Projections - Movie Reviews

Top Films of 2003

Frank Jim Howard
1. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King 1. The Triplets of Belleville
Stunning special effects provide the background for brilliant direction and resolution of the trilogy. It is the best of the year. A giddy, fantastic romp that is satirical, fanciful, and macabre in a hand-drawn animated tale from France that whisks between Paris and New York City with memorable, geometric characters like Madame de Souza and her grandson Champion through the eyes of his dog Bruno.
2. Finding Nemo 2. Finding Nemo
Not only the finest animated feature of the year the story-line and actors (voice) provide a warm friendly family atmosphere. This new computer-animated classic from the Pixar group offers a vibrant ride off the Great Barrier Reef, made more endearing by a clownfish voiced by a neurotic Albert Brooks and a sweet blue tangfish voiced with short-term memory deficiency by Ellen DeGeneres in an adventure that finally knows how to let go.
3. Seabiscuit 3. The Pianist
A true story of three men and a horse who are suppose to lose but don't believe it. The Derby at Santa Anita brings tears and cheers from everyone. The harrowing life of Wladysaw Szpilman is made into one of the finest, non-documentary accounts of the Holocaust by Roman Polanski who won the Oscar for best director, along with an understated Adrian Brody who played beautiful music and survived the Nazis.
4. Mystic River 4. 21 Grams
A script that doesn't follow standard direction and performances that are no less than brilliant in a Boston tragedy. Though initially confusing, the director has made a soulful, uncompromising drama free to explore those affected by a fatal automobile accident, allowing for varied, gritty portrayals by Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Benicio del Toro.
5. Cold Mountain 5. Mystic River
The dark side of the Civil War perpetuated on the recruits and the folks at home, hits hard and dark while providing some hope in the end. The toll of a tragedy that connects adults to their childhood is vividly rendered by Clint Eastwood making strong use of the Boston area while allowing actors like Sean Penn and Tim Robbins to transcend a whodunit into drama bound by violence and abuse.

6. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

6. Lost In Translation
A swashbuckling film like no other. It draws us into the three masted war machine as it studies leadership and the consequences of decisions. Sofia Coppola's second writing-directing venture has enough originality in it to sense dislocation in Tokyo, as it gives Bill Murray a role he nurtures with grace and wit opposite a similar character done with subtle, disaffected emotion by a very mature Scarlett Johansson.
7. The Last Samurai 7. Whale Rider
Brilliant battles scenes, powerful performances and a philosophy once revered, provide both action and reverence for the last of their kind. Niki Caro finds a wonderful muse in Keisha Castle Hughes in this mystical, haunting ride of a girl's enormous effort to move her fellow Maori tribe, but especially her traditional, stern grandfather.
8. Love Actually 8. In America
Absolutely the most enjoyable film of the year. Love is a winner. Jim Sheridan co-wrote this personal immigrant drama set in the mid-80's with his two daughters and the director of My Left Foot it believes in magic for a poor Irish family making a new home in Hell's Kitchen.
9. 28 Days Later 9. 28 Days Later
A quality gripping horror story set in an England facing destruction from a virus in a post apocalyptic world. Danny Boyle makes a scary, insightful film starring Cillian Murphy about a "rage" virus in a post-apocalyptic England with a nod to George Romero's "Living Dead" films.
10. Bend It Like Beckham 10. Bend It Like Beckham
Uplifting comic script about an Indian immigrant in England who wants to play girls' soccer against her family's wishes. A cross-cultural comedy about a soccer girl who idolizes England's David Beckham and quietly rebels against her family to learn more about tradition, friendship, and love. This feel-good movie extends to its pleasing, lively out-takes.

1. Seabiscuit
An immediate classic and a masterwork of film achievement, cinematography, story telling and character development, plus it gets your blood pulsing, your voice screaming and your wish for a winning ticket as you root for a true underdog or should I say under horse.
2. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
The final chapter follows the continuing quest of Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship that has joined together to destroy the Ring. An amazing project and an astonishing film with wonderful character development, extraordinary battle scenes and a mystic world of sights and wonderment.
3. Finding Nemo
Finding Nemo takes us under the sea into a world beyond our imagination as we dive into this computer-animated joy ride filled with wonderful fishy characters in a superb undersea adventure.
4. Cold Mountain
The story of Inman, a wounded confederate soldier, who embarks on a Ulysses-like journey home to Cold Mountain in hopes of being reunited with his beloved Ada. While Inman traverses his perilous journey home, Ada struggles to survive, and revive her late father's farm with the aid of her fearless and plucky mountain-gal friend Ruby. Both Kidman and Zellwegger provide Academy Award-Winning performances.
5. Mona Lisa Smile
Though she is overwhelmed and at times intimidated by her intellectually knowledgeable students, she soon comes to realize that her student's main ambitions are to marry well and become dedicated wives and homemakers. Encouraging these young women to strive for a more enlightening future, she challenges the school's stuffy administration and motivates her students to look beyond the image of what is, and consider the possibilities of what could be.
6. Under the Tuscan Sun
A truly heartwarming film as we watch Frances (Diane Lane) take on the risk of moving to a foreign land, purchasing a ramshackle villa and ultimately taking a gamble on living. Under The Tuscan Sun is rich in the textures of Italy, you can smell the scents, and the love, like a modern day Cinderella this is indeed a fairy tale for the whole family to enjoy.
7. Radio
At first, withdrawn and barely able to read and write, Radio (Cuba Gooding Jr) not only transforms his own life, but members of the school team and all those he comes into contact with. This is a great feel-good film with strong multi-dimensional performances by Gooding and Ed Harris, that should not be missed.
8. The Last Samurai
Captain Algren (Tom Cruise) reluctantly takes on the challenging task of training the Emperor of Japan's army in the art of modern warfare and ultimately doing away with the last remnant of their ancient culture-the Samurai. This superb film transports us back to a point in time where we are introduced to two diverse cultures, their concept of warfare and their sense of honor.
9. The Missing
Tommy Lee Jones portrays a long-estranged father, who having left his wife and child to live a nomadic life with native Indians, tries to reunite with his daughter (Cate Blanchett) as he aids in helping her find her daughter who has been kidnaped by a deranged gang led by their fanatical shaman leader.
10. Peter Pan
This excellent adaptation introduces a new generation to Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinkerbelle, the Lost Boys, and of course our favorite villain-Captain Hook as they travel to that second star to the north-Neverland. This family friendly film is a sure delight and will bring a new audience of all ages to this childhood favorite.

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