2000s

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2000

gladiatorBest Picture (2000): Gladiator (2000)
Release Date: May 1, 2000
Director: Ridley Scott
Studio: Dreamworks/Universal
Gladiator is the modern warrior-revenge epic film. Russell Crowe stars in his finest performance as the Spaniard-Roman general, Maximus Decimus Meridius, alongside Joaquin Phoenix who plays the pale and greedy son of Marcus Aurelius, Commodus. The film leads us through the disgrace of Commodus as he is sold into slavery and becomes a gladiator where he wins the favor of the Roman public.

requiemRequiem For a Dream (2000)
Release Date: May 14, 2000
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Studio: Thousand Words/Protozoa
Requiem For a Dream tells the extraordinarily tragic and graphic downfall of four parallel characters who become addicted to drugs. Each of the four characters has dreams (dreams that sadly die and face a requiem as the title indicates). It is a shockingly grotesque and obscene film.

crouching_tiger_hidden_dragon_chinese_posterCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Release Date: May 18, 2000
Director: Ang Lee
Studio: Sony Pictures
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was the explosively popular film that solidified Chinese cinema as a global alternative to Hollywood. The film won a huge number of awards around the world, and it was nominated for Best Picture by the Academy Awards. It was directed by Ang Lee, a Taiwanese director best known for his martial arts films.

mementoMemento (2000)
September 5, 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan
Studio: Summit Entertainment
The idea for Memento came from a screenplay idea by Christopher Nolan’s brother, Jonathan Nolan. Memento is the second feature film by Nolan. Guy Pearce stars in the film as a man suffering from acute amnesia as he retraces his history to the man who killed his wife. It is a brilliantly mind-bending psychological thriller.

trafficTraffic (2000)
Release Date: December 27, 2000
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Studio: USA Films
Traffic explores the global dilemma of the international drug trade as it affects various people inside and outside the United States. It stars Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Michael Douglas, Luis Guzman, Dennis Quaid, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Traffic carries similar imagery and themes as found in Requiem For A Dream (released earlier in he same year) and it was nominated for Best Picture.

Billy Elliot (2000)

Erin Brockovich (2000)

High Fidelity (2000)

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

2001

A_Beautiful_Mind_PosterBest Picture (2001): A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Release Date: December 13, 2001
Director: Ron Howard
Studio: Universal/Dreamworks
A Beautiful Mind tells the story of the genius, John Nash (Russell Crowe), as he rises from Princeton University in the 1940s developing unique mathematical theories of governance, to his work at MIT and eventually becoming a code cracker at the Pentagon. The parallel story in the film is about Nash’s particular struggle with mental illness.

the_lord_of_the_rings_the_fellowship_of_the_ring_2001The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
Release Date: December 10, 2001
Director: Peter Jackson
Studio: New Line Cinema
Whereas the Baby Boomer generation had the Star Wars trilogy of the 1970s and 1980s, millennials had The Lord of the Rings -an epic film series of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels. Despite being different from the novel, and almost assured to fall short of expectations, The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a massive success -a remarkable feat for a film series reminiscent of a re-imagined Anglo-Saxon epoch.

Black_hawk_down_ver1Black Hawk Down (2001)
Release Date: December 28, 2001
Director: Ridley Scott
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Black Hawk Down tells the harrowing story of the soldiers who were sent into Somalia on a humanitarian mission to restore stability amidst the Somalian civil war in 1993. However, the mission goes terribly wrong as a helicopter is downed in a central location without cover. The soldiers are overrun and one is captured and the rest are eventually rescued along with other trapped troops. It is a brutal and tragic film.

Amelie (2001)

Donnie Darko (2001)

Gosford Park (2001)

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)

Monster’s Ball (2001)

Monsters, Inc. (2001)

Moulin Rouge! (2001)

Mulholland Drive (2001)

The Others (2001)

The Piano Teacher (2001)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Shrek (2001)

Winged Migration (2001)

Y Tu Mama Tambien (2001)

2002

Best Picture (2002): Chicago (2002)

Star_Wars_-_Episode_II_Attack_of_the_Clones_(movie_poster)Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Release Date: May 12, 2002
Director: George Lucas
Studio: Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox
Attack of the Clones is the second installment of George Lucas’s “prequel” films in the Skywalker saga. It is a painfully awful film filled with countless plot loopholes, terrible acting, and a mostly boring narrative that is desperately mired in a hollow romance between Anakin Skywalker and the former Queen Amidala, now known as Padme. There is no romantic tension throughout the film and the audience is quickly disoriented when we find that Anakin has grown into a disappointing brat (nothing like the fearsome and confident Darth Vader from the original trilogy). In addition, the bureaucratic haggling in the Galactic Senate is a complete bore, but at least there is a somewhat confusing side plot about a secretly produced clone army, I suppose.

the_signs_movieSigns (2002)
Release Date: August 2, 2002
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
Signs is a quiet yet powerful film about a former pastor and his family who survive an alien invasion of Earth. Unlike other science fiction films, Signs is a more reflective picture, with a slower pace, and it relies far less on special effects. It stars Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. Along with The Sixth Sense, Signs is an excellent Shyamalan film.

Die another Day - UK cinema poster.jpgJames Bond #20: Die Another Day (2002)
Release Date: November 20, 2002
Director: Lee Tamahori
Studio: Eon/MGM
Die Another Day is the twentieth James Bond film, and the fourth and final film starring Pierce Brosnan. The film also famously stars Halle Barry (as “Jinx”), a well as Rosamund Pike. Die Another Day is perhaps the best of Pierce Brosnan’s Bond films, though that is hardly saying much. The film uniquely portrays Bond as a captured and dishonored torture victim in North Korea, rather than a triumphant and confident hero, as he seeks to uncover the truth of a North Korean conspiracy.

the_two_towers_2002The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Release Date: December 5, 2002
Director: Peter Jackson
Studio: New Line Cinema
There are three brilliantly interwoven plot-lines in The Two Towers (or what Hitchcock once called the “meanwhile back at the ranch” film technique which is also employed to great success in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back). We follow Frodo and Sam en route to Mordor with the creature Gollum; Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli as they rouse the Kingdom of Rohan to fight back against Isengard, and Merry and Pippin as they meet the Ent forest creatures who deal the ultimate blow to Isengard. It is another brilliant installment of the series with an incredible Howard Shore score.

Star Trek #10: Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

28 Days Later… (2002)

Adaptation (2002)

The Bourne Identity (2002)

City of God (2002)

Far From Heaven (2002)

Frida (2002)

Gangs of New York (2002)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

The Hours (2002)

Ice Age (2002)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

The Pianist (2002)

The Ring (2002)

Jack Ryan #4: The Sum of All Fears (2002)

Talk To Her (2002)

Whale Rider (2002)

2003

the_return_of_the_king_2003Best Picture (2003): The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Release Date: December 1, 2003
Director: Peter Jackson
Studio: New Line Cinema
Each film in The Lord of the Rings series was an Academy Award winner, however Return of the King won all eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated (joining only two other films in history to win eleven Academy Awards: Ben-Hur and Titanic). Return of the King is a beautiful end to an incredible cinematic journey. It is a visually stunning film (apparently the scenes of Minas Tirath in Gondor were reused from the Helm’s Deep sequences in The Two Towers). The score is another perfect soundtrack composed by Howard Shore. The cast is the same returning troupe from The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. The cinematography is a extraordinary as is the CGI and other special effects -which do not appear to have aged lo these twenty years since the film’s release. It is difficult to put into words a film that is so massively epic in scale because Return of the King encapsulates such a wealth of cinematic splendor.

Pirates_of_the_Caribbean_-_The_Curse_of_the_Black_PearlPirates of the Caribbean #1: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
Release Date: June 28, 2003
Director: Gore Verbinski
Studio: Disney
The first installment of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series is a fun adventure, albeit excessively reliant on computer-generated-imagery. The plot is about a cursed pile of Aztec gold, once taken by Hernando Cortes, that allows the crew of a mythically speedy ship called the “Black Pearl” to become undead. It star Johnny Depp as the Keith Richards-inspired pirate named Captain Jack Sparrow, as well as Orlando Bloom, Kiera Knightly, Geoffrey Rush, and others.

mystic-riverMystic River (2003)
Release Date: October 15, 2003
Director: Clint Eastwood
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
With a star-studded cast including Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden, and Laura Linney, Mystic River is based on a 2001 novel of the same name. It is a melodramatic murder mystery involving three boyhood friends and the tragic death of one of their daughters.

master-and-commanderMaster and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
Release Date: November 14, 2003
Director: Peter Weir
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Based on three novels in Patrick O’Brian’s famous twenty-book nautical adventure series, Master and Commander stars Russell Crowe as a charismatic and respected sea-dog named “Lucky” Jack Aubrey who helms the H.M.S. Surprise as it hunts down a French warship. Throughout the film we get a sense of the gritty, cramped, seasick lifestyle aboard a British Naval ship during the Napoleonic Wars. With incredible visuals, extraordinarily accurate sound effects, a classically-infused score, wonderful performances both for English gentlemen as well as gruff seamen, and a pitch-perfect script, Master and Commander is a cinematic experience par excellence.

The_Last_SamuraiThe Last Samurai (2003)
Release Date: November 20, 2003
Director: Edward Zwick
Studio: Warner Bros.
The Last Samurai is very loosely based on a true story about a Western soldier sent to train Japanese warriors in late 19th century Japan as the nation begins industrializing and rejecting its traditional samurai culture. Tom Cruise plays the ridiculously predictable and tortured Civil War veteran named Captain Algren who becomes “the last samurai.” Ken Watanabe plays Lord Katsumoto, a powerful Shogun.

Big Fish (2003)

Finding Nemo (2003)

House of Sand and Fog (2003)

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Lost in Translation (2003)

Love, Actually (2003)

Seabiscuit (2003)

2004

Million_Dollar_Baby_posterBest Picture (2004): Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Release Date: December 15, 2004
Director: Clint Eastwood
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
The story for Million Dollar Baby is somewhat predictable (with a tragic twist at the end) about a rising female boxer named Maggie Fitzgerald (played by Hillary Swank) as she secures an aging coach (played by Clint Eastwood). It is narrated by Morgan Freeman.

the_village_movieThe Village (2004)
Release Date: July 26, 2004
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Studio: Buena Vista Productions
The Village is a beautifully shot film with a compelling story and an incredible score, but it does have some notable plot-holes and is certainly not Shyamalan’s best film. It is about a 19th century village that rests at the edge of a Pennsylvania forest where monsters dwell. When one of the villagers gets injured, the leader’s daughter ventures through the dangerous woods and learns a closely-held secret about their community. It contains an all-star cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Bryce Dallas Howard, William Hurt, Adrien Brody, Sigourney Weaver, Brendan Gleeson, and others, including a cameo from a young Jesse Eisenberg.

Before Sunset (2004)

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Brødre (Brothers) (2004)

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Hotel Rwanda (2004)

The Incredibles (2004)

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Saw (2004)

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Sideways (2004)

2005

Best Picture (2005): Crash (2005)

Star_Wars_Episode_III_Revenge_of_the_Sith_posterStar Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Release Date: May 15, 2005
Director: George Lucas
Studio: Lucasfilm/20th Century Fox
Revenge of the Sith is the third and painfully final installment of the “prequels” to the Skywalker Star Wars saga. It is a rushed conclusion to this awful Star Wars trilogy. Very little happens in the film until the last half hour which attempts to button up the series in order to fit into the original Star Wars saga. Anakin continues his whiney quest toward the dark side of the force -a choice he makes for love in order to save Padme’s life. Meanwhile, she is pregnant with twins, and Anakin becomes swayed by Senator Palpatine (soon to become Emperor Palpatine). Anakin betrays the Jedi Council (even stooping to slaughtering defenseless children) and, in the end, Anakin is confronted and left for dead by Obi-Wan Kenobi. His mangled carcass is rescued by Palpatine and rebuilt as Darth Vader (‘more machine now than man’). The last half hour or so of the film contains the most interesting parts, otherwise it is fairly obvious that Lucas is attempting to squeeze a conclusion out of this pitiful story-line so that it can somehow be cobbled together to appear continuous with the original series.

Batman_Begins_PosterBatman Begins (2005)
Release Date: June 15, 2005
Director: Christopher Nolan
Studio: Warner Bros.
Batman Begins is the first part of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, and surely the best of any contemporary superhero film series. We experience the rise of Bruce Wayne, rich playboy by day turned crime-fighting superhero by night. Batman Begins is a terrific film.

Memoirs_of_a_Geisha_PosterMemoirs of a Geisha (2005)
Release Date: November 29, 2005
Director: Robert Marshall
Studio: Dreamworks/Columbia
The film is about Ciyo, a poor girl who is sold into slavery at a young age, but who rises in the Geisha world to become a great success, until the old world of Japan is destroyed in World War II. The film has been criticized for being too “Hollywood” -using Chinese actors to portray traditional Japanese roles, using tired ‘oriental’ stereotypes. Nevertheless, it a powerful film.

A History of Violence (2005)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Capote (2005)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)

The Constant Gardener (2005)

Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

King Kong (2005)

March of the Penguins (2005)

Munich (2005)

Pride & Prejudice (2005)

Sin City (2005)

Walk the Line (2005)

2006

the-departedBest Picture (2006): The Departed (2006)
Release Date: September 26, 2006
Director: Martin Scorsese
Studio: Warner Bros.
Based on a reimagining of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, The Departed brings together an all-star cast to deliver one of the best films of the 2000s. Martin Scorsese on board along with a soup of A-List Hollywood talent (Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Jack Nicholson, Vera Farmiga, Martin Sheen, and many others), The Departed delivers a compelling, intellectually engaging movie that explores deep themes of identity, belonging, upward mobility, and hope. Two men pose as informants -one in the Irish mob, the other in the Boston police department. Their task is to discover one another before the jog is up.

pirates-of-the-caribbean-2Pirates of the Caribbean #2: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
Release Date: June 28, 2003
Director: Gore Verbinski
Studio: Disney
Gore Verbinski returns to direct the sequel to Disney’s successful Pirates of the Caribbean film which was originally released in 2003. And once again the film features an all-star cast: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, Tom Hollander, and Bill Nighy among others. It is part one of a two-part story followed by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) released the following year. The story is outrageous and unnecessarily convoluted. Instead of a fun pirate-adventure film, we are given an exhausting farce that leaves the viewer in a state of bewilderment and nausea as a result of over-indulgence. Do yourself a favor and skip this one.

Casino_Royale_2_-_UK_cinema_posterJames Bond #21: Casino Royale (2006)
Release Date: November 14, 2006
Director: Martin Campbell
Studio: Eon/MGM
Casino Royale is the brilliant re-introduction of James Bond in the 21st Century. It is the twenty-first Eon Bond film and the first to feature Daniel Craig as a young James Bond, earning his license to kill, and hunting down a French and Russian gangster known as Le Chiffre. Bond risks it all and wins on a classic poker game scene, then falls in love with a woman who double crosses him, only to exact his vengeance in the end. The film answers a great deal of latter questions about the character of James Bond.

300 (2006)

Apocalypto (2006)

Babel (2006)

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

Children of Men (2006)

Efter brylluppet (After the Wedding) (2006)

Flags of Our Fathers (2006)

Happy Feet (2006)

The Illusionist (2006)

The Last King of Scotland (2006)

Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)

Little Children (2006)

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

The Lives of Others (2006)

Once (2006)

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

The Prestige (2006)

The Queen (2006)

United 93 (2006)

2007

Best Picture (2007): No Country For Old Men (2007)

pirates-3Pirates of the Caribbean #3: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
Release Date: May 19, 2007
Director: Gore Verbinski
Studio: Disney
As incomprehensible a mess the second Pirates movie was, At World’s End somehow manages to top it. At nearly three hours long, At World’s End is a droning, painful attempt to rival a massive modern epic like Lord of the Rings, but it fails in spectacular fashion. It shovels so much nonsensical drivel into the plot that it has become notorious for being completely incoherent.

atonementAtonement (2007)
Release Date: August 29, 2007
Director: Joe Wright
Studio: Universal
Atonement is a beautiful, sobering picture that explores the nature of perspective, memory, and self-forgiveness. It is based on the well-celebrated novel of the same name by Ian McEwan, and it stars James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch, and a young Saoirse Ronan in her first big Hollywood film. Atonement is Joe Wright’s follow-up to his extraordinary breakthrough adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (also featuring Kiera Knightley) in 2005.

there-will-be-bloodThere Will Be Blood (2007)
Release Date: September 27, 2007
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Studio: Paramount/Miramax
There Will Be Blood is loosely based on Oil!, Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel about a corrupt oil family. It is an impeccably shot film with some fine acting by Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano. I can appreciate this film for being well-made, but much of the plot is a long, boring, sweep through the desert and to me it does not really stand the test of time. Certain critics have surmised that There Will Be Blood is a meditation on the nature of American greed, but it seems to me more fitting to call this picture as an intense character study of a deeply flawed man. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, with Daniel Day-Lewis winning one of his three Academy Awards for Best Actor.

The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

The Class (Entre les Murs) (2008)

Dan In Real Life (2007)

Gone Baby Gone (2007)

Hairspray (2007)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

Into the Wild (2007)

Juno (2007)

La Vie En Rose (2007)

Michael Clayton (2007)

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Persepolis (2007)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

Things We Lost in the Fire (2007)

2008

Slumdog_Millionaire_posterBest Picture (2008): Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Release Date: August 30, 2008
Director: Danny Boyle
Studio: Pathe
Slumdog Millionaire is the explosive introduction of modern Indian culture and Bollywood-styled films onto the international cinematic stage. It tells the story of Jamal, played by Dev Patel, a kid from the slums of India as he becomes a contestant on India’s version of the popular television game show, “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” He successfully answers every questions correctly, as they all correspond ironically to various moments throughout his life.

Dark_KnightThe Dark Knight (2008)
Release Date: July 14, 2008
Director: Christopher Nolan
Studio: Warner Bros.
The Dark Knight is the magnificent sequel to Nolan’s earlier film, Batman Begins. The Dark Knight is the great superhero film of our generation, far exceeding expectations. It is one of the great films of the 2010s and a Christopher Nolan masterpiece. It explores the nature of heroism while introducing compelling classic Batman characters: Joker and Two-Face.

UK Final QuadJames Bond #22: Quantum of Solace (2008)
Release Date: October 29, 2008
Director: Marc Foster
Studio: Eon/MGM
Quantum of Solace is the sequel to Casino Royale. The plot follows Bond as he seeks revenge for the death of his lover, Vesper, which had occurred at the dramatic end of Casino Royale. The trail leads him to a double-crossing agent and an organization known as “Quantum”. One of their members is staging a political coup in Bolivia using a complex plot to control the nation’s water supply. In the end, Bond drops Vesper’s old necklace into the snow, symbolizing his commitment to forget Vesper and return to his work at MI6.

Doubt (2008)

Frost/Nixon (2008)

Gran Torino (2008)

Iron Man (2008)

Let the Right One In (Låt den Rätte Komma In) (2008)

Mamma Mia! (2008)

Milk (2008)

Revolutionary Road (2008)

The Reader (2008)

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)

WALL-E (2008)

The Wrestler (2008)

2009

Best Picture (2009): The Hurt Locker (2009)

star-trekStar Trek #11: Star Trek (2009)
Release Date: April 7, 2009
Director: J.J. Abrams
Studio: Paramount
The new Star Trek movies are often referred to as the “Kelvin” timeline in reference to the name of the ship in the series, the USS Kelvin (an homage to J.J. Abrams’s grandfather). The idea for a new film was to reboot the original series with a twist. They hoped to create a qualified prequel to the original Star Trek series which initially aired on CBS in the 1960s, but grew in popularity through syndication. The filmmakers had a daunting task ahead of them: to reinvigorate the series, bringing appeal to a wider audience, yet also pleasing Trekkie fans, many of whom are notoriously fickle. To a large extent, they succeeded in this first film which was released in 2009.

Up_(2009_film)Up (2009)
Release Date: May 29, 2009
Director: Pete Docter
Studio: Pixar/Disney
Up is a Pixar and Disney released animated film. It is the bitter-sweet story of an elderly man, Carl, who ties balloons to his house and embarks on a grand adventure to honor the memory of his late wife. It is a charming film.

PrintAvatar (2009)
Release Date: December 10, 2009
Director: James Cameron
Studio: 20th Century Fox
When it was first released, Avatar caused quite a sensation as James Cameron had spent years developing the plot and the technology for the remarkable CGI effects. The plot takes place in the future: a group of humans are attempting to extract a valuable mineral called “unobtanium” from a planet called Pandora, but they are meeting hostile resistance from a native tribe. The graphics are the most amazing part of this picture.

A Serious Man (2009)

The Bad Lieutenant Port of Call: New Orleans (2009)

The Blind Side (2009)

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009)

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)

Up in the Air (2009)