Mutant Reviewers look back at the films of 2001

Justin: My family honestly doesn’t ever like to discuss my being a movie reviewer. Most of my real life friends have yet to visit the site. I know we’re probably never going to get mass public approval, and Andie has tried to kill me more times than I can count. Yet working at Stately Mutant Manor is one of my most beloved hobbies. It’s a vent, it’s liberating, and I get to spend hundreds of hours each year tweaking code. I’d choose nothing else.

Two-thousand and one was a smashing year at Mutant Reviewers. Our new forum community banded together after the September 11th attacks to share in grief, worry and anger. The meat-and-potatoes of Mutant Reviewers — the reviews and articles — grew like meat trees and potato children. We’re about 425 movies covered right now, with a massive bank of articles and features for readers to peruse. The Second Mutant Summit took place in Vancouver this summer, as I contracted the Canadian Red Leaf Fever and PoolMan quietly admitted the severe limitations of the N64. We’ve also received dozens of letters and comments from you, our readers, and the overwhelming encouragement and shared love of strange cinema has given us new life.

As for movies, well, some people will moan at how this year was the equivalent to kidnapping their cat, shaving its body hair, and then using it as potato gun ammunition. There were intelligent apes who worshipped a dumb monkey, an artificial Teddy Ruxpin kid who whined about needing to be hugged for two hours, Angelina Jolie’s short shorts did something, Kevin Costner had sideburns, jousting got endorsed by Nike, too many thin people donned fat suits hoping to be funny, every traditional animated movie got dominated by CGI, Martin Lawrence defied court orders to still make movies, Croc Dundee rode again, Sly Stallone dug another failed lump of blockbuster dirt for his grave, Final Fantasy failed to level up, Tom Green cursed us all, rednecks rode again, some idiots got stranded with dinos again and the world just couldn’t care, a claymation monkey proved way more unfunny than claymation chickens, we tried to crane our necks to see around a trite love triangle to see an overblown war story, incest and girlfriend kidnapping did not make the cut as comedy elements, someone greenlit a boorish-sequel-to-a-horrible-parody-of-a-horror-movie-parody, Keanu Reeves stepped outside of his cage to try to act and made us all run for cover, John Travolta was given way too many movie roles after the debacle of Battlefield Earth (they should have a law that will make him take two years off for each bad role), other people trying to be Adam Sandler proved even less funny, and every horror movie with that guy from Angel or Leelee Sobieski we could’ve done without.

Yet I feel that while pretty much every major blockbuster blew whale snot in our eager faces, 2001 was a rich year for the smaller, more well done films. Time reversal and doubted clues wrapped us in a film noir mystery, band camp was revisited, a pleasingly plump Brit charmed us with wit and a bunny suit, we got to see snipers in WW2 outside of a computer game, our favorite cannibal gave us a couple chills, Harry Potter didn’t completely disappoint, we got to party down with Jay and Silent Bob one last time, pop bands were zinged by some pussycats, Harvard got a pink injection, our ears are still ringing from a musical on Overdrive, 11 proved to be a goodish number for popcorn fun, a big green ogre showed us how to make a candle from ear wax, we got a good makeup car speed movie after Gone In 60 Seconds, and our faith in grand fantasy epics returned as Frodo and Co. marched against Mordor. So all in all, I can live with this year if you can, and move on to 2002 with great gusto.

DNAerror: If you only judged 2001 by the big releases, Planet of the Apes, Pearl Harbor, Tomb Raider, Hannibal, and any movie starring a jive-talking donkey, you’d think it was a pretty crappy year for movies (any year that gave us Joe Dirt must have something wrong with it ). Yet, lying just under the pond scum was an explosion of small, great movies not seen in years. It was the total photonic reversal of last year.

In 2000, we got a lot of big-name blockbuster masterpieces (Crouching Tiger, Three Kings, American Beauty). In 2001, the weirdness retreated underground and exploded. The hauntingly old fashioned ghost-tale The Others brought true horror back to the screen and lingered in theaters for months on word of mouth alone.

Also fueled by mouthage was the time-twisting Memento, which had all of America going “huh?” Ditto Lynch’s latest masterpiece, the sexy Mulholland Drive (which I have yet to review on the grounds that it’s strangeness makes it unreviewable). The phantasmagoric Moulin Rouge! brought me to levels of singing and dancing ecstasy. A side effect of this small-scale weirdness are movies that seem destined for cult status. The Kevin-Smithy Ghost World and transsexual rock opera Hedwig and the Angry Inch look like well-worn videos in the making. I haven’t seen Donnie Darko (described as “Ferris Bueller in Hell”) yet but it as that air of culthood around it. (Speaking of mutant movies, do I even have to mention Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back? No. Good.)

Of course big-budget movies got away with from goodness. Final Fantasy: The Spirit Within might not have been popular but it raised my HP/MP levels sure enough. The colorful, delightful and giddy Monsters Inc should be required viewing. Harry Potter didn’t move me as much as it did most people (I’m threatening disembowelment by wand by saying this) but it was enjoyable. Also, some movie about a fantasy book, something about rings, was released. It seemed to be popular.

Kyle: Some people would say that it’s foolish to write a retrospective on the films of 2001 before I even get to see a few major releases (Vanilla Sky, Lord of the Rings, Ali, the new Emmanuelle series). But maybe this is better in the long run, so I can be all down and negative on this fairly unmemorable year. Was it unmemorable? At this point of the night, yeah, it was. It sucked! I can’t remember a thing! Oh well. I bought a new copy of Fletch, so that’s cool.

Hmm. Jurassic Park III was stupid, but kind of fun. There were a few fun but ultimately forgettable horror films, like Soul Survivors and 13 Ghosts. Ocean’s 11 was “cool” though I’m not sure I’d care to sit through it again. Still haven’t seen Harry Potter; don’t care to. Lord of the Rings will probably be fun. Not Another Teen Movie was entertaining, though not too memorable. Vanilla Sky will be interesting, though I can already predict a lot of what will happen. Oh well.

Eh. This year blew, and I’m surprised I managed to live through it. The lack of a James Bond or Star Wars installment really affected the entertainment value of the entire year, but next year is looking up so we’ll see how that goes.

PoolMan: So what has 2001 meant to me? Well, movie-wise, it’s been a breath of fresh air. After the largely stinkerydoo performance of 2000 (a little Battlefield Earth or Dungeons and Dragons, anyone?), 2001 has been a very cool year, particularly if you’re a fantasy afficionado. We’ve just lived through the much anticipated Harry Potter release, and Lord of the Rings is hot on its heels. Not since the days of Willow has fantasy been so widely anticipated and accepted, and that’s a cool thing to see.

We also saw huge leaps forward in the CGI world of filmmaking with the detail-crazy Final Fantasy and the destined-to-be-classic Monsters Inc, and the way things are going, you know those two flicks are a sign of things to come. And of course, the cap on the View Askewniverse, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was released, indicating a dark time ahead for Clerks fans everywhere. Overall, I found myself in theaters far more often in 2001 than in any recent year in memory, and that’s a good sign.

Clare: I’m going to keep this short and sweet. In favor of speed and in honor of High Fidelity I prefer to simply provide you all with one of those wonderful year-end round up lists as opposed to a long rambling explanation about every movie I saw this year. (not that there’s anything wrong with long and rambling, I’m just not in a long and rambling kind of mood at the moment).

  • Best Movies Clare Saw on the Big Screen 2001: Shrek, The Royal Tenenbaums, and Ocean’s 11.
  • Worst Movies Clare Saw on the Big Screen 2001: Tomb Raider, America’s Sweethearts, and Unbreakable
  • Movies Clare Saw on the Big Screen but can’t really decide emphatically if she liked or disliked: The Man Who Wasn’t There, Harry Potter, and Serendipity
  • Best Movies Clare Rented 2001: The Gift, Pimps Up Hos Down, Manhunter, Ginger Snaps, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Best in Show, Trekkies
  • Worst Movies Clare Rented 2001: Angel Eyes, Saving Silverman, Battlefield Earth
  • Movies Clare Rented but can’t really decide emphatically if she liked or disliked: The Claim, The Ladies Man, Made
  • Biggest Surprise: Pay It Forward (didn’t suck nearly as bad as I thought it would), All The Pretty Horses (see: Pay It Forward)
  • The “How Can I Stay Mad at You Even If You Continue to Piss Away Your Talents In Second Rate Films” Award: Kevin Spacey (K-Pax), John Cusack (America’s Sweethearts), Jack Black (Saving Silverman)
  • The “Under Rated Gem Actors Who Make Me Curl Up My Toes with Glee and Wish Only Good Things For Them” Award: Wes Bentley (The Claim), Jeff Bridges (K-Pax), Luke Wilson (Royal Tenenbaums), Jim Caviezel (Pay It Forward), Jon Favreau (Made), Billy Bob Thornton (The Man Who Wasn’t There)

Andie: Let’s see, movies I saw in 2001. Enemy at the Gates was an excellent WWII movie, if they had thrown out that ridiculous love story. Make me puke. Oh, and if they hadn’t been speaking English over in Russia, I would’ve bought it a little more. But it was a good popcorn flick. Bridget Jones’ Diary was fantastic, I laughed SO hard. I really enjoy Renee Zellweger as an actress, I’ve loved her since Gina in Empire Records. “Well, Sinead O’Rebellion! Shock me, shock me, shock me with that deviant behavior.” Hee hee

Shrek was, of course, fabulous. I wish I had gone to see a 9:50 pm showing of it, however, because my friend Danelle and I were surrounded by thousands of annoying children in the theater whose parents think that the movie theater is a babysitter and that they (the parents)don’t need to accompanying the little brats. But little brats aside, Shrek was awesome. I hope it gets nominated for some stuff, cause I think it should.

I saw Legally Blonde next, I think. Actually, this movie was a whole lot better than I thought it would be. I pretty much despise Reese Witherspoon, she annoys the crap out of me. But Legally Blonde was really very funny. It would be a fun rent sometime, I recommend getting it as a double feature with Bridget Jones’ Diary.

Moulin Rouge was the next one I saw and I LOVE IT. I was just watching Grease the other day and thinking that Hollywood doesn’t produce enough musicals. They could revamp some classics or, like Moulin Rouge, make some new ones. I think there’s definitely an audience for them. Anyway, it was so visually amazing, I loved the sets and the costumes and the makeup, it was all beautiful. The soundtrack is great too, but some of my favorite songs aren’t on there, like Like a Virgin and the reallly fast song they sing to explain the musical to the bad guy. Of course, that is typically the way soundtracks go and it sucks. But I digress….

Let’s see…. after Moulin Rouge, I didn’t go see many movies cause I was busy running around in my underwear being a ditzy blonde. And then I got cast in Noises Off! Go figure. No, but seriously, that show became my whole life for two months and then I got down to school and had to play catch up for missing the first three weeks, so I didn’t see a lot of movies until later in the year.

Ocean’s 11 is marvelous, everybody should go see it. I think this world would be a better place, movie-wise, if more huge, all-star, ensemble cast movies were done. Ocean’s 11 just had such a fun feel to it, it was awesome. The more I see Brad Pitt, the more I like him because he’s not just a pretty face. George Clooney is funny, but the real scene stealer is Jack Gellar (I know, is name is Elliot Gould, but to me he will always be Mr. Gellar from Friends). He is so funny as this old, pimped-out millionaire, it’s hysterical.

Behind Enemy Lines was much, much better than I expected. I thought it would just be some run-and-gun action flick, but it actually had a good, believable story, the acting the was good, the action was cool. Overall, definitely worth seeing.

Vanilla Sky. Weird weird weird. I’m a sucker for twist endings, I loved Usual Suspects, Sixth Sense and Fight Club, but I’m just not sure how I feel about Vanilla Sky. I’d have to see it again. It sure wasn’t what I thought it would be based on the previews. I liked Tom Cruise in it and Penelope Cruz wasn’t as annoying as I thought she would be. Cameron Diaz just keeps impressing me, I really like her a lot. She’s really going to come into her own in these next few years, I’m sure. And it was cool to see Jason Lee, of the Kevin Smith movies, do something other than Kevin Smith. And, to his credit, I never once thought, “Hey, that’s Banky or Brodie or Azreal.” So that’s good.

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