2003 February

(3 Feb) Lovely and Amazing (2002, Nicole Holofrener) 74
[ Why is that the most insecure women attach themselves to the most inconsiderate jerks? You want to feel for these characters, but at the same time it’s frustrating how they can’t get over their neuroses or at least try to do something about it. Thankfully, the actresses are engaging enough. There’s Catherine Keener doing her usual fuck-off thing, Emily Mortimer offering a brave/vulnerable performance as a self-deprecating actress and Brenda Blethyn breathing decency as the other two’s hapless mother. Writer-director Nicole Holofrener lays it on thick and her film can be obnoxious at times, but it’s got a sweet core. ]

(4 Feb) The Recruit (2003, Roger Donaldson) [ review ] 57

(4 Feb) Minority Report (2002, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 93

(5 Feb) Chasing Amy (1997, Kevin Smith) [ review ] 87

(6 Feb) The Favourite Game (2003, Bernar Hébert) [ review ] 80

(6 Feb) The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie (1979, Chuck Jones) 88
[ Compilation films are often a cheap marketing ploy, but you must appreciate the opportunity to watch all your favorite Looney Tunes cartoons back to back. Is there anything as hilarious in its cruel fatalism as Wile E. Coyote’s vain attempts at capturing the Road Runner? Or what about “Duck Amuck” in which animator and character collide in a manner as wonderfully meta as anything Charlie Kaufman has ever written? Didn’t “What’s Opera, Doc?” introduce generations of kids to classical music? Has there ever been a more accurate depiction of the exquisite agony of unrequited love than Pepe Le Pew’s? And most importantly, is there anything sexier than Bugs Bunny in drag? ]

(7 Feb) Beauty and the Beast (1991, Gary Trousdale) 91
[ A moving story, gorgeous animation, catchy musical numbers, barely a hint of condescending kiddie stuff… This just might be Disney’s best film. ]

(7 Feb) The Philadelphia Story (1940, George Cukor) 93
[ Katharine Hepburn as a spoiled socialite about to get remarried, Cary Grant as her bitter ex-husband and James Stewart as a snobbish tabloid reporter: quite the cast, isn’t it? This old-fashioned yet incisive romantic comedy is a bit stiff, looking every bit like the filmed play it basically is, but the flawless performances and the wise and witty dialogue more than make up for it. And this that rare movie romance where you actually don’t know who will win the woman’s heart until the very last minute. ]

(7 Feb) Rear Window (1954, Alfred Hitchcock) 95
[ Another great James Stewart film but in quite a different register. Stewart plays a wheelchair-bound magazine photographer who fights boredom by looking out the window into the apartments of his neighbours: the newlyweds, the sexy ballet dancer, the lonely single woman, the pianist… the murderer? This makes for one of the most voyeuristic and suspenseful films Alfred Hitchcock ever directed. “Rear Window” is packed with virtuoso visual storytelling, managing to remain absolutely engrossing even though we never leave Stewart’s tiny little apartment. It doesn’t hurt that his girlfriend is played by the most beautiful woman in the world, Grace Kelly, who never looked better than in this movie. That first close-up of her when she bends to kiss Stewart would make anyone’s heart melt. ]

(11 Feb) To Catch a Thief (1955, Alfred Hitchcock) 90
[ Cat burglar John Robie has been clean for fifteen years but a new wave of jewel robberires has started and, to prove his innocence, Robie must catch the copycat thief himself. Cary Grant came out of semi-retirement to star in this Hitchcock caper, and who could have resisted such an offer? A location shoot around the beautiful beaches of the French Riviera, endlessly clever and amusing dialogue, cool cars and the prettiest woman in the world as his romantic opposite, Grace Kelly. That ain’t work, that’s the best vacation you could wish for, and so is watching this wildly inconsequential but utterly entertaining film. ]

(11 Feb) Spider-Man (2002, Sam Raimi) [ review ] 85

(12 Feb) The Street Fighter (1974, Shigehiro Ozawa) 92
(13 Feb) Return of the Street Fighter (1974, Shigehiro Ozawa) 48
(13 Feb) The Street Fighter’s Last Revenge (1974, Teruo Ishii)
25
[ My thoughts on the Street Fighter trilogy can be found h e r e ]

(13 Feb) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937, David Hand) 86
[ I remembered how beautiful and colorful the animation is (gotta love all the cute animals) and how goofy them dwarfs are, but I’d forgotten how evil that Stepmother Queen is: “Kill Snow White and bring back her heart in this box”? Damn! And is it just me or Snow White sounds like she’s a “very special” princess? In any case, this remains a truly charming picture. ]

(13 Feb) Daredevil (2003, Mark Steven Johnson) [ review ] 68

(14 Feb) The Heroic Trio (1993, Johnnie To) 39
[ Maggie Cheung is an amoral superwoman-for-hire, Anita Mui is a cop’s wife who moonlights as vigilante Shadowfax and Michelle Khan is a kung fu expert with an invisible cloak who kidnaps infants for an evil wizard. There’s some kind of absurd plot linking the three together and by the end they do form a “heroic trio”, but for the most part what we get is a lot of idiotic nonsense devised only so everyone will get to fight everyone else. The cheesy dialogue, campy acting and the uneasy mix of goofiness and ultraviolence add up to something pretty crappy, but it’s amusing crap. ]

(14 Feb) Notorious (1946, Alfred Hitchcock) 96
[ Hey, I didn’t know John Woo’s “M:I-2” was a remake! Seriously, doesn’t its plot bear striking resemblance to this Hitchcock classic? An American government agent recruits a woman with a shady past, he falls in love with her in the process and is torn apart when he must assign her to seduce and spy on one of the bad guys. Switch terrorists based in Australia for Nazis in 1946 Rio and they’re the same film… Except that “Notorious” favours complex and provocative drama instead of over the top action scenes and it presents a much more affecting couple with the great Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. Espionage thrillers have hardly ever felt this intimate and devastating. ]

(14 Feb) Possession (1981, Andrzej Zulawski) 94
[ So Andrzej Zulawski wrote and directed a film about his marriage’s break-up in 1981… It’s a tale of love and betrayal, desire and jealousy, obsession and madness… Sam Neill is the husband going nuts over the departure of his wife, played by Isabelle Adjani, who’s taken not one but two lovers: a slimy guru-type man and, mmm, how do you say… Oh, yeah, a freaking octopus/lizard creature! Andrzej, dude, what kind of break-up was that?!? “Possession” is a relentlessly over the top, unflinching look at utter madness. The nervy camerawork, the inescapable brightness of daylight and the bizarre lounge-from-hell score all work at creating a riveting surreal atmosphere unsettled increasingly often by outbursts of ultraviolence. Isabelle Adjani will creep the hell out of you with her disturbing and hysterical performance. This has got to be the most fucked up film I’ve ever seen; it makes David Lynch’s movies look like fairy tales. ]

(15 Feb) High Society (1956, Charles Walters) 82
[ This musical remake of “The Philadelphia Story” is not quite as insightful and involving as the original, mostly because Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra don’t have half the screen presence that Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart had. Grace Kelly doesn’t quite match Katharine Hepburn’s performance either, but the gorgeous actress is endearing and funny nonetheless. And how can you not get a kick out of a movie featuring the always enthusiastic Louis Armstrong and his band jazzing things up? All of the Cole Porter songs are a treat, really, especially the irreverent Crosby-Sinatra duet “Well, Did You Evah”. ]

(16 Feb) Perfect Blue (1997, Satoshi Kon) 77
[ Japanimation more concerned with psychological drama then post-apocalyptic mayhem and rapist creatures? That’s already interesting. “Perfect Blue” tells the story of a pop star struggling to make it as an actress who is stalked by a mysterious webmaster… But it’s more twisted than that. Think of a cross between “Mulholland Dr.” and “Psycho”, for better or worse. I particularly liked the insights into the exploitative nature of an actress’ occupation, which reminded me a little of parts of “Lovely and Amazing” (the main character is even drawn like Emily Mortimer!). What doesn’t work so well is when the film trades gritty realism for surrealism and extreme gore. Still, overall this is a picture that looks great but is also supported by an involving enough script that could have worked as live action. ]

(17 Feb) Satchmo (1989, Gary Giddins) 84
[ Engrossing documentary about the unique Louis Armstrong packed with film clips showcasing the trumpet virtuoso’s musical genius and charisma. The filmmakers and the interviewees (Tony Bennett notably) argue that Armstrong was one of the driving forces of 20th century pop culture and a pioneer of jazz. It’d be hard to disagree after these toe-tapping, uplifting 90 minutes. ]

(17 Feb) La Jetée (1962, Chris Marker) 93
[ This is the short film which inspired Terry Gilliam’s brilliant “Twelve Monkeys”. The same brilliance can be felt here, as we can see the basic ideas that were developed in Gilliam’s film. “La Jetée” is actually a photo-roman, i.e. a novella put in images. The narration tells the story of a time-traveller from post-apocalyptic Paris who gets to relive a childhood moment which stuck in his head his whole life, all of which is shown through a series of still black & white photographs. The film is drenched with melancholy and lyricism and is a must-see complement to “Twelve Monkeys” (or is it the other way around?). ]

(18 Feb) Some Like it Hot (1959, Billy Wilder) 94
[ This is the best comedy of all time according to the American Film Institute. That might be pushing it a bit (I’m partial to “Dr. Strangelove” or “The Producers” myself), but there’s no denying that this is an incredibly witty and enjoyable flick. It starts off like a gritty gangster film in prohibition era Chicago with car chases and shoot-outs and a raid on an illegal booze joint, but the tone lightens up considerably when the story shifts to Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as musicians who escape all the surrounding mayhem by taking a gig in Florida… in an all-girl band! The back-and-forth between the two actors in drag is very amusing and supporting actress Marilyn Monroe? Zowie! Now that’s a woman! But she’s also got great comic timing, overflowing charm and a great singing voice to boot. ]

(19 Feb) Exit pour Nomades (1992, Pierre Bastien) 49
[ Lucien Francoeur is one of the most fascinating/ridiculous public figures in Québec. From his bad spoken word over slightly better rock music to his current gigs as a morning man on Cool FM and as a French Literature Teacher, Francoeur is all about contradictions. Poetic or vulgar, a Rimbaud wannabe working as a spokesperson for Burger King, a would-be Jim Morrison that’s fat, balding and can’t sing, a Beat biker who thinks he’s Billy the Kid who lives in the suburbs… This 1992 documentary is as laughably pretentious as Francoeur himself, but in an endearingly naïve way. ]

(20 Feb) Rashomon (1950, Akira Kurosawa) 93
[ A priest, a farmer and a vagrant meet in rain-drenched ruins and discuss the day’s court hearing regarding the murder of a samurai. We hear and see what happened according to the accused, the widow and even the victim himself speaking through a medium. It is clear that the bandit raped the woman and that this lead to the death of her husband, but no one can agree on the details… Akira Kurosawa’s film is rather slow, with sparse dialogue and intentionally non-spectacular scuffles, but where it becomes riveting (aside from the superb b&w cinematography and Toshiro Mifune’s gleeful overacting) is in the way the story is structured. By having each protagonist’s testimony contradicting the others, “Rashomon” sets up an ambiguous morality tale in which one’s truth is another’s lie. The sexual politics are questionable (“Women are weak by nature”) but probably reflective of Japan at the time, and the conclusion is underwhelming (“Thanks to you I can keep my faith in men.” “Don’t mention it.”) but this remains a masterful picture that’s still influential to this day. ]

(20 Feb) Glengarry Glenn Ross (1992, James Foley) 91
[ This adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play still feels staged, but who cares that it’s not particularly cinematic when you’ve got such sharp dialogue acted out by three generations of the best American actors? Jack Lemmon is a real estate salesman who lost it and is so desperate that ethics and dignity hardly matter anymore to him, Alan Arkin as a slightly less hopeless loser, slow-burn Ed Harris and explosive Al Pacino as loud mouths with their own insecurities, Kevin Spacey as their relaxed asshole manager and Alec Baldwin tearing them all down as a big shot from the downtown office who comes in to give them a pep talk. This is pure, brash, foul-mouthed, adrenaline-fueled Mamet, and everyone in this great cast sinks their teeth into it with relish. ]

(21 Feb) Old School (2003, Todd Phillips) [ review ] 73

(22 Feb) Casablanca (1942, Michael Curtiz) [ review ] 100

(22 Feb) A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese through American Movies (1995, Martin Scorsese)
86
[ In this fascinating exposé, Martin Scorsese takes us through his lifelong infatuation with cinema, recounting the history of the art form and discussing various aspects of it through the point of view of the director, naturally. How D.W. Griffith brought film its grammar, the eternal conflict between Art and Commerce, the evolution of genres like the Western, the Gangster film and the Musical, the impact caused by the introduction of sound, Technicolor and Widescreen, the way some filmmakers “smuggled” different ideas past the censors during the Production Code and how others were downright iconoclasts, breaking conventions and “ultimately expanding the art form”. Scorsese is always insightful and engaging and this epic documentary, packed with countless clips from films of all kinds and interviews with some of the filmmakers and players, is infused with his passion for the subject and inspires one to plunge further into it himself. ]

(24 Feb) The Great Dictator (1940, Charlie Chaplin) 88
[ Before the United States entered World War II, one of its leading filmmakers took a stand: Charles Chaplin. I personally don’t find his Tramp schtick all that funny, but the way he ridicules Hitler (“Hynkel”) is really ballsy, the better-laugh-than-cry depiction of the Holocaust is heartbreaking and Chaplin’s final plea for peace and tolerance is an inspiration, even sixty-some years later as war and hate are unfortunately still a reality. ]

(25 Feb) Mon Oncle Antoine (1971, Claude Jutra) 92
[ This was Quebec not so long ago, a nation of good-hearted but colonised Frenchies being exploited in mines or in the woods by English bosses and kept in the dark by the Church and Prime Minister Duplessis… But Claude Jutra’s film about an undertaker and his young nephew is not all bummer. There’s the joy of being a kid off school for the holidays, the warmth of family, the noisiness of the magasin général, the beauty of the Canadian winter (especially as shot by Michel Brault), the excitement of discovering girls… “Mon Oncle Antoine” is a much understated but endearing coming-of-age story most notable for its attention to detail, both in period recreation and the way people behave, and at times it works as pure poetry. ]

(26 Feb) Visitor Q (2001, Takashi Miike) 91
[ What do you call a movie where the 10 minute incest opening is the tamest scene? Another day at work for Takashi Miike. In “Visitor Q”, the twisted Japanese director takes a shot at reality TV, except that the family depicted here is so dysfunctional that it makes The Osbournes look like the Brady Bunch! Shot on video with minimal flourishes, this is little more than an 80 minute succession of taboos being giddily ignored. Sex, drugs and violence abound, and then you’ve got a dude who likes to hit people behind the head with a rock, extreme lactating and the perils of raping a corpse. What’s most shocking is how absurdly entertaining all this amorality actually is! If you like your comedies pitch black, you can’t go wrong with this one. ]

(27 Feb) Intacto (2003, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo) [ review ] 35

2003 January

(1 Jan) Far From Heaven (2002, Todd Haynes) [ review ] 79

(3 Jan) L’Invention de l’amour (2000, Claude Demers) 17
[ I rented this only for the infinitely gorgeous Delphine Brodeur, a young actress who happened to take some of the same classes as me in film school. Unfortunately, her presence is only a smallish breath of fresh air in this pseudo-auteurist bore. This film (about a self-pitying writer, a self-pitying housewife and a self-pitying prostitute connecting through lame movie sex) represents the worst kind of French Canadian movies which, as Hour critic Dimitri Katadotis perfectly words it, “feel the need to prop up typically banal stories with overblown metaphors and new-agey claptrap”, feature characters who are “ciphers – scriptwriting ideas awkwardly made flesh” and are further “undone by a self-conscious striving for significance”. There is not a single moment that rings true in “L’Invention de l’amour”, not a scene that doesn’t feel contrived… I’ll take the lowbrow entertainment of a “Les Boys” sequel over this kind of pretentious crap any day. ]

(4 Jan) Sympathy for the Devil (1968, Jean-Luc Godard) 47
[ A rockumentary focusing on rehearsals and politico-abstract vignettes about Black revolutionaries and Communists instead of high-decibel showmanship and behind-the-scenes debauchery? Hey, this non-fiction essay was directed by Jean-Luc Godard, so can you really expect another “Live at the Max”? Godard’s Marxist polemics and masturbatory deconstructionism can get tiresome, but seeing the Rolling Stones as young men working over and over on the arrangements of what would eventually become their brilliant “Sympathy for the Devil” is certainly fascinating. ]

(6 Jan) La Belle Noiseuse (1991, Jacques Rivette) 69
[ I could discourse about the themes and artistic merits of Jacques Rivette’s film, the story of a conflicted painter trying to get his groove back by having a beautiful young woman pose nude for him… But isn’t saying that it’s two hours of naked Emmanuelle Beart enough to send you running to the video store? ]

(7 Jan) Visions of Light (1992, Todd McCarthy) 83
[ An enlightening (pun intended) look at the art of cinematography. Using light and shadows, shot composition and various camera movements, directors of photography are the ones who make cinema such a visual medium. If they’ve done their job well, you should be able to turn the soundtrack off and still be involved in the story. “Visions of Light” is an engaging, very thorough documentary filled with insights into the creation of some of the most memorable images in the history of movies, and for once cinematographers get to step in front of the camera and share their knowledge and experience – recently deceased Conrad Hall, notably. ]

(7 Jan) Audition (1999, Takashi Miike) 88
[ What’s wrong with Japanese people!?! How do you turn what begins as a romantic comedy (about a middle-aged widower who decides to hold auditions to find himself a new wife) into a gory mindfuck that would shock even David Lynch? Director Takashi Miike has crafted a viscerally intense movie here, and the way it deals with “issues of trust and betrayal between a man and a woman” is certainly different and memorable but… Damn, this really is some crazy kind of messed up insanity! The giggly use of piano wire and acupuncture needles in the climax will haunt your nightmares for a long time… ]

(7 Jan) All or Nothing (2002, Mike Leigh) 84
[ Writer-director Mike Leigh’s latest working class melodrama follows a series of husbands and wives and their grown children in and around a London housing block. We meet people falling out of love, bummed out by their dead-end jobs, unhealthy, drinking too much… It could quickly become way too depressing but somehow the film is also full of life. Leigh is a very keen social observer, and he shows much compassion for his characters, who are brought to life by a great cast led by Timothy Spall and Lesley Manville. The cinematography by Dick Pope is arresting, bringing light and beauty to miserable circumstances, and Andrew Dickson’s omnipresent score effectively underlines the film’s raw emotions.

(10 Jan) The 25th Hour (2002, Spike Lee) [ review ] 59

(10 Jan) Chicago (2002, Rob Marshall) [ review ] 41

(11 Jan) Spirited Away (2002, Hayao Miyazaki) 90
[ Whoaaaa… Hayao Miyazaki is a genius. His latest (the highest-grossing film of all time in Japan!) is every bit as gorgeous and imaginative as his “Princess Mononoke”, but with a simpler, more compelling storyline. Very early on we feel for vulnerable but strong-willed little Chihiro, and her journey through an abandoned amusement park (inhabited by everything from man-pigs to talking frogs, bouncing heads, Stink gods, sorceress twins, a giant baby, bouncing heads and countless other oddball creatures) is all the more “transporting” because of it. Here’s hoping the Academy doesn’t drop the ball and gives “Spirited Away” a much deserved Best Animated Film Oscar next March. ]

(12 Jan) Ladies & Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen (1965, Donald Brittain) 87
[ Leonard Cohen is Montreal. Leonard Cohen is bittersweet love. Leonard Cohen is that feeling you get when you’re awake at 4 in the morning in a cheap hotel room. And this documentary, while way too short (44 minutes), offers a fascinating glimpse at Cohen as a young poet/novelist/stand-up/songwriter before he became a “pop” sensation. Donald Brittain’s film is very representative of the cinéma vérité the Office National du Film favored at the time, balancing information and lyricism, somewhere between a TV report and French New Wave cinéma. We follow Cohen around Montreal both “in crowds and in solitude” and we get to know him a little through little interviews and narration, a lot of which is taken right out of Cohen’s own writings. ]

(14 Jan) The Hours (2002, Stephen Daldry) [ review ] 92

(15 Jan) Sid & Nancy (1986, Alex Cox) 44
[ Trashy as hell “romance” of sex, drugs and punk rock. Gary Oldman is pretty damn good as Sid Vicious and the cinematography by Roger Deakins is awesome, but the movie’s relentless depiction of anarchist self-destruction gets tiresome. And if you’re interested in the Sex Pistols, you’re better off with the documentary “The Filth and the Fury”.

(17 Jan) Kangaroo Jack (2003, David McNally) [ review ] 39

(17 Jan) National Security (2003, Dennis Dugan) [ review ] 8

(21 Jan) Grass (1999, Ron Mann) 74
[ An informative and hilarious look at the attitudes towards marijuana in America through the 20th century. Ron Mann’s lively documentary uses old newsreels, film clips, nifty graphics and deadpan narration by Woody Harrelson to show how governments and the media made up all kinds of outrageous propaganda to convince people that pot smoking turns you into an insane, murderous, sex-crazed Communist! ]

(22 Jan) Johnny Suede (1991, Tom DiCillo) 86
[ In an interview with Stephen Lowenstein for the book ‘My First Movie’, Tom DiCillo says: “Is there a way the guy can look like a hero on the surface but underneath he’s as foolish and fearful and vulnerable as everybody else?” That is exactly what’s so interesting about DiCillo’s directorial debut, the way Suede looks like a ‘50s “teenage idol” with his foot-high pompadour and black suede shoes yet inside he’s insecure and naïve. Brad Pitt is endearing as the not-so-cool Johnny, he’s got good chemistry with Catherine Keener and he’s not too bad a singer! The technique is a little shaky at times, as first movies tend to, but I love the depiction of New York as a wasteland of empty, rundown streets, and DiCillo’s use of surreal dream sequences and the overall quirkiness make “Johnny Suede” into something of a gentler spin on David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart”. ]

(24 Jan) Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002, George Clooney) [ review ] 27

(28 Jan) Du pic au coeur (2000, Céline Baril) 25
[ Xavier Caféïne is THE most electrifying rock star in Québec, but this inconsequential, pretentious little romantic comedy is hardly fit to his particular energy. It’s yet another of those desperately self-important French Canadian films about pseudo-existential young Montrealers. The adorable Karine Vanasse is a kooky concierge who sleeps with Caféïne but is not insensitive to Tobie Pelletier’s puppy love. There’s no depth at all to this love triangle, so the film is filled out with uninteresting, half-assed sideplots about a middle-aged Hungarian couple, a casino owner who spends all his time in the back of a limo watching people on surveillance cameras and an ex-con looking for redemption. Xavier Caféïne’s got charisma to spare but he can’t salvage such a contrived, overwritten film and, most frustratingly, his explosive musical genius is often buried under a timid score by Jérôme Minière. ]


(28 Jan) Manufacturing Consent (1992, Peter Wintonick)
85
[ This infuriatingly thought-provoking documentary chronicles a series of lectures and interviews given around the world by MIT scholar and controversial activist Noam Chomsky. What’s most enraging is that nothing has changed since the film was shot almost ten years ago. The media still delves into disinformation to serve the interests of the corporations that own them, atrocities still occur around the world to general indifference, and then there’s George W. Bush and his cronies foaming at the mouth to go to war in Iraq, and they don’t even feel compelled to tell the population why or to listen to the voices of dissent. All the more reasons to seek films like this one that inform and inspire to question authority. ]

(30 Jan) About a Boy (2002, Chris and Paul Weitz) 83
[ Ohmigod! What a lovely movie! I’d skipped it last year out of a vague annoyance with Hugh Grant, but he’s actually awesome here, playing up his shallow pretty-boy image to hilarious results. This is a fun, insightful picture about men in arrested development, even more so than that previous Nick Hornby adaptation, “High Fidelity”, because the emotional journey of the juvenile lead character is much more layered and touching here (no Jack Black, though). Grant has great chemistry with 11 year old Nicholas Hoult, and Toni Collette and Rachel Weisz nicely fill out the cast as single mothers. Chris and Paul Weitz have taken the insights and pathos I could sense in their “American Pie” flicks and put it up-front while keeping things lively and humorous. Wonderful little film. ]

(30 Jan) Touch of Evil (1958, Orson Welles) 96
[ Charlton Heston stars as a Mexican (!) cop in a border town who must deal with local gangsters, the disappearance of his wife (Janet Leigh) and a racist, corrupted American police chief played with sleazy bravado by a morbidly obese Orson Welles, who also wrote and directed this powerful, morally ambiguous film noir. Masterful direction, solid performances, gorgeous black & white cinematography and an engrossing plot: this is classic moviemaking at its finest. ]

(30 Jan) I Am A Hotel (1983, Mark Shekter) 12
[ Stretched out music video that strives for lyricism but comes off ridiculous and beyond cheesy. The all Leonard Cohen soundtrack is a treat, natch, but the cheap-looking production seriously undermine the poignancy of the music. You’re better off just listening to Cohen’s old LPs.

(31 Jan) Cidade de Deus (2003, Fernando Meirelles) [ review ] 92

FEBRUARY 2003 h e r e

2002 November-December

(2 Nov) Muhammad Ali The Greatest (1974, William Klein) [ review ] 70

(4 Nov) Pump Up the Volume (1990, Allan Moyle) [ review ] 94

(7 Nov) The Real Eve (2002, Andrew Peddington) 60
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(8 Nov) 8 Mile (2003, Curtis Hanson) [ review ] 86

(8 Nov) Québec-Montréal (2002, Ricardo Trogi) 32
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(9 Nov) Petites misères (2002, Philippe Boon and Laurent Brandenbourger) 62
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(9 Nov) Monsieur Batignole (2002, Gérard Jugnot) 70
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(9 Nov) Une affaire privée (2002, Guillaume Nicloux) 72
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(10 Nov) Cet amour-là (2002, Josée Dayan) 5
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(10 Nov) Oui, mais… (2002, Yves Lavandier) 93
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(11 Nov) Une hirondelle a fait le printemps (2002, Christian Carion) 47
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(11 Nov) Chaos (2002, Colinne Serreau) 84
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(12 Nov) Laissez-passer (2002, Bertrand Tavernier) 78
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(12 Nov) Ma femme est une actrice (2002, Yvan Attal) 45
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(13 Nov) Sur mes lèvres (2002, Jacques Audiard) 58
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(13 Nov) L’emploi du temps (2002, Laurent Cantet) 86
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(14 Nov) Sueurs (2002, Louis-Pascal Couvelaire) 56
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(15 Nov) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002, Chris Colombus) [ review ] 61

(15 Nov) Le Doux amour des hommes (2002, Jean-Paul Civeyrac) 89
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(16 Nov) Jojo la frite (2002, Nicolas Cuche) 44
[ reviewed in my Cinemania coverage ]

(17 Nov) Unfaithful (2002, Adrian Lyne) [ review ] 44

(20 Nov) Ice Age (2002, Chris Wedge) 42
[ Featuring the voices of Ray Romano as a mammoth, Denis Leary as a saber-toothed tiger and John Leguizamo as a sloth, Chris Wedge’s computer-animated film follows this unlikely herd as they try to take a human baby back to his father. Well made but not that well made, amusing but not that amusing, “Ice Age” is worth seeing, I guess, if you have already seen Pixar’s vastly superior flicks or “Shrek”. ]

(22 Nov) Rosetta (1999, the Dardenne brothers) 90
[ 17 year old Rosetta is like Eminem’s character in “8 Mile”: stuck living with her alcoholic mother in a trailer park, shifting between numbing minimum-wage jobs, hurt and angry as hell about all of it. Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne’s film eschews stylistic flourishes, screenplay beats and even dialogue to a degree in favor of long unstable tracking shots keeping close to Rosetta as she goes through her day-to-day routine. This unintrusive approach, paired with a devastating performance by Émilie Dequenne in the title role, make for an affecting, unflinching look at life as a constant struggle not to sink further into misery. ]

(23 Nov) Safe (1995, Todd Haynes) 85
[ Working less like a disease-movie-of-the-week than like an all-out horror movie in which every day “fumes” and chemicals act as the monster waiting around every corner, the first half of Todd Haynes’ film is truly creepy. The use of cheesy ‘80s pop is slightly distracting and the husband character is one-dimensionally non-understanding, but Julianne Moore gives a stripped down, understated but powerful performance, and the exploration of environmental illness is terrifying and thought-provoking. What I’m really not sure about “Safe” is how midway through it hands itself to a self-help guru who attempts to help Moore not only with her health but with her spirit. Haynes has said that his film’s values run counter to those encouraged in the story, but that distinction isn’t clear on screen. Still, that’s a nitpick about an otherwise solid picture. ]

(24 Nov) Ghost World (2001, Terry Zwigoff) [ review ] 91

(26 Nov) Triumph of the Will (1935, Leni Riefenstahl) 80
[ The extreme example of cinema being used to brilliant and powerful effect but for all the wrong reasons. Leni Riefenstahl’s historical portrait of the National Socialist Party in all its glory is pure propaganda for Hitler’s movement, yet however manipulative it is an impressive piece of filmmaking. The black and white cinematography is spectacular and it’s quite something to see all those “hero shots” of the Fuhrer surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Brown Shirts, SS, Hitler youths and others, all in uniforms and formation, carrying Nazi banners and saluting as one. The DVD Special Edition features audio commentary by historian Dr. Anthony R. Santoro, who helpfully puts what we see into context. ]

(27 Nov) Solaris (2002, Steven Soderbergh) [ review ] 60

(27 Nov) Femme Fatale (2002, Brian De Palma) 62
[ I like Brian De Palma as much as the next guy, having seen about half his films and at least liked all of them, and “Femme Fatale” is no different: it’s a well crafted, fun thriller. Still, I don’t get the 4 star reviews the likes of Roger Ebert have appraised the film with. De Palma pulls a few nice set pieces here, notably a bait-and-switch diamond heist at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival set to a quasi-Bolero score, and it’s nifty how most of the storytelling is done visually (and what dialogue there is is almost all in French!). But with all the violence, sleazy sex and preposterous twists, how is this different than “Original Sin” (which also stars Antonio Banderas as the patsy)? Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is hot as hell in the lead, but De Palma is falling apart under his own stylistic and thematic fixations. At least he does entertainingly so. ]

(28 Nov) Gimme Shelter (1970, Albert & David Maysles) 88
[ They’re all so young and goofy as they perform “Jumping Jack Flash” in the opening moments of this fascinating rockumentary… And then the film cuts to the band members listening to a call-in radio show about their infamous free concert in 1969 at San Francisco’s Altamont Speedway where 300 000 “flower children” clashed with Hell’s Angels hired to do the security and all hell broke loose. To think, it was supposed to be a “microcosmic society which sets the example to the rest of America as to how one can behave in large gatherings”… The ‘60s and the Love Generation’s dreams were definitely over, but the music remains exciting. Mick Jagger is one helluvah performer, backed by arguably the greatest rock & roll band in the world, and it’s a gas gas gas to see them rip through “Satisfaction”, “Honky Tonk Women”, “Street Fighting Man”, “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Under My Thumb”… The film also features appearances by Tina Turner and Jefferson Airplane, and the crowd itself is spectacular, for better or worse. ]

(28 Nov) Barbershop (2002, Tim Story) 55
[ A sweet-spirited ghetto comedy? Hey, why not! Ice Cube’s latest flick is a bit trite and predictable, but it’s quite amusing at times (especially when Cedric the Entertainer is on screen) and it inspires a nice sense of community. Some of the dialogue is pretty smart too, controversy be damned. ]

(28 Nov) 24 Hour Party People (2002, Michael Winterbottom) 76
[ This free-form narrative film follows promoter Tony Wilson as he finds himself at the center of successive cultural booms in the Manchester music scene of the ‘70s and ‘80s, from an early gig by the Sex Pistols to the emergence of New Wave bands like Joy Division and the Happy Mondays to the first raves. I remember seeing a Behind the Music-type program about that era once and it was very interesting, but nowhere near as out there and irreverent as Michael Winterbottom’s take on it. I love how Steve Coogan (as Wilson) talks directly to the camera to comment on events and how Winterbottom weaves together fact and fiction, truth and legend, throwing in real concert footage then going out on irreverent tangents of fantasy, all the while ignoring the conventions of biopics, making Wilson into “a minor character in his own life”. The end result is a glorious mess, but I believe it’s representative of that time and place. ]

(4 Dec) Max (2002, Menno Meyjes) [ review ] 65

(5 Dec) My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002, Joel Zwick) 6
[ This is THE success story of 2002. The huge box office of flicks like “Spider-Man”, “Attack of the Clones” or “Chamber of Secrets” was expected, but who would have thought that an independent family comedy which opened to less than a million dollars last April would stay in the Top 20 for 33 weeks (and counting!) and gross more than 200 M$? Nonetheless, I managed not to see the film… until now. Soooooo, how’s that “Big Fat Greek Wedding”? Excruciating! What are people thinking? This is barely a movie, it’s a sitcom. An obnoxious, contrived, shallow, trite, boring, badly directed sitcom, rehashing the same old romantic comedy clichés and stereotypical characters, only here they’re Greek stereotypes. Whoop-tee-doo. Ugly girl meets bland hunk who doesn’t notice her until she gets a makeover, they want to get married but her big fat loud Greek family gets in the way. So writer-star Nia Vardalos got Tom Hanks and his own Greek wife to produce this film adaptation of her one-woman-show and through freak circumstances people embraced it… Doesn’t mean it’s any good. The woman might be really likable in real life but it doesn’t show on screen and she’s even less of a writer than an actress. ]

(5 Dec) The Banger Sisters (2002, Bon Dolman) 62
[ This uninspired but surprisingly enjoyable comedy has Goldie Hawn playing sort of a 30-years-later Penny Lane (the groupie Hawn’s daughter Kate Hudson portrayed in Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous”). Renamed Suzette, the blond firecracker used to “rattle” rock stars like Jim Morrison back in the ‘70s with her best friend Vinnie (Susan Sarandon). But while Suzette has remained wild, sexual and fun, Vinnie has turned into an uptight rich housewife. Anyone can see where this is going, with the former “banger sisters” clashing but eventually bonding again and learning Valuable Lessons about being true to yourself blah blah blah. Yet while writer-director Bob Dolman fails to breathe much fresh air into this succession of Screenplay 101 clichés, the cast manages to at least make them fun. Goldie Hawn is damn hot and fun and game even though she’s past 50, Susan Sarandon gets good mileage out of her American Beautyish reconnect-with-your-long-lost-mojo character arc, Geoffrey Rush does what he can as an obsessive-compulsive writer who’s also predictably shook up by Suzette and Erika Christensen’s thinly veiled variation on Diane Court proves she could have played Ione Skye’s part in “Say Anything” – yes, another Cameron Crowe film. “The Banger Sisters” is nowhere near as insightful or touching as Crowe’s movies, but it’s a colorful and lively 90 minutes worth sitting through. ]

(6 Dec) La Pianiste (2002, Michael Haneke) 75
[ Isabelle Huppert plays an extremely strict piano teacher smothered by her mother who gets involved sexually with a young student who unleashes her darkest impulses. Michael Heneke directs the film in an almost clinical way. Most of the time his camera and Huppert are utterly impassive, with only great classical music achieving to soften them up somewhat. Hence, it’s quite a shock when explicit sex and violent self-abuse are introduced, and it gets to a point where “La Pianiste” is so messed up that you don’t know where to look. I can’t say I “enjoyed” watching this, but it’s certainly an intense and memorable experience and Huppert gives a rivetingly unrestrained performance. ]

(7 Dec) Legally Blonde (2001, Robert Luketic) [ review ] 72

(8 Dec) One Hour Photo (2002, Mark Romanek) [ review ] 80

(10 Dec) Y Tu Mama Tambien (2002, Alfonso Cuaron) [ review ] 91

(11 Dec) Antwone Fisher (2002, Denzel Washington) [ review ] 85

(11 Dec) Igby goes down (2002, Burr Steers) [ review ] 72

(12 Dec) The Good Girl (2002, Miguer Arteta) [ review ] 40

(15 Dec) In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-Wai) 63
[ Wong Kar-Wai’s latest is as stylish and visually stunning as his previous films, but it unfolds in a much more understated, quiet and slow manner. You gotta love the exquisite shot composition, Maggie Cheung’s colorful print dresses, the hypnotically repetitive musical cues and Tony Leung’s slow-burn charm, but the plot is so thin and the characters so passive that you could skip and shuffle scenes at random (or turn off the subtitles) without losing much. ]

(15 Dec) Lilo & Stitch (2002, Chris Sanders) 82
[ This animated flick sorta kinda rips off “The Iron Giant”, which itself sorta kinda ripped off “E.T.”, but the story of a kid-and-its-monster is as fun and touching as ever. I love that Lilo is not the usual whitebread Disney heroin, she’s a badass Hawain chick, and Stitch is even more of a hyperactive troublemaker. Add lively drawings, amusing wham-bam sci-fi and an all-Elvis soundtracks and you’ve got yourself 85 minutes of smilin’. ]

(16 Dec) The Essential Goofy (2002, various animators) 80
[ This DVD collection of all the theatrical animated shorts starring Goofy is part of the Walt Disney Treasures series hosted by film critic/historian Leonard Maltin, who set out to preserve these gems from the ‘30s, ‘40’s, ‘50s… Packing more than 4 hours of goofiness over 2 discs, “The Essential Goofy” eventually outstays its welcome (or maybe it’s the later cartoons that aren’t up to par), but for the most part the Goof’s antics are hilarious, thanks to inspired animation and tremendous voice-work by Pinto Colvig. Highlights include the How-to series, especially the ones in which Goofy stumbles through sports like hockey, baseball or skiing, which are pretty darn silly but did make me learn something as a kid: that one shouldn’t take himself too seriously. Goof away! ]

(17 Dec) The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002, Peter Jackson) [ review ] 94

(19 Dec) The Pianist (2002, Roman Polanski) 43
[ It’s hard to criticise a film for being too educational (there were 400 thous- no, 340 000 Jews in Warsaw before World War II and by 1942 they were down to less than 60 000) or too ruthless (Jews are beaten, abused and shot at random), but is there anything about the Holocaust that wasn’t already conveyed to wrenching perfection by “Schindler’s List”? I know, this is history that needs to be told and retold… But must it be in such a generic fashion? The events depicted are horrifying for sure, Roman Polanski’s direction is efficient enough and you can see all the weariness and quiet desperation in the world in Adrien Brody’s eyes, but I still didn’t find “The Pianist” particularly moving or artistically achieved. I think it’s supposed to be about the triumph of the human spirit, but Wladyslaw Szpilman is barely developed as a character so we don’t see much spirit, triumphing as it may be. He gets all the breaks while everyone dies around him, then he hides for half the movie… But he’s a brilliant musician so he deserved to be spared? Again, I don’t want to criticise the man’s life or the filmmakers’ noble intentions, but this just isn’t a great film, Palme d’Or or not. ]

(20 Dec) Gangs of New York (2002, Martin Scorsese) [ review ] 58

(20 Dec) About Schmidt (2002, Alexander Payne) [ review ] 26

(20 Dec) Adaptation (2002, Spike Jonze) [ review ] 83

(21 Dec) Die Another Day (2002, Lee Tamahori) 44
[ Despite an unexpected early setback that has 007 being tortured for 14 months in a North Korean prison (to the sounds of a Madonna techno-dance track!), James Bond is still the same old shallow hard-drinking fast-driving slutty killing machine. Director Lee Tamahori does a decent job trying to liven things up, but this franchise remains hampered by explosive but tiresome action sequences, cheesy one-liners, overly complicated world domination schemes, a fetish for gadgets and rampant misogyny. Pierce Brosnan has the Bond swagger down perfectly by now and Halle Berry’s easy on the eyes, but they’re playing little more than horny action figures and the villains are even more forgettable. The majority opinion seems to be that this is one of the better Bond flicks, but I’ve never been much of a fan of the series and this mildly entertaining new entry didn’t win me over either. ]

(23 Dec) Morvern Callar (2002, Lynne Ramsay) 59
[ And there’s Morvern, alone in her apartment with the corpse of her boyfriend, his suicide note (“Don’t try to understand, it just felt like the right thing to do.” ), his just completed novel on the computer, the Christmas trees with its blinking lights and his to-be-opened gifts to her (including a mix tape). Lynne Ramsay’s follow-up to “Ratcatcher” is an initially engrossing if woefully downbeat quasi-Dogme film (natural locations, hand-held camerawork, no score, sparse dialogue…). Samantha Morton is particularly involving as the title character, but as her denial of her boyfriend’s death stretches and she ends up going on a vacation to Spain with her best friend (Kathleen McDermott), the movie comes undone something fierce and just jerks around in circles for an hour. ]

(24 Dec) The Cat’s Meow (2002, Peter Bogdanovich) 40
[ A depiction of what might have happened during an infamous 1924 weekend party on the yacht of William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann) attended by, amongst others, Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard), Hollywood mogul Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes), gossip columnist Louella Parsons (Jennifer Tilly), novelist Elinor Glyn (Joanna Lumley) and of course, film star and Hearst mistress Marion Davies, portrayed with irresistible spunk by Kirsten Dunst. Unfortunately, she’s one of the few bright spots in this limply directed film dripping with chatty exposition, broad satire and even broader drama. This much whispered about tale is interesting, but the way it’s presented here it’s neither affecting or much fun. ]

(25 Dec) Personal Velocity (2002, Rebecca Miller) 68
[ Rebecca Miller wrote and directed this adaptation of hew own novel which presents three portraits of women struggling to take control of their lives. There’s Delia (Kyra Sedgwick), a housewife with a “strong heavy ass which looked great in blue jeans” who leaves her abusive husband and attempts to make a new life for her kids and her; Greta (Parker Posey), a law school dropout who married for comfort and now has problems with fidelity; and Paula (Fairuza Balk), a pregnant would-be artist who picks up a hitchhiker after a near-death experience. The three stories are only vaguely connected and the film is so literary that it’s like an illustrated novel, with almost wall-to-wall third-person narration putting what we see into context. Yet the narration is really well written and it’s filled out to a great extent by visual storytelling. The digital video cinematography brings a feel of harsh realism, but there are neat touches of whimsy and cinematic flourishes throughout. The movie is a bit uneven, with the Parker Posey story being quite more involving than the others, but “Personal Velocity” overall remains a touching and insightful film. ]

(25 Dec) Catch Me If You Can (2002, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 91

(28 Dec) The Two Towers (2002, Peter Jackson) [ review ] 94

(29 Dec) Evelyn (2002, Bruce Beresford) 41
[ Overripe melodrama about an Irish man struggling to get the custody of his children back from the Church and the State. Pretty boy Pierce Brosnan is not particularly convincing as a drunken working class single father and director Bruce Beresford wouldn’t know subtlety if it crawled up his ass, but the (true) story in itself is touching. Who wouldn’t want the cute kids to return to their loving father? ]

(30 Dec) Baise-Moi (2000, Virginie Despentes) 33
[ This low-budget French Thelma & Louise without morals flick is hardly more “artistic” or “shocking” than your average porno. Even though it throws in some of that old ultraviolence into the mix, “Baise-Moi” fails to register as more than juvenile provocation. I kinda like the idea of girls who totally discorporate from their sexuality (“I leave nothing precious in my pussy for those jerks”), but beyond that the writing is as rotten as the direction – and the acting. At least it assumes its crassness, unlike the faux-intello posturing of Catherine Breillat or Larry Clark. ]

(30 Dec) 8 Femmes (2002, François Ozon) [ review ] 86

(31 Dec) Vulgar (2002, Bryan Johnson) 10
[ A down-on-his-luck clown (Brian O’Halloran, Dante from “Clerks”) becomes a TV sensation overnight but must still deal with the men who gang-raped him and now want to blackmail him about it. Are you laughing yet? Bryan Johnson, the “writer” and “director” of this “movie”, is apparently not aware that the vulgarity + clown outfit = hilarity equation was proved tiresomely wrong already when Bobcat Goldthwait made “Shakes the Clown”. And just because he’s a friend of Kevin Smith (who exec produced and cameos, as does Jason Mewes) doesn’t mean he has any of his wit. “Vulgar” is an amateurish mess of retarded “humor” drowned in an inexplicably dark rape/revenge storyline. I have no idea who this is supposed to appeal to. ]

2003 LOG BEGINS h e r e

2002 January-April

(1 Jan) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, Peter Jackson) [ review ] 93

(3 Jan) Almost Famous (2000, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 92

(7 Jan) Vanilla Sky (2001, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 93

(8 Jan) The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson) [ review ] 84

(11 Jan) Orange County (2002, Jake Kasdan) [ review ] 68

(14 Jan) Moulin Rouge! (2001, Baz Luhrmann) [ review ] 98

(16 Jan) Vanilla Sky (2001, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 93

(18 Jan) Hannibal (2001, Ridley Scott) [ review ] 39

(21 Jan) Black Hawk Down (2001, Ridley Scott) [ review ] 36

(23 Jan) The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001, The Coen brothers) [ review ] 71

(26 Jan) Moulin Rouge! (2001, Baz Luhrmann) [ review ] 98

(29 Jan) In the Bedroom (2001, Todd Field) [ review ] 70

(29 Jan) I Am Sam (2001, Jessie Nelson) [ review ] 56

(31 Jan) Rain Man (1988, Barry Levinson) 72
[ I’m not sure this qualifies as the “Best Picture” of any year, but I liked it quite a bit. Dustin Hoffman is great, of course, and Tom Cruise offers strong support in the less showy role. ]

(31 Jan) Blazing Saddles (1974, Mel Brooks) 87
[ I love the classic old Mel Brooks farces with Gene Wilder. Funny, funny stuff. “Where the white women at?” ]

(4 Feb) Magnolia (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson) [ review ] 100

(5 Feb) Taxi Driver (1976, Martin Scorsese) [ review ] 100

(8 Feb) Collateral Damage (2002, Andrew Davis) [ review ] 42

(8 Feb) Le Pacte des Loups (2001, Christopher Gans) [ review ] 90

(9 Feb) Die Hard (1988, John McTiernan) [ review ] 94

(11 Feb) Ocean’s 11 (2001, Steven Soderbergh) [ review ] 92

(13 Feb) Bandits (2001, Barry Levinson) 72
[ I’ve watched it a couple of times and liked it more every time. It’s a quiet, quirkily sweet little film that doesn’t reinvent anything but offers a pleasant two hours with some amusing characters amusingly played by Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett. ]

(14 Feb) Moulin Rouge! (2001, Baz Luhrmann) [ review ] 98

(15 Feb) Crossroads (2002, Tamra Davis) [ review ] 10

(18 Feb) High Fidelity (2000, Stephen Frears) [ review ] 71

(19 Feb) Monster’s Ball (2001, Marc Forster) [ review ] 86

(24 Feb) Natural Born Killers (1994, Oliver Stone) [ review ] 92

(26 Feb) Le Collectionneur (2002, Jean Beaudin) 65
[ A French Canadian take on the serial killer movie, this by-the-numbers thrillers is most notable for another great turn by Luc Picard and the interesting addition of two kids at the side of police detective Maud Graham. ]

(28 Feb) Storytelling (2002, Todd Solondz) [ review ] 66

(4 Mar) Le Ring Intérieur (2002, Dan Bigras) [ review ] 70

(4 Mar) Total Recall (1990, Paul Verhoeven) [ review ] 90

(5 Mar) Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles) [ review ] 100

(6 Mar) Say Anything (1989, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 97

(7 Mar) Shanghai Noon (2000, Tom Dey) [ review ] 45

(7 Mar) Swordfish (2001, Dominic Sena) [ review ] 52

(8 Mar) The 13th Warrior (1999, John McTiernan) 29
[ Muddy, dark, mostly dull story about Vikings, cannibals and crap. ]

(8 Mar) Daylight (1996, Rob Cohen) 26
[ Utterly retarded disaster movie, “Sly Stallone against a farking tunnel!” Not so much boring as it is infuriatingly dumb and preposterous. ]

(8 Mar) The World is not Enough (1999, Michael Apted) 30
[ Further proof that the James Bond franchise has run its course. Not a hint of invention, been there done that. ]

(8 Mar) Big Momma’s House (2000, Raja Gosnell) 14
[ There are bad movies and then there are bad Martin Lawrence movies… Martin Lawrence in drag, for chrissakes! Runteldat indeed. ]

(9 Mar) Starship Troopers (1997, Paul Verhoeven) [ review ] 93

(9 Mar) Say Anything (1989, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 97

(11 Mar) Porn Star: The legend of Ron Jeremy (2001, Scott Gill) [ review ] 74

(12 Mar) Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles) [ review ] 100

(13 Mar) Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back (2001, Kevin Smith) [ review ] 81

(18 Mar) Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles) [ review ] 100

(19 Mar) Training Day (2001, Antoine Fuqua) [ review ] 47

(19 Mar) Showtime (2002, Tom Dey) [ review ] 63

(20 Mar) The Godfather (1972, Francis Ford Coppola) [ review ] 95

(21 Mar) End of Days (1999, Peter Hyams) [ review ] 66

(21 Mar) Rush Hour 2 (2001, Brett Ratner) [ review ] 54

(22 Mar) Armageddon (1998, Michael Bay) [ review ] 65

(22 Mar) Remember the Titans (2000, Boaz Yakin) 58
[ This trite, obvious message movie shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. Still nothing to write home about, but amusing and even kinda touching. ]

(25 Mar) Blade II (2002, Guillermo Del Toro) [ review ] 44

(26 Mar) E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 20th Anniversary Edition (1982, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 97

(28 Mar) The Godfather part 2 (1974, Francis Ford Coppola) [ review ] 86

(29 Mar) Death to Smoochy (2002, Danny DeVito) [ review ] 11

(29 Mar) Panic Room (2002, David Fincher) [ review ] 48

(1 Apr) The Godfather part III (1990, Francis Ford Coppola) [ review ] 70

(4 Apr) The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, Peter Jackson) [ review ] 93

(7 Apr) The Virgin Suicides (1999, Sofia Coppola) 47
[ Utterly gorgeous music (by French group Air), cinematography and actresses (Kirsten Dunst is a peach), but utterly empty and inconsequential. ]

(8 Apr) Caddyshack (1980, Harold Ramis) 35
[ That’s a comedy classic??? Bill Murray’s a hoot, and Rodney Dangerfield throws some choice zingers, but I never was a Chevy Chase fan and the film as a whole is uneven, messy and simply not that funny. ]

(8 Apr) Y Tu Mama Tambien (2002, Alfonso Cuaron) [ review ] 91

(9 Apr) The Apartment (1960, Billy Wilder) 90
[ Funny, charming and smart if old fashioned. Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine are adorable and I love that the ending is left open. ]

(11 Apr) Back to the Future (1985, Robert Zemeckis) [ review ] 95

(12 Apr) The Sweetest Thing (2002, Roger Kumble) [ review ] 19

(13 Apr) Back to the Future part II (1989, Robert Zemeckis) 69
[ I like some of the future stuff and the idea of returning to 1955 again and messing everything some more, but plot holes abound and having Michael J. Fox play half the characters is a bad call. ]

(14 Apr) Changing Lanes (2002, Roger Michell) [ review ] 40

(15 Apr) Back to the Future part III (1990, Robert Zemeckis) 86
[ Delightful pastiche of old Westerns, this reinvents nicely the dynamics of the original in a new setting, and the romance between Doc Brown and the schoolteacher is surprisingly touching. ]

(15 Apr) Bring it On (2000, Peyton Reed) 73
[ More fun than it has any right to be, this is more hip than corny and Kirsten Dunst and Eliza Dushku are priceless. ]

(16 Apr) The Princess Bride (1987, Rob Reiner) 64
[ Clever, very clever. How’s that working out for you, being clever? I admire the wit, but like the Monty Python movies this is the kind of flick that makes you say “Oh, that’s funny.” instead of actually laughing. ]

(17 Apr) Happiness (1998, Todd Solondz) [ review ] 92

(19 Apr) The Scorpion King (2002, Chuck Russell) [ review ] 57

(21 Apr) Commando (1985, Mark. L. Lester) [ review ] 100

(22 Apr) Frailty (2002, Bill Paxton) [ review ] 34

(25 Apr) Mulholland Dr. (2001, David Lynch) [ review ] 65

(26 Apr) The Matrix (1999, Andy & Laura Wachowski) [ review ] 91

THE LOG CONTINUES h e r e

2002 May-October

(2 May) Savage Messiah (2002, Mario Azzopardi) 48
[ Another powerful, terrifying performance by Luc Picard as a sadistic and perverted guru. Too bad the overall film is rather pedestrian. ]

(3 May) Spider-Man (2002, Sam Raimi) [ review ] 85

(5 May) The Devil’s Advocate (1997, Taylor Hackford) 51
[ I’d call this a guilty pleasure. It’s crass, cheesy, and wrong in so many ways, but it’s fun to watch and Al Pacino is deliciously over the top. ]

(6 May) Le Peuple Migrateur (2002, Jacques Perrin) [ review ] 90

(7 May) Moving (2002, Jonathan Friedman) [ review ] 52

(10 May) Unfaithful (2002, Adrian Lyne) [ review ] 40

(10 May) L.A. Confidential (1997, Curtis Hanson) [ review ] 92

(11 May) Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch) [ review ] 93

(12 May) City Lights (1930, Charlie Chaplin) 65
[ Most of this “timeless classic” didn’t make much of an impression on me, but I have to say, the ending is absolutely marvelous. ]

(14 May) Tribute (2001, Kris Curry and Rich Fox) 80
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(16 May) Attack of the Clones (2002, George Lucas) [ review ] 61

(19 May) Which Way is Up? (1977, Michael Schultz) 10
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(21 May) The Salton Sea (2002, D.J. Caruso) [ review ] 54

(23 May) Dead in the Water (2001, Gustavo Lipsztein) 35
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(23 May) FUBAR (2002, Michael Dowse) [ review ] 86

(24 May) Insomnia (2002, Christopher Nolan) [ review ] 82

(27 May) Requiem for a Dream (2002, Darren Aronofsky) [ review ] 92

(27 May) Sparkle (1999, Jeff Beesley) 30
[ >Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(30 May) Lenny (1974, Bob Fosse) 82
[ Greatish biopic short on laughs but overflowing with style, sexiness and thought-provoking material. ]

(30 May) Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001, John Cameron Mitchell) [ review ] 91

(30 May) An American in Paris (1951, Vincente Minnelli) 61
[ The story is paper thin and the romance doesn’t work, but the song and dance numbers are pretty great. ]

(31 May) Undercover Brother (2002, Malcolm D. Lee) [ review ] 4

(31 May) The Sum of All Fears (2002, Phil Alden Robinson) [ review ] 90

(10 Jun) Irréversible (2002, Gaspar Noé) [ review ] 90

(10 Jun) Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléôpatre (2002, Alain Chabat) [ review ] 70

(14 Jun) In the Shadows (2001, Ric Roman Waugh) 65
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(14 Jun) Windtalkers (2002, John Woo) [ review ] 38

(17 Jun) Vanilla Sky (2001, Cameron Crowe) [ review ] 93

(18 Jun) The Exorcist (1973, William Friedkin) 42
[ I’d never actually watched it, and I guess it’s been too ripped off, referenced, spoofed and talked about for me to experience it as it was meant to be. Sure, I found it gross but other than that? Blah. ]

(19 Jun) Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997, Jay Roach) [ review ] 93

(20 Jun) Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Stanley Donen) [ review ] 100

(21 Jun) Minority Report (2002, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 93

(25 Jun) Outta Time (2002, Lorena David) 40
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(25 Jun) The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002, Peter Care) [ review ] 76

(28 Jun) Mr. Deeds (2002, Steven Brill) [ review ] 41

(29 Jun) American Beauty (1999, Sam Mendes) [ review ] 93

(4 Jul) Change of Habit (1969, William A. Graham) [ review ] 65

(4 Jul) Minority Report (2002, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 93

(8 Jul) Being John Malkhovich (1999, Spike Jonze) [ review ] 93

(9 Jul) K-9: P.I. (2002, Richard J. Lewis) [ review ] 40

(9 Jul) Moulin Rouge! (2001, Baz Luhrmann) [ review ] 98

(12 Jul) Road to Perdition (2002, Sam Mendes) [ review ] 49

(12 Jul) Reign of Fire (2002, Rob Bowman) [ review ] 39

(13 Jul) Dragonfly (2002, Tom Shadyac) [ review ] 6

(17 Jul) Eight Legged Freaks (2002, Ellory Elkayem) [ review ] 23

(22 Jul) Goldmember (2002, Jay Roach) [ review ] 85

(26 Jul) Goldmember (2002, Jay Roach) [ review ] 85

(26 Jul) UHF (1989, Jay Levey) [ review ] 86

(27 Jul) The Desert Rats (1953, Robert Wise) 55
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(1 Aug) Unbreakable (2000, M. Night Shyamalan) [ review ] 92

(2 Aug) Signs (2002, M. Night Shyamalan) [ review ] 94

(3 Aug) Full Frontal (2002, Steven Soderbergh) [ review ] 28

(5 Aug) Cat People (1982, Paul Schrader) [ review ] 32

(6 Aug) The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, Peter Jackson) [ review ] 93

(9 Aug) xXx (2002, Rob Cohen) [ review ] 34

(10 Aug) Strictly Sinatra (2001, Peter Capaldi) [ review ] 53

(10 Aug) To Kill a Mockingbird (1962, Robert Mulligan) 96
[ One of the greats, it conveys an essential message with grace and intelligence. Gregory Peck is the father everyone wishes he had. ]

(11 Aug) Spider-Man (2002, Sam Raimi) [ review ] 85

(14 Aug) Blue Crush (2002, John Stockwell) [ review ] 23

(20 Aug) Fun and Fancy Free (1947, Jack Kinney) 22
[ Disney Masterpiece my ass, this is a botched, dated mess. “Mickey and the Beanstalk” is kinda fun, but the “Bongo” story is plain retarded. Great way to show kids how to express love through spousal abuse! ]

(20 Aug) The Lord of the Rings (1978, Ralph Bakshi) 38
[ At first, I found it not as bad as it’s been accused of being. It’s stylish enough, and the material is so strong that some of the missteps are forgivable. But about halfway through it loses all focus and starts skimming through events almost randomly and then it just stops two thirds into the story! I’ll stick to Peter Jackson’s films etc. ]

(23 Aug) Serving Sara (2002, Reginald Hudlin) [ review ] 35

(23 Aug) The Good Girl (2002, Miguel Arteta) [ review ] 40

(24 Aug) Heaven (2002, Tom Tykwer) [ review ] 90

(28 Aug) The Scorpion King (2002, Chuck Russell) [ review ] 57

(29 Aug) Big Fat Liar (2002, Shawn Levy) [ review ] 36

(29 Aug) The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999, Anthony Minghella) [ review ] 92

(30 Aug) Igby Goes Down (2002, Burr Steers) [ review ] 72

(1 Sept) Minority Report (2002, Steven Spielberg) [ review ] 93

(2 Sept) Jurassic Park III (2001, Joe Johnston) 15
[ Easily one of the worst Hollywood blockbusters I’ve ever seen, the production values (outside of the not even that awe-inspiring anymore dinos) are on a TV level, the acting is obnoxiously bad and the set pieces are more ridiculous than exciting. ]

(2 Sept) America’s Sweethearts (2001, Joe Roth) 26
[ 2 minutes’ worth of biting satire drowned into an ill-conceived, wildly uninvolving romantic comedy. John Cusack and Julia Roberts are on auto-pilot, and Catherine Zeta-Jones and especially Hank Azaria and his pseudo-Spanish accent are insufferable.]

(3 Sept) 8 Femmes (2002, François Ozon) [ review ] 86

(3 Sept) Chasing Amy (1997, Kevin Smith) [ review ] 87

(6 Sept) Le Pacte des Loups (2001, Christophe Gans) [ review ] 90

(6 Sept) Monsoon Wedding (2002, Mira Nair) [ review ] 86

(7 Sept) Blade II (2002, Guillermo Del Toro) [ review ] 44

(8 Sept) Van Wilder (2002, Walt Becker) 8
[ The absolute bottom of the barrel of misogynist, juvenile and disgusting comedies. Ryan Reynolds is pretty cool, but even Miles farking Davis wouldn’t be cool enough to salvage this pile of dog semen. ]

(9 Sept) Magnolia (1999, Paul Thomas Anderson) [ review ] 100

(13 Sept) Stealing Harvard (2002, Bruce McCullough) [ review ] 37

(13 Sept) One Hour Photo (2002, Mark Romanek) [ review ] 80

(15 Sept) The Count of Monte Cristo (2002, Kevin Reynolds) 36
[ This adaptation of the classic Alexandre Dumas revenge drama is nicely set up, effectively showing Jim Caviezel’s Edmond going through extreme pain and despair. But then the film rushes through his retribution to his enemies and ties everything up into a happy little Hollywood resolution. Too bad. ]

(15 Sept) Game of Death (1978, Sammo Hung) 44
[ Cheapie, let’s-pretend-Bruce-Lee-didn’t-die-halfway-into-the-shoot kung fu revenge flick. Watch for countless shots of Lee’s unconvincing double seen from the back, in shadows or in disguise. Still, the climactic succession of fights of the genuine Bruce Lee in an iconic yellow with black stripes jumpsuit (which Uma Thurman will reprise in next year’s “Kill Bill”!) is pretty damn cool, especially when Lee faces 7 foot tall Kareem Abdul Jabbar! ]

(16 Sept) Everyone Says I Love You (1996, Woody Allen) 62
[ An homage to 1950s MGM musicals, but with actors who can’t sing and can’t dance! Instead, we’re rewarded with a sprinkle of Woody Allen’s trademark neurotic wit, and the film has a certain old fashioned charm. ]

(16 Sept) The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997, Steven Spielberg) 60
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(17 Sept) Signs (2002, M. Night Shyamalan) [ review ] 94

(19 Sept) King Kong (1933, Ernest B. Shoedsack & Merian C. Cooper) 65
[ Foolish white film crew invades primitive black tribe’s island to shoot legendary giant monkey, but serves as dinosaur lunch instead. Meanwhile, Kong gets hot for Fay Wray (who can blame him?) and chases her all the way to New York, and to the beast’s doom. Kick ass, brutal stop-motion action more or less makes up for deadly dull human drama, but I still wouldn’t call this a masterpiece. ]

(20 Sept) Network (1976, Sidney Lumet) 63
[ Peter Finch’s posthumously Oscar-winning turn as a news anchorman turned mad prophet is riveting and the satire of the television world is incisive, but the film is loose, all over the place and uneven. Could have used a good rewrite. ]

(22 Sept) Jackie Brown (1997, Quentin Tarantino) [ review ] 94

(23 Sept) True Romance (1993, Tony Scott) [ review ] 92

(23 Sept) Manhunter (1986, Michael Mann) 26
[ What a stinker! Michael Mann directs this first adaptation of “Red Dragon” like a really bad TV movie devoid of any tension or depth, and Brian Cox’s take on Hannibal Lecter is limp and forgettable at best. ]

(27 Sept) The Tuxedo (2002, Kevin Donovan) [ review ] 17

(28 Sept) Original Sin (2001, Michael Cristofer) 47
[ Gorgeous Cuba, gorgeous Angelina Jolie, gorgeous music… This “cheap melodrama” is hardly subtle or much believable, but it does work as a guilty pleasure. ]

(28 Sept) Gorgeous (1999, Vincent Kok) 53
[ A message in a bottle? A young girl looking for true love? Business meetings? A gay sidekick? Dolphins? That’s a Jackie Chan film? Sort of. There are a few (4) pretty damn cool fight scenes, but most of the running time feels like a Chinese take on Meg Ryan flicks- which is enjoyable, even though I’d never expected Chan to play a straight romantic lead! ]

(28 Sept) Matroni et Moi (1999, Jean-Philippe Duval) 74
[ Scorsese meets Woody Allen in this hilarious, stylish and thought-provoking French Canadian comedy which pits a mobster (played by a delightfully cartoonish Pierre Lebeau) against a dweebish intellectual (Alexis Martin, who also wrote the film) in a frantic discussion of ethics and principles. ]

(29 Sept) Donnie Darko (2001, Richard Kelly) 68
[ Teen angst, hallucinations and time travel cohabit in this bizarre high school drama set in the late 80s. I’m not sure what he’s trying to say, but writer-director Richard Kelly’s vision is intriguing (whatever it is). ]

(2 Oct) The Razor’s Edge
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(4 Oct) Red Dragon (2002, Brett Ratner) [ review ] 36

(4 Oct) Moonlight Mile (2002, Brad Silberling) [ review ] 90

(5 Oct) Tanguy (2001, Étienne Chatiliez) 33
[ This French comedy has an amusing premise (a 28 year old man who still lives at home to the despair of his parents), but after an inspired first half hour it grows tired and repetitive. ]

(7 Oct) Witchbabe
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(10 Oct) Carmen: A Hip Hopera
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(11 Oct) The Rules of Attraction (2002, Roger Avary) [ review ] 63

(11 Oct) Bollywood/Hollywood (2002, Deepa Mehta) 68
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(11 Oct) Gambling, Gods and LSD (2002, Peter Mettler) 48
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(12 Oct) Good Rockin’ Tonight (2002, Bruce Sinofsky) 44
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(12 Oct) The Trials of Henry Kissinger (2002, Eugene Jarecki) 86
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(12 Oct) The Ring (2002, Gore Verbinski) [ review ] 38

(13 Oct) Tan de Repente (2002, Diego Lerman) 89
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(14 Oct) Jimmy Scott: If You Only Knew (2002, Matthew Buzzell) 40
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(14 Oct) Un Homme sans l’Occident (2002, Raymond Depardon) 43
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(15 Oct) Waiting for Happiness (2002, Abderrahmane Sissako) 68
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(15 Oct) Isabelle Huppert : une vie pour jouer (2002, Serge Toubiana) 62
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(15 Oct) This is not a love song (2002, Billie Eltringham) 37
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(16 Oct) Ken Park (2002, Larry Clark, Ed Lachman) 0
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(16 Oct) The Sea (2002, Baltasar Kormakur) 66
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(17 Oct) Punch-Drunk Love (2002, P.T. Anderson) [ review ] 94

(18 Oct) Punch-Drunk Love (2002, P.T. Anderson) [ review ] 94

(18 Oct) Bowling for Columbine (2002, Michael Moore) [ review ] 79

(18 Oct) Far From Heaven (2002, Todd Haynes) 79
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(19 Oct) Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002, Paul Justman) [ review ] 90

(19 Oct) Bowling for Columbine (2002, Michael Moore) [ review ] 79

(19 Oct) 11’09″01 (2002, various filmmakers) 60
[ reviewed in my FCMM coverage ]

(20 Oct) Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002, Paul Justman) [ review ] 90

(23 Oct) Chelsea Walls 35
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(23 Oct) The Truth About Charlie (2002, Jonathan Demme) [ review ] 5

(25 Oct) Jackass: the Movie (2002, Jeff Tremaine) [ review ] 51

(25 Oct) Secretary (2002, Steven Shainberg) [ review ] 42

(29 Oct) A Hard Day’s Night (2002, Richard Lester) [ review ] 75

(30 Oct) No Such Thing (2001, Hal Hartley) 55
[ Reviewed for the Apollo Movie Guide ]

(31 Oct) Le Nèg’ (2002, Robert Morin) 74
[ Like most of his films, Robert Morin’s latest is both realistic and over the top, powerful and uneven, stylish and crude. It revolves around two SQ cops investigating a rocky night that left an old woman dead, a young black man in a coma and a plaster “lawn nigger” smashed. Each of the witnesses tells a different story, “Rashomon”-style, but what ultimately comes out is a tale of real-life horrors: racism, alcoholism, despair on welfare and wild bursts of violence. Not everything works in “Le Nèg’”, but the nifty use of fantasy sequences in which the characters are seen as little plastic figures and the riveting performances by the actors playing the drunken rednecks make it well worth seeing. ]