2003 in Movies

Movie reviews written for movies released theatrically in 2003.

1. Capturing the Friedmans, directed by (10/10)

Is film any more of a reliable medium to convey truth than language? On my shortlist of the greatest documentaries of all time.

2. Kill Bill Volume 1, directed by Quentin Tarantino (10/10)

This kicked me in the chest for 90 minutes.

3. Mystic River, directed by Clint Eastwood (10/10)

An excellent film that I at first thought was marred by its final Lady Macbeth moment. But since I’ve come to decide that it was appropriate.

4. Best of Youth, directed by Marco Tullio Giordana (10/10)

  • because it’s one of the best (if not the best) family dramas I’ve ever seen
  • because it’s a million times better than those American movies about the boomers
  • because it’s six hours long but not boring
  • because after 6 hours, you know these characters like you could never know characters in a 90 minute film
  • because it also manages to fit in the story of Italy trying to bring itself inline with the rest of Europe
  • only problem I had with it is that, not being Italian, sometimes Italians are a little too crazy.

5. American Splendor, directed by Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini (9/10)

One of the best comic book adaptations of all time.

5. Elephant, directed by Gus Van Sant (9/10)

The best film about a school shooting ever made, I would say.

7. Time of the Wolf, directed by Michael Haneke (9/10)

First off, full disclosure: I love Haneke.

The beginning of this film is so shocking – and free of the usual adornments of such beginnings – that it kind of makes the rest of a the movie feel a little bit less successful, but I think to give into that temptation is to ignore a powerful examination of people under duress, that is also extraordinarily well filmed / lit. We are not given the context we would so desperately like, and because of this, I think the film is very difficult to love, but we need to understand that for the filmmaker – and more importantly for the characters – the main reason why the people are in the situation they are is unimportant.

What is important is how they deal with it; how they (attempt to) overcome it. And there’s a message there which isn’t beaten into us like it would be had this been made by most English-speaking filmmakers. I think this message is very much there in the ending, and I frankly can’t understand the confusion that always seems to surround Haneke’s endings. They seem pretty straightforward to me.

8. Cowards Bend the Knee, directed by Guy Maddin (9/10)

Even greater than Saddest Music when it comes to Maddinesque films.

8. The Fog of War, directed by Errol Morris (9/10)

An important light into the mind of high level bureaucrats responsible for life and death.

10. Lost in Translation, directed by Sofia Coppola (9/10)

If I wrote a review, I lost it.

11. Dogville, directed by Lars von Trier (9/10)

Lost my review. But one of the most provocative movies I’ve ever seen.

12. Saraband, directed by Ingmar Bergman (9/10)

I don’t really have much to say about this, because there appears little to question about how it was made. This is a well-told and affecting story. It’s nice to see an intelligent film centering around older people (a rarity over here). Bergman displays his usual mastery at story-telling, managing to avoid being too obvious and also managing to elevate something that seems incidental into something seemingly universal.

13. Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus, directed by Andrew Douglas (9/10)

I don’t see how this film is cliched and I also don’t find Jim White pretentious, just interesting. Having driven around the South myself (though obviously not to the extent of the filmmakers) I found a lot of these images familiar. But its the music, the people (particularly Harry Crewe) and the editing that create a fascinating, elliptical and no doubt unfair portrait. I could watch it over and over I think and get something from it each time. Fascinating.

14. The Saddest Music in the World, directed by Guy Maddin (8/10)

A pretty crazy experience and probably the first complete fulfillment of Maddin’s vision, by release date anyway.

15. Touching the Void, directed by Kevin Macdonald (8/10)

An incredible story.

16. The Memory of a Killer, directed by Erik Van Looy (8/10)

This is a pretty great film. It is almost a lesson for Hollywood film makers: this is how you make a thriller. The one major issue is the filming is often unnecessarily kinetic. I have tried and I cannot figure out what purpose it serves. I doubt that’s what Alzheimer’s actually feels like. But for the most part, this is extremely well done and riveting. Exactly what you would want from one of these movies. The beginning is particularly good.

17. The Agronomist, directed by Jonathan Demme (8/10)

Saw before I started writing down my thoughts consistently.

18. Shattered Glass, directed by Billy Ray (8/10)

Don’t think I was quite writing reviews when I saw this.

19. Bad Santa, directed by Terry Zwigoff (8/10)

You have to watch the unrated version. One of my favourite Christmas movies.

20. A Mighty Wind, directed by Christopher Guess (8/10)

I lost my review of this amazing skewering of – and tribute to – old folkies.

21. Open Water, directed by Christ Kentis (8/10)

For lack of something better to say, the Blair Witch of shark movies.

22. All the Real Girls, directed by David Gordon Green (8/10)

I lost my review for this, my first DGG movie and the one that probably sent me on my brief love affair with his films.

23. The Corporation, directed by Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbot (8/10)

I watched The Corporation yesterday. Interesting and entertaining documentary. I don’t necessarily agree with the filmmakers about everything, but it was worth watching. Personally, I don’t think direct democracy will help us much (it will certainly make it harder to protect rights.). It seems to me a major problem is the definition of a corporation as a person. Another issue is making life property. Anyway, I’ll leave it to the anti-globalization activists to discuss. The consistent ones. If I haven’t mentioned this before, people who scream about corporations but buy their clothes at the Gap or something and go shopping in malls all the time and things like that drive me nuts.

24. The Station Agent, directed by Thomas McCarthy (8/10)

This is an affecting and amusing albeit simple story, and the film’s obvious lack of budget is overcome by the strong performances of the three principals.

McCarthy’s next film is substantially more powerful – and more significant – but that shouldn’t detract from this, a film succeeds on multiple levels:

  • as an examination of the sense of otherness that someone with dwarfism feels;
  • as a story of the power of friendship, no matter how unlikely;
  • and as a story of how personal growth is never out of reach, no matter how old you are (among other things).

25. Ong-Bak, directed by Prachya Pinkaew (8/10)

I appreciate people who can actually do the stuff they try to sell you.

26. Oldboy, directed by Chan-woo Park (8/10)

This is, overall, a highly entertaining movie. I prefer it to Lady V. The ending is too convoluted, too long and too fantastical. It isn’t necessary to spend all that time and certainly the method with which the lead remembers doesn’t seem to fit the whole rest of the film.

27. Crimson Gold, directed by Jafar Panahi (8/10)

Lost my review.

28. Finding Nemo, directed by Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich (8/10)

Yes, I really did actually put aside my dislike of kids’ movies and appreciate one. This is as good as they get.

29. My Architect: a Son’s Journey, directed by Nathaniel Kahn (8/10)

This is an interesting movie, despite how personal it is (a danger given that not all of us are the illegitimate children of famous architects). I’d say the biggest flaw is the narrator’s voice. He is pretty boring. I know it obviously makes it far more personal if he does it, I just wish maybe somebody had helped him with his delivery. It makes the movie feel longer than it is.

30. Les invasions barbares, directed by Denys Arcand (8/10)

Read the review.

31. Tom Dowd and the Language of Music, directed by Mark Moormann (7/10)

Tom Dowd was a fascinating man. I had no idea he was involved with the Manhattan project, nor did I know he was the inventor of a newer version of the mixing board, nor did I know he was pretty much the engineer before he became a producer. I honestly only knew he was a rock producer (didn’t know about the Soul stuff). I learned all of this from this movie and that was nice. But the film is hardly the world’s greatest documentary. For one thing, there are brief dramatizations of studio life which are totally out of place. Why are these preferable to photos? Also, much of the footage of the performers he worked with is of them performing live, when Dowd wouldn’t have been working with them. Is this really preferable to photos?

32. I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, directed by Mike Hodges (7/10)


33. The Shape of Things, directed by Neil LaBute (7/10)

I had heard things about Labute but I sort of thought people were probably overreacting until I saw this. This is definitely a “mean-spirited” film. On the other hand, it does make a point about society, with the gender roles reversed this time, that is serious and well worth considering. And it’s interesting how we get there, through what initially appears to be some kind of standard he said, she said. Still don’t quite know what to make of it.

34. Big Fish, directed by Tim Burton (7/10)

I remember really liking it.

35. Owning Mahowny, directed by Richard Kwietniowski (7/10)

I lost my review.

36. …And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, directed by Bruce Beresford (7/10)

Lost my review.

37. Cold Mountain, directed by Anthony Minghella (7/10)

Lost my review.

38. Festival Express, directed by Bob Smeaton, Frank Cvitanovich (7/10)

Neat, if a little slapdash.

39. Monster, directed by Patty Jenkins (7/10)

Lost my review.

40. Café Lumière, directed by Hsiao-Hsien Hou (7/10)

A fitting tribute to Ozu, but I can’t say I liked it. Read the review.

41. 21 Grams, directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (7/10)

Probably didn’t review it at the time but I have a problem with the pretension.

42. The Same River Twice, directed by Robb Moss (7/10)

This movie starts out with a pretty compelling concept and its a fairly interesting way of looking at aging and how it changes people.

Unfortunately the people under study aren’t the most insightful about what is happening in their lives and the film doesn’t really go where it could. It’s a little bit like unfulfilled potential.

43. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, directed by Gore Verbinski (7/10)

Actually a lot more enjoyable than I thought it would be.

44. Wheel of Time, directed by Werner Herzog (7/10)

Lost my review.

45. The Yes Men, directed by Dan Ollma, Sarah Price (7/10)


46. Identity, directed by James Mangold (7*/10)

Lots my review.

47. Open Range, directed by Kevin Costner (6/10)

I appreciate the climax, I do, but this still feels pretty pre-revisionist.

48. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer, directed by Nick Broomfield, Joan Churchill (6/10)

The follow up documentary to Selling of a Serial Killer is not of much interest if you’ve already seen that first film, as this one rehashes a lot of what is portrayed in the first film, with nothing new to add, really. The production values are better and this time the focus is more on the question of “Should the death penalty apply to people who are clearly insane?” but I’m not sure this movie brings anything new to the case, beyond once again highlighting the incompetence of Wuornos’ first lawyer and giving us more of a biography of her than the first film.

Now, if you haven’t seen the first film, this film probably sparks the same kind of outrage as that movie. But basically, what I’m trying to is that you should watch one film or the other – my vote would be for the original – as watching both doesn’t really deepen your understanding of the miscarriage of justice that occurred, wherein an extremely troubled woman – who may or may not have killed at least one of her victims in self-defense and who absolutely did not receive proper council – was executed because it was easier than dealing with the truth.

49. School of Rock, directed by Richard Linklater (6/10)

Pretty paint-by-numbers but entertaining anyway.

50. Zatoichi, directed by Takeshi Kitano (6/10*)

I feel like I was in a bad mood.

51. Old School, directed by Todd Phillips (6/10)


52. The Company, directed by Robert Altman (6/10)

Watched before I really appreciated Altman.

53. Intolerable Cruelty, directed by Joel Coen (6/10)

At the time I viewed this as the second weakest Coens movie. Don’t know what I would think now.

54. Once Upon a Time in Mexico, directed by Robert Rodriguez (6/10)

Not much more than the title is a Leone homage, in my mind, and this is the least of the Mariachi films. 6 actually seems kind of nice.

55. Swimming Pool, directed by Francois Ozon (6/10)

Lost my review. I do not normally enjoy Ozon though.

56. The Human Stain, directed by (6/10)

I can’t object to the casting because I have never read the book; I can’t object to the premise because I knew someone who was a black-looking white; given those two things, it’s hardly horrible.

57. The Hulk, directed by Ang Lee (6/10)

I did not hate this.

58. Matchstick Men, directed by Ridley Scott (6/10)

Lost my review, but Scott is no Mamet.

59. Crimes of the Heart, directed by John Haslett Cuff (6/10)

Lost my review.

60. The Missing, directed by Ron Howard (6/10)

It seems that a lot of these mainstream Hollywood directors that tackle westerns haven’t seen, or have totally ignored, years of revisionism in the genre. They keep making these westerns that adhere almost completely to the conventions of an earlier time. It boggles my mind.

61. Tarnation, directed by Jonathan Caouette (6/10)

This may be the most narcissistic film I have ever seen (well, along with some of Vincent Gallo’s work) and I think it could only be made in North America, at this time.

But it is unlike anything else I have ever seen and so it deserves some credit even if I cannot figure out why I’m supposed to care that this guy’s life is so messed up. It would be better as a piece of fiction assembled in such a way, me thinks.

62. The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King, directed by Peter Jackson (5/10)

The fist time I watched this I found the denouement interminable but the second time I had read the book and knew how much they cut out. It’s a weird felling to know that this movie is both way too long and not long enough. As I noted with The Two Towers, an adaptation to TV would have been more faithful, but it also would have meant a much longer experience, which I’m not sure would serve anyone except devout Tolkien enthusiasts. The thing is, the source material is just too old fashioned for our era.

63. Love Actually, directed by Richard Curtis (5/10)

Twice as many storylines as necessary. Read the review of Love Actually.

64. Wonderland, directed by James Cox (5/10)

Seen before I started writing reviews consistently.

65. Out of Time, directed by Carl Franklin (5/10)

Can’t remember what specific thing I liked least about this.

66. The Cooler, directed by Wayne Kramer (5/10)

I lost my review, but I think I disliked the magic realism. I usually do.

67. Code 46, directed by Michael Winterbottom (5/10)

Code 46 is a frustrating movie. There are a number of fantastic, possibly even brilliant ideas in it. For example, the way languages have blended into one. Yes, that one is English but the director and writer are English to. Get over it. The fact is, I believe this is a realistic approach to the evolution of our languages in the future. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m sorry…I don’t feel the urge to be more specific.) The near future is a conceivable one, I think. This is not one of those sci-fi films that imagines a ridiculous future. Anyway, the design of the society is pretty impressive., There are elements of the plot (some, only) that are also impressive. I like the ending (in a general sense, not one part of it). How elements of the society are revealed is, for the most part, very well done. The audience is treated as fairly intelligent.

But there are other things that are ridiculous. The narration just does not fit at all. One of the concerns of the movie (which is not really ever answered) is much better addressed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. They’re very different movies, but the latter’s approach to memory and love is infinitely better. The execution of this film is just not good. I wish I could put it better but I can’t. There are little things here and there (and some big things…) that just annoyed me. As I said, it’s frustrating. Particularly because I think somewhere in there was a great sci-fi movie.

Anyway, see it if you want. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

68. Danny Deckchair, directed by Jeff Balsmeyer (5/10)

Lost my review.

69. Milwaukee, Minnesota, directed by Allan Mindel (5/10)

I don’t quite know what to make of this. The acting is much better than the budget. But the story is, well, odd. Sometimes that’s a great thing, but here they just never quite strike the right tone, I guess. It certainly feels like it could have been longer and we could have learned more about some of the characters’ motivations. And though I get the last shot, I didn’t really like it.

70. Anger Management, directed by Peter Segal (5/10)

Reasonably funny.

71. House of Sand and Fog, directed by Vadim Perelman (5/10)

House of Sand and Fog, though already 2 hours long, could benefit from an extra 30 minutes or so. It feels like they cut out a hell of a lot of the book’s character development (though I haven’t read the book…). I mean, why would Lester do that? Come on, I need to know! I had other quibbles too. Just wasn’t very impressed. I found out it was a directorial debut. That explains a lot.

72. Gods and Generals, directed by Ronald F. Maxwell (5/10)

I thought Gettysburg was excellent. But this tries to apply the same idea to years instead of days, and it flat out doesn’t work.

73. Thirteen, directed by (5/10)

Ahhhhhhhh, the fucking kids are out of control!!!

74. King of the Ants, directed by Stuart Gordon (5/10)

Lost my review.

75. Nathalie…, directed by Anne Fontaine (5/10)

Don’t remember it.

76. Byron, directed by Julian Farino

I didn’t write down my thoughts.

77. X2: X-Men United, directed by Bryan Singer (4*/10)

I don’t remember why but I didn’t like this very much.

78. Masked and Anonymous, directed by Larry Charles (4/10)

Something’s going on here and I don’t know what it is. Covers of Dylan songs in multiple languages, lots of seemingly profound ruminations on the natures of various institutions, a great cast. Something is up. However, I really don’t know what. This movie seems like it was meant to be very profound, but it ain’t. Part of it just seems like a very elaborate music video. I really don’t know what to make of it.


79. The Italian Job, directed by F. Gary Gray (4*/10)

Though I find the original overrated I feel like this is unnecessary. That being said, I think I underrated it more because it was a remake and not because it was actually bad.

80. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, directed by Jonathan Mostow (4/10)

Totally unnecessary.

81. American Wedding, directed by Jesse Dylan (4*/10)

Feels charitable in retrospect.

82. The Rundown, directed by Peter Berg (4/10)


83. Hollywood Homicide, directed by Ron Shelton (4/10)


84. Gigli, directed by Martin Brest (4/10)

Not even remotely among the worst movies ever made – not among the worst movies of the year. Just not very good.

85. The Last Samurai, directed by Edward Zwick (4/10)


86. Nothing, directed by Vincenzo Natali (4/10)

Extremely disappointing.

87. Scary Movie 3, directed by David Zucker (4*/10)

Insanely charitable. I was a nutjob.

88. The Matrix Reloaded, directed by Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski (4*/10)

I can’t remember, at this remove, which one I liked less now. However, I did have a pretty terrible theatrical experience with this one.

89. The Matrix Revolutions, directed by Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski (4*/10)

Not really sure which is worse, like I said. I have a greater memory of the second one and its terrible and unnecessary dancing scene.

90. The Hunted, directed by William Friedkin (3/10)

I feel like Friedkin is a director who is only as good as his scripts: he has made two of the greatest American movies ever, and he has made lots of crap. He can’t seem to be consistent, and so I figure that has something to do with the material he chooses.

Unfortunately, this film is not great material. But one still has to wonder how someone as notable as Friedkin would think his audience could believe that a man could forge metal in the woods and that ridiculous moment – by far the most ridiculous moment in a movie with many of them – makes me wish Mythbusters would do a test: which can be accomplished faster: making a stone tool in the woods or making metal in the woods?

In many ways, this movie really feels like the Fugitive turned upside down: the fugitive isn’t so good this time around, but Tommy Lee Jones still doesn’t play well with others.

91. The Recruit, directed by Roger Donaldson (3/10)

So ridiculous.

92. Runaway Jury, directed by Gary Fleder (3/10)

Preposterous but no doubt representative of what many people think of the US justice system.

93. Freddy vs. Jason, directed by Ronny Yu (3/10)

More Freddy than Jason complete with a stupid ending.

94. Down with Love, directed by Peyton Reed (3*/10)

Seen on a plane when I was not in the mood for an homage to this sort of thing. I suspect it’s okay.

95. Final Destination 2, directed by David R. Ellis (3/10)

I really enjoy these movies, but that does not make them good.

96. Underworld, directed by Len Wiseman (3/10)

Really dumb.

97. Jeepers Creepers 2, directed by Victor Salva (3/10)

Everything wrong with the ending of the first one, fleshed out to an entire movie.

98. Shanghai Knights, directed by David Dobkin (3/10)

Worse than the original.

99. Daredevil, directed by Mark Steven Johnson (3/10)

Some terrible casting, for one thing.

100. Winter Break, directed by Marni Banack (3/10)

So weak.

101. Bad Boys II, directed by Michael Bay (3*/10)

Probably rated this low out of spite.

102. Paycheck, directed by John Woo (3/10)


103. Johnny English, directed by Peter Howitt (3/10)

The older I get, the less and less funny Rowan Atkinson becomes.

104. Descendant, directed by Kermit Christman, Del Tenney (2/10*)

Don’t remember it.

105. In the Cut, directed by Jane Campion (2*/10)

Watched with friends at Bishop’s in the theatre, and we laughed.

106. Tears of the Sun, directed by Antoine Fuqua (2/10*)

Perhaps the most annoying thing about Antoine Fuqua is that he doesn’t know he’s a hack. When I saw the Burke quote at the end of Tears of the Sun, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I wonder if my guffaws would have come from the moon or some other celestial object? I know where my tears would come from…they’d come from the sun. Because the sun can cry. Well, I know it can’t, but it’s a great personification. Clearly it works and makes sense (secretly, I bet Fuqua got it from some obscure piece of literature and is all proud of himself for showing by this movie that he’s read parts of at least 2 – 2 godammit! 2! – books).

107. Honey, directed by Bille Woodruff (2*/10)

I really doubt I watched more than 15 minutes of this.

108. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: the Cradle of Life, directed by Jan de Bont (2/10)


109. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, directed by Marcus Nispel (2/10)

I didn’t mind the Dawn of the Dead remake. One of the better ones I’ve seen. Though it was different it wasn’t shitty, which is all I usually ask (aside from: don’t remake that movie, asshole). Anyway, if a remake is ok to good then it’s ok that they fucked with history. However, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake blows. I know, I know, I should know better. But alas, I needed something bad to procrastinate with.

Firstly, it’s making itself out to be real. So they have these B and W clips at the beginning from “police footage.” Except their edited together like it’s fucking Bruckheimer or MTV. Seriously, how are we supposed to believe this is authentic footage if the editing reeks of the late 90s and early 00s??? The acting is pretty horrible. That was a given. But some of the things they did…well, anyway, the script was pretty inane. Oh well. I could go on and on about all the little things that bugged me (and there were only a few moments of awesomeness…but I’ll get to that in a moment) but I don’t really want to bother. And I’m already starting to forget some of it. Anyway, you see way too much of the baddies way too early. And way too much “eerie” music.

Good bits:

A one point the camera (using CG) pulls back through a bullet hole in a girl’s head. That was super awesome. There are a few ridiculously gory moments that are pretty cool. The good bits are fading too, apparently. It was so memorable.

So, in the title match, Leatherface VS. Jessica Biel, Biel fucking gets away. How does that work? If it were me vs. Leatherface, he’d kick my ass. Furthermore, he kicked most people’s asses. Though it was set up from the beginning that she’d be getting away. I still disapprove.

110. Dreamcatcher, directed by Lawrence Kasdan (2/10)

Kasdan’s worst film.

111. Shredder, directed by Greg Huson (2/10)

So I obviously rented this knowing that it was going to be a bad horror movie, but it’s weaker than I would have imagined. It’s like they spent their entire budget on renting that Idaho ski resort, rather than on makeup, where it should have been spent (the gore is really really bad). The acting is obviously pretty terrible and the plot is brutal, but those things are to be expected. It’s not as funny as it could have been (though there are some intentional and unintentional laughs) but the real let down is the utter lack of splatter (and the lack of quality in the existing splatter).

111. The Brown Bunny, directed by Vincent Gallo (2/10)

Supposedly this is way better than the Cannes version which is an incredible thing. I too want to make a film about driving across the country to get a blowjob.

113. House of the Dead, directed by Uwe Boll (2/10)

I’ve seen this twice now and it’s terrible (jump cuts to video game footage, insane cuts in general, terrible acting, swimming zombies) but it’s nowhere near as bad as I remembered it. Upped the rating.

114. Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood, directed by Steven Ayromlooi (2/10)

Not as good as the first time in the hood.

115. House of 1000 Corpses, directed by Rob Zombie (1/10)

I frankly don’t know why people find this scary. It’s just a mess.

116. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, directed by Stephen Norrington (1*/10)

I object to the source material so much, that maybe I couldn’t get my head around the movie, which I’m sure isn’t one of the all-time worst.

117. Darkness Falls, directed by Jonathan Liebsman (1/10)


118. The Core, directed by Jon Amiel (1/10)

Like Armageddon but taken to even greater heights of ridiculous implausibility.

119. Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, directed by McG (1/10)

Somehow worse than the original.

120. Kangaroo Jack, directed by David McNally (1/10)


121. From Justin to Kelly, directed by Robert Iscove (1*/10)

I’ve probably actually seen like 15 minutes of this. But I will never get those minutes back. Ever.

122. S.I.C.K. Serial Insane Clown Killer, directed by Bob Willems (1/10)

One of the worst movies of all time and I have somehow managed to see it more than once.