Movies Of 2004


Paycheck (3) -- John Woo (Broken Arrow) directed this near-future story about a "reverse engineer" played by Ben Affleck. Ben's character works for a company, steals its technology, brings it back to the company that's paying him to steal it, and then erases his memory of the dirty deed. Nothing really wrong with this one except it's yet another one of those "Vancouver-as-Seattle" movies that bug people like me who know it's not really Seattle.

The Matrix: Revolutions (4) -- The final installment of this ground-breaking trilogy left me wanting another three movies to find out what happened with the new Matrix created at the end of the movie. The series combined Hong Kong martial arts, religion, philosophy and gave Keanu Reeves the role he was born to play. When I think about the possibility of something like this happening in our world if we give machines too much control, I second-guess using the electric can opener.

Lost In Translation (4) -- Bill Murray should've won the Oscar for his role as an American visiting Tokyo to shoot a few commercials and flirt with young -- and beautiful -- Scarlet Johansson (The Girl With The Pearl Earring). The two of them manage to disappear in the middle of one of the world's busiest cities. Also, it's not going to bug me that much if I never find out what he whispered in her ear near the end. The whole movie felt like we were eavesdropping on their private affair.

Kill Bill Volume 1 (Volume 2 seen on DVD) (3.5) -- Yes, this two-part movie was long enough that we really needed both of them to give Uma Thurman's character enough time to exact revenge on her former fellow assassins. Yes, it's a Tarantino movie, so the dialogue is going to be fairly interesting to listen to. I thought the first movie had more to offer visually than the second one and after four hours of buildup, I was hoping for more in the final showdown than 30 seconds of two people fighting while sitting down and then Thurman showing David Carradine that she learned a new trick while she was coming back from the dead.

Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2) -- I don't know which bugs me more: the fact that someone thought enough of this story idea to make a second movie or that I paid to see it even though I managed to artfully dodge the first one. The blonde British agent (played by Brit teen idol Hannah Spearritt) was kinda cute, though. Of course, I discovered she's 16 years younger than I am, so that certainly doesn't help the creepy feeling I had when I left the theatre.

Hellboy (4) -- Another major injustice following the passing of Scott Tolson because he isn't around to see these comic-book movies. I can't imagine anyone other than Ron Perlman (Star Trek: Nemesis) being able to pull off the lead role. He eats huge piles of chili and nachos, loves kittens, and files down his horns to try to make himself look more human. Too bad he can't hide his seven-foot-tall bright-red body.

The Day After Tomorrow (3.5) -- The only thing that bothered me about this movie was that it all happened too fast to be honestly believable. Also, I'm not sure those kids huddled together in the library should've been able to survive given the conditions, but I'm in no hurry to have that scene re-created in my world. Other than the effects, the best part was all of those people streaming across the Mexican border because it's too cold to live in the United States. 

Shrek 2 (3) -- DreamWorks sure ain't Pixar and Pixar knows not to turn an animated film into a mishmash of pop-culture references. Over 40 movies (from the original Frankenstein to Hidalgo) and at least 10 TV series were spoofed or referenced in this movie and that's not even getting into the product placement (Starbucks, Barney's New York, Old Navy). When the movie was focused on the actual story, it was great, but it didn't stay there for long.

Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban (4) -- Welcome to adolescence, Mr. Potter. The darkest Potter movie yet and if the scriptwriters hold true to the next few books, life won't get any easier for Harry anytime soon. It's tough to see Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) have such a positive influence on Harry now that I've read all of the books. I did want a little more background on Black, Lupin, Potter's dad and Snape from when they were all students, but maybe the next few movies will show us something we already know about because we've all read the books.

Spiderman 2 (4) -- Man, this was tough to watch knowing how much Scott had been looking forward to it. I'm finding that's happening when I see a lot of action-adventures, especially this recent trend of comic book-to-the-big screen films. One of the best movies I've ever seen. Alfred Molina (five minutes in Raiders of the Lost Ark) played the sinister Doctor Octopus very well and Kirsten Dunst is certainly nice to look at. It helps that Sam Raimi is such a huge fan and the effects technology has advanced to the point that what I'm seeing looks so real.

Fahrenheit 9/11 (4) -- I could go on a huge anti-Bush rant here, but I won't. Honestly, though, I don't know why Michael Moore seems to be the only one who's suspicious that the Bush family has financial connections to the bin Laden family and that the CIA paid the Taliban several million dollars and trained them to fight the Soviets because we were so afraid of the Red Menace way back when. Anyone out there not wishing we only had the Russians to worry about?

The Chronicles of Riddick (3) -- This sequel to Pitch Black has been almost universally panned since its summer release and I'm not entirely sure why. What else are people expecting to get out of this movie? Vin Diesel (also the main character in the first movie) is a superhuman who at first wants to be left alone and then decides to go after the bad guys who thought they had wiped out his entire race. Sure, it's been done before. I did like the way the effects guy showed the energy coming off the bad guys' ships. That was different.

I, Robot (3) -- Del Spooner (Will Smith) and Lenina Huxley from Demolition Man ought to get together and compare notes on how to save important artifacts from the late 20th century. I'm not sure why the casting director thought Will Smith would be the right person for this character, though. Also, it was a bit ironic that a movie about what separates humans from machines used so much CGI. A personal movie felt a little too impersonal. Heck, maybe that was the ultimate point of the director, but I doubt it.

Anchorman (3.5) -- Parts of this film were almost unbearable to watch, but that was only because Will Ferrell's character was so blindingly macho. There were several hysterical scenes (the rumble in the alley involving the news crews from several different TV stations -- including the PBS affiliate) and the 70s clothes, cologne and music were difficult to experience again. I think my uncle also had a "wall of cologne containers" just like Paul Rudd's character did.

Alien vs. Predator (3.5) -- This movie sure picked up once most of the humans were cut into tiny little pieces. I'm not sure if one species really has an advantage over the other, but it sure was fun to watch them fight over a little piece of land in Antarctica. Also, I think it would've been cool to tie in the ending of this movie with what we saw at the beginning of the first Alien movie. After all, both scenes involved an alien bursting from the chest of another alien inside a mysterious spacecraft. Am I the only one who thought of that?

Shark Tale (2) -- Another DreamWorks movie, so another two hours of sitting through movie/TV spoofs (over 20 movies and at least five TV shows) and product placement. This time it's Krispy Kreme and Preparation H, among several others. The stereotypes abound like species of fish in the ocean. The jellyfish look and sound like Jar Jar Binks. The sharks are Italians and run a "security syndicate". The regular fish sound black, many of them work in a "ghetto area" on the ocean floor and work a blue-collar service job (whale washing). This movie made me wish I were watching Shrek 2 again.  

The Incredibles (4) -- "You married Elastigirl?! And you got busy!!" Pixar did it again with this instant classic about superheroes trying to live like regular people. Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter were great choices for the parents' voices. Director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant) also provided the voice for the "Q"-type character who created the costumes for the good guys. This movie is the most violent full-length feature Pixar has ever produced. When your kids are old enough, they have to see this movie. Not only is it tough to wait for the DVD, but I wish I knew enough about computer animation to be able to work there. These guys are bigger and better than Disney.

National Treasure (3.5) -- Nicolas Cage plays a guy named Benjamin Franklin Gates, so you know he had to be a history buff. This movie plays like Indiana Jones meets the History Channel meets a really cool scavenger hunt. A trip to Antarctica to get one clue leads the good and bad guys to DC to get this clue and then on to Philadelphia, and so on. I had a hard time really buying Cage as one of the better action heroes, though, because he almost always looks so bored even when he's trying very hard to say something important. I do know one thing: If there is a national treasure and it's worth as much the one in the movie, it's time to spread it around because the national debt could use some relief.