Tall Matt's Travels

Movie Review: 2004

Well, it's that time of year again.  Spring Training has started, basketball is fully 'Maddening', and the weather in the Midwest will soon be turning tornadic.  It also means it's time for another movie list from yours truly. 

I received a pretty good response from last year's effort, so I figured a sequel was warranted (poor pun intended).  For those of you new to the list, you may or may not know I'm pretty much a freak about movies.  I go to the theater all the time, and am sadly known by name (Norm-in-Cheers style) in Blockbuster.  Coinciding with my film obsession, is my belief that one of the best jobs in the world would be that of movie critic.  Even though their credibility is in many cases just a rung below the local weatherman, the perks are many: you don't really produce anything of substance, everything you write is simply your own meandering, often unfounded opinion, and oh... YOUR JOB IS TO WATCH MOVIES.  So, I take it upon myself once a year to promote myself to this high calling and produce this list. 

The below are the top 25 movies of 2004 (I added some summaries in case you haven't heard of some of these - thanks Yahoo!).   Keep in mind this list is biased toward my movie-geek preferences, but my tastes are pretty wide-ranging.  You'll see animated family films right next to stories about heroin addicts.   A few people from last year asked me what my criteria is.  The list is generated mainly by my overall enjoyment of the movie.  Was it fun?  Was it moving?  Was I thinking about it days later?  Would I see it again?  There's not really a set formula.  For example: A lot of other people wouldn't consider "The Incredibles" as a best-picture candidate because it's an animated film with a PG rating.  However the story, the characters and the visuals are as good as anything that came out this year and therefore made my top 5. 

Despite my best efforts, I missed seeing a few I intend to get to at some point (noted at the bottom of this list), and of course there's a bunch I just won't go see because I have absolutely no desire to see them.  In some cases, they are blatant chick flicks I won't attend unless somehow coerced by the fairer sex (e.g. 'the Notebook').   There's also a bunch I saw that didn't make it for a reason (all told I saw around 60 last year), like "Starsky and Hutch" and "the Ladykillers" or "Taxi" (it was a long flight).  If you've seen them and think they should be on the list, well, you're wrong.  Just kidding.  Kind of.  If you see something obviously or inexplicably missing, let me know.  Otherwise, it's a fairly safe bet I've seen it, but it didn't make the top 25. 

Again, feel free to send comments about my lack of better things to do.  Tell you what though, get NetFlix or a MoviePass at Blockbuster and see how many movies you watch in the course of 2-3 months.  It will suck you in I tell you. 

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2004's Top 25:
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1) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
This is the story of a guy, Joel, who discovers that his long-time girlfriend, Clementine, has undergone a psychiatrist's experimental procedure in which all of her memory of Joel is removed, after the couple has tried for years to get their relationship working fluidly. Frustrated by the idea of still being in love with a woman who doesn't remember their time together, Joel agrees to undergo the procedure as well, to erase his memories of Clementine. The film, which takes place mostly within Joel's mind, follows his memories of Clementine backwards in time as each recent memory is replaced, and the procedure then goes on to the previous one, which is likewise seen, and then erased. Once the process starts, however, Joel realizes he doesn't really want to forget Clementine, so he starts smuggling her away into parts of his memory where she doesn't belong... which alters other things about his memories as well.

2) Million Dollar Baby *
In the wake of a painful estrangement from his daughter, boxing trainer Frankie Dunn has been unwilling to let himself get close to anyone for a very long time--then Maggie Fitzgerald walks into his gym. In a life of constant struggle, Maggie's gotten herself this far on raw talent, unshakable focus and a tremendous force of will. In turns exasperating and inspiring each other, the two come to discover that they share a common spirit that transcends the pain and loss of their pasts, and they find in each other a sense of family they lost long ago. Yet, they both face a battle that will demand more heart and courage than any they've ever known.

3) Spider-Man 2
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man returns in the sequel to the record-breaking blockbuster movie debut for Marvel Comics' flagship character. Tobey Maguire returns as Peter Parker, the nerd-turned-hero, to face new threats to New York City and the people he loves.

4) Hotel Rwanda
Ten years ago, some of the worst atrocities in the history of mankind took place in the country of Rwanda; and in an era of high-speed communication and round-the-clock news, the events went almost unnoticed by the rest of the world. In only three months, almost 1 million people were brutally murdered. In the face of these unspeakable actions, inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summons extraordinary courage to save the lives of over a thousand helpless refugees by granting them shelter in the hotel he manages.

5) The Incredibles
Once one of the world's top masked crimefighters, Bob Parr (AKA Mr. Incredible) fought evil and saved lives on a daily basis. But fifteen years later, he and his wife Helen (a famous former superhero in her own right) have been forced to take on civilian identities and retreat to the suburbs.  Itching for action, the sidelined superhero gets his chance when a mysterious communication summons him to a remote island for a topsecret assignment. Now, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance, the family must come together and once again find the fantastic in their family life.

6) Garden State
When Andrew Largeman returns to his hometown in New Jersey for the first time in 10 years to attend his mother's funeral, he is reconnected with the world he left behind, and meets a girl, Samantha, who may change his life forever. Having recently stopped taking the powerful antidepressants he had been prescribed for years, Largeman's journey of self-discovery prompted by his return causes him to have a more healthy rediscovery of himself, which includes confronting his psychologist father and helping Samantha through her own psychological issues.

7) The Bourne Supremacy
'The Bourne Supremacy' re-enters the shadowy world of expert assassin Jason Bourne, who continues to find himself plagued by splintered nightmares from his former life.

8) The Aviator *
"The Aviator," directed by Martin Scorsese and written by John Logan, tells the story of aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, the eccentric billionaire industrialist and Hollywood film mogul, famous for romancing some of the world's most beautiful women. The drama recounts the years of his life from the late 1920s through the 1940s, an epoch when Hughes was directing and producing Hollywood movies and test flying innovative aircrafts he designed and created.

9) Napoleon Dynamite
Napoleon Dynamite is a quirky teenager growing up in the remotes of Idaho with a love for dancing and the way of the ninja who's really just trying to understand his life while living with his Uncle Rico, whose shady business deals are just some of the things that make Napoleon's social life in small-town Idaho all the more difficult.

10) Finding Neverland *
Set in London in 1904, the film follows J.M. Barrie's creative journey to bring Peter Pan to life, from his first inspiration for the story up until the play's premiere at the Duke of York's Theatre - a night that will change not only Barrie's own life, but the lives of everyone close to him.

11) Man on Fire
Denzel Washington stars as a government operative/soldier of fortune who has pretty much given up on life. In Mexico City, he reluctantly agrees to take a job to protect a child whose parents are threatened by a wave of kidnappings. He eventually becomes close to the child and their relationship reawakens and rekindles his spirit. When she is abducted, his fiery rage is unleashed on those he feels responsible, and he stops at nothing to save her.

12) Sideways *
Miles Faymond, a divorced middle school teacher and failed novelist, and his altar-bound friend Jack take a wine-tasting trip in California, pondering questions about their directions in life.

13) Dodgeball
A small local gym is threatened with extinction by a gleaming sports and fitness palace unless a group of social rejects can rise to victory in the ultimate dodgeball competition.

14) Collateral
This movie focuses on one very tumultuous day for Max, as he figures out that the fare he's been driving around all day is a contract killer, committing a series of hits. Now, it's up to him to somehow stop the killer from executing the last witness... as well as himself.

15) Shaun of the Dead
Drowning his sorrows the following day, Shaun devises a plan to win Liz back, but today, all is not as it seems... Unfortunately for Shaun 'the dead' have risen in London and soon a full Zombie apocalypse has exploded onto the streets. Determined to save his girlfriend and salvage their relationship, Shaun and his pals let nothing stand in their way as they go forth on a zombie killing spree to save the day!

16) Ray *
Ray is the musical biographical drama of American legend Ray Charles. Born in a poor town in Georgia, Ray Charles went blind at the age of seven shortly after witnessing his younger brother's accidental death. "Ray" provides an portrait of Charles' musical genius as he overcomes drug addiction while transforming into one of this country's most beloved performers.

17) Shrek 2
Picking up exactly where the first movie left off, this movie takes us to the kingdom of Far, Far Away as Shrek and Fiona return to her homeland to tell her parents the good news. Not everyone is happy to find her married to an ogre, with the most irate in this group being Prince Charming, who was supposed to be the one who lifted Fiona's curse.

18) Hellboy
When a Nazi mystical experiment goes awry in 1944, the target of a wizard's spell, Hellboy is wrenched from his home and adopted by the U.S. agents who intercept his arrival. Raised as a force of good, Hellboy grows up to be a full-fledged demon in the form of a man, complete with fierce red skin, a tail, a giant armored glove, and two large circles where his horns should be (if they ever grow back, Hellboy is quick to break them off). Now, the adult Hellboy, an investigator of the paranormal, is sent on a mission that brings him back in touch with the evil genius that started it all...

19) The Manchurian Candidate
Captain Bennett Marco and Sgt. Raymond Shaw served together during the Persian Gulf War (the first one), and were part of a platoon of U.S. soldiers who were kidnapped by the enemy, and brainwashed to become pawns once they return home. Now, ten years later, Raymond Shaw is climbing the political ladder, as his mother's new husband is a powerful senator helping a presidential candidate. Marco, however, is not dealing with the adjustment after the war as well, and eventually remembers being brainwashed.

20) Troy
In 1193 B.C., Prince Paris of Troy stole the beautiful Greek woman, Helen, away from her husband, Menelaus, the king of Sparta, setting the two nations at war with each other, as the Greeks began a bloody siege of Troy using their entire armada, led by Achilles, that lasted over a decade.

21) Saved!
"Good girl" Mary and her popular, influential best friend, Hilary Faye, are starting their senior year at the top of the social structure at American Christian High School. But when Mary finds out she's pregnant, Hilary Faye and her devoted "disciples" turn against Mary and the school labels her an outcast. It's as an outsider, however, that Mary finds true friends - other students the school doesn't quite know what to do with.

22) Tie - Spartan / Stander
-Spartan: When Scott is recruited to find Laura Newton, the daughter of a high-ranking government official, he is paired with novice Curtis, who becomes his protégé. Working with a special task force comprised of Presidential Advisors, the Secret Service, FBI and CIA, Scott and Derek stumble upon a white slavery ring, which may have some connection to Laura's disappearance. As the story unfolds, the straightforward search-and-rescue mission becomes complicated by the political ambitions of those in high places--like Stoddard, a political operative who may know more than he's telling about the clandestine circumstances surrounding Laura's abduction.

-Stander: The true story of the life of Andre Stander, the youngest Captain in the Johannesburg Police Force and South Africa's most notorious bank robber.  Andre Stander is a young, white policeman enjoying the comforts of middle-class married life in late-1970s South Africa, a country riven by Apartheid. Deeply affected by the indiscriminate killing he witnesses and takes part in during Riot Patrol, Stander wordlessly makes a decision to defy the very system he has spent a lifetime enforcing. Stander's form of civil disobedience, however, takes an unusual form: a series of audacious, high-flying bank robberies, with the young police officer oftentimes returning to the scene of the crime as the lead investigating officer.

23) The Passion of the Christ
This film tells the story of the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus, on the day of his crucifixion in Jerusalem. This film's script is based upon several sources, including the diaries of St. Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824) as collected in the book, "The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ", "The Mystical City of God" by St. Mary of Agreda, and the New Testament books of John, Luke, Mark and Matthew.

24) Kill Bill Vol. 2
Continuing the story-line which unfolded in "Kill Bill Vol. I," this is a revenge tale of an expert assassin, called The Bride, who sets out on a quest to wreak vengeance upon her former employer, Bill, and other members of their assassin circle, for shooting her at her wedding--along with everyone else in attendance--and leaving her for dead. '

25) The Butterfly Effect
A young man struggling with the psychological effects of sublimated childhood memories devises a technique of traveling back in time to inhabit his childhood body, but he finds that every trip back has unintended results on his present self, leading him to travel back again and again, trying to repair the damage that he's only making worse and worse.


Honorable Mentions:

- Anchorman
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
- Without a Paddle
- Mean Creek

Haven't seen but would like to at some point...

- Assasination of Richard Nixon, The
- Beyond the Sea
- Closer
- Fahrenheit 9/11
- House of Flying Daggers
- I Heart Huckabees
- Life Aquatic, The
- Machinist, The
- Meet the Fockers
- Merchant of Venice, The
- Motorcycle Diaries, The
- Phantom of the Opera, The
- Sea Inside, The
- Supersize Me
- Team America: World Police
- United States of Leland, The
- I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

* nominated for 2004 Academy Award for Best Picture

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