Best & Worst Films of 2005
We’ve heard plenty of whining this year about how movies just aren’t as good as they used to be – whatever that means – when in actuality, a lot of filmmakers went for broke in creating future classics. R-rated comedies made an impressive comeback this year, as well as more than a few controversial features that held their own at the box office. Hollywood has dished out its share of rubbish as well, with enough nonsense sequels, summer flops, and cheesy TV adaptations to last a lifetime, and so it’s with great pleasure that I present my Best and Worst Films of 2005. In constructing this list, I was careful not to include any direct-to-DVD films I saw (“Dead & Breakfast”), those nobody saw (“Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power”), and theatrical releases that looked too horrible to waste my time on (“Yours, Mine and Ours” and “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo”).
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THE BEST FILMS OF 2005
(Lions Gate Films)
With the budget of an independent film and the cast of a summer blockbuster, Paul Haggis’ multifaceted tale about racism in Los Angeles is one of the most powerful cinematic experiences many people will ever see. Matt Dillon and Terrence Howard, in particular, deliver some of the strongest performances of the year, while Haggis’ script is filled with enough juicy dialogue to make even Tarantino and Mamet jealous.
2. "Batman Begins"
Director Christopher Nolan wiped the slate clean with his revival of the ill-fated Batman franchise, thanks in part to an experienced fanboy screenwriter (David S. Goyer) and an all-star cast of talent led by Christian Bale -- by far the best actor to ever don the cape and cowl. A stronger focus on the hero, rather than the villains, is what ultimately makes “Batman Begins” the finest of the five movies. That, and the idea that in just a few short years, any memory of Joel Schumacher’s abomination of the franchise should fade away.
3. "A History of
Violence" (New Line)
There’s usually one film a year that exceeds my expectations, and this year, it was David Cronenberg’s brilliant commentary on the effects of violence in society. Mixing classic Western archetypes with present day brutality, “Violence” is more like the work of Clint Eastwood than the eccentric Cronenberg. In fact, fans of the director will likely be disappointed by this simple tale of revenge, but it’s worth seeing if only for John Hurt’s hilarious performance at the end of the film.
4. "Sin City"
Three cinematic masterminds (Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller and Quentin Tarantino) came together to create one of the most visually stunning films in the history of the medium. Featuring skillful work from the large ensemble cast (including Bruce Willis and Clive Owen), the graphic novel collection made famous by Miller looks larger than life. And of Mickey Rourke’s Hollywood reemergence a few years back, “Sin City” is his definitive comeback film. It’s a shame that most people still don’t know who the guy is; as if you could even recognize him under all that makeup.
How exactly do you make a war movie with no war? Director Sam Mendes was certainly up to the challenge when he adapted ex-Marine Anthony Swafford’s best-selling memoirs for the big screen, a film that has landed its share of controversy over its anti-war message and candid Corps-bashing. Still, whoever doesn’t get a kick out of watching a bunch of soldiers playing desert football in full gas-attack attire has serious issues with appreciating the fine art of irony.
40-Year-Old Virgin" (Universal)
While “Wedding Crashers” will likely steal the lone comedy spot on many critics’ “Best Of” lists, Judd Apatow’s lighthearted film was such a great theater experience that even the second trip was a blast. Steve Carell has proven that he can carry a movie on his own, and while my review warns not to expect a career of Jim Carrey proportions, the comic star is certainly on the verge of breaking out. Try watching the waxing scene without crying from laughter; it’s like eating just one potato chip.
The first of two sci-fi films on the list, Joss Whedon’s “Serenity” gave fans of the short-lived television series a chance to see their favorite characters one last time. Even if you’re not a fan of the series, though, “Serenity” is quite easily the best space film since the release of the original “Star Wars” trilogy. It’s a shame that Fox didn’t know what it had, or maybe they wouldn’t have let it die so easily.
Guide to the Galaxy" (Disney)
Finally, a screen adaptation of Douglas Adams’ classic sci-fi novel that fans can be proud of, thanks in part to the filmmaker’s preservation of the author’s British wit. The opening musical number, a jazz-infused tune entitled “So Long and Thanks For All the Fish,” is one of the funniest moments in the film, and also acts as a proper introduction to the strange world that Adams has created. Those who have read the novel will definitely enjoy the big-screen version of the story, especially considering that new material has been added – mostly by Adams before his untimely death in 2001.
9. "Hustle & Flow"
Craig Brewer’s debut feature film - which was self-financed by John Singleton – is hardly worthy of a spot in the top ten, but Terrence Howard’s performance is so amazing that it would be a discredit not to mention it sometime before the year’s end. An interview with the actor revealed his initial concern for taking on the role, but everyone knows that complex characters equal Oscar gold, and what's more complex than a pimp going through a mid-life crisis?
10. "Brokeback Mountain" (Focus)
There were plenty of other films that probably should have made the number ten spot, but justifying the absence of Ang Lee’s modern love tale was too complicated to tackle. Award-worthy performances by both Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are more than enough reason to see this movie, but the homosexual undertones will likely drive most straight men and Republicans away.
11. "The Weather Man" (Paramount) – Not since the days of dodgeball have head shots been funnier.
12. "Kung Fu Hustle" (Sony Classics) – Stephen Chow is the funniest guy you’ve never heard of.
13. "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" (Warner Brothers) – Just as the books get better, so do the films.
14. "Cinderella Man" (Universal) –This dream team could have beaten the '96 Olympic Basketball Squad.
15. "King Kong" (Universal) – The real giant is Peter Jackson. What can’t this guy do?
THE WORST FILMS OF 2005
1. "Last Days"
If director Gus Van Sant thinks he’s a genius for making this film, he’s seriously mistaken. This 97-minute mind-fuck focuses on a fictionalized Kurt Cobain during the final three days before committing suicide. Most of the time, he walks around the woods mumbling to himself. Sometimes, he stops to make a bowl of Mac ‘n Cheese, or take a dive in a nearby creek, but he just as soon gets back to mumbling again. Fans of the late artist have been duped by an untalented “filmmaker” who doesn’t deserve to watch a movie ever again, let alone make one.
2. "The Man"
It’s no surprise that this buddy cop comedy sucks as bad as it did. First off, Samuel L. Jackson isn’t a comedian. The reason we laugh at the guy is because of his roles as a monologue-spitting badass in films like “Pulp Fiction.” Second, Eugene Levy is not a film star. He’s a very talented character actor who’s gotten a major career boost from his roles in the “American Pie” and Christopher Guest’s films. Any questions? Didn’t think so.
3. "The Aristocrats"
This documentary of the dirtiest joke ever told is nowhere close to being the alleged “funniest film of the year” that many critics claimed it was. Sure, there are a few enjoyable riffs from Bob Saget and Sarah Silverman, but a majority of the film is a full-blown disappointment. In fact, the only reason it’s not higher on the list is because of Kevin Pollack’s version of the joke as Christopher Walken.
4. " The Brothers
For the first time in 20 years, I fell asleep while watching a movie. Not because it was particularly late, or because I was feeling sleepy, but simply because it was that bad. It’s always hit or miss with director Terry Gilliam, and this time, it was a big fat miss. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, but it hardly makes up for a lack of story, terrible acting, and even worse editing. Matt Damon and Heath Ledger both deserve a good slap in the face for agreeing to star in this nonsense, but all they probably care about is having the name “Gilliam” on their resume.
(20th Century Fox)
So much has happened since this early-bird stinker arrived in theaters that most people can barely remember it was released this year. Jennifer Garner looks more like a Victoria’s Secret cover girl than a deadly assassin, while the main villain’s special powers don’t seem to be anything other than the ability to control a few flying bed sheets. Why anyone would produce a spin-off to a movie that already sucked (“Daredevil”) is beyond me, but then again, that’s Hollywood for you.
6. "The Legend of
Apparently, Zorro doesn’t like to hurt people, because if he did, the swashbuckling hero would be using his sword as a weapon, and not as a toy. Taking place ten years after the events of “The Mask of Zorro,” this sequel does absolutely nothing to enhance the original story. Sure, Mexican Batman’s got a bratty little son following him around this time, but that only means that for every big sword fight, there is a goofy scene where Antonio Banderas must make a fool of himself. Aw, how cute!
7. "Just Friends"
I’m pretty sure that the whole fat suit hilarity ended in the 90’s. It may have been the emergence of those amusing sumo wrestling costumes that you see at high school after-proms, but I really can’t be sure. In any event, throwing a tight shirt on Ryan Reynolds while wearing one is hardly my idea of a good time. Reynolds was supposed to be an up-and-coming comic star, what with his hilarious performance in the incredibly underrated “Van Wilder,” but instead, he loses laughs to Anna Farris. And no, that’s not a compliment.
8. "Aeon Flux"
Charlize Theron is on what I lovingly refer to as the Halle Berry Fast Track to Not-So-Superstardom. Step one: win an Oscar. Step two: play a female superhero in the terrible screen adaptation of a classic character. Step three: show your boobies – the guys love it. Two down, one to go. If only the film was as graphic as Peter Chung’s animated series; she could’ve checked step three off her list as well.
9. "Into the Blue"
If you didn’t know that Jessica Alba had a great ass before seeing this movie, you definitely will coming out of it. Director John Stockwell spends more time following Alba underwater than with the more discernible problems with the picture, like, well, everything. After a semi-interesting trailer that promised a decent thriller with lots of action, “Into the Blue” showed its true colors, namely as a hip Calvin Klein advertisement with enough beautiful people to fill an episode of “The Grind” on MTV.
(20th Century Fox/Buena Vista)
In trying to create a unique description of why this movie was one of the year’s worst, I ultimately decided to rely on my original position: Try to imagine a movie with a great story, even better character development, and a perfect cast who all turn in wonderful performances. Then, imagine walking away from that same film completely dumbfounded by how uninterested you were the entire time. Congratulations, you’ve just experienced “Shopgirl,” one the most wasteful trips to the movies all year.
11. "Cry_Wolf" (Rogue) – The most deserving bunch of victims to ever wander into a slasher film.
12. "Syriana" (Warner Independent) – And the award for most deceiving trailer goes to…
13. "War of the Worlds" (Paramount) – Steven Spielberg isn’t to blame. H.G. Wells is.
14. "King’s Ransom" (New Line) – This missed the Top 10 only because we all expected it to suck.
15. "Bewitched" (Sony) – Ditto, plus negative points for Kidman and Ferrell’s bad taste in scripts.
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