Kevin O'Reilly's 2004 Cinema Review

2004 was the year...

Mel Gibson made a fortune crucifying Jesus (but he was resurrected).

Michael Moore made a fortune crucifying George Bush (but he was re-elected).

Political propaganda filled arthouse cinemas.

Sequels, remakes, computer animation and special effects continued to dominate the multiplexes.

Hollywood made biopics of Sylvia Plath, Peter Sellers, Cole Porter, Bobby Darin, JM Barrie, Ray Charles, Howard Hughes and Alexander the Great.

Zhang Yimou turned martial arts into visual art.

The biggest movie star in cinemas was an ogre named Shrek.

The biggest movie star on the internet was an heiress named Paris Hilton.

Uma Thurman killed Bill.

Zombies killed everyone else.

But what were the movies like? Here's one reviewer's analysis of the best, worst, most undeservedly neglected, most disappointing, most sneakily enjoyable and most lucrative films released in 2004.

My top 10 films of 2004

1. Lost In Translation

UK cinema release: January 9th. Available on R1 & R2 DVD.

For once the hype was justified. Sofia Coppola's second film is an absolutely entrancing love story between two mismatched Americans stranded by fate in a Tokyo hotel. We eavesdrop as they make friends, pass the time together, explore their alien surroundings and slowly, tentatively fall in love. Scarlett Johansson gives a beautifully subtle performance and Murray matches her while at the same time doing his funniest work since Groundhog Day. Not since The Fabulous Baker Boys has a film had me quite so powerfully under its spell. Lost In Translation is the best film I saw in 2004.

Note: If you haven't already bought it, go for the Australian DVD which comes closest to capturing what the film looked like in cinemas and lacks the dull, dark tint of the US and UK discs

2. Open Range

UK cinema release: March 19th. Available on R1 & R2 DVD.

After a decade in the wilderness with only a couple of decent films to show for it (Tin Cup and Thirteen Days), Kevin Costner thoroughly redeemed himself with this magnificent western, which is at least the equal of his justly lauded Dances With Wolves. It's a simple tale of independent cattle grazers taking on an evil rancher but it's not the story that makes this film great, it's the way it's told. This is a beautifully constructed piece of cinema. Costner opens the film quietly, lazily, letting us get to know the characters and get to like them, then he slowly, confidently builds suspense, taking time out for lovely little digressions like the chocolate and cigars scene, before unleashing a stunning climactic gunfight which does for the western what the Normandy landing in Saving Private Ryan did for war films. A lot of people ignored this movie on its release and it failed dismally at the British box office but the word is slowly getting out.

3. Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy

UK cinema release: September 10th. Available on R1 DVD. R2 DVD out January 31st.

It was a good year for comedy, with Napoleon Dynamite, Starsky And Hutch and Dodgeball providing the kind of huge laughs that have become all too scarce recently. Then there was Anchorman, which topped them all and earned its place among comedy legends like Life Of Brian, This Is Spinal Tap and Austin Powers. Will Ferrell is absolutely hysterical as Ron Burgundy, the colossally pompous TV newsreader who is outraged when he's forced to take on a female co-host, played by Christina Applegate. After this and Elf, Ferrell seems poised for comedy superstardom. It's not his show alone though. Many of the funniest moments belong to his news team colleagues, Paul Rudd, Steve Carrell and David Koechner. The scene where they take turns trying to seduce Christina Applegate had me laughing as hard as I ever have at a film.

Note: The R1 DVD is available in a special edition box set with Wake Up Ron Burgundy, a second film made from the out-takes of Anchorman.

4. Garden State

UK cinema release: December 10th. Available on R1 DVD. R2 DVD out late spring 2004.

A wonderful little film from sitcom star and first time writer/director Zach Braff, Garden State conceals beneath a witty, cynical shell a deeply felt romance between a young man who numbs himself to life and a girl who embraces it. This could have gone wrong in so many ways that it's a small miracle how well it works. Natalie Portman is simply outstanding. Garden State also makes the best use of music I've seen recently, the track Let Go by Frou Frou being a perfect choice.

5. Napoleon Dynamite

UK cinema release: December 3rd. Available on R1 DVD. R2 DVD out April 25th.

It was a landmark year for independent American films, with The Passion Of The Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11 both becoming box office phenomenons and Saw, Open Water, Super Size Me and Garden State also finding large audiences. Napoleon Dynamite, a no-budget comedy about an obnoxious high school geek was a late summer smash in the States that outgrossed several expensive, would-be blockbusters. Its appeal? Simple. It's hilariously funny, blending dumb jokes and smart satire as deftly as Beavis And Butt-head and South Park.

6. The Aviator

UK cinema release: December 26th. R1 and R2 DVD out late spring 2004.

After a string of boring, cliche-ridden showbiz biopics (Beyond The Sea, De-Lovely, The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers), Martin Scorsese demonstrated how to do it right with his Howard Hughes movie, the best film of its kind since The People Vs Larry Flynt. Consistently engrossing and entertaining for all of its three hour running time, this also manages to do more than skim the surface of its subject, contrasting Hughes' visions and triumphs with his tragic descent into mental illness. Leonardo DiCaprio does his best work for years and Cate Blanchett is downright brilliant as Katherine Hepburn. The film is beautifully photographed by Robert Richardson.

7. Japanese Story

UK cinema release: June 4th. Available on R1 & R2 DVD.

One of the surprises of the year was this slow-burning Australian drama. In arguably her best performance, Toni Collette plays a moody geologist who reluctantly agrees to take a Japanese visitor on a tour of the Outback. Just when you think you know where the story is going, something happens (which I won't give away and you shouldn't try to find out) that changes everything and takes the film into uncharted territory. A film of startling emotional power.

8. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

UK cinema release: April 30th. Available on R1 & R2 DVD.

Writer Charlie Kaufman's screenplays have always been original and quirky - sometimes amusingly (Being John Malkovich) and sometimes just perplexingly (Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind) - but with the superb Adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze, he proved he could channel his oddball sensibility into telling a touching, human story. With Eternal Sunshine, directed by his other regular collaborator Michel Gondry, he uses a premise out of a Philip K Dick sci-fi thriller to tell a love story and the result is not only startlingly original but amazingly romantic. Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet are both as good as they've ever been.

9. Infernal Affairs II

UK cinema release: August 6th. Available on R2 DVD.

Alan Mak and Andrew Lau's Infernal Affairs is one of the best cop thrillers of recent years but its prequel tops it. Putting most cookie-cutter sequels to shame, this is an amazingly ambitious film which broadens the scope of the original and deepens its characters while telling an entirely different story. It's a gangster epic stretching across the 1990s, a turbulent decade in Hong Kong's history which saw the British colony return to Chinese rule. Eric Tsang, who plays the deceptively sweet-faced gang boss Sam, created possibly the most memorable character of the year. Even if you normally avoid subtitled films or think you hate Hong Kong movies, give this series a try.

10. Wonderland

UK cinema release: May 7th. Available on R1 & R2 DVD.

Here's a grim little tale - the story behind the 1981 Wonderland slayings, the most brutal multiple murder Los Angeles had seen since the Manson case. But what a fascinating story it is and what superbly drawn characters. Val Kilmer is terrific as ex-porn star John Holmes, an overgrown adolescent who unwittingly sets the horrible events in motion, while Kate Bosworth, previously known for such lightweight fare as Blue Crush and Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!, delivers an eye-opening performance as his child-like girlfriend.


My 10 worst films

1. House Of The Dead

Come back Resident Evil, all is forgiven. Paul WS Anderson's brain-dead zombie video game adaptation and its equally crap sequel are masterpieces compared to this unwatchable film based on Sega's light-gun shoot-em-up. Director Uwe Boll compensates for his inability to stage an action scene even semi-competently by including the worst use of Matrix-style bullet time effects yet, bizarrely cutting in clips from the video game and turning up the heavy metal soundtrack until you want to flee the cinema. It doesn't get much worse than this.

2. The Triumph Of Love

If House Of The Dead is mainstream trash at its most unendurable, The Triumph Of Love is arthouse preciousness at its most insufferable. Based on a 200-year-old French play, the story involves Mira Sorvino wandering around a country estate, telling the rest of the cast she's in love with them - to what end I have no idea. Billed as a sophisticated farce, it isn't witty or clever or charming or remotely funny. Two hours of this drivel and you're almost ready to beg for House Of The Dead instead. Almost.

3. Sylvia

Movie biopics are rarely interesting and usually contain less information or insight into their subjects than a 30 minute documentary on the Biography Channel. The worst examples tend to be about artists or showbiz people and concentrate on the miserable private lives of their subjects. Even by this genre's low standards, Sylvia is an endurance test. Gwyneth Paltrow plays a miserable woman who gets involved with a man who makes her more miserable. Because they're famous poets, we're supposed to care. If you need a dose of Gwyneth Paltrow, check out Sky Captain or her amusing straight-to-video stewardess comedy View From The Top. This is just torture.

4. The Whole Ten Yards

I loved Jonathan Lynn's gangster farce The Whole Nine Yards but its sequel is a comedy dead zone that knows it has no reason for existing and sits there, embarassed, on the screen for an hour and three quarters. The cast, given nothing funny or interesting to do, kill time any way they can. Bruce Willis takes his clothes off and shows off how lean and chiselled he's become, while Matthew Perry proves he's become so accomplished at bumping into things that maybe someone should enter him in Robot Wars. This joins Analyze That and Dumb And Dumberer in the pointless, unwanted sequel hall of shame.

5. Fat Slags / Sex Lives Of The Potato Men

Every once in a while, the British film industry gets the idea that it's going to revive the Confessions-style sex comedies of the seventies and the result usually fails to reach even their low standards. These two examples, apparently targeted at northern audiences who made Chubby Brown a star (northerners should protest that they're not completely undiscerning) are no exception. Fat Slags is boring, unfunny and atrociously made and Sex Lives Of The Potato Men tops it by being all that and quite disgusting too. Pity Johnny Vegas (Sex Lives) and Jerry O'Connell (Slags) who have too much talent to be wasted in such dross. The similar-sounding, Newcastle-set School For Seduction is more of a chick flick and, while not recommendable, has enough redeeming qualities to spare it from this list.

6. The Grudge

You know what jump scenes are: those sequences in all horror movies where a character wanders around a deserted house / barn / summer camp, is startled by something that turns out to be a cat / owl / prankster, breathes a sigh of relief and then gets jumped by a ghost / zombie / killer. Imagine a movie made up almost entirely of jump scenes and you've got The Grudge, in which Sarah Michelle Gellar and several other people we never get to know wander around, getting attacked by ghosts. Why do the ghosts attack everyone who comes to their house? Why are the ghosts the victims of the original crime and not its perpetrator? Why do the ghosts, which could presumably grab anyone at any time, toy with the major characters? Why do some of their victims die and others disappear? What do the ghosts do when they attack you? I don't think director Takashi Shimizu (who remade his own Japanese film) cares, just so long as he has an excuse to have people wander around, getting attacked by ghosts. If this isn't the worst film of the year, it has to be the most annoying and the most over-rated.

7. Christmas With The Kranks

Here's a comedy filled with the Christmas spirit. A couple who miss having their grown-up daughter at home decide that instead of spending a lonely Christmas without her, they'll skip the holiday and spend the money on a cruise. When their neighbours find out they won't be joining in the (apparently compulsory) Christmas festivities, they subject the couple to a persecution campaign normally reserved for convicted child molesters. And the film seems to agree with the neighbours! By the end, the Kranks have seen the error of their ways and resolved to never again leave their ghastly plastic snowman in the basement. This film made me want to throw snowballs at the screen. Great big ones with stones in them.

8. Thunderbirds

After their triumphant 2003, British production company Working Title had a very mixed 2004. Shaun Of The Dead was an unqualified smash hit but Wimbledon missed it obvious June release to tie in with the tournament and underperformed in September, while Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason was a success but the derision it received and the misgivings of its cast may have killed the franchise. The biggest blow was the disastrous performance of Thunderbirds at the summer box office - in America it failed to crack the weekly top ten. It's not hard to see why. The classic puppet adventure series is re-imagined as an idiotic kiddie flick in which the Thunderbirds and their pilots barely feature. Instead we get three annoying children, stupid comedy villains and a title song by Busted. Jonathan Frakes' once promising directing career looks like it's headed in the same direction as Leonard Nimoy's.

9. Wondrous Oblivion

This is the kind of worthy, horribly patronising message movie that I thought the British film industry had stopped making. A cricket-obsessed youth in 1960s London befriends his new West Indian neighbours and learns it's wrong to be racist... especially when your neighbours are friendly and wise and want to help you with your cricket, teach you life lessons and re-awaken your mum's repressed sexuality (without actually crossing the line to adultery), while all the white people you know are either bumbling nitwits who learn to outgrow their prejudices or evil, sneering Aryans. The film's commercial prospects can't have been helped by a poster which looked like an advert for washing powder.

10. Honey / You Got Served

Wassup dog! Grab yo shorty n check out dese bangin filmz yall. Dey iz dope. Dey iz kickin. Dey iz da bomb. If you understood all that, you're probably the target audience for Honey and You Got Served, you probably liked them and I hope you're not reading this when you should be doing your homework. If you didn't understand it, be sure to avoid these laughably written, horribly acted, Disneyfied, PG-13 rated, inner city hip hop dramas like you would avoid a car load of scowling gang bangers with Uzis. Word.


10 good films you didn't see

1. Cellular

I have no idea why this clever, edge-of-the-seat action thriller flopped at the box office but make sure you don't miss it on DVD. Kim Basinger is the kidnapped woman who manages to call a random stranger's mobile phone and enlist his help in rescuing her. A wildly inventive script keeps the suspense at fever pitch.

2. Jersey Girl

Kevin Smith's first film not to feature Jay and Silent Bob and copious swearing died a grim box office death, perhaps thanks to its falling star Ben Affleck. It's a shame because this little charmer about a widowed father is one of Smith's best and proof that he isn't a one-trick pony. Affleck is also as good in this as he's been for a long time.

3. The Station Agent

A completely charming independent comedy starring Peter Dinklage (the chldren's book writer from Elf) as a dwarf who loses his best friend and inherits a disused railway station in New Jersey. Planning to live a solitary life there, he finds himself pestered by divorcee Patricia Clarkson and gregarious hot dog vendor Bobby Cannavale, neither of whom appear able to take a hint. A sweet film about the importance of friendship.

4. Shattered Glass

The true story of journalist Stephen Glass and how he fooled America's highly respected New Republic magazine into printing more than two dozen completely fictional articles. Star Wars star Hayden Christensen jumps at the chance to show he can act while rising indie star Peter Sarsgaard is outstanding as his editor.

5. My Summer Of Love

Two teenage girls from very different backgrounds meet one balmy English summer in Yorkshire and their instant friendship turns into romance and then into a scarily obsessive relationship that excludes all others. A fascinating, intoxicating and unnerving movie and the best British film of the year.

6. Spartan

David Mamet making an action film? Yes, he wrote and directed this hard-bitten thriller starring Val Kilmer as a secret service agent in the ruthless, Jack Bauer from 24 tradition. He's assigned to locate the president's daughter when she disappears and is presumed kidnapped by white slavers but wouldn't you know, there's a conspiracy afoot! Actually, despite the occasional hints that Mamet is aiming for serious themes, there's not a lot between this and 24 and the main pleasure comes from watching Kilmer kick ass. If you check this one out, try and keep track of how many sidekicks Val loses.

7. The Human Stain

Robert Benton's thoughtful drama opens with college professor Anthony Hopkins being sacked from his tyrannically PC campus after he is unfairly accused of racism. The bitter irony of this is later revealed in the boldest and most genuinely surprising plot twist in years. The story is also concerned with his May to December romance with abused wife Nicole Kidman. Not a perfect film, with an ending that seems like a cop-out, but still very worthwhile and criminally under-rated.

8. Before Sunset

Making a sequel to 1995's romantic hit Before Sunrise seemed like a terrible idea but director Richard Linklater pulled it off and turned this semi-improvised two-character piece into one of the art-house hits of the year. A total delight.

9. The Prince And Me

The success of The Princess Diaries opened the gates for a slew of movies aimed at pubescent girls, most of which starred either Hilary Duff or Lindsay Lohan. The general rule is Lohan's are worth seeing (especially Mean Girls) and Duff's are best avoided (especially Cheaper By The Dozen). The Prince And Me, starring thinking man's babe Julia Stiles, is probably the best to date. Directed by Martha Coolidge, who made Rambling Rose and Real Genius, it's a genuinely charming romance between a Danish prince and an American college girl. Although it meanders towards the end, it transcends its tweenie genre and it's worth a look even if you don't wear a training bra and listen to Busted.

10. The Company

Robert Altman's study of a Chicago ballet company feels like a dramatised fly on the wall documentary. There's no story as such, just a glimpse at what a year in the life of such a company might be like - on stage, in rehearsals, in the offices of its director, in the private lives of its dancers. An experiment that pays off, this is a fascinating experience.


10 disappointments

1. I Heart Huckabees

The talented David O Russell disappears spectacularly up his own arse, taking a fine cast including Dustin Hoffman, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg and Naomi Watts with him. Is this a satire of philosphical navel gazing? A navel gazing satire of philosophy? A philosophical satire of navel gazing? Russell trying to do Charlie Kaufman and failing? Maybe you can figure it out. Take some aspirin with you.

2. Finding Neverland

Monsters Ball director Marc Foster follows it with a shameless tear-jerker in which Johnny Depp does the sort of man-child routine Robin Williams used to do in the nineties. Playing JM Barrie, he befriends some lonely children who inspire him to write Peter Pan. Some loved it but I cringed from its sentimentality.

3. The Manchurian Candidate

Jonathan Demme's glum, lengthy remake of the acclaimed 1962 conspiracy thriller concentrates on making political points and forgets to create suspense or entertain. The decision to focus more closely on the brainwashing plot and the seriousness with which it's taken only serve to expose how silly it actually is.

4. Switchblade Romance

This French slasher film wants to follow in the footsteps of 1970s classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's grim and gory enough but ultimately it's no more successful than Wrong Turn or the Texas Chainsaw remake and for the same reasons: it's too slick and too plainly a retread over familiar ground. It still sort of works for most of its running time but the final twist is a jaw-dropping insult to the intelligence.

5. I, Robot

Although it was one of the summer's biggest blockbusters, I found I, Robot as monotonous and machine-like as the androids it's about. Director Alex Proyas displays little of the style he demonstrated with The Crow and Dark City and Will Smith just goes through the motions. Even Van Helsing's CGI looks less cartoon-like.

6. Layer Cake

Matthew Vaughn, producer of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch directs his own gangster film and it falls unsatisfyingly between tongue-in-cheek Guy Ritchie pastiche and straight, Get Carter-style drama.

7. The Big Bounce

When George Armitage, director of Grosse Pointe Blank, tackles an Elmore Leonard novel with a cast including Owen Wilson, Morgan Freeman and Gary Sinise, you have a right to expect something a little more substantial or at least more entertaining than this forgettable piece of fluff. The picturesque Hawaiian locations and femme fatale Sara Foster's bikini-clad body are the film's best assets. Straight to video in the UK and deservedly so.

8. She Hate Me

OK, I get what Spike Lee is trying to say about corporations and whistleblowers but what the hell is he trying to say about men and women and sperm donors and lesbians and relationships and bisexuality? And how do the Mafia tie in? Lee is one of America's most intelligent and compelling directors but sometimes he messes up big time and generally it's when he starts musing about sex (see also Mo' Better Blues and Girl 6).

9. The Passion Of The Christ

Mel Gibson caught flak for his negative portrayal of the Jewish high priests but it was his depiction of the Roman soldiers as sneering goons out of a Rambo movie that proved to be the most distracting flaw in his laudably ambitious passion play. That and his determination to put Jim Caviezel's Christ through torments that would have killed him at least six times over. Rarely has "less is more" been more appropriate.

10. Bride And Prejudice

Gurinder Chadha's Bollywood version of Pride And Prejudice might have been something special if she'd had the courage of her convictions. The Bollywood stuff works nicely but she waters it down with a hefty dose of bland, transatlantic rom com. We had enough of those this year, thank you.

10 guilty pleasures

1. Welcome To The Jungle (aka The Rundown)

"Have fun", Arnold Schwarzenegger tells The Rock in his brief cameo in Welcome To The Jungle. The Rock takes his advice and delivers the kind of highly entertaining, kick-ass entertainment that Arnold himself might have made twenty years ago. In his first non-barbarian role, the former WWE wrestler shows major star potential. Besides his physical presence, he's funny and very likeable. A few more films like this (rather than his disappointing follow-up Walking Tall) and the action star vacuum left by the Governor of California will be filled more than adequately.

2. Eurotrip

Four American college students tour Europe in this wonderfully lewd and politically incorrect slob comedy, which deserves comparisons to Bachelor Party and Revenge Of The Nerds. The filmmakers poke fun at every conceivable European stereotype and gets away with it by making its Yank heroes the butt of most of the jokes. Britain is represented by Vinnie Jones as a deranged football hooligan who makes the kids sing the Manchester United song.... which sounds rather familiar!

3. Highwaymen

This is a brutal revenge thriller from the director of The Hitcher, starring Jim Caviezel as a vigilante cruising the freeways of America in a hunt for a serial-killer whose weapon is his car and who murdered Caviezel's wife. Rhona Mitra plays the innocent woman who unwittingly comes between them. Very much in the style of seventies and eighties B-movies, with no irony, no special effects and little humour. Highwaymen is lean, mean and well worth checking out.

4. Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!

A sweet romantic comedy that doesn't quite work because its Hollywood hunk is far more likeable than the smalltown nerd the heroine is supposed to realise is the one for her, this is still good fun and it's an excellent showcase for the star quality of Kate Bosworth. An excellent actress who was terrific in Wonderland and Beyond The Sea, she has a dazzling, girl-next-door appeal that calls to mind Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire.

5. Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star

Barely released in Britain in February - I had to go to Croydon to see it - this Adam Sandler produced comedy stars Saturday Night Live graduate David Spade as, yes, a former child star who hires a family to teach him what a normal childhood might have been like. Very much in the mould of other Sandler-produced films like Deuce Bigalow and The Waterboy, this is a cute little comedy with some very big laughs, the We Are The World-style charity song at the end (sung by a host of real former child stars) providing the biggest.

6. After The Sunset

Pierce Brosnan and Woody Harrelson are so much fun to watch and the locations are so gorgeous that you can just about ignore the facts that the script is just a warmed up mishmash of every other heist movie ever made and Brett Ratner can't direct action to save his life.

7. Ella Enchanted

With a better director than Tommy O'Haver, this charming live action Shrek might really have been something but his flat direction kills a lot of the humour. Even so, this comic fairy tale still provides plenty of fun and should amuse adults as well as children.

8. Exorcist: The Beginning

Well I liked it! 'Course, I liked The Final Conflict, Stigmata and Bless The Child too. I'm a sucker for quasi-religious horror hokum about priests battling the devil. How could I not like one that threw killer hyenas into the mix? By all accounts Paul Schrader's unreleased version is better but this will do for cheesy thrills.

9. Torque

I said this would make my guilty pleasures list and here it is. Martin Henderson plays a badass biker on the run from the cops and other badass bikers in this two-wheeled spin-off of The Fast And The Furious. If it wasn't for the awful, CGI-created climax, this might rank higher up the list.

10. My Boss's Daughter

David Zucker's old-fashioned farce bypassed cinemas in the UK but it's more amusing than most comedies that played in multiplexes this year. Ashton Kutcher is roped into housesitting for his scary boss (Terence Stamp), who warns him not to leave so much as a smudge. You can guess the rest but it's done well and there are some big laughs.


Top 10 at the box office

1. Shrek 2

Funnier and more inventive than the original Shrek, this was deservedly a big hit with audiences of all ages. Few grown-up films have this much wit. Now pray for mercy from... Puss In Boots.

2. Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

Alfonso Cuaron took the third Harry Potter film in a slightly darker direction which is just as well as the formula is starting to wear a little thin. Entertaining enough but these movies just can't support their two and a half hour running times.

3. Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason

If you were dragged to this awful sequel by your girlfriend, I hope you're still together. How did a film which practically no one admitted to liking become the third highest grossing hit of the year?

4. The Incredibles

At two hours, Pixar's sixth feature film is far too long and it's a step down from the sublime Finding Nemo but it's still solid family entertainment with a razor sharp wit and a timely message about the way modern society shuns excellence and champions mediocrity (see no. 3).

5. Spider-Man 2

Sam Raimi topped his entertaining Spider-Man movie with a richer, more involving and more confident sequel pitting Spidey against Alfred Molina's Dr Octopus and his own insecurities. This is how to do a comic book superhero movie - others take note.

6. The Day After Tomorrow

Roland Emmerich's megabudget eco-disaster movie is good, destructive fun for an hour with super duper special effects laying waste to Manhattan and Los Angeles. Unfortunately when that's finished, there's an hour of talking, shivering and CGI wolves still to come.

7. Shark Tale

The third computer animated film in the top 10 and easily the least of them. Still, it's pleasant enough and if my mate's 6-year-old is anything to go by, it certainly kept the kids happy.

8. Troy

While his fellow German Roland Emmerich swamped New York, Wolfgang Petersen sacked Troy with the aid of Brad Pitt, a wooden horse and several thousand computer-generated soldiers. Highly enjoyable.

9. I, Robot

See under disappointments.

10. Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed

Another amiable kids' film with a short running time and enough sly jokes to keep older folk amused. I can't remember a thing about it but I wasn't bored.

Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:31:53

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