June 2024



Max (2002)

Max (2002) — The Movie Database (TMDb)

DIRECTOR: Menno Meyjes

CAST: John Cusack, Noah Taylor, Ulrich Thomsen, Molly Parker, Leelee Sobieski, Peter Capaldi, Kevin McKidd


The unimpressively—and somewhat misleadingly—titled Max, the directorial debut of Dutch writer-director Menno Meyjes, is speculative historical fiction postulating the unlikely friendship—of sorts—between a (fictional) Jewish art dealer and a young Adolf Hitler. To that end, Max is a sporadically intriguing but uneven debut that does a frustratingly lopsided job of partially squandering its potentially interesting subject matter with a banal script.

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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


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


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


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


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)


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

Ash Wednesday (2002)

DIRECTOR: Edward Burns

CAST: Edward Burns, Elijah Wood, Rosario Dawson, Oliver Platt, James Handy, Michael Mulhern


Actor Edward Burns’ latest film as writer/director, like his 1998 drama Looking Back, is clearly an attempt to switch gears from romantic comedies into something more serious, but while Ash Wednesday clearly wants to be one of those Catholic guilt-suffused Irish-American mob melodramas, a moody gritty tale of guilt and redemption with fundamentally decent but damned characters seeking redemption but getting drawn back into the criminal lifestyle they tried to leave behind, it ends up being a lesser entry that has a feeling of being made by some film school students—-ambitious, not entirely untalented, but inexperienced and in over their heads—-trying to cosplay Scorsese-lite.

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Signs (2002)

DIRECTOR: M. Night Shyamalan

CAST: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, Cherry Jones


For his latest venture, The Sixth Sense helmer and thinly-veiled Hitchcock wannabe M. Night Shyamalan has crafted a sparse, low-key thriller using an alien/home invasion scenario as a vehicle for a thinly-veiled parable about faith and predestination.

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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


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


Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult, Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz


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



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 mystery/psychological thriller worth viewing. Continue reading