Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 2004!

0_EWEQw2jjB0n3EE79

This year was a whopper for seeing films which either pissed me off or let me down. SO much so that I have a few dishonourable mentions to get through first. Troy was the latest in the mini battle-epic trend which erupted in the wake of LOTR. It’s not a bad film by any means, but given that the books the movie is based on are the single greatest pieces of written art in history… it kind of deserved better. If you’re going to adapt The Illiad in a single film then you’re not going to get much better than this, but that’s precisely the problem – that book deserves a trilogy, connected to a trilogy for The Aeneid and The Odyssey. Do it like LOTR did things, and you’ll have some of the best movies ever made. The Notebook is one of those Nicholas Sparks things – you know, soppy romances for soppy humans – someone always has a rare disease, the characters are always cardboard cut outs – you know the deal. It’s the same as all the others. King Arthur is the movie I confuse Robin Hood with. Any of the Robin Hood’s actually. I think Keira Knightly was in this one. A classic story with an engaging mythology and room for plenty and ripe for a fitting adventure story boiled down to a Cockney night out.

Sideways takes a bunch of irritating twats you’d be praised for stabbing in real life, played by performers I don’t care about made by a Director who is yet to have made a single thing I’ve liked. Actually, Nebraska was fine. Casshern is a movie I used to make people watch just because how damn cool it looked back in the day. There wasn’t really anything like it. But it’s completely incomprehensible. It would be, presumably, like showing someone the sixth Harry Potter movie when they haven’t seen any of the others, or read the books, or speak English. I’m not sure whether it should be on my favourites list or this one. Alfie is a badly cast, ill-advised remake. The first worked because of 60s culture. The Noughties were a cultural void and London hasn’t been relevant in decades – moving the action to New York they should have just cast a native. Jude Law… Jude Law has looked human in precisely two movies, and ironically in one of those he was a vampire. The Wisdom Of Crocodiles and The Talented Mr Ripley. Every other movie who sort of looks like an emaciated squirrel. Izo was a Takashi Miike film I looked forward to – the synopsis of which (which may be the greatest of all time) is simply that a lethal killer goes back in time for the express purpose of killing, well, everyone. That’s the film. Like Casshern, I’m not sure if it should be on this list or on my actual favourites – it has a ridiculous cast, but there is almost no plot, the violence is over the top yet after a while it loses whatever made it amusing in the first place, it’s epic but way too long – all in all I was disappointed. Now lets move onto the top ten.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

This is the one which most people who watch movies, fancy themselves a critic, or pass by my blog will shout about. It has pedigree from top to bottom in the cast and the crew. The performances are really the only thing going for it in my mind, with people being ‘shocked’ Carrey could do serious stuff even though he already had. But it’s just another one of those manic pixie dream girl movies, with Kate Winslet not being best suited to such ideals. Michael Gondry’s visual style and general movies are not things I’m a big fan of and it all comes across as too cutesy and twee, no matter how much soap-lite tragedy is plastered all over it. Add in a Charlie Kaufman script, whose stuff always sounds more interesting to me than it ever ends up being, and who almost never makes me care about any of the characters and we have a film with a good idea which doesn’t scratch any of my itches. It’s Total Recall, but without the violence and with only two breasts.

The Chronicles Of Riddick

I saw Pitch Black on release night and loved it. As a big Farscape fan at the time, it was cool to see Claudia Black on the big screen, and as a sci-fi horror dude it was great seeing a new voice hitting the scene. It seemed like a cult hit in the waiting and felt like it would make the careers of several of those involved. While it didn’t quite turn out that way, it still led to a couple of belated sequels. This first sequel, is a turd. The first film was simplicity tied up in a complex world. Alien feels complex when it is simply a story of cat and mouse – Pitch Black works so well because it played the same trick. The Chronicles Of Riddick adds layer upon layer of new faces, mythology, and useless plot, and in the end it feels less like a film, more like a visual glossary for study purposes.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

Back when the first Resident Evil was released, I was a fan of the games. RE 2 was my favourite and while the first movie was ultimately a let down and only related to the games in the most surface way, I was still keen to see more. That has always been my history with the movie series to be honest – thinking that maybe they’ll get it right with the next one. Apocalypse is the worst of the bunch, largely due to the terrible, truly awful, direction by Alexander Witt. It’s an ugly, ugly film, the action is distorted to be unrecognizable, and the story – not that it matters much – descends so far into convoluted guff that the series never recovered. At least the later films had fun buying into how ridiculous it all was. Uwe Boll wishes he made a film this bad.

Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason

As if the first one was bad enough, shit enabling, fake plastic people trip-trapping from one quirky mishap to the next, we knew there would have to be a sequel. It’s more of the same really, but even more predictable. More worthless characters, terrible dialogue straight from the quill of a Carrie Bradshaw fan-fiction wannabee, and poncey hair whose sole purpose seems to be to encourage terror attacks on London.

Closer

Billed as a return to form for Mike Nichols, it certainly seemed that way when he brought together a decent cast and garnered positive reviews. When I first heard about it I was more interested in the Natalie Portman pole-dancing stuff. Alas, when I got around to seeing it there was little of the spark of Nichols’ earlier work. Instead we got a cold, grey, depressing look at relationships in the 21st Century where no-one is ever happy and everyone wants to be somebody else, but fails to say anything insightful about such a state of existence. The only notable point worth bringing up with regards to the script is the amount of swearing as it seeks to rival motherfucking Goodfellas, but the characters are faux-articulate walking lungs, mindlessly wandering through life just like a used condom traverses a swamp.

Blade Trinity

Also known as Blade: Ryan Reynolds Is A Twat.

9 Songs

There were some positive movements in British music in the early Noughties. None of those are used in this turd. Modern Britain’s answer to, well Confessions Of A Window Cleaner, it’s a series of kind of explicit sex scenes between two of the least screen-friendly performers you’d want to see getting their kit off and having their respective parts sucked. It’s empty and vapid and without merit as a narrative, the music is shit, and you can’t even wank to it because everyone is so ugly.

Ab-Normal Beauty

Ever since first catching Bangkok Dangerous and proclaiming it as one of the greatest films of all time, I’ve tried to catch everything the Pang Brothers have made – together or on their own. That has led me to crap like this – another good idea let down by too much plot, too many misguided attempts at artistry, and by making little sense. This one is about a conflicted, complex woman who becomes obsessed with death after seeing and photographing a car crash. It makes the list because not a lot happens, it’s difficult to find any point to it all, and it’s such a letdown when we know what the brothers are capable of.

Survive Style + 5

Did I get this free on Amazon? I think I did, otherwise I’d be horrified that I paid for it. In fact I’ve probably reviewed here on the blog. I know a lot of the Japanese stuff I watch is incomprehensible without actually being Japanese (I’m speaking from a cultural standpoint), but this is on another level – as well as simply being crap. Going back to it, it has its moments – the great Tadanobu Asano features in one segment, his is probably the most interesting one as he repeatedly kills his wife only for her to keep coming back. The stories loosely intertwine but it’s messy and manic, and beyond scratching that itch for some offbeat Japanese weirdness, it doesn’t offer much.

Let us know in the comments which movies would make your list!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2004!

Dawn-of-the-Dead-Cast-Elevator-3x7-700x300

As always, here is the group which didn’t quite cut it: Napoleon Dynamite is one which always makes me laugh, but there’s something so… desolate about it? The Passion Of The Christ is just a well made gore-fest, while Team America has dolls fucking. It’s not Meet The Feebles, but what is? The Terminal is one of my favourite underrated Spielberg movies, Dead Man’s Shoes is one of Paddy Considine and Shane Meadows’ best. Hellboy drops in and out of my Top Ten – it’s great fun, even if I don’t love it as much as some – probably because I’m not a huge comic book guy.

10: District 13 (France) Pierre Morel

Merging real life stunts with little or no string work or CG guff, and the parkour and martial arts skills of a talented cast, District 13 is one of the action movies I show people who claim to not like foreign movies. It blows them away, every time. It also has the benefit of having a simple plot which still pulls the viewer in to the world of an over-populated Paris ghetto. Over time, gangs take over the ghetto and the police stay out, leaving millions fighting and stealing and trying to survive. We follow an undercover cop and a brother trying to rescue his sister from one of the marauding gangs. It’s a story you’ve seen a hundred times, but it’s told at breakneck speed with likable faces. Yet, it’s the action which keeps you coming back, a world away from CG superheroes punching CG supervillains out of CG Skyscrapers.

9: A Very Long Engagement (France) Jean Pierre Jeunet

Jeunet, and Tautou’s follow-up to Amelie was always going to be an impossibility – that movie was universally loved. A Very Long Engagement is a very different story and film, a romance of sorts told with a larger cast over a number of years, against the backdrop of War. The visuals are what it has most in common with Amelie as it is one of the most delicious looking films of the era. Jeunet’s usual suspects show up, along with supporting turns from the likes of Jodie Foster and Marion Colliard in a film about undying love and hope in the face of hopeless odds and loveless tyranny.

8: R-Point (SK) Kong Su Chang

It’s still annyoing that so few people know about this film. Even plenty of my online pals who enjoy Asian horror haven’t seen it. I get that it may be a hard sell given its unusual approach and confusing plot, but if anything I liken it to something like Aliens, but with ghosts. It’s a war film with a supernatural bent, it’s like the twisted sister to Session 9, with a similar atmospheric setting. It hits a lot of my sweet notes, without giving too many spoilers away, but there may or may not be something funky going on with time, reality, madness, it has hardened soldiers going up against a mysterious foe, and it does give two shits about convention. Just go in knowing that it’s set during the Vietnam War as a group of soldiers respond to a distress call, and knowing that I’ve recommended it.

7: Shaun Of The Dead (UK/US/France) Edgar Wright

Is it Edgar Wright’s best movie? Probably. Plus it came out at just the right time, when zombie movies were suddenly popular and legitimate, but before they over-saturated the market. I was never the biggest Spaced fan but I knew Simon Pegg from plenty of other things and him and Nick’s laid-back everyman approach to the apocalypse, as well as the filmmakers obvious love for the genre made it a treasure trove for me. Great gags, kills, and plenty of hidden treats in the cast including the great Peter Serafinowicz and George Dawes. That’s right, Matt Lucas will always be the man with the scores, George Dawes, none of that Little Britain wank.

6: Spider-Man 2 (US) Sam Raimi

One of the finest examples of how to follow-up a successful debut and continue a franchise. Of course it all went horribly wrong in Part 3, but everything goes right with Spider-Man 2. It’s bigger and better than the first part, adds a terrific villain in Doc Oc, and all of the surviving players from the first film step it up here. It has everything I want in a blockbuster comic movie, with the added bonus of me actually giving a shit about what happens.

5: House Of Flying Daggers (China/HK) Zhang Yimou

Zhang Yimou had been making breathtaking movies for many years, but beyond Asian film fans like me and well traveled critics, his films were completely unknown in the west. Then Hero came along and made a lot of waves, presumably riding on the wave of success of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. That movie gave him a new status and fame across the globe and House Of Flying Daggers only spread that further. It’s an almost unbelievably beautiful film, spattered with energetic and exuberant martial arts set pieces. The use of colour, of music, puts most films to shame, and the lead trio of Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Zhang Ziyi have rarely been better. At its core it’s a love story, but in many respects the plot is irrelevant – it’s just one of the most beautiful sights to behold.

4: Saw (US) James Wan

Saw was released smack bang in the middle of ‘Torture Porn’ but while that often unfairly vilified, often admittedly vile sub-genre generally focused more on gore and effects, Saw is 100% concerned with plot and the viewer. It wants to trick the viewer and take us on a horrific, twisting journey. While the series would keep it’s increasingly nonsensical twists it would become ever more reliant on gore and unique kills and lose what made the first so special. The story is convoluted without being obtuse, it’s more of a thriller in a horrifying scenario than a straight horror, and it’s bolstered by a great cast. It introduces one of horror’s more engaging serial killers – Jigsaw – and for much of the running time we don’t know what his end-game is, beyond wanting to punish people through the lens of his twisted morality. The film becomes an overlapping game of wits and cat and mouse and we have several intertwining plots – the two men who wake up handcuffed in a room, with only a corpse and a saw between them. The cops hunting Jigsaw. A man holding a woman and child at gunpoint. These are spliced together with various flashbacks and scenes depicting other characters and victims of Jigsaw, and it’s all blended together seamlessly in a swift running time. I can’t say I love the MTV camera thrashing effects which the series is known for, but I’m used enough to those now that I don’t care anymore. For a film which is essentially an extension of one particular scene in Mad Max, it keeps the viewer guessing, and flinching throughout.

3: The Grudge (US) Takashi Shimizu

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I loved the Japanese Grudge (and to a lesser extent the prior TV versions), I loved Ringu. I didn’t like the US Remake The Ring and I therefore wasn’t overly hyped by The Grudge getting a US remake. Over time more promising details emerged – Grudge creator Takashi Shimizu would be directing, Sarah Michelle Gellar would be starring – suddenly I was hyped. Honestly, The Grudge is on par with the Japanese originals, going for a bigger budget, more bombastic version of the exact same story. Most of the original scenes and scares are in place, but what made those effective for me is that there are slight twists on what I expected – a jump scare from a different position or moment – all enough to give me a great time viewing it. Of course I saw this in a packed screening, and people were going nuts at the scares, especially when it was obvious they hadn’t been exposed to the originals.

2: Kill Bill Volume 2 (US) Quentin Tarantino

Volume 2 is distinctly different from Volume 1. Both are great, but both have completely different styles and tones – different enough that they can be enjoyed individually. This one is interesting because it is both a slower burner than the first film, but has the benefit of also racing towards a conclusion. We get more information on Bill and The Bride as individuals, as partners, and we dispense with much of the over the top stylized sequences of the first for a more introspective, near Western style flick. As you would expect, the cast and dialogue are uniformly great, it’s funny, insightful, it has a huge rewatchability for me, and it wraps up in a satisfying way.

1: Dawn Of The Dead (US) Zach Snyder

This one made it onto my Top Movies Of The Decade post, so go read my thoughts there.

Let us know in the comments which movies you would pick!