Mystic River

Forever prisoners of the past.

Haunted by an incident from their youth, three friends grow up to be enemies in Clint Eastwood’s searing take on Dennis Lehane’s novel.

In the present, Kevin Bacon is a cop, Sean Penn a semi-reformed criminal, and Tim Robbins a lost soul — linked by their childhood tragedy, and reunited by a new horror.

As they warily circle one another, new bad decisions are piled on top of old ones, and the trio find they can’t outrun their own fear and anger.

A beautiful bummer of a film which crackles with dread in every frame.

The River Wild

Meryl Streep, action star.

Better believe it, as the mistress of 10,000 accents gets down ‘n dirty, battling sleazy criminal Kevin Bacon in the great outdoors.

Taking her family on a whitewater rafting trip meant to mend her marriage, Streep instead crashes into a pack of robbers on the run, including a fairly young John C. Reilly.

The leader of the bad boys is Bacon, oozing charm just long enough to get close, before he reveals his true, darker intentions.

One of the first films to hit big in my video store days, it’s a great blast from the past.

Apollo 13

Houston, there’s no problem.

This soaring true-life tale centers around a tense moment in NASA history, as a failing oxygen tank puts astronauts in danger, but Ron Howard’s film is as stirring as possible.

Nominated for nine Oscars, and winner of two, in a very-strong year which also featured Babe and Braveheart, it reached home viewers early in my video store career.

Sent out at a time when movie studios were deeply committed to wooing rental huts, it came accompanied by multiple t-shirts.

Twas a sad day when my well-worn one was finally retired to the burn pile years later.

Super

“Shut up, crime!!”

A welcome antidote to holier-than-thou superhero flicks, this underrated dark comedy gives a rage-filled short-order cook a wrench and lets him go bop the heck out of evil-doers.

Director James Gunn, who later delivered another welcome twist on the genre with Guardians of the Galaxy, is adept at mixing violence with grim chuckles, and he’s aces here.

Kevin Bacon sleazes it up as a drug kingpin, while Ellen Page scores as kinky sidekick Boltie.

Top with Rainn Wilson showing us what Office drone Dwight would be like as a full-on vigilante, and you have my attention.

Tremors

“This valley is just one long smorgasbord.”

Giant worms terrorize a small town in the middle of nowhere in a film which came out of nowhere 30 years ago to burrow its way into my heart.

And I know for a fact I’m hardly alone in my love for this unexpected gem, as it was always a super-dependable renter on VHS back in my early video store days.

While a string of low-rent sequels, minus stars Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, have taken a bit of the shine off the franchise, the original remains 96 minutes of grimy good times.