Tag Archives: Steve Zahn

Safe Men (1998, John Hamburg)

For a stupid comedy, Safe Men is pretty good.

Hamburg’s well-aware of what he’s doing and the film is stupid in a funny way. It’s about, basically, eight men and they’re all pretty dumb to a certain degree. Of the two smartest, one is a kid and the other is Steve Zahn, who’s character is in the film only to make the plot work in the third act.

Zahn and Sam Rockwell are a singing duo who model their dress after barbershop quartets (though there’s only two of them) and do inept low-key covers. The music angle isn’t important other than they’re bad (Hamburg even forgets he was going to bring it back at the end). They end up mistaken for safe crackers, which brings Paul Giamatti and Michael Lerner into the film.

Giamatti, who’s hilarious, plays Lerner’s well-meaning, if idiotic lackey. Lerner’s funny but mostly because of Hamburg’s dialogue (it’s well-written dumb content).

However, in smaller roles as the real safe crackers, Mark Ruffalo (in one of his exception performances) and Josh Pais (good, but no Ruffalo), are in the film as well.

Hamburg structures it around conversations, mostly between the men, usually in pairs (though sometimes Michael Schmidt and Harvey Fierstein show up). Rockwell’s got a love interest—Christina Kirk—and she’s good… only she’s a real person among these moronic, genial men.

Rockwell does a decent job in a difficult part.

Safe Men’s short. It could’ve gone longer, but it would’ve lost something.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by John Hamburg; director of photography, Michael Barrett; edited by Suzanne Pillsbury and M. Scott Smith; music by Theodore Shapiro; production designer, Anthony Gasparro; produced by Ellen Bronfman, Jeffrey Clifford, Jonathan Cohen and Andrew Hauptman; released by October Films.

Starring Sam Rockwell (Sam), Steve Zahn (Eddie), Michael Lerner (Big Fat Bernie Gayle), Paul Giamatti (Veal Chop), Michael Schmidt (Bernie Jr.), Christina Kirk (Hannah), Mark Ruffalo (Frank), Josh Pais (Mitchell), Harvey Fierstein (Leo) and Michael Showalter (Larry).


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A Perfect Getaway (2009, David Twohy)

Watching “Damages,” it was always surprising to me what a good actor Timothy Olyphant has turned out to be. Before it, all I’d really seen him in (albeit a while ago) was Scream 2 and he’s absolutely terrible in that one. In A Perfect Getaway, he proves able to translate his ability into a more standard leading man type role. Olyphant makes the movie. When he and girlfriend Kiele Sanchez are offscreen, Getaway lacks, when they’re on, it works fine.

But Olyphant and Sanchez aren’t the leads in Getaway, Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich are the leads, which presents a bit of a problem, the not-as-charismatic people being the leads. Zahn’s good, maybe turning in the best performance I’ve seen him give since Out of Sight, when he established his persona. Getaway plays with it a bit. Jovovich is good too, but just like in her video game movies, the character doesn’t really offer her very much to do. It’s a technically superior performance, but Jovovich didn’t once surprise me. Of course she could do this role… Charlize Theron or Cameron Diaz could do it too and they’re both awful.

Twohy’s not a great director, but his half-noir in paradise, half-Hawaiian travelogue thing works for the first half, before he does his big twist. He gets in a couple solid screenwriting jokes, the kind of thing one can “appreciate” on a second viewing, but the cast and concept are strong enough he could have been straightforward.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by David Twohy; director of photography, Mark Plummer; edited by Tracy Adams; music by Boris Elkis; production designer, Joseph C. Nemec III; produced by Ryan Kavanaugh, Mark Canton, Tucker Tooley and Robbie Brenner; released by Rogue Pictures.

Starring Timothy Olyphant (Nick), Milla Jovovich (Cydney), Kiele Sanchez (Gina), Steve Zahn (Cliff), Marley Shelton (Cleo) and Chris Hemsworth (Kale).


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Speak (2004, Jessica Sharzer)

I love reviewing the unexpected film, I love finding new filmmakers to watch. Still, I find Speak odd choice. I only bookmarked the film because D.B. Sweeney and Elizabeth Perkins play a married couple (I have a soft-spot for both)….

I first read about the film because of its broadcasting–it’s not a TV movie, but IMDb lists it as such. Showtime and Lifetime picked it up off the festival circuit and showed it simultaneously. I’m having a hard time constructing a review of the film (and hey, it was one I was going to simul-post on Blogcritics too), just because I don’t know how to talk about it without giving “it” away and the film does try to keep the viewer in a reasonable dark. Except it’s an adaptation of a young adult novel, but I’m not sure how many of my readers keep up with that medium.

I can say, nice and easy, that the lead, Kristen Stewart, is great. The only thing else I’ve seen her in was Panic Room and I don’t know if she was in the fifteen minutes I stayed in the theater for that one. Steve Zahn is not great. He’s trying way too hard and I had to look it up to remember that Out of Sight made him. Director and co-writer Jessica Sharzer has a great feel for directing. There are nice echoes throughout the film–which could, I suppose, be from the book, but I doubt it, because they seem so reflexive. Some people just know how long to hold a shot, how long to keep the music going, Sharzer seems to be one of those folks. Sometimes, however, the running time–ninety minutes–starts bumping into what the film wants to do and it hurts. But Sharzer tells a whole school year in ninety minutes and I buy it. There’s a lot in the film I don’t (and it’s not just because I’m a stickler about long present action), and that’s when the acting and Sharzer’s feel for directing come in.

Speak‘s a rewarding experience to be sure–there are just too many beautiful, quiet moments in it for the film not to be, particularly the relationship between the Stewart and her parents (Sweeney and Perkins). It reminds me of something I read about Rebecca Miller’s Personal Velocity, an online critic calling it a “Lifetime movie,” which made me think I need to see more Lifetime movies then. Speak isn’t exactly a Lifetime movie and it’s no Personal Velocity, but it’s good.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Jessica Sharzer; screenplay by Sharzer and Annie Young Frisbie, based on the novel by Laurie Halse Anderson; director of photography, Andrij Parekh; edited by Peter C. Frank; music by Christopher Libertino; production designer, Laura Ballinger; produced by Fred Berner, Matthew Myers and Matt Myers; released by Showtime Networks.

Starring Kristen Stewart (Melinda Sordino), Michael Angarano (Dave Petrakis), Robert John Burke (Mr. Neck), Hallee Hirsh (Rachel Bruin), Eric Lively (Andy Evans), Leslie Lyles (Hairwoman), Elizabeth Perkins (Joyce Sordino), Allison Siko (Heather), D.B. Sweeney (Jack Sordino) and Steve Zahn (Mr. Freeman).