Top Ten – 2004 Films

#1
Spider-Man 2

Story: Peter Parker’s having a rough time. His double life as the superhero Spider-Man is having a devastating impact on his civilian life. Things are so bad he declares that he’s quitting, and never putting on the suit again. However, his sense of duty forces him to become a hero again when the brilliant scientist Dr. Otto Octavius is deformed in an accident and becomes Dr. Octopus. With four metal tentacles sticking out of his back, he’ll prove to be a more than worthy opponent for Spider-Man.

Review: The’™ biggie’™ of the year falls short of perfection. While Sam Raimi raises the bar and puts together a near perfect film, Kirsten actually makes herself undesirable in this film and knocks the film down. So basically take the first film and add a real dynamic villain (Doc Ock is a better villain than Goblin’¦but Defoe’s ‘˜non-villain’™ scenes were better than Molina’s) and up the emotional toll by the now ‘˜comfortable in the role’™ Maguire, and you defiantly have a step up. But by the end of the movie you feel there were a few steps that could have gone further. The slow parts were too slow’¦and the fast parts were too fast. Both of my theater partners nearly fell asleep’¦why’¦cause the emotional growth was on slow parts (and there were a lot) and the action seemed a bit’¦. un-emotional. No goose bumps’¦no cheering. The effects were the same ‘˜top notch’™ of the first one’¦but nothing new (except Doc Ock’s arms’¦but I saw that in the low budget ‘˜Anaconda’™ and dismal ‘˜Red Panet’™) No Spider sense, no dynamic Slo-Mo’¦everything ran full speed. I have to admit, for some reason I almost cried at the end of the train sequence’¦but that was mostly the great music and the pride in the REAL Americans on that train. Any who’¦Sam’¦keep this franchise alive’¦keep moving forward and don’t look back’¦Dunst needs to go’¦You have already beaten the DC side by making the sequel even better than the OG. As far as perfection’¦.I think the genre you have chosen may keep you out of it’¦but a bunch of 4’s and above, make this the best serials to date. Is it, as Ebert the puts it,’™ The best superhero movie’™?’¦well maybe. so far’¦but just like when X-men took over the comic scene in the 80’s’¦.The X-men series can be Best Comic Book Movies (that trumps ‘˜Best superhero’™)

#2
The Butterfly Effect

Story: Evan Treborn grows up in a small town with his single working mom and his friends. He suffers from memory blackouts where he suddenly finds himself somewhere else, confused. Evans friends and mom hardly believes him, thinking he makes it up just to get out of trouble. And it does seem to always happen something bad during these blackouts. Something that makes his friends depressed and violent. As Evan grows up he has less of these blackouts until he seems to have recovered. Since age of seven he has written a diary of his blackout moments as a kind of therapy. One day at college he starts to read one of his old diaries, and suddenly a flashback hits him like a brick! It appears his brain has finally released some of his lost memories. But to relive old memories can have dramatic consequences as he is about to find out…

Review: The writing team that wrote Final Destination 2 seemed to come right from the same mold as the X-Files’™ Morgan/Wong combo, who did the first one film. So when they got to direct their own movie, I was expecting good X-files style in a solid intricate story. The trailer looked and sounded good, and it would seem that they did it. Then the first 6 reviews I read, some by true film geeks as myself, ripped the film any which way they could. So I went in expecting a sub-par attempt. What I got was a true R-rated X-files quality story in tight little thriller. ‘“SPOILER- It’s a story of a boy that has blackouts usually surrounding a tragic event’¦in many cases missing the event all together. And we are talking tragic stuff, his dog burned alive by a bully, a prank gone wrong killing an infant and mother and sexual abuse at the age of 10. And just like the films of M.Night Shaymalan not a single frame of the film is wasted, as they all become a puzzle piece to what happens later in his life. At the age 21 he figures out, by mistake, that by reading his journals, he could go back to the blackout and even change what happens. But each time he changes something to make someone’s life better, something else suffers horribly. Also each time he comes back he is flooded with all the new memories he causing brain hemorrhaging. Can he create and find a happy ending? Will his dead father have insight? Will he be raped in prison? Ashton does a great job, but everyone else is just window dressing. It is better that all the critics say, but it is not a chick flick unless your Goth.

#3
Kill Bill Vol. 2

Story: There were five on her list. Now it’s three. O-Ren Ishii and Vernita Green were the first to fall, now The Bride (Uma Thurman) is out to finish the job by killing Elle Driver, Budd, and last of all, Bill (David Carradine). If the final three aren’t afraid now, they better start, because she’s coming for them. However, something has thrown off her plans a bit. Her daughter (whom she was pregnant with as she was getting married) is still alive. What affect this will have on her quest for vengeance is unclear, but the question is, will The Bride have actually succeeded in completing her ultimate goal, to kill Bill?

Review: Stupendous, Colossal, Amazing’¦.and it’s good too. Daffy duck aside KB2 supplies the much-needed closure to The Bride saga. This film seems more of a journey than a revenge flick’¦twice the dialog…half the action. And there lies the problem. Although the first film could use a bit of trim this film needs a buzz cut. What was on the screen was wonderful, but the whole time I couldn’t help myself in thinking this film would be a 5 of 5 if they combined the two and took out an hour. Bud’s scenes were too long and I while I love Michael Madsen his scenes crawled like a snail. The fight to watch was between Elle and the bride ‘œkiddo’. A knock down, drag out fight that goes down as the best girl on girl action ever filmed, including that whole Seka/Nina Hartley thing, and probably the best climax to a fight yet. The fight with the title character is subdued but for good reason. Uma was top notch’¦and looked beautiful throughout’¦even covered in blood and dirt. Which is surprising since the last 3 films she made since her pregnancy made her look tired and/or strung out on drugs. Caradine brings a coolness that from up to now was removed from the all the other character’s dialog. Never rattled and always manipulating’¦his walk to destiny (you’™ll understand when you see) personifies who he is and was truly fitting. Quentin loves making movies’¦ and it shows. He takes us to the underground world and shows us the world of dog eat dog like no one else. His love of Kung-Fu flicks shines through with the quick and ballet-like fights with a bit of USA grunge to bring it home. Probably will wait for a combo set when the DVD comes out. I hear there are some great fights (in the trailers for both films) that didn’t even make it to the screen. The credits put you in a happy place and I thought they were some of the best this year’¦. but then I saw School of Rock on PPV.

#4
Passion of the Christ

Story: The Passion of The Christ focusses on the last twelve hours of Jesus of Nazareth’s life. The film begins in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus has gone to pray after sitting the Last Supper. Jesus must resist the temptations of Satan. Betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Jesus is then arrested and taken within the city walls of Jerusalem where leaders of the Pharisees confront him with accusations of blasphemy and his trial results in a condemnation to death.

Review: My friend Jimmy’s church bought a theater for an advanced screening in Puente hills last night. My knowledge of religion is a more of ‘˜a little about all’™ then ‘˜a lot about one’™. But the Christian religion has always perplexed me (no where near the Mormon ‘˜pieces in the hat’™ thing, but close). There was just too much evidence that this was a regular guy and that following him as seemed a bit sacrilegious. All other religions seemed to have less physical evidence and more blind faith. By putting a physical presence to Christ it left it much more open to ridicule. OK’¦.that being said’¦the movie was much more of a biblical Wrestlemainia 1 (when they still had blood) than an account of the life of Christ. This movie depicts the last 12 hours or so, which if you used it to define Christ’s life, was way short of all the good he did. There is some good ‘˜Coin in the Ear’™ and John Edward style prophesies, but mostly it is about the fear Christ feels knowing what is about to happen to him. The whole movie was more of a ‘œYou know the glorious story of Christ’¦now see the R Rated ass-whoopin that was the last few hours’ If you have seen the Murals of Forest Lawn you have seem this movie. From a storytelling stand point, the lack of narrative leads me to believe that only theologians will understand this film’¦.and that is why all the studios balked at releasing this. Unless you know who everybody is (and some were made up anyways) then movie doesn’t make too much sense’¦like a giant inside joke. The whole movie was in Aramaic, Latin and Hebrew which made it very realistic, but also laborious to watch’¦but hey ..Wrestlemainia could be in Hebrew and you would still get the point. All in All the film didn’t move me, I keep wondering what the motives behind everybody was. The film seemed more like the last chapter of a movie instead of a whole movie. Pontius Pilate was the most flushed out of them all’¦.and he slaughtered Jews worse than Hitler not 5 years later, so was his compassion fake?. Mel’s love of the martyr made him a good choice for making the film, and he did a good job. But more money and a little more back-story would have made this a standard of religious films, instead of a snapshot of one event. So’¦was it anti-Jew’¦.ummm yea’¦Was Shindlers List anti-German? Umm..yea. Jews were involved and did the deed’¦that means the Power Jews were the bad guys. But everyone who supported Jesus and cried during the crucifixion was Jewish, so it evens out. So sorry Jews, you have see one of the major faux pas of your religion up on the big screen in 2004’¦but deal with it and move one’¦and for each time you condemn it’¦ it will only hurts you that much more. Saw this in a 500 Person theater sponsored by Asian churches, so yes it was like staying at the Lady Luck in Vegas’¦but I did see one other white guy so all was good.
Lesson Learned: When you are on the cross’¦don’t laugh at the son of god’s misfortune’¦. those crows can be viscous!

#5
The Village

Story: In a quiet, isolated village in olde Pennsylvania, there lies a pact between the people of the village and the creatures who reside in the surrounding woods: the townspeople do not enter the woods, and the creatures do not enter the village. The pact stays true for many years, but when Lucius Hunt seeks medical supplies from the towns beyond the wood, the pact is challenged. Animal carcasses, devoid of fur, begin to appear around the village, causing the council of elders to fear for the safety of the village, the pact, and so much more.

#6
National Treasure

Story: Benjamin Franklin Gates descends from a family of treasure-seekers who’ve all hunted for the same thing: a war chest hidden by the Founding Fathers after the Revolutionary War. Ben’s close to discovering its whereabouts, as is his competition, but the FBI is also hip to the hunt.

Review: A very good adventure flick about a treasure that our founding fathers may have hidden in Virgina. Cage gets another fun ‘˜Bruckheimer’™ role (Con Air, The Rock) as a U.S. historical treasure hunter convinced that the Templar treasure is hidden in the United States (sort of a family held belief). Templars being the famous knights that controlled most of Europe and were in charge of protecting the holy grail and stuff like that (the guy in Last Crusade that was the protecting the cup of Christ’¦.he was a Templar Knight)’¦Oh I give up’¦read The DiVinci code then come back and see this movie’¦it’s basically the same thing. The clues are cool’¦the acting is fun’¦just an overall fun time. Cinematography isn’t the greatest; direction had no real style’¦just a straightforward popcorn movie.

#7
Miracle

Story: The inspiring story of the team that transcended its sport and united a nation with a new feeling of hope. Based on the true story of one of the greatest moments in sports history, the tale captures a time and place where differences could be settled by games and a cold war could be put on ice. In 1980, the United States Ice Hockey team’s coach, Herb Brooks, took a ragtag squad of college kids up against the legendary juggernaut from the Soviet Union at the Olympic Games. Despite the long odds, Team USA carried the pride of a nation yearning from a distraction from world events. With the world watching the team rose to the occasion, prompting broadcaster Al Michaels’ now famous question, to the millions viewing at home: Do you believe in miracles? Yes!

Review: ***1/2

#8
Aviator

Story: The film begins as a young Hughes directs one of Scorsese’s favorite films, Hell’s Angels. Hughes was so obsessed with perfection in the aerial sequences that he waits forever for perfect conditions, right down to cloud formations. The Aviator ends in 1946, when Hughes was still a dashing young man and romancing actresses like Ava Gardner and Katharine Hepburn.

Review: ***1/2

#9
The Brotherhood of War (Tae guk gi)

Story: When a group of Korean archeologists find a skeleton and identify it, they call the brother, Lee Jin-Seok, who is now an old man, to tell him that they have found his brother’s body, who died in the Korean War. We travel from the present to 1950, when the Korean War started. Jin-Seok and Jin-Tae, Jin-Seok’s brother, are young men who suddenly find themselves catapulted into a bloody world so different from their quiet, rural lives. As the war progresses, the war begins to poison Jin-Tae’s mind. Jin-Seok is lost when he finds that he no longer knows who his brother is.

Review: I have had the ‘highest grossing Korean film of ever’ in the back of my DVD shelf for a while’¦waiting for the time to watch it. Well last night I finally got to finish it. The film is head and shoulders above any Korean film in my library, and easily on my top ten foreign language films of all-time list. It follows the story of a South Korean family just before the start of the Korean War. By Mistake the street-smart older brother AND the naive college bound younger one are both pulled into the draft. The Older brother (Jin Tae ) swears to protect his sibling and finds out that if he can get a medal for bravery’¦he can request they send the younger brother home. And so the movie follows the battles and Jin Tae’s reckless abandon to achieve this goal. That’s just the synopsis’¦ the growth of the two boys as they become men and the morals they face are the real heart of the film. The battle sequences are on par’¦if not better than Saving Private Ryan, We were soldiers and Windtalkers, and there are quite a few. Including a chase sequence during a battle that I don’t remember being as effective in any other film. The brutality in the sequences is extreme for US cinema and the true to life gore may be a bit much for most viewers. But taking Hollywood camera work and pouring a bucket of reality on it’¦is something I have really liked about ‘œK’ cinema. What surprised me overall was the amazing cinematography’¦the image was pristine’¦higher quality than anything I have seen come out of Asia, The deep focus even for dark scenes, was top notch. The Panoramas and establishing shots were breathtaking. The CGI Corsair attack made me wince a little’¦but those was the only frames in the entire film that didn’t fall perfectly into place. While the Buzz around Cannes last year was for the very good ‘˜OLD BOY’™’¦the worlds eyes were on the wrong Korean film.


#10
Team America: World Police

Story: Team America follows an international police force dedicated to maintaining global stability. Learning that power hungry dictator Kim Jong Il (Parker) is out to destroy the world, the team recuits Broadway star Gary Johnston (Parker) to go undercover. With the help of Team America (Stone, Miller, Masasa, Parker, and Norris), Gary manages to slip into an arms dealer’s hideout to uncover the plan to destroy the world. Will Team America be able to save the world?

Review: ‘THE’ greatest musical marionette action movie ever’¦.hands down. All the political humor aside (the antiwar actors using their union: Film Actors Guild’¦that right F.A.G) the real humor came from exploiting the short falls of Marionettes. Trey and Matt’s genius comes from the subtle things like lack of leg use, and the fights which were basically two puppets smashing together. And don’t get me started on the greatest sex scene in an R-Rated film. Shot gloriously like a Michael Bay film, the vistas and sets were amazing and were a feast for the eyes. A truly unique experience based on situations we have all seen a hundred times. A good suggestion would be chemical enhancement before viewing the film’¦that way the wooden performances will see less Segal like.

Just Missed:

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Collateral

Hellboy

Man on Fire

Hidalgo

Friday Night Lights

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