Now to start something that makes perfect sense. This column will be a monthly retrospective of the movies from 20 years earlier. Most months I’m aiming for the first Tuesday to release this. But I’m starting late. For the record, release dates are weird so if it’s a smaller film, info is hard to always nail down. I’m using The Numbers as my source for the most complete list. Now did I see everything? No. This is from the perspective of a down the line filmgoer. If I went, I’ll tell you why. If I didn’t, I’ll tell you why. Here goes nothing.
Bad Company: We often mourn the programmer, a mid budget star film, but I look at this and I’m fascinated by how every piece of this was assembled from other parts. The title was reused. The cast of Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins feels like the most “well they were free” cast with Peter Stormare used as a villain because he can’t be used as an actual actor (for two more weeks). Joel Schumacher directed because he was free. The premise is a Prisoner of Zenda/Prince and the Pauper riff. This is what we lose on these and I’m not sure we did lose. However there are some great ones coming this year.
The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood: I feel like this kind of movie is dead. The moderately popular novel put on screen. This would be a TV series now. The cast is basically all on TV now anyway aside from the indestructible Sandra Bullock. I didn’t see this but I think hsad the buzz been even vaguely good I would have. I like films steeped in the south, but this wasn’t it. Shame.
The Bourne Identity: Doug Liman went from two hipster comedies which are modern classics with genius scripts to an unexpected action great with this film. Though it should be noted that unlike the process we see now where a director with no experience is brought on to be a hired hand, Liman actually started the project as a fan of the book. And it shows. Look, this became a landmark franchise starter for a reason. This is a blast of a film with a phenomenal cast and a pace like a metronome. Liman knows the game. But the real thing this kicked off was movie savior legend Tony Gilroy fixing a film in rewrites, though he was the first writer here. This rules, but you know that.
Scooby-Doo: Look, you can’t talk about this film without pointing out that an R-rated cut will never come out but exists. That’s from the screenwriter so I consider it fact. I also ask why. This movie feels like it exists at a juncture between the ironic adaptation and the serious one and leans way too hard on the ironic side. It’s from nothing director Raja Gosnell and genius writer James Gunn and the issues are huge. Like making the villain an obvious punchline. However, three happy things. The sequel is considered a true adaptation. Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar were dating while filming this and have been married for 20 years. And the big one: Following the death of Casey Kasem, Matthew Lillard would take over the role of Shaggy in animation and is an utter soundalike to where I don’t know it’s not Kasem.
Pinata: Survival Island: I could list a million actual independent releases that matter. No. I’m going with the release of the legendary in b-movie circles b-movie that I’m genuinely serious played theaters in Little Rock as Demon Island. Oh and it played for two weeks so when I get to one of the best films of the year below realize you could choose to see it or this and I believe someone had to choose poorly. This is about a killer pinata who attacks Jamie Pressly (who rightfully hates this as it followed her career changing Not Another Teen Movie work) and Nicholas Brendon (who has one more year of work before never being heard from in a good way again.) No I’ve never seen it. I’ve tried though.
Windtalkers: I hate war films, so you’ll rarely get my opinion on them. And yeah I’m passing here. I’m going to get to a point where I will see every Cage film for a few years but I had no reason to watch this. No interest.
Juwanna Mann: OK, great I have two back to back all time greats to cover on this day. But I have to cover this first. Will I ever see a film like this? There are a few on my list. But this isn’t a film I saw. A movie about a man pretending to be a woman to enter the WNBA is so offensive it needs no explaining.
Lilo and Stitch: The birth of an iconic character. I see so much Stitch merchandise. My daughter loves Stitch. I have no objection. How can you not love this movie? This is a film about grief, about trauma, and yes family. It’s so ridiculously entertaining in every way. The animation, the last great bit of 2D animation from Disney, is art. The characters are rich. It’s so moving. I want to give special credit to the voice work by Tia Carrere who really didn’t get to work into her older years and here suggests she could have had a tremendous dramatic career. A true classic. I didn’t see it opening weekend though. I saw…
Minority Report: OK, let me get my critique out of the way. The mystery here isn’t great. It should be. The script is mostly by Scott Frank who is a genius at them. But it’s only so-so. The thing is, it’s a macguffin. Spielberg doesn’t care. What he was into was the satire of a culture with no privacy. And when you realize that, you get why Ebert named it the best film of the year. In 2001, Spielberg honored Kubrick but to me this is him getting the spirit. This is the weirdest film Spielberg can make, a darkly twisted film with crazy character work from everyone from the aforementioned Stormare to the great Tim Blake Nelson. The director of Blankman, Mike Binder, actually gets an emotionally devastating scene. And the satire is laser like. This is a film about where we were going and it’s spot on. In a great year, this is one of the best films.
Hey Arnold! : The Movie: I was 18 when this hit and wasn’t even a fan of the show. I will say the movie is legendary for getting a theatrical push it wasn’t built for. This was meant as DTV and we’re in an era where a lot of those went there, unlike now where Turning Red was theatrical grade but went to streaming. (I’m still mad.) A shame this killed the show basically,
Lovely and Amazing: I’ll concede a huge blind spot for me is Nicole Holofcener. This one is very popular with her fans. It’s got one of the Dermots. It’s not one I’m OK I missed.
Mr. Deeds: But you know what? I’m fine never seeing this. Like I don’t even know what the joke is. Adam Sandler gets rich? I don’t get it. I love this cast and Winona Ryder got a classic SNL from it. But as for Sandler, hey it’s 2002. We’ll check in with him at year’s end.
June is weirdly unfamiliar compared to now. A few novels, a tv show, and one remake but only one truly major IP film. It’s wild how slight this month is. But the key is the three films that are great. Bourne will launch one of the best trilogies of the decade. Lilo and Stitch is gold. And seriously Minority Report is part of why I’m a passionate eternal Spielberg defender. It’s an interesting month.
Next month: July starts with a flop and ends with an underloved third film in a series.