2005 was a year that exists for me as a phantom. I know I went to the movies that year. Do I remember them? Well I thought I didn’t. I thought when I went I was usually bored. And I was wrong. A lot of interesting films hit in 2005. Time to celebrate them.
The Bottom 25 of 2005
#76. The Island. Am I weird for not caring about Michael Bay one way or the other. He’s talented but in a very narrow band. He’s usually just there for me. This stands unique as his only big budget bomb. Those who saw it liked it. Just weren’t many who did.
#77. The Ringer. I genuinely wonder what would’ve happened if Johnny Knoxville had become a character actor like I think he had the potential to be. He’s not untalented but he sure did like it safe. This was a bad idea done far better in a South Park episode.
#78. Hostage. Bruce Willis phoning it in. Most notable thing: the director was a video game director. Beyond that, another generic action movie.
#79. Magnificent Desolation (IMAX). Weirdest thing I’ve discovered doing this column would have to be how huge these IMAX films were. There are some big films below this one and yet this made more money. Even factoring in how expensive IMAX tickets are, this was an underrated business model.
#80. The Constant Gardener. And we hit the first great film I’ll discuss in this column, possibly the best wide release over Labor Day weekend ever. This is a powerhouse film. Ralph Fiennes cast hard against type as a meeker figure is great but this is Rachel Weisz’s declaration of how thunderous a talent she is. No wonder she ran away with the Oscar. This is a film to live in.
#81. In Her Shoes. I miss the late Curtis Hanson so much. He could do films like LA Confidential and 8 Mile then do sweet, humane films like Wonder Boys and this. I don’t miss Toni Collette because thankfully she’s never stopped working. There’s a lot of good here.
#82. Bad News Bears. I know it’s easy to trash a soulless remake phoned in by Richard Linklater but I look at a film like this (and the far better School of Rock) and see the films funded by it. We didn’t need this but we needed Boyhood. That said, would it have killed Billy Bob Thornton to have made at least one good movie during his sellout phase? Just one A Simple Plan?
#83. Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story. Welcome to the death throes of Dreamworks. Sure, animation was thriving but the lack of caring at the end of this company fascinates me. Read The Men Who Would Be King. This was technically considered just after the purchase by Paramount and they were flinging product at the wall. I’m talking about this all because I have nothing to say about the film.
#84. Because of Winn-Dixie. My mother loved this book when she taught it. Don’t know if she saw the film. I definitely didn’t. I’ve never heard anything good about it. I’m from the South and I’m allergic to this dreck.
#85. Just Friends. Wow, how much do I hate here? The fat suit? The idea of men and women not being able to be friends? The whole film? Ugh. Ryan Reynolds hasn’t ever really moved beyond this either. I mean he’s tried but he gets his best box office in parts like this. (Deadpool 2 is legit awesome at least.)
#86. Stealth. Bwahahahahahaha. Oh this movie! We don’t realize how hard this was sold unless you were there. This was going to be huge. It pretty much killed Rob Cohen’s career and took Josh Lucas down with him. Jamie Foxx was spared by his Oscar (and leaving the film early.)
#87. House of Wax. Jaume Collet-Serra debuts and all is good. 2005 had a lot of horror that tried way harder than you’d expect and that rules. Sure this was sold on the overexposed Paris Hilton dying but it’s well-liked for its atmosphere now.
#88. The Wedding Date. Movies like this go to Netflix now and I’m not sad about that. It’s cute. It’s sweet. But this is a Lifetime movie with barely a better cast. Meh. Side note: This was produced by Gold Circle Films. Strong contender for worst studio of the 2000s.
#89. Good Night, and Good Luck. Another truly great film. Director George Clooney was a bold idiosyncratic director in his first two films with a fixation on media. Telling a chillingly timeless story of an ideologue destroying innocents, he came alive. The film has some of DP god Robert Elswit’s best visuals ever. But what I’ll really remember this film for is getting Robert Downey Jr. up on his feet. He’s vital to the film working and shows he can still work at a top-level. Damn good movie here.
#90. A History of Violence. Before I get to the next 10 films, and you should strap in, realize this did better than them. I know the norm is the American public has bad taste. No, this time celebrate that one of David Cronenberg’s most important films did better than a lot of dreck. Good job.
#91. Get Rich or Die Tryin’. Well… guess I know which he chose. Actually what’s wild is this is the start of a very long, almost exclusively DTV career for 50 Cent. But this was one hell of a bad start. Poorly received and seen, this was not his 8 Mile despite imitating it down to a high-caliber director, Jim Sheridan, overseeing it. Too bad.
#92. The Fog. If I said this came out in 2001 or 2009, would you correct me? This feels like the other remakes: perfunctory and obligatory. Guess we had to have it. We did. We forgot it. When you reference The Fog, horror fans don’t even ask which.
#93. Zathura. Um…what the hell happened here? You have solid reviews, a strong cast with two future YA film giants, a director whose next film launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a riff on material (Jumanij but in space) that launched two blockbuster films. What happened here? I have no answer at all.
#94. Rent. Oh how I am ashamed I liked this movie when I saw it. It was the right mood. That said this is a film about revolting sociopaths who are so ego-driven it repulses me. Then there’s how sad it is to see most of the cast back, far too old for their roles. Stephen Chbosky didn’t write another movie for 7 years and the film he made next, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is as honest as this is false.
#95. Capote. You know how I hate biopics? Well I do. I don’t hate this film though. In fact I think this is a legitimately powerful film which works because it riffs on the very trap biopics fall into, namely caricature. Truman Capote was a self-made caricature. This movie made him a person. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s work is all-time great here. It helps this has a fascinating story. A flamboyantly gay man sets out to write a brutally raw book about a real life murder and finds success costs. It doesn’t hurt I think In Cold Blood is a genius book. This is something great.
#96. Doom. Dwayne Johnson was seriously not born a box office draw. This was a dud but I’m fascinated by it from the perspective of today. You have a great cast in Johnson, Karl Urban, and Rosamund Pike. You have source material that’s still popular now, especially after the recent reboot game. This should have connected but they threw out every reason the game did. Fidelity matters.
#97. XXX: State of the Union. Fun fact: this included on the dvd a scene that definitively killed off Vin Diesel’s hero from the first. Also fun fact: he reprised the part anyway this year. That’s more entertaining than this generic franchise extension.
#98. Elizabethtown. Seriously I despise Cameron Crowe. With the exception of Vanilla Sky, which I adore, I hate his hipster tripe movies. But I still take no joy in what a bomb this was because it took the supremely talented Kirsten Dunst down for a long time. This and the eventually redeemed Marie Antionette sank her. I hate that.
#99. Aeon Flux. Can a movie be a debacle for the people who made it yet also a start of something great? This was a nightmare for director Karyn Kusama and writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi yet because of how strongly they bonded–Kusama and Hay even married and have a child–they formed a team that led to the acclaimed The Initiation and the hotly buzzed Destroyer. Bad movie here but greatness came from it.
#100. Serenity. I’m going to break some hearts. It’s ok that this was the end. Audiences rejected the show and movie. It’s dead. Let it go. This is a great, rollicking ride. But it wasn’t a hit. At all. It’s over.
The Top 25 Grossers of 2005
#25. Cheaper by the Dozen 2. I skipped this one. I guess I’m glad it exists because Steve Martin made money to fund his better work. But nope, no interest and that’s fine.
#24. Are We There Yet? Ice Cube’s journey from N.W.A. to here fascinates me. He went from aggressive in his youth to a cuddly family figure, even in raunchier work like 21 Jump Street. And I don’t mock the guy for that since by all accounts that’s who he is. He’s been married since 1992 to the mother of his 4 kids, one of whom is the rising star O’Shea Jackson Jr. I don’t see a family film like this as selling out. I see it as who he is at this point.
#23. Monster-In-Law. I’m moving past this fast. Jane Fonda is a legend and thankfully she’s currently on Netflix on the great Grace and Frankie where she’s utterly destroying alongside Lily Tomlin. We’ve all seen that? Good. Next.
#22. Brokeback Mountain. Doesn’t it seem like this is low for what this is? This movie is usually THE movie that comes up when 2005 comes up. It’s widely felt it should’ve won Best Picture. It was endlessly discussed. And really it just did fine. I think the impact is outsized because it was so big on video. This is a legitimately great film that deserves the love.
#21. Saw II. I feel weirdly happy seeing a Saw movie do this well. I don’t really like the films but I appreciate what a tradition they were for several years. This was the franchise’s financial peak.
#20. Flightplan. Boooo. Jodie Foster is one of the greatest actresses of her age so why are her few films post-2000 so rarely on her level, save for Inside Man and Panic Room? This is bad. So bad the twists are in the trailer as are the untwists. Peter Sarsgaard really must hate movies like this because he got hard trapped in this kind of role despite being a damn good actor.
#19. The 40-Year-Old Virgin. There were two comedies this summer I saw multiple times. One of them has aged very poorly and I don’t love it as much. This is not it. I do love this movie. Is it problematic? It’s about deeply problematic people. Of course it is. But this is a movie wrestling hard with toxic masculinity. It doesn’t get it right but it’s a potent stab in the right direction. Secret MVP: Kat Dennings giving way more depth to a teenage girl side character than expected. That said, it needs a minimum of 20 minutes cut. This is bloated. Still love it
#18. Fun with Dick and Jane. Jim Carrey really hasn’t had a fun last 15 years. After Bruce Almighty, that was it for him in live action. This was his last 100 Million film not as a voice to date. Given that he’s apparently an incredibly dark, unpleasant figure I suspect he’s not getting a lot of chances. I’m weirdly ok with that. He’s a talent but his role choices are staggeringly bad. Also he’s anti-vaccine so more boooooos. Very meh film.
#17. The Pacifier. Haven’t I pointed out that Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant were hack writers already? I have? OK, I could give my thoughts on Vin Diesel? Wait I don’t really care about him. My thoughts on the film? I didn’t see it. Anyway…
#16. Walk the Line. I hate to say it but I didn’t see this one either. I blame Ray. Ray burnt me out on this kind of musical biopic. I don’t need another turbulent genius film. I do give the film credit as the rare biopic to be a love story that doesn’t anger me for that decision. Of course this one was. But I’m fine never seeing this film.
#15. Robots. My life would’ve been great not seeing this film. My life is fine for seeing it. This is the most quality neutral film I’ve seen in my lifetime. It’s ok. It’s nice to look at. It has the most uninteresting script possible. This movie was and that’s all I have to say.
#14. Chicken Little. Disney went chasing Shrek. That was a baffling decision. I did NOT like this movie but I get why it happened. Disney didn’t know what they were in 2005. Then they bought Pixar. Then they became shopping addicts. Now they’ve got a 20th Century Fox they don’t even want.
#13. Fantastic Four. What a perfect segue. How do I feel about this film? I think it’s like Robots. It’s so okay it’s okay. It’s as ordinary an FF movie as you could make. I hate Doom being a corporate raider but that’s just to be expected. This tries less to adapt the comics and more to adapt the premise to film in the safest way possible. That said, Michael Chiklis as Ben Grimm and Not Another Teen Movie’s Chris Evans as Johnny Storm are perfect.
#12. The Longest Yard. Have I not instituted a rule? I don’t see Adam Sandler films. I skipped this. I skipped every Adam Sandler movie (except Funny People) since 2004. … See y’all next column.
#11. Hitch. Why. I really need an answer here. WHY? This is a star vehicle through and through. It only worked because it was Will Smith. The thing is, that’s not enough. Kevin James was a breakout here but he deserves better than he’s gotten. This is just so bland. Seeing that this was a big hit is a reminder Big Macs sell big too. (A friend pushed me to see it at the dollar theater.)
#10. Mr. and Mrs. Smith. OK this is why Chili’s is big. It’s a bit better, a bit more filling than McDonalds but it’s still a safe formula film. You get a good quick sit that’s fun but nothing more. Are we not over the spy/assassin trope? It was dead in 2005. It’s dead now. I have to concede this film’s BO has nothing to do with it but the hype surrounding the now at war stars. It’s a better movie than that.
#9. Madagascar. Confession: I got through 30 minutes of this and turned it off because I didn’t care. Never gone back. Never will.
#8. Batman Begins. A case where the impact is again ludicrous next to the placement. This was seen as a solid but unspectacular gross next to Spider-Man’s soaring box office. I’d argue we only got a sequel because video sales were strong and the tease for the Joker meant likely strong box office. But even putting the sequel aside, this thing looms huge. A great film that reaffirmed how cool Batman was.
#7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I like it. I’m sorry. I know I shouldn’t. I know Tim Burton is persona non grata (and he brought it on himself) and Johnny Depp deserves whatever bad he can face. But…look this is a really cool looking movie with some hysterical performances and a cracking script. It’s really good. But obviously it’s the second best take.
#6. Wedding Crashers. And it’s time for my reckoning. This is the other comedy I watched repeatedly that summer and I’m kind of unsure why now. Not that it’s awful–it’s perfectly fine if revoltingly sexist/homophobic–but it’s so generic. It’s not special. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are not the versatile talents (the cameoing here) Will Ferrell is. They’re one clanging note. That said, Rachel McAdams and Isla Fisher are luminous in it with McAdams a golden straight woman and Fisher a comic beast who never figured it out again.
#5. King Kong. One of the year’s big disappointments with an 84% RT score and a $218 million gross. OK, is it possible our expectations were way too high here? I have the same issue everybody has with this film, namely that 45 minutes of this film should’ve been axed. But it’s hard to see this as a misfire. It’s still quite good. I just :quiet voice: prefer Kong: Skull Island.
#4. War of the Worlds. Spielberg came to play. I don’t think we could see immediately how lacerating this film was. You expect a silly popcorn film. You don’t expect a bone chilling, sober film about the cost of war. This is a brutal film about the refugee experience transposed to America, something that became too real at the end of the summer when Hurricane Katrina hit. Any other director, this is the best film they make all decade. This wasn’t his best film this year.
#3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. My thoughts on the Harry Potter movies track 1:1 with the books. If it was a great book–this is–then it was a great time at the movies, which it was. There’s so little variance in that way. This is a much better film than credited I think, not as gutted as it’s treated as being. It’s reasonably spot on and looks fantastic.
#2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. Why did this franchise collapse so fast? The first movie was a monster hit. The second film did half the numbers. You’re just now remembering a third film is out there. I have a theory. Everything people know about the series can be found in the first book. When Lewis takes that ridiculous time jump in book 2, it loses everything you care about including Tumnus (baby James McAvoy) and Narnia as you recognize it. Nobody cares after that. This movie is still awesome. Big, epic, fun.
#1. Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith. Rather than focus on the film, which is an amazing tragedy, I want to talk about what this moment felt like. This was the end of Star Wars. There wasn’t going to be another movie. The TV show idea was a rumor at most. The books were even on a break. This was the finale and honestly, if it had been it I would’ve been fine. It ended on a powerful note that reminded me why I loved Star Wars. This film honestly floats above the year, not feeling in any way like 2005. It’s a grand, unique work and a fine capper to the year.