Ep. 143 – Jumanji: The Next Level, Richard Jewell, 6 Underground, and the HFCS award noiminees

December 16, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod review “Jumanji: The Next Level,” “Richard Jewell,” and “6 Underground.”

They also discuss the newly-released Houston Film Critics Society award nominees, and how their picks differed from the final ballot.

Click here to download the episode!

Ep. 139 – Jojo Rabbit, Dolemite Is My Name, The King, and an Austin Film Festival recap

November 4, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Jerrod returns from his Japanese honeymoon to hear about Cody’s time at the Austin Film Festival. They also review Jojo Rabbit, Dolemite Is My Name, and The King.

Click here to download the episode!


May 29, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jared Harris
Directed by: Gil Kenan (“Monster House”)
Written by:  David Lindsay-Abaire (“Oz the Great and Powerful”)

The original “Poltergeist” film from 1982 boasts none other than Steven Spielberg as its co-writer, and the king of 1980s suburbia on film has his fingerprints all over the classic horror movie.  Spielberg’s influence is so heavy that rumors persist that he was the real director of the film, taking charge when credited director Tobe Hooper was indecisive or slow to react. With height-of-his-powers Spielberg behind the camera, the influence of the film reverberated through the horror genre for years, so much so that the remake hitting theaters in 2015 feels less like a retread of the first “Poltergeist” and more like a cheap copy of the dozens of films that followed it, borrowing and re-arranging the formula along the way.

After financial hardships necessitate move to a smaller house, the Bowen family (led by Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie Dewitt) start to notice strange things happening in their new home. Strange noises come from the walls, comic books stack themselves in intricate house of cards formations, and a box of creepy clowns falls from the rafters. Soon, youngest daughter Maddy (Kenndi Clements) begins talking to some unseen voices in the TV, and is later sucked through a portal that appears in her closet. In an effort to get their daughter back, the Bowens enlist the help of a university paranormal research team and a TV ghost hunter (Jared Harris) to rid the house of the evil spirts.

Dull and uneventful, this remake seems to be going through the motions more than anything else. Plot details are changed from the original film for no reason other than to be different, and the setting is changed to the present day, a difference that renders the strange alien static of old analog TVs moot. Director Gil Kenan and producer Sam Raimi were chosen by the studio to create a “revisionist” take on the story, but all they’ve managed to do is further cement the original movie as a horror classic.

Better Living Through Chemistry

March 14, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Monaghan
Directed by: Geoff Moore and David Posamentier (debut)
Written by: Geoff Moore and David Posamentier (debut)

As he did with the independent comedy “The Way, Way Back” last year, actor Sam Rockwell’s performance keeps a pair of first-time directors from striking out with their debut film “Better Living Through Chemistry,” a dark comedy Rockwell owns despite the script’s numerous shortcomings.

In the film, Rockwell plays Doug Varney, a small-town pharmacist who is looked down upon by everyone in his life, including his athletic wife Kara (Michelle Monaghan) and father-in-law and former boss Walter (Ken Howard), who, after retiring, sells his pharmacy to Doug, but refuses to let him change the name. Doug, although he is an “authentically nice guy,” is weak and his life is unfulfilled. But when he meets a new and very attractive resident of his small town, Elizabeth Roberts (Olivia Wilde), he finds a new zest for life he never knew he had in him.

It’s unfortunate, however, the same zest can’t be found in the pages of first-time directors/writers Geoff Moore and David Posamentier’s screenplay. Doug’s nice-guy persona works well for Rockwell and it’s great to watch him flex his muscles when Doug finally breaks, but few, if any, of the underwritten secondary characters give him much support. Overall, it’s the tone of Moore and Posamentier’s film that can’t cement itself into one particular genre with much conviction. At times, the dark comedy elements seem like they want to push outside the limited sphere the co-writers have created, but the darker humor and on-the-edge characterizations never expand into much.

It takes Rockwell to craft his lead role into a likeable and believable character to make “Chemistry” really snap together. By the time that happens, Jane Fonda has made an on-camera cameo (added to her role as narrator of the film, which turns out to be unrewarding) and the picture just sort of dissolves from memory like Aspirin in water.

The Way, Way Back

July 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney
Directed by: Jim Rash (debut) and Nat Faxon (debut)
Written by: Jim Rash (“The Descendants”) and Nat Faxon (“The Descendants”)

In 2011, writing partners Jim Rash and Nat Faxon burst onto the scene by taking home an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for the film ‘The Descendants.” Known mostly for their bit parts in TV and film, the two collaborated with veteran director Alexander Payne (“Sideways”) and became a hot Hollywood commodity following their success. Going behind the camera for the first time, Rash and Faxon unleash their directorial debut, the coming-of-age summer tale, “The Way, Way Back.”

In the film, 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) goes on a summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her annoying boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) who criticizes Duncan whenever he can. When they get to their beach house, Duncan feels out of place, finding only a little bit comfort when talking to his neighbor, Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb). While exploring the beachtown, Duncan stumbles across Water Wizz, a waterpark  run by a fun-loving and mildly lazy man named Owen (Sam Rockwell). As Duncan begins secretly working there, he finally finds a true connection with Owen and a hide out where he doesn’t feel like a complete loser.

Led by James, who is in nearly every scene the film, the young actor seems far less experienced than his past screen experience would indicate. His delivery throughout the film is incredibly unnatural and although his character is clearly meant to be an awkward teenager, James’ performance seems more on the side of a poor performance. While some of the secondary cast like Rash and Faxon are decent, the ever-reliable Rockwell keeps the film at a watchable level. Even though Rockwell’s character isn’t the strongest written, his on-screen charisma, which has become so consistent in his career, works like the film’s life vest and keep it’s head above water. His overgrown laziness and wit really work in some of his scenes with James. As one of the most under-appreciated actors working today, Rockwell simply needs somebody to give him the opportunity to shine in a bigger role.

As a whole, there is a certain unpolished sense that lingers through “The Way, Way Back.” Much of the dialogue is cliché and jokes frequently miss their mark. The film is also filled with half-hearted relationships that are never fleshed out or explored beyond surface level. Duncan’s relationship with Susanna and particularly Trent ring completely untrue. In fact, the only believable relationship is between Duncan and Owen, who really find their chemistry when they share the screen.

The film wraps up with a scene involving a waterpark legend that ends up being anti-climatic and lame rather than the larger than life moment it shoots for. When all is said and done, one really wonders how much work Payne did on his own for “The Descendants.” “The Way, Way Back” is in dire need to have someone else go through it with a finely-toothed comb. Rash and Faxon’s hearts may be in the right place, but even with Oscar statues in hand, their work as storytellers on their own is average at best.

Seven Psychopaths

October 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken
Directed by: Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”)
Written by: Martin McDonagh (“In Bruges”)

In a scene pulled straight from the Quentin Tarantino playbook, “Seven Psychopaths” opens with two assassins having an innocuous, and quite funny conversation about shooting people through the eyeball. It’s unique, quick-witted and sets the tone for the rest of the film. It’s also incredibly well-written, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the source. After writer and director Martin McDonagh made his mark as an accomplished playwright and wrote and directed his Academy Award-winning short film “Six Shooter,” McDonagh wrote and directed his first feature, 2008’s “In Bruges,” which won him critical acclaim and a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination. Though less successful than his first film, “Seven Psychopaths” still carries some of the traits that make McDonagh stand out as a true talent.

“Seven Psychopaths” follows Marty Faranan (Colin Farrell), a screenwriter struggling to pen his next film. Marty’s friend Billy Bickle, (Sam Rockwell) who desperately wants to help him write the script, works with his partner-in-crime Hans (Christopher Walken) to kidnap dogs for rewards. When Billy kidnaps a dog from angry gangster Charlie Costello (Woody Harrelson), Charlie will stop at nothing to get it back, bringing Marty, Hans and Billy into his sights.

Though it’s marketing materials make it seem like there is a giant ensemble cast, the film truly belongs to Farrell, Rockwell, Walken and a bit of Harrelson. While Farrell is good as the straight-man, Rockwell and Walken steal the movie. The grossly underrated Rockwell shines as the unstable and violence-obsessed Billy, executing stupidity and brash personality perfectly. Once again, Rockwell proves to be incredibly versatile and truly shows his capability of carrying a film. Though he doesn’t do much else than play a variation of his eccentric self, Walken soaks up McDonagh’s material and fits right in with his counterparts to form a great chemistry between the trio.

If there’s one thing that holds “Seven Psychopaths” back, it’s the films narrative ADD. Since there is a screenplay within the film, McDonagh shows scenes that function as Marty’s would-be movie intertwined with the dog-napping situation that is currently happening. Nonetheless, McDonagh’s best material comes in the scenes of Marty’s potential film, none better than a brilliantly written scene about a revenge seeking Quaker. In line with the dark comedic tone that McDonagh masters, there are plenty of memorable moments of sheer excessive comic violence. In a particularly uproarious scene,  Billy pitches his idea for the film that is so gloriously over the top, and expertly performed by Rockwell.

Fans of “In Bruges,” shouldn’t expect the levels of rapid-fire, whip-smart brilliance that McDonagh’s earlier film provided. What can be expected, however, is a unique, unapologetic, filthy and darkly funny movie experience. While there are some problems with “Seven Psychopaths,” particularly with the occasionally wobbly narrative structure and a stronger first half, the film succeeds on McDonagh’s satirical and meta screenplay, which could possibly be a dark horse contender for another original screenplay nomination come Oscar time.


October 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver
Directed by: Tony Goldwyn (“The Last Kiss”)
Written by: Pamela Gray (“Music of the Heart”)

Rarely do we see a brother and sister relationship like the one we get in “Conviction,” a true story based on the life of Massachusetts resident Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank), who in 1983 began an 18-year mission to help exonerate her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) from a wrongful murder conviction.

While the film manages to keep this devoted relationship at the core of the narrative and never skulk into areas of over-sentimentality, the emotional tug-o-war during Betty’s life-long journey is as conventional of a biopic as they come. Without Swank and Rockwell there at the forefront to enhance the script’s more standard choices, the Waters family story might have been better fitted for an updated “60 Minutes” news report.

It takes two years for police to officially arrest Kenny, put him on trial, and ultimately give him a life sentence for the murder of a local woman. Once in prison, Betty makes a deal with her brother after he attempts to take his own life. She promises if he never attempts suicide again she will do everything it takes to become a lawyer and find a way to clear him of the murder charges.

Eighteen years is condensed into nearly two hours as we watch Betty, a high school dropout, start by earning her GED then bachelor’s and eventually make her way into law school. There she meets best friend and voice of reason Abra Rice (Minnie Drive), who stands by Betty and her seemingly impossible goal.

But as most people who know how this story actually ends, Betty, with the help of Innocence Project founder Barry Scheck (Peter Gallagher), is able to find the evidence she needs to prove Kenny’s innocence after she passes the bar exam. Supporting actresses Melissa Leo and Juliette Lewis play adequate antagonists; Leo as a corrupt policewoman with a grudge against Kenny and Lewis as a vindictive witness who lies during her testimony.

Directed by Tony Goldwyn (“The Last Kiss”) from a script by Pamela Gray (“Music of the Heart”), “Conviction” is a timely drama that will spark debate about the justice system and spotlight an organization like the Innocence Project that has since facilitated the release of over 250 wrongfully-accused individuals.

Aside from its good intentions, it’s the combination of Swank and Rockwell that are the saving grace of a film that is simply missing some key uplifting moments. Even with a hopeful ending (a conclusion controlled for Hollywood standards since the real-life story is much more tragic), “Conviction” is only somewhat successful in adapting a story ripped straight from the headlines.

Iron Man 2

May 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell
Directed by: Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”)
Written by: Justin Theroux (“Tropic Thunder”)

If personality makes up the majority of a superhero’s likability, Iron Man should be considered the Marvel comic book character you’d love to hate.

That’s not to say two-time Academy Award-nominated actor Robert Downey Jr. has lost all the charisma that made the 2008 original blockbuster film so downright entertaining and original. Even when Downey Jr. isn’t donning the maroon and gold mechanical suit that transforms him into a weapon of mass destruction, he has another captivating persona he can fall back on.

Meet Tony Stark. While you might know him from the first “Iron Man,” the sequel, aptly called “Iron Man 2,” allows us to meet the man inside the machine on a more personal level. In the film, Tony seems to be running on fumes. As Iron Man, he can still hold his own against anyone that comes his way, but as a mortal, the genius billionaire industrialist has a serious problem.

The power source embedded in his chest, which is keeping him alive, is also slowly poisoning him. Along with his health issues, Tony is butting heads with the U.S. Senate, who wants him to turn over his Iron Man machinery. The Senate says his invention is a threat to national security especially if a country decides to copy the technology and use it against the U.S.

Tony refuses to relinquish his work stating that it would take years for someone to duplicate what he has done. He is oblivious to the fact that Russian physicist Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) has already engineered his own version of the suit and fastened it to himself to transform into the electromagnetic super villain known as Whiplash. When he teams up with Tony’s major weapons competitor Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), the two set out to develop an army of drones that would take the arms race by storm.

Replacing Terrance Howard from the original, Don Cheadle plays Lt. Col. James Rhodes, who later attempts to put a stop to Tony’s destructive ways caused by his alcohol problem. Although he manages to spiral downward fairly quickly, love interest Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) doesn’t give up on him that easy. Neither does S.H.I.E.L.D. front man Nick Fury (Samuel L.  Jackson) who makes sure Tony’s talents aren’t wasted. His stubbornness to join the secret agency known as the Avengers will be short-lived since all these Marvel movies are linking together for one giant superhero reunion in the next few years.

No matter what is being planned for the future, “Iron Man 2” is able to stand on its own. It works well with enough action sequences, fight scenes and some interesting characters, none of which match the humor and charm of Downey Jr. who again makes the movie his own personal and egotistical show.

Everybody’s Fine

December 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert De Niro, Kate Beckinsale, Drew Barrymore
Directed by: Kirk Jones (“Nanny McPhee”)
Written by: Kirk Jones (“Nanny McPhee”)

If you don’t pick up the phone and call your mother and father and tell them how much you love them immediately after watching “Everybody’s Fine,” you just might be like that rotten ol’ Grinch with a heart three sizes too small. While there are moments in the Christmas dramedy that might feel familiar, the film’s sweet-natured doctrine – along with Robert De Niro’s reserved performance – is cozier than a pair of warm cotton socks.

In “Everybody’s Fine,” De Niro plays Frank Goode, a retired widower, who we learn has supported his family his entire life working in a factory where his job was to coat telephone wire to protect it from the harsh elements. In essence, Frank is one of the small cogs that make telephone communication possible across the country.

But while Frank has spent his life connecting families with each other, he can’t seem to break through to his own grown kids. All four of them – who live in different cities – have called at the last minute to cancel their trip to see him for Christmas. Instead of waiting around for the next holiday visit, Frank decides – against his doctor’s orders – to drop in an surprise each of them. Frank wants to know that everyone is fine. It’s going to take more than a phone call to convince him. He wants to see it for himself.

But as he make his one-man adventure, much like Jack Nicholson in “About Schmidt” but without the dark humor, Frank realizes there is something wrong although he can’t quite put his finger on what it is. His first visit to his son David in New York City comes up empty when he never finds him at his apartment. The rough start doesn’t let up as Frank continues his journey to visit his two daughters – Amy (Kate Beckinsale) in Chicago and Rosie (Drew Barrymore) in Las Vegas – and his other son Robert (Sam Rockwell) in Denver.

Each city brings with it its own letdowns. Amy’s home life isn’t perfect, Rosie’s dream to be a dancer has fallen short, and David isn’t the conductor of an orchestra like his father thought he was. They’re all revelations that had been kept from Frank since it was always his late wife his kids opened up to. Frank wonders what else his own children haven’t told him. “I tell you the good news and spare you the bad,” Amy tells her father during one scene.

Adapted from the 1990 Italian film “Stanno tutti bene,” which stars three-time Oscar nominee Marcello Mastroianni, “Everybody’s Fine” is a subtle drama that’s glossed over a bit too much by director Kirk Jones (“Nanny McPhee”) but manages to pluck enough heartstrings without becoming cloying.

There’s plenty of tonal indecision by Jones especially on a metaphorical level, but there is still a nice message that gets through all the excess baggage the script carries: No matter how hard you support and love your children, sometimes things don’t work out quite the way you anticipated. The central theme to “Everybody’s Fine” is a great one for the holiday season when families should always reevaluate their priorities for the New Year.


July 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Bill Nighy, Will Arnet, Zach Galifianakis
Directed by: Hoyt Yeatman (debut)
Written by: Cormac Wibberley (“National Treasure”), Marianne Wibberley (“Bad Boys II”), Ted Elliott (“The Legend of Zorro”), Terry Rossio (“Déjà Vu”), Tim Firth (“Confessions of a Shopaholic”)

Hear that laughter? There might be a few children in the audience who are easily-entertained by the antics of the fluffy computer-generated guinea pigs that star in the new family adventure “G-Force,” but most of the giggling is coming from producer Jerry Bruckheimer as he strolls all the way to the bank.

As unbelievable as it is, the producer, who is known mostly for mindless action flicks like “Armageddon” and “Gone in Sixty Seconds,” has found another way to fill his pockets all while releasing projects with the entertainment value of a rusty jack in the box. Earlier this year, Bruckheimer jumped genres and released the subpar romantic comedy “Confessions of a Shopaholic.” Now, it’s on to live-action/animation with “G-Force.”

It’s true, Bruckheimer has been down this avenue before, but a computer-generated kangaroo really didn’t do well for him in 2003’s box office and critical bomb “Kangaroo Jack.” In “G-Force,” he and first-time director and visual effects icon Hoyt Yeatman (he won an Oscar for “The Abyss”) shrink the heroes into cuddly rodents with “Mission Impossible” tendencies. Did we mention it’s in 3-D?

The story follows a group of secret agent guinea pigs – voiced by Sam Rockwell, Tracy Morgan, and Penelope Cruz – who try to stop an evil home appliance industrialist (Bill Nighy) from taking over the world. Zach Galifianakis plays the FBI agent who trains the furball trio and the rest of the team, which includes Speckles the Mole (Nicolas Cage, who does some nice voice work) and a housefly named Mooch. Galifianakis, the star of the surprise summer hit “The Hangover,” however, is wasted as is the rest of the human cast. All are lost in a pointless script that relies on stale pop-culture references most kids won’t understand. And don’t say those references are there so parents in the audience don’t go crazy from boredom. If the mental well-being of moms and dads was really a concern, the rest of the movie would’ve at least tried to be entertaining for someone above the age of five.

While the guinea pigs themselves are impressive in terms of quality of graphics, the five screenwriters who churned out “G-Force” don’t give them much to do or say other than the basic action-star drills, stereotypical dialogue, and more than occasional act of flatulence. Guinea pigs were just so much cuter when they were voiceless pets who slept most of the day.


March 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Dominique McElligott, Kevin Spacey (voice)
Directed by: Duncan Jones (debut)
Written by: Nathan Parker (debut)

Reminiscent of early episodes of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone,” the new science fiction film “Moon” is a refreshing addition to a genre usually reserved these days for million-dollar special effects and overly-scripted premises. With “Moon,” debut feature director Duncan Jones gives us one of the most minimalistic and stimulating narratives since 2002’s underappreciated “Solaris.”

In “Moon,” the same deep emotions are layered throughout the story just like Steven Soderbergh’s remake of seven years ago. It’s not necessarily as haunting of an experience, but Jones is able to pick away at our psyche little by little to keep us intrigued by the eeriness of it all.

The film begins with an introduction to Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), an astronaut who has inhabited a space station for almost three years mining for a much-needed power source for earth. Alone for the entire duration of his mission, Sam get through the days by watching old TV sitcoms, exchanging messages via video feed with his wife and daughter on earth, and talking to the space station’s main computer GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey). Unlike Tom Hanks communicates with his volleyball Wilson in “Castaway,” at least GERTY speaks back.

Coming to the end of his contract with the company that sent him into space, Sam is eager to get back to earth after three long years in solitary confinement. A man can only take so much ping-pong playing with a wall and talking to a mainframe whose emotional outbursts are limited to computer-generated facial expressions.

Sam’s mission is derailed, however, when he mysteriously wakes up in the station’s infirmary after crashing his rover during an excavation on the surface of the moon. When he returns to the crash site to investigate, he discovers something that makes him question his sanity and even his own existence.

Cleverly-written and well-paced, “Moon” is anchored by a top-notch performance by Rockwell, his best since 2002’s “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.” As Sam attempts to piece together what he is experiencing aboard a station, Rockwell slowly unravels his character to his rawest form. Director Duncan magnifies this by giving us thought-provoking scenarios that will have you talking long after you’ve left the theater.


September 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kelly MacDonald, Anjelica Huston
Directed by: Clark Gregg (debut)
Written by: Clark Gregg (“What Lies Beneath”)

Think of the more racy scenes and dialogue in David Fincher’s “Fight Club,” (i.e. Helena Bonham Carter pronouncing that she hasn’t “been fucked like that since grade school”) and you’ll get an idea of where “Choke” is coming from.

Adapted from the warped psyche of Chuck Palahnuik, the same author who introduced us to Tyler Duran and “Jack’s smirking revenge,” “Choke” tells the story of medical school dropout and sex addict Victor Mancini (Sam Rockwell), a historic interpreter at a Colonial theme park, who has far more problems in his life than imagining every female topless that he sees (including nuns).

His mother Ida (Anjelica Huston), is not winning her battle with Alzheimer’s and doesn’t know who Victor is when he sporadically visits her at the expensive mental hospital he has arranged for her to stay. Now, don’t be fooled into thinking that by tossing on a coat and cravat and pretending to be from the 18th century he can afford mommy’s private health care. Instead, Victor, who spends most of his free time with fellow sex addict Denny (Brad William Henke), performs an elaborate scheme to earn extra money to pay for his mother’s fancy living arrangements.

His scam: While dining in upscale restaurants, he makes himself choke by lodging a piece of food toward the back of his throat. He then proceeds to stumble around looking for a well-to-do sucker who will save him. By doing this, Victor creates a lifelong bond with his “savior” and later dupes the do-gooder out of cash by creating a sob story about his depressing life.

Yes, Victor is an asshole and he knows it. He also doesn’t apologize for it, even when he seems to want to change for the better. When he meets Paige Marshall (Kelly MacDonald), a lovely young nurse working at his mother’s rest home, there is a sign that Victor could kill us with kindness. You shouldn’t hold your breath, however.

While “Choke” plays out like a perverse fantasy from almost every angle, the comedic exchanges and dialogue are so well-crafted that a human element actually rears its head from its darkest corners. It starts with Rockwell’s performance as the potential son of Christ (his mother’s diary explains the whole insane story), a twist in the script that pushes “Choke” from distasteful to blasphemous. Rockwell, however vulgar he can get, manages to make us sympathize with his whorish character, which isn’t an easy task.

If you are easily offended, a compassionate reaction probably won’t happen and “Choke” definitely isn’t something you’d enjoy. But if you can find sweetness in even the sourest of fruits, you should let Palahnuik corrupt your mind for at least a couple of dysfunctional hours.

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