Trying to write these flippin' lists is one of the toughest chores one can ask of a film reviewer, or at least me. Hell, maybe I'm the only "film critic" that does his best to avoid compiling these opinion-based lists, just because of the severe brain pain trying to actually create an accurate look at Hollywood's product from the past year would cause me. Either way, I was asked by Noel to contribute, and contribute I shall, headache and all. In an attempt to keep my sanity, however, I will be keeping this to a top five of both the best and worst, as I see it. So, here goes.
The Best of 2004:
5. Napoleon Dynamite - Like the little indy comedy that could, its offbeat vibe and cast of eccentric characters was enough to keep my belly churning out the gut-wrenching laughs. The film also gets bonus points for being highly quotable, and getting better with every viewing.
4. Team America: World Police - Easily the funniest film of the year, I actually paid to see this film twice, and was shocked at how funny it was the second time around proving it has a pair of durable legs. I don't know if it's something I'll watch again and again (like Napoleon Dynamite), but it's cultural impact, not to mention its highly offensive but very catchy soundtrack, help slip it into the fourth spot. God bless Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
3. Hellboy - Ron Perlman was born to play Hellboy, and Guillermo Del Toro was born to direct him. With a terrific cast, great character development, and superb direction, this was easily my favorite comic book adaptation of the year, if not of all time. It doesn't quite eek out The Crow for that honor, but it's damn close thanks to Perlman's take on the big red lug.
2. The Passion of the Christ - Mel Gibson's much maligned vision of what Jesus Christs last twelve hours on Earth were like was not only masterfully directed, but it's box office take proved that the stuffed shirts in Hollywood, much to their chagrin, do not own moviegoers mind, body, and soul. The special effects in this film alone are some of the best I've ever seen. To this day, I've still yet to see the film a second time, due to its high level of graphic violence.despite owning the DVD. Like the Wizard of Oz, this is a film I'll probably only be able to watch once a year.
1. Shaun of the Dead - Officially released in 2003 over in the UK, the underground hype machine had been running for nearly a year before the film actually made its US theatrical debut, and although it wasn't a long run, the film managed to expose the fortunate to a pair of cinematic geniuses in Edgar Wright (director, co-writer) and Simon Pegg (star, co-writer). Much like Super Troopers, Shaun of the Dead features layer upon layer of quality character development, and plot. It's also very easy to watch, despite the heavy British accents. Mixing elements of horror, comedy, and romance, I can't think of a single movie this year that was as well crafted as Shaun. I look forward to Hot Fuzz with eager anticipation!
Honorable Mentions: (films I also enjoyed for one reason or another this year) The Incredibles, Spider-Man 2, The Chronicles of Riddick, Shrek 2, Dawn of the Dead, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Man on Fire
The Worst of 2004:
5. Van Helsing - Yeah, the Mummy movies were pretty boss. They featured cool characters, well-written dialogue, and great special effects (sans the cheesoid Scorpion King CGI job from The Mummy Returns.that was shit) successfully inspiring movie lovers world wide to lay down millions of dollars to see them. Van Helsing was to be Stephen Sommers' (the man behind the Mummy movies) cinematic zenith, marrying many of horror most infamous creatures into one big steaming pile of a movie. To his credit, the direction and special effects were very well done, but the performances handed in by the cast felt more like the work of a group of high school play understudies than it did seasoned Hollywood vets. To add to the misery, the film was entirely too long, dragging on for what felt like not just one eternity, but many. Just like this write-up!
4. Taking Lives - One of the films I actually tried to avoid, I wasn't surprised to see my every instinct on this film proved to their max as I sat in horror at how truly awful this film was. Really, if I actually sat down and tried to write the worst screenplay ever written, I still don't think I could churn out as shitty a film as this one. Sure, Jolie's got the thick lips that make me swoon, but thick lips do not a quality crime thriller make. This was just bad form from all involved, and with any luck, we'll forget this movie ever existed in the years to come.
3. Envy - Nothing hurts worse than sitting through a film where you watch as two naturally funny men try desperately to be funny, and fail. You'd think the comedic marriage of Ben Stiller and Jack Black would be one of real laugh matrimony, but in fact, with Envy the opposite is true. Neither man scores one honest moment of hilarity throughout the entire film. Stiller's self-deprecating style of humor did nothing but inspire groans, and Jack Black's once bulletproof "Look at me, I'm so fucking hilarious when I act like a retard on purpose" shtick is slowly eroding from Teflon to Velcro. The only redeeming moments of this film are the scenes that feature Christopher Walken as, the J-Man. It's just too bad you'd have to stomach the rest of this crapfest to get to him.
2. The Day After Tomorrow - When I sat down to review this film for my own site (LivingCorpse.com), I honestly couldn't think of anything to say. It was the first time in my short history of being an unpaid professional internet film opinionist that a film I'd seen left my mind totally blank. This movie was so ill conceived, self-indulgent, and incorrect, it almost made me wish I were a possessed Regan MacNeil, inhabited by the Devil, just so I could make my head spin. Dennis Quaid needs to learn the word "no," and hopefully at some point in the near future, Hollywood will realize that Jake Gyllenhaal is actually retarded, and incapable of carrying a scene, let alone a film.
1. Secret Window - Of all the films I didn't like this year (and there were many), none left me as pissed off as Secret Window. To watch a film that was actually pretty decent completely spiral out of control in a weak attempt at a shocking swerve ending in the third act was enough to warrant a stiff crescent kick to Stephen Kings' family jewels. Is it fair to blame the author of the short story that inspired the film, and not the filmmakers themselves? You're damn straight! King has a history of writing compelling stories with great dialogue and intriguing characters, but for some reason, he can't finish the job! I don't know why I even bothered seeing Secret Window now that I think about it. Watching his films is like fucking a corpse . sure, playing with the body might be fun at first, but good luck actually getting it off. Okay, so that was a horrible analogy, but the fact remains the same: Watching films based on the written works of Stephen King is nothing more than torture, and ought not to be pursued unless you hate yourself.
Other movies the blew: (films I hated, but not as much as the listed five) Godsend, The Stepford Wives, Hidalgo, I, Robot, The Punisher, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Films Released in 2004 I'm Avoiding on Purpose:
Jersey Girl - Kevin Smith solidified my personal fears and proved he has no soul by first making this movie, and second, trying desperately to pitch the film to his loyal Askew minions, knowing full well it wasn't meant for them. I don't need to see this movie to know it sucks. Whether that's fair on my part or not is inconsequential. The mere fact that now he's running back to the Quik Stop to make a Clerks sequel he once said would never be made, in a vein attempt to redeem himself in the eyes and hearts of the core audience that made him rich in the first place is appalling. Sorry Kev, you sold your soul, no refunds.
The List of Eh: (okay films that I like for one reason or another, but have proven to be relatively insignificant) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Starsky & Hutch, The Butterfly Effect, The Terminal, King Arthur, Along Came Polly, 13 Going on 30, The Alamo, Walking Tall, Blade: Trinity, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Club Dread