#282. Baz Luhrmann

What’s more important: quantity or quality? Obviously, most people would say that quality should trump quantity every time. Of course, there are challenges to producing quality products, which may lead to an increased cost for the consumer. Similarly, in the triangle of quality/cost/schedule, if a product is of high quality, it won’t appear very often. The dichotomy of quantity vs. quality can be seen in the film industry as well. There are some directors who direct at least one film every year, while others can take four years or more to release a movie. The former relies on the chance that one of their many films is successful, thus making up for less-than-exemplary performance on other projects. Director Baz Luhrmann definitely falls into the latter category. This week’s two films highlight some of the rare works of Baz Luhrmann.

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby
Year: 2013
Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes / 2.38 hours

It’s difficult to tell what motivates quality directors to take so long to create their films. Perhaps they’re trying to find the right source material. Perhaps the creative process takes a long time. Perhaps they’re controlling more aspects of the film than most. Whatever the reason, the results speak for themselves once the film is released. Aside from Luhrmann, other directors who seem to follow this format are Christopher Nolan and David Fincher. Each one of them has received plenty of recognition for their works and each one of them has their own, recognizable visual and thematic style. For Luhrmann, after his love-letter to his homeland, Australia (2008), it took him five years until The Great Gatsby (2013) was released. It’s now four years later and there isn’t much (if any) word about Baz Luhrmann’s next project; but I’m sure it’ll follow the same style he’s used for years.

Recovering from his alcoholism, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) finds the only relief from his struggles to be writing down the words that float around him, describing the events that led him to this state. With a cousin who was supported by “old money” and a neighbor who has profited from the “new money”, Nick finds himself in between Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), respectively. As everyone’s affairs become more entangled, emotions run rampant and feelings are inevitably hurt. Divorces are being discussed and accusations of murder are now part of the mix. Everything happened so close to Nick that he finds himself unable to cope with it until he finally breaks down and returns to his true passion: writing. Thus, the cautionary tale of “The Great Gatsby” was born.

Moulin Rouge!Moulin Rouge!
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours

While it isn’t in the format of a traditional trilogy, Moulin Rouge! (2001) is actually the final act of Luhrmann’s Red Curtain Trilogy. Starting in 1992 with Strictly Ballroom, Luhrmann followed this film up with Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge!. These three films only came four years apart from each other, which was much faster than his two most recent films (Australia being released seven years after the end of The Red Curtain Trilogy). Why Luhrmann holds his first three films as a trilogy is due to a single motif that appears in each: the theatre. There are many elements that make the theatre what it is, and each film explores a different part of it. From the dancing of Strictly Ballroom, to the poetry and wordsmithing of Romeo + Juliet, to the singing of Moulin Rouge!, the theme of the theatre is what ties these films together.

One of Baz Luhrmann’s other talents, besides directing, is mixing music. This is a common theme throughout his movies, each one featuring at least one remixed song. The film that exemplifies this part of his style is Moulin Rouge! Set at the turn of the 20th century, Christian (Ewan McGregor) finds himself ready to engage in the Bohemian culture of Paris. As a writer, his talent is encouraged by his upstairs neighbors: a troupe of actors who need his help to finish a show they want to sell to the Moulin Rouge. Through a case of mistaken identity, Christian is given prime treatment by the dance hall’s primary star, Satine (Nicole Kidman). Even with the mistake rectified, the two still fall in love, which creates a problem for the Moulin Rouge, since Satine is needed to woo a benefactor so that it can stay in business. On top of this, Satine is gravely ill, but hides it from everyone, including Christian.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 of the best from Baz Luhrmann

Bacon #: 2 (The Great Gatsby / Tobey Maguire -> Beyond All Boundaries / Kevin Bacon)

#279. David Fincher

Many directors in Hollywood will stick to a particular genre, mainly because their artistic style matches well with the mood of the genre. Wes Craven directed horror, Charlie Chaplin directed silent comedies, Steven Spielberg directed science fiction, Alfred Hitchcock directed thrillers. In terms of modern directors, there are very few that have tackled the psychological thriller well. Christopher Nolan falls into this category, but David Fincher succeeds in this genre as well. What’s even more interesting is that Fincher seems drawn to film adaptations of stories and books. This is the niche where he excels as a director. There are a lot of books out there that cover some pretty dark material, and David Fincher’s artistic direction certainly brings that element out on the screen. This week’s two films highlight some of David Fincher’s best works.

The Social Networksocial_network_film_poster
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 120 minutes / 2 hours

While Fincher’s filmography is not extensive (he’s only directed 10 films), his skill is quite apparent. A number of his early films have attained cult status, including Se7en (1995) and Fight Club (1999), the latter of which was an adaptation of the book of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. In terms of recognition by the Academy, within two years, he directed films that were nominated for Best Picture, as well as Best Director. His first nominations were for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), which itself was based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Unfortunately, he didn’t win that year, but his second set of nominations came with The Social Network (2010), which was also based on a book (this time being The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich). Once again, he was passed over for an Oscar, but I know he’ll soon be nominated again . . . hopefully claiming a win along with it.

Jumping back-and-forth between the deposition of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), and the time he spent at Harvard, The Social Network’s tagline reads, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” Zuckerberg’s first enemy was none other than Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), the girl who dumped him. Fueled by anger and frustration, he created a website that compared the physical attractiveness of women on the Harvard campus. His next enemies would be the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer), who found out that he created a popular social networking site named Thefacebook after they had asked him to code a similar idea they had. As the social media empire expanded, his final enemy would be that of Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), the close friend who helped him start Facebook in the first place. Now he’s being sued and remains a lonely, apathetic man.

Year: 1995
Rating: R
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours

As I mentioned before, one of the directors who directed thrillers was Alfred Hitchcock. David Fincher has directed thrillers as well, but his style is much darker. Perhaps this is due to the types of thrillers that he has chosen to direct. From the aforementioned Fight Club (1999), to the film adaptation of Gone Girl (2014) (based on the Gillian Flynn novel of the same name), these psychological thrillers really play with the audience’s mind. Even though mystery thrillers come closer to what Hitchcock has done in the past, Fincher’s mystery thrillers are considerably more violent, merely on their source material alone. Case in point: Zodiac (2007) and the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) (based on the novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson) both examine serial killers. One of his first films, Se7en (1995) certainly set Fincher’s style, as it’s a psychological mystery thriller.

Nearing retirement, detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is reluctantly paired with hot-shot detective, David Mills (Brad Pitt). Their first case involves a pair of murders, both of which are linked to two of the seven deadly sins: “gluttony” and “greed.” At these crime scenes, there are clues to the next murder: “sloth.” It is at this point that the two of them realize the killer has been taking an enormous amount of time to set up and execute these murders. Doing some research into the seven sins, they find John Doe (Kevin Spacey), who manages to escape. Meanwhile, the detectives are moments too late to prevent the murders of “lust” and “pride”. At this point, Doe surrenders willfully, but not without a few conditions. Revealing the location of the last two murders that have yet to take place, all three of them drive out to the middle of the desert to learn how “envy” and “wrath” will die.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fantastic Fincher films

Bacon #: 2 (Being John Malkovich / Sean Penn -> Mystic River / Kevin Bacon)

#261. Brad Bird

Have you ever had a dream job as a child? Many kids will look around and determine that they want to be firemen, police officers, astronauts, and doctors as their dream profession. Of course, once many of them realize the kind of work required to obtain these dream jobs, most children give up on these dreams to obtain employment in something more practical. That being said, there are those special few kids who work hard at obtaining their dream job. Brad Bird is one of the examples of someone who made it into his dream profession. As a child, he set out to become an animator, which brought him attention and scholarships from Disney (he was even mentored by one of Disney’s best animators). The proof of his success in animation is in the films he has directed. This week’s two films highlight some of the animated and non-animated films Brad Bird has directed.

The IncrediblesThe Incredibles
Year: 2004
Rating: PG
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours

After Bird had completed his education at Cal Arts (along with classmates John Lasseter and Tim Burton), he dove into the animation world. Working The Simpsons for its early seasons, Bird eventually directed his first full-length animated film: The Iron Giant (1999). Despite the film not performing well in the box office, many consider it to be an animated classic. Due to his connection with John Lasseter, Bird approached Pixar and was able to create The Incredibles (2004). This film earned him his first Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Three years later, Bird would be tapped to direct Ratatouille (2007), thus earning him another Best Animated Feature Oscar. While this was the last animated feature that Brad Bird directed, he is slated to direct the sequel to The Incredibles in 2019, perhaps earning him another Oscar in the process.

Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson) is tired of his suburban life. Trapped in a thankless job where he can’t help anyone, Bob longs for the past where he could live up to his potential as a superhero. At home, he and his wife, Helen (Holly Hunter) try to keep their identities hidden, since superheroes are now outlawed. After getting fired from his job, Bob receives an invitation to don the suit of Mr. Incredible again to assist in defeating a rampaging robot on Nomanisan Island. This change in lifestyle reinvigorates Bob, which causes Helen to suspect he is having an affair. Investigating further, she accidentally puts herself and her children in danger as they fly to the mysterious island. Once there, they must fight their way back to civilization to save the citizens of Metroville from another rampaging robot.

Mission Impossible: Ghost ProtocolMission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 133 minutes / 2.22 hours

While Brad Bird has focused on animation for a lot of his career, he has breached the realm of live-action films. Despite the somewhat limited abilities of live-action when compared to animation, Bird has had mixed success in the medium. His most recent foray into live-action, Tomorrowland (2015), was not very well received by critics or audiences. However, his addition to the Mission: Impossible franchise, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011), not only revitalized the franchise, but also set a record as the most successful film in the franchise to date. With only a few films in total under Brad Bird’s belt, I would be interested to see if another live-action film were to follow in the Tomorrowland footsteps or in the more successful footsteps of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

After breaking Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) out of a Moscow prison, the IMF team then proceeds to infiltrate the Kremlin in order to find information on someone named “Cobalt”. Unfortunately, the Kremlin is destroyed in such a way that Ethan and his team are suspected to be the perpetrators. After this incident, the “Ghost Protocol” is enacted, which means that the United States will disavow any secret agents while also providing them with latitude to go after the mastermind behind the attack. Now the IMF team has tracked Cobalt to Dubai, where he plans to attack the U.S. with Russian nuclear missiles in order to instigate both sides into an all-out war. While Cobalt succeeds in launching a missile from a submarine, Ethan and his team are quickly working to disable the warhead before it destroys San Francisco.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 of the best by Brad Bird

Bacon #: 2 (The Incredibles / Holly Hunter -> End of the Line / Kevin Bacon)

#259. Andrew Stanton

It’s strange to think that it’s only been a little more than thirty years since a small group of CalArts graduates founded the animation studio known as Pixar. While there are a lot of familiar names associated with early Pixar, each of them has had their hand in directing, writing, and producing many of the timeless classics that revolutionized film as we know it. One of these founders was none other than Andrew Stanton. While he has helped to write most of Pixar’s early films, he has also directed a few of them as well. That’s not to say that Stanton hasn’t worked outside of Pixar, but it certainly comprises the majority of his contributions to the world of film. As a Writer/Director, Stanton is able to see his vision come to life in many award-winning ways. This week’s two films highlight some of Andrew Stanton’s work.

John CarterJohn Carter
Year: 2012
Rating: PG-13
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours

One of Stanton’s strengths has been creating stories that resonate on an emotional level with the audience. However, when the source material already exists, it can be difficult to remain true to it while also creating a story that connects with the viewers. Sometimes, in order to do so, a large amount of money is needed to make it happen. This was the case with John Carter (2012). While Disney took a risk with Stanton, who had proven himself as a director and writer many times before, the box office receipts were less than exemplary, thus quashing any hopes for sequel films. It’s a little unclear to me why this film flopped, but perhaps its failure might keep Andrew Stanton working exclusively with Pixar for some time to come. Not that this is a bad thing, but it would be interesting to see Stanton break out of the Pixar mold and succeed in doing so.

The two clans of Martian inhabitants, the Tharks and the Therns, are in conflict over control of the world they both call “Barsoom”. While the native Tharks claim their right to Barsoom based on their claims of first ownership, they are losing the war against the technologically-advanced Therns. However, when a stranger by the name of John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) appears, bearing super-Martian strength and agility, the Thark chieftain realizes that their savior has arrived. Meanwhile, after meeting with the Therns, John runs across Deja Thoris (Lynn Collins), the Princess of Mars, and is immediately struck by her beauty. In the ensuing battle between the two Martian clans, Carter does his best to achieve the outcome that suits him, but can this outcome also appease the Therns and the Tharks as well?

Finding NemoFinding Nemo
Year: 2003
Rating: G
Length: 100 minutes / 1.67 hours

It wasn’t long after Pixar was founded until Stanton was picked to co-Direct one of their films. A Bug’s Life (1998) was Pixar’s second film, but the first for Stanton in the co-Director’s chair. Five years later, Stanton would take full Director privileges for the first of his Oscar-winning films: Finding Nemo (2003). Another five years passed before Stanton directed another Oscar winner: WALL-E (2008). Despite the minor setback with John Carter (2012), Stanton followed up his initial success this year with Finding Dory (2016). While we’ll have to wait until the results from the Academy come back, Stanton could be looking at earning his third Oscar through his work with Pixar. Since he directs a film every four years or so, I look forward to the effort that he’ll put forth in 2020 and the amazing visuals he’ll be able to harness by then.

Nemo (Alexander Gould) is the only son of Marlin (Albert Brooks), a clownfish who lives on the Great Barrier Reef. Due to an incident that killed his mother and all of his siblings, Nemo has a deformed fin that makes it difficult for him to swim. While on a field trip, Nemo is captured by a scuba diver and eventually finds himself in a dentist’s fish tank. The “prisoners” there learn of his plight and hatch a plan to return him to the sea. Meanwhile, Marlin learns of Nemo’s capture and sets out to rescue his son. Along the way, he runs across many different fish, sharks, turtles, and pelicans who all help him on his quest to recover Nemo. Sticking with him for most of the journey, Dora (Ellen DeGeneres) ends up linking the father and son together, even if it took some time to do so (due to her memory problem).

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 stupendous Stanton works

Bacon #: 2 (A Bug’s Life / Richard Kind -> Queen’s Logic / Kevin Bacon)


#253. Roland Emmerich

Some directors want to make us think. Some directors want to create art. Some directors are in it for the money. When it comes right down to it, Roland Emmerich wants to make movies that entertain us. While certain parallels might be drawn between him and Michael Bay (another “explosion director”), most people can recognize an Emmerich film just based on the scale of destruction alone. With Roland Emmerich at the helm, cities explode, nations fall, and even the entire earth is destroyed. Even though he has directed many other films of varying subject and genre, everyone knows Emmerich is famous for one thing and one thing only: blowing up historic and culturally significant landmarks. This week’s two films highlight some of these explosive films that Roland Emmerich is best known for.

Independence DayIndependence Day
Year: 1996
Rating: PG-13
Length: 145 minutes / 2.42 hours

Since 1992, Emmerich has been directing films regularly, with a movie being released about every 2 years (somewhat akin to Christopher Nolan’s release schedule). Early on, he made a name for himself directing the science fiction classic, Stargate (1994). While it didn’t have quite the destructive flair of his later films, it did show that he had an eye for settings with recognizable landmarks (notably, the Pyramids of Giza). It wasn’t until Independence Day (1996) when Emmerich finally found his catastrophic niche. Sure, he would eventually go on to direct some more historical films, such as The Patriot (2000), Anonymous (2011), and Stonewall (2015), but his fame would always originate with blowing up the White House (so much so, he did it again with White House Down (2013)). But with Independence Day: Resurgence having come out this year, it’s clear this was his best franchise.

A few days before July 4th, alien ships arrive at Earth and position themselves above strategic cities across the world. In New York, David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) notices that the corrupted television signals contain a countdown for all the ships to attack the Earth at once. Fortunately, he is able to contact just the right people to get the President of the United States (Bill Pullman) out of harm’s way just as the attack commences. As the military commences with counterattacks, very few are left alive. One exception is Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), a pilot who shot down one of the enemy craft and brought the alien to Area 51 to be examined. By the time July 4th rolls around, David has arrived at a plan to take down the alien shields so that Earth’s militaries can damage the spaceships. With Capt. Hiller at the helm of an alien craft, he and David fly into the mothership to upload a computer virus and save the world.

The Day After TomorrowThe Day After Tomorrow
Year: 2004
Rating: PG-13
Length: 124 minutes / 2.07 hours

Sometimes directors want to get a message across to their audience. While it might be lost in the art of an overly abstract director, or hidden deeply underneath the explosions of an action film, the message still remains. For Roland Emmerich, his message is that, if we don’t do anything to stop it, humans will destroy the earth. If aliens from Independence Day (1996) and monsters from Godzilla (1998) weren’t enough, the earth itself is trying to kill us. His latest message of global destruction, 2012 (2009), merely takes his earlier work, The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and expands it out to cover the entire Earth by including volcano eruptions, earthquakes, and enormous floods. Still, despite his films’ scientific (and historic) inaccuracies, they are based at least loosely on actual ideas extrapolated out to their catastrophic end.

Even though many scientists across the world, including paleoclimatologist Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), are presenting findings on global warming and its potential weather effects, most people ignore them. Meanwhile, the weather around the world turns violent. An enormous storm system starts building in the Northern Hemisphere, in part due to an unusually large polar vortex. In Manhattan, the weather starts to have a detrimental effect on Jack’s son, Sam (Jake Gyllenhaal) as the streets begin to flood and the icy cold polar vortex freezes everything in sight. While many survivors gather in the New York Public Library, they struggle to remain warm, treat wounds, and survive against wild animals. While Jack makes an arctic expedition into the city, the storm’s eye drops the temperatures even further below zero Celsius. After the storm clears, the process of recovery begins.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 epic Emmerich disasters

Bacon #: 3 (Die 120 Tage von Bottrop / Margit Carstensen -> Manila / Elizabeth McGovern -> She’s Having a Baby / Kevin Bacon)

#249. Paul Verhoeven

There are quite a few directors who are known for their excessive and gratuitous use of sex and violence in film. Directors like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese have been accused of pushing the envelope on these fronts time and time again. With a string of violent movies such as Pulp Fiction (1995), Kill Bill (2003), and Inglorious Basterds (2009), Quentin Tarantino might be the go-to for gratuitous gore. However, equally violent and full of vulgar language and sex, we have Raging Bull (1980), The Departed (2006), and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), giving Martin Scorsese an equal claim to the title. That being said, these two directors use these controversial elements in an artistic way. Paul Verhoeven, on the other hand, is essentially known for creating films that had sex and violence for the sake of sex and violence. This week’s two films highlight some of the Paul Verhoeven’s best works.

Total RecallTotal Recall
Year: 1990
Rating: R
Length: 113 minutes / 1.88 hours

By 1990, Verhoeven had established himself in the American film industry. With some over-the-top 1980’s action behind him, it was easy for Verhoeven to continue on into the next decade with the same style that served him well before. Of course, this violent style was used again in 1997’s Starship Troopers, but before then he had two films that went over-the-top on their sexual nature as compared to their violent gore. While Basic Instinct (1992) was well received by critics, Showgirls (1995) was critically panned, even earning him the designation of the first director to actually accept his Golden Raspberry award for the film. Ironically enough, even though Verhoeven is very well known for his science fiction films, also including Hollow Man (2000), he has stated that he does not particularly care for the genre. This is unfortunate, because Total Recall (1990) is an excellent adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story.

Set almost 70 years in the future (from today, not from 1990), Total Recall follows Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a construction worker who keeps having nightmares of his vacuum-induced death on Mars. To help him cope with these dreams, he goes to Rekall to have a Martian vacation implanted in his brain. When they offer to sweeten the deal by making his dream about being a secret agent on Mars, he accepts. Unfortunately, the procedure fails and Quaid thinks and acts like a secret agent. That is, until his supposed wife tries to kill him. Next, his best friend seems to be an undercover agent as well, which prompts Quaid to head to Mars to solve the problem that his former self needs solved. Once there, he gets entangled in an uprising between the natives and Cohaagen (Ronny Cox), a corporate bad guy who is keeping everyone under the thumb of his mining industry.

Year: 1987
Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

I have a theory that in the early 2010’s somebody in Hollywood found an old box of 1980’s VHS tapes in their parents’ basement and decided “we need to remake some of these films”. There’s no other reason why such iconic movies like Total Recall and Robocop would get remakes in 2012 and 2014, respectively. These original films used some of the best special effects to date and were Verhoeven’s entrance into American movies. Before his first American film, Flesh & Blood (1985), Verhoeven directed a number of films in his native Netherlands. Perhaps the most notable of these foreign films was that of Turkish Delight (1973), which actually earned the Best Foreign Film Oscar for that year. And while his American films slightly outnumber his native ones, they all have a distinctively Verhoeven style to them.

Only 13 years in the future (again, from 2016, not 1987), Detroit is out of money but still has a severe crime problem. As a result, the police force is privatized and is now run by Omni Consumer Products (OCP). After an enforcement droid kills an OCP board member during a demonstration, the experimental “RoboCop” program is initiated. However, in order for the program to work, they need someone to volunteer to be turned into a cyborg. As it just so happens, Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is on death’s door after he’s brutally shot by a group of men led by crime lord Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith). The only way to save Murphy is to fix his body with robotic parts. While this new RoboCop successfully reduces crime in the city, the human element of Murphy’s mind still struggles with his tragic “death” and longs to avenge his former life.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 perfect Paul Verhoeven pieces

Bacon #: 2 (Robocop / Mark Edward Walters -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)

#240. Sam Mendes

Many directors have a certain oeuvre that ties closely with a specific genre. There are tons of directors who stick only to action films (e.g. Guy Ritchie), or mafia films (e.g. Martin Scorsese), or comedies (e.g. Mel Brooks), or science fiction (e.g. J.J. Abrams), or thrillers (e.g. Alfred Hitchcock). In sticking to a common theme in their films, these directors can easily jump from one screenplay to the next as long as it’s within their genre. Marketers love these kinds of directors because they can slap on the “from the Director of” tagline onto any movie that follows in the footsteps of their success. That being said, there are directors that defy the limitations of genre. These directors can take any type of film and create a masterpiece, whether it’s a modern war film, historical mobster piece, dark comedy, or action blockbuster. This week’s two films highlight the varied genres of director Sam Mendes.

American BeautyAmerican Beauty
Year: 1999
Rating: R
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours

It’s not often that directors strike gold right out of the gate. In fact, in the Academy’s long history, only six directors have won Best Picture and Best Director with their debut film. Sam Mendes is the most recent member of this list. That’s not to say he hasn’t had experience elsewhere before venturing into the field of celluloid. For many years prior to directing American Beauty (1999), Mendes spent considerable time directing stage plays. And yet, only nine years passed from when he began directing for the Royal Shakespeare Company to accepting his first Oscar for Best Director. The dark comedy about life in the American suburbs was not to be his last foray into the comedy genre, having since directed the comedy-drama Away We Go in 2009. Still, American Beauty stands as a triumph and his most awarded film to date.

Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) hates his job. Working in an office for many years has finally caused him to snap. One day, he decides it’s time to quit. Fortunately, his exit strategy involves blackmailing his boss for $60,000. With money in hand, he now has time to relax and become infatuated with his daughter’s cheerleader friend, Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari), while working at a local fast-food franchise. He also takes up smoking marijuana that he obtains from Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley), the kid next-door who is oppressed by the overbearing parenting style of Col. Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper). Learning that his wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening) is having an affair leaves Lester unfazed as he just doesn’t care anymore. Finally able to follow through with his pedophilic infatuation, Lester realizes that he has responsibilities, but only has a few minutes to change his life plan when he is shot in the back of the head.

Year: 2012
Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes / 2.38 hours

Action films often require a certain amount of drama to work well. This broad genre can be further refined to sub-genres, each with their idiosyncrasies. Sam Mendes has directed most of these sub-genres in his short, but spectacular career. While he did direct a film that satisfies the pure drama genre with Revolutionary Road (2008), he has also seen varied success with a prohibition-era historical film (Road to Perdition (2002)) and an Iraq war bio pic (Jarhead (2005)). Both of these are examples of Mendes’ ability to intertwine action with drama. It is then no wonder that he was chosen in 2012 to direct the next installment of the James Bond franchise. Skyfall (2012) proved that these somewhat “pulpy” movies can have backstory and plot that can rival any successful dramatic film. Perhaps Mendes finally found his niche, because he then went on to direct the follow-on Bond film, Spectre (2015).

On a mission to recover a hard drive with vital, personnel information, James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) track the mercenary Patrice (Ola Rapace) to Istanbul. Atop a moving train, Bond is accidentally shot by Eve and falls to his assumed death. Afterwards, M (Judy Dench), while undergoing investigation for the botched mission, avoids a terrorist attack at MI6, thus bringing James out from hiding. Even though he is no longer fit for service, M sends him out to find the mastermind behind the MI6 bombing. Crossing paths with Patrice again in Shanghai, the mercenary dies before he can divulge that he works for Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem), a disowned MI6 agent out for revenge. To keep M safe, Bond takes her to his boyhood home of Skyfall where they stage a rag-tag opposition to Silva’s relentless attacks.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Mendes masterpieces

Bacon #: 2 (Road to Perdition (directed) / Tom Hanks -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)