Top Ten – 2003 Films

#1
Finding Nemo

Story: Marlin (a clown fish) is a widower who only has his son Nemo left of his family after a predator attack. Years later, on Nemo’s first day of school, he’s captured by a scuba diver and taken to live in a dentist office’s fish tank. Marlin and his new absent-minded friend Dory set off across the ocean to find Nemo, while Nemo and his tankmates scheme on how to get out of the tank before he becomes the dentist’s niece’s new pet.

Review: Pixar has not failed. Every film they release is an unoriginal story that has been told so many times before. But the highly polished final product is storytelling with a stroke of mastery. Pixar and photo-realism do not mix, and I never want them to mix them. These are cartoons for the new millennia. That being said, Nemo is a little clown fish captured by a diver/dentist while, under the watchful eye of his sole (bad pun, he is a clown fish anyway) neurotic father. The film is the journey the father takes trying to get back his son. A journey that becomes a legend to the underwater community, and it is a big community. While the father, voiced by Albert Brooks keeps the movie together, it’s Ellen DeGeneres’s amazing performance as Dory that steals the show. Always airy and funny, but a touching lost soul too. Every character was fascinating and entertaining, Easily a top ten movie for the year and top 3 of Pixar productions to boot. Deb and I just saw this film last weekend and that’s 10 weeks after it debuted’¦most films leave the theaters after 6.

#2
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Story: While Frodo & Sam continue to approach Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring, unaware of the path Gollum is leading them, the former Fellowship aid Rohan & Gondor in a great battle in the Pelennor Fields, Minas Tirith and the Black Gates as Sauron wages his last war against Middle-Earth.

Review: This was really the final film of ’03 for me, 8:00 clock show on December 31st. And what a film to end it on. Take the first 2 near perfect films and combine them into a truly epic conclusion. The scale is immense beyond belief, but still contains an intmaticy that fleshes even more from the characters. Peter Jackson has set the bar’¦Titanic times three. While the final battle lends a lot to the incredible AT-AT battle from Empire Strikes Back, Orlando Bloom’s Legolas does something Luke can only dream about.’¦and with a style that had me clapping (I was the only one’¦but hey…it was a small theater.) Great Music, Great Direction’¦and truly incredible special effects. The Academy has sat on it’s hands a bit with the first two installments’¦.it’s time that WETA and Aussies get some statues. A bit long’¦but it had to be done. Sorry Matrix, your final installment suffered a bit’¦The Lord of the Rings is THE trilogy.

#3
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl

Story: After the Governer’s daughter, Elizabeth Swann, is kidnapped by the Pirate Captain Barbossa, Elizabeth’s childhood friend Will Turner must team up with rogue pirate Jack Sparrow to save her. Little do they know that these pirates are cursed. Forced to exist between living and dead, and only revealing their skeleton forms in the moonlight, the pirates intend to use Elizabeth’s blood and necklace (a part of their curse) to return to their normal state.

Review: First of all, Johnny Depp does knock this one out of the park. A truly inspired performance by Depp! (Inspired by Keith Richards). His super smart, rolls with punches, sometimes drunk and always single-minded pirate is brilliant and fun to watch. Even his entrance is something you will never forget.Now onto the film’¦Great scale, great pace and humor. Orlando bloom doesn’t have a lot of range but his overall ‘˜cuteness’™ gets him by. The supporting cast is great, many of which look like they just walked out of a Disney cartoon’¦big jaws, exaggerated features and all. The moonlight effects were top notch and really became special when they would quickly run in and out of moonlight and would change accordingly. There are some times when the film didn’t seem polished enough and could have benefited from some cuts to speed things up. But the references to the Disneyland ride and other pirate movies more than made up for it. Some fights were too tight, but others were well done, so I don’t know who made the mistakes. The whole movie seemed like a prequel to ‘˜Nate & Hayes’™’¦without the stunts’¦and that’s not bad. Never campy, always classy, sometimes scary but all in all a wonderful ‘˜Want’™ movie. Depp wants the pearl, Bloom wants the girl, Barbosa wants the apple, the girl wants excitement, The Commodore wants respect and the pirates want to be pirates. And the passion of the ‘˜wants’™ really permeates through everyone’s performances’¦great job.


#4
Matrix Reloaded

Story: In the second chapter of the Matrix trilogy, Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) continue to lead the revolt against the Machine Army. In their quest to save the human race from extinction, they gain greater insight into the construct of The Matrix and Neo’s pivotal role in the fate of mankind.

Review: F’™in Excellent!. I was along for the ride. While the first films effects relied quite a bit on John Gaeta’s bullet-time system, this film removes all the limitations of that system by putting the whole scene in the computer. Some don’t like, but the ‘˜W’™ brothers used it to the limit and took us farther visually. There is no way in hell the fight scene against all the Smith’s could be done the old way. Some of the frames do look a little CGI’¦but hey’¦it’s a freakin’™ computer people!!! Chase scenes…oh my god the chase scenes. The freeway chase is something never before seen and you fear closing your eyes incase you miss something. It’s a ChiPs season finale on steroids. Also, two of the fight scenes took everything to a new level. The Smith’s Fight, while confusing, the details were breathtaking to watch. In one 10-minute span it had more punches and combinations than any Jackie Chan movie to date. Next was the amazing Morpheus vs. Agent fight on the truck speeding at 80 Mph’¦truly jaw dropping and a great climax to boot. Almost forgot about the Nipples, I don’t think there was a single nipple in M1 but M2 has at least 10’¦all extras, but nipples nonetheless. But the big change was reaching the core and finding out horrible truths that takes us all the way back to square one. The majority of the theater (and a few reviews I read) did not understand what The Architect was saying, but it boils down to this’¦your screwed no mater what choice you make and everything was planned from the get go’¦even your choices! OOOHHHHHH!
Where ‘˜Reloaded’™ falls short: The fights are just fights, while extremely dynamic the fear of losing the fight just isn’t there. Love was a little stale. A lot of the ‘˜Big Plot Moments’™ fall flat cause we are still reeling from the 10000-punch fight we were just watching. French people were way to prominent’¦not sure if that was the right person to be holding the old obsolete programs. Zion’s fate in the end was a little foggy. Interesting new characters were never explored: The twins, key maker, and that kid always nagging Neo. This installment reminded most of Back to the Future 2, fun Eye candy but was just a rest stop on the trip to the next vision.


#5
X2: X-MEN UNITED

Story: A new war between humans and mutants begins after an attempted assassination of the president of the United States. Now, all the mutants need to fight together against an enemy in common: General William Stryker, who is planning to destroy them all. He uses radical methods to get some mation from Magneto, and plans an attack to Prof. Xavier’s mutant school when there is only Wolverine and the young students (Jean Grey and Storm are looking for a new mutant, Nightcrawler, and Xavier and Clycops are in Magneto’s plastic prison).

Review: First big hit if the summer (100 Million in 4 days) showed how a sequel should be done. Khan Style baby!!! Forget the character development’¦we know who they are’¦just put them in dynamic situations and let the metal fly! Bryan Singer kept the mood, the style, and the attitude and even added in Nightcrawler’¦a truly top-notch character. The story starts with a phantom mutant attacking the white house in one of the best attack/fights I have seen. But this mutant is under someone else control’¦and it’s not Magneto. And that’s why all the mutants must unite…to take on this new threat’¦wait for it’¦Wolverine’s creator!!! Good fights, God Fun, Good PG Deaths, Bad showing at the Regal in PV. For some reason the aspect cropping was way off. In the Mystique/Wolverine kissing scene I couldn’t even see her head…weird.


#6
Kill Bill: Vol. 1

Story: “The Bride” was once part of a group of world class female assassins, until the group leader, “Bill” and the other assassins turn against her. Five years later “The Bride” awakens from the coma the assassins left her in and heads out to seek bloody revenge.

Review: Where to begin’¦.In Quentin style’¦the middle. The marquee piece of this film is the Battle at the house of blue leaves. A series of extended crane and stedycam shots that followed the whereabouts and fighting of some 80 participants. Shots that put Scorsese to shame and made the Disney execs cringe with the over all amount of blood loss. The dynamic colors of the entire film are wonderful, but in the middle of the biggest fight of them all’¦ Quentin goes black and white. Can’t place the homage he was going for here. And it irritated me more than style was probably supposed too, here I was salivating at what would become a Technicolor blood fest, and I was bounced back to Seven samurai!!!. Only other cheese-out to me was the beeping whenever ‘œThe Bride’s’ name was mentioned, She was supposed to be Eastwood’s ‘œMan with no name’ but come on’¦. just cut it out. The real power of the film was the ability to bring Hardcore Anime to life, much in the same way that The Matrix did. Oh yea , Lucy’s life was explained using Anime, and it worked very well indeed. Not a lot of Tarintino dialog, but the cool factor still permeated through the entire film. Uma was great and her journey is intriguing to follow. Limbs fly off people like Nerf rockets, so be forewarned when taking the squeamish to the film. The truly bright point to me was the scenes with Sonny Chiba. He had a style and class that raised the bar from a grind house pic to something a little more lasting. I am going to hold judgment on the Power Jew’s decision to make the film two parts when I see Volume II in February. But so far there were a few places that could use a trim in Volume I.


#7
Seabiscuit

Story: A half-blind ex-prizefighter (Maguire) and mustang breaker (Cooper) team up with a millionaire (Bridges) and his rough-hewn, undersized horse, Seabiscuit. The men bring Seabiscuit incredible heights, helping him earn Horse of the Year honors in 1938. Based on a true story.

Review: About as ‘˜near perfect’™ of all the films this year! History channel with a budget! If you don’t cheer for everyone in this film something is wrong with you! That being said: still only places behind 85’s ‘˜Phar Lap’™ but stays ahead of Casey’s ‘˜Shadow’™ show position as the best horse movie ever. A rich and methodical telling of the West Coast phenom that beat the Triple Crown winning goliath ‘œWar Admiral’ in a match race during the depression. Where the film really shines is in the relationships that are created along the way. Seabiscuit is the catalyst for a true rag tag group of individuals to be national heroes. The races are well filmed but nothing too new until the final race, which has some truly amazing slow motion shots including the money shot of Seabiscuit’s front hoofs almost hitting you in the face down the home stretch. The real charm to the races for me came with the conversations between Red Pollard and George Wolff during the race. The planning, the plotting, the ‘˜have a nice ride’™ stuff gave me goose bumps and made the races an emotional roller coaster instead of just an tense adrenalin rush. My grandfather raised racehorses and I can remember countless trips to Agua Caliente in the late 70’s to see ‘œCastle Run’ and Second Place’ dash for the line. And seeing Seabiscuit get his start there and staying in the stables south of the field brought back all the trips, and walks, and brushings from my youth. Bridges had a bit of ‘˜Tucker’™ in the presentation but everyone else brought some truly inspired performances to the table. A Tobey supporting actor nod may come his way. This movie is a keeper and not just because it is a great history lesson but it also to shows how to make a emotionally perfect film with out shoving down your throat. Note to my mom: bring a whole box’¦.you’™ll be crying like clockwork on this one.


#8
Bad Boys II

Story: Narcotics cops Mike Lowrey (Smith) and Marcus Bennett (Lawrence) head up a task force investigating the flow of ecstasy into Miami. Their search leads to a dangerous kingpin, whose plan to control the city’s drug traffic has touched off an underground war. Meanwhile, things get sexy between Mike and Syd (Union), Marcus’s sister.

Review: The visions in my head said this is “THE” guy movie for 03. So I already probably over estimated the film before going in. But it didn’t matter, take the good Bad Boys 1 and triple it. Mike Bay is poetic and hectic at the same time, and his filmmaking technique is built for films like this. A high adrenalin action/chase/explosion flick that was just as funny as the first one. The banter during firefights is childish but the long scenes when they play off each other; Mike’s ‘˜outside the box’™ speech and the interrogation of Marcus’s daughters new boyfriend are priceless. The surprise this time around was Lawrence’s stress filled family man. In Bad Boys he was the folly, the butt of the jokes, here he shines as the person that keeps the film together. Smith’s Lowery is more of a Girls Gone Wild playboy than the rich ‘player’ from BB1. So the tight chemistry of BB1 is thrown out the window through most of the film, but the dynamic is just as effective. Bay brings in a few new tricks: “Theater in the round’ gun fight and the bullet path to Marcus’s ass were real winners. But Bay also falls back to some bad “drill technique” chase scenes that are more confusing than eye candy. The bad guy wasn’t so bad, silly more than anything. But what made the film great was the scale, Chases were big, Explosions were big, and just the thought of going to Cuba with ex commandos to take down a fortress is big. MB’s Sig Shot Report: ‘˜Spinner’™ happens at 1 hour 55 min. when Marcus learns his sister has been taken. ‘˜Group Slo-Mo’™ happens at 2 hours 5 min. when the DEA and TNT agents come to tell Marcus and Mike that they are in for whatever they want to do.


#9
Old School

Story: Mitch, Frank and Beanie are disillusioned with their personal lives begining when Mitch’s nymphomanic girlfriend, Heidi, cheats on him, then former party animal Frank gets married, but unwilling to let go of his wild life, and Beanie is a family man seeking to reclaim his wild and crazy youth. Beanie suggests that they form their own fraternity in Mitch’s new house on a college campus to re-live their glory days by bringing together a variety of misfit college students, losers, middle-aged and elderly retirees as their new friends and later try to avoid being evicted by the new Dean of Students, Pritchard, whom still holds a personal grudge against all three of them.

Review: Guy flick about starting your own fraternity ‘¦at 40. Fun premise. It was a good star vehicle for Vince and Will. Not the best teenage-sex-comedy-with-old-people, But the same level of fun as ‘˜Road trip’™.


#10
Final Destination 2

Story: After a dream of a horrific car crash, Kimberly helps save several people and causes another rift in Death’s design, but this time its different, since Alex walked off the plane Death’s design did not only affect the survivors of Flight 180, but every single person they’ve come in contact with, now how will they stop it?

Review: On par with the Original except for the oscar caliber crash at the beginning. A true delight on par with the freeway chase in Matrix Revolutions

Just Missed: Bend It Like Beckham – Basic – Paycheck – Open Range – Agent Cody Banks

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