Tag Archives: Kevin Bacon

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

Curtis Hanson

Curtis Hanson had some popular movies but nothing really acclaimed until L.A. Confidential, which was really acclaimed. Wonder Boys and 8 Mile were also well-received, and he hasn’t done much of notoriety since. I really don’t know what to think of him as a director, as he’s had movies that were worse than they should have been and better than they should have been, if that makes any sense.

The Hand That Rocks the Cradle: Rebecca DeMornay is a nanny who is seemingly perfect, and of course her plan is to destroy the family. Over the top, obvious. Fantastic death scene, at least. Bad, but somewhat entertaining.

Grade: D+

The River Wild: Meryl Streep is an expert river rafter, which makes her the target of a couple of armed criminals (Kevin Bacon, John C. Reilly) who want to use her (and her family) to escape the country. The acting is pretty good, but the script is really underwhelming. The rafting scenes are also not nearly as exciting as they should have been. Mildly suspenseful at times, which is not a compliment

Grade: C-

L.A. Confidential: Film noir about a three cops from a corrupt 1950’s L.A. police force who all try to solve the same brutal murder in three different ways. Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, and Russell Crowe are all good, as is Kim Basinger, who won an Oscar. Beautifully shot, captures film noir perfectly, oozing cool and suspense.

Grade: A-

Other Curtis Hanson Films You May Have Seen

8 Mile
Wonder Boys
In Her Shoes
Lucky You
Chasing Mavericks
Bad Influence

Rob Reiner

Up through 1992, one might predict Meathead would become one of the most hailed directors of all-time. Six of his first seven movies were monster hits (and deservedly so) and won or were nominated for many awards. But then he directed North, considered by Siskel & Ebert one of the worst big-budget films of all-time. Since then, you’d be hard pressed to find a memorable film by him. To be fair, I haven’t seen anything he’s done after 1995, but based on reviews and recommendations, I haven’t exactly been dying to either.

The American President: Aaron Sorkin loves writing his fantasies about society into his scripts. The West Wing fantasizes about democracy working, Newsroom fantasizes about a responsible journalism, A Few Good Men fantasizes about justice against corrupt military officials, and this movie fantasizes about a fair and honest president who sticks to his convictions even in tough times. In fact, Martin Sheen must have impressed Sorkin in this movie as he brought him on to play the president in West Wing. Anyway, The American President is a harmless, charming fantasy. Michael Douglas does what he does, Bening is good as usual, and Michael J. Fox has a mildly funny role.

Grade: B-

The Princess Bride: One of the best quote-dropping movies ever, which one normally wouldn’t associate with a movie based on a book. But then you realize WIlliam Goldman, a prolific screenwriter, wrote the book, and it makes sense.  The narrative flow is intentionally choppy, which normally would bother me, but it works here because every scene is beyond ridiculous, kind of like a Monty Python movie. Reiner gets most of these actors’ best career performances. Don’t know I’ve ever seen Cary Elwes, Mandy Patinkin, or Wallace Shawn better (except perhaps as Rex in the Toy Story series), and who figured Andre the Giant would make a movie better? It’s also one of Fred Savage’s first appearances and it’s easy to see why he got cast for The Wonder Years a year later. Reiner favorites Christopher Guest and Billy Crystal also have solid performances.

Grade: A-

Misery: William Goldman also wrote the script to Misery and Reiner got exceptional performances out of James Caan and Kathy Bates. Many of Stephen King’s novels, especially up to 1990, had been butchered on screen. Goldman and Reiner possibly make it better. A true horror film about a writer who crashes his car and then gets kidnapped by his biggest fan who nurses him back to health. Non-stop tension from beginning to end with at least one horrific visual moment that should make just about everyone curl up into the fetal position.

Grade: A

This is Spinal Tap: The whole idea of a mockumentary, especially about a genre of music (hair metal) I have zero interest in, never appealed to me. But my wife made me watch this a few years ago and I’m forever grateful. Reiner’s first movie is one of his best, with pitch perfect satire and top-notch performances, especially from Christopher Guest. I belly-laughed at least seven or eight times while watching, which is about six more times than most comedies I like.

Grade: A

A Few Good Men: While I love this movie more than most, it may be the best proof of Reiner’s superb direct capabilities. Aaron Sorkin’s stage play and movie script is flawed in his usual way in that he wants to spell out the conflict, tell everyone how the characters are going to solve it, show them doing it, then recapping what they just did. It also had a mild romantic subplot that has mostly been taken out for the movie. There’s definitely problems left, but it’s largely improved from the original script. Reiner also takes two middling actors in Tom Cruise and Demi Moore and gets two of the best performances of their careers. I’ve seen Moore’s character, Commander Jo Galloway, played on stage and it was dreadful. It’s a tough role, and Moore gets it. Meanwhile, Cruise is cast perfectly, as the role calls for a young hot-shot who likes to fling his hands in the air and yell a lot. Kevin Bacon is solid as the government’s attorney, J.T. Walsh is his usual loose cannon, and Kiefer Sutherland always plays a good prick.

Of course, Jack Nicholson is the star. He’s larger than life, thanks in part to his performance, and part Reiner’s camerawork. I think I read somewhere that Nicholson has one of the shortest appearances in a film while getting nominated for best supporting actor. He definitely deserved the nomination.

While I’m gushing, I may as well mention that Marc Shaiman’s score is amazing, chilling in all the right places. I’ve seen the movie at least forty times and can annoyingly recite nearly all of it from beginning to end.

Grade: A+

Other Films By Rob Reiner

Stand By Me
When Harry Met Sally
Ghosts of Mississippi
The Story Of Us
Alex & Emma
Rumor Has It…
The Bucket List
The Magic of Belle Isle