Tag Archives: Gary Sinise

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

Brian de Palma

A very well-known director, Brian de Palma’s career seems to be a bit underwhelming. While I’ve only seen three of his movies, looking at the ones below and reviews by those of people I trust, they all seem to have more potential than he gets out of them.

Mission to Mars: A crew goes to Mars on a rescue mission and find something fantastic when they get there. This is such a frustrating movie, since the acting is top-notch. Don Cheadle and Gary Sinise are excellent and Tim Robbins pulls his weight as well. But this might be the most boring space movie ever.

Grade: F

The Black Dahlia: Another story around Elizabeth Short, the wannabe Hollywood actress who was brutally murdered in 1947, her case never solved. Another mess of a story, but it’s engaging until the ending. Shot well.

Grade: C-

The Untouchables: One of my favorite computer games, The Black Dahlia, combines the mysteries of Elizabeth Short and the Cleveland torso murders, investigated by Eliot Ness. Fun coincidence that De Palma has directed movies about Short and Ness. Written by David Mamet, an engaging movie that is a little too long and unfortunately has Kevin Costner in the lead as Ness. Sean Connery is good as Jim Malone, and I like Andy Garcia, but Robert De Niro is only okay as Al Capone. Good, with some tense moments, but could have been a lot better.

Grade: B-

Others Brian de Palma Movies You May Have Seen

Mission: Impossible
Carlito’s Way
Snake Eyes
Casualties of War
Femme Fatale
Bonfire of the Vanities

Ron Howard

The Music Man, Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days star has been a very ambitious director and has had no problem getting the chance to direct big actors and big movies. However the movies I’ve seen have not lived up to those expectations. Like Chris Columbus, he seems very capable but not groundbreaking. And every movie I’ve seen has dramatic moments that just don’t ring true to me. I wonder if being famous his whole life has given Howard a different lens on how people really act with each other, or if he just believes that’s what it takes to be successful in Hollywood.

Far and Away:You plunge and then you scrub is the lesson I learned from this movie about an Irish lad (Tom Cruise) who escapes property persecution in his homeland and comes to America and tries to settle down there. I like Nicole Kidman (a daughter of one of the bastards who wants him dead), but Tom Cruise is absolutely hilarious as an Irishman. Colm Meaney has a memorable but albeit short role as a runner of a bare-knuckle boxing club in Boston. Other than that, the story about these two lovebirds from different social classes figuring things out in America is uninspiring and seemingly pointless. For a married couple, Cruise and Kidman don’t have a lot of chemistry on-screen.

Grade: D

The Da Vinci Code: By the numbers recreation of Dan Brown’s novel, it does a pretty good job with following the story but emotionally it’s pretty cold. There’s a couple of tense scenes, but the pacing never matches that of the book. Ian McKellen is the best part.

Grade: C

Willow: A dwarf must protect a special baby from an evil queen in this story by George Lucas (don’t worry, he didn’t write the script). I’m not much into fantasy stuff, but this is fairly entertaining for how over-the-top silly it is. Warwick Davis gives it his all, but Val Kilmer is mostly a pretty face. I saw this when I was eight years old and Joanne Whalley became my first celebrity crush. The game for the Nintendo is much better than the movie.

Grade: C+

Apollo 13: Mostly true to fact recreation of the Apollo 13 disaster and all the close shaves that occurred before they miraculously got back home. Shot well, and Howard does a pretty good job extracting suspense from naturally slow-moving spaceship problems that we ultimately know will be solved. However, he adds a bunch of faux-drama between the shipmates that never existed in reality to create more conflict, and that really gnaws at me. I’m not sure if I’m more upset at Howard than I am at the reality that the public may need fake conflict to enjoy a story about one of the most amazing scientific events in the world’s history. Solid acting all around by the star-studded cast of Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Ed Harirs and Kevin Bacon.

Grade: B-

Backdraft: A family drama set into the world of the Chicago Fire Department. From what I’ve heard, not completely unrealistic representation of firefighters and actual firefighting, but some liberties are taken as well for drama. Very-well paced and some good special effects make this very watchable. Kurt Russell is entertaining as he often is in this kind of thing.

Grade: B+

Other Ron Howard Movies You May Have Seen

A Beautiful Mind
Cinderella Man
Angels & Demons
The Paper
The Missing
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
The Dilemma