A muscularly-edited nonlinear structure is the main draw here, and it's important, for the story at the core of 21 Grams is simple: Three strangers are drawn together in the wake of a horrible car accident. Iñárritu and his writer Guillermo Arriaga would rather you be unable to figure out anything during the first 15 minutes or so, until the fragmented… read more!
Movies Released in 2003 (in alphabetical order)
In the early nineties, Nick Broomfield set out to do a documentary on Aileen Wuornos, the first female serial killer on America's death row. He soon found that Aileen's murder trial was a circus of publicity, with greedy hangers-on, from police officers to her lover to her recently-adopted Christian "mother", all trying to sell her story to Hollywood. Broomfield instead… read more!
A British oddity that finally won theatrical distribution after a year on the festival circuit, AKA is a rather ordinary story about a young con artist, but it's goosed by its novel visual style, in which the screen is divided into thirds, the entire film playing out across the three mini-screens. This gimmick is, happily, neither confusing nor pointless. Your… read more!
In the 1970s, Harvey Pekar was an ordinary middle-aged file clerk in Cleveland who, inspired by the success of his friend, underground comics artist Robert Crumb, decided to turn his own life into a comic book. Soon the tales of his humdrum existence, enlivened by his freaky colleagues and his own cranky though highly intelligent worldview, made Pekar a cult… read more!
Ultra-low-budget slice of life that takes place in an assisted living facility (read: old folks home) in Kentucky. Todd (Michael Bonsignore, quite good) is a slackerish orderly who doesn't seem to care one whit about the often-senile "clientele" he works with until one lonely woman (Maggie Riley) comes to depend on him to contact her long-lost son in Australia, who… read more!
Billy Bob Thornton plays a mall Santa who, along with his "elf" (Tony Cox), robs department stores blind each Christmas Eve. Bad Santa! But if that weren't bad enough, this Santa is an alcoholic misanthropist who, other than booze and anal sex, has nothing to live for. Enter a lonely little boy, the sort you usually see in these "sad… read more!
This much-hyped indie film about a group of affluent, college-bound Asian-American teenagers who get sucked into a life of crime plays out like a junior version of GoodFellas. It's still entertaining, especially for anybody who knew the National Honor Society kids back in high school. You know the type: speech and debate team, Academic Decathlon, all that business. Perhaps it's a uniquely Californian… read more!
A curious thing about Big Fish: during its first three weeks of release, when it was playing in a small number of theatres, it was actually making more money per screen than Return of the King. Even twice as much! That's no mean feat, given the massive popularity of King, as well as other critics' underwhelming reviews for Burton's so-called… read more!
Though it's an all-too-obvious spin on the old Full Monty gimmick - a bunch of loveable English people doing something naughty for a good cause - Calendar Girls remains an entertaining diversion. Based on real-life events where the middle-aged members of a ladies' social club decided to raise money for their hospital by posing nude for a calendar (their private… read more!
Engrossing documentary about a seemingly ordinary Long Island family that fell apart in 1988 after patriarch Arnold Friedman was caught with child pornography and was subsequently arrested – along with his 18-year-old son, Jesse – for several counts of child molestation. (Arnold taught computers to a number of preteen boys for a couple of years.) Capturing the Friedmans is less… read more!
Back in ye olden days, you'd have a nice little movie that becomes a hit, and then a couple years later they'd follow it up with an uninspired and completely unnecessary "Part II". (Think Ghostbusters, Romancing the Stone, Crocodile Dundee, City Slickers, etc.) These days, most of the original films aren't that great in the first place, so the sequels… read more!
This intense gangster thriller was originally released in US theatres in early 2003; it was brought back for a re-release a year later after earning four surprising Oscar nominations in major categories - direction, adapted screenplay, cinematography and editing - all of which turned out to be well-deserved. I felt like a fool for ignoring this amazing movie in 2003… read more!
Jarmusch's collection of twelve short films about various people sitting around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes has the problems you'd expect from a collection of twelve short films about various people sitting around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. Some work, some don't. Some are funny, some are boring. For fans of Jarmusch – and I'm a big one – watching… read more!
Routine indie drama that stars the redoubtable William H. Macy as Bernie, a loser whose luck is so bad that it actually makes those around him unlucky. Consequently, he works in an old-school Vegas casino as the floor's "cooler", sidling up to anyone on a winning streak and immediately turning their good fortune sour. However, when Bernie meets a casino… read more!
This mild-mannered anti-war fable takes place in my ancestors' stomping ground, Lapland, the northernmost part of Scandinavia, at the end of World War II. A Finnish soldier and a Russian soldier – enemies by design, but both shunned and threatened with death by their own armies for speaking out against the war – each find themselves at the home of… read more!
You've gotta hand it to Lars von Trier: possibly the only contemporary filmmaker who can actually raise a ruckus among cineastes, he championed digital filmmaking, revitalized Scandinavian cinema, made stars out of Emily Watson and Björk, and spearheaded the sole new film movement of the last 30 years (Dogme). And even so, he manages to take major artistic risks with… read more!
Intermittently imaginative comedy kept afloat by star power, Don't Tempt Me (the direct translation of the original Spanish title, No News from God, is much better) is about an angel (Victoria Abril) and a demon (Penélope Cruz) both sent to Earth to fight over the soul of a loser boxer (Demián Bichir) who is on the verge of being killed… read more!
A fictional take on the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, Gus Van Sant's Elephant is a love-it-or-hate-it film if ever there was one. Even before it was released in the US, American critics were bashing it as being exploitative, wrongheaded, irresponsible, and above all, "too pretty". There are claims that Van Sant's depiction of an ordinary high school looks… read more!
Hotshot Thai filmmakers the Pang Brothers (Danny and Oxide – yes, Oxide) crank out another slick offering, an Asian variation on The Sixth Sense in which a blind woman named Mun (Lee Sin-Je) receives a cornea transplant and almost immediately starts seeing ghosts all around her. This gimmick provides for numerous scenes in which Mun has one eerie encounter after… read more!
The annoying thing about living in the Hollywood area is that Walt Disney owns the El Capitan theatre on Hollywood Blvd., and whenever one of their animated features is released, they show it there – charging at least $15 for it – and make it otherwise unavailable in the vicinity. You have to travel out to the burbs to see… read more!