10) Million Dollar Baby
Clint Eastwood and Hillary Swank deliver excellent performances (again!). Swank is an aspiring boxer, and while Eastwood is superb as her reluctant coach, he also seamlessly directed the picture. The script is also different by Hollywood standards; you think it is the old story of an old coach reluctant to take on a female protegé, but he does and she finds success? Not quite, get ready for unseen plot twists!
Another superior product from Pixar, in ther final collaboration with Disney. What happens when a superhero is asked to retire? He must go live in the suburbs and sell insurance. What happens if he sees situations in which he could help? What if his family are also superheroes? All these questions are put to the test. A sharp satire on community and values is delivered.
8) Spiderman 2
In this sequel that surpasses the 2002 original, the adventures of Peter Parker and Mary Jane are continued. However, in addition to excellent action sequences, character development has also been given high priority. We are able to follow the relationships of the principal characters, and observe their evolvement throughout the film.
7) Fahrenheit 9-11
Ahh, another controversy from Mikey Moore. Depsite its politics, it is a well-made film. He shows how W acted and reacted to many situations involving 9-11 and the Iraq war. Can't argue with video! Except that you can. Video can still be shown out of context. While still offering his own, often amusing opinion, much judgement is still left to the viewer.
Scorsese scores again with a biopic featuring Howard Hughes. An epic (3:05) film which follows Hughes from the 1920s thru the 40s, Leo DiCaprio is in almost every scene in the title role which should net him an Oscar. If you think it doesn't look that complicated, that is why it is actually complicated and so brilliant; he makes it look easy. Especially excellent are the period recreations. I didn't feel like I was watching a movie set, I felt like I was visiting a 1930s nightclub.
Liam Neeson is Alfred Kinsey, the 1940s/50s researcher who focused on bugs and then sex. His performance is superb. He creates a character that is so intensely focused on his work, he cannot seem to even change his style of conversation when he is not working. He gives Kinsey an air of purpose and authority. Sets, costumes, and other period details are impressive.
4) Maria Full of Grace
You would never guess that a gringo wrote this gripping tale of young Colombian woman who desperately takes a gig as a drug mule. Catalina Sandino Moreno makes a huge debut as the title character. This film is different from others in the genre in many ways. One of the most notable is that it takes a familiar character, the drug trafficker, and portrays her sympathetically.
Another low-profile, starless, independent film shot on a shoestring budget, this is another one that works. Brace yourself to think. Come on, once in a while, it is worth it. This film is worth the effort. Four buddies create some kind of machine. Not sure what it will do, they notice that when 1 minute has passed, 1,300 minutes have elapsed inside of the machine. They experiment some more. Are they traveling in time? Do they now have clones? What if they built more? Who is who?
Director Taylor Hackford creatively uses the flashback storytelling device by showing scenes from his childhood as they resonate thru his adulthood. Jamie Foxx well-deserves the high praise he has enjoyed for his portrayal and capturing of Charles' voice, mannerisms, etc. This bio has extra cred for two reasons: Ray Charles approved both the script and Foxx, and the script includes many less than admirable points of his life, including drugs and womanizing, that seem to tell a more accurate tale.
1) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Yet another high-profile, high-budget, star-filled, studio film? Kind of, but the commonality that this movie has with several others on this list is that it makes you think. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are a former couple who undergo a new procedure to erase each other from their minds. Charlie Kaufman expertly creates the unexpected consequences.
Honorable Mentions (no order):
Ocean's Twelve, Collateral, Garden State, Closer, Finding Neverland,
Sideways, Napolean Dynamite, Osama, Shaun of the Dead,
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Spanglish
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