Tag Archives: Val Kilmer

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

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

David Mamet

Mamet is primarily a prolific screenwriter who has written for many movies he didn’t direct, such as The Edge, Glengarry Glen Ross (which won a Pulitzer), The Untouchables, and Wag the Dog. As a director, his movies are less well-known. I think it’s fair to say his directing ability is limited, but it seems like he does what he knows the best he can. Many of his movies, unfortunately, start to feel the same. He uses many of the same cast repeatedly (Joe Montegna, William H. Macy, his two wives, his half-brother) and his movies often feel like stage-plays on screen when he’s directing them. No doubt part of that reason is that his scripts are dialogue-heavy and there is significant focus on the lines and the actor’s faces. That’s not to say that other directors always improve upon his scripts, but I get the feeling Mamet is not very comfortable with music and spectacle, at least from a cinematic standpoint.

That said his dialogue is always fun. Mamet-Speak involves characters using well-enunciated and emphasized dialogue to manipulate one another, while frequently interrupting. I imagine it’s a blast for actors.

Spartan: The plot of Spartan reads like a Robert Ludlum novel. A U.S. secret agent (Val Kilmer) is assigned to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a government official, but lo and behold, not everyone wants him to succeed in his task. The least memorable of the Mamet movies I’ve seen. Kilmer doesn’t help things much, but the script left me cold. A suspense thriller isn’t as thrilling when one doesn’t care about the characters, and there was no one to root for (or against) here.

Grade: C

Homicide: A policeman is assigned to a murder case not even the FBI can crack but is redirected to another murder case of a Jewish lady. Not surprisingly a Jewish hate group is behind both murders. The plot is not memorable, but the performance of Joe Mantegna most certainly is. The sets are also chilling and the movie is well shot. I probably don’t see myself watching it again, but if you like Mantegna, it’s worth a once-over.

Grade: B-

House of Games: A psychiatrist (with not even the lightest grasp of professional boundaries) agrees to help a patient get out of gambling debt. She succeeds by excelling at a poker game with the people who want to destroy her patient. She then gets recruited for assignments where she utilizes her “skill” to earn more money for the boss, as well as his love, she hopes. The plot is ridiculous, but it’s cleverly written and has some classic Mamet speeches. Mantegna is superb here as well, and Mamet gets a decent performance out of his wife, Lindsay Crouse, who has done made-for-TV movies almost exclusively.

Grade: B-

State and Main: The only comedy on this list, David Mamet ventures into black humor and screwball hijinx with this romp about a big-budget movie crew out of a place in a small New England town. The director (William H. Macy) is a smooth talker who can get his actors to agree to anything, the screenwriter breaks his moral code to get things done, and the actors are pretty much all high maintenance. While the movie is a bit meandering, it has some true laugh-out-loud moments and a lot of grin-worthy ones, with some solid bit parts by Alec Baldwin, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Matt Malloy. My favorite part is Macy constantly placating his disgruntled crew by offering them executive producer credits!

Grade: B

The Spanish Prisoner: The plot is mostly irrelevant here. All you need to know is this movie is one elaborate, twisting, confidence game with so many plot twists it’ll make your head spin. Mamet does an excellent job at making it all believable. Even better, he gets an exceptional performance out of Steve Martin, making me wish he’d stop doing comedies forever. Ben Gazzara and Campbell Scott are also good. His wife is just kind of there, but she doesn’t ruin any scenes she’s in.

Grade: A-

Other David Mamet Movies You May Have Seen

Things Change
The Winslow Boy