10 Great American Movie Classics of The 2000s You Probably Haven’t Seen

6. Two for the Money (2005)

Considering it features two of the most iconic and popular stars of our time, it seems rather odd that Two for the Money is so overlooked these days. Directed by DJ Caruso and written by Dan Gilroy, it focuses on the hectic goings on in the world of sports gambling. Matthew McConaughey is Brandon, a former football star who was taken out of the sport early with an injury and now makes a living handicapping games. His knack of picking the right winners brings him to the attention of Walter Abrams (Al Pacino), a charismatic boss of sports consultants, who takes Brandon on as a kind of apprentice. The duo begin to rake in the big bucks, only their reign as the top money makers in the business takes a drastic down turn when Brandon decides to go against his gut instincts and starts to take silly risks, which damages his friendship with the more powerful Walter.

Some films which received a critical kicking upon release later reveal themselves to not only be better than the critics claimed, but also rather brilliant. Two for the Money, still buried in time, is one of the those films which makes you wonder what all the negativity was about. It was indeed a box office flop, while it also attracted poor reviews. Hugely enjoyable, directed with panache, and with two great performances carrying it along nicely, more people should reassess this lost gem. Featuring a nice supporting cast, which includes Jeremy Piven and Rene Russo, Two for the Money is one of those pleasant surprises of 2000s cinema which, although not an outright classic or likely to make anyone’s top 100 films list, is a rewarding experience. Fans of cinematic cinema giants at their best should seek this out.


7. Lions for Lambs (2007)

Lions for Lambs (2007)

A powerful piece, directed by Robert Redford and written by Matthew Michael Carnahan, Lions for Lambs packs a powerful punch and delivers a sad truth – as the title suggests – that soldiers, brave and honest, are led to war by weaker men, men without experience in the battlefield and no real understanding of war. The film focuses on the war in Afghanistan, but it carries a message that could apply to any conflict throughout history.

The film fared well with audiences, making double its budget back, and though some reviews were negative, certain critics liked the film and admired the acting. Some writers saw the film as frustrating, overly preachy, a typical “liberal fence-sitting” exercise, where we were supposed to care about the issue at hand but were more distracted by the three mega stars out front. I disagree with such criticisms. It is because the actors are so well known, so good at their craft that we take the words they speak more seriously. There is a message here of course, that Bush’s war is a bad war, unjust and uncalled for, but the performances are so strong and convincing that the message is never over blatant. Tom Cruise is undeniably good as Jasper Irving, the Republican eyeing up the hot seat in the White House, while Redford and Meryl Streep are typically sturdy too.

Lions for Lambs, though a hit in the time of its release, is probably among the small number of Tom Cruise films that the average person on the street hasn’t even heard of, never mind seen. Is it a buried gem? I believe so. Everyone knows the classics and the iconic movies (Top Gun, Mission: Impossible, Jerry Maguire… the list goes on), but I’d say Lions for Lambs is one of those bits of treasure that you’d never stumble upon these days, some 17 years after its release, and you’d have to go out of your way to discover it. Alas, it’s well worth discovering.


8. The Keeper (2004)

Dennis Hopper acted in dozens of films in the last two decades of his life and career, sometimes in movies which were undeserving of his talent. There are others, however, which although getting speedily buried in the shuffle of the endless string of films coming out in the early 2000s, are actually worth investigating. One of these is The Keeper, a creepy and enjoyable thriller with Hopper as a weirdo cop who kidnaps Asia Argento, a newly released hooker, and keeps her in his basement as a prisoner.

Directed by Paul Lynch, The Keeper is excellently executed, continuously keeping (no pun intended) you hooked until the very end. The pace is good, the script is sharp and Lynch is a great director, establishing tension and atmosphere throughout. But the real thrill is in watching these two performances; Argento as the internally strong prisoner, and Hopper as the demented odd ball, who genuinely thinks having her as a prisoner is doing her good, when considering the alternative route her life would take out on the streets. Though he was playing psychos for pay checks and laughs around this time, this is one of the more fully rounded characters, not merely a Frank Booth clone. Easy to pick up for cheap these days, The Keeper is vastly underrated Hopper gold.


9. The Company (2003)

Originally conceived by Scream star and general ballet enthusiast Neve Campbell, The Company is a rare treat. Following and going deep inside the workings of a tough ballet company, you often forget this is a film and not a documentary. Some find themselves frustrated by Robert Altman’s inaccessible brand of documentary style film making, but The Company is highly accessible, visually beautiful, and well acted (with a lot of improvisation) by the top cast. Even Altman haters might find themselves enjoying it.

Ambitiously put together by Campbell, a former dancer herself, she knew Altman was the perfect choice to direct. He handles the cast, actors and dancers alike, beautifully, taking a step back and allowing things to flow organically. Campbell is highly focused in the lead role, though Malcolm McDowell, in an unlikely part it has to be said, steals the film as ballet director Mr A. He is a camp, larger than life, and full of quotable one liners and put-downs. It is a wonderfully defined character; so believable and controlled to the point where you no longer think of him as McDowell but as the director. One has to note that there is more than a hint of Altman in Mr A. Could Altman be making a subtle self portrait? After all, Mr A is all for the realism, a famous attribute of Altman’s directorial style. The spontaneity of both Altman and Antonelli is too an interesting comparison to ignore.

Altman once said that it is often the least successful or the least applauded of his movies that he prefers the most, the underdogs of his filmography so often ignored. When Altman died, his most recent films included The Company and Gosford Park. The latter is widely known and loved, while sadly The Company is all but forgotten.


10. Man with the Screaming Brain (2005)

Man with the Screaming Brain (2005) is one of the wackiest and most fun entries in the canon of modern low budget horror. Written, directed by and starring the great Bruce Campbell, he of Evil Dead fame, the picture features Campbell himself as an arrogant yuppie who ends up in Bulgaria on a business trip. Stacy Keach is Dr Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov, a wild eyed scientist who has a plan to insert two brains into one man’s head, to see if they will operate independently from one another.

A mystical gypsy hired by the mad doctor is sent out to find an extra brain, and eventually she slays a cab driver, whose brain is inserted into Campbell’s noggin. Ivan is ecstatically happy that the plan has worked, but unfortunately Campbell panics and escapes. The plot becomes more ludicrous from here on, which is really saying something.

The story was originally written by Campbell, David Goodman and Sam Raimi, and its genesis went as far back as the mid 1980s. Twenty years on, Campbell eventually got the project together himself, proving to be a very capable director who lovingly pays homage to the B movies of Roger Corman and other filmmakers. Played with over the top glee, the whole cast are splendid, especially Campbell himself as the arrogant suit turned science experiment freak. It is Keach who puts in the craziest effort though, playing the crazy haired Bulgarian doctor to a tee.

Purposely ludicrous but masterfully directed and paced by Campbell, it’s the type of film that needs to be seen to be believed. Good fun from start to finish, Evil Dead/Campbell devotees owe it to themselves to witness its lunacy.