Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sombrero Grande's Top Five Favorite Movies He Saw in 2005...plus 5 more

Howdy, folks. I'm doing something a little different this year with my "Top 10" list (again). I'm going to list for you my Top 5 favorite movies I saw in 2005 and then toss in 5 more that I'd just like to talk a little about. With that said, let's start with the top movie I saw last year:

While I've yet to see any of the other "Oscar condenders," in my mind they have their work cut out for them if they're trying to beat The Constant Gardener. You can read my constantly praising review here.

It's a real shame that Zathura didn't manage to pull in the crowds it deserved this year. I guess the bad taste Jumanji left in people's mouths from a decade ago just put audiences off from giving it a shot. Don't let that happen to you! Director Jon Favreau has crafted a film that's well worth your time. Advance your starship here to read my review.

It seems something rather common in comics is the "do-over," starting from the beginning to retell a superhero's story from a different or fresh perspective. With Batman Begins, director Christopher Nolan ignored Tim Burton's cinematic takes on the DC comic character and the campy old TV show to give Batman a startlingly grounded portrayal. Everything had to be plausible. While previous incarnations of Batman's world asked viewers just to blindly accept such fanciful notions as the Batcave, Batmobile and all the bat gadgets, Batman Begins gives us enough background to start to question how such things could actually exist, and then never disappoints in making them seem plausible. What I love most about the film is how excited it gets me to see how Nolan will continue to unfold his version of Batman's story and world in the next film(s). I can't wait to see his take on The Joker!

The Harry Potter movies just keep getting better and better. In my mind, the latest, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is tied with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for top spots in the franchise, but that may only be because I'm a real sucker for a fun time travel story like the one at Prisoner of Azkaban's climax.

Sky High was a surprisingly fun movie this summer. Don't be put off like so many others by the "tween" packaging of this very smart and funny family comedy. Use your x-ray vision to spot my review here.

Now let's move on to the 2 movies I'd put in my "2005 Honorable Mention" list.

First, Tim Burton's take on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a very welcome replacement for the disturbing "classic" Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. A fantastic score by Danny Elfman and some of the best "Tim Burton-y" visuals we've gotten in a while made this movie a real candy treat for the eyes and ears, but it's Johnny Depp's odd take on Willy Wonka and Burton's decision to cast the stoic Deep Roy as EVERY Oompa Loompa that kept this one out of my Top 5. Take a bite out of my everlasting review here.

With Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, fallen filmmaker George Lucas had one last shot to redeem himself in the eyes of the fans he shunned, and he pretty much did it. This one, unlike the previous two episodes, felt like it could stand next to the original Star Wars films. If it weren't for some awful "romantic" dialogue at the beginning and a few rather goofy choices made along the way, it might even stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Click here and your journey to my review will be complete.

One movie that I strongly suspect would have ended up in my Top 5 Favorite Movies I Saw in 2005 list is The Curse of the Were-Rabbit...if I had actually been able to see it in 2005. It amazes me to think of how many times I earnestly tried to go and see this movie and the sheer number and variety of occurances that continually derailed me from seeing it while it was still out in theaters. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to wait a bit longer for the DVD release.

Moving on, for the last two items in this increasingly bizarre "10" list, I present to you two films which earned a special distinction from me this year:

Sombrero Grande's most anticipated movie of 2005:

More than any other film (including Star Wars and King Kong), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was my most anticipated movie of the year. I counted the days until this one came out, folks. But you'll notice that this movie didn't even make my Honorable Mention list for 2005. It's not at all a bad film, it's just quite flawed and ultimately left me feeling very tepid. I'd still like to see a movie version of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe with the same team behind the first movie, but I won't be as excited for it. You can thumb your way to my review here for all the mostly harmless details.

Yet Hitchhiker's Guide was not my biggest disappointment cinematically this year. That dubious distinction goes to:

Sombrero Grande's biggest disappointment of 2005:

{Spoiler alert!} I keep wondering if all the other critics saw the same movie I did. Much of Peter Jackson's King Kong (or "King Long" as I just made a Freudian slip in my typing) reminded me of the scene in Jackson's The Return of the King where Frodo just takes forever to get on that damn boat at the end. I think Jackson could have ended the movie immediately after the scene where Kong's face is repeatedly bashed with ether bottles as Ann Darrow screams from the rowboat. That really summed up all that needed to be said, but instead, Jackson strings the audience along for the whole fiasco back in New York just to get to the famous Empire State Building scene. After what seemed like the tenth time Ann and Kong just stared at each other for a solid ten minutes, I felt like screaming, "just fall off the damn building already! I GET it!" The film's marathon running time could be forgiven if so much hadn't been left out. King Kong runs over three hours in length (while, as a friend humorously pointed out, The Simpsons were able to tell Kong's whole story in about 7 minutes) yet we never find out how they managed to get Kong back to New York and the film never followed up with Jimmy after taking a large chunk of the movie to set up his go-nowhere story. Instead we merely get Jack Black painfully delivering the film's awkward last line moments after Kong impacts. Yes, the movie looks nice and is meant to merely be a fun adventure story, but after the second time some forgotten crew member arrived at just the right time to save the headline cast members--swinging in on a vine with gun blazing and picking off squirming bugs while never once even nicking Jack Black or Adrien Brody--I realized I wasn't having fun anymore.


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