Tag Archives: Sam Rockwell

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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Poltergeist (2015, Gil Kenan)

It’s hard to imagine Poltergeist being any better. Even if director Kenan was any good, there’d still be David Lindsay-Abaire’s atrocious screenplay, and even if both those elements were any good, there’d still be the acting. And even if the acting was better–and a better script would probably help on that front–there’d just the photography and editing and music.

Poltergeist is so broken, there’s just no point in fixing it.

There’s no point in talking about Kenan at length. He’s bad with actors, he can’t make scary scenes, he can’t compose a shot. Without a major gimmick, there’s no point for a Poltergeist remake and Kenan’s got nothing. Unless the producers thought the problem with the original was it was too good so they figured out a way to make it bad (Lindsay-Abaire’s script plays like a truncated version of the original).

Are any of the actors good? No. Jane Adams is odd comic relief; in some ways, Jared Harris is the best as the celebrity ghost hunter just because he’s not so obviously phoning it in. Though it’s possible the reason Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt’s performances are so mediocre is because they could never figure out what Kenan was doing with the camera.

The film makes Rockwell and DeWitt’s son, Kyle Catlett, the ostensible protagonist. Except the film doesn’t seem to understand how protagonists work. Because it’s so inept.

Poltergeist is too incompetent a film to be a cynical remake. It’s actually rather pitiable.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Gil Kenan; screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on a story by Steven Spielberg; director of photography, Javier Aguirresarobe; edited by Bob Murawski and Jeff Betancourt; music by Marc Streitenfeld; production designer, Kalina Ivanov; produced by Sam Raimi, Robert G. Tapert, Nathan Kahane and Roy Lee; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Sam Rockwell (Eric Bowen), Rosemarie DeWitt (Amy Bowen), Jared Harris (Carrigan Burke), Jane Adams (Dr. Powell), Saxon Sharbino (Kendra), Kyle Catlett (Griffin), Nicholas Braun (Boyd), Susan Heyward (Sophie) and Kennedi Clements (Madison).

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002, George Clooney)

As the dangerous mind in the title (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), Sam Rockwell should be entirely unsympathetic. The film spends its first act mocking Rockwell and inviting the viewer to participate. With the exception of his chemistry with Drew Barrymore’s saintly character, there’s nothing redeeming about Rockwell’s character. Yet he’s tragically endearing.

The film is based on Chuck Barris’s autobiography, where the game show host says he worked as an assassin for the CIA. Charlie Kaufman’s script–and Clooney’s direction of that script–never really raises a question about it. Even though there are real entertainment people giving interviews (it opens with Dick Clark’s recollections of Barris), Clooney approaches the spy stuff straightforward. It’s the story of a successful showbiz guy who was a spy.

The conflicts caused by that absurd contradiction are where Confessions devastates. The relationship between Rockwell and Barrymore, which is a third plot line, separate from both the spy stuff and the TV stuff, doesn’t actually give the film its humanity, it gives it its emotional veracity. Rockwell, who’s phenomenal throughout, has a lot more acting hurdles to jump in the spy stuff–the TV stuff is almost straight comedy. The romance with Barrymore is a period piece but is intricately tied to the reality of the film.

It’s great. Clooney and Rockwell do a great job. Rockwell’s breathtaking, Barrymore’s good, Clooney’s got a small part, Julia Roberts has a small part–they’re both really good.

Confessions is flashy and noisy and precise and singular.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by George Clooney; screenplay by Charlie Kaufman, based on the book by Chuck Barris; director of photography, Newton Thomas Sigel; edited by Stephen Mirrione; music by Alex Wurman; production designer, James D. Bissell; produced by Andrew Lazar; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Sam Rockwell (Chuck Barris), Drew Barrymore (Penny Pacino), George Clooney (Jim Byrd), Julia Roberts (Patricia Watson) and Rutger Hauer (Keeler).


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Better Living Through Chemistry (2014, Geoff Moore and David Posamentier)

Given its ninety minute length and having Jane Fonda perform the comically explicit narration, it might be easy to dismiss–or just describe–Better Living Through Chemistry as a genial amusement. Certainly lead Sam Rockwell can do this role in his sleep. He's a small town pharmacist in a bad marriage (Michelle Monaghan is great as the controlling wife); his father-in-law runs his life, his teenage son is starting the awkward years, no one takes him seriously.

Except unhappily married trophy wife Olivia Wilde.

What actually makes Chemistry so different is how writers-directors Moore and Posamentier seem to have no idea what they're doing. There are all sorts of tangents the film goes on, all sorts of great little moments between Rockwell and Monaghan then later Rockwell and Harrison Holzer (as his son). It's all over the place, with the affair between Rockwell and Wilde ostensibly the foundation of the narrative.

Only it's not. It's a device to go into a series of rapid comic set pieces–as Rockwell tumbles out of control, only everything turns out to be regimented. All of these set pieces go well, thanks to Rockwell and his abilities in both physical comedy and just lovably obnoxious. There's no heavy lifting for the actors in Chemistry, except maybe Holzer, but strong, assured performances in a well-written, if unambitious picture, isn't a bad thing at all.

Nice supporting work from Norbert Leo Butz and Ken Howard rounds things off.

Chemistry is controlled and it's calculated and it pays off well.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Geoff Moore and David Posamentier; director of photography, Tim Suhrstedt; edited by Jonathan Alberts; music by John Nau and Andrew Feltenstein; production designer, Heidi Adams; produced by Joe Neurauter and Felipe Marino; released by Samuel Goldwyn Films.

Starring Sam Rockwell (Doug Varney), Olivia Wilde (Elizabeth Roberts), Michelle Monaghan (Kara Varney), Norbert Leo Butz (Agent Andrew Carp), Ben Schwartz (Noah), Ken Howard (Walter Bishop), Jenn Harris (Janet), Peter Jacobson (Dr. Roth), Harrison Holzer (Ethan Varney), Ray Liotta (Jack Roberts) and Jane Fonda (Jane Fonda).


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