Tag Archives: RZA

Mr. Right (2015, Paco Cabezas)

Mr. Right has shockingly poor direction. Daniel Aranyó makes the shots look good, though the CG-assisted bullet time thing is bad, and Tom Wilson’s editing is perfectly competent, but director Cabezas is really bad. He shoots the film with a Panavision aspect ratio and does not know what to do with that frame so it looks like, frankly, someone has cut the top and bottom off.

I suppose he does okay with the long shots. Or at least better with them than anything else. When Sam Rockwell, who plays the title character (he’s a hitman, it’s supposed to be an ironic moniker), dances around and beats guys up and then kills them? One can imagine how Mr. Right might work with a better director and a significant rewrite. Cabezas wastes the New Orleans location shooting; no one is supposed to be able to waste New Orleans location shooting.

The film also wastes Tim Roth, though maybe not. Maybe Roth has just gotten past the point of caring, which might explain his phoned in performance. At least Rockwell can be indifferent to the bad material and still enthusiastic. He does have to carry his love interest, Anna Kendrick, through a lot of the stupidity. Kendrick should be the film’s protagonist, but she’s not. Instead, she’s just the girl. It’s weird since the movie opens with her and she gets most of the first act.

Rockwell doesn’t even get a name until almost halfway into the picture, so it really ought to be Kendrick’s show. She’s affably annoying but she does try. Trying counts in a film like Mr. Right because actors trying is all there to a film when the direction is so hapless.

Good supporting turns from James Ransone and Anson Mount should help the film a lot more than they do. RZA is likable and almost good but not exactly. Max Landis’s script is all about broad humor and Cabezas can’t direct it. It’s astounding Rockwell is able to power his way through the material, even more impressive he’s able to bring his costars along with him. It’s unfortunate he has to carry Kendrick; she ought to have enough to do to get through on her own, but no. Landis and Cabezas give her less and less as the film goes on.

Also good support from Katie Nehra, who has a thankless part as Kendrick’s friend.

Michael Eklund is not good. It would help if he was good. He’s second fiddle to Ransone’s comedy villain.

Mr. Right has its charms–Rockwell and Kendrick, who don’t exactly have chemistry but they do appear to be having fun. While it should be much better, it could be a lot worse.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Paco Cabezas; written by Max Landis; director of photography, Daniel Aranyó; edited by Tom Wilson; music by Aaron Zigman; production designer, Mara LePere-Schloop; produced by Bradley Gallo, Michael A. Helfant, Rick Jacobs and Lawrence Mattis; released by Focus World.

Starring Sam Rockwell (Dancer), Anna Kendrick (Martha McKay), Tim Roth (Hopper), James Ransone (Von Cartigan), Anson Mount (Richard Cartigan), Michael Eklund (Johnny Moon), Katie Nehra (Sophie), Jaiden Kaine (Bruce) and RZA (Steve).


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Due Date (2010, Todd Phillips)

It would have been nice if they had credited Planes, Trains & Automobiles as the source material, since Due Date lifts the concept—high-strung guy on the road with an annoying, but secretly lovable fat guy.

Due Date stays close to the pattern; the fat guy has a lot of melodramatic angst fueling his actions. It does add Facebook references, American Pie-style humor and stunt casting. Wait, Planes, Trains had stunt casting too.

So, it’s hard to look at Due Date as original and harder to discuss it as such. Phillips treats it like “The Hangover on the road;” it bellyflops when too outlandish. It’s too real a situation not to wonder why Robert Downey Jr.’s character isn’t on the FBI’s most wanted list for causing an international incident.

Some of the problem is Downey. He’s funny, but inappropriate for an absurdist comedy. Even here, when he’s giving one of the most rote performances of his career, he’s stellar. He does stumble through some of his character’s worst scenes, but the writing there is so false, it’d be impossible for him to succeed.

Zach Galifianakis is an amiable fat guy. Dumb but lovable.

The supporting cast is made up of former Downey co-stars—Michelle Monaghan (who has absolutely nothing to do), Jamie Foxx (ditto) and Juliette Lewis (who is funny). Again, hard to think of it as an original film.

The ending is pretty good though. I just wish Phillips would realize he’s not a Panavision auteur.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Todd Phillips; written by Alan R. Cohen, Alan Freedland, Adam Sztykiel and Phillips, based on a story by Cohen and Freedland; director of photography, Lawrence Sher; edited by Debra Neil-Fisher; music by Christophe Beck; production designer, Bill Brzeski; produced by Phillips and Dan Goldberg; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (Peter Highman), Zach Galifianakis (Ethan Tremblay), Michelle Monaghan (Sarah Highman), Jamie Foxx (Darryl), Juliette Lewis (Heidi), Danny McBride (Lonnie) and RZA (Airport Screener).


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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999, Jim Jarmusch)

I’m having a hard time thinking of something to say about Ghost Dog. It’s perfect. Jarmusch doesn’t just do a bunch of good things or a bunch of right things. Every single thing he does is perfect. And Ghost Dog is perfect pretty early on too–in the first five or ten minutes, I was completely lost in the film. I’ve seen it before, but not since the theater, and I didn’t remember it being so unspeakably great. It’s impossible to describe the film. I could list aspects of it, I suppose. It’d be a long list and I’d forget something anyway, because Ghost Dog creates an experience quite unlike anything else, even from Jarmusch, because with Ghost Dog, he’s dealing with familiar genres. Ghost Dog is a gangster movie. It’s a Japanese gangster movie, except with Italian gangs, and a black hit man. I suppose one could interpret it as being about the uselessness of violence and while Ghost Dog isn’t hostile to such interpretation, I find thinking about the film unpleasant. I want to remember the way I felt watching it, sure, but I don’t want to analyze it too much. I don’t want to examine Jarmusch’s use of humor, his frequent theme of people separated language, or anything else. Yes, I want to remember Cliff Gorman rapping along with Flavor Flav, but I really think examining that scene and trying to deconstruct it… might ruin the fact Gorman’s got a great voice and hearing him rap and seeing him dance is really funny.

I was about to say listing the film’s best supporting performances would essentially be a cast list, but I think I will take a second to mention John Tormey. Tormey’s really the film’s second lead, after Forest Whitaker, who’s amazing. While Ghost Dog has a constrained set of emotions–ways of the samurai code–Tormey gets to go through an incredible range of emotion. Whitaker runs the film, however. Everything he does is done with such precision, it’s impossible to imagine him doing anything else in the scene, much less someone else playing the character.

There are some major contributing factors to Ghost Dog‘s excellence (well, Jarmusch hired everyone, so I guess he’s ultimately responsible), such as the location–Jersey City, which has a perfect mix of urban decay and bright green trees–and the music (by RZA) and, obviously, cinematographer Robby Müller.

It’s an amazing film.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch; director of photography, Robby Muller; edited by Jay Rabinowitz; music by RZA; production designer, Ted Berner; produced by Richard Guay; released by Artisan Entertainment.

Starring Forest Whitaker (Ghost Dog), John Tormey (Louie), Camille Winbush (Pearline), Cliff Gorman (Sonny Valerio), Frank Minucci (Big Angie), Isaach de Bankole (Raymond), Victor Argo (Vinny) and Damon Whitaker (Young Ghost Dog).


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