2003 Movies

 

Lost in Translation HHHH (9/20)

Whale Rider HHHH (7/5)

The Hours HHHH (1/11)

About Schmidt HHHH (1/18)

Catch Me If You Can HHHH (1/4)

Swimming Pool HHHH (8/23)

Far From Heaven HHHH (2/8)

Spellbound HHHH (6/15)

Le Peuple migrateur (Winged Migration) HHHH (8/10)

The Station Agent HHHH (10/25)

Pieces of April HHHH (11/01)

The Pianist HHH (2/16)

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind HHH (2/1)

Rare Birds HHH (10/4)

Bad Santa HHH (12/6)

Mystic RiverHH (11/4)

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World HH (11/25)

Johnny English HH (8/9)

Gangs of New York HH (2/15)

Thirteen HH (9/6)

Confidence HH (5/3)

Russian Ark H (2/9)

Boat Trip H (4/5)

Chicago H (1/26)

 

 

Guide

Masterpiece HHHHH

Excellent       HHHH

Good            HHH

Fair                HH

Poor              H

Bomb           M

 

 

Lost in Translation HHHH

Finally a sophisticated movie for adults. Writer/director Sofia Coppola's stunning film loses nothing in the translation as an aging action movie star (Bill Murray) travels to frenetic Tokyo to shoot a whiskey ad. Meanwhile, the bored wife (Scarlett Johannson) of a photographer (Giovanni Ribisi) spends most of her days holed up in her hotel room. The interaction between Murray and Johansson is pure magic. It seems as if some of these scenes were ad-libbed while Murray just goes with the flow. Don't miss the two women laughing hysterically in the background while Murray is in the hospital waiting room. Nao Asuka almost steals the show when she requests her hosiery to be lipped. Brian Reitzell, Kevin Shields, and William Storkson provide the music.

 

Whale Rider HHHH

The sleeper of 2003. A young girl (Keisha Castle-Hughes) loses her twin brother during childbirth. Her stubborn grandfather (Rawiri Paratene) is heartbroken as his heir apparent is lost, but there are other forces at work. Director Niki Caro uses the beauty of New Zealand and the Maori tribal rituals to a stunning effect. You'll wonder why there aren't more movies made like this. You won't be able to take your eyes off the young actress, surely one to watch in the future.

 

The Hours HHHH

I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but I thoroughly enjoyed the acting. It's the story of three women in different time periods. Nicole Kidman portrays tortured writer Virginia Woolf in the 1920's (or is it the 1940's?), Julianne Moore as a bored housewife in 1950's suburbia, and Meryl Streep as a Manhattanite party-giver in the year 2002, who's about to throw one for a dying writer (Ed Harris). Jumping back and forth in time, we see the lives of these woman suffering depression. While at first it would seem downbeat, the final outcome gives one something to ponder. First-rate acting saves this somewhat confusing screenplay by David Hare while Stephen Daldry directs. Child actor Jack Rovello as Moore's astute young son gives a stirring performance.

 

About Schmidt HHHH

Poor Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) is about to retire from his mundane job as an insurance actuary, to be with his wife (June Squibb). His new life is thrown into turmoil and he must face the past and deal with his daughter's (Hope Davis) upcoming marriage to a Mullet-sporting waterbed salesman (Dermot Mulroney). Keep your eye on Kathy Bates' antics. Also starring Howard Hesseman. Includes an interesting shot of skittering Hummel figurines. Alexander Payne directed and wrote the screenplay.

 

Catch Me If You Can HHHH

Director Steven Spielberg once again tackles his "Little Boy Lost" theme ("Empire of the Sun", "ET: The Extra-Terrestrial", "Hook", "Artificial Intelligence: AI"). This time a precocious teenager (Leonardo DiCaprio) must choose which of his divorcing parents to live with; a con artist father (Christopher Walken) or a self-centered mother (Nathalie Baye). Choosing neither, he runs away and fakes his way as an airline pilot, a doctor, and lawyer. Meanwhile, F.B.I. agent (Tom Hanks) is hot on his trail. Based on the real life story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. (who shows up as a French cop to arrest DiCaprio). Great opening titles by Agnès Deygas and Thiery Kutzel along with a first rate score by John Williams make this sparkle.

 

Swimming Pool HHHH

Don't drown in this erotic deep movie. A tired mystery novelist (Charlotte Rampling) escapes to the villa of her publisher (Charles Dance) to write her next novel. There she is interrupted by the publisher's precocious teenaged daughter Ludivine Sagnien (Shwing!!!).  The interesting twist at the end may make you wonder why you've waded in so far, but if you think about it for awhile, you may have a pleasant swim. FranÁois Ozon directed this fascinating film.

 

Far From Heaven HHHH

Julianne Moore knocks another one out of the park. Set in the racially tense and highly repressed 1950's, she must come to terms with her husband's (Dennis Quaid) other life. Meanwhile, she finds a kindred spirit with her African-American (although this wasn't the term used in the 50's) gardener (Dennis Haybert). Plush art direction by Peter Rogness and a lush score by Elmer Bernstein add to the whole mis-en-scene. Todd Haynes' brilliant direction mixes angled camerawork along with rear-projection to blend a Hollywood version of the 50's with that of the story's. Also starring Patricia Clarkson and Jordan Puryear.

 

Spellbound HHHH

No, this isn’t a remake of the 1945 Alfred Hitchcock classic, instead it’s director Jeffrey Blitz’s debut, as he follows 8 students from around the country and various social classes as they compete in the 1999 National Spelling Bee. The story unfolds without narration from an off screen voice asking questions. The participant’s tell their own story as their families and friend’s come in for support. Self-esteem building at its best and you’ll be on the edge of your seat as the contestants are eliminated. Spell, EXTRAORDINARY. Featuring Harry Altman, Angela Arenivar, Ted Brigham, April DeGideo, Neil Kadakia, Nupur Lala, Emily Stagg, and Ashley White.

 

Le Peuple migratuer (Winged Migration) HHHH

A docudrama on the migration of birds as told by the writer/director Jacques Perrin (doing his imitation of Jacques Cousteau). The cinematography by Olli BarbÈ, Michel Benjamin, Sylvie Carcedo-Dreujou, Laurent Charbonnier, Luc Drion, Laurent Fleutot, Philippe Garguil, Dominique Gentil, Bernard Lutic, Thierry Machado, StÈphane Martin, Fabrice Moindrot, Ernst Sasse, Michel Terrasse, and Thierry Thomas is far and away extraordinary. See it on the big screen and you too will soar.

 

The Station Agent HHHH

All poor Fin (Peter Dinklage) wants is a "little" peace and quiet, after he inherits an old railroad depot. But alas, this is not the case, as a hot dog vendor (Bobby Cannavale), a depressed artist (Patricia Clarkson), a librarian (Michelle Williams), and an inquisitive child (Raven Goodwin) manage to derail his course. While the action moves about as fast as Amtrak, you'll still enjoy the scenery. Stephen Trask provides an offbeat score, while first time director/writer Thomas McCarthy keeps things on track.

 

Pieces of April HHHH

Director Peter Hedges' quirky movie has family misfit April (Katie Holmes) preparing Thanksgiving dinner along with her boyfriend (Derek Luke). Her mother (Patricia Clarkson) is truly strange along with her father (Oliver Platt), photographer brother (John Gallagher, Jr.) and goody two-shoes sister (Alison Pill). Meanwhile, things go awry and she has to call on the help of her delightful neighbors (Lillian White and Isiah Whitlock, Jr.). Not the usual dinner with cranberries, but then again you didnít want that anyway.  Also starring Sean Hayes.

 

The Pianist HHH

Director Roman Polanski’s story of Warsaw ghetto survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman (downplayed by Adrien Brody) is a stunning piece of filmmaking and the recreation of war-torn Warsaw by art director Sebastian T. Kranwinkel is something to behold. That said, this work never fully develops the character of Spzilman, so that you really get to know him very well other than he plays piano magnificently. The end result is a strange blend of “Schindler’s List” and “The Perils of Pauline” as Szpilman manages to escape one dangerous situation after another. Be forewarned, the Nazi atrocities are quite graphic. Also starring Emilia Fox, Maureen Lipman, Frank Finlay, and Thomas Kretschmann.

 

Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind HHH

This movie adaptation from the highly questionable1984 Chuck Barris autobiography is just as strange as its original source. George Clooney does a superb job in his directorial debut. A TV game show producer (played brilliantly by Sam Rockwell) is recruited by the CIA to carry out some assassinations during the height of the Cold War. Meanwhile his love interest wanes from dippy-hippie girlfriend (Drew Barrymore) and Natasha-like spy (Julia Roberts). Some interesting backdrops are used to illustrate the schizophrenic atmosphere of the times. This movie treatment was touched upon somewhat in the disastrous “Gong Show Movie”, but its full scope is brought out here. Also starring George Clooney, Rutger Hauer, J.P. Morgan, Dick Clark, Jim Lange, Gene Patton (aka Gene-Gene the Dancing Machine), and Chuck Barris himself. Weird, but effective cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel is first rate.

 

Rare Birds HHH

Stuart Gunnarrson directs this very quirky movie. Poor restaurateur (William Hurt) can't attract any customer to his off-the-beaten path bistro. All is not lost when his inventor pal (Andy Jones) concoct a scheme to lure in business. There's cocaine, a submarine, and love interest to keep things flying. The love interest doesn't quite work but the mis-en-scene carries this. This film was to debut at the 2001 Toronto film festival, but didn't. Instead it went to video before finally being released for mass distribution to the big screen. Also starring Molly Parker.

 

 

Bad Santa HHH

A foul-mouthed drunken thief is hardly the typical holiday fare that one would expect to find in your Christmas stocking. Billy Bob Thornton along with his dwarf sidekick (Tony Cox), pose as Santa and elf respectively to score their annual big heist, in this subversive black comedy. All goes according to schedule until a quiet young boy (Brett Kelly) puts a wrinkle in the plan. Also starring Lauren Graham as the girlfriend with a Santa fetish and Cloris Leachman as the catatonic grandma.  Please leave the children at home, unless theyíve been especially naughty. Also featuring Bernie Mac and John Ritter (in his final film).

 

Click here to see the rest of the reviews.

 

 

 

© 2003, 2004 David Burnham

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