Posted: 02/01/2004


Gary’s List o’ Films of 2003

by Gary Schultz

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There were a lot of big movies that came out in 2003. It was the year of the action sequel for sure. 2003 did however seem to be an overall better year for American cinema than in recent years past. Year End reviews are the most difficult reviews to write. Trying to summarize a years worth of cinema, some of which you haven’t even seen into a top ten list that people can actually relate to can cause one heck of a migraine. But seeing as how I love to see my name in print and Del Harvey, the editor in chief of Film Monthly, is holding my only set of car keys for ransom — I figured I would briefly summarize for all of you some of my favorites of the year, and then maybe talk some trash about the films I didn’t like. Good times to be had so here we go…

Most Entertaining

X2: X-Men United
Director Bryan Singer hit a grand slam with this film. X:2 might just be the best damn comic book movie to date. The action slows down only enough to let you learn important plot information. In this sequel the X-Men are forced to unite with Magneto their archenemy against an even more maniacal force, a man named Striker who above all else hates mutants. This film is so well cast and played out. Nightcrawler was perfectly played by Alan Cummings and Hugh Jackman seemed to fall completely into the Wolverine role, the look, the attitude was all there. All I’ll say is BERSERKER RAGE!!

Most Full Of Action Packed Wretched Goodness

Kill Bill, Vol. 1
From the opening horrifying black and white shot of Uma’s character getting the crap beat out of her to the end fight sequence I cheered Kill Bill the whole way through. This film is super-violent, witty and very well directed. Tarantino has made a true American Kung-Fu film that keeps you drooling for an ending. Who cares if he takes inspiration from so many other films. That’s old news. I can’t wait for the second installment.

Most Notible Indie

Bubba Ho-Tep
By far my favorite indie film of the year was Bubba Ho-Tep. This little so called B movie stars the coolest actor in America…Bruce Campbell as 70 year old, dying with cancer on his penis, the former king of Rock n’ Roll…Elvis Presley. Oh and Ossie Davis plays JFK or at least a black man who thinks he’s JFK. Anyway Elvis and JFK team up to find an ancient mummy who’s sucking the souls out of all the people at the retirement home where they live. The script is okay but the acting in this film is amazing. Bruce Campbell as Elvis, need I say more? This film is really funny and features Bruce’s best cinematic performance since Army of Darkness. Go and support indie films and cool theatres that play them and see this film. It won’t even touch a video shelf for at least year.

Favorite Horror Film

28 Days Later
28 Days Later is Danny Boyle’s new love child and if it was my bastard child I’d love it too. This is the best horror film I’ve seen since the first Hellraiser and that came out in 1988. 28 Days Later is a story that works on so many levels of horror. It’s both gory and psychological. Both epic and small. Mostly this film shows you so many levels of man’s evil. This movie has a look, a feel and a mood. I can watch this film over and over. The environment is unsettling. The people you meet in this environment or even more unsettling. This movie rocks and it was shot on digital video, the Canon XLS-1 for all you tech geeks.

Favorite Comedy

This year wasn’t especially strong on comedy but I really liked Elf, more so than I expected. Will Ferrell is the next big comic, between Elf and Old School coming out this year and Will having many upcoming projects it seems he will be the next to join the long legacy of people like Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, and some of the old school guys like Bill Murray, Chevy Chase and John Candy. The truth is Will Ferrell is just plain funny and he showed that he is capable of carrying his warmth and humor through an entire feature film. He made Elf a great enjoyable film that just might become a Christmas classic. And as a side note Old School also was a funny movie but seemed to lack something. It was as if there was fifteen minutes of the film missing that would have brought the whole story together a little more.

Favorite Drama

Lost in Translation
I know, I know. Your saying but Gary your supposed to be a horror guy and this is kind of a chick flick?! What’s happening here?! This film is getting a lot of attention and it might be typical of me to claim it to be my favorite drama of the year but let me just say this…Bill Murray. That’s it. Bill has been in my top five actors for many years now. Bill Murray is so amazing in this film. It’s not a big character performance this is a subtle performance. Bill finds just the right places to act and be funny. His character is so real and you feel for him and his situation. This entire film is soft and beautiful and well cast. Scarlett Johansson is perfectly cast along side Bill Murray. We feel for her too. She’s a young soul just starting to explore the world, marriage and love while Bull Murray is basically in the midst of a mid life crisis. These two meet in Japan and ultimately affect each other’s lives forever. This is a beautiful film, did I say that yet? I know there are people that are anti-Sofia Coppola because they feel that she hasn’t paid her dues and is simply a filmmaker because of her father and family. Maybe this is true. But if you had her family and wanted to be a filmmaker how would you go about it? I’d be like “Hey Dad, produce this.” But the bottom line is she made a great film and it’s only her second major feature. That’s ultimately the proving ground. I guess it’s in the blood.

Best Johnny Depp Performance

Pirates of the Caribbean
Now most that know me personally know that I’ve been preaching Johnny Depp as the greatest living American actor for years now. His performances in films like Ed Wood, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Dead Man made me realize that he is awesome. More recently films like Sleepy Hollow, Blow and 2003’s Once Upon a time in Mexico have helped Hollywood realize that Johnny Depp is indeed awesome. He’s an actor that will constantly transform himself into the character and make you believe that he’s Ed Wood or a cocaine dealer or a pirate. He’s an actor that isn’t afraid of taking on smaller films and large productions. Johnny Depp made what would have been another bland Disney film into something really enjoyable in Pirates of the Caribbean. This is one of those films that really doesn’t take many story telling risks and given today’s technology the battle scenes are pretty good but nothing compared to the Return of the King’s sequences. It’s simply Johnny Depp that carries this movie on his shoulders with his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow, a likable bad guy with seemingly endless comedic whit. I enjoyed Johnny’s performance this year in Once Upon a Time in Mexico as well but Pirates gets my pick for his best of the 2003.

Most Kick Ass Dvd

The Simpson’s Season 3
The Two Towers Special Edition is a damn good DVD. But The Simpson’s Season 3, well it’s The Simpson’s and in case you haven’t payed attention for the past 15 years The Simpson’s is the greatest show in television history. The DVD’s are amazing. Commentary on every episode, well packaged full of extra goodies and ultra cool because you have commercial free Simpson’s that look great because they are not on a bootleg VHS that you found under your bed. Not to mention Season 3 is where the show really became solid and started to gel together all the elements that make The Simpson’s so great.

Overall Favorite Film Of 2003

The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
This film seems to be on the top of everyone’s list and rightfully so. It’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen and the third installment of what I believe is the greatest trilogy ever made. Star Wars doesn’t touch this trilogy. Nor does the Godfather or Matrix, Indiana Jones. Lord of the Rings is the most epic amazing set of films ever made in American cinema. (Though shot in New Zealand) Director Peter Jackson whose roots are in indie horror films has brought us the biggest epic to ever see any screen. We see the rise of man once again with an epic battle against evil and then some of the most beautiful cinematic moments I’ve ever seen between Froto, Sam and Gollum as they each try to save themselves from being over taken by the ring’s evil and each other’s greed. I don’t even care if the film ended and went on for another 20 minutes. Peter Jackson was just making sure that all the storylines were tied up and that we would understand the direction that our characters are going to take after this adventure. After all we just spent 11 plus hours investing so much into these characters how could we let them go. Jackson’s adaptation of Tolken’s Novels will be considered a cinematic achievement for decades to come. My fingers are crossed that Jackson will do The Hobbit after King Kong. His craft has grown so much since Bad Taste and Dead Alive. Peter Jackson has become one of the finest filmmakers to date. Return of the King is an amazing adventure that anybody can enjoy.

Honorable Mentions For Cool Movies

House of a 1000 Corpses
I know many critics bash this film because the story isn’t always very coherent and the family is super crazy and this film borrows a lot from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre but even still I’m baist. See I’m a huge Rob Zombie fan and this film rocked. It was crazy, took a lot of chances, it’s horrifying and has the feel of a 70’s horror film that was crossbred with a Rob Zombie music video. The score and soundtrack are great and Sheri Moon as Baby is mega hot. This is a horror film for horror fans. You like chaos? You like crazy people? You like corpses? Check this film out.

Freddy vs. Jason
The story is okay. The acting is pretty much garbage and you really don’t care about any of the characters. But…in the last half hour Freddy and Jason throw down like you have never seen. These two titans of the evil screen tear each other up worse than what Rocky would do to Spider Rico. This is an awesome fight scene. Fans have been waiting twenty plus years to see this battle and it delivered. This scene is so hardcore mixing old school elements and some minor CGI. Oh and many, many gallons of fake blood was used. There is just something about seeing someone’s arm get ripped off, watch them get beat with their own severed arm and then seeing the arm shoved through their torso that is in some sick way very, very cool. I know. I’m sick and I need help.

Movies That Made Me Angry

Anger Management
I like Adam Sandler. I still think Happy Gilmore is his hidden treasure that I can watch over and over. I like Jack Nicholson. He’s been in so many good films I can’t even begin. Jack is the man after all. But am I the only person that found Anger Management to be so painful to watch that I actually had to turn it off and take a break. I found myself getting so pissed at Adam Sandler’s character. All these bad events happen to him many caused by Jack Nicholson’s character and he does nothing to defend himself. I hate films about push over main characters that are victimized with bad jokes and life tragedy. This film just isn’t funny. And I wanted it to be. People that like this movie probably like all the other sterile comedies that come from Hollywood crap fest of spoon-feeding the same formula. Want to see a funny film that was released this year check out Bubba Ho-Tep, Old School, or hell even Finding Nemo was funnier than Anger Management. My hope is that Jack and Adam choose a better script if they ever team up again.

Movies I Would Be Ashamed Of If I Ever Watched Them

From Justin To Kelly
American Idol Barbie dolls hit the big screen. I would rather tear out my own eyeballs and shove them into my ears than watch this movie. Anybody over the age of twelve loses fifty cool points if they see this movie.

Legally Blond 2: Red, White & Blonde
This along with ever other cookie cutter chick flick makes me want to vomit. Yes it is America’s favorite girl next door Reese Witherspoon in another predictable and painful comedy. Please somebody tell people to stop watching these movies so Hollywood will stop making them. See the above review for my statement about pulling out my eyeballs and shoving them into my ears.

Gary Schultz is a filmmaker and writer who loves a good horror film, and makes some of his own.

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