S is for SquirrelsPossibly the weirdest film I saw in the early noughties came from Hong Kong; it was the utterly scattershot and visually brilliant Shaolin Soccer (01). The same year saw a Japanese animation take the world by storm. Spirited Away from anime genius Hayao Miyazaki won the Oscar for best animation (the only non-english animation to do so), became one of the highest grossing films of all time and opened the world of anime to a whole new audience. 2002 brought us two very contrasting sci-fi films. First of all, George Clooney starred in Steven Soderbergh's stately remake of 1972 Russian meditation on life and death Solaris. Then the dire Star Trek 10: Nemesis nailed the franchise's movie coffin firmly shut until 2009's JJ Abrams reboot Star Trek raised it from the dead. The law of diminishing returns as applied to movie quality was admirably illustrated as the Spiderman Trilogy (02, 04 and 07) went from good to mediocre to utterly appalling over three films. The Station Agent (03) was the perfect example of a movie in which very little happens yet still manages to be utterly enthralling. The story of a isolated man who inherits a disused rail station office is beautifully played by a great cast, especially Peter Dinklage in the lead role.
Spaced crew introduced us to a new genre of film in 2004 with the rom-zom-com Shaun of the Dead. Paul Giamatti got a rare lead role in the merlot hating Sideways (04) but was unfortunately totally upstaged by the similarly underrated Thomas Haden Church. 2005 saw two much loved franchises sign off from cinema land. George Lucas brought his turgid Star Wars prequels to a welcome end with the slightly-better-than-the-others Return of the Sith. The other was the much lower profile but far superior Serenity. Based on Buffy creator Joss Whedon's short lived sci-fi series Firefly, Serenity was everything the new Star Wars movies should have been. Sadly, most people ignored it at the cinema and only a strong DVD showing has saved it from oblivion. Danny Boyle proved his extraordinary range by delivering the incredibly beautiful Sunshine(07) and the delightful Slumdog Millionaire (08).
T is for TumericEdward Norton isn't a man known for a lack of intensity. In 2002 he starred in Spike Lee's captivating 25th Hour about a man spending one last day with his friends before starting a lengthy spell in jail. In the same year, the Lord of the Rings trilogy reached it's high point with the epic Two Towers. Danny Boyle (see above comment on range) brought zombie movies kicking and screaming (literally) into the noughties in 2002 with the rage fueled 28 Days Later. Juan Carlos Fresnadilo then turned things more spectacular for the 2007 sequel 28 Weeks Later. The novel approach for taking out a field of zombies with a helicopter deserves particular mention.
The most extraordinary film of 2003 was the docu-drama Touching the Void. Combining footage of actors and talking head contributions from the two climbers involved the film told a story so incredible you could be forgiven for thinking it was made up. Joe Simpson's crawl off Siula Grande with a broken leg is still regarded as one of the most amazing mountaineering stories. While we're on the topic of mountains, Tommy Lee Jones is famous for being the third craggiest man alive today. In 2005 he directed and acted in a film almost as craggy as himself, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. It was a western of sparse beauty and Jones also managed to coax a superb acting turn out of himself.