I watch a lot of movies. I watch good movies and crappy movies. I watch movies that are meant to be crappy (Troma Films) and movies that aren’t meant to suck but ultimately end up being really crappy (The First Daughter). There were 543 movies theatrically released in 2004. That’s not including straight to video movies. I only saw but a small handful of them really. Even if you went to the movies 100 times this year, that’s twice a week, you would have only seen less than a fifth of these films. So realize this isn’t a best of 2004 list it’s more of a best of what I saw list. Now let’s reflect on another year of cinema. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.
FAVORITE ACTION MOVIES OF 2004
Better than the first. Director Sam Raimi found a way to blend all the elements of the comic book, the heroism, Peter Parker’s personal life mishaps, the choices he has to make, the horror of Doc Ock and the campiness of the Peter and MJ love story. It was just all there. This is the only film I saw twice in the theatre this year. That should say a lot. Alfred Molina was perfectly cast as Doc Ock. J.K. Simmons is the perfect J. Jonah Jameson and Harry Osborn played by James Franco slapped Peter like a bitch. Good times for the whole family.
Kill Bill Vol. 2
The man, the myth, the modern legend Quentin Tarantino brought us Vol. 2 of the Kill Bill saga. Slap this together with Vol. 1 and you have over four hours of kick-ass film in front of you. This film has some great moments. I especially enjoyed Chia Hui Liu as Pai Mei always kicking ass and stroking his beard. Tarantino is one of the main influences in bring Asian films and especially Kung Fu films to the mainstream American market.
Yet another comic book movie, this one directed by the great Guillermo del Torro and starring the awesomely cast Ron Pearlman. This film is a bit anti-climatic, but Ron Pearlman’s performance shines through in true tough guy nature spitting out one liners and kicking ass the whole time.
FAVORITE COMEDIES OF 2004
This indie comedy kicked ass at the Slamdance Film Festival. So they made a feature and people loved it. MTV stepped in and put it into mass distribution. Not bad for a $400,000 indie film. This movie has super tight performances, truly funny characters and a unique simple vision. I watched it twice in the same day the first time I saw it. An awesome film.
I expected this movie to suck. But actually Dodgeball was pretty damn funny. Don’t get me wrong it’s still kind of a stupid movie but whenever you put Ben Stiller in a moustache he goes from nerd to pure awesomeness. (Ex: Happy Gilmore) Featuring a first time feature director and a solid cast including Vince Vaughn and Rip Torn, Dodgeball is a true underdog story. By the way, Ben Stiller was in six movies that came out this year, yeah six!! Don’t believe me? Here we go, Along Came Polly, Starsky & Hutch, Envy, Dodgeball, Anchorman and Meet the Fockers. Talk about over exposure.
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
This is a stoner movie; it’s ridiculous, full of cameos and honestly pretty damn funny. I laughed often especially at Neil Patrick Harris. This is funny stuff for those who just want to laugh. Guaranteed to become a dorm room classic.
FAVORITE DRAMAS OF 2004
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
All good films are dramatic, but for the genres sake Eternal Sunshine is no doubt a great film and on many critics list. I’m a huge Jim Carrey fan, dramatic or funny. His performances in The Truman Show and The Majestic were fantastic and every bit as good as Ace Ventura or Dumb and Dumber. It seems that writer Charlie Kaufman and director Michael Gondry were the ones finally able to get Jim a dramatic role even the critics could like.
Surprisingly good coming of age film directed, written and starring Zach Braff, yeah the funny guy from Scrubs. Nathalie Portman plays a whack-job girl who steals his heart, kind of. This is a really nice film about a person struggle with his mothers death, past demons and loser twenty something friends. Good performances by the entire cats make this a great film to watch.
The new film from Bernardo Bertolucci starring Michael Pitt from Bully and Eve Green’s magnificent breasts, I mean acting talent. Actually Eva is very beautiful and the acting in this film is superb. Building tension using strange relationships, incest, and the sixties beatnik film movement this film was released in France first in 2003 and hit the states early this past year. It’s a fresh storyline that crosses the boundaries of American mainstream cinema and that’s the way we like lit. Make sure you rent the un-rated version of this film and not the rated R version you might get a Blockbuster or Hollywood Video.
FAVORITE HORROR FILMS THAT WERE EVIL ENOUGH TO ROCK 2004
Shaun of the Dead
As funny as it is scary. This was VERY HIGH on my list this year. (Sorry Alex) One of the best genre films I’ve ever seen. This British film has it all, being promoted as a romantic comedy with zombies. Shaun of the Dead delivers and has the re-watchable quality that will go into the category of Army of Darkness or Dazed and Confused. One of those films you can watch over and over and start from any point in the story. Great stuff!
Dawn of the Dead (remake)
I didn’t want this film to be remade, I didn’t, I didn’t…but damn it was pretty good huh? The original is a classic full of violence, satire and social commentary. The remake doesn’t quite have all that but the violence meter was put into overdrive and the opening sequence is amazing. One of the very few horror remakes I would recommend.
Switchblade Romance aka High Tension
French slasher film revitalizes the popular 80’s horror genre. This movie is so brutal and very unforgiving. It’s coming to the states this year and is being called High Tension so check it out. I had to attempt many screenings to watch this movie but it was worth it.
MOVIES THAT WERE OVER-HYPED DUE TO RELIGIOUS OR POLITICAL AGENDAS
The Passion of the Christ
Mel Gibson’s entire family namesake one hundred years from now will still be living off residuals from this film. It made 370 million dollars in the US box office alone. Doesn’t every one know this story already? Well I saw it too. It’s beautifully shot, well directed and acted. It’s cool that American mainstream audiences watched a subtitled film. Maybe now people will be more open to watching more foreign films. However I felt that after watching these truly gruesome visuals that instead of making me realize the absolute torture that Jesus went through and bringing me closer to Christianity because of his sacrifice that it left me sad with the feeling that I was just yelled at using several curse words, “Do YOU REALIZE what JESUS has DONE for YOU?! Now pray fucker!” Which to me, I always thought Christianity was supposed to be all about love. Either way, good film, but the world needs to stop trying to find the ultimate message within it. It’s Mel Gibson’s interpretation of a story from the bible. It’s not Jesus himself talking to you, well directly…or could he be speaking indirectly through Mel Gibson?
Sorry to let the world in on this but Michael Moore is one of the most annoying people on the planet. If I spent any kind of real time with him I would probably punch him in the nose and put him in a headlock. Nonetheless, his films are great. I’ve even watched both seasons of his television show from the nineties. Although Fahrenheit wasn’t as good as Bowling for Columbine I still thought it was a powerful interpretation of George Bush and our U.S. government. What pisses me off about this film is when people who don’t pay any attention to politics go and see the film and hold each minute of it as absolute holy of the holiest truth. It is still and movie and I hope that it would if nothing else inspires such a person to learn more about what is going on with the U.S. government rather than just quote stuff from the film. But hey I didn’t vote for George W. Bush. I live in Illinois. Blame the people in Ohio. Apparently it was there fault.
MOVIES THAT WERE A DISAPPOINTMENT
The tone of this movie was all off and strange. I’m a big Marvel fan not a huge Punisher fan but I still followed the book. This film just seemed misdirected and off. I’m not sure if I liked it better than the Dolph Lundgren version from 1989.
I’m a big fan of Kevin Smith. This film had some nice moments but it was also very cliché’ and extremely sappy. Kevin Smith takes a chance at making a movie outside of his universe but it still takes place in Jersey and it still has Ben Affleck with a great cameo from Jason Lee and Matt Damon. I missed Jay and Silent Bob in this one. Definitely a chick flick.
The Whole Ten Yards
Actually this wasn’t a disappointment I expected this to suck. I should put it in another category.
This is a guilty pleasure of mine from the SNL crew. Kill me now but it was a funny movie nothing ground breaking but it’s good to laugh at the pretty stuck up girls.
The Butterfly Effect
I’ve never been punked. I don’t where trucker hats but I do watch that 70’s show. The acting in this film is rough in some spots but I’m sucker for time travel films. So for that reason I found this movie pretty entertaining. Yes I’m sure I’ll hear some shit for this.
ANIMATED FILMS THAT ROCKED
Pixar hasn’t made a bad movie yet. Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo are all part of the impressive Pixar library. Everything they have touched so far has been great. The Incredibles is probably their best. This is a film with real insight into the superhero genre with solid characters and funny situations. This truly is a film that both adults and children can enjoy.Pixar hasn’t made a bad movie yet. Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo are all part of the impressive Pixar library. Everything they have touched so far has been great. The Incredibles is probably their best. This is a film with real insight into the superhero genre with solid characters and funny situations. This truly is a film that both adults and children can enjoy.
Shrek 2 grossed over 440 million dollars in domestic box office alone. That’s just the U.S. and just theater sales. It’ll probably make another 400 million on DVD and who knows what over seas. That makes this film 3rd on the all time box office list. So since everyone has already seen it…’nuff said.
MOVIES THAT WERE DOWN RIGHT CRAPPY
The First Daughter
I was forced to watch this on a flight, actually on one of the worst flights I’ve ever been on. There was so much turbulence I almost vomited. Realize that I don’t have a wus stomach; I’ve been skydiving three times and ride almost all the roller coasters. This movie sucked. It was boring, cheesy and I can’t freaking believe it was directed by Forest Whitaker. I don’t mind Katie Holmes. She was great (and topless) in Sam Raimi’s The Gift and who didn’t watch the first season of Dawson’s Creek? Guilty! But this film has absolutely no edge. It is completely round. No edge at all. All syrup.
MOVIES I WOULD LIKE TO SEE BUT HAVEN’T GOT TO YET
Without a Paddle
Gary’s Most Anticipated Films of 2005
Here it is. The list of films I am anticipating the most this year. We’ll see in twelve months how many of these were a disappointment and how many ruled like we knew they would.
10) The Ring 2 directed by Hideo Nakata—The first American version of The Ring was surprisingly good. The studios got the director of the original Japanese version to take over this one and I’m hoping it’ll be a good sequel.
9) Corpse Bride by Tim Burton—I’m a big Tim Burton fan and this is his return to animation, plus it has Johnny Depp. I was preaching about how good Johnny Depp was back in 1994 after Ed Wood. Now the whole world loves him but so what, he’s damn good.
8) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Tim Burton—Again Tim Burton and Johnny Depp in what looks like a darker remake of a classic.
7) Fantastic Four directed by Tim Story—I grew up on comics, especially Marvel. There’s a big question mark around this film. People have been trying to make it for years. Let’s hope Tim Story does it justice.
6) Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith directed by George Lucas—It’s the final Star Wars installment (for now). I’m down with the dark side and I want to see some Jedi blood shed. Arise Darth Vader!
5) The Devil’s Rejects by Rob Zombie—Rob Zombie is one of my idols. This is the sequel to House of a 1000 Corpses. I’m a huge fan of anything Rob does. I’ve been modeling my mini career after his for years. The heavy metal, hot chicks and horror movies. What else could a reject want?
4) King Kong by Peter Jackson—It’s Peter Jackson, remember him? He made the greatest trilogy ever with Lord of the Rings. (Sorry Lucas) Here’s his attempt at bringing an updated King Kong to the big screen. This won’t suck. I’ve been a fan since Bad Taste.
3) Land of the Dead by George Romero—Zombie and horror fans have been waiting since 1985 for the next George Romero, king of all zombies movie. It’s bullshit that it took studios so long to give the master some coin to make this film. This will deliver, it has too.
2) Sin City directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez—Probably the most amazing trailer I’ve ever seen. Rodriguez made a ten-minute test version of this film and sent it to Frank Miller. Frank Miller is the comic book legend that made Batman evil and dark again back in the 1980’s. This movie looks just like the comic. I mean exactly, and Frank Miller co-directed. It also features one of the most amazing casts ever assembled. I can’t wait.
1) Batman Begins directed by Christopher Nolan—It’s a new Batman movie for Christ’s sake! This is a darker version by Christopher Nolan. I’m excited to see Christian Bale as Batman. He seems like the best choice ever. I really hope this film delivers.
Gary Schultz is an independent filmmaker critic in Chicago.
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