The best and worst of 2005
December 14, 2005
Though we didn’t see every movie of 2005, here’s a roundup of the best and worst movies I’ve reviewed this year Overall worstBY KIMBERLY NICOLETTIsummit daily newsThe list of ludicrous scenes in “Transporter 2” starts with a blonde whose heels are as spiked as her personality. She obviously learned to shoot guns from those violence-infused-with-sex-object video games, because she can only blast away when she’s dressed in a black lacy bra and panties, or the equivalent. Even her boyfriend has to tell her to “Get dressed.” Then there are the ridiculous chase scenes and props that help the hero do his job: A truck allows him to quickly scale from street level to the top of a bridge. A fire hose wraps up bad guys. A jet ski launches him from the water to the back of a school bus driving down the street. All this, and an ordinary plot to boot.
Overall best”Crash” shows several groups imprisoned by racism in one form or another. Each form has one common denominator: fear. No matter who stands out for you – whether it’s the Korean man who sells his humanity; the young black men who have a great conversation at the beginning of the movie and play a prominent role throughout; the white woman whose house is big but whose life is empty; the Los Angeles police officers caught in their own struggles with good and bad; or the Mexican locksmith who questions his method of making his little girl feel safe – “Crash” hits hard. Just when you start feeling sympathetic for one character, he turns on you. When you hate another character, he shows his caring side. As the white racist cop says, “You think you know who you are. You have no idea.”Best and worst retreadAfter a summer of record-breaking box office slumps – that I’d argue were due mostly to remakes and sequels – “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” came up with the golden ticket. The updated version of 1971’s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” blends Goth and fantasy into a freakishly fun take on Roald Dahl’s book. And who can’t help but love new millennium Oompa Loompas, who trade in robotic deep knee bends and bouncy warnings for a Devo-meets-MTV flair. This year’s Wonka is a little darker than Gene Wilder’s friendly mystery, which leaves an uncomfortable after taste, especially since an eerie Michael Jackson vibe sneaks into Johnny Depp’s portrayal. But the psychological layers give it a nice flavor.The tagline of “Bewitched” is: “Be warned. Be ready.” But its message stops prematurely. It should read: “Be warned that this is a bad movie, and be ready to waste money seeing it.” It seems producers relied on millions of people wanting to revel in childhood memories of Samantha casting television viewers under her spell. So they didn’t bother creating a powerful spell of their own. Instead, they spent big bucks on enchanting actors, such as Nicole Kidman. But every good witch knows you need all of the right ingredients for a brew, and “Bewitched” doesn’t have them.
Biggest disappointmentI was excited to take the lazy person’s road into “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” cult by way of watching it unfold on the big screen. So I stuck my thumb out, hoping to catch the ultimate ride. But in the end, all I could do was give it a thumbs down. Sure, the singing dolphins and bureaucratic Vogons made me chuckle, and the Guide delivers philosophical gems along the way. But as Marvin, the depressed robot, says: “This will all end in tears” – tears of boredom.” Most frustratingI toiled for about a half-hour to figure out what the hell “Stay” is about. The movie tries to be an artistic thriller, but it’s so full of lofty ideas, it leaves most viewers behind. It creates an unsettling tension, and an hour into the movie all I could think was, “The ending better make this all worth it.” “Stay” is the type of movie where the conclusion makes or breaks it, and in this case, “Stay” remains broken.Best psychological thriller
“The Exorcism of Emily Rose” is based on the experiences of a German woman, Anneliese Michel, who was born in 1952. At age 16, she began shaking uncontrollably and seeing demons. Doctors diagnosed her with grand mal epilepsy and psychosis. But her devoutly Catholic family believed demons had possessed her, and eventually a priest performed an exorcism. Through a series of flashbacks interspersed with a courtroom drama, the movie presents arguments for both a psychological and spiritual cause of the girl’s suffering. It possesses audiences with thoughtful reflection long after the last reel.FunniestWith a name like “The 40-year-old Virgin,” a movie could go either way: It could score, or it could strike out. The film scores. (I won’t tell you what happens to Andy, the 40-year-old virgin.) The novelty of the story goes well beyond that of a 40-year-old virgin who fills his free time collecting action figures and playing video games. Each character subtly breaks his or her stereotypical mold to create a fully fleshed-out human being, complete with faults and good intentions. When Andy’s coworkers find out he’s a virgin, they aim to “cure” him. The film skillfully merges the best of all the great movies that revolve around sex, dating and coming of age; the characters have heart, the bodily gross-out jokes are funny and the ending spoof on “Hair” actually works.Most intense”Hotel Rwanda,” like “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Schindler’s List,” falls into the category of movies that aren’t pleasant but are necessary to watch. It tells the story of Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), a hotel manager who saved 1,200 people from massacre by housing them. More than a million people died in 1994, when members of the Hutu tribe killed members of the Tutsi tribe in what they believed to be retribution. This is a film you can’t check out of.”Million Dollar Baby” doesn’t take cheap shots. And in the end, it’s worth every ounce of emotion you spend watching it. Maggie (Hilary Swank), a scrappy, trailer-trash waitress bent on pursuing her dream to fight, demands that Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) train her to box. At this point, the movie could turn into a new millennium, power-to-women “Rocky,” but it packs a more powerful punch. Eastwood, as “Coach,” reminds Maggie to breathe as she’s boxing. But more importantly, as director he allows the story itself to breathe, giving all of the characters enough space to inhale, exhale and fully develop their personalities. Then he hits the audience hard. He sidesteps easy answers to life-and-death questions, while at the same time ducking overwrought sentimentality.