Projections - Movie Reviews

Top Films of 2004

Frank Jim Tony Howard Chris
1. The Aviator 1. The Aviator
Martin Scorsese brings us Lenardo DiCaprio as Howard Hughes during his most productive years both in film and aviation. A film so well made it feels as though we are visiting Hollywood in the thirties and forties when it was truly king and the stars were above criticism. The sets, streets, cars, and starlets are stunning to watch and the performances of DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett and Kate Beckinsale rival the best of the year. A film of beauty, passion, success and failure is the best of the year. Martin Scorsese re-teams with Leonardo DiCaprio in this gripping, vital biopic on Howard Hughes, a billionaire pioneer in the aviation industry who also loved movies and made over-budgeted dogfight epics like “Hell’s Angles” cognizant of the advent of sound. This sweeping tale of Hughes’ early years proves DiCaprio as a robust leading man that fits the Scorsese oeuvre and shows how his obsessive-compulsive existence affected those around him. Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Alan Alda and Alec Baldwin offer colorful support as Katharine Hepburn, the stunning Ava Gardner, Senator Owen Bruster of Maine, and Pan-Am visionary Juan Trippe.
2. Finding Neverland 2. Sideways
A story of James Barrie as he develops the play “Peter Pan,” finds us caught up in his whimsey, imagination and inspiration. Johnny Depp imparts the tension and free spirit of Barrie as he mingles with Kate Winslet’s four children and then brings about a marvelous unique stage production which can not be resisted by the stayed serious London theatrical patrons. Paul Giamatti has what it takes as a depressed middle school teacher who’ll drink from a spittoon in Alexander Payne’s quite absorbing wine tasting road trip of a picture through California’s sun drenched Santa Ynez coast area. This vintage comedy, Payne’s richest to date, has the ability to open up at the most unexpected of times, and allows the great character actor to shine with sparkling performances by Thomas Haden Chruch as his lifelong friend and Virgnia Madsen as a waitress named Maya who excites him with her knowledge of vino.
3. The Polar Express 3. The Sea Inside
A spectacular film by Robert Zemeckis who transforms human imagination to animation in a beautiful crafted world where children and some adults believe in the North Pole and Santa Clause. Javier Bardem is a powerhouse in a mostly bed ridden state in Alejandro Amenabar’s profoundly poetic film that longs more for life and love than assisted suicide.
4. The Incredibles 4. Vera Drake
This may be the smartest best script of the year. Pixar animation follows a retired super hero family as they re-enter super hero existence and fight to save the world. Mike Leigh excels in depicting life in 1950's working class London about a caring woman who “helps girls with their problems” and prepares tea for them to help soothe their pregnant condition. Imelda Staunton’s absorbing characterization can be looked upon to be more than attempting to draw sympathy and her interaction with her cast reveals how the taboo of a legalized issue can still work to enormous emotional effect.
5. Kill Bill: Vol 2 5. Million Dollar Baby
Quinton Tarrantino’s brilliant screen work has a magnetic pull on viewers as we watch “The Bride” seek her final vengeance on the killers of her wedding party. The opening scene is as good as it gets on film. Clint Eastwood makes more than a boxing tale with a tragic twist to it that allows Hilary Swank to deliver a knockout performance that has nothing to do with fame or fortune. Eastwood’s grizzled trainer and Morgan Freeman’s one eyed ex-boxer help scale this emotional, spiritual drama in ways that comment on dignity and forgiveness.
6. Spiderman 2 6. House of Flying Daggers
The inner Peter Parker is exposed very effectively by Tobey Maquire as Spiderman fights his classic rival while protecting the love of his life in a world of special effects in a comic book city. A martial arts film has as its themes “sacrificing your individual desires for the group” and “sacrificing the group for love” with Zhang Yimou allowing spectacle and drama to converge with a luminous Ziyi Zhang as the key figure in deception regarding a threat by an underground rebel faction.
7. The Terminal 7. Maria Full Of Grace
Tom Hanks performance shows us how one man can make a difference even when he is a lost voyager without a country trapped and forced to live in an air terminal. Joshua Marston’s debut is documentary like tracing a woman attempting to better her meek existence by risking it all for her family as a drug mule smuggling pellets of heroin in her stomach. New comer Catalina Sandino Moreno plays the title character with unforced honesty that lifts the film far above the squalor it’s immersed in.
8. Shrek 2 8. Hero
Filled with at least as much wit as the first and another fairy tale twist at the end, Shrek 2 is one of the most entertaining films of the year. Kaleidoscopic visual extravaganza set in the 3rd Century B.C. about the unification of China told in many perspectives between a King and a Nameless warrior. Set pieces in a calligraphy school and on a lake are some of the marvels in Zhang Yimou’s timeless political tale with memorable characters by Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, and Tony Leung.
9. Sideways 9. Kill Bill: Vol 2
Paul Giamatti a lost forty something guy can’t seem to find love or anything to hang his life on. On a rode trip with Thomas Haden Church just before his friend’s wedding he learns how to make it happen. The last scene in this film is the best of the year. Less bloody violence than its hyper kinetic predecessor, Quentin Tarantino’s cool kung-fu opus has more thought and emotion when it comes to the relationship of The Bride or Beatrix (Uma Thurman) and the last person on her roaring rampage, Bill, a dignified, if adversarial David Carradine.
10. Collateral 10. Kinsey
Pure tension brought to us by Tom Cruse as hit man Cruse forces cab driver Jamie Foxx to take him from hit to hit during a nightmarish evening. Bill Condon’s film about infamous academic Alfred Kinsey who went form studying the gall wasp to human sexuality tracks funny and quaint attitudes about sex, but the man who wrote “Sexual Behavior In The Human Male” had quite a varied life. Liam Neeson is sensitive, yet quick witted as Kinsey and Laura Linney and Peter Sarsgaard provide strong support as adventurous wife Clara and close assistant Clyde Martin.

1. Shrek 2 1. The Notebook 1. The Aviator
2. The Aviator 2. The Terminal 2. Finding Neverland
3. Spiderman 2 3. Finding Neverland 3. The Polar Express
4. The Incredibles 4. The Polar Express 4. Shrek 2
5. The Terminal 5. The Incredibles 5. Ray
6. Cellular 6. Garden State 6. Passion of the Christ
7. Collateral 7. Shall We Dance 7. Sideways
8. Friday Night Lights 8. The Aviator 8. The Incredibles
9. The Village 9. Shark Tales 9. Spiderman 2
10. Miracle 10. Ella Enchanted 10. Million Dollar Baby

Home | Search | Reviewer Bios | Links | Mail Us
Copyright © 1977-2004 Projections