an early life crisis. Rodney manages to find work from a bitter, unpleasant snarky widow that has a drinking issue. Not the kinda boss you’d wish for. They are an unlikely match that leads to lots of self-discoveries for both characters.

Fishbowl is relatable story of sorts. We’ve all had points in our lives where everything was going wrong and you start to lose hope. I’ve been there myself recently actually. It’s a story of a simple guy. Flawed. Tries to do good. Bad luck follows him everywhere.

HOW DID THE ACTORS DO:

This is where things really stand out. As a small budget indie, writer and director MacRae surely didn’t have a budget to acquire big name starts, which in reality would probably have hindered this movie a bit, so instead he plucks out some real unfamiliar talent. The main one being Steve Olson.

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What makes Olson such a gem of a find is how relatable he is on-screen. It’s as if he’s not even acting, but rather just being himself. This is perfect for the character he plays in the film. Olson has this genuine natural charisma about him. He’s funny without trying to be funny. Interestingly he commands this presence just by his authenticity. You want to watch him. Olson has this real comedic timing that’s hard to teach.

Katherine Cortez plays June, the miserable older lady that Rodney works for. Cortez manages to capture the essence of this character from the get-go. Her character is an ideal contrast to Rodney, but in a way they are also very similar. He’s goofy, outgoing and annoying, while she’s a gloomy, grouchy lady spewing clever one-liners. It’s noticeable that Cortez is a seasoned character actress.

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Jenna Willis plays June’s daughter, Olivia, who manages to match wits with Rodney and gives him some shit for his wild antics. She has this sharp no bullshit attitude and this serious sensibility about her. She’s a nurse, so it’s fitting that she’s the character most put-together and mature.

The most recognizable “name” actors in the film are Katrina Bowden (Piranha 3DD, Sex Drive) and Quinton Aaron (The Blind Side) playing supporting roles. Aaron has a really fun role of a convenience store clerk, it allows him to have fun and show off his personality.  Bowden’s role is a lot more limited, but she plays Rodney’s girlfriend and is significant to the plot.

HOW DOES THE MOVIE LOOK AND SOUND:

The one thing that is noticeable is how this film takes place in the bright California daylight. Now, maybe it was just a coincidence or budget and production didn’t allow much night filming, but it’s unique as it really puts a stamp on the California look and feel to it. There is a lot of natural light and it goes along with the quirky vibe of Olson’s character.

WAS IT ENTERTAINING: 

This film is a lot of fun. Each character has a unique humorous side to them and deliver the comedy in different ways. Rodney is more of smartass and has a sarcastic deadpan humor. When it comes to Aaron’s character, he has this oblivious sense of humor to him. Point being, each character delivers natural humor that fits their characters and the scenes they are in.

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The plot itself is constantly on the go. There is always some sort of drama occurring and a new obstacle Rodney’s character has to deal with. These obstacles are placed with a purpose. Guaranteed genuine laughs from start to finish.

IS IT WORTH SEEING:

Pick up that DVD when it comes out on May 1st. You won’t regret it. This is a well crafted sharply written film that manages to keep you entertained throughout the way. The element that ultimately stands out is the message that the movie delivers. The plot really comes full circle towards the end.

MacRae uses the majority of his characters that appear in the film with purpose and distinction. They legitimately all play a role in the essence of the plot. It’s a like a well gelled sports team. Everyone on the roster contributing to the success of the team. No role in this movie is small or insignificant.

PROS:

  • Talented cast that works well together
  • Clever script
  • Genuinely funny

CONS:

  • None noticeable, it works ideally as is 

Fishbowl California is a cinderella that plays like a blockbuster. Nothing seems amateur or “indie” about it. It looks good, it’s smart, the acting is high level and most importantly it entertains. When you leave with a smile on your face and and have this immediate “ah” moment, you know the movie did something well. This is the reaction I left the movie with. That’s a good thing. It’s one of my favorite movies of 2018.

VERDICT: A gem of a indie darling that feels and looks like anything but indie. Funny, witty and genuine. Highly recommend seeing it. Steve Olson is a name to watch out for. A surely bright career ahead of him. 

‘FISHBOWL CALIFORNIA’ SCORE: 97%

  • GENRE: Comedy-Drama
  • RUNTIME: 1 hr 23 min
  • Release Date: May 1, 2018 (available on DVD, Amazon, iTunes)
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Movie Review: Traffik

The best kind of movies are the ones that stay with you long after they are over. Movies that make you reflect on your life in relation to it. It’s not common to come across a movie that impacts you that way. Traffik is that unique movie that will have you thinking and Googling all about what you see. Here is the full breakdown of the film:

WHAT’S THIS MOVIE ABOUT:

This is an interesting movie to describe. It’s actually a tale of two halves. The first half is a real solid action thriller, that’s both gripping and engaging. The second half continues the intrigue, but adds a heavy important layer of truth. In a sense, comparable to a documentary.

Writer and director Deon Taylor brings a real issue to light—human trafficking. We’ve seen movies hint or portray trafficking before. Heck, Eli Roth did it with Hostel years ago, but not in the way that Taylor manages to do it. What Taylor brings to the surface is not only human trafficking, but human trafficking that’s occurring in our backdoors, domestically.

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The quick synopsis sees Omar Epps and Paula Patton’s characters have their weekend getaway ruined by a biker gang. The gang is out for them and carrying plenty of dangerous secrets.

HOW DID THE ACTORS DO: 

Paula Patton turns any role into gold that she takes. No different here where she’s playing Brea. She’s fantastic. What Patton does so well is she’s relatable and knows how to be playful on-screen, but turn to a serious side within a snap of the fingers. Her role in Traffic requires her to show some real vulnerability, which she does flawlessly.

Omar Epps delivers on his end. His character John is cool and calm under a lot of chaos, but steps up when he needs to protect Brea.

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Luke Goss plays this slick villain. He’s oddly polite and subtly intimidating. The quiet terror.

Taylor assembles a talented and versatile cast that meshes well together and deliver fine performances.

HOW DOES THE MOVIE LOOK AND SOUND:

As far as the look, it’s has the perfect aura of a good thriller. It has this dark moody look that correlates to what’s happening on-screen. For example, when things aren’t chaotic and the plot is developing earlier on, most of the scenes take place in the bright daylight. Now, when things start getting ugly and dangerous, the scenes take place in middle of night in a desolate area. Perfect mood and ideal look to it.

The sound and music is fitting to the on-screen action. That’s a good thing.

WAS IT ENTERTAINING:

Hell yeah this movie is entertaining. It grips you and has your attention from early on. Actually, it’s a bit of a love story initially. You have no idea where it all will end up. The car and motorcycle chase scene is thrilling in itself and well shot. This movie has a really nice build that isn’t rushed and has good pacing to it.

It’s hard not to enjoy these actors bring it their all. Theme aside, this is a really entertaining thriller. You follow these characters and they uncover the truths and fight for their lives.

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You will be entertained and educated also. Win-win situation. Credit Taylor for blending the entertainment while still maintaining the big picture message and warning about human trafficking.

IS IT WORTH SEEING:

Most definitely this is a must-see movie. It’s important to be educated and made aware of an issue that’s happening right in front of us on a daily basis that affects us and people around us. It could be your child, friend, girlfriend, sister, mother, wife. No one is safe from this hidden silent pandemic.

The stats and numbers that are shared at the end of the movie will surely startle you. Hopefully it will make you want to research and find out more about human trafficking and how we need to be more conscious of it and have conversations about it.

Some scenes will make you cringe, but it’s the sort of cringe that needs to be witnessed. Traffik is the most important PSA movie you’ll see this year. Smart, crafty, slick filmmaking with an entertaining plot and gravitating performances. It’s terrifying and feels so real.

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PROS:

  • Important message 
  • Entertaining plot 
  • Fine performances 

CONS:

  • Nothing that stands out

Traffik is a unique mix of fun and scary, with an important message at its core. This film is a conversation starter. Nothing can replace the power of that. I couldn’t help but think about this film for days after. It stuck with me. From personal experience, I always go into a movie with the hope that it can affect me and stay with me. Traffik does that. It educated me and made me a lot more aware of this international and domestic issue we don’t focus enough about as a society. I wanted to learn more about it and start those conversations that need to be had.

VERDICT: Deon Taylor made a movie that will impact people’s lives. It’s bigger than this review, Rotten Tomatoes score or any criticism or commentary it receives. The message is what stands out, and he delivers it in a startling way that will force you to notice. Consider this topic of conversation, started. 

‘TRAFFIK’ SCORE: 95% 

  • GENRE: Thriller
  • RATING: R
  • RUNTIME: 1 hr 36 min
  • RELEASE DATE: April 20, 2018

TRAFFIC is playing in theaters nationwide 

Commentary Recap Movie Review: Borg vs. McEnroe

John McEnroe made a name for himself as foul mouthed athlete. An original of sorts. Björn Borg was a tennis legend that I wasn’t aware of prior to this film. Their epic 1980 Wimbledon final goes down as one of the greatest tennis matches ever. This movie is about to show us the events that lead up to this game of a lifetime and introduce us to the two men behind it. This play-by-play recap review will feature a complete breakdown of the movie, scene by scene. WARNING: This review contains all of the film’s spoilers and ending.

Epic Game Teaser

The film starts with the Wimbledon 1980 Final. Björn Borg is the number one player in the world and going for his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title. John McEnroe is the number two player and newbie chasing his first Wimbledon title. So the stage is set.

Close-up shots of these intense competitors, Borg played by Sverrir Gudnason and McEnroe by Shia LaBeouf (sporting a heck of a mullet). As Borg is about to start a serve, tosses the ball in the air and the screen fades to a few decades back where a teenage kid is hitting a ball against a wall. Young Borg is taking out his frustrations or pure boredom on that wall.

After that exhausting session, the next shot is of adult Borg looking down from a balcony at a swanky hotel in Monaco, staring down at the pool below. Borg resembles a rocker or wrestler with his long fancy locks. The guy must be bored since he’s doing pushups leaning on the balcony fence.

A Man Obsessed

Next he’s hitting tennis balls that are being spit out from a machine. Two points to note. This guy is obsessed with training and he clearly has no friends. I mean geez, at least try to bamboozle someone into tossing or hitting tennis balls with you.

Looks like his lonesome behavior is warranted as he’s being asked for autographs and mobbed by screaming girls when he’s out walking in public. Ok, so Borg is somewhat popular on the streets of Monaco. He finds an empty bar and gets a coffee, only to realize he doesn’t even have the cash on him to pay for it. No money? No problem. Go carry some boxes for the bartender. Unfortunately for Borg he notices a newspaper with McEnroe’s face on it. Borg tries unsuccessfully to tell the bartender that he’s an electrician. Don’t ever try to fool the bartender.

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Stateside, apparent bad boy McEnroe is on a talk show talking about his outbursts and upcoming Wimbledon competition. Loose cannon McEnroe storms out the talk show stage swearing and complaining about the mention of Borg, meanwhile Borg is having a subtle quiet fit about not having his superstitious items in order. A tale of two very different men is depicted.

Borg gets a meeting with his handlers who plan out his next few years for him. His girlfriend isn’t impressed. This guy has no sense of independence.

McEnroe is back at his hotel drawing a bracket on the wall of Wimbledon competitors as his mental prep, meanwhile Borg is loosing his mind with the thought he might not win Wimbledon for the fifth consecutive time.

Back to Borg’s childhood where more temper tantrums ensue, to the point we learn he was suspended from tennis competitions for six months. His fortunes seem to change when he meets Stellan Skarsgard, not the actual Stellan, even though that be cool, but Lennart Bergelin, the character Skarsgard plays.

Forward back to the present (1980, at least movie present) where Borg plays his first match, while McEnroe watches on from his hotel bed. He doesn’t stay there long as he heads out to party with his crew and groupies. One of the guys describes to McEnroe how compulsively superstitiously obsessed Borg is and breaks down all his innate routines. They should treat Borg to this experience, maybe that would take a little edge off him. Ok, who am I kidding. A robot with a missing battery would have more fun partying than Borg.

Meet Young McEnroe

That leads us to the backstory of McEnroe. From his training to his mothers strict detail oriented quizzing of him while he’s getting his moppy hair, cut.

Time for McEnroe to have his match. Glued to the TV is Borg, analyzing every step McEnroe makes. I’m also glued to something, that being Borg’s hair. It’s even longer now. Someone call McEnroe’s mother to give this man a proper haircut.

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Back to another flashback. Teenage Borg getting coached up by Bergelin. By coaching I mean rouged up and tossed around, literally. As if he needed any more reasons to to have another outburst.

Back to present time. This movie is going back and forth in time more than a time machine could handle, much less your eyes and attention span. So now in the present, apparently Bergelin didn’t do a good job stringing the tennis racket, so for that he gets fired. Now it’s down to that poor angel of a woman that Borg is dating, having to deal with his manic demands.

The following flashback gives us the reason why Borg turned into an emotionless machine. Following that ass kicking he got from Bergelin, he was told never to show any emotion and to use all his emotion into the swing of the racket. This is how the inner monster was created then.

Time for McEnroe’s flashback to the past. Seems like he was coached up to be a math wiz. As he’s flooded with random math questions at a family dinner party.

The smart promotions folks are already strategizing and planning for the inevitable star showdown in the making between Borg and McEnroe. Johnny is doing his part with a f-bomb filled news conference where he unleashes on reporters. Role established—villain.

The Showdown

Out of nowhere the next scene already introduces us to the main showdown between Borg and McEnroe. All the other dozens of matches leading up to it either passed by or were shown in a blink. So much for the set-up. Feels rushed, even though the entire movie has been leading to this inevitable showdown.

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Onto the game. McEnroe smokes him in the first set. Some decent back-to-back game footage. Still can’t tell if it’s actually the main actors playing or not?

Second set goes to Borg. Same for the third set. McEnroe is getting beat down in the fourth, until he gets some encouragement from Borg during the break. McEnroe comes out on fire. Falls behind. Makes a comeback. Ties it up. Kuds to the sound mixing here. Some good tension music, one fitting of a crime thriller.

They are forced into a tiebreaker game. Winner takes all. It comes down to the final match point for Borg to win. They really zoomed by the game scores and bring you to that final serve. Every time Borg takes the lead and is about to close it out, McEnroe ties him. It goes back-and-forth like this. Must have been a compelling match to watch in real-time.

Seven times Borg has a chance to close it and he can’t. McEnroe finally does it. Wait so there is more? The sets are tied at two. Yet another grueling game coming up. We’ve had over 15 minutes of this game getting screen time.

In this final game, every swing is in slow motion with an added flashback. There has been a lifetime worth of flashbacks in this movie. After another nail biter, Borg finally manages to squeeze out a win. That’s pretty surprising. In movie terms I expected McEnroe to win. I wasn’t familiar with the story so the outcome would have been an unknown surprise either way.

The Aftermath

McEnroe didn’t win the showdown, but he won the respect and admiration of the people. Is that the moral? Even McEnroe himself wouldn’t be satisfied with.

After the game Borg celebrates by having some of the cake with his face printed on it. You know, the kinda cakes kids get with Elmo on them or some cartoon character. In this case it’s of a cyborg with no expression or emotion. Enjoy indulging in that vanilla cake.

Whether it was the cake or not, Borg looks depressed sitting at his afterparty. This guy just can’t be satisfied with anything. What a self-induced misery of a life to have. His angel girlfriend leaves the reception and he follows her. Shockingly he decides to leave the party itself. For once he makes a big boy decision. Congrats, you’re a grown ass man, making your first decision. The independence he’s showing is remarkable.

At the airport Borg and McEnroe come face-to-face. They congratulate another and share an awkward hug. It’s the first time in the movie there is a definitive sense that Borg is the older veteran and McEnroe is the young pup.

Into The Future

A follow-up reveals that a year later McEnroe defeated Borg in the Wimbledon final. That same year, Borg retired. At the ripe age of 26. Never mind the wasted few sentences above. They probably weren’t many years apart after all.

There apparently is a message here after all. It’s revealed that they became friends later in life and Borg was the best man at McEnroe’s wedding. I wanna know if that sweet angel girlfriend of Borg’s actually stuck around with him to end up getting married?

Pictures of the actual event and of McEnroe and Borg are shown. Looks like Borg did get married, as evidenced by one of these pictures. Gudnason has a striking resemblance to Borg. Could have easily been brothers by the looks of it. LaBeouf and McEnroe do resemble another a lot also. Good casting all around.

VERDICT:

It’s hard to distinguish the hero and villain of this film? Both aren’t terribly unlikeable or likable characters. So the film is kinda drawn out. Easily could have shed 20 minutes. The set-up is long and then just jumps into the match. There are no significant encounters between the two men prior to the match, as they only creep on each other from a distance.

The individual stories are told in a parallel form. Way too much focus and flashbacks to the childhood and teenage years. It doesn’t need to be constantly reinforced that they had an obsession with being a tennis greats. I get it after the second flashback, but 20 more followed.

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The scene with the big game was fairly compelling. It’s rushed through some sets, but it had to be. The ending flaw of this movie is not bringing these characters face-to-face earlier on, even if it was for a brief tease. There were interesting parts about this film. You had two important figures in the world of tennis at the forefront. A depiction of the lead-up to the epic 1980 Wimbledon final. Good believable acting. It was an okay movie overall. Could have done things to improve it, but it’s still worth checking out, especially if you’re a tennis aficionado. I guess the story of these men wasn’t as dramatic and their life journey to get to that game.

If one thing was establishes is that both Borg and McEnroe were manic and obsessed with success. They were perfectionists to a fault. They were the same person, just showed their inner turmoil in complete opposite ways. McEnroe was the vocal one that showed all sort of emotion, while Borg was a silent ticking bomb, who didn’t even flinch or show a ounce of emotion. Two contrasting approaches, but the same drive and passion.

  • GENRE: Sport-Biography-Drama
  • RUNTIME: 1 hr 47 min
  • RATING: R
  • RELEASE DATE: April 13, 2018

‘BORG VS. MCENROE’ SCORE: 50%

(Solid performances and story, but drawn out and gets dull with the presentation of it)

Commentary Recap Movie Review: Chappaquiddick

You may be asking, what’s a commentary movie review? It’s a review where I will provide the play-by-play of the movie. I will do that in commentary style, meaning that I will comment on the first thing that pops into my head as the movie plays out scene by scene. WARNING: This review will contain all spoilers, as I will be reviewing it from movie start to finish.

First and foremost you’re probably asking what the hell is Chappaquiddick? It’s a movie about Ted Kennedy’s (yup, those Kennedy’s) involvement in the car accident that killed a young woman. The film stars, Kate Mara, Jason Clarke, Ed Helms and Bruce Dern among others. So really, what does Chappaquiddick even mean? It’s actually a real location. Chappaquiddick Island is a place in Massachusetts, that also serves as the location of the incident that the movie is centered on. Now onto the play-by-play film commentary review.

The Opening Scene:

The first thing we see in the opening scene is a picture of the Kennedy family picture portrait. It’s mostly the Kennedy’s as children. Looks a heck of a lot like the picture portrait of Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining. Old black and white family portrait pictures give me the shivers.

Background audio of the real-life Kennedy tragedy news announcement is playing as the camera zooms onto the pudgy kid wearing Donald Duck’s outfit, looks like that’s the young Teddy Kennedy.

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Friday, July 18, 1969 comes across the title screen.

We see Jason Clarke’s character sitting and getting interviewed. The cat is out of the bag, Clarke plays Ted Kennedy. I’m loving the grainy 60’s picture filter used. Looks like footage video from the time period. Gives the movie an authentic look and feel.

Ted is seen on the phone asking for favors from his cousin Joe Gargan, who is played by Ed Helms. Initially it’s odd seeing Helms in what seems to be a serious role, and trying to do a Bostonian accent.

Footage of the Apollo 11 launching is shown with voice-overs of the event coverage in the background. An introductory tour of Chappaquiddick Island is presented. Ted has a beach home there.

Olivia Thirlby’s character is laying on the beach chatting up Kata Mara’s character Mary Jo Kopechne. They are discussing Ted, who unexpectedly shows up behind them. Sort of like Batman would. Sneaky Ted.

The first valuable lesson of the film comes in the form of a cautionary tale of not allowing Ted and Joe to attempt to sail a boat. Amateurs. All this rush, just so Ted can crash a party and toast to his brother Booby’s memory, even though Ted seems to be the toast of this party as he continues to refer to the partygoers as part of his “family”.

The Plot Is Established

The party continues outside with Ted and Mara’s character Mary Jo sitting on the roof of the car talking about why Ted didn’t run for the White House after Bobby’s death.

A cop drives by and decides to crash their car party, but Ted being the rebel that he is, peels off, only leaving skid marks behind. His rush leads to tragedy, as Ted doesn’t see a bridge ahead and drives the car off the road and into the lake. The girl doesn’t survive.

Ted gets back to the house party and calls for Joe and tells him they have a problem and that he won’t be president. No Ted, you have a problem, not them. They sure do have a major problem as a girl just seemingly died under Ted’s watch. Is Joe supposed to be the official Kennedy problem fixer?

Joe and Paul (Jim Gaffigan)arrive at the accident scene and get down to their tidy whities and jump in the lake to look for the body. Ted just looks lost and lays down on the bridge and comes to realization of what just happened. My question is, how did he not even try to rescue her when he got out of the water in the first place? Instead just casually go look for Joe? Is it a moment of shock or ineptitude on his part?

Joe and Paul, who are attorneys in their own right, advise him to report the accident. Teddy doesn’t listen and instead decides to steal a fishing boat and have his buddies row him out of there. Instead, he checks himself into a hotel and attempts to drown himself in the tub. His recollections of the accident prevent him from committing suicide.

A eery flashback of Mary Jo drowning is mixed with Ted getting ready and leaving the hotel. It sort of demonstrates the lack of fortitude from him in running away from the accident and not even trying to save the girl.

He decides to call his dad—collect. Someone needs to raise the senators salary so he can make a proper call without charging others for it. Ted spills his guts and tells dad Joseph Kennedy Sr. (Bruce Dern) what had happened and asks for help, only to hear his father gasping for air or snoring on the other end. Ted can’t even sleep as he’s haunted with visions of Mary Jo drowning.

Bad news for the senator, a kid and his father discover a floating car which leads them to contact the authorities. Meanwhile, Ted is out at breakfast with some schmucks. Leave it to Joey and Paul to barge in on the lovely breakfast and give Ted a pep talk about the troubles that he’s in now. Geez guys, let the man eat his pancakes.

Joey being the good soldier goes back to the lake house to wake everyone up and inform them of the accident, he also asks them to stick together and help out the senator. Ted, decides to go seek cover inside the police chiefs office. Is that supposed to help? He did close the blinds in the office. Surely nobody will find him now.

Treading Water

Ted decides to call Mary Jo’s mother and inform her that her daughter died. He cries as he breaks the news. Ted isn’t done calling. He calls dad again. Father utters “alibi”. Ted tries to explain that he needs to do the right thing and own up to the accident and doesn’t want to be the failure of the family anymore.

Imagine the surprise the chief had when he walks into his office and Ted is sitting at his desk. He reads his statement and recollection of the accident. Ted heads back to pay a visit to his old man, who is revealed to be in poor condition. Ted assures his father that he has the situation under control. Does he now? Apparently not, since the father gives him a note saying that he lost his complete confidence and Ted needs to do as he says.

Chappaquiddick

Ted walks into the living room and there is a group on men in suits waiting for him. One looks to another and tells him he was able to handle to Cuban Missile Crisis, so he should be able to handle that. It’s clearly apparent that this is a group of top problem fixers that you’ll find.

The fixers are in uproar that Ted’s drivers license was suspended. Not the fact her was drinking or anything. What do the fixers decide? To get the ultimate fixer to help them out. These guys appear to be master PR pros.

Looks like it was smart for Ted to to make good with a local police chief, who followed the rules and read Ted’s statement to the press. Nothing like a good ol’ chief coming through. More trouble for Ted now that the media is all over the case. The media leaks the story and more questions arise.

Joe is trying to console Ted and prevent him from spiring out of control like he did after Bobby’s death. Lots of references to Bobby in the film. John Kennedy doesn’t seem to be much of a topic of conversation, but Bobby is. Show John some love.

Ted’s television interview airs and families, including the Ted’s, are watching it glued to the TV’s.

Not Much Change

Ted and Joe have their first real squabble when Joe tells him he shouldn’t be wearing a neck brace to Mary Jo’s funeral. So of course he wears it. As he begins to get heat from the press, Ted reminds his fixers to be optimistic and things can be salvaged due to the American people’s connection to the Kennedy name.

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Next up, Ted gets a visit from his dad. He leans over and gets smacked right upside the head with a mean left hand. He was certainly hoodwinked, blindsided. Ted tells his father that he never wanted to be president, that everything he did in life was to make is father proud of him. He references John and Bobby as being great men in their own right. Mr. Kennedy (not the wrestler), grabs a hold of Ted’s neck and they embrace in a hug as tears stream down Ted’s face.

This is one of the most powerful moments of this movie. Finally all the avoidance and dodging is confronted and Ted stops running away from his problems. As he walks out of the room he runs into Joe and tells him that he’s going to be resigning, Joe approves his decision.

Ted pleads guilty and and will due small time in jail. He promises the press he will answer all questions in a television special.

Moments before he goes on Television he has a final run-thru conversation with Joey who tells him, “this is not about opportunity, it’s about integrity”.

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Ted begins his speech to the nation. He admits to being part of the accident, blames it on his confusion, dismisses the allegation that he was drunk and leaves the audience hanging with hope they can help him make the right decision and leaves his resignation up in the air. He couldn’t do it. His ego and letting down his father got the best of him.

Real footage of reporters interviewing people on the street about whether they would vote for Ted as president. The people give mixed reviews.

  • A long shot of the Chappaquiddick bridge where the accident occurred is shown. Follow-up text reveals that Joseph Kennedy Sr. passed away four months after the Chappaquiddick accident.
  • Joe Gargan was estranged from the Kennedy family.
  • Following the TV segment the people of Massachusetts reelected Ted, who ended up as the fourth longest serving Senator in United States history.
  • In 1980 Ted was defeated by Jimmy Carter in the Democratic Presidential race. He never ran again.

VERDICT: 

This film wasn’t as dramatic or compelling as I hoped it would be. The trailers made it a lot more dramatic than the movie played out to be. The entire movie is based on Ted’s struggle with himself and facing his demons brought on by his father and the accident, which is fine when it comes to the character, but you need more in the plot and script.

While Jason Clarke does a terrific job as Kennedy, and looks every bit as much as NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. The casting was done well for this film. Clarke did very well depicting the inner struggles that Ted had, as well as the lack of personal responsibility. He was somewhat of a big baby with his tantrums and comes of as cowardly at times.

Ed Helms did a great job as Joseph Gargan. He made the Bostonian accent believable and even though he had the Helms quirks that we know him for, especially during his characters subtle blowups.

Jim Gaffigan cast as Paul might have been one of the most surprising things on paper. In the film he doesn’t have too much work to do, but he’s solid and fits nicely into the role. Had I not known he was a comedian, his acting didn’t give any indication to it.

The film ran at least 15 minutes longer than it should have. It treads water (no pun intended) during large portions. It’s a interesting suspense story on the surface, but there is little substance or mystery to it.

Does the movie paint Kennedy in a bad light? Not purposely, but it doesn’t portray him as a great guy either. Does it ry to be fair and objective? Yes, it does a solid job at objectivity.

I had higher expectations for this film then it ultimately ended up being. Just drags too slow and doesn’t provide enough fresh plot points.

  • RATING: PG-13
  • GENRE: Drama-History-Thriller
  • RUNTIME: 1 hr 46 min
  • RELEASE DATE: April 6, 2018

‘CHAPPAQUIDDICK’ SCORE: 55%

(good performances, interesting story but plot lacks in building much intrigue) 

Movie Review: All I Wish

You often hear the phrase don’t judge a book by it’s cover (or movie), that phrase applies to this film. Writer and director Susan Walter puts together a modern relatable love story that delves deeper than what meets the surface. If you stick with this film (you should) this is what you can expect from it:

WHAT’S THIS MOVIE ABOUT:

Sharon Stone plays Senna Berges, a woman in her 50’s that’s struggling finding love and attaining her dream fashion designing career. The story gives little increments of her life before it fast forwards to the next year on the day of her birthday. Each year the birthday features a conversation with her mother Celia (Ellen Burstyn). It’s really not a conversation but more of a pep talk how Senna needs to find a man and get her life in order. Things subtly change when Senna meets Adam (Tony Goldwyn). Adam transforms her life in more ways than she can imagine.

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On the surface the film is about a woman that can’t find a man, so she settles for short flings and hookups. Every birthday she gets reminded of her apparent life failures. Is that all this movie is about? No wonder I found myself bored, right? Patience my friends. There is so much more to take away that ends up happening.

HOW DID THE ACTORS DO:

Sharon Stone really owns her character. She plays a woman of her own age who clearly exhibits real life struggles that Stone must have related to and had a personal connection to in her own life. How do I know this? It’s wildly apparent how natural she is in the role. A seemingly complex character comes with ease to her. She has a variety of shades to her personality. She seems immature at times, stubborn, over-the-top and reckless. Then as the character grows over the noted birthday’s she becomes more self-aware, she lets go of her set ways and comforts and takes risks that expose her vulnerabilities. It’s a really nice transformation and Stone nails it.

The supporting characters should not go unnoticed. At times movies neglect the supporting characters and use them as fillers to prop the main characters. Not in this film. Walter does really nice work of making everyone valuable and have their own sense of being.

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Ellen Burstyn’s character has only limited time in the film but she’s the igniter that ultimately pushes Senna’s own boundaries. Liza Lapira plays Senna’s best friend Darla. She’s loyal and accepts Senna’s flaws and at times is her accomplice in their pursuit of no risk flings, until Darla finds her match. Tony Goldywn’s character Adam is the ideal contrast and complement to Senna. They are so in tune with another but outwardly project it differently. He has this mature sort of business like approach, while Senna is loud, unabashed and allows herself to have fun.

HOW DID THE MOVIE LOOK AND SOUND:

Nothing out of the ordinary on this front. The setting is beautiful coastal California. The beach scene adds another layer of personality to the characters and the surroundings. In general the film has this colorful vibrancy to it. The musical sountrack is a little bit corny at times, but still fitting to the overall theme of the film.

WAS IT ENTERTAINING:

Here is the issue. The movie starts out slow and it seems like it’s stuck in quicksand, but ultimately it’s the start of a build of what’s to eventually follow. I did find myself checking out early on, but I stayed patient and was rewarded. You will be also. Don’t let the seemingly replicated birthday forwards deter you. It’s part of the process that will make sense later on. If you stick with it, you’re in for a pleasing, relatable and modern romance flick. It’s also a lot of fun and has some genuine funny moments. The funny moments don’t come from some slick one-liners, but more from the characters playful interactions and the actors comfort with each other.

I appreciated the fact that characters aren’t young. They are past their supposed “prime” and at a later point of their lives. Films of these genre almost always are centered on characters dealing with dating and career struggles in their 20’s or early to mid 30’s. You don’t see or hear of stories of people in their late 40’s or 50’s that have to go through the same struggles. As if they have been forgotten. This film gives them the proper shine, it’s also what makes it so interesting and refreshing.

maxresdefault (1)The recent Oscars had all the nominations for the ladies from the Best Actress category be over 40 years old. That’s a great feat, but one that should be way more common that it is. I felt Walter shines a light on a similar issue with her casting of terrific experienced performers. Stone isn’t washed up, neither is Famke Janssen. Ellen Burstyn is a gem. These actresses along with many others defy age.

IS IT WORTH SEEING:

Unequivocally, yes! What starts out as a potentially campy Hallmark flick turns into a real and relatable imperfect love story that isn’t cliche or formulaic. These are characters that are flawed and confused, but that’s what makes them humanized and allows you to get behind and root for them. Personally I took a lot away from this film. As a single male in my early 30’s in the dating world, I didn’t initially see how I could relate to characters nearly double my age and their pursuit of dating. I was wrong. There were so many similarities and takeaways that left me a bit speechless. I learned that as much as I want love and find the one in my life, it doesn’t necessarily happen when you want it to.

The moral is that no matter what age you are, everyone is ultimately looking for love and a connection. We just look for it and find it in different ways. Sometimes unforeseen ways. Walter also sends the message that it’s never too late to find love and sometimes you need to be patient with it and wait for it to come to you. Older people want love also, they are also pigeonholed to go about it the same way their kids do. Online dating. Being in the middle of a hookup culture. I learned that as frustrating as dating is, you have to be patient and keep the hope alive. Your love could already be in your life, you just need to let it evolve and blossom. I really appreciated and loved that this film has the potential to inspire, like it did for me. Love is ageless. That’s a powerful message All I Wish shares and delivers.

PROS:

  • Genuine story, relatable characters, plot isn’t rushed
  • Lots of great messages you can attain if you allow yourself to
  • The storyline payoff is pleasing and satisfactory
  • Themed on older characters that you don’t often get to see in films of this genre
  • It’s legitimately funny and romantic

CONS:

  • The slower developing plot early on

VERDICT: Overall, this is a movie about hope and love. It shows love is ageless and we all deal with it more similar ways than we imagine. Good message and unique perspective depicted. It’s well worth seeing. 

‘ALL I WISH’ SCORE: 90%

  • GENRE: Comedy-Drama
  • RUNTIME: 1 hr 34 min
  • RELEASE DATE: March 30, 2018

ALL I WISH is out in select theaters, VOD and Digital 

Movie Review: Flower

Flower isn’t what you think it is based on the title. There is nothing pretty about the life of Erica, played wonderfully by my personal favorite actress Zoey Deutch, I’m biased, so what? The film labels itself as a comedy, but there are a lot more labels that can be attached to it if so desired. It’s dark, funny, thrilling, suspenseful and serious during various stages from start to finish. What makes this movie worth seeing then?

WHAT’S THIS MOVIE ABOUT:

It’s about a teenage girl named Erica (Deutch) trying to deal with the hand that life dealt her. Her father is in prison. Her mother’s boyfriend moved in with the family and is now bringing along his mentally unstable son to live with them. Sounds like a peachy life. Not to mention that Erica is subjected to and subjects herself to some harsh life situations. To get you prepared, the opening scene of her giving oral sex to a local cop is any indication. You clearly know what you’re in for from the start. These characters have no limits and the movie doesn’t hold back at all.

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HOW DID THE ACTORS DO:

My affinity for Deutch has been noted by anyone who has spoken to me. She’s a fabulous actress. Not only is she stunning, but she’s she possesses the three r’s: relatable, raw and real. In many ways she has all the potential and talent to be the next brakeout star, such as Saoirse Ronan. She can do it all.

In Flower, Deutch takes upon one of her more challenging characters to date. Erica is a lost soul that’s searching for comfort in all the wrong places. She means well, but has no idea how to go about doing the right thing. In a sense she’s grown up too quick, without actually growing up. She’s been exposed to life’s ugly side and partakes in it, only due to her circumstances and fueling her own inner fire. Erica is snappy, boisterous, uncensored and loyal to her friends and mother. She’s very charming and convincing also. To emit that inner struggle while display the outward strength is a difficult feat for any actor to portray. Not only does Deutch manage that, she succeeds flawlessly in doing it.

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The two other characters of importance to note, are the mother Laurie, played by Kathryn Hahn and Luke the unstable stepbrother played by Joey Morgan. First, when it comes to Hahn, a widely recognizable comedic actress takes a turn to play a serious character. Laurie tries hard to be the best mom, but she’s stuck in trying to be a mother while being and acting like a best friend to her daughter. This tough balance leaves her in a middle ground of questionable parenting. Hahn brings this character lots of life. She’s relatable as a modern imperfect parent. She’s had a rough life, it’s evident even though there is little to no mention of it. Hahn also brings this coolness to the character that makes her fun and takes away any semblance of being boring and uninteresting.

As far as Morgan’s character Luke goes, he’s the key to the film. Morgan does wonderful work keeping an even keel when his character is surrounded by much more dominant and authoritative personalities. Luke is hard to read initially, but blossoms as the movie moves along, sort of like, a flower.

HOW DID THE MOVIE LOOK AND SOUND:

There is nothing special that stands out to to note with the music. When it comes to the visuals, it certainly noticeable with the lens filters they used. It’s this bright sepia-like color lens that not only brightens the look of the movie, but it gives it an yellowish tint. It’s noticeable when you see it. Now, I don’t know if it has any correlation with the theme of the movie of a bright yellow flower and the whole blossoming and keeping it bright aspect, but it could be. If not, then I’m just really reaching for things. It’s a unique look to say the least.

WAS IT ENTERTAINING:

It sure was compelling. This is a fascinating character study. Of young adolescence that rebels and for the most point is doing misguided sense of belief and understanding. Director Max Winker, yes he’s The Fonz’s son, depicts a story that’s not the typical coming of age. It actually is more of a coming out of age. What I mean by that is that the characters are almost too grown up for their own good and they need to reel back and have a sense of what it’s like to be a kid. A process that Winkler illustrates as the movie develops.

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It’s one of these films that has you anticipating what the next scene will bring and what these wild teens will do next. I never found myself bored at any point. Sure, there were some cringeworthy moments, especially the sex ones, but the plot has some unexpected turns that lead to a more suspenseful conclusion.

IS IT WORTH SEEING:

Most definitely it is. This film has a no-bullshit sense about it. It’s in your face attitude and lets it all out. The depiction of this damaged family is a lot more realistic than the idealistic families that tend to be portrayed in film. It’s the real world look into what American family of 2018 is in many cases. Non-perfect, struggling, making ends meet, trying to find and show love, but struggling to do so. Delving into dark waters to attain a necessity, such as money. Ultimately the movie blossoms and does justice to the title.

PROS:

  • It’s paints an authentic portrait of American family life.
  • Deutch is tremendous in her role.
  • Intriguing, mysterious unapologetic.

CONS:

  • Some of the sexual stuff can be off-putting, especially involving teens
  • Lacked some background story to insert to explain why Erica and her mother do what they do and how they ended up there. Also, it would explain the connection Erica has to her father.

VERDICT: Overall, this is a really interesting good film with terrific performances, especially from Deutch. It has turns that keep things exciting till the very end.

  • MOVIE RATING: R
  • GENRE: Comedy
  • RUNTIME: 1 hr 30 min
  • RELEASE DATE: March 23, 2018

FLOWER‘ SCORE: 85%

Date
3/23/2018
City
Chicago
Theater
Landmark Century
Talent
Zoey Deutch, Max Winkler
Moderator
Joe Swanberg
Start time
7:35 PM
Q&A time
9:00 PM
3/23/2018 Chicago Cinemark Evanston 18 Zoey Deutch, Max Winkler Moderator
TBD
10:15 PM 11:45 PM
3/24/2018 Chicago Landmark Century Zoey Deutch, Max Winkler Moderator
TBD
5:00 PM 6:40 PM
3/24/2018 Chicago AMC River East Zoey Deutch, Max Winkler Moderator
TBD
7:00 PM 8:30 PM

Movie Review: Black Panther

Rarely does a movie live up to its hype, even rarer does it exceed the hype, well Black Panther does both. One of Marvel’s greatest film creations hits the big screen this weekend and it’s spectacular. It’s a film that appeals to everyone. Although the significance to the African community is evident in the film and presentation of the story and characters, it is a movie for everyone.

WHAT’S THIS MOVIE ABOUT:

Black Panther/T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) inherits the throne to rule the kingdom of Wakanda after his fathers death. The safety of Wakanda is being threathened by arms dealer Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) and his accomplice Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). To use a synopsis to describe a quick overview of the movie wouldn’t be doing it justice.

While there is one main storyline outlined above, it branches off to other ones that ultimately make sense and connect. One of the plots involves T’Challa becoming a king and is threatened by outsiders before he can even begin his reign. He just can’t seem to inherit the throne without any drama getting in the way. As much as the initial threat is centered around the desire to steal the vibranium from Wakanda, it’s a family rivalry that’s at the core of the plot.

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Marvel

HOW DID THE ACTORS DO:

The actors play a huge part of taking this movie to another level. Headlined by Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, a stellar supporting cast surrounding them that includes, Forest Whitacker, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis and Daniel Kaluuya. All the actors including many of the supporting ones play vital roles and important characters in the movie that contribute to the storyline.

Each character has a distinguished personality and purpose. Serkis portrayal of Klaue is reminiscent of the Joker. His wacko laugh and complete disregard for chaos. It’s certainly entertaining and fitting of a top villain, but he’s not even the leading intimidator.

Michael B. Jordan brings this quiet dangerous intensity to his character. You don’t want to mess with Erik. Once again, Jordan is in phenomenal shape and boasts the physique of a UFC fighter. He plays one of the best villains in the Marvel movie universe. Just a raw badass.

Among the many teriffic characters and performances, it’s Leticia Wright who plays T’Challa’s sister Shuri, the one who steals the show. Shuri is wisecracking and sarcastic and provides constant comedic relief, but also has a strong aura of confidence and charm about her.

Women play important role in this film, Florence Kasumba is just one of the other strong supporting female actors that make their presence felt. The confidence and strength these women have and the way their characters are portrayed is refreshing and fitting.

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Marvel

HOW DID THE MOVIE LOOK AND SOUND:

The visuals and sounds are a big part of the presentation of the movie. The city of Wakanda is a character in itself. It’s high-tech and futuristic but with a rural features and characteristics and small town spirit. You get a sense these characters are actually in Africa with huts, sand roads and bazars that locals partake in.

From a large scale view, Wakanda looks like the live action world from Zootopia. I’m certain Disney was inspired with the look and designs of Zootopia’s world and incorporated many looks and aspects from it, such as the fast tracking rail system and building structures.

The soundtrack for Black Panther is definitely worth checkin out, featuring Kendrick Lamar at the forefront. Also featuring SZA and fantastic composition from Ludwig Göransson.

WAS IT ENTERTAINING:

Being entertained is the last thing you’ll need to worry about when seeing this film. There is an abundance of action, intrigue and character interactions to keep you always engaged. The plot blossoms as the movie goes on. The way the characters are tied to another and the backstory that is revealed throughout the movie and how events from the past impact the present.

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Marvel

I was blown away by the fight scenes in the movie. In particular the two battles that T’Challa faced on the way to gaining his throne. They are as brutal of fights as you’ll see in a Marvel movie. It was very un-Marvel like actually. The choreography and intensity of them were top level. In many ways the rawness of the fight scenes and a more serious theme were more fitting of the current DC movie universe than the usually light-hearted Marvel.

IS IT WORTH SEEING: 

Pros:

This is one of the finest superhero movies of the past decade. It has all the elements you could ask for in a movie of this genre. Characters that have depth and defined personas. Intense action that feels and looks authentic. A smart plot that relates to a backstory that’s relevant to the characters present world.

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Marvel

I feel like the rich African culture was handled in a honorable way. The attire, accessories (objects like a necklace), rituals and custom dances were very interesting to see and portrayed. It added depth to the characters.

Ryan Coogler deserves a ton of credit for making Black Panther a real movie, not just a flashy superhero film. This is a movie anyone can enjoy and take things away from.

Cons:

There isn’t much to dislike, but Michael B. Jordan deserved more and better. I don’t wanna spoil what happens, but he ultimately his character doesn’t get served a proper fate.

There were some jokes and puns that were borderline offensive. For example a line that comes from Shuri saying, “another broken white boy”.  There are a few more lines that could be construed as somewhat racially offensive within context. These mentions served little purpose and added nothing to the storyline, besides a potential chuckle form the audience.

Overall, Black Panther is outstanding film that establishes a noble superhero that can be championed by everyone, no matter what your race or ethnicity is. Good writing, direction and performances combine to deliver a film that’s a must-see.

  • Movie Rating: PG-13
  • Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
  • Runtime: 2 hr 14 min
  • Release Date: February 16, 2018

BLACK PANTHER Score: 90%

(Not Just a Fantastic Superhero Movie, But A Fantastic Movie)