My Picks for Big Screen Talent

Computer Animation Not (Always) Required for Success

Actors Masks

I love movies as much as the next person.  -Maybe more so, since a few of my favorites I've watched over 100 times.  (What, that's weird?)  I've noticed how over the years special effects seem to dominate screen time more and more.  I love special effects, but they need to enhance the story the film is written around, not be the center of it.  Take the movie ‘Avatar’, which I really, really enjoyed, but I remember the graphics and CGI more than the cast.  But when I think about a movie like 'Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom', I remember more about the cast and the characters that they played, than I do about the props, the effects, and other visuals.  To me, that is in indication of the actor's ability to give his character life, become believable, and make movies a success.

In this article, I'll discuss some of my favorite actors, and their movies in which I think they offered some of their best, most memorable performances in.

"I knew that was an elevated train..."

Tommy Lee Jones as Deputy Gerard

Sure, I know that "The Fugitive" is regarded as a Harrison Ford film, but I think I enjoyed Tommy Lee Jones’ character in the movie the most.  He breathes life into his character, Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard, with confidence, authority, and a bit of dry, somewhat cocky, humor.  Take for example this exchange between Jones’ character and one of his team members:

Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard: Newman, what are you doing?
Newman: I'm thinking.
Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard: Well, think me up a cup of coffee and a chocolate doughnut with some of those little sprinkles on top, while you're thinking.

Jones is the guy in the movie that you want to see 'get his man'.  He's the guy who has the best chance of capturing a fugitive, but underneath all that thick skin, he still listens to reason, and is able to figure out the bigger picture.

This movie is cat & mouse all the way, and is really enjoyable to watch.  There's not much computer graphics involved in this movie, at least not in the way the Avatar used computer graphics.

I'd have to say my second favorite Tommy Lee Jones movie is "Under Siege", which also stars Steven Seagal.

Tommy Lee Jones in "The Fugitive"

The Fugitive [Blu-ray]
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"It's like you said. All I am is what I'm going after."

Al Pacino as Vincent Hanna

Watching a movie starring Al Pacino is pretty much always guaranteed to be good.  Pacino is a master of expression, as you always know pretty much exactly what mood his character is in.  Whether he is angry, happy, sad, concerned, hopeful, relieved, Pacino conveys the mood.  Watching a movie starring Robert De Niro is almost always going to be good too.  Same goes for a film starring Val Kilmer.  Wait, hold the phone!  How about a movie starring all three of them!?  Well, that movie ladies and gentlemen is called "Heat", and all two hours and twenty minutes of it are expertly crafted into a great story.

It’s actually made up a multiple mini-storylines running in sync with each other, and every now and then, a couple of the storylines cross over into each other and sparks fly.  -Or shrapnel.  This movie is about a gang of thieves.  Check that, expert thieves that are into big money targets.  Each member of the gang is an expert in one of the required disciplines needed to pull off the heist.

But they aren't the only experts in town.  Enter Vincent Hanna, an LAPD homicide detective obsessed with bringing down this crew of thieves.  Hanna is the best of the best, and has met his equal when he runs into De Niro's character, Neil McCauley.

Al Pacino in "Heat"

Heat [Blu-ray]
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"[very worried] You bred raptors?"

Sam Neill as Dr. Alan Grant

I've seen Jurassic Park over 100 times.  Probably close to 130, and most of those viewings were on VHS.  To say I liked the movie is obviously an understatement.

"What did you like so much about the movie?" you ask.

Initially, it was the special effects.  I know, the eye candy in movies can't be the sole content that makes it a success, but it was the first time in the history of movies that living life-like dinosaurs were accurately (we assume) depicted on the big screen.  What's not to like about that?  After the buzz from the effects wore off, I started to enjoy the exchanges going on between the main characters of the film, especially two of them:  Ian Malcolm, and Dr. Alan Grant.

Dr. Alan Grant was the paleontologist who spent his life digging up clues to better understand dinosaurs, and was essentially the world's authority on dinosaur fossils.  The whole reason he got mixed up with Jurassic Park was that the park's owner (John Hammond) wanted Dr. Grant to come and visit, and write a recommendation so that Hammond could get the business launched, and eventually open it to the public.

As you know, things didn't work out.

I think Sam Neill makes the character of Dr. Grant a success, and without his continued presence in the Jurassic Park series, it just wouldn't be the same.  He bestows his character with qualities of knowledge, caution, a bit of 'I-told-you-so' attitude at times, and a survivor.

Sam Neill in "Jurassic Park"

Jurassic Park: Ultimate Trilogy (Blu-ray + Digital Copy)
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"I'm your huckleberry..."

Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday

It has been said that Val Kilmer prepares for his roles extensively and meticulously.  Some have said he does this to the point of being annoying. [1] But from the chair in the theater, it seems to be working out, because watching him play Doc Holliday in the movie 'Tombstone' was a real treat.

 Doc Holliday is a wanderer, addicted to gambling, alcohol, tobacco and women.  He is also an expert marksman.  But he is also a loyal friend to Wyatt Earp, and stands by his side until the end.

Val does an excellent job at making his character seem pathetic, yet at the same time, admirable.  He convincingly acts out the mannerisms of a dying hero, while making you feel sorry for him; even though you knew all along he had it coming.

If you haven't seen Tombstone yet, you need to.  -Seriously.  The movie is one of Val's best performances (next to 'Heat’, I'd say).  And if you are going to be playing this movie over a properly set up home theater system, well, you're in for a treat.  The sound quality of this movie is incredible.  You want to feel the earth tremble from horse’s hooves?  Play it.  You want a Wild West style gunfight, but with modern surround sound?  Play it.


Val Kilmer in "Tombstone"

Tombstone [Blu-ray]
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"Fast ship? You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon?"

Harrison Ford as Han Solo

Ah yes, Star Wars.  The simplest story told at the right time, with the right effects, and the right actors.  One of my favorite of which is Harrison Ford, who played Han Solo.

Han Solo is a smuggler with a fast ship.  He has a tall dog that walks on two feet for his best friend, whose name is Chewbacca.  Han, however, ends up in the wrong place, at the wrong time, well, almost every single time.  And in the end, it all works out for the best.

Han's character put Harrison Ford on the map, at least in my opinion.  And Ford was one of the few actors from Star Wars that didn't become typeset by the movie.  What do I mean by that?  Take the character Luke Skywalker, portrayed by Mark Hamill.  How many other Mark Hamill movies can you name?  -Or Carrie Fisher?  -Same thing with her.  Star Wars was so successful; it’s hard to imagine the cast playing anything else.

-Except for Harrison Ford.  Who seemed to excel at anything he played.  Yet, with all the war movies he's been in, and the twisted political movies, I still enjoy his performance in Star Wars quite a bit.  

Harrison Ford in "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back"