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 

Interview: Filmmaker Fritz Böhm

The Brothers Grimm would be proud of Fritz Böhm’s Wildling. The fantasy horror film is out now in select theaters in NYC & LA, VOD and Digital HD. I had an opportunity to speak to Fritz about the movie and some of his favorite fantasy films, we also even get to the topic of raking leaves. Listen in to what Fritz has to say.

REAL TALK:

Fritz was a lot of fun to talk to. I expected a semi-heavy German accent, what I heard from him was a better English than mine. Hard to believe Wildling is only his third movie. The creativity and visuals and storytelling are that of a veteran filmmaker.

It was interesting to hear his inspirations for this film and how he valued E.T. as a movie that took the fantasy genre to another level. The mention of how he utilized the creature and went against the stereotypes of the genre.

Fritz seemed to be a huge proponent of Bel Powley. She’s an interesting actress in the way she seems to be quirky on-screen and off. Kinda like Aubrey Plaza. She’s good in the role she plays in this film.

My favorite part of the interview was talking to him about his hobbies outside of the biz. In what might be one of the best answers I’ve ever heard to this question, Fritz said it was doing the simple things such as raking leaves! Now that’s a chore nobody wants to do. Props to him on that. Now if that isn’t a down-to-earth kinda guy, I don’t know who would be.

Wildling is a very imaginative film. Films of this kind are usually kid movies, but this one isn’t. It’s worth a look, even for the sake of its uniqueness.

‘WILDLING’ is out now in select theaters in NYC & LA, VOD and Digital HD

Interview: Filmmaker Jesper Ganslandt

Beast of Burden is a tension filled crime thriller starring Daniel Radcliffe. The film releases on Blu-ray and DVD on April 3, 2018. Prior to the release I had a chance to speak to the director of the film Jesper Ganslandt. Jesper discusses the making of the film and Radcliffe’s performance among other topics. Listen to the audio of the interview below:

REAL TALK:

I brought up Locke and Phone Booth as movies that seemed comparable to Beast of Burden. It was interesting to hear the comparison and analysis Jesper made about Locke and how he wanted to make his film more aggressive the way he shot it.

Jesper mentioned the incorporation of the European style of filmmaking that he comes from and incorporating it with the American one. My comment on how the film felt like two films split in half, with the first half being a lot more calm and subdued and the second half having a lot more action. American films tend to focus on the quick action and goes by the wayside of slower pace. The blend of styles really works for this film.

Jesper followed that up by commenting on the movie Buried, which he felt that looked over some of the details and didn’t slow down enough. I completely agree with that statement. Buried would have worked even better had it been more detailed and didn’t try to jump to the next twist.

Daniel Radcliffe is one of the most versatile actors out there. This is the second director now, first one being Greg McLean, who spoke glowingly of Daniel’s work. It’s safe to say that all the Harry Potter stuff is behind him at this point. Radcliffe went from a popular child actor to a really great all-around actor.

My favorite question to ask filmmakers and actors is what they do in their free time and the passions they enjoy. I really liked Jesper’s answer, so simple, yet so meaningful. It was his family. His children are his passion and that’s what he invests his time into outside of his work. That’s great.

Beast of Burden is a really slick and intriguing film and Radcliffe is indeed terrific in it.

BEAST OF BURDEN is out on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on April 3, 2018

Podcast: Special Guest Filmmaker Susan Walter

This week on the Reel Talker Podcast, host Jim Alexander is joined by special guest, filmmaker Susan Walter. Susan discusses her film All I Wish. They talk about Sharon Stone playing a character that was meant to be 25, dating in today’s world and the difficulty of it, Susan’s long journey in the industry and they share their latest movie recommendations. All that and more.

‘ALL I WISH’ is out now in theaters, VOD and Digital 

Follow Susan Walter’s Social Media:

Twitter: Susie_filmmaker 

Instagram: Susie_filmmaker

 

Interview: Writer Michael Ashton

The intense thriller The Forgiven, based on the Michael Ashton play ” The Archbishop and The Antichrist”, is out now in select NY and LA theaters. I had a chance to speak to the writer of the play and the screenwriter of the film version, Michael Ashton. Michael has a fascinating story and background. In the interview Michael is very candid and opens up about the play, the film version and why he didn’t attend the premiere of the film. Hear about it and more in this interview with Michael.

REAL TALK:

I loved how cool Michael was. The interview reminded me immediately of the time I spoke to Duncan Falconer who wrote Stratton. There is just something special about these ex-soldiers turned writers. Their personality and wealth of knowledge combined with unique life experiences. It’s also in large due to their candid honesty.

How wild is it to start a convo and hear that the person on the other end isn’t attending the premiere of their film, because they are bedridden to a foot injury.

A big reveal came early on when he told me that Piet Blomfeld was a fictitious character. I just like many others assumed he was real. Learning that did change my perspective a bit. Credit to Michael’s impeccable writing and creativity.

What I really appreciated besides the great insights Michael provided, was how candid he was with me. Speaking about his addictions and being forthcoming about how it affected people around him. It’s a pretty remarkable story of a man who changed his life around.

Michael was very forthcoming and I greatly appreciated it. The interview was cut short due to technical issues and time. There was a question I asked about Erica Bana and Forest Whitaker’s performances, Michael thought they were great and shared an interesting note that there were talks for John Travolta to play the role of Blomfeld. In the end the right men were cast for these roles. You’ll understand why when you see the film.

‘THE FORGIVEN’ is out now in select NY and LA theaters and comes out on VOD and Digital HD with additional theatrical expansion on March 16, 2018