Category Archives: 2000 Movie reviews

U-571-2000

U-571-2000

Director-Jonathan Mostow

Starring-Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton

Scott’s Review #1,126

Reviewed March 25, 2021

Grade: B-

U-571 (2000) is a film that entertains. It’s got excellent cinematography, some thrills, and clear good guys vs. bad guys mentality with machismo for days. It’s an American film if there ever was one and will please American audiences seeking cookie-cutter material with loud noise and a satisfying ending. It’s also got some scenes of guy peril that will please a certain type of audience demographic- think blue-collar males.

The modus operandi is that all the Americans are good and the Germans are bad. It is World War II after all. It wasn’t that simple folks but according to the film, it’s pretty cut and dry. But that’s entertainment and a box-office hit.

It’s not a bad film at all but a beer and pizza style film, not a martini and avocado dip film.

For those seeking something more authentic versus formulaic and riddled with cliches, U-571 will disappoint. It’s also shamefully inaccurate and severely muddies waters. The film does not portray a historical event so there is a lot it gets away with.

But it’s a fictionalized film and is meant to entertain so my suggestion is to sit back, grab some popcorn (or beer and pizza), and enjoy it for what it is. Don’t look for any rationale other than the studio wanting to make a ton of money. And there is the exceptional cinematography and cool locales to keep us marginally happy. The story is inane but the trimmings work.

When a German U-571 submarine (hence the title of the film!) with a sophisticated encryption machine onboard is presumed lost and buried during a World War II battle at sea, the Allies send an American Navy force led by Lieutenant Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) to retrieve it for study.

Boarding the German ship, the Americans’ cover as a rescue force is quickly blown. Forced to take the crew hostage, the Americans lay their explosives and prepare to destroy the German vessel before the Nazis can send naval backup. It’s a race against time routine seen frequently in masculine thrillers.

About those historical inaccuracies. The American portrayal is horribly skewed and slanted to be pro-American and this point offended many of the British military and public. Even Prime Minister Tony Blair got involved. The Allies captured Enigma-related codebooks and machines about fifteen times during the War; all but two of these by British forces. Watching the film one would think the Americans did everything and the British were incompetent.

Let’s ponder for a moment why filmmakers, especially screenwriter David Ayer and director Jonathan Mostow would embrace such inconsistencies. My hunch is that they were attempting to target their film to male American moviegoers. The tactic worked and the film was a hit.

A cool tidbit is the casting of rock star Jon Bon Jovi in the supporting role of Lieutenant Pete Emmett. At this time launching an acting career that included a role on television’s Ally McBeal, it’s impressive to see him on the big screen and not playing himself. I’m not sure he totally pulls it off but as a fan of the 1980’s hitmaker, I enjoyed this aspect.

McConaughey carries the film well and is his usual dashing and charismatic self. Before the actor started doing more quality and character representative films nearly a decade later, he would later state that several roles he took he disliked and did completely for the cash payday. One wonders if U-571 is one of those films.

Bill Paxton and Harvey Keitel have little more to do than to act tense and play second fiddle to McConaughey.

From an inclusive perspective, and I kid because there is nary a strong female to be found, there are no strong women characters. A shame because being the year 2000 Mostow should have known better. Couldn’t one of the high-ranking majors or lieutenants have been a woman? If nothing else it could have added some sexual tension. Or perhaps a same-sex relationship. The film does nothing for diversity.

It’s a very intense and exciting war film that accomplishes what it sets out to do. It’s well-executed and a crowd-pleaser, U-571 (2000) doesn’t contain much more than that and will be remembered as a slick entertaining thriller with a big movie star.

Oscar Nominations: Best Sound Editing, Best Sound (won)

Fantasia 2000-2000

Fantasia 2000-2000

Director-James Algar, Various

Starring-Steve Martin, Bette Midler

Scott’s Review #535

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Reviewed December 4, 2016

Grade: B+

Fantasia 2000 is a visually stunning remake of the 1940 Disney film. The modern version is produced by Roy Disney, nephew of the famous Walt Disney.

There are nine segments in total, each set to a classical music piece. Masterpieces such as Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven and Rhapsody in Blue by Gershwin are featured. The Rhapsody piece is a gorgeous story of four individuals who dream of a better life in 1930’s New York City. The four do not know each other, but their lives intersect uniquely.

Each segment is introduced by a celebrity: Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury, Bette Midler, and Quincy Jones appear, adding helpful thought and interpretation.

The final piece, in particular, is both moving and breathtaking. Firebird Suite-1919 version- by Stravinsky tells of a sprite (an ethereal entity), awoken by her companion, an elk, as a volcanic spirit has erupted in the peaceful forest, burning it down. The sprite must work to rebuild the peaceful land. It is an earnest, heartbreaking piece.

Being somewhat of a film traditionalist, I prefer the original slightly, but this version is great. Fantasia 2000 is wonderful to look at.

Dancer in the Dark-2000

Dancer in the Dark-2000

Director-Lars von Trier

Starring-Bjork, Catherine Deneuve

Top 100 Films-#95

Scott’s Review #365

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Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Dancer in the Dark is in my opinion one of the most important, inventive films of the 2000s and proudly is one of my favorites of all time. However, the film is not pleasant to watch, and really quite painful and depressing, if truth be told. But the relevance and sheer emotion the film elicits is more than enough reason to be exposed to it- if only, but perhaps, once.

Director, Lars von Trier, is a master at creative and disturbing, dream-like films that are either odd, non-linear or otherwise open to interpretation in some way. He has directed such gems as 2011’s Melancholia and 1996’s Breaking the Waves, to name but two.

With Dancer in the Dark he uses handheld cameras which add much grit to the film so it almost feels documentary style, and a grainy, shaky look. The addition of musical numbers mostly written and performed by the star, Bjork, is a wonderful touch.

Speaking of Bjork, words cannot express what a brilliant performance she gives in the film, and the raw emotion she expresses in her starring role is awe-inspiring. So much was the stress of filming Dancer in the Dark, that she, to my knowledge, has never made another film.

She was shamefully overlooked in the Best Actress Oscar category- an omission that is one of the biggest fails in Oscar history.

Tensions were reportedly high on the set of Dancer in the Dark, as Bjork reportedly despised her director, never missing a chance to tell him so, disappeared from the set for days on end, and spat in his face. Co-star Deneuve, a former French mega-film star, reportedly did not get along well with Bjork. Despite all the drama, the stars managed to pull together a masterpiece.

Bjork plays Selma, a Czech immigrant, living in Seattle with her young son. The year is 1964. Selma is poor, struggling to survive by working in a clothing factory along with her best friend Cvalda (Deneuve).

Selma and Cvalda escape their dull lives by watching classic musical films at their local cinema. To make matters worse, Selma is suffering from a degenerative eye disease causing her to gradually lose her sight. She struggles to save enough for surgery for her son, who is sure to suffer the same fate without it.

Selma frequently imagines musical numbers in her day-to-day life involving friends and co-workers. When a tragic turn of events occurs and Selma is accused of a crime, the film goes in a very dark direction.

The conclusion of the film will always require handkerchiefs as it is powerful as it is gloomy.  The aspect I love most about Dancer in the Dark is that it smashes barriers about what film art is and throws all of the rules out the window.

Lars von Triers, certainly famous for this and create a dreamy, independent hybrid musical and drama, a dynamic, tragic, emotional experience all rolled up into one great film.

Oscar Nominations: Best Original Song-“I’ve Seen It All”

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Foreign Film (won)

Traffic-2000

Traffic-2000

Director-Steven Soderbergh

Starring-Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Benicio del Toro

Top 100 Films-#78

Scott’s Review #333

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Reviewed January 8, 2016

Grade: A

Simply put, I adore this film. I loved Traffic when it was first released in 2000 and I still love it in present times. During an age where the overlapping stories with hefty casts were still in the infancy stage (Crash and Babel, similar films, would not be released for several years), Traffic was groundbreaking, compelling, thought-provoking, and just a damned good drama! With drug use still a continuing problem in the United States, the film remains both relevant and important.

Featuring three main, intersecting stories with a central theme of drug trafficking, each is told from various perspectives: users, political figures, law enforcement, and criminal traffickers. Traffic also wisely shows how the drug problem knows no specific classes- affluent, middle-class, and poor are all represented in the film.

A strong political story is represented- led by conservative Ohio judge Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas), who is appointed “drug czar” as the President’s Office of National Drug Policy leader, he vows to end all drug trafficking and is the moral center of the film. However, his prep school daughter, Caroline, (played exceptionally well by Erika Christensen) and her equally affluent friends are dabbling in cocaine, heroin, and other drugs, so much so that their lives are slowly spiraling out of control.

The Mexico story involves the riveting tale of Mexican police office Javier Rodriguez (played convincingly by Benicio del Toro). He becomes heavily involved in a web of deceit, money, and drugs. His partner, Sanchez, makes a deal with the devil and his fate is thereby sealed. Javier has moral questions to ask himself and only wants to do right by some local, neighborhood boys.

Finally, San Diego is the setting for a story of corruption involving the DEA’s investigation of a drug lord, Carl Ayala. After being arrested, his wife Helena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) faces a moral dilemma- either carry on the illegal proceedings or come clean. She,  up until this point unaware of her husbands business, faces enormous pressure, both financially and through threat of violence.

My favorite aspect of Traffic is that all of the aforementioned stories are fascinating in their own right- and could make terrific films on their own, but as the film progresses they begin to intersect and keys to the puzzle slowly unlock themselves. I love how many of the central characters (Helena, Javier, and Wakefield) begin as “good” people only to have their moral intentions challenged, and in some cases, threatened. They are each conflicted in some way.

The film poses an interesting, crucial question of what can be done about the United States drug trafficking problem? The answer at the end of the film is a disappointing and perhaps even depressing realization. Drugs will never stop being a problem and Traffic wisely explains how drugs show no barriers when it comes to either wealthy or more financially challenged individuals.

How wonderful to see a stellar cast, even in smaller roles (Dennis Quaid and Amy Irving immediately come to mind) with all of the characters having a purpose in a wonderful example of how a mainstream Hollywood film can achieve a true ensemble effort that works. Great job Steven Soderbergh!

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Steven Soderbergh (won), Best Supporting Actor-Benicio del Toro (won), Best Adapted Screenplay (won), Best Film Editing (won)

Requiem for a Dream-2000

Requiem for a Dream-2000

Director-Darren Aronofsky

Starring-Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto

Top 100 Films-#51     Top 10 Disturbing Films-#3    

Scott’s Review #172

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Reviewed September 21, 2014

Grade: A

Requiem for a Dream is a disturbing film and, at times, very difficult to watch, but it is also a brilliant masterpiece, visually as well as from a storytelling perspective, that I appreciate more and more with each painful (in a good way!) viewing experience.

The film is easily one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen.

The subject matter is drug trafficking/addiction that affects more than one character in the cast- this subject has been tackled by a myriad of different films- think Traffic, released around the same time period as Requiem for a Dream for a comparison.

At the risk of directly comparing Requiem for a Dream to Traffic, which is unfair, I will say that as gritty as Traffic is, Requiem for a Dream makes it look like a kid’s film. Director Darren Aronofsky’s direction is superb.

The story revolves around a young man (Harry) from Brooklyn, played by Jared Leto, his girlfriend Marion, played by Jennifer Connelly, Harry’s mother Sara, played by Ellen Burstyn, and Harry’s best friend Tyrone, played by Marlon Wayans.

Each individual falls into a trap of drug addiction in their own way, but all are written sympathetically so that the audience cares about them and feels their sorrows intensely. Harry and Tyrone are involved in drug selling but aspire to be successful and both love their mothers and their significant others- in Harry’s case that is Marion.

Marion (Connelly) falls in over her head and is forced to turn tricks to feed her heroin habit. She is an intelligent young woman from an affluent family, which makes her downward spiral into prostitution all the more shocking.

The standout among the central characters is Sara Goldfarb, who is a lonely widowed woman obsessed with a television game show. She develops delusions of grandeur of becoming a contestant and is tragically determined to lose weight to fit into her favorite red dress. She becomes dependent on diet pills and begins hallucinating that her refrigerator is attacking her.

Aronofsky perfectly mixes in fantasy sequences showcasing Burstyn’s real attractiveness contrasted with the desperation of Sara. Sara is a sad character and Burstyn is mesmerizing in the role. How she lost the Oscar to Julia Roberts in 2000 is and always will be one of the biggest Oscar travesties in my opinion.

The special part of this film is the visual and cerebral aspects. The film is dreamlike in its texture and extreme, fast-paced close-ups of the diet pills or heroin being consumed. The viewer feels the highs and lows that the characters feel and there is immediately a sense that all of the characters are doomed and hopeless.

Besides, this film has one of the most effective and haunting scores I have ever experienced, right up there with John Carpenter’s Halloween.

The slow-motion sequences combined with frenetic images make this quite cerebral to watch. I cannot watch this film very often as it is too disturbing and upsetting, but I sure am glad it was made at all.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Ellen Burstyn

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature, Best Director-Darren Aronofsky, Best Female Lead-Ellen Burstyn (won), Best Supporting Female-Jennifer Connelly, Best Cinematography (won)