2003 was a very special year for me as I decided to spend a few months half the world away on an adventure to America. I spent the summer working at a summer camp and met several special people who would go on to be lifelong friends. You don’t care about any of that though you’re here for the movies! Let’s see what 03 served us up.
35. Bruce Almighty
Jim Carrey plays a depressed tv reporter who complains to God that he is not doing his job correctly and so God gives him the job for a week. He learns it’s not so easy blah blah blah you get it. Learns a bit about himself along the way etc. It’s fun stuff and Carrey gets to play the goof which we all know he’s good at. A star turn from Steve Carrell pretty much launched his mainstream movie career too thankfully.
Best Bit-Baxter reads the news
Based on a true story, this minimalist horror movie sees a couple scuba diving when their boat crew drive back to land without them leaving them stranded miles from land in hsark infested water. It’s one of those movies you need to invest yourself in and it requires you to put yourself into their shoes as not much happens and it relies on the tension of the situation. Tense stuff.
33. The Recruit
Admittedly I haven’t seen this since it came out and I was 19 but I never understood the tepid reaction it got. I watched it with my dad and we really enjoyed it. Good performances from Farrell and Pacino and a really intense story.
Best Bit- The twist
Another movie with a poor critical reception and this one got a a bit of a mauling. It’s probably fair enough but I’m such a fan of the Philip K. Dick short story it’s based on and I’m also a big fan of director John Woo so I got through it and managed to get some enjoyment out of it. Affleck sucks though so there’s that issue. A computer engineer takes on jobs for big corporations who erase his short term memory after completion, much sci fi madness ensues.
Best Bit- Chase scene
Gus Van Sant’s exploration into the burgeoning trend of school shootings is powerful and disturbing as obviously we know this stuff is happening with increasing regularity over the years. We follow several characters starting not long before the shooting occurs and Van Sant does a good job not glorifying the violence, instead making it look ugly and needless.
Best Bit-The freezer
30. Wrong Turn
A thoroughly entertaining horror movie in the “oh no we’ve broken down in the backwoods and there are inbred cannibals everywhere” genre popularised by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974. It stars the underrated Eliza Dushku and is pretty run of the mill in terms of horror movies but genre fans can usually get past that and see the good in films like this. It’s a lot of crazy fun.
Best Bit-Trapped in the cabin
Director Catherine Hardwicke was definitely going for the same kind of controversy that “KIds” got in the 90s and she got it. The good thing is that the movie is well acted and written enough to withstand the backlash and be judged on it’s merit rather than it’s salacious subject matter. It sees two young teenagers finding themselves through a series of choices like drug taking, self harming and having underage sex but this is the world we live in. We need movies like this because it’s real life, no point in pretending it’s not and art should sometimes make us feel uncomfortable. Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed and Holly Hunter give great performances and it’s based on aspects of Reed’s life.
Best Bit-Scaring mum
I don’t know why but I have such a soft spot for this movie. It has some utterly cringe inducing moments but it as heart and there’s just something I enjoy about it. Compared to some (I repeat….some) the comic book movies of today the direction, fight scenes and overall scale just isn’t compatible but hey, you can’t help what you like. Again, Affleck sucks ut the movie survives it.
Best Bit-Church fight
27. Final Destination 2
Part of the hugely entertaining but formulaic series of horror movies bout trying to cheat death. After the premise of the first movie had been shown to the audience the sequels became a game of ow cool can they make the death scenes. Not great for character development but lots of fun for people who want to see fun death sequences in the movies.
Best Bit- Air bag
Ang Lee’s take on the jade giant’s story has a bit of a poor reputation for being too boring and contemplative for a superhero movie. I think now that the genre is overblown and frankly needs a rest I think a movie like this would be much more welcomed the more the genre delves into attempted fan service in lieu of storytelling and character building. Eric Bana is a fine Dr Banner and Jennifer Connolly is great as usual.
Best Bit-Betty calms The Hulk
25. School Of Rock
A vehicle that actually suits Jack Black’s over the top, sometimes overbearing and annoying in your face comedic style. This comedy oozes charm and Black carries it proudly as he’s a big rock music fan and you can tell he’s having an absolute blast which transfers to the viewer. He plays a wannabe rock star working as a substitute teacher who tries to teach his kids how to rock. Richard Linklater directs this funny comedy for all ages.
Best Bit-Making the band
24.Freddy vs Jason
As a massive genre fan and a huge fan of the two franchises in question was the wait worth it?…..well no after around 11 years since the movie was teased and a million script rewrites it was always going to be a tough sell but it is a lot of fun. The decision to get Hong Kong action director Ronnie Yu on board was an odd one as he admitted he didn’t care at all for any of the characters. He did have a hand in franchise horror with a couple of Child’s Play movies on his resume but his decision to make it an all out action slugfest annoyed many. In all honesty it was probably wise to embrace the goofy nature of two franchise characters coming up against each other, especially when you’ve promoted it by holding boxing style press conferences etc. A radiant Monica Keena leads the cast of unfortunate teens.
Best Bit-Mark’s death
23. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Savaged by the critics and polarising within the fanbase of the franchise but I really enjoyed this remake of the 1974 classic. Leatherface was intimidating and brutal, Jessica Biel was likeable and strong as the final girl and some of the set pieces were incredibly tense. It was the first movie in Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes horror division so it was obviously going to get shat on no matter what.
Best Bit- Bring it
22. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
The final entry into the original LOTR trilogy is epic but suffers from trying to cram too much into one movie with an overly long runtime and as has been parodied a million times it has about fourteen false endings. That said there’s a l ot to like here with lush cinematography and some ace battle scenes. I just don’t love LOTR as much as I feel I should.
Best Bit-Taking on Sauron’s forces
21. Brother Bear
As I said in the intro I spent the summer of 03 in America and by the end I was a little homesick for Scotland. On the plane home I watched Brother Bear and was an emotional mess, they say when you way up high in the sky you are more susceptible to crying and I’m a blubbering mess as it is so everything was set up for me to cry at this……as I do with anything to do with animals. Anyway I feel a bit of a tit now as essentially I was crying to a constant stream of Phil Collins songs that fill the soundtrack.
Best Bit- Ending
A neat little psychological thriller directed by James Mangold and starring John Cusack. A storm sees ten people of varying backgrounds holed up in an isolated motel where one by one they start to get picked off by a murderer. We slowly get to see what the characters were up to in the hours before the murders as the killer’s identity becomes the focus. It’s clever, tense and keeps you glued to the screen.
Best Bit-The reveal
19. Bad Boys 2
Probably Michael Bay’s most entertaining movie. The mixture of violence and comedy is quite shocking but brilliant and it’s made by the great chemistry between Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. As expected with Bay it’s incredibly stylish and for once you can actually see most of the action in this one. It was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and between him and Bay they are two of the film makers most known for style over substance so it’s good to see a collaboration of theirs with fun dialogue and genuinely exhilarating set pieces.
Best Bit- Reggie meeting the family
18. Lost In Translation
A sweet but thoroughly overrate romantic comedy starring Scarlett Jahansson and Bill Murray. Murray plays an actor taking a job in Tokyo where he feels lost and alone. He meets a young woman and forms a bond with her that always threats to lead to a physical relationship but never does. As a fan of Japanese culture myself I found the representation of Japanese people a little cartoonish and silly, only there to be seen as silly foreigners played for laughs. That said, Sofia Coppola crafts an entertaining movie from a sparse premise.
Best Bit-Meeting Charlotte
17. Bad Santa
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie as I find Billy Bob Thornton thoroughly disagreeable and off putting but he plays a character here that taps into that perfectly so it works. It’s crude, gross, rude and most importantly it’s very funny. It plays with the conventions of what Christmas movies are all about and that’s where most of the laughs come from.
Best Bit- Meeting Thurman
16. American Splendor
One from my list of top comic book movies. This biopic of Harvey Pekar is based on his comics that looked at his awkward personality and how it affected his day to day life. He shoots to a certain amount of fame with the success of his comics and it does nothing to help his shy and socially stunted nature. Brilliantly played by Paul Giamatti.
15. Switchblade Romance a.k.a Haute Tension
Part of the burgeoning extreme French cinema trend that peaked in the mid 00s, this brutal psychological slasher directed by Alexandre Aja caused quite the waves in horror fandom when it was released. The twist at the end pissed a lot of people off but meh….I’ve seen worse twists in my time. The visceral and brutal violence is what you will be remembering from this though and it is an assault on the senses.
Best Bit-Home invasion
Patty Jenkins directs this biopic of serial killer Aileen Wuornos played by Charlize Theron who won critical acclaim for her transformation and portrayal. Wuornos was a one time prostitute who murdered several men and was executed in 2002. She claimed the men had raped or abused her and was acting out of revenge. A great performance from Theron.
13. The Last Samurai
Another in the long list of Hollywood movies about the noble white American that goes to another culture and shows them how to live right. Yes it’s infuriating but taking that aside this is a really good movie and I’m a huge samurai movie fan so it’s good to se such care and budget going into the genre. A lot of great Japanese actors get to shine like Ken Watanabe and Hiroyuki Sanada and it also stars one of Scotland’s greatest exports Billy Connolly. It deals with the wake of the Meiji restoration and the eradication of the samurai way of life.
Best Bit-Final battle
12. 21 Grams
A hauntingly depressing movie about death told in a non linear manner and starring….ugh….Sean Penn and….yay….Naomi Watts. Grief, loss and mortality are the order of the day and it doesn’t make for fun viewing but it certainly is compelling and powerful. An astonishing performance from Watts.
Best Bit-“I am paralysed”
11. When The Last Sword Is Drawn
This beautiful film follows two samurai as the discuss their lives in a series of flashbacks. Both characters are very different with one loving to fight and kill and enjoying that wild lifestyle whereas the other is doing everything for his family and getting as much money as he can to provide for them.
Best Bit-Village battle
10. Kill Bill: Volume 1
Quentin Tarantino’s ode to ….well loads of things from samurai movies to martial arts flicks and revenge fantasies is a thrilling and entertaining slice of grindhouse cinema. Super stylish, hyper violent and barrel loads of fun, as usual Tarantino has fun with insider winks, cameos for hardcore fans of the genres and an overall sense of loving homage to everything he grew up with. It even has homegirl (Chiaki Kuriyama) from Battle Royale in it which is awesome.
Best Bit- Gogo an The Crazy 88s
9. Old School
During my time at that summer camp in California I met an Aussie fella who is now one of my close friends. The amount of times we watched this during our time off in the cabin was unreal. Ferrell is at his best here in hilarious form and even though the movie has the awful Vince Vaughn in it that doesn’t stop it being hilariously funny.
Best Bit-The Dan Band
One of the many movies over the years based on the Japanese tale of Zatoichi the blind samurai. This one is brainchild of Kinker Korner mainstay Beat Takeshi who wrote, directed, starred in and more. Stylish, violent with a tongue in cheek humour that Kitano is known for. A great updated movie for the franchise which had lain dormant for a while.
Best Bit-Fight in the rain
7. A Tale Of Two Sisters
An incredibly creepy, beautifully shot and brilliantly told horror story from South Korean director Kim Jee-Woon. A young girl comes home after a stay at a psychiatric hospital and along with her sister they start to experience ghostly going ons in their house and mistrust their step mother who is acting strangely. There was a so so American remake called The Uninvited.
Best Bit-The reveal
6. Tokyo Godfathers
The legendary and sadly missed Satoshi Kon is back on the list again with this excellent animated classic. It sees an eccentric trio of homeless characters discover a baby whilst their rummaging through the rubbish. They take care of the child and try to find the parents. It’s a wonderful story and the relationships are the heart of the movie.
Best Bit-Finding the baby
5. Finding Nemo
Or as my wee nephew called it at the time “MOMO!” What a charming, funny and emotional movie this is. Pixar does it again and if you’re of a certain age you’ll remember the absolute hysteria this caused, much like frozen a few years later. It was everywhere but it was fine because it was such an enjoyable movie it deserved it. Great voice acting from the likes of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Willem Defoe and more and a kind hearted story make for a very enjoyable movie.
Best Bit-Finding…..well…finding Nemo
4. Ong Bak
At a time when martial arts movies were moving into the beautifully shot, whimsical fantasy genre with stunning scenery and intricate wire work along came Tony Jaa to get back to basics. Proudly promoted as working with no wires, cgi or stuntmen in his fight scenes and some of his theatrics and athleticism is mind blowing. The gritty streets of Thailand and often ugly close quarters combat with Muay Thai which had never been fully explored in a mainstream martial arts movie made for some much needed freshness in the genre. From somersaulting between incredibly slim spaces, literally walking along several people’s shoulder unaided and smashes knees and elbows into his opponent’s faces Jaa arrived on the scene with a bang. It all gets very Bart Simpson when he’s screaming “Where’s my elephant” though.
Best Bit-Chase scene
A modern classic Christmas tale and there haven’t been many since the turn of the millennium. Will Ferrell is utterly enchanting as Buddy, a human who was adopted by Santa who goes back to New York to find his real family. I like these kinds of fish out of water stories as Buddy gets used to the human world and their mean nature as where he comes from everything is whimsical and everyone is filled with love. It’ll make you laugh, cry and laugh and cry some more. Brilliant stuff.
Best Bit-Buddy arrives in New York
2. x2: X-Men United
At the time this was released this was probably my favourite superhero movie released by the big two. Fantastic action scenes including a stunning opening with Nightcrawler in the Whitehouse. Dundee’s own Brian Cox playing a detestable villain in Stryker and some great character dynamics. The themes of prejudice and social fear are even more relevant today. Probably the best X-Men movie ever made.
Best Bit- Opening
“Wow”….that’s the reaction I came away with after seeing this exhilarating masterpiece from Park Chan-Wook the South Korean genius. This is the second part of his revenge trilogy although the three films are not related in anything other than theme. A man is kidnapped and imprisoned in solitary confinement for fifteen years with no contact with anyone and no explanation as to why. He’s then released one day again with no explanation and must figure out who is behind it all. What follows is a violent, intriguing, disturbing and upsetting tale of revenge filled with more twists than spaghetti junction. A real bona-fide masterpiece. It was remade by Spike Lee a couple of years back……meh.
Best Bit- Corridor fight
done done and on to the next one. Hope you enjoyed this year’s movies and as always let me know what you agree with and disagree with. Always up for discussion on the matter and obviously we’re not going to have the same lists so let me know what you think @swing_kinker cheers x