Ron Howard Movies
Professionally, Ron Howard has come a long way from the tousle-haired, barefoot sheriff's son who trod the byways of idyllic Mayberry to reside in the heady company of Hollywood's most elite directors. Howard's films are pure entertainment; they are well-crafted efforts, frequently technically challenging from a production standpoint, and aimed at mainstream audiences. Though some of his lesser works have been criticized for possessing formulaic scripts, Howard's films approach even hackneyed subjects in fresh ways. Though he does not characterize himself as a risk taker, he loves the challenge of exploring different genres; therefore, his filmography includes B-movie actioners, domestic comedies, fantasies, sci-fi, suspense-thrillers, historical dramas, and big-budget action films.
The son of actors Rance and Jean Howard, he made his theatrical debut at age two in a Baltimore production of The Seven Year Itch. He made his screen debut at age five in the suspenseful political drama The Journey (1959). The youngster became a hot property after that and appeared in several features, including The Music Man and The Courtship of Eddie's Father (both 1962). Through this period his father was a strong ally who kept Howard from being exploited by filmmakers. In a November 1996 interview with the Detroit News, Howard describes an incident in which he was six years old and during rehearsal could not cry on cue (Howard doesn't name the production), causing the director to threaten to flog him. Other children may have been terrified, but Howard felt secure because his father was on the set and would protect him. When producer Sheldon Leonard approached Rance Howard about casting Ronny (as he was billed during childhood) as Opie, the son of widowed sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968), the elder Howard stipulated that his son be allowed time off for a normal childhood.
It was as the mischievous but guileless Opie that Ronny Howard became famous. During the popular show's long run, Howard occasionally appeared in other feature films. While a series' demise often signals the death of a child actor's career, particularly if that child is obviously maturing, Howard managed the transition gracefully and continued working steadily. He was cast in a new television series, The Smith Family, in 1971 and starred opposite Henry Fonda, who became one of Howard's mentors, encouraging Howard to strive for creative growth and to take periodic risks to keep himself vital. The series lasted one season, but again Howard landed on his feet, making a bigger name for himself starring as a callow youth in George Lucas' smash hit American Graffiti (1973). The film spawned Garry Marshall's long-running hit, the '50s revival sitcom Happy Days (1974). Essentially reprising his role from the film, Howard (now billed as Ron Howard) starred as all-American youth Richie Cunningham.
Again, Howard also worked simultaneously in films, notably in The Shootist (1976), where he played a teen who worshipped dying gunslinger John Wayne. Though playing a teenager on the series, Howard was in his early twenties and felt it was time to follow his longtime dream of becoming a director. Producer Roger Corman, who had recently starred Howard in Eat My Dust! (1976), let Howard helm the similarly themed Grand Theft Auto (1977). Howard also co-wrote the screenplay with his father and starred in the film. While not exactly an original masterpiece, the film earned praise for its fast-paced, high-energy action scenes. After leaving Happy Days in 1980, he directed Bette Davis in a television movie, Skyward, and managed to earn the great lady's respect with his filmmaking skills.
Howard had his first big hit in 1982 with the black comedy Nightshift. It was to be the first of many instances in which he would work with producer Brian Grazer, who eventually became his partner and the co-founder of Howard's production company, Imagine Films Entertainment (established in 1985), and screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, who formerly wrote for Happy Days. Howard had even greater success with the Tom Hanks/Darryl Hannah vehicle Splash (1984), which launched Disney's Touchstone Pictures and became the company's most successful live-action film to date. He followed this up with sentimental favorite Cocoon (1985). He had his first misstep after hitting it big with Willow, a George Lucas-produced fantasy extravaganza that never clicked with audiences, though it has since developed a devoted cult following.
During the early '90s, Howard worked on a series of big-budget films such as Backdraft (1991) and Far and Away (1992), and Apollo 13 (1995), a gripping account of a failed moon mission. Apollo 13 was a huge international hit, nominated for nine Oscars (it won for Best Sound and Best Editing), and earned Howard the coveted Director's Guild award. In 1996, Howard attempted a new genre with the violent, bloody thriller Ransom, starring Mel Gibson. While an effective suspense thriller in it's own right, Ransom didn't darken Howard's sensibilities in any permanent terms, and after a few stints as producer on both the small screen (Felicity, Sports Night and the silver screen (Inventing the Abbots (1997) and Beyond the Mat (1999)), Howard was back in the director's chair for Ed TV in 1999, but itsuffered immediate and fatal comparisons to the more popular and strikingly similar Jim Carrey vehicle, The Truman Show. Undaunted, Howard next teamed with the rubber-faced star of Truman for How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which became a box-office smash.
Once again turning back to reality after the marked departure of The Grinch, Howard helmed the sensitive real-life tale of paranoid schizophrenic mathematician turned Nobel Prize winning genius John Forbes Nash Jr. in A Beautiful Mind (2001). With Russel Crowe essaying the role of Nash and Jennifer Connelly as his faithful and enduring wife, the film gained generally positive reception upon release, and only seemed to cement Howard's reputation as one of the most versatile and gifted director's of his generation as the film took the Best Picture award at both the that year's Golden Globes and Oscars. Academy Award night proved to be an even bigger night for Howard as the film also took home awards for Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay and, of course, Best Director. Howard followed up his Oscar wins with the dark Western drama The Missing starring Tommy Lee Jones and Cate Blanchett. Unfortunately, neither critics or audiences were too fond of the over-long film. Lucky for Howard, his next project would see him re-team with A Beautiful Mind's Russell Crowe. The Depression-era boxing film Cinderella Man starred Crowe as real-life boxer Jim Braddock and was released in 2005 to positive reviews and Oscar-buzz. Next, he helmed the adaptation of Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code, casting his old Splash leading man Tim Hanks in the lead. The film was as big a worldwide success as the book that inspired it. Howard followed the massive success with an adaptation of Peter Morgan's hit play Frost/Nixon. The film captured five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Editing, as well as a nod for Howard's direction.
As the 2000's continued to unfold, Howard would remain an extremely active filmmaker, helming movies like The Dilemma. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi
Ron Howard plays a young farmer and family man whose dairy herd is being decimated by illness. As if this weren't enough, Howard's young son falls seriously ill. The state's agricultural officials could do something about Howard's plight, but red tape and bureaucracy rules the day. Based on a book by Frederick and Sandra Halbert, this caustic indictment of governmental indifference was nominated for four Emmies. Made for television, Bitter Harvest debuted May 18, 1981. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Ron Howard, Art Carney, (more)
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In a rare foray into documentary filmmaking, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer's Imagine Entertainment produced this behind-the-scenes look at professional wrestling, shot on digital video by director (Barry W. Blaustein), screenwriter of several hit Eddie Murphy comedies. An unabashed wrestling fan since childhood, Blaustein nevertheless takes an unflinching look at the dark underbelly of the "sport," as he shadows a trio of wrestlers representing three very different aspects of the profession. Mick Foley is a superstar shown to be the complete opposite of "Mankind," his successful wrestling character. At work, Mankind is a bloodthirsty animal, but when his mask is off, he's a loving, doting father clearly worshipped by his two young kids, who are traumatized when they witness Foley being bloodied at an Anaheim, California, event. Terry Funk is a portrait of what Foley could become, a former legend now at the end of his career and in desperate need of knee surgery, but continuing to perform dangerous stunts in the ring. Jake "The Snake" Roberts, on the other hand, travels in second-class wrestling circles, a recovering drug addict who has a painful reconciliation with his daughter. Blaustein also interviews the World Wrestling Federation's boastful bigwig Vince McMahon. McMahon later tried to block the release and promotion of the film. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi
- Barry W. Blaustein, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, (more)
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The sons of a Chicago fireman who gave his life in the performance of his duties, firefighting brothers Kurt Russell and William Baldwin carry their lifelong sibling rivalry into their work. Russell is convinced that Baldwin hasn't got what it takes to remain in the fire department. Baldwin is transferred to a "safe" assignment, assisting arson investigator Robert DeNiro, who is trying to make sense of a series of fires involving an oxygen-induced ball of fire called a backdraft. The investigation reveals a link between corrupt alderman J. T. Walsh and imprisoned pyromaniac Donald Sutherland. The trail of evidence leads Baldwin to suspect that his brother Russell, a much-decorated hero, may be the "inside" man setting up the arsons. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, (more)
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The Bluth family of Orange County, CA, once again forces the media critics to come up with new variations on the word "dysfunction" as the cult-favorite sitcom Arrested Development launches its second season. For those who came in late, straight-arrow Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is still trying to keep his family and the family business from disintegrating after his entrepreneur father is thrown in jail on a fraud charge. Well, anyway, he was in jail until he broke out with the help of lookalike convict Oscar (also Jeffrey Tambor) at the end of season one. Now that George Sr. is on the run, the authorities target poor Michael for prosecution in their efforts to bring Bluth Inc. to justice -- and thus Michael's older brother, Gob, an habitually unemployed (and woefully) inept magician, becomes head of the family, managing to convince the company's board of directors that he actually has some business sense! In other developments, Michael's kid brother, Buster (Tony Hale), takes a break from his indolence by romancing Lupe (B.W. Gonzalez), a girl he'd met at a charity drive, and by joining the U.S. Army -- conveniently losing a hand in a freak accident just before he is to be sent to Iraq.
Meanwhile, bumbling detective Gene Parmesan (Martin Mull) gets lost somewhere south of the border while searching for the elusive George Sr.; Oscar, the man who'd traded places with George Sr. to effect his escape, may also end up replacing George Sr. in bed with his the elder Bluth's wife, Lucille (Jessica Walter); and Michael's 14-year-old son, George Michael, takes a surrealistic journey into "Charlie Brown" territory when he's dumped by his girlfriend. Plus, Michael's doctor-cum-actor brother-in-law Tobias (David Cross) edges further out of the closet when he adopts the drag alter ego of "Mr. Featherbottom." Also, this is the season when we meet George Sr.'s hated business rival Stan Sitwell (Ed Begley Jr.), whose daughter Sally (Christine Taylor) was once (and may still be) Michael's childhood sweetheart. Other guest performers include Martin Short as the paraplegic, monumentally annoying Uncle Jack Dorso, an old family friend who offers to help the Bluths regain their stock majority in their own company -- at a price; and blind lawyer/congenital liar Maggie Lizer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who shows up pregnant, leading Michael to believe that he's going to be a father again; and Ben Stiller as Gob's magician mentor Tony Wonder, whose most famous illusion was being baked in a loaf of bread -- and who, like everyone else on the show, has an ulterior motive for lending the Bluths a helping hand. The last episode of the season finds George Sr. still on the lam; Tobias linking up with his father-in-law's blackmailing, self-deprecating former secretary Kitty (Patricia Velasquez); and George Michael entering into a relationship with the devoutly Christian Ann Veal (Mae Whitman), despite her total revulsion for his family and everything they stand for. As in season one, Arrested Development earned several Emmy nominations for its second season, winning the prize for Outstanding Writing. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, (more)
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As Arrested Development leaps into its first season, hard-working Michael Bluth (Jason Bateman) is on the brink of starting a new life in Arizona with son George Michael (Michael Cera) when he is dragged kicking and screaming back to California, there to take charge of his family's business when his light-fingered father, George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), is jailed for fraud and the company's assets frozen. Though he had fondly assumed he'd seen the last of his vituperrious mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter), and his lazy, self-indulgent siblings, he was forced to hunker down and teach them how to behave (and spend!) more responsibly. As Michael's airheaded would-be-activist twin sister, Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), her sexually confused ex-doctor hubby, Tobias (David Cross), and their out-of-control daughter, Maeby (Alia Shawkat), move in with Michael, older brother Gob (Will Arnett), a spectacularly unsuccessful and untalented magician, must face the prospect of actually getting a real job, while the "baby" of the family, Michael's feckless kid brother, Buster (Tony Hale), remains sequestered in his mommy's Balboa Bay condo. Michael's well-ordered world doesn't take very long to unravel; by the second episode, his darling son George Michael has set fire to the Bluths' frozen-banana stand in Newport Beach, and has developed a borderline-incestuous crush on cousin Maeby. A few weeks later, Lucille Bluth's neurotic social rival Lucille Austero (Liza Minnelli) has entered into an affair with the much, much, much younger Buster, an act that will eventually move Buster's mom to spitefully adopt a Korean orphan named Annyong (Justin Lee). Meanwhile, Michael finds it next to impossible to break up the doomed romance between brother Gob and his girlfriend, Marta (Patricia Velasquez), and to fire such millstones around the Bluths' necks as hopelessly inept family lawyer Barry Zuckerkorn (Henry Winkler) and blackmailing company secretary Kitty Sanchez (Judy Greer).
Among the supporting actors entering into the lunacy are Rocky co-star Carl Weathers, who makes the first of several self-deprecating appearances as himself in the episode wherein George Michael is forced to hire a public relations service to gain entrance to a private school; Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton as the warden in the prison where George Sr. is wasting away, so to speak; Seinfeld veteran Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the sight-challenged attorney Maggie Lizer, who plays up to Michael while trying to dig up more damaging dirt on his family's business practices; and series regular David Cross' longtime Mr. Show cohort Bob Odenkirk as a marriage counselor who tries to patch up the differences between Lindsay and Tobias (chief among them the fact that the "never-nude" Tobias will not undress in front of his spouse); and Amy Poehler, real-life wife of regular Will Arnett, as the "where the hell did she come from?" new wife of the gormless Gob. The season finale finds George Sr. staging a heart attack for the purpose of busting out jail, Maeby finally tumbling to George Michael's unspoken love for her, an unintentionally gay-themed book written years ago by Tobias embarrassingly hitting the best-seller charts, and the rivalry between Buster and Annyong coming to a head -- and threatening to bust both of their heads. Although season one of Arrested Development posted lukewarm ratings, the series earned a renewal from the Fox network largely on the strength of its five surprise Emmy Award wins (Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Casting for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing, Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing, and Outstanding Writing). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, (more)
Making its Fox network bow on November 2, 2003, the weekly, half-hour Arrested Development would seem to meet all the qualifications of a "cult favorite." It was smart, hip, and savagely funny; it developed a fiercely loyal circle of fans; it was almost universally beloved of the critical establishment; and it never drew a large audience, barely making a second and then a third season. Jason Bateman headed the cast as Michael Bluth, a thirtysomething widower with a likable 13-year-old son named George Michael (Michael Cera). The level-headed Michael was disdained as the "white sheep" of his highly dysfunctional family because he refused to luxuriate in the wealth accumulated by his business entrepreneur father, George Bluth Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor), who had built a small Newport Beach frozen-banana stand into a vast financial empire. Instead, Michael broke from tradition by actually going to work for a living, and by not giving in to the ostentatious self-indulgence practiced by the rest of the Bluth clan. But when George Sr. was thrown in jail on a charge of fraud, Michael was forced to return to Orange County, CA, to take charge of the family and the family business, both of which were bankrupt because all of his father's assets had been frozen.
Now it was Michael's unenviable task to instill financial responsibility -- not to mention responsibility, period -- in the rest of the Bluth family. These included Michael's snobbish, boozy, hyperjudgmental mother, Lucille (Jessica Walter), who resided in a posh Balboa Bay penthouse and to whom credit cards were life's blood. Also living in Lucille's digs was Michael's youngest brother, Buster (Tony Hale), a perennial graduate student helplessly tied to his mother's apron strings (Buster would later become even more ineffectual, and far more of a thorn in Michael's side, when he lost his hand in an accident and was forced to use an ill-fitting hook). Moving in with Michael until conditions improved (if ever!) were his twin sister, Lindsay (Portia de Rossi), a selfish, scatterbrained liberal activist; Lindsay's husband, Tobias Fünke (David Cross), a former doctor who'd lost his license after administering CPR to a man who didn't need it, and who was half-heartedly trying to break into the acting profession (Tobias was also a deeply closeted homosexual, a fact obvious to everyone but himself); and the couple's spoiled-rotten daughter, Mae, aka "Maeby" (Alia Shawkat), for whom Michael's son, George Michael, harbored a somewhat unnatural crush. And just when you thought that the Bluth family couldn't be any more screwed up, we submit for your approval oldest son George Oscar II, aka "Gob" (Will Arnett), a spectacularly inept stage magician who suffered from a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease and who never had a job -- except when, during Michael's absence in season two, he inexplicably became the darling of Bluth Inc.'s board of directors.
Arrested Development also boasted a large cast of semi-regulars, most prominently Henry Winkler as the Bluth family's lovable but dangerously incompetent lawyer, Barry Zuckerkorn; Liza Minnelli as Lucille Bluth's neighbor and chief social rival Lucille Austero, aka Lucille 2, who at one point entered into a ridiculously torrid romance with the very much younger Buster; Justin Lee as Annyong, a 14-year-old Korean orphan whom Lucille Bluth adopted just to spite Buster; Ed Begley Jr. as George Sr.'s unscrupulous business rival Stan Sitwell; and an unbilled Ron Howard (whose Imagine Entertainment company produced the series) as the series' omnipresent narrator, forever filling in plot gaps with vital information (signature phrase: "In fact...") -- and always several steps ahead of the thick-eared characters. It is virtually impossible to chronicle all of the series' off-the-wall dialogue and surrealistic sight gags; suffice to say that the decision to approach the material in a hand-held "documentary" fashion, and to dispense with the use of a laugh track, only served to emphasize the million and one absurdities. The consistency of the series' lofty quality can be attributed to the fact that its creator, Mitchell Hurwitz (a veteran of such sitcoms as The Golden Girls and The John Larroquette Show), devoted every ounce of his energy to Arrested Development, refusing to accept any other projects throughout the show's run. Arguably too smart for the room, Arrested Development never got the huge audience it deserved, though the devotion of its fans and its multitude of industry awards all but shamed Fox into renewing the series beyond its first and second season. At the risk of offending devotees of Seinfeld and The Honeymooners, there are millions who regard Arrested Development as one of the best comedy series to grace network TV. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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"Houston, we have a problem." Those words were immortalized during the tense days of the Apollo 13 lunar mission crisis in 1970, events recreated in this epic historical drama from
Ron Howard. Astronaut Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) leads command module pilot Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) and lunar module driver Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) on what is slated as NASA's third lunar landing mission. All goes smoothly until the craft is halfway through its mission, when an exploding oxygen tank threatens the crew's oxygen and power supplies. As the courageous astronauts face the dilemma of either suffocating or freezing to death, Mattingly and Mission Control leader Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) struggle to find a way to bring the crew back home, all the while knowing that the spacemen face probable death once the battered ship reenters the Earth's atmosphere. The film received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic critical response and a Best Picture nomination, but lost that Oscar to another (very different) historical epic, Mel Gibson's Braveheart. In 2002, the movie was released in IMAX theaters as Apollo 13: The IMAX Experience, with a pared-down running time of 116 minutes in order to meet the technical requirements of the large-screen format. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi
- Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, (more)
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Angels and Demons re-teams director Ron Howard and star Tom Hanks for the sequel to their international blockbuster adaptation of Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code. Although the book Angels and Demons was written before the novel The Da Vinci Code, the movie transpires after the events of the earlier movie. Hanks stars as professor Robert Langdon, the most respected symbologist in the United States, who uses his knowledge in order to decode a symbol on the skin of a murder victim. The clues put him on the trail of an international conspiracy involving the Catholic Church. Ewan McGregor and Ayelet Zurer also star in the Sony Pictures production. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi
- Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer, (more)
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It's the last night of summer 1962, and the teenagers of Modesto, California, want to have some fun before adult responsibilities close in. Among them are Steve (Ron Howard) and Curt (Richard Dreyfuss), college-bound with mixed feelings about leaving home; nerdy Terry "The Toad" (Charles Martin Smith), who scores a dream date with blonde Debbie (Candy Clark); and John (Paul Le Mat ), a 22-year-old drag racer who wonders how much longer he can stay champion and how he got stuck with 13-year-old Carol (Mackenzie Phillips) in his deuce coupe. As D. J. Wolfman Jack spins 41 vintage tunes on the radio throughout the night, Steve ponders a future with girlfriend Laurie (Cindy Williams), Curt chases a mystery blonde, Terry tries to act cool, and Paul prepares for a race against Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford), but nothing can stop the next day from coming, and with it the vastly different future ushered in by the 1960s. Fresh off The Godfather (1972), producer Francis Ford Coppola had the clout to get his friend George Lucas's project made, but only for $750,000 on a 28-day shooting schedule. Despite technical obstacles, and having to shoot at night, cinematographer Haskell Wexler gave the film the neon-lit aura that Lucas wanted, evoking the authentic look of a suburban strip to go with the authentic sound of rock-n-roll. Universal, which wanted to call the film Another Slow Night in Modesto, thought it was unreleasable. But Lucas' period detail, co-writers Willard Huyck's and Gloria Katz's realistic dialogue, and the film's nostalgia for the pre-Vietnam years apparently appealed to a 1973 audience embroiled in cultural chaos: American Graffiti became the third most popular movie of 1973 (after The Exorcist and The Sting), establishing the reputations of Lucas (whose next film would be Star Wars) and his young cast, and furthering the onset of soundtrack-driven, youth-oriented movies. Although the film helped spark 1970s nostalgia for the 1950s, nothing else would capture the flavor of the era with the same humorous candor and latent sense of foreboding. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi
- Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, (more)
The always-touchy issue of euthanasia has provided source material for films since the silent era. 1980's Act of Love stars Ron Howard as the brother of Mickey Rourke, who has been left paralyzed by a motorcycle accident. Howard kills Rourke with a shotgun, claiming his brother begged him to do it. He willingly gives himself up to the authorities and stands trial, hoping more for understanding than exoneration. Made for television, Act of Love was based on a true story, chronicled by author Paige Mitchell. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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The true story of prominent mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. is the subject of this biographical drama from director Ron Howard. Russell Crowe stars as the brilliant but arrogant and conceited professor Nash. The prof seems guaranteed a rosy future in the early '50s after he marries beautiful student Alicia (Jennifer Connelly) and makes a remarkable advancement in the foundations of "game theory," which carries him to the brink of international acclaim. Soon after, John is visited by Agent William Parcher (Ed Harris), from the CIA, who wants to recruit him for code-breaking activities. But evidence suggests that Nash's perceptions of reality are cloudy at best; he is struggling to maintain his tenuous hold on sanity, and Alicia suspects a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia. Battling decades of illness with the loyal Alicia by his side, Nash is ultimately able to gain some control over his mental state, and eventually goes on to triumphantly win the Nobel Prize. Based loosely on the book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind (2001) co-stars Paul Bettany, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Christopher Plummer, and Judd Hirsch. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi
- Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, (more)
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Season four of the wildly successful "real-time" adventure series 24 begins some 18 months at the end of season three. John Keeler (Geoff Pierson) has succeeded David Palmer (Dennis Haysbert) as president of the United States, and the new secretary of defense is James Heller (William Devane) -- who is also the new boss of crack CTU agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). One of Heller's first moves is to reunite Jack with his old nemesis Erin Driscoll (Alberta Watson), now the head of the CTU. Unbeknownst to most of the principal characters, Jack is in love with Heller's daughter (and policy assistant), Audrey Raines (Kim Raver), this despite the fact that Audrey is still legally married to estranged husband, Paul (James Frain). Outside of Jack Bauer and President Keeler, the only series character from season three to return as a regular in season four is CTU tech analyst Chloe O'Brien (Mary Lynn Rajskub); the rest of the cast is virtually brand-new. The "day" that comprises the fourth season begins, typically, with a nail-biting crisis, when James Heller and his daughter Audrey are captured by a terrorist group headed by Habib Marwan (Arnold Vosloo), who has already set a fiendish master plan in motion with a train bombing in the U.S. It soon develops that the abduction of Heller and Audrey is but a subterfuge to allow an enemy stealth bomber to blow up Air Force One and eliminate the president -- and ultimately to gain control of a nuclear warhead that will destroy a major U.S. city. Making matters worse, there is a turncoat in the ranks of the CTU -- and without giving the game away, it can be noted that CTU agent Sarah Gavin (Lana Parrilla) tumbles to the mole's identity before Jack Bauer does. As the tension mounts, Paul Raines is seriously wounded saving Jack during a covert mission, which "ices" Jack's relationship with Audrey; a shattering personal tragedy forces Erin Driscoll to resign from her post in mid-season; there is dissension in the terrorist ranks during a concerted effort to trigger nuclear meltdowns in six different cities; the seldom-used 25th Amendment is invoked to change presidents in midstream; and an old enemy of Jack's from the series' first two seasons appears virtually out of nowhere to make a terrible situation far worse than could ever be imagined. Clearly, the fourth season of 24 drew inspiration from the headlines of the day, notably the controversial treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The series also was attacked by certain special-interest groups for making several of the villains Arabs, or of Arab descent. And of course, there were those who carped that the series' notion of "real time" (each episode consisted of a single uninterrupted hour in the same day) resulted in some rather ludicrous lapses of logic. But 24 was as big a hit in the ratings throughout its fourth season as it had been all along. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
- Kiefer Sutherland, William Devane, (more)