Robert Zemeckis

1978
I Wanna Hold Your Hand 32
[ Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust, but 40 years ago it was in full outbreak as the Fab Four first came to the US to play the Ed Sullivan Show. This movie is about girls who will do anything to meet their idols. It’s played for laughs, but I found this tale of stalking and obsession mostly disturbing and pathetic. In the hands of a Scorsese or a De Palma, this story could have made for a dark and intense psychological thriller instead of this here unfunny comedy. ]

1980
Used Cars 23
[ Nothing’s funnier than car stunts, titties and cursing, right? Right? Anyone? These late ‘70s/early ‘80s comedies are really something… Maybe it’s a generational thing, but I don’t understand folks who love these flicks from the “Animal House”/“Caddyshack” school. Kurt Russell is amusing as a used car salesman who wants to take his bullshit into politics, but the movie’s a lemon. Hard to believe that producer Steven Spielberg, writer Bob Gale and director Zemeckis’ next collaboration would be the classic “Back to the Future”. ]

1984
Romancing the Stone 61
[ After a couple of mediocre comedies, Zemeckis finally comes into his own. While all his movies hold a wisecracking tone at times, Zemeckis is at his best when helming extraordinary adventures. His heroes travel through time, into cartoons, across modern American history, into space, on deserted islands or, in this case, deep into the jungle. Kathleen Turner plays a romance novelist who must go to Colombia to rescue her sister from bad guys who are after a priceless green diamond. She winds up going after the stone herself, with the help of rugged Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas doing his best Indiana Jones). This makes for kind of an ‘80s “African Queen”, with a city woman and a man from the rough overcoming various perils and growing intimate in the process. “Romancing the Stone” is scrappier than John Huston’s classic, but it’s still quality escapism. ]

1985
Back to the Future 95
[ review ]

1988
Who Framed Roger Rabbit 77
[ One of my earliest cinematic memories is going to see this at the drive-in. The concept of not only blending animation and live action but also having Disney cross over with the Looney Tunes, with a strong helping of Tex Avery, was a treat for an 8 year old. Watching the movie again today, I was also delighted by the nifty pastiche of film noir. Bob Hoskins is great as the bitter drunken private detective in 1947 Hollywood who’s hired to snoop on Jessica Rabbit, the ridiculously voluptuous femme fatale wife of toon superstar Roger Rabbit, unaware that he’s being used in a conspiracy surrounding Toon Town. I mostly remembered the flick as being funny, which it is, but it’s oddly moving, too. What made Roger Rabbit an instantly classic character was that beyond all the goofiness, he’s filled with pathos. When he finds out his woman is “playing pattycake” behind his back, you can truly feel his pain. With a wife as hot as his, who can blame him? ]


1989
Back to the Future part II 69
[ I like some of the future stuff (flying cars, hover boards) and the idea of returning to 1955 again and messing everything some more, but plot holes abound and having Michael J. Fox play half the characters is a bad call. ]

1990
Back to the Future part III 86
[ A delightful pastiche of old Westerns, this reinvents nicely the dynamics of the original in a new setting, and the romance between Doc Brown and the schoolteacher is surprisingly touching. ]

1992
Death Becomes Her 24
[ This is a not particularly subtle satire of vanity and the obsession with youth, a supposedly comical spin on the whole extreme makeover nonsense. Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis are all capable performers, but their characters are unlikable, the drama between them is feeble and the FX-laced slapstick that makes up most of the movie is more weird than funny. Even Isabella Rossellini prancing around half-naked can’t save this ill-conceived comedy. ]

1994
Forrest Gump 100
[ review ]

1997
Contact 52
[ review ]

2000
What Lies Beneath 44
[ This supernatural thriller isn’t all that, with Harrison Ford mumbling all his lines and Michelle Pfeiffer hamming it up a bit, but Zemeckis’ direction is enjoyably Hitchcockian. The story might go from preposterous to downright grotesque, but it’s tightly crafted and quite gripping. Worth a rental. ]

2000
Cast Away 87
[ review ]

2004
The Polar Express 64
[ review ]

2007
Beowulf 94
[ review ]

2009
A Chrismas Carol 76
[ review ]

2012
Flight 61
[ When we meet Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington), he’s waking up next to some naked girl he hooked up with, clearly hungover… Before long we see him take a hit from a joint and even snort a line of coke. The punchline of sorts? The guy’s an airline pilot and he’s got a flight to get to that morning. Fate has it that it’s a doomed flight, which the Captain will somehow land without killing everyone on board. A few lives are tragically lost, but many more are saved by his actions. Now, you might say he’s a hero, but what of the fact that the man had been partying the night before and into that very morning? Heck, we’ve even seen him fix himself a drink while on the plane… Most of the film deals with Whitaker’s addictions, as he quickly goes back to heavy drinking once he’s out of the hospital and dealing with the aftermath of the crash. He also somehow ends up living with a drug addict (Kelly Reilly) he met by chance, and it’s not necessarily clear where the movie is going with all this. I guess it’s a character study of a very flawed, not particularly likable individual, which is unusual enough in a Hollywood movie… though as Dave Poland wrote in his review, there’s a sense that it doesn’t go quite far enough. As such, save for Denzel Washington giving an impeccable performance, this ends up being a good but not that exceptional picture. ]

2015
The Walk 88
[ Reviewed on Extra Beurre ]