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Top 10 of 2003
Russell Crowe plays Captain Jack Aubrey in this rousing sea adventure full of action, suspense and drama. The British are at war with the French, and it is up to Aubrey’s young crew to stop the French from controlling the oceans of South America. No other film this year managed to hook me in so intensely, and for so long than “Master and Commander.”
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Finally, a LOTR film for moviegoers who didn’t care much for the previous two films. Even though “Return of the King” was filmed right after “Two Towers,” it is decades ahead as far as the overall quality of the movie. Revolutionary battle scenes and improved directing by Peter Jackson rightfully puts this Oscar-contender at #2 on my list, and a deserving title for a category at the Academy Awards other than Best Sound Editing.
3. Kill Bill: Vol 1
Quentin Tarantino pulls no punches in this delightfully graphic homage to martial arts films. Dancing dangerously on NC-17 borders, “Kill Bill” is more craft than exploitation, and Uma Thurman proves she can play with the big boys. Not only is the entire film packed with action, the last words uttered by David Carradine’s Bill have us craving “Vol. 2.”
4. The Cooler
William H. Macy plays a man so unlucky that a casino employs him to end winning streaks just by being around big winners. Alec Baldwin deserves the Best Supporting Actor award as the terrifying owner of the Shangri-La casino.
5. Lost in Translation
A 53-year-old Bill Murray finds himself in a relationship with a 19-year-old Scarlett Johansson in the rarely spoken of “Lost in Translation.” This film came and went so quick that I was unable to view it for a second time in which case I probably would have liked it a lot more. Regardless, “Lost in Translation” is the best romantic drama of the year. We look into the lives of two complicated yet sophisticated people who feel...well, lost, while staying in Japan. He’s there to do commercials and feels like a sell-out for doing so, and she’s there for her husband who’s on a business trip. She loves him, but feels that there’s something missing in her life, and Murray’s Bob Harris might be the one to fill the void.
6. Dirty Pretty Things
A true genre-defying thriller about two illegal immigrants trying to make ends meet in unforgiving London. Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a doctor from Nigeria, now works a hotel job and rents a couch from Senay (Audrey Tautou), a maid at the hotel who fled from her arranged marriage in Turkey. They will plan to leave London with help from Guo Yi (Benedict Wong) a mortician, and doorman Ivan (Zlatko Buric) and hooker Juliette (Sophie Okonedo)..
7. House of Sand and Fog
A painfully powerful story about two families, both of whom rightfully own house, but only one of them legally. Jennifer Connelly and Ben Kingsley lead in this depressing yet pride-filled drama. Few films can impact us so greatly the way “House of Sand and Fog” does.
8. Cidade de Deus (City of God)
The neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro is ruled by violent gangs in “City of God.” The story is told by a young photographer who gets caught up between working for a newspaper and looking out for his friends caught up in the drug-pushing trade. Powerful performances and skillful direction make “City of God” an excellent choice when you want a realistic portrayal of life in a poverty stricken country.
9. Owning Mahowny
So many films feature the sport of gambling, however few show us the true detrimental effects it has over us, and how easy it is to be down millions. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a Toronto bank associate who must steal money from his clients to make up for his losses to an Atlantic City casino. I needed glue to stay in my seat through this surprisingly great nail-biter.
A twisted horror film that doesn’t need ghouls, ghosts or the supernatural to be an effectively creepy thriller. Angela Bettis stars as May, a product of being the outcast at school because of her lazy eye. Upon entering adulthood and receiving corrective lenses, May is ready to date and make up for lost years in shocking ways.
10. The Last Samurai
“The Last Samurai” is one of the best choreographed films of the year, and while it may not be able to compete with the splendor of “Return of the King,” this action flick manages to look about as good with a lot less CGI and resources.
Most Disappointing Films (Not Necessarily Worst) of 20031. The Matrix Revolutions
The Wachowski brothers did such a phenomenal job with “Reloaded” that clear-minded moviegoers couldn’t possibly expect much better, but could we have ever anticipated what turned out to be the conclusion of the “Matrix” trilogy? The Wachowski brothers bring nothing new to the table and are evidently trying too hard to brag about what they can do with a computer and untold millions of dollars. What was so special about that “big punch” to Agent Smith’s face in the final battle that they had to slow it down to a crawl? In the end, after five years, it all comes down to a sunrise ending that could have been written by a high-school AOL Instant Messenger amateur poet.
Marvel’s latest comic-to-big screen adaptation is one big green ball of nothing. Great special effects can’t save this uninteresting adventure from boring the audience half way through. How many times are they going to show Bruce’s mother locked in that bedroom? The story is only quasi-interesting; it’s way too long at almost 2 and 1/2 hours, and the final showdown between Bruce and his father is an overbearingly blurry mess. Ang Lee tries too hard to give this movie a “comic feel” and consequently turns it into a cheesy (Talbot’s death scene) and forgettable hodgepodge. “Hulk” ranks at the bottom of the Marvel Movie barrel.
3. Bringing Down the House
I expected a little more from Steve Martin than this white-be-black comedy, a film that quickly runs out of ideas once Martin’s Snoop Doggy-style vocabulary is exhausted. There are only so many times you can add the suffix -izzle to a word and so many times you can use it in the same movie. It’s time for Hollywood to put to bed the cliché of white men trying to act black and looking so bad at it. Martin’s jersey-wearing hip-hoppin’ charm just gets embarrassing by the nightclub scene, and it never gets any better. Queen Latifah has nothing to work with here other than the lame plotline that has her playing a wrongly convicted criminal. And Eugene Levy, who is almost always a great onscreen presence, has no reason for being here other than to fall in love with Latifah’s character which I guess, according to the filmmakers, is apparently funny to have a straight white guy fall for a ghetto black girl.
4. House of 1000 Corpses
It's one of only three ‘Fs’ I awarded this year, and Rob Zombie proves that just because you love the horror genre, it doesn’t mean you can make a good horror movie. “House of 1000 Corpses” is stylish all right, but the characters are so poorly developed and have no depth that we root for their hopefully brutal demises the moment we meet them. What’s to admire about the expansive, well-constructed sets and backgrounds when we don’t give a red cent about the well-being of the characters? Not a single scare in this house...too bad because this movie had potential.
Bad Movies You Liked Anyway1. Bruce Almighty
If Bruce Nolan had been played by anybody other than Jim Carey, I doubt people would have laughed as much as they did at his overly flamboyant movements and spasms. And was The Daily Show’s Steven Carell’s endless mouth blabbering really that funny? Audiences should have checked themselves and realized a mediocre comedy when it’s in front of them. This isn’t how you play God. Then again. maybe I’m the only one who would aspire to do greater things than have my dog use the toilet and play ‘Moses parts the Red Sea” with my coffee.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean
There’s just something about immortal pirates fighting other immortal pirates that make fighting each other seem...senseless. Johnny Depp is colorful as always, and I imagine that’s why this movie was so praised, however his sarcastically witty performance doesn’t have a lasting effect. Sure he’s funny, but the movie gets more and more repetitive with every sword clash and every time Depp’s Jack Sparrow get captured and somehow escapes captivity. The always adorable Keira Knightley plays Elizabeth Swann, a princess-like character whom is able to knock a pirate off the side of the ship by slapping him in the face, and yet when one is shot point-blank in the same region by another pirate, he doesn’t flinch. The majority of moviegoers were sold by this “C+” adventure, but I still have my money.
Featured Interviews, Articles and EssaysMovie Mailbag: #1-- Male nudity in the movies, rating "Charlie's Angels" higher than "Hulk," advertisements in the movies, and the over-blown hype of "Matrix: Reloaded," all in this first issue of Movie Mailbag.
Interview: C. Ernst Harth -- Dreamcatcher's C. Ernst Harth recently took some time off to answer a few questions for us in this exclusive Aggressive-Voice interview. Here he talks about his experiences in the movies, what his encounter with Shannon Elizabeth was like, how he met his wife, and what he'll be doing in the near future.
When 45 Seconds Isn't Enough -- The Academy Awards is a celebration of excellency in the art of film. As Roger Ebert puts it, it is prom night for the stars; a time for the best of the best to accept the highest honor in the movie business. While there are a zillion other award shows out there, the Oscars is the only one taken seriously; the only one where the emotions, stomach sickness and tears are real, and the only one where every star (except for Eminem) shows up.
This Year's Grading Breakdown
2005 and current Reviews
Classic and Older Films
Alien Vs. Predator D
Aviator, The B+
Baby's Daddy, My D+
Barbershop 2: Back in Business C+
Blade: Trinity D+
Butterfly Effect, The C+
Chronicles of Riddick, The D+
Dawn of the Dead B
Clearing, The B+
Day After Tomorrow, The B
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story A-
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind B+
Exorcist: The Beginning C
Fahrenheit 9/11 B
Fahrenhype 9/11 B
Finding Neverland A
50 First Dates B-
Forgotten, The B-
Garden State B+
Girl Next Door, The C
Goodbye, Lenin B
Grudge, The C
Harold and Kumar go to White Castle C+
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban B+
I, Robot A
Incredibles, The A-
Jersey Girl C-
Kill Bill Vol. 2 B+
King Arthur B
Napoleon Dynamite C
Never Die Alone A-
Ocean's Twelve B
Passion of the Christ, The A
Resident Evil: Apocalypse C-
Secret Window B-
Shaun of the Dead B
Shrek 2 B-
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow C-
Spider-Man 2 A-
Suspect Zero C+
Taking Lives B-
Village, The C-
Welcome to Mooseport D
Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! C+