Do audiences take Ron Howard for granted?

He's been an A-list director for more than 30 years now, a status that even recent flops like "The Dilemma" haven't tarnished. Maybe we're just used to him routinely turning out glossy blockbuster fare like "The Da Vinci Code," movies that are competent and well-made but that could have been shot by anyone.

Where Howard really shines, however, is in far-flung adventures and triumph-over-long-odds dramas. His new movie, "In the Heart of the Sea" (opening December 11), an account of the 19th-century whaling-ship disaster that inspired "Moby-Dick," ought to fill the bill. Meanwhile, here's a look back at the highlights of Howard's directing career.