Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 2005!

I seem to have a habit of identifying movies that either you guys love or which were genuine critical hits but did little more than rupture my spleen with apathy. Lets see if this year is any different.

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Constantine

Keanu Reeves was in a strange place after The Matrix series. Should he continue with another sci-fi action series, should he attempt ‘more legitimate’ roles, or should he do whatever the hell he wanted? With Constantine he was seemingly playing it safe – a starring role in an adaptation of a cult comic series known for guns and punching and kicking and good versus evil. I liked the look of this when it was announced because it seemed more akin to Blade than the usual all-powerful-caped flying-dude. The darker edge and religion and mythology blend all spoke to me. In execution though it was another incoherent mess which made Reeves look bland and made the subject material look like the mangled angst ridden pages of a 14 year old’s notebook. Most importantly it is among the most boring comic book movies, with lethargic action, uneventful plot, and a more bland visual palette than a tobacco spit on a blank wall.

The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse

When The League Of Gentlemen first dropped on BBC in the late 90s, I proclaimed it as the greatest ‘sitcom’ in the world – its clever blend of dark humour, horror, one-liners, and bizarre character creations was a revelation to me. Shortly after the show ended, a movie was announced and while I was happy I knew there was no way it was going to be good. I had zero reservations about the four men who made up The League in terms of writing, directing, and performing, but I knew that no British comedy had ever translated well to the big screen. There’s little beyond the central idea here that works – the series works so well because it blends a variety of interlinking plots with a huge cast over six episodes, while the movie has 90 minutes to pack in all of our favourites characters while acting as a standalone and a sequel, all while being meta. I feared this could have been the end of the lads, but thankfully they have each gone one to even greater successes, whether that be Psychoville, Inside Number 9, or even Benidorm. 

The Island

Has Michael Bay ever made a good movie? He has – The Rock is excellent. Hell, the first two Bad Boys are decent. But absolutely everything since has been shite. This may be his worst. It doesn’t even have the dignity of being overblown or fixated on giganto-splosions. It’s one of the most ill-conceived, tepid sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen. It’s worse, much worse, than Battlefield Earth. And look at that cast – it’s great! Bay brings together legit performers and makes a story which amount to ‘store mannequins must walk from here to over there, while other shit happens’. It’s like everyone involved took a pile of sleeping pills and drooled this onto the screen.

Domino

The great Tony Scott has made some of my all time favourite films. But he also made Domino, one of the most legitimately terrible movies of the decade. Capitalizing on the return of Mickey Rourke and whatever it is Keira Knightly was supposed to bring to the table, it tells the very loosely truth based tale of Domino Harvey – model, daughter of actor Lawrence Harvey, who inexplicably decides to become a bounty hunter. Although bounty hunter here feels more like space age mercenary, but whatever. Richard Darko Kelly writes a script which makes less sense that his one about giant time travelling rabbits, and Scott films it as if the sun is permanently in our eyes and his. When it’s not blinding, its unremittingly grimy making it on of the most visually unappealing movies of the year too – it doesn’t even have the dignity to entertain on even the most base level.

Aeon Flux

I somehow bagged a poster for Aeon Flux even though I never saw the film on the big screen. Presumably I picked it up after leaving a screening for something else. I almost feel dirty now admitting I had it up on my bedroom wall – firstly because I hadn’t seen it, and secondly because once I did finally see it I knew only an idiot would emblazon their personal space with such a piece of crap. I’d be hard pressed to tell you what the film is about or anything that happened at all. All I remember is gradually pulling my eyes further down my face as I leaned forward not believing how something made by such talented people could be so bad. Theron is a great actor, Kusama is a terrific director, but this was just dull to the extent that Chess Players watch it to calm down between bouts.

Brokeback Mountain

I dearly wanted to love this film, if for no greater reason to piss off all the homophobes. But it’s just not good. Maybe if I understood more than 30% of the dialogue I would get it – but given that the accents are so thick and the words so mumblecore I honestly would have understood it as much if it had been filmed in Japanese and I watched with no subs. On top of that the sound mix is terrible so in those rare moments when I can understand what is being said, it’s too soft to make out. I just don’t get it. Maybe as a result of all of this, maybe not, it comes across as a sad story where I don’t really care about anyone involved, certainly not the men of the piece, and whatever emotion or heart there is supposed to be falls on, literally, deaf ears. There are some nice shots of the countryside, I guess, but I can get those by turning my head 20 degrees to where there is a large window – plus I don’t even have to pay for it!

Pride And Prejudice

I don’t know what it is – some classic novels which I enjoy never translate to screen for me. There’s a bizarre flip side – I don’t get how every adaptation of Little Women can be wonderful, yet the book is utter wank. Costume dramas, period dramas, whatever you call them, whether on TV or on the big screen are anathema to me. I get the amount of work which has gone into the making of the thing, but almost every single one feel more like an excuse to play dress up rather than tell a story, and there is never an ounce of authenticity to whatever parlour games or social claptrap the plot amounts to. The plot almost never matters to me – I could be watching Pride And Prejudice, or The Lion In Winter, or Downton Abbey. These films are not for me and I’d much prefer to stick with the book.

King Kong

I quite like King Kong. It’s just so fucking long. How many 360 degree shots of the big lad punching his chest do we really need to see? Shave an hour off this and it could be a decent action romp with enough spectacle to compare it to previous entries. It’s strange, because I’d happily take an extra hour on each of the LOTR films. Jackson could do whatever the hell he wanted after LOTR – this is proof that maybe we shouldn’t give people complete creative control and billions of millions of dollars.

Munich

I don’t know why I didn’t enjoy this. It’s Spielberg. It’s war. There just aren’t that many latter day Spielberg films I have enjoyed. This bored me, didn’t affect me in any way. The images passed through my eyes in the same hollow way as if I had instead seen an advert for mis-sold PPI.

Monster In Law

It’s another of those comedies that I don’t understand how it was ever made. I much prefer Lopez as an actor than a singer, but she’s never particularly good. Especially when she plays roles like this which go against everything we know of her being a pretty shitty human in real life. There’s one joke here – a old rich woman doesn’t like a young poor woman. Hijinks. Or, more accurately, nojinks follow.

Let us know in the comments which films of 2005 you would include in your list!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2005!

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So 2005 is another one of those years where I forgot a bunch of movies I love and didn’t include them in my original list – silly boy. I’m going to update it to 11 – adding a new film which should have knocked Land Of The Dead off the list first time round. The order doesn’t really matter anyway. In my almosts, I’m adding a few of the great films I forgot about too,

Corpse Bride is that rare ‘modern’ Tim Burton movie which reminds us that he can be a great filmmaker when he’s doing his own thing. It’s just creepy enough to make the kids snuggle up to you on the sofa, but not scary enough to give them nightmares. It has the Tim Burton look and style, and is enjoyable for the whole family. The Devil’s Rejects is also fun for the whole family, if your family are inbred murderers of the Texan variety. It’s probably still Rob Zombie’s most enjoyable movie and the distilled prime example of everything he is as a filmmaker – that Southern vibe, that 70s grindhouse look and style, sadistic characters, sick humour, and lashings of violence. It’s a sequel to House Of A Thousand Corpses – but you don’t really need to have seen it first, though it’s good too. A History Of Violence is Cronenberg, so it should be one any film fan’s list regardless. It takes him in a fresh new direction from his body horror roots, acting more like a twisting drama filled with secrets. Viggo Mortensen firmly leaves Aragorn behind with a chilling performance in this one, and everybody else is good.

Serenity was Joss Whedon’s first bash at big screen stardom, a fan-pleasing coda to the short-running Firefly. I’m not as huge a fan of the show as most, but the film is a fun watch. Election is Johnnie To’s finest work, almost up there with Infernal Affairs but focuses more on the criminal underbelly than twists and double-crosses. It’s another must watch once you get into Hong Kong cinema.

11. Noroi (Japan) Koji Shiraishi

Found footage and creepy Japanese long-haired shenanigans – that’s possibly a hard-sell. I know plenty of horror fans who dislike one or both of those sub-genres but usually I persuade them to watch by saying that while found-footage it isn’t run around the woods nausea inducing, and while there are long-haired shenanigans they are not of the Ringu or Ju-On variety. On top of that, the director had a history within the found footage genre to the extent that by the time he made Noroi he was savvy enough to deliver the unexpected, and he would go on to make the notoriously nasty Grotesque. 

Noroi follows a film-maker and documentary expert on the paranormal who is working on his latest show – investigating a curse and a number of people who claim to be embroiled in different types of paranormal activity. We see his capturing of these incidents and over time the word, or name ‘Kagutaba’ comes up repeatedly. Without getting into spoilers, the stories are somehow connected and a sordid history of abortions, theft, murder and all sorts of goodness oozes out. It’s a film which doesn’t go near jump-scares or obvious answers but instead succeeds because it’s so unnerving and goes places where few films dare to tread. It’s also one where you need to watch all the way to the end for some mid-credits extras. If you want a J-Horror film which doesn’t fit the mold and which hardly anyone knows of, you can’t do much better than Noroi. 

10: Land Of The Dead (US) George A Romero

Back to our original Top Ten – I was as hyped as anyone when it was announced that Romero was returning to the genre he created, decades after. So it’s not as good as his first three Dead movies, but it’s still a fun ride, and it’s still political. Moving the action to a more familiar location (of sorts) it’s set in the present day in a world which has learned to survive alongside the walking dead. Quite understandably, the wealthy are still safe from most of the problems the rest of the world face, living in skyscrapers while everyone else slums it on the streets, protected by the military, the average gun-toting civvy, and by a convenient river acting as a moat. Dennis Hopper is one such rich guy, hamming it up in one of his most amusing final roles, while John Leguizamo and Simon Baker play two soldiers who make dangerous journeys in a Mad Max style souped up vehicle for medical supplies and more. Leguizamo shines as the opposing force to Hopper’s white politician and there are a slew of in-jokes and cameos to enjoy. Mostly it’s an excuse to give Romero a big budget and let a master do what he pleases. In the wake of The Walking Dead it does feel a little like 1 series of that show condensed into a single movie, but it’s also a thank you to the fans.

9: Hostel (US) Eli Roth

I feel very much that this is the one film most likely to drop off my list when I get around to seeing more movies from this year. Eli Roth is always hit and miss for me – his humour is usually very misjudged though generally the ideas are sound. Hostel is notorious as a standard bearer for torture porn – an excuse to cut up nameless nobodies for our entertainment. There’s  much to be said in support and opposition to that statement, the obvious political asides being as simple as using the template as a satire on US Imperialism and as an extreme reaction to the torture tactics used by terrorists, military, and government alike. While I won’t say Hostel is clever, I will say it’s not as dumb as most people think. It’s just a bloody good time which takes mainstream US brutality to new levels as it follows a group of Millennial backpackers who are captured in Europe and find themselves as unwilling guinea pigs in some sort of Millionaire-led murder business. Basically, if you have enough money, you can pay to hurt and kill another human in whatever way you please – with our protagonists being the victims. There’s plenty of blood and to Roth’s credit the first half of the movie is spent trying to get to know these people. There’s not a lot to know about them, but at least they’re not standard slasher fodder.

8: A Bittersweet Life (SK) Kim Jee Woon

A Bittersweet Life is another prime example of the sort of boundary pushing film Hollywood used to make but seems to have given up on in lieu of treading increasingly safe and tame waters. The plot of the film itself is safe, tame – a hitman is employed by his boss to kill the boss’s cheating girlfriend, and he refuses. Stuff happens. What raises it is the fact that Kim Jee Woon directs – expanding upon his eye for detail and grim truths as exemplified in his previous film A Tale Of Two Sisters. He has found a niche in capturing breathtakingly beautiful shots against horrifying or violent backdrops and situations, and he rarely cares for conventions. Throw in Lee Byung-hun as the hitman with a change of heart who keeps everything grounded. Like any number of South Korean movies from this period – it’s a must-see.

7: Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (SK) Chan Wook Park

The final entry in Park’s esteemed trilogy is maybe the weakest, probably my least favourite, but still head and shoulders over 90% of what was released this year. It may be the most accomplished and beautiful of the bunch. Like the first two films it is presented as a straightforwards revenge story, but as revenge is never clean there are plenty of twists and complexities. It follows a woman (Lee Young-ae) as a woman just released from prison for a murder she didn’t commit, and her quest to hunt down the real perp. Starting out as a seemingly reformed model prisoner due to newfound spirituality, we slide down her rabbit hole and are dragged along another characteristically grim tale. As with the above entry – this one demands your attention.

6: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (US) Shane Black

Without knowing it for much of my life, Shane Black had been one of my favourite people for most of my life. Predator has been an all time favourite of mine for as long as I can remember but in my younger days, while I knew the character names, I really only remembered Arnie’s name when it came to the cast. Later he would three further all time favourites – The Long Kiss Goodnight, The Last Boy Scout, and Last Action Hero. It wasn’t until I started to think about how movies were made and who made them that I began to connect the dots. Of course by that point he had dropped off the face of the planet, seemingly to never return. Then  it was announced he would be directing his first film – this is the result. There’s no way I wasn’t going to at least enjoy this, but it’s a typically incisive, funny, violent story with the usual macho leanings upgraded for a new decade. It’s great to see Val Kilmer back on screen, it was a launch pad for Downey Jr to get back on track. It’s more of a Noir than anything he had done till that point, but his trademark writing keeps it unique as 100% Black.

5: The Descent (UK) Neil Marshall

Neil Marshall had gained my attention a few years earlier with his debut Dog Soldiers – an adventurous werewolf movie with more comparisons to Aliens than any Universal classic. The Descent drops much of the fun of that movie, dispenses with the more macho influences, and instead gives us one of the most tense, atmospheric, and claustrophobic movies in recent years. It’s the best of a spate of similar sounding movies from the period which saw a group of travelers going into some sort of underground world and meeting with various mishaps. Where this one differs is with its reliance on character and emotion – yes it’s a film about being trapped underground, yes it’s a film about the monstrous creatures which you may find once trapped, but it’s also a film about grief and guilt, about escape and resilience, about friendship and loss. Marshall also wisely makes the first half of the movie simply about these women, their fears and motivations, and their struggles to keep it together once they head into hell. It’s a shock then when the first creature does appear, and the film takes on a new edge. My only complaint remains that the cast are too similar in features which can make distinguishing them in the gloom problematic first time around.

4: The 40 Year Old Virgin (US) Judd Apatow

Much of the comedies which have been successful this decade and up till present day haven’t worked for me, either descending or focusing on bro-bullshit or because the dialogue is delivered in this faux unscripted manner. Or simply because they’re not very funny. Judd Apatow sometimes strikes the right balance between juvenile humour and honesty, a blend smoothed out by likable performers and a solid script. The 40 Year Old Virgin is probably my favourite of his movies with plenty of zingers and a more refined Carrell who doesn’t need to do his whole straight man-The Office-shouty shtick. For the most part. Of course the usual Apatow pals show up in supporting roles but the clincher is having Catherine Keener as the object of Carrell’s affections.

3: Revenge Of The Sith (US) George Lucas

For a while it seemed like this was the end – the culmination of Lucas’s grand plan. Since then Disney has released another 15 Star Wars movies and has plans for another 83. Per year. Jokes! Revenge Of The Sith, is easily the best of the prequels. It’s not without its faults, with Padme being reduced to a birth vessel and the whole not being as emotionally powerful as it should have been. I think that’s more of a fault with how the trilogy was laid out, with casting from the outset, and an overburdened script that was never set up to allow us to scream, cheer, and cry. But still, it has some of the best action of the whole series, it does feel like the collapse of good and the success of evil, and Ian McDiarmud deserved an Oscar nomination at the very least for his performance.

2: Sin City (US) Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino

The benchmark for visually unique and authentic comic book movies, Sin City nails the tone, look, and dialogue of Miller’s series – a collage of disturbing and violent and sexually charged intersecting stories which truly does feel like flicking through the ragged pages of a seedy comic you picked up on a whim for a few bucks before the last metro home. Rodriquez and Tarantino both do their thang and pull together a terrific ensemble, including such repulsive and creepy creations as whatever the hell Elijah Wood and Nick Stahl are supposed to be. It’s a mixture of pulp, thriller, action, with obvious twisted noir principles, swept along with a cool, detached pace.

1: Batman Begins (US/UK) Christopher Nolan

It’s in my Top Movies Of The Decade post, so if you want to read my thoughts, go check it.

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: None

Let us know your picks in the comments!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2005

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

Close, but you’re way off: Corpse Bride. The Devil’s Rejects. A History Of Violence. Serenity.

10: Land Of The Dead (US) George A Romero

9: Hostel (US) Eli Roth

8: A Bittersweet Life (SK) Kim Jee Woon

7: Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (SK) Chan Wook Park

6: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (US) Shane Black

5: The Descent (UK) Neil Marshall

4: The 40 Year Old Virgin (US) Judd Apatow

3: Revenge Of The Sith (US) George Lucas

2: Sin City (US) Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino

1: Batman Begins (US/UK) Christopher Nolan

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: Two

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: None

*Update – I forgot Noroi from Japan was released in 2005 and that would have made my list, knocking off Land Of The Dead.