by Erik Childress
Sensing A Trend Here?
What will the film year of 2005 be remembered for? And don’t say Brokeback Mountain, which will be remembered more as a punchline than some revolutionary romance. Gay cowboys you say? I say Blazing Saddles and Midnight Cowboy. Point-Set-Match. But more on that later. As I looked over the lists of my highest ratings of the year, there was a distinction amongst the films. Despite any reservation I have to be saddled with the label of fanboy, many of the great films of ’05 made us rediscover a part of our childhood and just in the nick of time. The Moviegeek reigned king this year, reclaiming a part of our timeline as we were forced to negotiate through increasingly overrated and pretentious “important” flicks meant for the adults within. As if crossing paths with the predominating themes of revenge and justice, movies became fun again during a year when we told that “e-mail wouldn't even exist if it weren't for AIDS.” But, like Sarah Silverman so prophetically declared, “When God gives you AIDS, make Lemonaids.”
Violence equals more violence and revenge is a dish best served cold and all that jazz. You could find a movie almost every month to satisfy your bloodlust or to teach a lesson about the search for justice. Batman Begins, The Constant Gardener, Four Brothers, A History of Violence, Munich, Oldboy, Sin City, Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Pick one and enjoy. Revenge not your dish? No sweat, every year there’s something for everyone and before we get to my picks of the must-sees and must-avoids, let’s take a quick trip back and see what should be remembered or what we’ve already forgotten.
I’ve always loved a good sports movie and you could find no less than 30 on every sport this side of air hockey – or actual hockey which people care about even less. There was the national pastime (Bad News Bears, Fever Pitch, Up for Grabs), football (The Longest Yard) and basketball (Coach Carter, Rebound, The Year of the Yao). Boxing ((Cinderella Man, Fighting Tommy Riley), golf (The Greatest Game Ever Played) and Tennis, Anyone? Two of my favorites got their just due in bowling (A League of Ordinary Gentlemen) and soccer (Kicking & Screaming, The Game of Their Lives, Green Street Hooligans). Even fringe stuff like Wrestling (Lipstick & Dynamite: The First Ladies of Wrestling) and swimming (Swimming Upstream) found their way to celluloid as did
ice skating (Ice Princess), roller skating (Roll Bounce), skateboarding (Lords of Dogtown) and snowboarding (First Descent). And if racing was your forte, then you had NASCAR (Herbie: Fully Loaded), the Baja 1000 (Dust to Glory), the Pinewood Derby (Down and Derby), motorcycles (The World's Fastest Indian, Supercross: The Movie), hydro-planes (Madison), horses (Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story) and zebras (Racing Stripes). And somewhere in it all McConaughey and Pacino were making bets off them (Two for the Money).
Thankfully there were only three television adaptations (The Honeymooners, Bewitched, The Dukes of Hazzard) and one video game (Doom). The two solid superhero/comic book flicks (Batman Begins, Sky High) got only better after seeing the likes of Elektra and Fantastic Four.
The kids were taken to fantasy worlds (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Howl's Moving Castle, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Chronicles of Narnia, MirrorMask, Robots, The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D), underwater (Aliens of the Deep, Deep Blue, Into the Blue), into outer space (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Zathura, Serenity) and met animals like Duma, Winn-Dixie, King Kong and the Grizzly Man, oh my!
Then they grow up and dismiss animated films like Pooh's Heffalump Movie, Valiant and Hoodwinked and then National Lampoon flicks like Adam & Eve, Barely Legal and Blackball. They go through teenage angst (The Chumscrubber, Thumbsucker), schools they never want to attend (The Boys of Baraka, Underclassman, Dirty Deeds, Kids in America) and find three reasons never to go to college for business (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, The Deal, Syriana)
People took road trips (Elizabethtown, Broken Flowers, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, The Talent Given Us, The Thing About My Folks, Palindromes), flew the unfriendly skies (Red Eye, Flightplan, Stealth) and were introduced to families (Guess Who, Monster-in-Law, Junebug, The Family Stone), big families (Cheaper by the Dozen 2, The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio, The Upside of Anger, Yours, Mine and Ours), dysfunctional families (Bee Season, Cache, Imaginary Heroes, In Her Shoes, The Squid and the Whale), Families who steal (Fun with Dick and Jane, Millions), dads who love too little (Hide and Seek, Dear Frankie, Keane) and moms who love too much (Ma Mere)
There were hot women who couldn’t find dates (The Wedding Date, The Perfect Man, Shopgirl, Pride & Prejudice, Prime, Dirty Love, Must Love Dogs) and dopey men with the same problem (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, The Baxter, Hitch, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, My Date With Drew) and guys just in fat suits (Jiminy Glick in LaLa Wood, Just Friends). But there were lovers (Casanova, Eros, Inside Deep Throat), fighters (Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, Kung Fu Hustle, Unleashed), infidelity (Separate Lies, Derailed, Match Point) and infidels (Paradise Now, The War Within). Plus, the best reasons not to get married at all (Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Wedding Crashers, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, Nowhere Man) - mischievous schoolgirls (D.E.B.S., Pretty Persuasion, Cry_Wolf, Lila Says) and assorted cockteases (Memoirs of a Geisha, North Country)
We had time capsule worthy biopics (Capote, Good Night And Good Luck, Walk the Line) and documentaries about filmmakers (Tell Them Who You Are, The Last Mogul) worth bursting into song about like the musicals (The Producers, Rent), Rappers (Hustle & Flow, Get Rich or Die Tryin'), singers (The Chorus, The Gospel), wannabes (The Boys & Girl From County Clare, Undiscovered), dancers (Mad Hot Ballroom, Rize) and documentaries about the real thing (The Nomi Song, New York Doll, Rock School)
We struggled with wars (Jarhead, The Great Raid, Kingdom of Heaven, Gunner Palace, Occupation: Dreamland), Nazis (Downfall, The Goebbels Experiment, Everything is Illuminated, Walk on Water) and other assorted racism (Crash, Protocols of Zion, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till). Standoffs (Assault on Precinct 13, Hostage) and kidnappings (King's Ransom, The Edukators, Secuestro Express). Men with guns (Layer Cake, The Ice Harvest), kids with guns (Dear Wendy) and guys selling them (Lord of War) to professional killers (The Matador, The Memory of a Killer, The Interpreter) and not to less-than-amateur ones (Chaos, The Devil's Rejects, High Tension, House of Wax, Saw II, Venom, Wolf Creek)
Those who are easy scares may have been by visitors from beyond (White Noise, The Ring Two, Pulse, The Fog) or ghostly haunted houses (The Amityville Horror, Boogeyman, Dark Water, The Skeleton Key). The yin and yang of the spiritual world also had its devils (Dominion: Prequel to The Exorcist, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Constantine, Twist of Faith) and even a few to watch over us (Saint Ralph, Just Like Heaven, Screen Door Jesus, The Holy Girl)
But the mood was lightened by stand-up comedy (The Aristocrats, The Comedians of Comedy, Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic). We applauded stories of the handicapped (Murderball, Rory O'Shea Was Here, Touch the Sound, The Ringer) and saw the blind (The White Countess), the deaf DJ (It's All Gone Pete Tong) and the dumb DJ (In the Mix)
But we also hissed lame action heroes (Sahara, Transporter 2, XXX: State of the Union) and tough guys gone soft (Are We There Yet?, The Pacifier, Man of the House). The Kid & I could fall into any of those categories or be right at home in Assisted Living, the Asylum or The Jacket. Better than visiting the House of “D”, the Writer of “O” or “G” which form an appropriate acronym for the grim visions of the future (of filmmaking) (The Island, A Sound of Thunder, Aeon Flux)
There were multiple storylines (Crash, Eros, Melinda and Melinda, Happy Endings, Nine Lives, Me and You and Everyone We Know) involving aliens (War of the Worlds, Chicken Little), zombies (Land of the Dead, Undead), Were-creatures (Cursed, Wallace & Gromit The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) and monster movies with a Nightwish closing anthem (Alone in the Dark, The Cave)
And you think that Brokeback Mountain is such a taboo, untapped, unseen subject matter? These films were also released in 2005: Breakfast on Pluto, The Dying Gaul, My Summer of Love, Mysterious Skin, Rent, Transamerica and Where the Truth Lies.
But that’s all behind us. So let’s get to the good stuff.
THE BEST MOVIES OF 2005
10. Walk the Line
The year’s most beautiful love story was within the biopic of Johnny Cash, played with more than just impersonation by Joaquin Phoenix. Unlike many biopics which tackle the greatest hits approach to someone’s life, Walk the Line used them as footnotes to the evolving relationship between John and June Carter (Reese Witherspoon, doing her best work since Election and deserves to take home the Oscar.) The music was kickin’, Cash’s warts wasn’t just another “oh, poor you” examination and its underlying theme of both the salvation and the damnation of Southern Christianity and rock ‘n’ roll resonates nicely. June was Johnny’s angel and by embracing her and his music, he found salvation. A truly great musical biopic.
Everyone can’t stop talking about Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal; one making him the clear front-runner (and maybe one true lock) at this year’s Oscars. But there was also a great film surrounding him, an emotionally draining one which seduced us with the charms of the flamboyant writer only to watch as his betrayals and lies while writing In Cold Blood caught up with him in the worst way. Just as their subject found something deeper and sadder in the circumstances crafting his masterwork, director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman do the same; not reinventing the biopic but focusing on the one event where fame and infamy would meet head on and destroy nearly everyone involved.
8. Sin City
It was the first anticipated WOW movie of the year and WOW wasn’t big enough of a word to describe it. Robert Rodriguez had so much respect for Frank Miller’s graphic novel series that he fought the Director’s Guild to include his name as a co-director. Add Quentin Tarantino as a “special guest director” and you had a classic triple-feature film noir in silky black-and-white and a use of color that would have made the Tin Man go blind. Bloody, sexed-up and tough, everyone involved with the project simply got it (except for Jessica Alba and her misguided choice of clothing) and gave its all-star cast (particularly Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Clive Owen) iron-man dialogue to deliver in the greatest visual feast of 2005. Even beyond Carla Gugino’s first appearance in it.
7. Me and You and Everyone We Know
Here was a film I avoided entirely at Sundance this year because I saw the words “performance artist” splashed across the synopsis. My sincerest apologies to writer/director/star Miranda July who spawned an instant connection with me with what has to be the year’s most original charmer. A group of characters from middle age to grade school all looking for connections while an uncertain future awaits them. Much of the subject matter is sexual in nature, but played off in such a whimsical fashion that it’s impossible to wince at situations which would normally be taboo or seem ugly in the hands of a director whose initial instinct is to make their audience gasp. July doesn’t do that. Instead she basks in the beauty of the moments and the quirks of the characters who are too innocent in nature to cause pain to anyone but themselves. Hilarious and real in just about every scene.
6. King Kong
Yeah, it’s a simple story that runs for three hours. Yeah, it takes 45 of those minutes to get to Skull Island and another 25 until Kong makes his first appearance. Yeah, its yet another remake of a classic that was probably sacrilege to touch. I’ve heard all the arguments, but you should see the damn movie anyway. Peter Jackson’s love letter to both the original and moviemaking itself is a big, wet Valentine, Sweetest Day and every other Hallmark holiday you can think of. The first hour is more slow going on repeated viewings than the initial, only because once you know what’s waiting for you on the island, it’s kid-in-the-chocolate-factory time for every adventure-lovin’ moviegoer out there. Naomi Watts does maybe the best work of her career (akin to Bob Hoskins in Who Framed Roger Rabbit) instilling as much heart into this CGI beast as Andy Serkis does behind-the-scenes. Hyperbole doesn’t do the film justice and neither does an entire box of Kleenex.
5. Up For Grabs
Penguins, paraplegics, ballroom dancers and dirty jokes. But it’s a story about a baseball that is one of the most entertaining documentaries I have ever seen. First seen at 2004’s South by Southwest festival, filmmaker Michael Wranovics struck gold by following the story of the two men who laid claim to Barry Bonds’ 73rd Home Run ball during the 2003 season. Like the best documentaries, it plays with your allegiances and evolves into a lasting statement about American greed and the drug of extending those fifteen minutes long after they’ve expired. Alex Popov goes from the most sympathetic individual to the Douche of the Decade winner before your eyes and Wranovics chronicles the journey from the ballpark to the courtroom with candid personal footage, priceless video evidence and great humor right up to a final irony that puts everything in perspective. It was the best film I saw at SXSW 2004 and only received a small release in a few theaters across the country which was a crime. Those who missed it or never heard of it are in for a true treat. (http://www.upforgrabsmovie.com/)
4. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
More than just a fanboy paradise, George Lucas concluded his epic saga with honor. Gone (mostly) were the overly clunky dialogue exchanges and Jar Jar Binks’ voicebox. Replaced by Shakespearean intrigue and nearly all the loose ends neatly tied up, Lucas gave his Star Wars brethren the film they deserved; a breathtaking tragedy with some of the darkest moments in the series. (Younglings, anyone?) Not since 1980’s second (or fifth) chapter, The Empire Strikes Back have all the elements come together so fluently to combine Lucas’ vision with the artistry of some of the best in the sci-fi genre. Ian McDiarmid came full circle as the story’s true villain and did Oscar-worthy work as the treacherous Palpatine that the Bard himself would have been proud to write. Naysayers can nay all they want, but Revenge of the Sith was both a happy and a sad day for Star Wars fans everywhere. We may never get another, but we went out on a major high note.
3. Batman Begins
After a second viewing, I am convinced that this may just be the best comic book film ever made. It certainly will stand as the best of all the comic hero origin stories and puts to shame (seriously to shame) the four previous Batman films from 1989-1997. No other film in 2005 moved as briskly through exposition, character/plot development and action as Christopher Nolan’s masterful take on the beginnings of the Dark Knight. Christian Bale did what all great actors do – they make the role theirs – and that’s precisely what he did to both halves of the Bruce Wayne legend. Liam Neeson does the best of his mentoring work here and the amazing cast including Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson, Ken Watanabe and Rutger Hauer all sink their teeth into a screenplay that didn’t just pay respect to the origins but visualized itself into a world where we absolutely believe it possible for the events to be occurring. Operatic and exciting, this is a film that just as easily could have been done in 1989. Sixteen years later, it was more than worth the wait.
2. The 40-Year Old Virgin
No film came close to being as funny as what Judd Apatow and Steve Carell did this year. In fact, no film has come close to being this funny in years. A makeshift list of the ten funniest films I’ve ever seen would have to include this brilliant and perfectly sweet comedy. A mixture of high concept, low-key slapstick and simply put, one of the most insightful films about the way guys communicate and think in a world where sex is all around us. Steve Carell has affirmed his status as one of the funniest guys on the planet. Catherine Keener got the role we’ve been waiting for her to play after a lifetime of typecast bitch roles. And Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen and Romany Malco were the ensemble friends of the year, each of them providing big laughs and real characters to a premise that could have easily become just the one joke it suggests. Who says comedy gets no respect? It does when it respects the audience this much. Say Wedding Crashers is funnier and I’ll smack you.
The words “Spielberg” and “masterpiece” have been bandied about so often they should be synonymous by now. But he’s done it again, and arguable though it may be, it’s impossible to deny the sheer craftsmanship on such a tight schedule to put a film such as Munich together. With a script by one of the best screenwriters working today (Eric Roth) and a legend-in-his-own-time playwright (Tony Kushner), Spielberg has molded an epic tale of revenge that cuts through decades of politics and their response to terrorism and becomes a throwback to the great political thrillers of the 70s that still resonate today. Hitchcockian (or DePalmaesque) at times, Munich becomes the prayer for peace that governments and organizations have been trying to communicate for decades through either a call-to-action or none whatsoever. Spielberg throws out black-and-white and settles in a gray area too brutal for one-sided sycophants to acknowledge with intelligence and too true to rest on our laurels about.
THE FIVE RUNNERS-UP
11. Good Night and Good Luck
George Clooney’s mixture of archival footage and David Strathairn’s dead-on portrayal of Edward R. Murrow made for a fascinating history lesson (that seems to be repeating itself today.) Clooney the director clearly has a gripe with the evolution of television (first seen in his unfairly overlooked Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) and an even greater one with the politics of a society that have allowed its downfall.
12. Old Boy
The craziest revenge fantasy of the year featured teeth-pulling, tongue-cutting, the eating of a live octopus and possibly the best fight scene of the year (a four-minute unbroken shot down a long hallway) and tons of other lovely surprises I won’t even mention. Not even close for the squeamish, but a must-see for even the mildly curious.
13. Twist of Faith
Nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar in 2004, Kirby Dick’s stunning film still qualified as a 2005 release. (Don’t ask about their nutty rules) One of the most emotionally devastating docs you will see in any calendar year is the story of an Ohio man given cameras by the filmmakers to document his life and the amazing coincidence that the priest who molested him as a young boy has moved in on the same block. More than just a simple attack on the Catholic Church (which wins no points with their beuracracy here), it shows how molestation can affect someone’s entire life and shake the very foundations that it was built on in the first place. A film that needs to be seen.
14. War of the Worlds
The second of Spielberg’s 9/11 trilogy was a frightening retelling of H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi novel. Taking the approach of one family escaping the devastation, Spielberg tapped into our fears, the desire to fight back and how far one man will sink to protect his own. Sure, the ending is too faithful to the original for its good, but it still speaks to a greater irony that man, aliens and the technology they create to destroy each other will never top nature’s food chain. Scarier than any horror film released in 2005.
15. The Aristocrats
Get together 100 of the most well-known comedians and get them to tell you the filthiest joke imaginable. Sounds like a Monty Python sketch, but it was the brainstorm of Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette who started with a humorous premise and then dug deeper into what makes us laugh in the first place. An absolute master-class in the art of comedy. Just ignore the Taylor Negron section.
10 MORE RUNNERS-UP (in ABC order)
Underdog movies are an easy sell to me, but Ron Howard really accomplished something special here with the story of boxer Jim Braddock, played to usual perfection by Russell Crowe. A far better inspirational depression-era sports drama than Seabiscuit. The boxing scenes are great but what earns its tears are the struggles in-between of the working class man, especially when Braddock must tuck in his pride to put the heat back on for his children. Paul Giamatti is stellar as the manager and Howard does beautiful work as a storyteller. Not every film reminds me of my dad, but this one certainly did.
Paul Haggis’ reflection on racism in Los Angeles first hits you with its bluntness and then may distance some with its overly convenient coincidences. But there are scenes of frank emotional power and a second viewing confirms it not as a shock show about racist language or situations but the everyday frustrations that resort the most even-minded to the simplest excuse for the anger that’s been dwelling up in them all their lives.
A History of Violence
Cronenberg’s take on violence begetting more violence wasn’t the great dissection many claimed it to be. But it was a powerfully poignant fable (like the best of Stephen King’s short stories) with Viggo Mortensen giving the best performance of his career and William Hurt stealing the film in a pivotal role with less than ten minutes of screen time.
Meet the Parents go Sundance with this well-observed indie feature about an art dealer meeting her husband’s family for the first time while trying to close a deal with a local artist too down-home for his own good. Casually humorous throughout, at times hysterically funny but not through the usual misunderstandings or pratfalls. Amy Adams gives such a beautiful performance as the pregnant sister-in-law and never condescends to a less-than-educated caricature. It’s a great comic performance that never misses a beat right up to her hospital room reflection that remains one of the most moving moments of any film from 2005.
Kung Fu Hustle
A cartoonish, martial-arts extravaganza from Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer) so manic that you may be worn out 2/3 through it. I know I certainly was, but its just so inventive and so much damn fun that you forgive it for throwing in the kitchen sink and all the pipes that stretch to the waterworks.
Land of the Dead
George Romero’s fourth entry into his “Dead” series just missed making it into the Top 15. Continuing the year’s theme of dirty politics and fascist societies, it featured great action, gore, solid performances from Simon Baker and John Leguizamo and another scene-stealing turn from Dennis Hopper as the Donald Rumsfeld-esque executive in charge. A great follow-up to the ideas just scratching the surface of the previously disappointing, Day of the Dead.
Another terrific documentary from Sundance about paraplegic rugby players and how they’ve made the most of a bad situation and provide hope to the newly injured. A great tale about life and just as good a sports movie with the best title of the year.
Susan Stroman is no film director, but a monkey could have set up a camera in front of Mel Brooks’ musical and it would still be funnier and more entertaining than 90% of the comedies released. And it was.
The Weather Man
The studio had no idea what to do with this film. High on it early in the year and giving up after the first weekend. This was a dark, original character study equally funny and uncomfortable with Nicolas Cage’s Chicago weatherman (not really meteorologist) trying to understand the forces -+which control our lives to make the decisions we do. A great film that deserves to be discovered when it hits DVD in February.
MOST PLEASANT SURPRISES OF 2005
MORE FILMS OF 2005 THAT I WAS FOND OF
Assisted Living, Broken Flowers, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room, The Family Stone, Howl's Moving Castle, Hustle & Flow, The Interpreter, Match Point, Proof, The Talent Given Us
The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl In 3-D, Bad News Bears, Brokeback Mountain, The Brothers Grimm, The Constant Gardener, Corpse Bride, Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, The Dukes of Hazzard, Elizabethtown, Happy Endings, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, In Her Shoes, Jiminy Glick In Lalawood, Kicking & Screaming, The Legend of Zorro, Lord of War, March of the Penguins, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, North Country, Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, Paradise Now, Pride & Prejudice, Red Eye, Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic, Second Best, Two For The Money, The Upside of Anger, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
AND NOT SO FOND OF
Chicken Little, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Greatest Game Ever Played, High Tension, Inside Deep Throat, Jarhead, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Longest Yard, Rory O'Shea Was Here, The Squid and the Whale, Zathura
The Amityville Horror, Casanova, Dark Water, Fever Pitch, Flightplan, The Great Raid, Herbie: Fully Loaded, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Mad Hot Ballroom, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Ring Two, Sahara, Shopgirl, The Skeleton Key, Syriana
Aeon Flux, The Baxter, Bee Season, Cry_Wolf, Cursed, Domino, Hide and Seek, House of Wax, The Island, The Jacket, Kingdom of Heaven, Layer Cake, Madagascar, Mindhunters, Rent, Saw II, Stay, Transporter 2, Waiting, Where the Truth Lies
And now, for every film above that you should put a little money aside to treat yourself with – you will save money with the following lists where it doesn’t get much worse. Forgive me for not having seen Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo or The Pacifier amongst a few other turkeys, but I’m sure you can understand.
10 RUNNERS-UP TO THE 10 WORST FILMS OF THE YEAR
Be Cool – Will go down as one of the worst sequels to a good movie in history.
The Cave – The makers of the trailer never heard of the word “spelunker” and opted to call them “expert cave explorers.” The whole movie I thought of L.A. Story where Steve Martin writes on his window – “Bored Beyond Belief.”
D.E.B.S. – Super spies in schoolgirl outfits against hot mega villainbabe Jordana Brewster and I’d still rather watch a digitally-bosom-reduced version of the director’s Herbie: Fully Loaded where the car shoots a load on Lohan’s chest.
The Devil’s Rejects – Maybe the most unpleasant experience I’ve had in a theater all year.
Elektra – So, they got her costume color right? Any of the fans want to go on record that they got anything else right? The studio thinks so little of this film that they’ve actually packaged it with “Dude, Where’s My Car?” for a DVD 2-pack.
The Fog – A remake of a John Carpenter classic from the director of Stigmata starring this season’s dead girl from Lost. Get the picture?
Lords of Dogtown – A kid with brain damage surrounded by a group of skateboarders in an empty pool is the final shot of the film. Poetry in motion has never been more perfect.
Man of the House - Wouldn’t you have loved to be at the pitch meeting where someone outlined the plan to have Tommy Lee Jones play a Texas ranger forced to guard a group of college cheerleaders by moving in with them? Yeah, men neither.
Must Love Dogs – Someone tell Diane Lane that she’s hot so she will stop playing the “oh I can’t find a man” roles.
Unleashed – Jet Li as a dog. Harry Knowles said it “fucking kicks so much ass” before I saw it at the South by Southwest Festival. Guess whose ass I wanted to kick after it was all over?
THE TEN WORST FILMS OF 2005
10. Fantastic Four
With a corner turned in the development of superior comic book adaptations, how is it possible that a film like Fantastic Four got made? You would be better served asking to borrow my blurry, unwatchable version of the scrapped Roger Corman version from years back. There isn’t much of a difference and if all you need for your comic book fantasies to be fulfilled is that they be presented in focus, well then this one is all yours. Worse than Elektra because of its ambition and not nearly as hilarious as Halle Berry’s Catwoman disaster, Fantastic Four should be thrown out with the bathwater and flushed for all eternity. Two action scenes? Seriously! Shame on you America for dolling out $150 million for this and greenlighting a sequel with the talent-challenger Tim Story again at the helm. Begin weeping for the future.
Everyone was so excited that the film adaptation of the video game was going for its “hard R rating” that they completed neglected that video game adaptations by definition normally suck. And Doom was no exception. Sucking all the charisma right out of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, its big showcase for a set piece was utilizing the first-person view popularized in the game; a POV that caused motion sickness for some? How soon we forget the monster’s POV from The Evil Dead. How sooner we shall forget Doom.
8. Into the Blue
If you’re going to base a whole movie around Paul Walker being an ocean expert and Jessica Alba swimming, you better damn well show me more than her PG-13 swimsuit is providing. If you have the I.Q. of Forrest Gump going in, you’ll be declared legally brain dead by the time its over.
7. Kids In America
Roger Ebert gave this thumbs up but thumbs down to Hayao Miyazaki’s wonderful Howl’s Moving Castle. How the mighty have fallen. Rent the two films – which poetically come out on the same day (March 7) - and tell me who is insane. If these were the kids on my side while I tried to fight injustice at my high school, I’d have switched sides.
6. Gus Van Sant’s Last Days
The movie where a faux Kurt Cobain walks, mumbles, stares, mumbles, bathes in the river, mumbles, eats some cereal and mumbles some more. Kinda makes you glad Cobain shot himself. If the movie is any indication, the title is perfect.
Phil Boatwright said this was the scariest movie – EVER! Phil Boatwright may be the dumbest critic – EVER!
4. Supercross: The Movie
This movie was so bad the Daily Herald asked me to review it since no one could be paid to go. The very fact that it has to include the words “the movie” as a reminder to its audience – just shows you the intelligence factor we’re dealing with. Despite the title’s reminder, all evidence to the contrary that this is actually a movie.
3. Just Like Heaven
What looked like just another bland comic fantasy turned into a shockingly stupid and insulting agenda film that would have made Terri Schiavo sit up and join the Rockettes. Thank God for Walk the Line, because between this, Sweet Home Alabama and the Legally Blonde films I was just about to write off Reese Witherspoon. Mark Ruffalo, by the way, has been completely written off as maybe the dopiest romantic lead to ever disgrace a movie screen.
2. Diary of a Mad Black Woman
You know, I’m not black. But if I were, I certainly wouldn’t be proud if this is what was made on my behalf. Part horrible comedy, part even more embarrassing drama – this film gave me lockjaw and I think even syphilis since I had a frequent itching to get out of my seat, high-tail it to the restroom and see if I could push out a turd bigger than this film with more nuts than the $50 million worth who went to see it.
1. The New World
Terrence Malick has made one good film, Badlands, and it was his first. Days of Heaven is watchable only because its 90 minutes long and pretty to look at. The Thin Red Line is half a good movie and half Malick – so not good. The New World is an abomination. A fascinating subject worth exploring only to be sabotaged by Malick’s inability to tell a story without using multiple voiceovers and a collection of second unit shots he hopes to arrange into a cohesive narrative. His undying loyalists are contradictory to everything they have studied about film and will continue to look foolish until they can admit that Malick is an experimental hack with a budget, no storytelling prowess to speak of and an unending collection of nature shots. I imagine Malick barking orders on the set like one of the Knights Who Say “Ni” – “Get Me A SHRUBBERY!” It would be easy to say that Malick’s films are the visual equivalent of a blowing wind CD, except that such a CD is normally used to relax where The New World will just make you increasingly angry
BEST MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 MOVIES OF THE YEAR
Worst Decision by an Actor: Steve Martin narrating Shopgirl (not as the character he plays)
Worst Decision by an Actress: Scarlett Johansson making The Island
Best Ensemble: Sin City
Best Brainless Movie: Red Eye
Worst "Smart" Film: Syriana
Movie That Made You The Hungriest: The Weather Man
Most Underrated (Critically): The Weather Man
Guiltiest Pleasure: The Dukes of Hazzard
Best Action Scene: Obi-Wan and Anakin’s final lightsaber battle (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith)
Most Romantic Scene: The final proposal on stage in Walk the Line
Worst Sequel: Be Cool
Worst Remake OR Movie based on a TV show: The Fog
Best Cameo(s): Tom Savini in Land of the Dead
Sexiest shot, moment or scene: Jessica Simpson – Red Bikini – Dukes of Hazzard. Hubbala-boomski!
Best Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) and David Strathairn (Good Night and Good Luck)
Best Actress: Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line) and Naomi Watts (King Kong)
Best Supporting Actor: Mickey Rourke (Sin City) and Ian McDiarmid (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith)
Best Supporting Actress: Uma Thurman (The Producers) and Amy Adams (Junebug)
Best Director: Steven Spielberg (Munich)
Best Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski (Munich)
Favorite Song: “Aquarius” (The 40 Year-Old Virgin)
Favorite Score: Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Favorite soundtrack: The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Elizabethtown
Favorite moment that made me break down and cry: Russell Crowe begging for money to get his kids home (Cinderella Man)
Best Movie That Never Received A Proper Release: Up For Grabs
Favorite Bad movie: Alone in the Dark
Worst actor: Tyler Perry (Diary of a Mad Black Woman)
Worst actress: Jessica Alba (Sin City, In to the Blue, Fantastic Four)
Worst movie to feature a cast member of Gilmore Girls: Cry_Wolf
Most overrated whatever (Picture, actor, director, etc.): The Squid and the Whale and Brokeback Mountain
Best Monologue: Palpatine’s speech to Anakin during the Cirque Du Soleil (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith)
Favorite Character: Animal: King Kong / Man: Judge Kevin McCarthy in Up for Grabs
Most nail-biting moment: King Kong triple T-Rex attack
Most stomach-turning moment: See, there’s this tongue and a squid (Old Boy)
Best DVD: The 40 Year-Old Virgin
Best/Funniest Gag: “Do you know why you’re gay?” (The 40 Year-Old Virgin)
Best Use of Music: Asia’s “Heat of the Moment” (The 40 Year-Old Virgin AND The Matador)
Best Line of Dialogue / Favorite Line of Dialogue or Dialogue Exchange: Honorable Mentions: “Be David Caruso in Jade” (The 40 Year-Old Virgin)
Best Dramatic Pause: “Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssssss” (Roger Bart in The Producers)
Best Fight: The four-minute unbroken hallway battle in Old Boy
Best Newcomer: Romany Malco (The 40 Year-Old Virgin)
The “You Must Stop Making Movies” Award: Mark Ruffalo
The "F. U." Award (Given to someone - director, actor, anyone - you'd like to get out of the movies permanently - based on a film released in 2005): Terrence Malick
So that’s it for 2005. 2006 is already upon us and as usual there’s not march to look forward to at least until the season changes. Already on the slate for ’06 are remakes of The Hills Have Eyes, The Shaggy Dog, Poseidon, Flicka, Charlotte's Web and Casino Royale PLUS 18 sequels/prequels including:
Tops on my list: (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Superman Returns)
Didn’t like the last one but anticipating: (Mission: Impossible: III, X-Men 3, Saw 3)
I like them, sue me: (Jackass 2, Final Destination 3, Scary Movie 4)
Something for the kids: (Ice Age 2: The Meltdown, Garfield 2, The Santa Clause 3, Dr. Dolittle 3)
And others for the horror fans: (The Omen 666, The Grudge 2, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Origin)
And the WHY GOD, WHY?: (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Basic Instinct 2, Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion)
With the 2006 festival season gearing up with Sundance this month along with my personal coverage of South by Southwest, CineVegas, Toronto and Chicago – hopefully I’ll be able to report on films as good as last year’s Brick, Harsh Times, The Notorious Bettie Page, Hard Candy, Lady Vengeance and Loverboy, all scheduled for release this year and ones to look out for.
If I had a list of ten films that I’m most looking forward to this year, I’d have to go with:
American Dreamz – Paul Weitz’s (About a Boy, In Good Company) satirical mixture of Bush-ian politics and American Idol with Dennis Quaid, Hugh Grant and Mandy Moore.
Cars – One word. Pixar!
The Da Vinci Code – Didn’t read the book. Want to see what all the fuss is about.
The Departed – Martin Scorsese’s remake of Infernal Affairs starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson. How can you not?
Flight 93 – Paul Greengrass (Bloody Sunday, The Bourne Supremacy) relives the infamous fourth plane of 9/11 whose passengers rose up to thwart the terrorist’s plans.
For Your Consideration – Christopher Guest and his repertoire responsible for Waiting for Guffman, Best In Show and A Mighty Wind take on the Oscars. Beautiful!
The Good Shepherd – Robert DeNiro goes behind the camera to present the early days of the CIA with Matt Damon. It has to be more interesting than Syriana.
Inside Man – Spike Lee does a bank robbery thriller with Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest – Even if its just a quarter of the fun of the original, it will be worth the trip.
Snakes on a Plane – Call it my Indiana Jones face-your-fear flick with Samuel L. Jackson. Plus it has the coolest title of the year.
And, of course, I want to see if my sister Jennifer makes the cut as an extra in either of the Chicago-shot The Break-Up or The Lake House opening this June. Good luck, Jen! And Good Luck to all us moviegoers in 2006.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=1683
originally posted: 01/13/06 04:40:25
last updated: 01/28/06 02:16:51