Following a year that included "Garden State," "Napoleon Dynamite" and "Sideways," I suppose it was inevitable that 2005 would be a letdown.
Hollywood certainly aimed high this year - when it comes to blockbuster remakes and sequels, it doesn't get much bigger than "King Kong," "Harry Potter" and "Star Wars."
And in the case of the latter, it doesn't get much more disappointing. "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" doesn't settle for being bad, though; it actually manages to tarnish the much celebrated original trilogy with its incompetent handling of its main character.
The film should've been titled "The Destruction of Anakin Skywalker's Character." Yeah, I know, he had to turn into Darth Vader, but did he have to be so gullible? Here's a HoloNet flash, Anakin: If the "galaxy's savior" has wrinkly skin and talks like a frog - and kills Mace Windu right in front of you - he just might be evil. Oh, but why don't you go murder a bunch of kids, then you can live happily ever after.
Year in review
This is the second of four issues looking back on entertainment in 2005.
Last week: Music singles
This issue: Movies, books (6E), albums (7E) and DVDs (7E)
Next week: Television and video games
Dec. 29: Area entertainment
But I don't want to go off on a rant, especially since this column is supposed to be about the films of 2005 that didn't stink. DVD release dates are in parentheses:
1. "Serenity" (Tuesday) - This is Season 2 of the gone-too-soon space Western "Firefly" smushed into film format. It's packed with Chinese swearing, quasi-quips ("Do you wanna run this ship?" "Yes." "Well ... you can't.") and a ship full of gorram great characters - from this millennium's Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), to the not-so-fragile-after-all River (Summer Glau). And since writer-director Joss Whedon had to assume this might be the last time the Serenity Nine would saddle up, we learn the creepy secret of the villainous Reavers. I laughed, I cried ... I hope this isn't the final chapter.
2. "The 40 Year Old Virgin" (now available) - Judd Apatow ("Freaks and Geeks") is up to his old tricks of delivering rampant chuckles against a backdrop of pain and heartache. Title-character Nice Guy Andy (Steve Carell of "The Office"), with help from his pals, courts the Nice Girl (Catherine Keener) who never had much luck dating Bad Boys. If that's too mushy for you, check out Elizabeth Banks' kinky bookstore employee, whose behavior in and around a bathtub disturbs not only Andy, but also his sex-crazed buds.
3. "Walk the Line" (TBA) - He wasn't just a guy with a cool voice who dressed in black. Country legend Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) also swooned over a woman (Reese Witherspoon's June Carter), battled a pill addiction and feuded with his jerk father (Robert Patrick). He was a born talent but not a born superstar. His famous introduction, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash," was originally uttered out of nervousness. And you want music with your biopic? The Folsom Prison segment breathes intense life into the old record.
4. "Crash" (now available) - Writer-director Paul Haggis ("Million Dollar Baby") follows about a dozen characters - played by Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon, Brendon Fraser and Terrence Howard, among others - through initially unrelated stories about their daily problems. As the threads balloon into high drama, "Crash" manages to make subtle observations on race relations and communication roadblocks while dodging stereotypes.
5. "Batman Begins" (now available) - This prequel sets aside the grandiose stunts long enough that we actually get a sense of who Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is - like Dawson Leery, he grew up with Katie Holmes next door. When director Christopher Nolan ("Memento") introduces us to Wayne Manor, the Batcave and the Batmobile, it feels like we're seeing it all for the first time.
6. "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" (now available) - OK, so this movie is aimed at teen girls and it's predictable, but it's also nice to look at as four childhood friends scatter to the vistas of Greece, Mexico and South Carolina - and one stays home in Maryland - for a summer. The sisterhood of Alexis Bledel ("Gilmore Girls"), Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera and Blake Lively isn't too hard on the eyes either. Your tear ducts might get a workout, though.
7. "Cinderella Man" (now available) - Director Ron Howard's leisurely paced true story about boxer Jimmy Braddock (Russell Crowe) - who fought not for glory, but simply to feed his family - certainly brings a viewer into the Depression era. And Max Baer is the scariest ring villain since Clubber Lang, or at least since "Million Dollar Baby's" Blue Bear.
8. "Sin City" (now available) - This adaptation of Frank Miller's gritty and remarkably violent comics, directed by Robert Rodriguez in a nearly panel-by-panel style, is three mini-movies in one. The second, starring Benicio Del Toro's head, and third, a gritty love story between Bruce Willis and Jessica Alba ("There's wrong, and then there's wrong, and then there's this"), are worthy noir entries. But it's part one that's the real masterpiece, as battered muscleman Marv (Mickey Rourke) tracks down his lover's killer.
9. and 10. "Pizza My Heart" (TBA) and "Everything You Want" (Feb. 7) - My favorite actress, "Roswell's" Shiri Appleby, deserves a lead role in a good movie or a new television series (whatever happened to "1/4 Life," ABC?). For now, these ABC Family movies will have to do.
And speaking of TV, check out next week's column for a rundown of the top 10 series of 2005.
JOHN HANSEN, entertainment editor, can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5863.
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