July 2024



The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

CAST: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Liv Tyler, Cate Blanchett, John Rhys-Davies, Billy Boyd, Dominic Monaghan, Orlando Bloom, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving, Andy Serkis


The origins of this epic film trilogy date back to the early 1930s, when a British scholar named J.R.R. Tolkien began writing an equally epic series of books.  The first to be completed and published was The Hobbit in 1937, but Tolkien had a more ambitious story in mind.  Originally setting out to write one enormous novel, he ultimately realized that such a tale as he was spinning was too vast to be contained in one book, and instead formed it into a trilogy.  Parts one and two, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, were released in 1954, followed by the climax, The Return of the King, in 1957.  Together, the trilogy was known as The Lord of the Rings.  The significance of this fantasy series cannot be understated.  Tolkien’s books were adored by millions the world over during his time, and since his death in 1973, they have remained a beloved and integral part of the fantasy literature genre.  With such a following, it was inevitable that film versions would at least be attempted, but few filmmakers had either the inclination or the means to tackle such a daunting production.  Mediocre animated versions of both The Lord of the Rings and its prequel The Hobbit were made—and flopped—in the 1970s, with the poor quality of the animation and various story omissions rankling fans.  Two more decades passed, and finally New Zealand director Peter Jackson has taken on the ambitious task of bringing Tolkien’s epic trilogy to the big screen with the backing of New Line Cinema’s investment of nearly $300 million for the package deal of all three installments.  Those worried about whether it is even possible to translate The Lord of the Rings intact to the screen can breathe a sigh of relief, at least if this first installment is any indication.  Jackson and his cast and crew have succeeded on every level, and the result is not only a definitive film adaptation of part one of one of the most popular fantasy stories ever written, not only a majestic, enthralling adventure in its own right, but itself a pinnacle in filmmaking, one of the most colossal film productions ever made, and raising the meaning of “epic filmmaking” to a whole new level.  In the future all epic fantasy adventures—including its own sequels—will have a high bar to hurdle. Continue reading

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh

CAST: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle, Carl Reiner, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Eddie Jemison, Shaobo Qin, Elliott Gould


After such more serious, heavier material as Traffic and Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Eleven (a loose remake of a 1960 heist caper starring the “Rat Pack” consisting of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, and Peter Lawford) seems like a bit of a vacation, but if it’s fluffier and more lightweight and insubstantial than what’s typically expected from Soderbergh, it’s at least a breezy, entertaining heist caper that provides an engaging couple of hours.  Ocean’s Eleven isn’t really anything too challenging or special, but it’s a smoothly enjoyable diversion. Continue reading

Spy Game (2001)

DIRECTOR: Tony Scott

CAST: Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Larry Bryggman, David Hemmings, Ken Leung


Spy Game is a little bit like a John le Carre or Len Deighton story filtered through a Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer (or Tony Scott) visual sensibility, intriguing ideas and twisty-turny plot meeting fast-cutting whizz-bang filming and editing.  What results doesn’t always mesh perfectly together, but it contains enough intrigue and fast-paced turns to engage us for an entertaining couple of hours.  Continue reading

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus

CAST: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Sir Richard Harris, Robbie Coltrane, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Ian Hart, Warwick Davis, Zoe Wanamaker, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw, Tom Felton, John Hurt, John Cleese


J.K. Rowling’s seven-book Harry Potter series is unquestionably the most popular fantasy series of its time, and beyond its genre it is a cultural phenomenon approaching the level of the Star Wars saga. And while some dismiss (in my opinion, underestimate) it as kids’ stuff, its appeal transcends age. Continue reading

Rat Race (2001)

DIRECTOR: Jerry Zucker

CAST: Breckin Meyer, Rowan Atkinson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jon Lovitz, Whoopi Goldberg, Seth Green, Lanei Chapman, Amy Smart, Vince Vieluf, John Cleese, Kathy Najimy, Wayne Knight, Dave Thomas


Rat Race, a throwback to screwball chase comedies like It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, is not a great comedy, but it’s a hard-working, fast-paced, sometimes creatively zany one that serves up a reasonably steady supply of laughs until running out of gas at the finish line.  Jerry Zucker (Airplane, Naked Gun) hasn’t delivered a comedy classic, but it’s an entertaining enough diversion. Continue reading

The Score (2001)


CAST: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando, Angela Bassett


The Score isn’t a classic entry in the heist movie genre, but it’s a slick little diversion that sets fairly modest goals and achieves them, gives us some interesting interplay between accomplished actors, and treads familiar ground with enough assurance to make us not mind coming along for the ride. Continue reading

Conspiracy (2001)

DIRECTOR: Frank Pierson

CAST: Kenneth Branagh, Stanley Tucci, Colin Firth, Ian McNeice, Kevin McNally, David Threlfall, Ewan Stewart, Brian Pettifer, Nicholas Woodeson, Jonathan Coy, Brendan Coyle, Ben Daniels, Barnaby Kay, Owen Teale, Peter Sullivan


This Made-For-TV HBO original movie, based on the sole surviving copy of the transcript of the infamous Wannsee Conference, will likely be found “boring” by those without an interest in the historical subject matter—after all, at least on the surface, it consists of nothing but fifteen men sitting around a table talking—but for those with an interest, Conspiracy is a disturbing docudrama that embodies the phrase “the banality of evil”. Continue reading

Along Came A Spider (2001)

DIRECTOR: Lee Tamahori

CAST: Morgan Freeman, Monica Potter, Michael Wincott, Billy Burke, Dylan Baker, Jay O. Sanders, Penelope Ann Miller, Michael Moriarty, Mika Boorem, Anton Yelchin


1997’s Kiss the Girls was not a great thriller, but even so, this sequel is disappointing. Another adaptation of one of crime novelist James Patterson’s series of page-turning novels following brilliant detective Alex Cross, Along Came A Spider at least brings back Morgan Freeman, but while that’s an ace in the hole, it’s not enough to salvage this hackneyed thriller from the realm of contrived mediocrity it inhabits.

Continue reading

Heartbreakers (2001)

DIRECTOR: David Mirkin

CAST: Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Gene Hackman, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee


Despite a little star power in its cast, Heartbreakers doesn’t really rise above television sitcom level, but it’s an entertaining enough diversion that serves up enough laughs to be enjoyable, at least until its overlong runtime and dragged-out third act starts to wear out its modest welcome. Continue reading

Enemy at the Gates (2001)

DIRECTOR: Jean-Jacques Annaud


Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Ed Harris, Bob Hoskins, Ron Perlman, Eva Mattes, Gabriel Thomson, Matthias Habich


The Russian front in WWII hasn’t gotten much attention in a big-budget war film, so French director Jean-Jacques Annaud deserves some credit for giving us a rarely-shown viewpoint. However, the result is a mixed bag. Continue reading