TOP TEN FOR 2004
#10–The Incredibles: Great animation, fun story, strong characters and not-too-farfetched situations make this the best animated film of the year.
#9–Ray: Jamie Foxx’s tour-de-force performance as The Genius elevates this biopic to stellar heights.
#8–Million Dollar Baby: Eastwood’s surprisingly touching portrayal of two elderly pugilists helping a young woman boxer in a testament to the indomitable spirit of the human heart.
#7–Garden State: Indie rom-com that sticks with the old-fashioned love story layered among the angst and ennui of twentysomething reality.
#6–Hotel Rwanda: Incredible retelling of the worst recording of genocide in our lifetime with an Oscar-worthy performance from Don Cheadle.
#5–Vera Drake: Imelda Staunton is perfectly restrained as a loving wife and mother who helps induce miscarriages for struggling women in 1950’s England.
#4–Napoleon Dynamite: Funny, creative, subversive, irreverent, insightful, self-effacing, positive and upbeat indie dynamite!
#3–Man On Fire: So many political statements going on here; the American sense of “children first,” the feeling of being oppressed by a system gone out of control, these true sense of how some countries view America, and the faithful underdog story energized by performances from Washington and Fanning.
#2–Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: Great characters and an inventive, creative story combined with beautiful cinematography.
#1–Spiderman 2: More drama, action, romance, comedy, dark characters, pathos, and excitement than any other film this year.
10 Best Films Released in the U.S. in 2004 Released In Their Own Country Prior to 2004
Blind Shaft–Based upon real incidents in China, woefully telling in its portrayal of what desperate people will do to survive.
Hero–A variation on the Rashomon theme, beautifully and poetically told tale of tragic uprising against an all-powerful ruler.
House of Flying Daggers–Beautiful and exciting, sort of like watching Crouching Tiger for the first time.
Infernal Affairs–This star-studded crime drama was the biggest box office film in Hong Kong’s history, and is a fantastic character study with an enthralling plot that folds in upon itself numerous times.
Ju-On: The Grudge–Truly suspenseful tale from Japan far superior to abominable American shot-for-shot remake.
The Motorcycle Diaries–Walter Salles’ eulogy to a cross-country motorcycle trip that, supposedly, helped shape the great revolutionary Che Guevara.
Shaolin Soccer–Largely unnoticed by U.S. audiences, action/comedy actor Stephen Chow’s films deserve widespread attention and enjoyment.
Shaun of the Dead–British zom-com sets both genres on their ears with style and bloody panache!
Strayed–French import dealing with unusual perspective and subject matter set during WWII.
Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman–Takeshi’s homage to Katzu’s blind swordsman almost captures the philosophy and elegiac beauty.
10 Runners Up
The Aviator–Scorcese’s take on the early Howard Hughes is undoubtedly warped, but the film’s an enjoyable biopic, nonetheless.
Collateral–Michael Mann scores again, making cold, hard L.A. look noir beautiful and giving us a hot thriller in the process.
End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones–Faithful reminiscence of the band at the epicenter of the punk movement.
Fahrenheit 9/11–Michael Moore’s latest is a biased but honest telling of the shameful policies of our Republican leaders.
In Good Company–Dennis Quaid and Scarlett Johanssen are standouts in this minor social comedy.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events–Perhaps the best use of Carrey’s chameleonic talents in a Burton-esque nightmare funhouse ride.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow–Like a 40’s film with 90’s special effects, this is a blast for lovers of action-adventure escapism.
Team America: World Police–Irreverent, politically-incorrect in-your-face humor; and what’s wrong with that?
A Few Guilty Pleasures
Anchorman–Just like so many other comedies out this year and featuring some of this crew in one form or another, but more enjoyable to me for the feminist aspect.
The Bourne Supremacy–The rare exception; a sequel that’s better than the original.
The Chronicles of Riddick–True, there isn’t much to this film; it’s simply an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon in a dark theatre munching popcorn.
Hidalgo–Old-fashioned adventure-romance showcasing Viggo Mortensen’s superb talents.
Kill Bill Vol. 2–Another sequel better than the original, and in some ways totally different.
Spartan–Unlike most critics, I like Kilmer and think this thriller, written and directed by David Mamet, is better than most that came out this year.
Walking Tall–Remake uses the best elements of the action film to make a simple, fun film.
Five “I Was Not Impressed” With (not bad, just not as good as the hype)
Beyond The Sea–Labor of love for Mr. Spacey is more that than it is entertaining.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou–Anderson’s first disappointment.
Sideways–The character study as textbook screenplay, but lacking a little humanity along the way.
Spanglish–Poor Adam Sandler hasn’t the presence to carry such strong material without coloring it.
Troy–Glorious return to the sand and sandals epics of the 60’s with hunks o’plenty and nothing new from the story department.
10 Worst Films of 2004
Alien Vs. Predator–even the Predator looked embarrassed to be a part of this project; who green-lighted this sucker?.
Blade: Trinity–how to ruin a successful franchise; let a first-time director take over.
The Brown Bunny–Vincent Gallo’s time is officially up; exploiting actresses for exploitation’s sake is best left to the porn industry.
Catwoman–We all love to see Halle in leather, but this ranks down there with Blade: Trinity as one of the worst executed films of the year.
Exorcist: The Beginning–as with AVP, this is a film idea best left unmade.
King Arthur–how to ruin a successful myth and legend; update it with sketchy information using half-baked plot devices.
Ocean’s 12–the most boring 2-1/2 hours you will spend in a theatre this year.
Van Helsing–marketing at its worst; Universal unleashes its oldest and most tired monsters from a vault that should be welded shut.
White Chicks–really a great concept pissed away on jokes not good enough for SNL.
Without A Paddle–for every Napoleon Dynamite and Dodgeball there are a dozen Without a Paddles, sadly enough.
The Terminal–Spielberg & Hanks in a feature that would have been better with a real comedian in the star role, like Martin or Willaims.
I, Robot–Best review I saw of this film: I, Don’t Think So.
The Village–Ron Howard’s daughter is true standout talent in otherwise pointless exercise .
Wicker Park–If Josh Harnett continues to make such bad career moves, he’ll have his own TV series on ABC soon.
Paparazzi–Mel Gibson does for celebrity photographers what he did for the story of Christ. Boo-yah!
Mr. 3000–Makes the usually funny Bernie Mac look more like Mr. Underwhelming.
Ladder 49–There’s a reason Travolta’s star faded early, and if Joaquin Phoenix isn’t careful, it might rub off.
Alfie–What’s it all about? Apparently, this time it’s about abusing women. Not a good choice.
National Treasure–Nic Cage is no Harrison Ford, meaning he can never fill Indiana Jones’ or Jack Ryan’s shoes.
Hollywood’s Worst Concepts
Jersey Girl–Let’s just go ahead and put all the star couples in our films, shall we?
Taking Lives–Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke, and everybody else are just too good to waste their time on this kind of craziness.
Hellboy–What a great crew and cast. What poor execution. Why?
Garfield–Time to stop this insanity. And don’t you dare try to make the feature-length version of Calvin and Hobbes.
Broken Lizard’s Club Dread–Time for the Broken Lizard crowd to go direct to DVD, or make films for the 1am to 3am time slot on The Home Shopping Network.
Closer–The most beautiful stars in the most boring film; what a concept!
TV Shows That Should Never Be Films
Starsky & Hutch–Not even that great a TV show, for crying out loud! And as if this wasn’t bad enough, this year we get to see Bewitched!, the movie?!? Knock it off!
Remakes/Sequels From Hell
The Alamo–Big budget disaster.
Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid–What goofy idiot green-lighted this piece o’crap? The same one who came up with the title?
Flight of the Phoenix–How hard is it to try to remake a Jimmy Stewart film? I think we know, now.
The Grudge–aka, art eating itself.
Havana Nights: Dirty Dancing 2–Ha ha ha ha ha ha…you people are insane!!
The Ladykillers–aka, the Coens make a good film crappy.
Meet The Fockers–So not funny it’s pathetic.
Phantom of the Opera–Lon Chaney will hunt you down and eat your brain!
Scary Movie 4–The scary thing is that this one ever got made.
The Stepford Wives–Or, hw to make a a decent 70’s Sci-Fi into an inept comedy.
Taxi–Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah are the perfect cast for any failure!
Indies/Foreign Films Gone Wrong
Lana’s Rain–Note to other first-time filmmakers: pompous lectures no longer enjoyable in a film.
Intermission–God love the Irishman who made this meandering waste of time.
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead–Such a great story right up until the last two minutes, then it’s Fizzle City, baby!
Best Independent Films of the Year
Bachelorman–Rodney Lee Connover’s take on the dating scene from a guy’s perspective hits the nail squarely on the head and is an enjoyable view in the bargain.
Brushfires–Jason Stephens and SplitPillow Productions continues their tradition of improv filmmaking with a collection of stories by and about women.
A Fish Wihout A Bicycle–Minor rom-com in the Garden State vein that tries to be more contemporary and cosmopolitan in its approach.
In The Realms of the Unreal–Mesmerizing documentary about a “nothingman” and his life’s work in art hidden from the outside world.
Why Neal–Chris Deleo’s video journal of a thirtysomething’s coming to terms with a parent whose abandonment left him emotionally locked in pubescence.
Del Wants to See in 2005…
I am limiting this to two films, both of which I can’t wait to see…
Sin City–Frank Miller adapts his noirish comic book series to the screen with an incredible cast, a great action director (Roberto Rodriguez), and SFX taken right from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The result looks to be a film that looks like a comic book. That’s a mild way of saying the final product should be astonishingly beautiful to watch.
Batman Begins–I have been a fan of The Bat since my oldest brother gave me the first two comics (originals!) in the series, the ones by Bob Kane. Almost all of the Burton/Schumacher versions were disappointments. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns comic book took the character back to his dark, vengeance-seeking roots. Now, director Christopher Nolan seems to be following that model, and Christian Bale has the makings of the best Batman ever.
TOP TEN FOR 2004