Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Best Films of 2005

10. The Aviator - Alright, technically this film should fall under last year’s category, as it opened in limited release in December 2004. However, I was unable to see the film until it went into wide release in January 2005. In any event, The Aviator is unquestionably director Martin Scorsese’s best work in recent memory, far superior to his last project, Gangs of New York, which I absolutely loathed. The acting was superb, the picture’s visual style was nothing short of stunning (the picture quality was the same as the motion pictures of the time period in which the film is focused on at that particular moment), and its story is brilliantly and emotionally poignant. This honestly should have been the film to have taken home the Best Picture Oscar this past February.

9. Wedding Crashers - Sure, I have actually gotten around to writing the review for this film (if you haven’t noticed, thanks to school, work, and a developing personal life, I’ve been kind of backed up here), but I can sure as Hell comment on it a bit. Wedding Crashers was hilarious. At long last an original concept for a raunchy comedy. Wilson and Vaughn are perfect together and Rachael McAdams is adorable.

8. King Kong - Yes, the latest adaptation of King Kong is not performing at quite the level that everyone, particularly Universal executives, thought it would. The media is partially to blame for this. I mean, who was the moron who started the idea that King Kong would be the new Titanic in terms of box office returns? He/she should be slapped. Also, incredibly high expectations for Peter Jackson’s follow-up project, whatever it may have been, following the highly successful Lord of the Rings trilogy would also have been a contribution. The action and the computer-generated special effects, while not perfect, are top-notch and truly make-up the picture.

7. Sideways - Yes, another film from 2004 but, again, I was unable to see it until January 2005, in the time leading up to the Academy Awards, so cut me some slack here. This went far beyond what I expected. Not always tasteful humor, but it did the job. Sideways is the reason why I am a fan of Paul Giamatti (his performance in Cinderella Man was the clincher) and why I am looking more forward to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Lady in the Water this summer then before.

6. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - It’s the Chronic (what?!) –cles of Narnia! Sorry, but I just had to throw that in. Sure, it’s Disney’s way of capitalizing on the Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy craze (I wonder how after one billion dollars world-wide Michael Eisner feels about having let this slip throw his claw-like fingers), but it works brilliantly. Furthermore, the New Testament allusions as written in C.S. Lewis’ classic children’s novel remain intact in the feature film adaptation and for that I am extremely proud of both Andrew Adamson, the director, and the Walt Disney Company who to say the least has not had a friendly relationship with the Catholic community.

5. War of the Worlds - Boy, did Tom Cruise ever pick a more terrible time in which to go psycho or what? True, the Spielberg picture did manage to go on and collect over two-hundred million dollars at the domestic box office alone, critics however were far from kind to this science-fiction drama and Cruise’s erratic behavior, particularly his discussion of Scientology on the TODAY show with Matt Lauer, may have had an effect on their perception of the film. Regardless of Cruise’s couch jumping antics or his cult, War of the Worlds is a touching film about how far a man is willing to go to protect his family. Director Steven Spielberg alone should be commended for putting this whole picture together in less then eight months.

4. Serenity - It is honestly tragic to see one of the most innovative and original science-fiction motion picture events this year fail to attract an audience at the domestic box office while less worthy pictures such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose thrived. The dialogue is especially crisp and brilliantly crafted by director Joss Whedon, the acting is well done, and the special effects are superb. If you haven't seen this film yet, rent tonight and you won't be sorry.

3. Cinderella Man - The move from its prime Oscar bait release date in December 2004 to June 2005 likely hurt both its box office potential and its chances at Oscar gold. This is a shame because director Ron Howard creates a truly stunning and an emotionally haunting boxing drama that would have given any Best Picture contenders a run for their money. Again, Paul Giamatti is brilliant in this film.

2. Batman Begins - The Dark Knight returns! In light of the Joel Schumacher debacles of a short time ago (those neon monstrosities), I honestly never imagined that the Batman film franchise would return with such brilliance and wit as it did this past summer. Never for a moment. It just goes to show you that if you wait long enough for the right director, the picture-perfect script, and the most suited performers to come along, it will be alright. Superman Returns has a lot to live up to following this film, but I trust Bryan Singer will do the franchise justice and more.

1. The Island - Poor Michael Bay. You really have to feel sorry for the guy. Here is his first motion picture without producer Jerry Bruckheimer (the man who essentially started his film-making career) and one that is quite opposite from his usual minless action-packed entertainment formula he has followed for all of his past projects and no one goes to see it. Dreamworks may be partially to blame for not promoting the picture properly, but pointing fingers isn't going to anybody good now. Everything about this picture was top-notch - the acting, the special effects, the script, etc. More importantly however is that The Island covered a wide variety of serious topics, among them the moral implications of stem-cell research and human cloning. Brilliant from beginning to end.

Honorable Mentions - Sin City, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith