Top 10 Movies of 2002

Number 10.  –  Spider-Man

One of Marvel’s flagship characters finally makes it to the big screen and with Sam Raimi at the helm, you have a sure-fire winner. The first half of the film is as expected, fantastic. It has just the right balance of humour and action and although Tobey Maguire’s acting talents are rather limited, he manages to pull off the dorky charm of Peter Parker with some success. There’s a lot of humour in the discovery of his powers and how to use them and the supporting characters are all believable. It also shows the motivations and character development of Spiderman really well and rarely descends into schmaltz. Unfortunately once the tights go on, things are not quite as strong. The Green Goblin was never a particularly interesting character and although the schizophrenia plot line is clever, Defoe holds the attention far more as the disappointed father than a dayglo action figure on a hover board. Raimi handles the action nicely though and it’s worth it alone for J. K. Simmons whose hilarious J. Jonah Jameson steals every scene he is in. It’s cheesy, yes, and silly at times, but it is far superior to the 2012 remake as a result of an intriguing villain, better writing, and a higher degree of suspense. All in all, it’s a bunch of good old action movie fun with some actual human emotion–due to Maguire’s performance and Dunst’s reliable likability. You get Superhero action with a side of teenage rom-com. Who can forget that iconic upside kiss? It’s a whole lot of fun.

Number 9.  –  Treasure Planet

It’s is already known that Disney loves to take old folklores and fairytales and create their own take into an animated film, but I didn’t’ expect them turn Treasure Island, one of literature’s most respected adventures, into a science fiction. In my personal opinion, this is the last good Disney-traditional animated film before this style of animation turned into CGI. The characters, music, animation, its just all flawless. Joseph Gordon Levitt does a great job at making Jim Hawkins out to be a delinquent and plays it very well and makes him very likable and the relationship he shares with Silver is probably my favorite character relationship I’ve seen in a film just how well these two work off each other just makes for some great emotional scenes and some great rivalry at the same time. The film also has a very subtle sense of humor in the robot B.E.N. played by Martin Short and the scenes involving this gelatinous alien blob named morph. Also the animation in this film is hands down Disney’s best in my mind. The designs of the ships and the aliens are all original and very creative and the designs of the planets are all very interesting to look at. Also the film has very good build up to very emotional scenes and the ending is one of the biggest tear jerkers I’ve seen in an animated film. Also this film has one of my favorite side villains ever, Scroop.while not a main focus, he really is the biggest evil entity in this film being the only character to kill another main character off in the film and rather grisly as well. Treasure Planet is just a film that has everything that I can appreciate in a film and thats what makes it my favorite Disney film and one of my favorite films.

Number 8.  –  Minority Report

An experimental police unit that uses precognitive “seers” to prevent murders from being committed before they happen has to hunt one of its own when its commander appears in one of the visions gunning down a complete stranger. Steven Spielberg’s pedigree shines through in yet another sci-fi based upon a tale by Philip K. Dick, containing many of his familiar ingredients, including time paradox, the concept of free will versus destiny and the ethics and morality of technology. These heady concepts are interwoven with Hollywood hi-tec imagery and blockbuster set pieces to produce a flashy, mainstream action film with far more intelligence than most. It’s true that the film gets a little bogged down from time to time as Spielberg gets a little too carried away with his own effects budget and it takes itself a little too seriously for its own good, but the slick production design and his own uncanny knack for pacing and entertainment always keeps the twisting, turning plot on track. Clearly influenced by Blade Runner, it may not be the measure of Ridley Scott’s classic, but thanks to some solid writing and fine performances it’s still a damn fine entry into the sci-fi pantheon and probably Tom Cruise’s best effort to date.

Number 7.  –  Death to Smoochy

This movie has a wild combination of elements make an enjoyable black comedy. A tired kids’ show host, Rainbow Randolph (Robin Williams), plans death to the new Purple Rhino named TV host named “Smoochy” (Edward Norton). The mob get involved, and it’s literally a hit. I like all the songs and skits; a lot of funny stuff goes on behind the scenes of the Kids’ show. Part of the likeness of this film is the fact that it is so honest, but yet so dark about show-buiness. And worst of all is that they had to pick children’s programming like Barnie and the rest to make one huge laugh out of it. Words fail me to describe this, although “Wacky” comes to mind. One of the most bizarre films you can see. It’s completely dark hearted and cynical, but it’s also strangely goofy and funny as well. Robin Williams puts on a superb, wacky supporting performance as Rainbow Randolph, a disgraced children’s television host who slowly becomes unhinged as his replacement, Smoochy The Rhino (Edward Nortion, who is our protagonist), becomes more and more popular. It’s a very different kind of film, and there is no real anchor to the proceedings as the ensuing hjinx spiral into crazier and wilder heights, however that is part of the fun, getting to see just how far they go with this completely wacked premise. I highly enjoyed it.

Number 6.  –  Red Dragon

This got to be one of the best remakes of the 2000s and yet a HUGE step up from Hannibal that brings justice to Silence of the Lambs. My favorite of the three Harris books by far and indeed my favorite of the movie adaptations of the chronicles of everyones favorite cannibal. Ed Norton was amazing in this movie as was another of my favorite actors Ralph Fiennes, as the “toothfairy”. What makes this movie more compelling than its counterparts is its apparent and sometimes blatant lack of humour. You would have to be a strong person not to laugh at Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs and likewise with some of the quips that Hannibal makes in the self titled third movie. This movie is as serious as it is dark, but also has a humanistic undertone that gives you a relationship with the serial killer that is original and sometimes beautiful. Red Dragon deserved much more praise than it got. It opens with an amazing first sequence and doesn’t slow down throughout. The movie offers an amazing cast. Although it’s not as good as Silence of the Lambs, it’s a great entry to the Hannibal Lecter series.

Number 5.  –   Signs

I like to look at this film like a Christian horror movie more so than Shymalan’s last good film before he turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments in cinema history. Aliens had lost their novelty of being scary, thanks to media and merchandising that ruined the magic, but this film brought the fear of the extraterrestrial right back to our psyche. Mel Gibson and Joaquin Pheonix are excellent as two brothers trying to run a family together, but once their crops come under attack and an alien invasion seems imminent, personal history erupts as a war of possibly apocalyptic heights comes to Earth. This is right on par with “The Sixth Sense” in terms of Shyamalan’s work, and the ending is one of my favorites of all-time as he masterfully interweaves a powerful soundtrack with a ferociously action-packed conclusion. A massively under-appreciated and misunderstood movie that will hopefully be more respected as the years go on. Gibson gives one of the best performances of his career, as does Phoenix, and the strong acting and astoundingly good story-telling makes this a flawless motion picture, minus the fact that the alien’s weakness almost ruined the intimidation. But the journey of a broken family stranded in the farm not knowing what the extraterrestrials going to do next was one of the most exciting and thrilling experiences I’ve had in film. 

Number 4.  –  Bourne Identity

As a man wakes up after being lost at sea, he has no memory of what his past has been that lead up to this moment. Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) must search for his identity, while being hunted by the government, after a failed project known as Tread stone. This film is brilliantly paced and the story is far more original than I expected it to be. That being said, there is a lot of promise that this film has and by the end of the film, you can only hope that it delivers, and oh my god does it ever. The Bourne Identity is without a doubt one of the coolest CIA espionage thrillers that I’ve seen in a long time. It outdoes most of the James Bond and all of the Jack Ryan movies with its fast paced storytelling, amazing action sequences, and gripping, edge of your seat drama that is the staple of all the best action pictures. Much credit goes to the director Doug Liman who is very proficient at balancing all the aspects of the cat and mouse chase between the CIA and Jason Bourne. This film spans a lot of locations – from Zurich, Paris, to Virginia – and it never once feels convoluted or confusing. The audience is never confused as to how each character fits into the puzzle, and just enough information is left out to hold interest for the outcome. And of course the fight scenes are simply astounding. The choreography involves a lot of hand to hand combat that moves fast and is often staged in close quarters, keeping Bourne and his adversaries trapped in an enclosed area that warrants such close hand to hand combat. It’s almost like elements of a martial arts film have been lifted into the espionage plot, creating a movie that you can watch for its exhilarating action scenes as much as for its intelligent story and a hell of thrill ride.

Number 3.  –  The Lord of the Rings:
The Two Towers

Part of me is saying that this film is just as impressive, if not more so, as The Fellowship of the Ring film, but because this is my least favorite of the Lord of the Rings book trilogy, I still say that that Fellowship of the Ring is a more successful film, story wise. I’m still against J.R.R. Tolken’s decision of bringing back Gandalf back from one of the most emotional & dramatic deaths of all time, ruined by a deus ex machine (even worse, it’s spoiled by the trailer of this movie). Okay, for my liking, “The Two Towers” is not as exciting as the first film, but the payoff is much grander. Part of the reason of going back to this film is that the film had some of the most thrilling action out of the entire series and Gollum’s portrayal in cinema. You almost never think of performances in CGI until you see Andy Serkis body language and voice throughout the film that made the character one of the most beloved antagonists ever. Even though I put it so high up on the list, I liked Arragorn’s adventure of saving one of the towers, but I’m not entirely interested in Mary & Pippin’s adventure with the walking trees and even the still continuing walk with Sam, Frodo, and Gollum to Mount Mordor. So that’s only 1/3rd of this move that I like. But that somehow balanced it out with more exploration to the wondrous Middle Earth and jaw dropping visual that continues to impress me. It’s definitely the sequel of the trilogy that has no beginning and no end, but The Lord of the Rings wouldn’t be a trilogy without it!  

Number 2.  –  The Road to Perdition

Not even I am not familiar with the graphic novel it’s based on and I can’t find a single copy anywhere, but regardless if the film is a great adaptation or not, it’s still one of the most emotional and thematic movies I’ve ever seen! When you think of gangster films, very often you’ll guess that your main character is the crime boss and  how he runs his gang, but never have we seen how the boss’s men actually feel towards the struggle of being loyal. Tom Hank’s play as a mob enforcer named Michael Sullivan Sr. for John Rooney’s Irish mob in Illinois during the Great Depression that involves a son catching is father doing a failed mob job that got the rest of the family killed by the same gang for it. From there out, Rooney has done everything to get Michael Sullivan out of the way by sending in his men to be on the look out for him and his son and hired a hired assassin named Harlen Maguire (Jude Law) that loves his job killing his victims and take a photograph of their corpse which made he one of the most intimidating roles I’ve ever seen. This film shares a lot of themes of consequences of violence, the bond between father and son, emotions of water, and what it really means to survive in the Great Depression. Not to mention that the screenplay is just phenomenal as it offers memorable quotes and solid acting to some of my favorite actors ever. I’ve never seen such raw emotion towards a film that struggles on the topic of survival. Almost every shot in this film was just emotional, powerful, and artistic to witness such a great movie. It’s one of the few movies out there that always makes me cry and every time I finish watching Road to Perdition, I’m always left with tears falling like a waterfall because of how harsh, yet beautiful this movie really is. It’s the one film that shows the struggles, beauty, and heartbreak of family because Michael and his son are the only family members alive struggling to survive in the Great Depression. This movie is historically accurate, and overall one of the best gangster movies ever made. 

Best movie of 2003

Number 1.  –  City of God

You want a better gangster movie than Goodfellas? How about we talk about City of God for a moment of being the best movie of 2002? For a very long time, movie goers often make a lot of comparisons of Goodfellas with the Godfather. They maybe crime films, but the way that their story was told was done differently because Goodfellas used narration to tell the story and Godfather used more of visuals than narrative storytelling, so they’re not the right films to compare to. Honestly, there was no comparison to Goodfellas until in 2002, a Brazilian director, Fernando Meirelles shown the world his movie called City of God. This has to be one of the most unique gangster films ever created. It depicts the growth of organized crime in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, between the end of the ’60s and throughout the 70’s. The narrator, who’s also as our young protagonist (Rocket) is not a member of the gang, but he knows the mob boss, Li’l Dice on his journey through running his gang through Rocket’s eyes and at the same time, how the City of God develops as a slum into a city run by drugs and everyone living there was in it; filled with armed teenagers/children. Li’l Dice runs the City of God making it worse and worse by the major decisions he’s made and he develops from a young punk who’s been disrespected by older kids and adults and developed into an ultraviolet drug dealer who takes sadistic pleasure in killing his rivals and does take pride in getting anything he wants. In his journey of running the gang, he faces the harsh reality of loosing close friends, love relationships, and dealing with the police and everyone else that’s after him. We’re introduced to so many characters from childhood to late-teenage years and each of them plays a big role in the story of City of God dealing with such laughter, sadness, and intense moments. It depict the drug wars that basically wreck havoc on it’s forsaken youths. It may be a very violent film but on its core it’s a very passionate film that gives hope for a better life. Boy the way Rocket narrates the story was just so heavily interesting that you want to know every major event that has happened in the City of God that it does it in a style where Henry Hill from Goodfellas describes his storytelling through his eyes. This movie earns its comparison to the masterpiece known as Goodfellas because it did everything that Goodfellas did right but was telling a different story in a different world.

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