It’s that time of year. Let’s just get this bit over with…
10. Cinderella Man: Great boxing movie, great biopic, great movie. It just works.
9. Land of The Dead: The gore is plentiful, the satire is sharp, the characters are fun and zombies finally act like like ZOMBIES again. Thank you, Mr. Romero.
8. A History of Violence: Forget what the critics all decided it’s message was before seeing it and just see it. David Cronenberg has made one of the all-time great American crime/revenge stories, no matter what you think it’s “really about.”
7. The Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe: Disney finally bankrolls an adaptation of a classic without mucking everything up, resulting in a family epic embraced by everyone from devout Christians to the Newest of the New Age. Nearly a half-century later, C.S. Lewis’ work is still able to enthrall an audience whether you think the Lion is Jesus or you just love a good fairytale.
6. Batman Begins: A rich character drama, a complex crime thriller, as great a meditation on revenge and redemption as were “Munich” and “Violence,” scenes of powerful humanity, a 3rd act of tremendous scale and action, a film of real meaning about a man who dresses up in a bat costume. In a new millenium that’s forced the cultural elite to take Hobbits and Wizards seriously, can the Superhero be far behind?
5. Sin City: Some dismissed it as “geek noir” without even realizing that that’s no longer an insult. The most modern tools of filmmaking, the classic style of an age long passed, a grand cast of actors across generations and the black and white soul of cinema are here joined and whole new animal emerges. The future is now.
4. King Kong: See above. Peter Jackson’s epic tribute to his favorite movie puts joyful humor and real romance side-by-side with awesome action and visual poetry, and puts the Monster back into Monster Movies.
3. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang: Once unforgivably villified as a screenwriter’s antichrist, buddy movie specialist Shane Black returns with a vengeance, writing and directing one of the best action/buddy comedies in years. A loving riff on dime store paperback noir, with a star turn by Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer in his best role in years.
2. Munich: Too much has been made of it’s supposed politics, not enough of it’s actual filmmaking. Steven Speilberg makes his best film since Ryan, reaffirms the spy thriller as a great drama and takes mainstream movie up to the level of high art.
1. Good Night and Good Luck: Smartly written and photographed in gorgeous retro-cool style, Clooney and company retell the Creation Myth of modern TV journalism is honest, straightforward terms anchored by a stunner of a lead turn by David Straitharn. Brava.