Science Fiction + Action = high marks
he word “film” is a term I associate with academia. I show Japanese Films: Ikiru, Woman in the Dune, Seven Samurai, Twenty-four Eyes. I enjoy these films for what they are: Films that inform, stories that engage, ideas that make you think. These are all very good things to do, but it is not what I want when I want to relax.
When I want to relax and be entertained, I watch movies. Films are to movies as academic books are to best selling novels. The difference is like choosing to between Roland Barthes and John Grisham. Barthes discussions on text and the author are stimulating and fun, but I don’t read him to relax on a lazy summer day. Similarly, Teshigahara’s Woman in the Dune–the film version of a novel by Abe Kobo–is an exegesis on the decline of identity in our modern, urban society. Interesting, but not what I’d watch to escape the day to day stress of life. Tim Burton’s Big Fish or Ridley Scott’s Gladiator will do just fine, thank you.
In any event, the list below are most of the movies I’ve seen for the first time in 2005. Over half of the movies are from 2004, but I didn’t see them, for the most part, until they came out on DVD this year. And as we all know, most of the best movies come out in the summer and fall, so they don’t come out on DVD until the next year. I suspect I’ve seen/rented more, but I can’t remember all of them. I figure if I can’t remember, they must not have been very good to begin with. There are a number of Japanese films I’ve also seen, but I will make a separate list for them. I saw most of these movies on DVD. I rarely go out to the movie theater unless I am convinced that the movie needs to be seen on a big screen, like Lord of the Rings for its epic battle scenes, or Star Wars and its images of outer space, or Mr. and Mrs. Smith for… Angelina Jolie. So sue me.
Be that as it may, I just wanted to let you know which movies I liked this year–I certainly didn’t like all of the ones listed. And as the subtitle above suggests, I like science fiction and I like action. Many roll their eyes when they here this, as they see me as a scholar and can’t believe that I would watch “such drivel.” Well, if you ask me, we all need to veg out to relieve the stress of everyday life and watching “drivel”, especially imaginative action-packed drivel, well, I’m all for it.
Except for the the first movie on the list, the rest is in alphabetic order.
|WHAT THE STARS MEAN
***** Great! Must buy the DVD
**** Worth the price of admission
*** Worth the rental fee
** Okay, if you can see it for free
* Don’t waste your time
- War of the Worlds ****1/2 The best movie of the year. I’m not a Scientologist, but this was an incredible movie anyway. Tom Cruise as the selfish father who suddenly finds himself in a situation in which he has to play father protector to the hilt, because if he fails to, his children will die. He fails with one, but succeeds with the other. And this I’m-learning-to-be-a-father gig is set in a science fiction/action film. Is this perfect or what? The first 3o minutes will literally whiz by. I just bought the DVD and I just wanted to see the opening sequence and before I caught myself, an hour had already gone by. This movie is fast paced and exciting. If you didn’t see it at a movie theater, find someone with a 42″ screen and Dolby system, dim the lights and watch it. This is a fun movie. The reason why it missed 5 stars is because the ending–although in step with the original story by H.G. Wells–should have been presented better. The story should have prepared us a bit better for it–who the heck remembers the intro to the movie after all the heart pounding scenes?
- The 40-Year-Old Virgin **1/2 This was funny but rather sophomoric. They were aiming for the it’s-okay-to-be-a-virgin message but it came off rather corny. But if you’re into bathroom humor, this is just for you.
- Alien vs. Predator (2004) *** Action between predators and the aliens they bred for sport. I liked the concept. I wish they had fleshed it out a bit more, but they must have run out of flesh.
- Anchorman (2004) ** I know there are a lot of Will Ferrell fans out there. I guess I just don’t get it.
- Are We There Yet? **1/2 Ice Cube couldn’t be cuter trying to suck up to two kids in an attempt to suck up to their mother.
- Around the World in 80 Days (2004) ** Jackie Chan goes around the world. This was Chip’s choice.
- The Aviator (2004) *** DiCaprio does a fine job portraying a subject that is borderline interesting: the life of Howard Hughes.
- Batman: Begins ****1/2 One of my favorites of the year. The story explains Batman’s start as a superhero who isn’t really super, just well conditioned. In an obvious choice, Ken Watanabe played Batman’s first mentor, because (presumably) since he’s Japanese, he’d be great playing a Tibetan monk who speaks Tibetan–or whatever it is they speak. Go figure.
- Bewitched *1/2 I’m still trying to figure out why I rented this DVD, a rehash of an old TV sitcom. I’m not necessarily a fan of either Nicole Kidman or Will Ferrell. Although the 40 year-old virgin, Steve Carell, was funny as Uncle Arthur. And I did like Steve Lawernces rendition of the title song, “Bewtiched.”
- Birth (2004) ** I must have a masochistic streak in me. Nicole Kidman in another film I have trouble understanding–a woman who meets a boy who insists he is her recently dead husband reborn. I think its her characterization. Or maybe she chooses the wrong films. either way, she pushes all my wrong buttons, just like Julia Roberts
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ** I wasn’t crazy about the original Willie Wonka, so I’m not surprised at my reaction to this movie–about a chocolatier inviting a group of lucky kids to visit his special factory. Ultimately, it’s a moral story of how good kids should behave and what happens to those who don’t. Hmmm… maybe it’s because I wasn’t such a good kid.
- Cellular (2004) ** Guy picks up a call on his cell phone; on the other end is a woman desparately trying to reach anyone for help–she’s been kidnapped. the premise was a bit of a stretch, but it is a movie.
- Christmas with the Kranks ** A moral story of how you should always observe Christmas, and that no matter how bad you neighbors may seem or act, they will always have Christmas spirit. Yeah, right… but Jamie Lee Curtis has some cajones. To wear a bikini with her current body took a LOT of guts for a Hollywood actress, I gotta tell ya.
- Cinderella Man **** This was pretty good boxing movie that really wasn’t a boxing movie. It was more about the love a man has for his wife and family, and the lengths he will go–and the chances he will take–to support them. By most accounts, Russell Crowe can be a jerk in real life, but the man can act.
- Crash **1/2 What happens when a bunch of strangers are tied together by random events? As everyone knows, they all show their ugly racist selves. This movie had good intentions, I think, about showing how racism is more than just white sheets and burning crosses. But I felt like I was being hit on the head. Of course, maybe this movie was supposed to be for those who need to be hit on the head.
- Fantastic Four **1/2 I am legally required to see every movie based on a Marvel comic book character, even though I didn’t really read too many of the books starring a man who can stretch, an invisible girl, a hot headed fire boy and a guy who turned into a pile of rocks. But Jessica Alba was in it…
- Fever Pitch **1/2 If the Bosox had lost last year, this movie would have been rather poignant. But they won and the movie turned into a sappy love story between a man and his baseball team.
- Finding Neverland (2004) *** The best drama of the year for me. It’s the background story of how Peter Pan was written.
- The Forgotten (2004) *** Jullianne Moore is better than Nicole, as she searches for the reason why she can remember her child while everyone and everything around her has no memory of the child. The story has an unexpected–an for me pleasant–plot twist at the end.
- The Grudge (2004) ** American remake of the Japanese flick, Juon. So-so.
- Guess Who *** I thought the Butterfly Effect as an aberration, but I’m starting to think that Ashton Kucher might actually have a smidgeon of acting ability. And Bernie Mac is much better in movies than on TV.
- Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) **1/2 Two Asian Americans spew bathroom humor on their misdirected way to get White Castle hamburgers.
- Hide and Seek ** Weird movie about a girl who sees imaginary friends and a father who goes to extremes to protect her. Personally, I think De Niro should go into semi-retirement and show up only for the really good roles, like Brando did.
- Hitch **1/2 I think Will Smith should retire, too.
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy *1/2 I didn’t even understand this movie.
- Hotel Rwanda (2004) ***1/2 This was a moving flick on the genocide that most Americans seem to ignore, mostly because its in Africa–You’ll recall that ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia aroused the US to intervene, but not when it occurs in Africa. Why is that? This is, of course, a rhetorical question.
- House of the Flying Dagger (2004) *** Engaging kung fu flick.
- Howl’s Moving Castle ** I went to see it at a movie theater to pay homage to Miyazaki, but I had to think to understand it–bad, bad, bad.
- I Heart Huckabee (2004) * I didn’t understand this movie at all. Can someone explain it to me?
- The Incredibles (2004) ** Saturday-morning level Disney animation. These guys are on the verge of losing it to the Japanese.
- The Interpreter ** Nicole Kidman as spy/assassin playing an interpreter at the UN. I had heard good things about this movie, but it turned out like every other Kidman flick… Boring!
- King Arthur (2004) *** Keira Knightly, nuff said.
- Kingdom of Heaven *** I like action. I like fighting. I like swords. The Christian-Arab dichotomy I could do without these days, but it’s about the Crusades so whaddya gonna do about it?
- Kung Fu Hustle (2004) ***1/2 A quirky, funny kung fu flick that incorporates cartoonish effects. It seems like a parody.
- Ladder 49 (2004) *** A close look at the bonds forged between men who risk their lives daily sounded corny, but it turned out to be better than I expected. Jaoquin Phoenix is an actor who consistently haunts me. What is it about him? I haven’t figure him out yet, and this bugs me to no end…
- Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) *1/2 I was really looking forward to seeing this movie about an evil uncle who tries to swindle money left by his brother to his kids. The last unfortunate event was me renting the video…
- The Life Aquatic (2004) ** Bill Murray cracks me up and I enjoy all the other actors (Wilson, Goldblum, Blanchett, DeFoe) in this parody of the life of Jaque Cousteau, but it just came of weird. Maybe I should see it again… when its on TV.
- The Machinist (2004) ***1/2 This was a surprisingly weird and intriguing movie on how the mind can subconsciously mete out justice when the conscious mind will not. Christian Bale was crazy to lose so much weight. He looked skinnier than my dad ever did.
- Madagascar ***1/2 Delightful animation on animals trying to escape home to Africa. I think David Schwimmer has found his niche as a voice actor. Please, Friends was enough…
- March of the Penguins *** Nice documentary about penguins. I like documentaries and I like penguins.
- Million Dollar Baby (2004) ***1/2 Nice boxing flick. Leave it Eastwood to address the controversial topic of assisted death/suicide–very poignant in the year of Terri Schiavo. Is he clairvoyant? Morgan Freeman is his usual great self.
- Mr. 3000 (2004) **1/2 Okay, there’s something about Bernie Mac that just cracks me up. He’s just funny in a very real, very sarcastic way. The baseball angle always helps too…
- Mr. & Mrs. Smith *** (4 stars for AJ) A married couple working as spies for two different organizations, but neither knew what the other was in real life? Preposterous. But the movie was all eye candy for the O-man
- Napoleon Dynamite (2004) * I didn’t get the film at all. I cannot see the humor in a geek who learns to dance like a geek or go out on a date like a geek and who has friends who are geeks… and still ends up semi-cool. I don’t get it. He’s still a geek to me.
- National Treasure (2004) *** More action. The idea that there are millions if not billions in gold hidden away by our forefathers is a ridiculous premise, but fun to watch nonetheless.
- The Notebook (2004) *** A surprisingly touching movie. M noticed that it seemed rather popular for moths at Blockbuster, and wanted to rent it. so we watched a love story between a guy and girl who overcome the difference in their social status. Yes, the land of the free still had social classes pre-WWII.
- The Pacifier *** A special ops officer is ordered to protect the family of a murdered scientist, and ends up being the boot-camp nanny. Vin Diesel being bitten on the ear by a duck made the cost of rental worth it.
- Open Water (2004) ** I thought this would be more riveting but after about thirty minutes of them floating in the water with NOTHING around them except open water, well, it got boring. I’d rather watch Shark Week on the Discovery Channel.
- Polar Express (2004) ** Kid’s tale that M wanted to watch, so I watched Tom Hanks’ voice with her. *yawn*
- Ray (2004) ***1/2 Jamie Foxx is another cat who is obviously more than just a TV comedian. His portrayal of the handicapped and yet un-handicapped Ray Charles was superb.
- Sahara *** And action movie with a simle plot: French corporation dumping toxic waste in Africa and the rep for an American salvaging (probably a symbol for recycling) company somes to the rescue.
- Shark’s Tale (2004) ** M wanted to see a fish that looked like Will Smith. I must admit that he might look better as a fish. And again, I reiterate: DeNiro should consider semi-retirement. Working just to work does not suit him. Still, I enjoyed this more than Open Water.
- Shall We Dance (2004) **1/2 This actually turned out better than I thought. I really enjoyed the original Japanese, but they gave it a few American twists and made it worth watching. Besides, Jennifer Lopez is enough eye-candy to keep me interested.
- Sideways (2004) ***1/2 A funny story of two men’s different versions of what love means, set in the wine country in California. I should have had a bottle of Cabernet as I watched it.
- Sin City **1/2 I think I should see this again. I already saw it twice. I get the feeling I’ll like it even more. the black and white imagery and the comic book characters actually made it interesting, albeit hard to follow at first…
- Star Wars: Episode III **1/2 I still say the original Star Wars were the better, even if they had less CG savvy back then.
- Steamboy *1/2 I find it boring when a Japanese animator tells a story based in England.
- Suspect Zero (2004) **1/2 Ben Kinglsey can be pretty versatile, and I think I’ve finally gotten rid of his Gandhi image. But here, he is not so convincing as a “former” government agent forced to use remote viewing to solve crimes.
- Troy (2004) *** I like epic movies and Troy fit the bill, even though I am not a particular fan of Brad Pitt. Eric Bana’s Hector more than made up for anything Pitt could have take away from the movie. Orlando bloom was perfectly cast as Paris.
- The Village (2004) **1/2 I think they should take away M. Night Shyamalan title of director of the the unexpected. After “The Sixth Sense” and “Unbreakable”, “Signs” was marginally interesting. But “The Village”, although the ending was different, it wasn’t all that enthralling. Watch it on TV.
- xXx: State of the Union *** I like action. I like Ice Cube. I like Samuel Jackson. I think Vin Diesal lew it when he didn’t sign up for this one. But then, Vin Diesal would have looked stupid hanging with his homies in southeast DC.
- Zatoichi (2003) *** This is Beat Takeshi’s stab at the story of the Blind Swordsman. I think his interpretation was rather dark–Ichi seemed more willing to kill than the old Zato Ichi played by Katsu Shintaro, who is always trying to help the less fortunate, although ironically they are always more fortunate than he. This has both good and bad points, but you should watch it anyway, if only for the final dance number. Yes, “dance number”!
Okay, did you actually read the entire list? Hahaha, J/K. I’ll get back to grading…