Sunday, December 11, 2005

OK, so the year isn't over yet, and I still want to see (in no particular order) The Producers and Casanova before the year ends, but here is my end-of-year movie recap. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I go through all the movies that I've seen this year which includes a long list of crapola, but I managed to see many films that I came away positive about. I can imagine disagreement possibly arising from some of my picks, but oh well.


Jarhead - Told in a 'Platoon'-esque fashion but with far less going on and with very little plot and not much to keep you from falling asleep. The portrait of the Marines as a bunch of psychotic, aimless, and masochistic weirdos certainly did not help this movie along. In the end the movie is really about nothing, the marine it focuses on literally does nothing during the whole Gulf War. A movie about Richard Nixon in World War II would be a lot more interesting (all he did was play poker in Hawaii essentially and then the war ended).

Transporter 2 - Please don't ask why I saw this movie, it's a dumb story involving a Swedish guy. The movie is a mess from beginning to end, the only positive thing I can say is that it made me laugh. I can't believe it was a number 1 movie in the country for a while. Sad.

Broken Flowers - Quite possibly one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Bill Murray has never burned me before like this, and man was it a burn. This movie was supposed to be a funny trip with a rich bachelor who searches out a mystery mother of a mystery son but it doesn't provide many interesting moments, save for an awkward cameo by Jessica Langue. The movie has no resolution whatsoever, and I'm not kidding. It just ends for no reason in the middle of his quest.

Munich - With a subject that could provide an ultimately inspiring, not to mention action-packed, historical epic Steven Spielberg has instead delivered a morally equivocal and at sometimes very odd picture. With a degree of obfuscation and confusion that he easily avoided on other historical movies, i.e. Schindler's List and Amistad, Spielberg has attempted to "give voice" to the very terrorists who are the instigators of the movie's catalyst event, the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. While engaged in that dubious task he has needlessly and ahistorically introduced doubt in the minds of the some of the men responsible for carrying out justice. And on top of all that he decided gratuitously to show dramatizations of the Munich massacre in the middle of sex scenes. This picture is a mess in many ways and will ultimately rank near the bottom of the acclaimed director's efforts.

The Ugly Disappointments

Derailed - A rather disturbing movie about a guy who almost cheats on his wife and ends up getting blackmailed. The way in which this blackmail scheme unfolds in the disturbing part, the only save is that the guy finally figures it out and amazingly gets revenge in a totally ass-backwards way before doing it conivingly. Overall this picture had some potential, but was disappointing and nothing to recommend unless you get really really bored one night.

Kingdom of Heaven - Here was a movie I was excited about, Second Crusade meets Hollywood. Why was I excited again? Despite some great performances, like the Syrian actor who played Saladin and some good yeoman work from Liam Neeson and Jeremy Irons, this movie falls short possibly because of the subject matter. There is nothing really heroic or romantic about the crusades, in fact, quite the opposite is true. Disappointing movie, but has more to do with the subject matter I think.

Lord of War - A movie about an amoral arms dealer who travels throughout the world arming despots and warlords, eventually has the obligatory dream girl and cocaine addiction, until finally he gets his brother killed on a deal. Of course he's an incurable reprobate and continues in his illegal dealings. The movie, which starred Nicholas Cage, had some moments that were either funny, sad, poignant, or moving, but overall the movie was a disappointment. The message was, if anything, that guns and ammo were the problem and not the despicable and amoral men using them (who would and have use anything, including machetes, to do their dirty work). Disappointing theme to say the least, but it was a movie about an illegal arms dealer.

The Brothers Grimm - A movie with potential, Sleepy Hollow type potential. The Grimm Brothers are two con-artists, using folklore to scare up business for their "services." Which works well until they actually run into an enchanted forest. The jokes about their book and the tied in fairy tales were funny, but the movie was ultimately disappointing because you really stopped caring after a while. I don't know if it was just boring or because the plot was too convoluted or what, but I was disappointed.

Hostage - Couple of punks take over a rich guy's house and are cornered by the cops, creating a hostage situation. Bruce Willis is a former hostage negotiator from the big city, turned small town police chief after a negotiation goes wrong. Sounds almost like a perfect Bruce Willis plot right? So what the hell happened? Not only in this movie disappointing, but it's terrifically awful. The punks kill each other because one of them is a true lunatic, the rich guy turns out to be a bad guy (of course), and Willis is as ineffectual a hero as I've ever seen him in an action movie. Really disappointing.

The Legend of Zorro - Could have been good, considering the first movie was pretty good and the leading man and woman (Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones) are good together, and yet this movie disappoints on almost every level. From the amazing acrobatics of their annoying little kid, to the crazy plot by a bunch of global nutjobs to foment the civil war a decade too early by equipping nascent Confederates with nitro-glyceron, to Zorro's acting horse and his little theatrics. Don't see this movie if you prefer any fond memories you may have of the first one not being sullied.

Be Cool - A sequel to Get Shorty with Vince Vaughan, The Rock, Cedric the Entertainer, should have been good. But now, instead of Loan Sharking, Chilly Palmer is in the music and movie business. And his music talent stinks, big time, though in the film I guess she's supposed to be good. Funny moments throughout the film cannot save it from being disappointing.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - Having played Aslan in a high school production of this story, and reading the book during my time at a British academy in Saudi Arabia I felt an obligation to go see the movie. It wasn't terrible, but it's also nothing special. By the way, how can I compete with CGI Aslan and the voice of Liam Neeson?

The Good

King Kong - This film was going to make it into the good almost on special effects alone, but I found it generally enjoyable. On the negative side is the romanticizing of the giant gorilla and the demonizing of man in taming the wilderness. I didn't feel sorry for Kong, but the intent of the filmmaker is unmistakable.

Sahara - A decent action film, but it drops the best parts of the Clive Cussler novel upon which it is based.

Doom - Corny at times and certainly not for those who cannot stand blood in movies, but I enjoyed the recreation of a game I certainly had countless hours of fun playing.

Fantastic Four - Certainly a weaker addition among the new comic book movies, on the level with Hulk, but entertaining and aside from Jessica Alba's crappy acting, the other Fantastic Four members are pretty good.

George A. Romero's Land of the Dead - Ok, so if you're not into zombie movies I can understand the expression on your face. If you do like a good zombie movie every now and then, this film will satisfy you in many ways. I did not like the ending when a great opportunity for some zombie-killing explosive mayhem was passed up for some dumb koom-ba-yah zombies and humans living together in peace message by Romero got into the film somehow. Other than that, about as entertaining and disgusting as a zombie movie can be, with all typical zombie movie staples (guy gets bit and hides it, etc.)

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith - Generally an entertaining movie with great special effects and a good story line. For some reason Lucas could not resist making the last installment of his space opera with shallow of patently obvious references to modern American politics. Aside from that, this is an enjoyable movie.

Wedding Crashers - A very funny movie. If you like Vince Vaughan, you will love this movie.

Just Friends - Good movie with a good ending. Ryan Reynolds is getting better, though he should worry about type-casting.

40 Year Old Virgin - This movie is hilarious, the title tells you all you need to know about what kinds of jokes are in it and what the general plot is, i.e. to make sure he doesn't become a 41 year old virgin.

Walk the Line - The Johnny Cash biopic is probably the last thing I was expecting to see, for while I like many of Cash's songs I've always found him as a person rather distasteful. I can't say my opinion on the person was in any way altered by this picture other than being glad he got over his nasty drug problem. The acting in the movie, especially by leading man Joaquin Phoenix, is very good. I especially liked the cameos made by other famous Sun Records alumni like Carl Perkins, Elvis, and Jerry Lee Lewis (where was Roy Orbison?). One line from that part of Cash's career was particularly funny. In his first drug use he's given the great line, "Elvis takes them." Who can argue with that? (Seemingly anyone except, of course, Cash)

Hitch - I was surprised by this movie, Will Smith really does a great job in this movie. Basically about a "date doctor" with ethics who helps guys gain confidence in their approach with their dream girls. Of course the film is built around his own courting of a no-nonsense gossip columnist and his helping Kevin James (The King of Queens) to court an heiress. Ends predictably, but still fun getting there.

The Great Raid - A World War II film depicting the freeing of US POW's from a camp as the Japanese retreat on the Philippines and begin killing POW's as part of their official policy. A good movie about an important episode in the war.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - As someone who has read all of the books by Douglas Adams it was predicatable that I would see this movie, what wasn't predictable was whether I would like it. The last two or three books aren't anywhere near as good as the first two. This movie does a good job condensing everything from all the books into a (as coherent as it could possibly be) whole while cutting some elements out, such as Arthur discovering the secret of flight (which is be distracted by something else right before you hit the ground).

Serenity - A continuation of the cancelled Fox Tv Show "Firefly" this movie picks up right where the show left off and follows the journey of the Serenity to its conclusion. Enjoyable even if some of the sci-fi/fantasy elements are a little fantastic. But anyone familiar with Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) knows that these elements are there for entertainment, the real point of his works is the interactions between the characters.

Batman Begins - As a gigantic fan of the first Batman movie with Michael Keaton I was skepitcal about this movie, but as someone who disliked the movies that came after the first Keaton film, I was also excited. This movie doesn't disappoint as it begins before the Keaton film with Bruce Wayne's beginnings as the caped crusader. Plot twist that I won't give away is good, though predictable for the simple reason that Hollywood never eliminates huge stars in the first half hour (usually). Great film.

and now the best of 2005 ..... so far

Pride and Prejudice - Obviously based on the Jane Austen novel about the Bennett family, namely the marrying off of the numerous daughters of that family. The adaptation of this book is fantastic, carrying all the joyful sense of life of the book (if you read Jane Austen then you know her books tend to be based around a comedy of errors until ending in the long-awaited realization and subsequent happiness of the protagonists). Rather than walking away disappointed or merely happy, I came away awash in joy after this movie ended. Definitely the best movie I have seen this year.


Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Ammanuel form, and I wanted to formally introduce myself. Hi!

Sarah Beth said...

"Munich" is awesome. "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe" not so much. I don't think the special effects even qualify it for a must see in the theater, and there's nothing in it to make it appealing to adults. I remember the series from child hood, and it really didn't do justice to my memories.