Tag Archives: Bruce Willis

Robert Zemeckis

One thing that Zemeckis really has excelled at in his career is taking chances. He was the first director to make a major movie that had actors acting with cartoon characters. He was the first director to use technology that allowed the same actor to interact with himself as another character in the same shot. As a young director  he fired his primary actor who had shot nearly all of his scenes and replaced him. He made a movie where over half of it contains virtually no dialogue. He’s not a great director. He seems unable to elevate a mediocre script, leaving good actors out in the cold. But there’s a few things he’s good at, and he’s very good at them.

Death Becomes Her: Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn compete for Bruce Willis’s love, duking it out Mortal Kombat style as they’ve both consumed immortality treatments that literally makes them survive everything. This should have been good, but the script is really lacking. The special effects are good for the time but even at the age of twelve I was really unimpressed with everything.

Grade: F

What Lies Beneath: Michelle Pfeiffer has been seeing a ghost, so she investigates while her professor husband (Harrison Ford) suffers the consequences. It starts out interesting with some genuinely suspenseful scenes, and then completely derails in the final third.

Grade: D+

Forrest Gump: Tom Hanks is developmentally disabled and fatherless, learning his lessons in life from his mama Sally Field and his best friend Jenny (Robin Wright). Somehow he is able to join the Army in Vietnam, which leads to a number of crazy successes in life as he becomes a table tennis champion, inspires T-shirts, talks to JFK, runs his own shrimp company with the help of Army buddy Gary Sinise, and so on. It’s certainly engaging and the acting performances are top-notch, but as a dramatic story it does little for me. Plus, his relationship with Jenny really starts to make me uncomfortable by the end.

Grade: B-

Who Framed Roger Rabbit: A really cool premise, as the worlds of Hollywood and Toon Town literally meet. The plot is simply a standard detective story, but the jazz comes from real actors engaging with cartoons, completely unheard of 1988. Kathleen Turner does a good job as the sultry Jessica Rabbit, while Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd are capable acting with their toon co-stars. A bit of a novelty these days, but still watchable.

Grade: B-

Contact: Based on Carl Sagan’s story of a girl (Jodie Foster) whose father encourages her scientific spirit and then goes and dies on her, fueling her drive into an all-work, no-play life searching the stars. She discovers what is believed to be plans from an alien species to build a spaceship to go visit them. Politics soon enter the discussion which naturally miffs Foster. More drama than science-fiction, exploring and contrasting Foster’s atheist views to the politicians and other scientists who get to decide whether or not she’ll be allowed to make first contact. Matthew McConaughey is fine but he was miscast as Foster’s lover slash Christian counterpart. Foster is superb and really makes the movie watchable.

Grade: B

Back to the Future Part III: The final movie in the trilogy sees Marty and Doc end up in the Old West, trying to stay alive while figuring out how to get the Delorean to work with 1885 technology. As a western it’s a bit lacking, with an obvious set and a non-authentic atmosphere. As a time travel movie it’s lacking, as the movie focuses mostly on it being a western. However, as a character piece, it’s really quite good. Doc’s character grows by leaps and bounds as he falls in love with a schoolteacher (Mary Steenburgen) who was supposed to die, and Christopher Lloyd hits a home run with his performance. Unfortunately, Marty doesn’t really develop for the second movie in a row, and is there just for comic relief (which Fox is good at). Despite its flaws I can’t help but watch it whenever it’s on thanks to all of the charm. I just wish the ending was more satisfying.

Grade: A-

Back to the Future Part II: The second movie in the series is utterly preposterous, with the primary characters ignoring the obvious several times, making things harder on themselves just to serve the wacky plot, which sees our main characters time travel relentlessly. From a plot perspective, this movie is only here to set up the third movie. There’s no significant character development. However, it’s a hell of a lot of fun thanks to Zemeckis’ and Bob Gale’s vision of the future as well as forcing Marty and Doc to revisit 1955 and run into their own selves from the previous movie. Fox playing four separate characters (including his daughter) is also fun. Zemeckis is a master at exposition. So many times in these movies Doc has to go on a rant, trying to explain the intricacies of time travel to Marty (and the audience), and makes it interesting every time. Christopher Lloyd helps as usual, as he really becomes his character.

Grade: A-

Cast Away: Tom Hanks, a FedEx employee whose life is run by the clock, winds up the sole survivor of a plane crash and finds himself alone on an island without any communication to the civilized world. The movie is bookended by ho-hum drama elements involving Hanks’ relationship with Helen Hunt, but the hour and a half or so that focuses on Hanks’ struggles on the island (and getting off it) is brilliant movie-making. With the only dialogue being Hanks talking to himself (and even that goes away after a while), the movie must rely on Hanks’ acting and Zemeckis’ directing to explore the isolation, fear, and depression that Hanks goes through. They succeed.

Grade: A-

Back to the Future: The hallmark time travel movie (and my favorite movies) sees Michael J. Fox accidentally go back in time and accidentally prevent his parents from hooking up. After seeing this at least a hundred times, I can confidently say that Gale and Zemeckis created as flawless a script as possible. While it’s easily watchable for kids thanks to quotable one-liners, fun music and suspenseful action, there are layers and layers of intricacy weaved in to make it watchable by adults repeatedly. The movie never insults the viewer by overexplaining things, all the while effectively getting buy-in to this world where time travel is possible. Easter Eggs are plenty, and repeated viewings reveal double-meaning in nearly every line of dialogue. Zemeckis somehow manages to weave in incest themes without making it trite or uncomfortable. It also helps that Crispin Glover puts in a dynamite performance as Fox’s father. Despite the amazing scripts, I wonder how successful this would have been with a separate cast. I’ve seen a couple of scenes with Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly, and he just didn’t have the comedic energy that Fox has. Plus, Christopher Lloyd has to the best crazy scientist ever. He’s such a master at subtlety, which makes his over-the-top character work.

Grade: A+

Other Robert Zemeckis Movies You May Have Seen

A Christmas Carol (2009)
The Polar Express
Romancing the Stone
Used Cars

Terry Gilliam

Monty Python gang member Gilliam has had a pretty successful career doing pretty much everything. Not a lot of humor outside of Python; his dramatic movies have been better received.

The Adventures of Baron Munchausen: A fantasy m0vie about some guy. I’ve never been a fan of Gilliam’s fantasy worlds (I fell asleep watching Time Bandits) and this is no exception. Interesting casting with Jonathan Pryce, Sting, and Oliver Reed to name a few, but I was never intrigued.

Grade: D

Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Not my favorite Python movie, but it easily has the most iconic scenes and quotable one-liners. Uneven in pacing and continuity, but the good scenes are really funny. A good introduction to British humor.

Grade: B+

12 Monkeys: Bruce Willis, a prisoner, must travel back in time to the 90’s to find the cause of a virus that kills five billion people. Trippy time-travel stuff, solid plot, and excellent performances. One of the best of Willis’s career, and probably my favorite performance by Brad Pitt (a mental health patient) as well. Gilliam’s apocalyptic future is visually interesting.

Grade: A

Other Terry Gilliam Movies You May Have Seen

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
The Brothers Grimm
The Meaning of Life
The Fisher King
Time Bandits

Amy Heckerling

I think Heckerling is the only female director where I’ve seen at least three movies from. That’s kind of sad.

Look Who’s Talking: I pretty much hate talking babies, but Bruce Willis’s baby narration might be the least hate-able I’ve come across. John Travolta and Kirstie Alley have just enough chemistry together to keep this from being completely worthless.

Grade: D

A Night at the Roxbury: What’s up? Someone thought it was a good idea to take SNL’s Roxbury guys and give them 80 minutes. Not as awful as I expected, but it still remains a mostly one-joke premise so much of the movie drags. Will Ferrell, as usual, gives an enthusiastic performance which helps save things a bit.

Grade: D+

Clueless: Alicia Silverstone is the most popular girl and does all sorts of popular things and tries to help clueless people emulate her, until she realizes she needs a more spiritual makeover. Yeah, as if! Inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma. Alicia plays her role well and for the most part the performances are good, but the script seems dated, or at least underwhelming. When I see it I just think I’d rather be watching Mean Girls.

Grade: D+

Other Amy Heckerling Moves You May Have Seen

Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Look Who’s Talking Too
European Vacation
I Could Never Be Your Woman
Johnny Dangerously

Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino reportedly watched every single movie in his video store before he became a director. It wouldn’t surprise me, considering every eight seconds in his movies is an homage to something. Still, I never feel like he’s copying anything as his scripts are fresh and he finds ways to tell familiar stories in a way nobody has ever done. I’m sad I haven’t seen anything he’s made in the past ten years as I’m sure I’d love most of it.

Kill Bill: Volume 2: I enjoyed the trailer home scene and the ending quite a bit, but I was bored for most of this film.. Though I appear to be in the minority about this, so if you like the first movie, certainly don’t listen to me.

Grade: C

Kill Bill: Volume 1: I love how damn stylish this movie is, mixing martial arts within a suburban setting. I found myself smiling almost from beginning to end. The plot is intriguing, the fight between Uma Thurman and Vivica A. Fox is brilliant. the fight between Thurman and Lucy Liu is almost as good, and the scene in the board room still gives me goosebumps. However, the climax of the movie–a crazy, mother-of-all martial arts fight scenes–goes on too long for me, but your mileage certainly may vary. I definitely did not wait to pop in the sequel.

Grade: B

Reservoir Dogs: A veteran thief brings together six previously unacquainted criminals, who know each other only by their colors (e.g. Mr. Brown). They execute a jewelry heist (which we don’t see) that goes terribly wrong, so they begin to suspect that one among them is a police informant. Tarantino’s first movie is exceptional in its use of subtlety, symbolism, purposeful dialogue, and brutally honest character motivation. Almost the entire movie takes place in a warehouse where they all agree to meet after the heist. Despite being low on action, the movie is engaging and I was racking my brain the whole time. What a debut.

Grade: A-

Pulp Fiction: And what a sophomore effort. Told like a novel in where we get to know several seemingly unrelated characters, but when all the different story lines start coming together, it’s impossible to put the book down.The plot is difficult to describe without spending several paragraphs, but there’s hitmen, mob bosses, drugs, boxing, a record number of F-bombs, and one enormous MacGuffin. Tarantino single-handedly revived John Travolta’s career here, and the performances are great all-around. Won the award for Best Screenplay and deservedly so.

Grade: A+

Other Quentin Tarantino Movies You May Have Seen

Django Unchained
Inglourious Basterds
Death Proof
Sin City
Jackie Brown

John McTiernan

Focusing mainly on action flicks, John McTiernan had a fairly successful run of average to above-average movies that were generally well-received by fans and critics. It’s been ten years since he’s directed, and while I don’t know all the details, I imagine an ongoing trial related to lying to the FBI limited his ability to work in this capacity. He began serving his one-year sentence in April of this year.

It’s hard to say McTiernan gets the most of his actors, as pretty much everyone below I’ve seen do better elsewhere (with the possible exception of Alan Rickman). But he’s obviously skilled at directing stunts and special effects and it’s rare to be bored while watching one of his films.

Predator: Great sets, special effects and camerawork, along with the occasional good one-liner, help this action movie that really lacks in the acting department. The cinematic shining moment for my state’s former governor, for whatever that’s worth.

Grade: C

Die Hard: With A Vengeance: I saw this when it came out in 1995 having not seen any other in the movie in the series. I was underwhelmed. I felt the action scenes didn’t slow down long enough for me to enjoy them. I’d be willing to give it a second shot now that I’ve seen the first two.

Grade: C

The Hunt For Red October: The first of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels, The Hunt for Red October is a fairly gripping Cold War submarine story. Shortly, Sean Connery is a Soviet submarine captain who is heading directly for America, but to attack or defect? Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) is desperately trying to find out in time. Rough around the edges, but well-acted and suspenseful.

Grade: B

Die Hard: An evil group of baddies led by Alan Rickman take hostages in a skyscraper, including Bruce Willis’s wife. Willis spends the whole movie trying to save everyone and himself. The action is good, and unlike the third movie, there is room to breathe. Obviously some implausible moments, and the chief of police (among others in authority) is pointlessly obnoxious to make Willis and his sidekick look good, but it’s all made better by Alan Rickman, who plays a deliciously evil antagonist. One of my favorite action flicks. Yippy-ky-yay!

Grade: B+

Other John McTiernan Movies You May Have Seen

Medicine Man (I fell asleep halfway through and had no desire to finish it)
Last Action Hero
The 13th Warrior
The Thomas Crown Affair


Tony Scott

For the most part, Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott) stuck with the action/suspense/thriller genres. Dialogue often seems to just be filler in between action shots, at least for his earlier films. Looking at his career, he seemed to get better as he got older, the movies improving in quality regardless of the scripts he was using. Getting away from using Tom Cruise couldn’t have hurt, either. Scott passed away last year at the age of 68

Beverly Hills Cop 2: I honestly remember virtually nothing about this movie, other than I didn’t laugh much and whenever I flip by it on TV I don’t find myself laughing.

Grade: D-

The Last Boy Scout: The opening scene to this movie is awesome. A star football player finds out in the locker room that he’s S.O.L. with the wrong man. Back in the game, he catches a pass, makes a few good moves, then pulls out a freaking gun and shoots a bunch of defensive players, including one in the face; he scores a touchdown, kneels, then kills himself. Holeee shit. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get better after that. Bruce Willis plays buddy cop with Damon Wayans, delivers some corny one-liners amidst some awful clichés and decent action scenes. It’s fine, but it’s not Die Hard.

Grade: C-

Top Gun: All homo-erotica jokes aside (or perhaps because of them!), Top Gun is a decent time-waster when you want a testosterone laced dogfight. The dialogue is an extra helping of ham, and Tom Cruise’s character would be given a dishonorable discharge in reality–if not a fast trip to Fort Leavenworth–for the stunts he pulls. It’s a largely offensive movie with a terrible romantic subplot and a terrible romantic song, but the actors have a lot of fun with it and the action shots are top-notch. It’s not as fun or as dumb as Iron Eagle, but it’s a close second.

Grade: C

Crimson Tide: We move from battles in the sky to battles under the water. Hackman and Denzel are really fun to watch (“I’m the commander of this ship!”), and there’s a good sense of claustrophobia on the submarine. The military protocol broken is laughable, and the movie’s denouement is ridiculous, but it’s entertaining if you can look past those things.

Grade: B

Enemy of the State: Scott utilizes Hackman again for good results; this time his partner is another young black actor, Will Smith. Smith is just a normal dude who accidentally gets his hand on evidence of a political crime, putting his life and his family’s life in danger. Hackman, who knows a lot of inside info, begrudgingly helps Smith avoid being taken. Sometimes funny, sometimes suspenseful, but never quite as engaging as it could be. Still, it has a fun ending and the performances are solid.

Grade: B+

Other Tony Scott Moves You May Have Seen

Man On Fire
Deja Vu
True Romance
Days of Thunder
The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3
Spy Game
The Fan