War of the Worlds - even as a Spielberg fanboy I couldn't overlook the fact that the movie slowly disintigrates in quality after the initial panic scenes. Some terriffic moments, no doubt, but just not a fully-satisfying blockbuster movie.
Batman Begins - again, a movie I so wanted to see done right, it also falls apart by the end as it abrubtly switches from being a (relatively) realistic retelling of Batman's origin to nonsensical Saturday morning cartoon stuff.
Star Wars III - Lucas finally makes a truly awful movie. Even if you accept that the series is just big-budget fluffy fun, this was the worst-made of the bunch. Tedious, boring, uninteresting, unexciting. The only thing I felt at the end was "Thank God that's finally over."
Serenity - yet again, being a Firefly/Buffy fanboy couldn't override the feeling that the movie was really substandard Joss Whedon. Watching it again on video made me realize how many scenes just didn't seem to work or feel genuine. Fan appeasement does not a great movie make.
Sin City - possibly the best of the big-budget fare that I saw. Still, it was a self-indulgent comic-art-film experiment, but not entirely successful in the sense of being a great movie. In the end I feel the trailer was more successful than the movie. At least I respect the effort.
A History of Violence - The Emperor's New Clothes movie of the year. People that saw "art" in this were completely hoodwinked. What an awkward, amateurish piece of filmmaking. Yuck.
King Kong - Peter Jackson is ruining cinema for me. He's now put out four, 3-hour epic snoozefests that for some reason I always wind up getting dragged out to see. Why? Because you have to see them. You know, you want to go to see a movie with some friends and they're like "Oh, let's see King Kong! We gotta see that on the big screen!" or "Oh, let's see Lord of the Rings #N, got to see that on the big screen!"
In general, the thing that pissed me off the most about this year in movies is a trend in effects: flawlessly-rendered but entirely unbelievable physics. King Kong wins the award for this, both with the stupid-looking brontosaurus stampede and the comically ridiculous t-rex-swinging-in-the-vines scene.
I remember the first time I noticed this while watching a movie. It was True Lies, that James Cameron/Schwarzeneggar spy flick. At some point, Arnie jumps out on to some VTOL plane and is crawling around on it, trying to... whatever. But I remember thinking "wow, this looks totally real, but also competely unbelievable." Also guilty in recent years are the Star Wars flicks: The lightsaber battle at the end of III, with them hopping like bunnies around the lava pit (come on, if they can do that, they can do anything. "High ground" isn't gonna matter in the least.) Also in Attack of the Clones - that guided missile chasing Obi-Wan's ship through a dense asteroid field looked like a simplistic, computer-plotted animation played at high speed.
There's no tension in these scenes. Ultimately I'm just left waiting for the sequence to end (the end result of which, in all cases, is never really in any doubt.)
Ironically, the best Hollywood blockbuster style movies I saw were demolished by reviewers:
Fantastic Four - there's a reason that all the copies of that video are always rented when I visit the shop. It's because the movie was actually entertaining.
Stealth - just so much more entertaining than it should have been. Yes, dumb movie, but at least it's not pretending to be an epic masterpiece.
The Island - like Stealth and F.F., lowered expectations did wonders for this movie. All three succeed in not being boring and holding my interest to the end, however lightweight they may be.
Otherwise, I was reduced to renting foreign films. In general, I'm actually a big fan of blockbusters - action, sci-fi, horror or what not. But this year in desperation I was forced to turn elsewhere for cinematic satisfaction. So as it turned out, Head On, Who Killed Bambi and Spy Bound were the best movies I saw last year.
Best viewing experience award of 2005 goes to Oz, seasons 1 and 2. Unfortunately they were made in the 1990s.
Movies I missed but might otherwise have gone to see in a theatre and put on a best-of 2005 list were it not for Peter Jackson, George Lucas et al: Munich, Hustle & Flow and The 40 Year Old Virgin.
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