Year in Movies: 2005
I am both blessed and cursed to share my moviegoing duties with two other people. I'm blessed in that I am sometimes afforded the luxury of delegating a movie I know will suck to our third-in-command, Andy (his response after I assigned him to review "Rumor Has It": "Sweet Lord, NO!"). However, I am cursed in that my boy Jason Zingale sometimes gets to see the really good stuff, while I'm seeing something like "Kicking and Screaming." Please keep this in mind while you read my list of best and worst movies of the year. If I saw everything the multiplexes had to offer, I would be able to put a better list of the year's truly best movies, but I would also be ungodly pale, out of shape, and completely and utterly boring. The lines in the sand may be arbitrary, but they must be drawn.
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Best Movies of the Year
1. March of the
Penguins (Warner Independent)
This is my way of taking the easy way out, by picking the Little Documentary That Could as my favorite movie of the year, but it's really not that much of a stretch. While the filmmakers definitely had some fun with the speed of the tape (those underwater scenes were just a little too fast, weren't they?), the story of the Emperor penguins and their improbable journey in order to survive is staggering to watch. Morgan Freeman's narration, if anything, was overkill. Henry Rollins would have done just fine.
2. Batman Begins
The best "Batman" movie of all, if you can believe that. Sure, it had that Scientology zombie Katie Holmes in it, but the original had Kim Basinger, so there. Major, major props to Christopher Nolan for taking on a budget the size of the GNP of Guam and not losing touch with his indie instincts. This movie kills, baby.
3. Brokeback Mountain
All everyone talked about was Heath and Jake getting it on, but ultimately, That Gay Cowboy Movie was far, far more than some sensational romp in the sack by a couple of Marlboro Men. And for the guys who are on the fence about seeing this with their girlfriends/wives, you get to see Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams topless. Does that help? Ironically, you'll forget all about that as the story between Heath and Jake unfolds.
4. Sin City (Dimension)
When I reviewed "Sin City," I remarked that there was a lot to admire about the movie, but not a lot to love. I still feel that way, but the stuff I admire, I truly, madly, deeply admire.
5. Wedding Crashers
The movie's first 20 minutes is one of the best, if not the best, T&A sequences in movie history. Even better, the movie tones down the need for jugs and lets Frat Pack founders Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson strut their improv stuff. Imagine their surprise, then, when Isla Fisher stole the movie from both of them.
6. Murderball (ThinkFilm)
As callous as it sounds, the DVD is worth it for the "Jackass" sequence alone. The Murderball players are more than game; when Johnny Knoxville goes to help one of the quadriplegics up, the guy zaps Johnny in the nuts with a cattle prod.
7. Jarhead (Universal)
Not sure why this movie was swept under the rug the way it was, but it was surprisingly funny, and painfully honest about the banality of war.
8. Kung Fu Hustle (Sony)
Oh, sweet mercy, did this movie make me laugh. I read all of the Quentin Tarantino/Tex Avery comparisons and I was hooked, but in no way was I prepared for the story to go in the directions that it did. How often do you have a movie with three different sets of good guys, some of whom originally appear to be bad guys? Stephen Chow, you're the man. Can't wait to see the sequel.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (DreamWorks)
Okay, perhaps I was a little harsh on our favorite claymation heroes when the movie first came out. But it was only because I loved their short films, and was tragically disappointed when I saw that they were injecting a bunch of – well, I don't want to call it adult humor, since it mainly appeals to juveniles, but you get the idea – lowbrow jokes into what had heretofore been highbrow entertainment that the whole family could enjoy. Moon shots and belching jokes aside, it's still funnier than any "Shrek" movie could ever dream of.
10. King Kong (Universal)
It gets a spot because it is big, bold, and everything the movies are supposed to be. Don't be surprised if there is Oscar talk around Naomi Watts' stunning performance as Ann Darrow. The movie works because we believe that there is a connection between her and Kong, and that she could have gotten through to him, if given the chance.
Layer Cake (Sony Pictures Classics)
Red Eye (DreamWorks)
Still haven't seen:
A History of Violence
Munich (though I hear it's a colossal bore)
Better than you think:
I generally loathe Michael Bay movies, but the vehemence people showed toward "The Island," frankly, stunned me. I thought it was easily his best movie since "The Rock," and maybe the best movie he's ever done. And while that doesn't say a whole hell of a lot, the movie sure as hell deserved to make more than $35 million at the box office. Fer crissakes, even "Bad Boys 2" made $138 million. Is "Bad Boys 2" actually $103 million better than "The Island"? Not in your wildest dreams.
The Longest Yard
Most critics bashed the ever loving shit out of this movie in favor of the original, and I just don't get it. The original wasn't that great, okay? It was fine, I suppose, and it was important, since its success opened the door for things like "The Bad News Bears" and "Rocky" and all. But it isn't that funny, it isn't that exciting to watch, and the direction is a woeful mess. The remake rights every one of those wrongs. Its only mistake is not knowing when to quit with the gay jokes.
Worst Movies of 2005
1. Brothers Grimm
The reason this gets the #1 spot is because Gilliam is clearly a competent director who can do far, far better than this nonsense. Is it supposed to be funny? Scary? Thrilling? Enchanting? Doesn't matter; the movie fails on every level. Uwe Boll may make worse movies, but no one expects anything from him. People do, however, expect something from Gilliam, and the movie does not deliver, on any level.
2. Aeon Flux (Paramount)
Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, and Pete Postlethwaite; two Oscar winners and one Oscar nominee (plus Sophie Okenedo, another Oscar nominee), were all in this movie, and the whole time I'm watching it, I'm thinking, Man, I hope they invite me up for a ski weekend in whatever piece of property they bought with the money they were paid for making this god-awful movie.
Bigalow: European Gigolo (Warner Bros.)
It seems kind of mean to pick on this movie, but hey, even the original studio (Sony) passed on making the sequel, and for once, Sony did something right.
4. The Dukes of
Hazzard (Warner Bros.)
The answer is: Owners of "The Dukes of Hazzard" on DVD. Yes, David? "Who are, 'People who will never be welcome in my house'?"
5. xXx: State of
the Union (Sony)
Ice Cube finally gets a high profile lead, but in a shitty movie. Samuel L. Jackson plays his part like someone's pointing a gun at him just off camera. Willem Dafoe tries to give Sam advice on how to act in these parts, since he's done a bunch of crap movies himself ("Body of Evidence," "Speed 2: Cruise Control"), but Sam just shakes him off without a look. Fools, all of them.
6. White Noise
I was flown out to L.A. for the DVD launch of this movie, and while I am grateful to Universal for their incredible generosity – that, and the fact that this trip didn't take place when Ted Demme's wife was dictating which guests could actually use the Roosevelt hotel pool and which ones would just "have to come back some other time" – the movie was dogshit, and I think the studio knew that, which is why they flew Midwestern cowpokes like me out to sophisticated Losse Angelees in the hopes that we'd be dazzled. We weren't dazzled. On the plus side, I ran into Vince Clarke, who formed Depeche Mode, Yaz, and Erasure, in the hotel lobby, and that was a big, big thrill. So thank you, Universal! You helped me meet one of my heroes. The movie still sucks, but I met Vince Clarke! I love Universal.
7. The Cave (ScreenGems/Sony)
Not sure where to begin with this one, except to say that I actually was happy when Daniel Dae Kim (a favorite of mine from "Lost" and "Angel") was put out of his misery. Good actors should die early in bad movies. Ben Kingsley, it appears, has not gotten the memo on this, something I'll get to in our next movie.
8. A Sound of Thunder
All year long, I complained about why the studio didn't have the "guts" to call this movie "Butterflies and Hurricanes," after the great Muse song, since the movie had that exact concept. Now that I've seen the movie, I'm pretty sure why that didn't happen: Muse saw the movie, and said, "No way!" Not even the casting of Oscar winner Sir Ben Kingsley could bring Muse to its knees. I love Muse. Even when I'm making up a whole bunch of shit about them, like this, I love them.
9. The Ring Two (DreamWorks)
The studio cannot expect everyone who loved the first installment of "The Ring" to have rented that video that supposedly explains the massive leap in logic from the first movie to the second, the one that, to any fan of the original, completely invalidates the rules of the first movie. If there's a third "Ring" movie, you can bet your life that Naomi Watts will have nothing to do with it.
10. Syriana (Warner
The whole time I'm trying to put the pieces together to this needlessly dense story, I was thinking to myself, "Man, I wish I was watching 'Clear and Present Danger' instead." That movie may have been convoluted too, but at least it was exciting.
Still haven't seen:
Rumor Has It (subjected Andy to it)
The Fog (subjected Andy to it)
Madagascar (yep, Andy)
Valiant (once again, Andy)
The Legend of Zorro
Other random observations
I loved it, I loved it, I loved it, I hated it: War of the Worlds
Never mind the flaws like the TV truck with working electronics, the fact that the aliens couldn't decide whether to harvest, drink, drown or vaporize the humans, or that abysmal third-act with Tim Robbins. My question is: if the environment was so toxic to the aliens, how the hell were they able to plant those three legged machines in the ground all those years ago in the first place?
You've seen it, you can't un-see it
Two bits in "Saw 2" will stay with me forever; the opening sequence (the sound of that trap shutting was just gruesome), and the pit of syringes. Sick, sick bastards, those "Saw" people.
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