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2002

Gangs of New York (2002)

gangsDIRECTOR: Martin Scorsese

CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, Cameron Diaz, Jim Broadbent, Brendan Gleeson, John C. Reilly, Henry Thomas, Liam Neeson

REVIEW:

Martin Scorsese’s attempt at switching gears from gangster movie to historical epic, Gangs of New York is a bit of a mess, but it’s enough of a lavish, sumptuous, epically-mounted, lively, colorful mess that the grand guignol spectacle often propels us along through its formidable 3 1/2 hour runtime (it’s the kind of movie of Gone With the Wind-sized proportions that Hollywood seldom attempts to make anymore, one that would have come with an intermission halfway through) despite an excessively drawn-out and somewhat scattershot narrative and a reach that sometimes exceeds its grasp.  The result is not likely to go down as one of Scorsese’s enduring classics on the level of Raging Bull or Goodfellas, but it’s a sporadically rousing and always colorful blood-soaked love letter to a forgotten corner of American history. Continue reading

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

CAST: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Liv Tyler, Sean Astin, John Rhys-Davies, Bernard Hill, Christopher Lee, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Miranda Otto, David Wenham, Karl Urban, Brad Dourif, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Andy Serkis

REVIEW:

New Zealand director Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema took a big risk with 2001’s The Fellowship of the Ring, the first installment of their colossal film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings.  Fortunately, not only did The Fellowship of the Ring pay off, it went on to become one of the biggest box office smashes in recent history and one of the most acclaimed motion pictures of the year, winning four Academy Awards (though not the coveted Best Picture) and setting a new standard for epic fantasy adventure.  But therein lay a new danger.  With the first film being deservedly acclaimed, what if the second didn’t live up to the now high expectations?  The first installment was one of the great films of 2001 or any other year, but even the most enthusiastic viewers had room for some doubt.  This would not be the first time a solid film was followed by an inferior sequel.  The Two Towers would also have the unenviable position of providing the middle act, advancing events from the first movie while leading into the third, incomplete on its own.  Fortunately, if it’s not quite as flawless a film as The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers is no slouch, continuing to paint on an epic, immersive, and enthralling canvas, and builds to one of the most tremendous battle scenes yet committed to film. Continue reading

Maid in Manhattan (2002)

DIRECTOR: Wayne Wang

CAST: Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fiennes, Bob Hoskins, Stanley Tucci, Natasha Richardson, Frances Conroy, Tyler Garcia Posey

REVIEW:

There have been innumerable versions of the Cinderella story, some conventional (the animated Disney version), some fresh, irreverent, and enjoyable (Ever After), some simply redundant, and Maid in Manhattan is surely one of the most uninspired and perfunctory of them all.  Granted, romantic comedies are rarely original, but Maid in Manhattan is such a formulaic, by-the-numbers movie with nary a spark of energy or distinction that it’s one of those most depressing movies to sit through- something completely mediocre.  Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus

CAST:

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Sir Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Kenneth Branagh, Jason Isaacs, Tom Felton, Miriam Margoyles, Richard Griffiths, Warwick Davis, Fiona Shaw, John Cleese, Christian Coulson, Toby Jones (voice of Dobby), Julian Glover (voice of Eragog)

REVIEW:

It’s easy to see how Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets might be an enthralling fantasy adventure for kids- there is comedy, danger, magic, some nice special effects, and a few legitimately exciting scenes- but like its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone , what it has to offer for adults is a mixed bag, and the movie doesn’t work as well as it could have. Continue reading

Road to Perdition (2002)


DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes

CAST: Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, Tyler Hoechlin, Daniel Craig, Stanley Tucci, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Dylan Baker, Ciaran Hinds, Liam Aiken

REVIEW:

An adaptation of a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and illustrated by Richard Piers Rayner, and produced by such illustrious names as Dean Zanuck, Richard D. Zanuck, and Steven Spielberg, Road to Perdition marked Sam Mendes’ eagerly-anticipated next project following his Oscar-winning American Beauty.  It’s a venture into the gangster genre, but what it’s really about at its core is the relationships between fathers and sons.  The result is visually splendorous and technically accomplished but a little emotionally remote, and viewers wanting a more action-packed gangster yarn may be bored by the deliberate, unhurried pace.  Nonetheless, for fans of the gangster genre, Road to Perdition is a sumptuous and handsomely-crafted entry. Continue reading

About a Boy (2002)

DIRECTOR: Chris Weitz and Paul Weitz

CAST:

Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz

REVIEW:

Based on the book by Nick Hornby, produced by the producers of Bridget Jones’ Diary, and directed by the team of brothers who brought us American Pie, About A Boy is a prime example of how an approach heavy on irreverent wit and keeping the cloying sentimentality to a restrained minimum can inject enough freshness into a generic stock premise to make what could have been a bore a breezy and enjoyable viewing experience. Continue reading

Insomnia (2002)

insomniaDIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

CAST: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank, Martin Donovan, Maura Tierney, Jonathan Jackson

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL REVEAL ASPECTS OF THE PLOT

In hindsight, after such impressive entries on Christopher Nolan’s filmography as The Dark Knight, The Prestige, Inceptionand InterstellarInsomnia feels low-key and even slight, lacking the grandiose ambition the British director would later become known for.  Ranked alongside his later efforts (Insomnia was only his third film after little-seen indie Following and the critically acclaimed mind-bender Memento), it’s one of his least memorable films, but a “lesser” Christopher Nolan film is still a taut and intriguing murder/psychological thriller worth viewing. Continue reading

Spider-Man (2002)

DIRECTOR: Sam Raimi

CAST: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson, Rosemary Harris, J.K. Simmons, Bill Nunn

REVIEW:

Spider-Man represents just about the perfect kind of summer blockbuster comic-book movie- flashy, fast-paced, faithful to the spirit of its source material, competently-acted, and achieving a nice balance between its serious moments and others where it’s not afraid to lighten up and poke fun at itself. Continue reading

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

DIRECTOR: Joel Zwick

CAST: Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Lainie Kazan, Michael Constantine, Andrea Martin, Louis Mandylor, Joey Fatone

REVIEW:

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a bit of the little engine that could of 2002 (ultimately grossing $368 million worldwide, against a budget of only $5 million), a small indie movie and a very personal (semi autobiographical) passion project for writer and star Nia Vardalos that got financial backing with the help of producers Rita Wilson and her husband Tom Hanks.  In fact, the movie turned into a sleeper hit to the extent that it’s almost become overhyped.  My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a pleasant, unambitious concoction that goes down easily and pleasantly while remaining a trifle on the insubstantial side.  It gets the bulk of its limited mileage out of its blend of cross-cultural observational comedy and vaguely Cinderella-esque story, but even at its slim hour and a half runtime, it starts to run out of places to go before we get to the titular wedding, which is indeed big and Greek. Continue reading

Panic Room (2002)

DIRECTOR: David Fincher

CAST:

Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam, Patrick Bauchau

REVIEW:

A slickly-crafted thriller that doesn’t quite reach the Hitchcockian levels it obviously aspires towards, but is good for a couple hours of engrossing entertainment nonetheless Continue reading

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