Showing posts with label Robert Bresson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Bresson. Show all posts

Friday, May 25, 2018

"Fishbowl California" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Fishbowl California" as well as DVDs "The Commuter" and "American Assassin."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "L'Argent."]

Fishbowl California

Two lonely people whose lives have spiraled out of control find each other and form a bond in the fishbowl that is L.A.

Meet Rodney:

Rodney (Steve Olson) is kind of a loser.  How much of a loser is he?  He is such a loser that he can't even get it together to name his goldfish. He is also in his thirties, can't pay his rent, he doesn't have a job, says inappropriate things at job interviews, has maxed out his credit cards and his car often doesn't start. And none of this seems particularly troubling to him until he catches his girlfriend, Tess (Katrina Bowden) with another guy.  You see, he thought he could stay with her after being kicked out of his apartment.  So now let's add homeless to his loser list.

Meet June:

June (Katherine Cortez) is a sixty-something widow who drinks too much, doesn't get along with her neighbor and could be described as a female curmudgeon.

What do you bet that Rodney and June are going to meet?

They do meet - they meet cute in an odd meet cute sort of way.  June finds Rodney parked out in front of her house using her electricity to charge his phone.  He has hooked himself up to her house.  Needless to say, several beers into her day, June is not pleased and threatens to call the police until Rodney offers to cut her grass and do odd jobs to "pay for the electricity."

So begins an unlikely and uneasy relationship and we slowly get to know them and how they ended up where they ended up.

Well, we do with June. Nothing can really explain Rodney.

Is it possible to be charming and annoying at the same time?  Well, this film has answered that question.  And the answer is yes.  Despite everything - and Rodney does some jaw-dropping stuff (just look up "upper decking") without any remorse whatsoever but he has a certain boyish charm and as you discover deep down a good heart. Very deep down but still...

But June isn't much better. 

So you have to ask yourself, how does one make a likable movie about two unlikable people?

Writers Jordon Hodges, Wyatt Aledort and director Michael A. MacRae
who also was one of the writers, have the answer here in this film - make it funny, fill it with some interesting and good actors and make some quirky plot choices that keep you watching and wanting to know more.

Speaking of good actors, I want to rant a bit about those smaller independent films out there.  And this is one of those.

We moviegoers tend to stick with big studio productions starring big name actors.  But in so doing, we miss some unique movie experiences. This film is an independent production starring relatively unknown actors, but that doesn't mean that just because you don't recognize their names, they are not good actors or that the film isn't worth checking out. Not everyone gets to be a Julia Roberts or a Tom Cruise, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve to be. There are many talented actors as well as directors and writers out there who are working continuously and doing good work, but not getting the recognition they deserve.  The film business is a tough and fickle one where luck and who you know plays as big a role as talent in whether or not you become a big name actor or your film gets the green light. So don't limit yourself to the big studio films and the names you know or you will be missing out on some enjoyable movie experiences.

OK, rant over.

So speaking of the stars, Steve Olson is a talented actor with a face that makes you feel you know him or at least someone like him.  He also has a great comedic face. You feel like you can see his mind working right before he does something outrageous. 
He reminded me of a young Charles Grodin in "The Heartbreak Kid." And Katherine Cortez is a talented actress who also has a special kind of face - and a special kind of voice - a face that has seen it all and a gravelly voice that unapologetically says it all. Both bring their talent and experience to this film to create some interesting, funny and memorable characters.

So how can you see this film?

More and more films are being released in formats other than through the big studios.  This film has not had wide theatre distribution but is available on Video on Demand, Amazon Prime and ITunes as well as on DVD and can be purchased at Target or from Amazon. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a reminder that not all of the great talent out there is confined to studio blockbusters.  This little film is worth looking for.

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


The Commuter (2018)

During his daily commute, an ex-cop turned insurance salesman gets involved in an intricate plot that he can't seem to get out of.

No one does worried like Liam Neeson.  

He would have a worried look even if he was sitting with a cocktail on a sunny terrace in St. Tropez.  But he has reason to be worried.  He has been through the proverbial mill.  He has had to use "his particular set of skills" to save his daughter and then his wife when they were "taken," he has been chased  by wolves ("The Grey"), and he has had the weight of the Holocaust ("Schindler's List") and the Irish Civil War ("Michael Collins") on his shoulders, not to mention a bunch of other thrillers too numerous to mention, and now, just when everything has settled down a bit and he is living a normal life as an ex-cop/insurance salesman, minding his own business on his commuter train, he gets involved in a huge, deadly conspiracy. Liam once again has a reason to be worried.  But you don't, because you get to enjoy the ride.

Michael MacCauley (Neeson) is just a guy trying to make a living and live his life.  He gets up every day at 6 a.m. to begin his day and catch his commuter train.  He lives a typical suburban life with a loving wife (Elizabeth McGovern) and a kid heading for college. But one day while minding his own business on his daily commute he is approached by Joanna (Vera Farmiga), a woman he has never seen on the train before.  She sits down across from him and, after some pleasantries, she tells him she studies human behavior and her job is to answer one basic question: "What kind of a person are you?" 

She then goes on to say:

"Let's do an experiment.  What if I asked you to do something that could profoundly affect an individual on this train. It's just one little thing.  Someone on this train does not belong, all you have to do is find them. In the bathroom there is $25,000. That money is yours if you do this one little thing. You have until the next stop to decide.  What kind of a person are you?"

She adds that it's $25,000 now and another $75,000 when the mission is completed. And then Joanna disappears. But we haven't heard the last of her.

This encounter starts a series of events that lead Michael on the wildest commuter ride of his life. Who is the person he is looking for?  And why?  And what do these people want to do with that person once he finds him or her?  Well, he discovers it's not good.

Michael finds the money and he suddenly realizes that this task is not optional, and he is not only supposed to find the person but he doesn't have much time to get it done.  As time ticks by, he discovers that "they" know everything about him and his wife is in danger.  Now this film starts to feel like "Taken," except on a commuter train.  I kept waiting for him to make a call and threaten the bad guys with "his particular set of skills." 

Why him?  Why was Michael targeted on this particular day as he lived his regular life?

Well, he does have money problems.  A montage gives us some background on Michael: Every morning he gets up and gets on that train in all kinds of weather.  No matter what, he gets up and gets on that train.  His Dad died when he was young and Michael grew up in poverty and he was hurt financially by the 2008 bust, so he worries about money.  And at the age of 60, five years from retirement, he has been laid off, so $100,000 would certainly solve Michael's money problems.

One can't help thinking that this whole film is a metaphor for the repetitive, boring, routine lives that we live. Do we wish for a little adventure?  Well, maybe not this much of an adventure.  It also seems to be asking the question: how much do we really know about the people we commute with every day on the train or bus?  And the film is also a moral question - do we do something for money knowing that someone might die because of it?

Written by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, the film is taut and exciting which is not easy when all of the action is confined to a couple of train cars. The editing is particularly good, building suspense as people get on and off the train and Michael interacts with them as he tries to determine who he is looking for until we are finally down to a small number, all sitting in the same train car. The film is almost like an Agatha Christie mystery where all of the suspects are rounded up into one room only here it's a commuter train car.  But it's also very Hitchcockian with a touch of "Runaway Train."  

There is just all kinds of stuff for our Liam to do.  He has to find the person he is looking for, plant a tracking device, but then it turns out he has to save that person, then he has to save the train and then, now take a deep breath, he has to save his family!  Will he do it?  If you have ever seen a Liam Neeson movie you know the answer to that but as they say, "It's the journey (on the commuter train), not the destination." In this case, anyway.

Oh, and here's a little bit of a spoiler...remember what I always say about the bad guys being big name actors with really small parts?  Mmmm...

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like a worried Liam Neeson in thriller mode, you will enjoy this film.

American Assassin (2017)

A young man whose girlfriend is killed by terrorists wants revenge and finds himself recruited by the CIA.

Mitch Rapp (Dylan O'Brien) has just proposed to his girlfriend, Katrina (Charlotte Vega), and the two are happily cavorting on a tropical island, when - uh oh - terrorists flood the beach and kill everyone there.  Katrina is killed but somehow Mitch survives. 
Eighteen months later, Mitch has recovered physically but is so messed up emotionally that he doesn't feel he has much to live for. He is really, really mad and has been working out, bulking up and practicing his martial arts skills so he can seek revenge. He is on track to join an Isis like group so he can kick their butts as redemption for Katrina.  Instead he is targeted by the CIA as a black ops recruit and much like "The Kingsman," an ordinary guy is turned into a skilled spy and fighting machine.  But Mitch has an attitude.  He doesn't care as much about fighting for his country as getting revenge for the murder of Katrina so he's not a particularly easy guy to get along with.

Mitch is trained Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton), a former U.S. Navy Seal and major bad ass who puts Mitch through hell.  If you saw "Red Sparrow," Mitch's training is similar to what Jennifer Lawrence had to go through with Charlotte Rampling, except without the sex part.

Anyway, after Mitch proves himself worthy his task is to find a rogue CIA guy who they call Ghost (Taylor Kitsch), who has stolen some plutonium and plans to sell it to Iran, though we find out later he really is a rogue and wants it for himself so he can mess up the U.S.  And we don't want that, now do we? And since the guy who stole the plutonium is also someone who Hurley trained, we know he is also a badass. And he also has a major axe to grind with Hurley because, well, I guess he didn't like Stan's training methods.

Anyway, Ghost gets his hands on Hurley and there are some very, very uncomfortable torture scenes - uncomfortable for Hurley but just as uncomfortable for those of us watching. I don't like those torture scenes. 

Written by Stephen Schiff, Michael Finch, Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz (based on the novel by Vince Flynn) and directed by Michael Cuesta, this is one of those films where you can't tell the bad guys from the really bad guys.  It's also a film that's been done before (cough - Jason Bourne), and it had some "huh?" moments such as how did the CIA even find Mitch and know that he was a badass? But despite some flaws, the film nicely showcases young Dylan O'Brien, who made his mark in the "Maze Runner" films and, it also lets Michael Keaton chew the scenery and act like a badass too. 

Rosy the Reviewer...a run-of-the-mill spy film but I actually knew what was going on most of the time, which doesn't happen often with some of those really muddled, overly complicated spy films, so that's a good thing.  And I smell a franchise since Flynn wrote several books in this series which could be a bad thing.  But if you like lots of action, which this film has, you might enjoy this film.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

142 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

L'Argent (1983)

A forged $500-franc note is passed from person to person and eventually leads to tragedy.

As French directors go, I thought it was Godard who I really, really didn't get or like but seeing this film, I was reminded that Bresson was actually the one I had more of a problem with (if you are really cool and know all about French cinema, you only call these guys by their last names).  I keep giving him more and more chances even though I have found his films to be difficult, to say the least.  And this one is no exception.

Inspired by Tolstoy's short story "Counterfeit Bill," two young middle class French boys who need some money make a counterfeit bill and are able to pass it off to a young woman in a photo shop by buying a picture frame.  When the shop owner discovers the bad bill he is angry with the young woman but she reminds him that he had accepted two bad bills the week before so the shop owner decides to pass off all three bad bills. 

Enter Yvon (Christian Patey), a hapless deliveryman who is about to enter hell.

The shopkeeper pays Yvon for heating oil with the counterfeit bills and when Yvon, in turn, tries to use them at a restaurant, the restaurant owner discovers that they are counterfeit and Yvon is arrested. The case goes to court and the store owner lies and, though Yvon avoids jail time, he loses his job.  So now he is ripe to get involved in a robbery where he drives the getaway car.  Naturally, he gets caught and this time he goes to prison for three years.  In the meantime, his daughter dies and his wife leaves him.  Can things get any worse for Yvon?  Why yes, they can.  Much worse.

Bresson does some interesting things filmically (he likes to use windows to frame shots and linger on doors and other inanimate objects - that kind of thing), and though I enjoy interesting and creative visuals, I find his films to just be very, very slow to get to the point.  His actors are not usually actors but regular people he likes to put in his films and this doesn't often work. Here, the acting is very stiff and all of the actors walk around like zombies.

So I guess the moral here is that money is the root of all evil which we knew all along because the Bible told us so.  The quote is actually the love of money is the root of all evil, but same thing.

Why it's a Must See: "Here we intuit the profound mystery of beings who move through landscapes of dehumanizing violence with their capacities for evil and goodness locked silently inside them -- and we witness fleeting moments of absolute, natural purity in a world gone to hell."

---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...oh, ok, so that's what it was about.  Watching this film, I thought that I had gone to hell.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 

"Breaking In"

The Week in Reviews

(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

I Die Project." 

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Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.