Tag Archives: Sally Field

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

Chris Columbus

Columbus just seems to me like a completely nondescript director, as far as that’s possible. His movies are generally easily digestable and the actors always seem to be having a good time, but there’s nothing about the direction that is all that innovative or special. The only trademark I can see is that he likes to go for some genuine but easy tearjerker moments in otherwise light movies.

Gremlins 2: The New Batch: I really disliked this when I was ten years old, and I haven’t seen it since. However, I like the first movie and I’ve heard good things about this one, so I’ll have to give it another shot someday.

Grade: N/A

Home Alone: Holy crap was this movie popular. I liked it fine enough as a kid, and it’s fairly inoffensive as an adult. But Macaulay Culkin is precocious and obnoxious, so it’s hard to root for him against the cartoonish villians (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). In fact, the whole move is cartoonish, and not all that funny.

Grade: D

Adventures in Babysitting: I think it’s awesome that Vincent D’Onofrio played in this movie the same year as his role in Full Metal Jacket. I would probably need something lighthearted too after that movie. Anyway, Elizabeth Shue agrees to babysit three kids before taking them all in her car to go to Chicago and (surprise!) wacky hijinx ensue. One of the first movies I ever watched twice in the same day. I haven’t seen it since I was a kid, but I have enough fond memories of it that I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy it if I watched it today. I may just keep my fond memories, though.

Grade: C-

Gremlins: After a boy gets a cute furry bat for Christmas, he fucks everything up by spilling water on it and feeding it “after midnight,” whatever that means. It produces many gremlins, which terrorize the town, kill a few side characters, and do some hilarious shit like get blown up in microwaves. Creepy at times, hilarious at times, and a bit slow at times. The actors appear to be having fun.

Grade: B

Rent: I wonder if Columbus took this movie because he worked with Anthony Rapp in Adventures in Babysitting? Tenuous connection, I know, but it’s not like Rapp has done a lot of other stuff other than Broadway. Either way, this is a solid but not spectacular translation of the Tony-winning play about a bunch of whiny artsy types whining about having AIDS, getting fired for insubordination, and by gosh, actually having to pay rent to live somewhere. I have a feeling in forty years that almost nobody will care about this play, as it doesn’t translate all that well outside of the 90’s. Other than the character of Angel, pretty much nobody in this play is sympathetic unless you’re a bleeding-heart communist. Still, there’s some fun music and Columbus was able to get most of the good songs into the movie while actually making it look like a movie (for the most part) rather than a play. Most of the actors who didn’t look ridiculously old yet reprised their roles, including Jesse L. Martin, who is fantastic as Tom Collins. Rosario Dawson (a newcomer) also shines as Mimi.

Grade: B

Mrs. Doubtfire: I honestly don’t know what to do with this movie, as it’s yet another Robin Williams vehicle I was crazy about when I was 12 and I like less and less over the years. The plot is insultingly contrived, as for some reason his ex-wife (Sally Field) is so bitter about Williams just being an okay husband that she convinces the court to make sure his visits with his kids are supervised by a bitch, despite the fact he obviously loves his kids and other than being a mild risk-taker, has never endangered them. Then, rather than get a better lawyer, he decides to cross-dress so he can be his kids nanny, which is scarier than anything he did while he was being a supposed bad father. Cue tired old cross-dressing jokes that stopped being funny sometime in the 80’s (or for me, 1994).  Still, I have a soft spot for this as the performances are good (Williams is actually restrained…for him) and it is pretty endearing, despite the ridiculousness of it all. The kids are adorable, especially Mara Wilson, and you really believe they’re family. I also love Robert Prosky, who plays Williams’ boss. I also appreciate the fact that Field’s new boyfriend, Pierce Brosnan, just plays a regular, nice guy and not some arrogant jerk for Williams to play off of.

Grade: B+

Other Chris Columbus Movies You May Have Seen

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
Percy Jackson & the Olympians
Bicentennial Man
Nine Months
I Love You, Beth Cooper
Only the Lonely