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Light in the dark.

My Top Ten Movies of 2003

Definitely not your favorites…

“The future… the undiscovered country.” Shakespeare said that or maybe it was some bald Klingon.

The future of movies this year seems one of the best in recent memory. There are several movies that I’m dying to see. Many you will be familiar with some of these choices, but I hope I might have opened your eyes to a couple you hear about here first.

Let’s go to the movies in 2003!

10. The Butterfly Effect

The title refers to chaos theory and more specifically the question, “Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?” In this movie the question will be, “if you do something in the past does it affect the future?”

I’ve always liked time-travel/alternate history stories. I think it started with Star Trek’s “Mirror, Mirror” episode, which is one of my favorites. Unfortunately, time travel movies usually don’t work very well. There are exceptions such as the Back to the Future Trilogy (but even that has some continuity errors), Time after Time and 12 Monkeys. I hope that this movie is the exception.

It’s definitely not a fun, Marty McFly movie. Look for the trailers and commercials to really freak you out.

9. League of Extraordinary Gentleman

I’ve seen the stills. I’ve seen the logo. The cast looks the part. I just keep getting this “The Avengers movie” feeling creeping up my spine.

The source material, a comic series by legendary comic scribe Alan Moore, is really an amazing read. That being said, the movie does not reproduce the book verbatim for a variety of reasons. The producers/screenwriter added Tom Sawyer (need an American hook) and Dorian Gray (not sure why…). They certainly kept all the others (Quartermain, Mina Harker, Invisible Man, Captain Nemo and Dr. Jeckyl/Mr. Hyde), so there are more than enough Gentlemen.

Movies based on books have to adapt the story. Some things are done for a reason and some are just, well, for no good reason. I do know that the main villain in the books, the insidious doctor (Fu Manchu, to you and me) is not the villain in the movie, which is fine (I believe it’s someone named the Fantom and will probably be another “additional character.”). I also believe the main thrust of the story is the death of Huck Finn (which brings in Special Agent Sawyer) and that sounds like a great way to start a movie.

I don’t know. Change is good, but I still have that “Avengers Movie” feeling…

8. The Last Samurai

This movie is written by John Logan who sometimes turns out amazing movies (Gladiator) or crappy movies (The Time Machine) or mediocre movies (Star Trek: Nemesis). I wonder which we will be getting here.

Tom Cruise is the star as a Civil War hero who adopts the code of the samurai. The movie, I’m betting, will be formulaic but that’s not always a bad thing. The still of Tom with a katana attacking several warriors invoked a cool Blade or Star Wars feel to it.

I’m hoping the action is kick ass without being silly and the story at least makes sense. It will definitely not be a typical Tom Cruise action hero type flick and that is a good thing.

7. Terminator 3

The first two movies are legendary. How can you follow it up? Well, I’ve seen the trailer and I like the idea of a female Terminatrix, but boy does Arnold look old. Maybe it’s my jaundiced eyes, but I’m afraid he might be going through the motions here for a big paycheck.

Mr. Titanic, James Cameron is nowhere near this one. There is no former Mrs. Titanic Linda Hamilton near this one either. I’m scared…

Please let this movie not suck!

6. Dreamcatcher

This is one of the few Stephen King novels I’ve read. I’m not a big horror fan, but I appreciate the genre and this is a great tale. Why is this one higher than T3? Well, for one Lawrence Kasdan is the writer/director here and secondly, I’ve read the script and it’s killer (no pun intended). Kasdan, if you don’t know, co-wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Empire Strikes Back, which are two movies that shaped (warped?) my little mind.

Trailers always tell the whole story right? Not this trailer. There are no shit weasels or “Mr. Gray” seen anywhere. This could be one very scary movie. Plus, it has my boy Jason Lee in it which is always a good thing.

5. X-Men 2

I thought the first X-Men movie was just ok. I liked Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine and the claws looked awesome, but after that it was pretty weak. The fight scenes were pretty light and the special effects, while good, were sparse. I dug the black leather Matrix-inspired outfits. I mean, could Joe Average movie-goer have understood yellow-spandex?

So, I’m hoping that this movie delivers all that and more. Every indication is that it does. The trailer looks great and I hear that the storyline borrows heavily from a landmark X-men graphic novel entitled, “God Loves, Man Kills,” which if you are going for a great story of pride and prejudice, there you have it.

Will it be enough for the rabid Marvel Comics fans? Oh, yeah. Will it rake in Spider-Man numbers? Close, but no cigar.

Excelsior! (nod to Stan Lee…)

4. Jersey Girl

I love Kevin Smith moves. I thank my buddy Grant for showing me the joys of Clerks, Mallrats and Chasing Amy. After that I was hooked! I’ve heard the man speak on several occasions and I have several scripts signed by the guy. I think he writes very funny stuff, but when he writes dramatic scenes like in Amy… oh boy. His lines are killer.

Smith’s wish-fullfillment alter-ego, Ben Affleck, is going to be great in the flick. He takes Smith’s words and makes them his own. I dare anyone to watch the “More than friends” speech in Chasing Amy and not “get” what he’s saying. Either you’ve heard the lines or said them yourself. Powerful stuff and I think Jersey Girl will be even more powerful.

Jenny (from the block) doesn’t grate on my nerves. I think she’s attractive, smart and multi-talented. She will not bring this picture down. One huge change is no Jay and Silent Bob anywhere in this movie. This is Kevin Smith writing more than Dick and Fart jokes with funny comic book and Star Wars trivia thrown in This is Kevin Smith transitioning from moviemaker to filmmaker.

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

I’ve heard all the hype. “Lord of the Rings is so much better than Star Wars.” “Star Wars is so old… The Fellowship of the Ring is where it’s at today.” “Star Wars sucks, I’m seeing The Two Towers for the fifth time!” You know what? It’s all true. From a certain point of view (hee, throwing you Star Wars fans a bone…)

I love Star Wars and I want the films to be better. Lucas has made “his” films and bully for him since they make millions (the original Star Wars film made a billion) of dollars, but they could be better. Better acted, better storyline, better cinematography and yes, better directed. How do I know this? From watching the first two movies of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Peter Jackson is the new George Lucas. He took a well-loved, but very difficult property and made a landmark films. He LOVES Tolkein’s words and these films show it with every frame. The actors believe in the story (and Jackson) and consequently have taken over these roles. I mean come on… the actors that made up the movie fellowship actually went and got tattoos of some elvish word! That’s dedication.

It’s better acted because Jackson used real sets not giant rooms of blue or green. There is enough special effects that you know five thousand orcs really weren’t there, but they are so seemless I never go, “oh that looks fake.” I’ve done that with the prequel trilogy constantly.

Everyone and their dog is going to be seeing this movie come Christmas. Those that know how the story ends want to see it on the big screen, and those that don’t are anxious to find out what happens. Fellowship set it up. The Two Towers brought it all home and the Return of the King will wrap it all up in a very satisfying way. I can’t wait to sit down and watch all three films back to back to back. Probably kill a whole day. Wow, did that sound like a geeky thing to do or what…

2 and 1 The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions

I remember watching the Super Bowl commercial for The Matrix. I didn’t know what bullet time was. I didn’t know a damn thing about the movie. I do remember going, “What the hell is that!!!! I have to see this movie!!!”

Now, I know what the hell The Matrix is and I still want to make that trip. I even had a sense of déjà vu watching this year’s Super Bowl and the trailer for the two sequels blew all the other movie trailers away.

The movie was a great mindtrip and changed forever the super-hero/science fiction type movie. The style, the substance and the amazing scenes shaped movies forever. While people are talking about how The Lord of the Ring trilogy will shape future movies, The Matrix did it. Just look at X-men, Charlie’s Angels, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Daredevil. Just look at those really cool Gap commercials a few years back. Just look at that scene in Shrek where the princess kicks all of Robin Hood’s Merry Men’s ass. I never laughed so hard in the theatre. After the Matrix, everything changed in the cinema.

The sequels will make major bank. I’m talking Titanic numbers here. I think we will see both of these movies make close to $400 million in the U.S. alone and shatter every record known to man. I’m pretty convinced that these movies won’t suck (unlike some on my list…).

I have avoided spoilers like the plague. I’ve seen the trailers and the promo posters and that’s it. I never read the scriptment that was online and I can’t even tell you who’s in the film other than the stars from the original, although I think that’s Mrs. Will Smith in on one of the posters. The only whisper I heard was that there is something like a 20 minute chase scene that is supposed to be the greatest car chase scene every filmed.

While I’m sure that Reloaded will have a nice cliffhanger (a la Back to the Future 2) and secrets upon secrets deciding who lives and who dies in Revolutions. All I know is that these movies should deliver the promise of blowing everyone’s expectations completely away.

I can’t wait!! See ya at the movies.