Every movie I saw in 2004
Last year I accidentally started a tradition which has since been echoed: reviewing and ranking all the films I saw in the calendar year. Like last year, I plan to issue a late revision in April, after the movies I missed – and there were lots – hit DVD. The lack of The Incredibles, Sideways, Overnight, Kinsey, and the Aviator, all of which I narrowly missed a few chances to see, will haunt this list til then. Then again, I didn’t see Finding Nemo til summer ’04.
Without furthur ado …
To paraphrase General Ludendorff, the effects wizards of Van Helsing were lions led by donkeys. Make that ‘a’ donkey – Stephen Sommers. He was handed a terrific cast, who’d carved excellent performances out of genre films (Moulin Rouge, The Return of the King, X-Men) and put them through a silly, incoherent and dull maze of a movie. However, it IS fun to explain this movie’s plot to other people. “Dracula wants to electrically animate his human-bat children, but warewolf blood won’t do it, so he needs Frankenstein blood.”
32.)Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed
Bad for many of the same reasons as Van Helsing, but I expect less of Freddie Prinze Jr.
So much potential wasted, again! Thomas Jane clearly has the chops to play a perfect Frank Castle, and the supporting cast is terrific. But the filmmakers cribbed their plot from Garth Ennis’s silly version of the comic, and it plays absolutely terrible onscreen.
Stop the bandwagon, I want to get off. Like its predecessor, this is a mostly witless, derivative grabbag of pop culture gags and single entrendres. The only plot points you can’t see from miles away are the ones that make no sense – like the deadly, built-up Puss in Boots switches teams to the good guys for no reason. A poor excuse for a kid’s movie.
29.)Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
This, however, is a good kid’s movie – close to great. Unfortunately, it was meant for grown-ups. Pretty to look at, but way too airy to become a real action movie or clever retro-kitsch.
28.)Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
A semi-decent kid’s movie, pretty much ruined by the pointless obviousness of the final act. Just when you’ve figured out the ending, a plot contrivance makes you watch the less 10 minutes unfold all over again.
A real low for the Coens – it’s so overburdened with their tricks that it actually takes on gravity and slows down. Some funny moments partially save a lousy story.
Surprisingly good Will Smith vehicle with one or two ideas and some sweet action. Not much else.
Not really a movie as much as a grab-bag of ironic gags. Unfortunately, only around half of the gags hit. Did anyone laugh at the “Afternoon Delite” singalong? Didn’t think so. But I did laugh at “Mmmmm, milady, I’m storming your castle on my steed!”
It could have been much better. The documentary techniques are muffled by the dramatic pacing of the film, and a normal movie soundtrack. But there are some geniune moments of terror.
23.)Starsky and Hutch
See #24. Any movie with a Vince Vaughn appearence is in its own weird genre.
Absolutely laughable production values drag down a pretty good documentary, with points that are hard to dispute. Honestly, you hear Rupert Murdoch claim that Fox News is fair and balanced because – wait for it – they employ Alan Colmes.
21.)13 Going on 30
One of the year’s big surprises, a usually witty and bright comedy with some amazing acting from Jennifer Garner. This moves into the top 10 if you have a girlfriend to see it with.
20.)The Chronicles of Riddick
The most underrated movie of the year – a remake of Conan the Barbarian set in a beautiful sci-fi spacescape. Shitty writing, yes, but some of the best action and plotting of any adventure this year.
Kevin Smith’s worst movie should have been his break-out hit anyway. Only the insanely contrived ending drags it out of the top 12.
The bankrolling and release of this movie, based on a fairly obscure (for the mainstream) comic, is weirder than anything in it. Basically, it’s a funny and thrilling action movie with some predictable twists and lacking inspiration. Also, a lousy ending.
17.)I Heart Huckabees
Surprisingly funny in parts – Mark Wahlberg gives a career-best performance. But a little substance-free for a philosophy movie. And Jude Law is terrible.
16.)Super Size Me
Flawed but funny, and important – hey, McDonalds DID get rid of super-sizing last year. Morgan Spurlock has a bright future.
15.)The Motorcycle Diaries
One of the laziest movies of the year – mostly in a good Herzog-esque way, but still, lazy. Not exciting, but probably the best movie one could make from Guevara’s book.
Before being dragged down by its everyone’s-a-winner ending, this is a hilarious and probing high school movie – the best mainstream movie of that stripe since the mid-80s. But the ending is just too chirpy.
The best of this year’s crop of Vince Vaughn comedies – the most consistent laughs and least predictable plot.
12.)Kill Bill Vol. 2
About 70% as fun as the first – which is damn fun – but a little too drunk on its bootleg Hong Kong morals for my liking. And I still say the scene with the Mexican Hugh Hefner was overkill.
11.)Mayor of the Sunset Strip
Messy and mesmerizing documentary about the tiny, shy, weird actor/DJ who somehow became the kind of Los Angeles rock without playing an instrument (or making any money).
I saw it before the hype wave reached its full swell, which doubtlessly improved my enjoyment. But I don’t see how anyone could really hate this movie. It’s like the blue alien robots from the end of “A.I.” discovered a burnt reel of an 80s high school movie and tried to replicate it with their awesome technology.
9.)Dawn of the Dead
A stunningly great opening act – on its own, probably the best horror since “The Silence of the Lambs” – overcome a lot of little limitations. I could have done with more-rounded characters, or more social commentary a la the orginal film. But the things that work, like the ammo shop owner and the trip down to the mall’s basement, work like gangbusters.
8.)The Passion of the Christ
Probably nothing can replicate the feeling of seeing this in a packed theatre the first weekend. When several hundred Catholics are crying and chopping up breaths in sync, this is an awesomely powerful event. Without them … it’s still really good.
The best part of this decade, for my money, is the decision of Hollywood to buy up Asian movies and show them in our theatres. My god, if this is only a GOOD Chinese kung fu movie, what have we been missing?
There’s a scene in this movie that I never hear anyone talk about – around 5 minutes spent with a part-time Oregon cop who patrols a few hundred miles of coastline. Now, is the cop’s story true? Does Moore actually care about the issue? Can you actually call this a security hole and blame it on Bush?
5.)Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
4.)Shaun of the Dead
3.)Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
1.)Team America: World Police