Projections - Movie Reviews

Top Films of 2005

Frank Jim Howard Chris
1. Good Night, and Good Luck 1. Brokeback Mountain
David Strathairn re-creates television in the 1950s as Edward R. Murrow in his and CBS' battle with Senator Joseph McCarthy and his Communist witch-hunting hearings. Under the direction of George Clooney the black and white film imparts the feel, intrigue, tension and grit of early television in a smooth, effective presentation. Ang Lee's latest is a heartfelt, beautifully crafted modern Western that expands the classic short story by Annie Proulx featured in "The New Yorker." With cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto and writers Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, this unique, great American love story of a ranch-hand and rodeo cowboy is committed to a force of nature in an uneffable way as a taciturn Heath Ledger in particular trusts the human truth of a secret bond.
2. Crash 2. The Constant Gardener
In the best script of the year by Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco we follow a series of interactions by Los Angeles residents tinged by ethnic tension ranging from comic to gripping, life threatening tension. It's harsh and coincidental and speaks to the relationship of chance and the effects of actions each character takes.
A diplomat's search into his deceased wife's secret life is exceptional documentary-like filmmaking with a third-world perspective by Brazilian Fernando Meirelles. The flashbacking storyline illuminates the unscrupulous ways of pharmaceutical industries and the love of Justin (Ralph Fiennes) for his politically active wife, Tessa, rendered with passion by Rachel Weisz.
3. Cinderella Man 3. Good Night, and Good Luck
Director Ron Howard brings us into the world of the great depression through the life of Jim Braddock a man who goes back in the ring because he needs the money to literally feed his family. The grating time of the depression and the uplifting success of his second round in the ring can't help but burn itself in our mine long after we view the film. CBS Newsman Edward R. Murrow is saluted in this indictment of television as something that should be more than wires in a box. George Clooney's highly intelligent, articulate second film shot lushly in black-and-white features David Strathairn as Murrow and himself as producer Fred Friendly, with strong support by the likes of Frank Langella and Robert Downey, Jr. as Murrow took on the Communist witchhunter, Sen. Joseph McCarthy (played by himself on old newsreel footage).
4. King Kong 4. Match Point
It's easy to detect director Peter Jackson's affection for the big monkey. He presents Kong in a stunning tapestry recreating Broadway and Skull Island with special effect tools that even Carl Denham could not imagine. Naomi Watts' work is beautifully convincing as the woman who is both captive and concerned when it comes to the king of the island. This is the best monster film ever made. Woody Allen's "dramatic thriller" is a winner when it comes to analyzing the "discordant relationship between love and sexual passion." Set in and around London rather than his usual New York City, Allen's insight into "being lucky than good" benefits from a strong, mostly younger cast, especially Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Scarlett Johansson.
5. Pride and Prejudice 5. Syriana
Jane Austen's comedy about marriage maneuvering has one shinning light - Keira Knightley who gives a delightful, heartwarming and winning performance. Her warmth as Lizzy Bennet lights up the screen and makes all of us think about love again. Highly analytical in the effect of Big Oil around the world from the Middle East to a superpower like the U.S., Stephen Gaghan's globetrotting mosaic is fascinating in connecting a Persian Gulf country, the CIA, and two oil companies merged in a profitable, yet corruptible manner.
6. Sin City 6. A History of Violence
In a dark ugly city we are exposed to a series of characters in black and white - with red in comic book style. Filled with stunning creative locations which fill the entire film from a digital world, it is dark and depressing and beautiful at the same time. The evil low life permeates nearly all the characters, but love actually wins in the end just before the old tricks begin again. It gives us a smart script that comes full circle on the backs of a multitude of stars who play counter to what we expect of them. Viggo Mortensen plays a new kind of hero who must confront his past in David Cronenberg's subdued, but occasionally shocking drama. The local diner hero must face his family and seedy types with Maria Bello affecting as the wife and William Hurt in particular as a mob boss from Philly.
7. Munich 7. Crash
A Steven Spielberg political thriller in which we follow a group of assassins hired by Israel to revenge the murder of a group of its athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The murders are revealed to us in flashbacks at various points during the process of eliminating the suspects. The heart of the film slowly reveals that vengeance has a dark side and that both the victims and the avengers fall into the same dark world. Paul Haggis directs and co-scripts what looks on the surface to be how modern Los Angeles people can be so racially motivated in their daily lives. But, with a gifted ensemble including Matt Dillon, Don Cheadle, and Sandra Bullock (as Miss Un-Congeniality), it has a lot more to say from chance encounters as they come out of the safety of their cars and their glass-covered homes.
8. North Country 8. Capote
Charlize Theron is a breakthrough coal miner in an important film which chronicles the determination and damage Josey Aimes faced from work in a coal mine and the male miners who objected to her integration of the job. The tension in the mine is matched in the courtroom and boardroom and she initially becomes a lone knight on a dirty trail tilting at windmills until others begin to follow. This is another gritty performance by Theron who is not the Monster in North Country. Philip Seymour Hoffman is amazing in manifesting the many different sides of New Yorker magazine writer Truman Capote in this measured, absorbing account of the making of a non-fiction classic, "In Cold Blood."
9. Millions 9. Pride and Prejudice
A charming film that looks at religion from the eyes and mind of Damian (Alex Etel), a seven year old who searches among the saints (in his imagination) for Saint Maureen (his recently lost mother). Moving to a new home allows him to play in large boxes which are suddenly infused with millions of British pounds from the air. Damian believes they come from God and his distribution of the money brings comedy to this film which sees the lord through the eyes of a child. Jane Austen is given more of a modern makeover in this picturesque period piece, much more than a comedy of manners. Keira Knightley is luminous as second sister Lizzie Bennet who goes through misunderstandings on her way to her Mr. Darcy (Matthew McFayden).
10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 10. Millions
A delightful story of Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) who has the opportunity to enter the chocolate factory and a chance to win ownership of the business. Charley lives with his eccentric family in a little crooked house with part of the roof missing and his four grandparents sleeping in the same bed. Johnny Depp is a little over the top as Willy Wonka, but Deep Roy who plays hundreds of identical Oompa Loompas along with the offbeat fantasy of the story make it one of the best of the year. Danny Boyle's visual panache adds to the child-like sensibility of a Britain-set bag of cash picture that brings humor and warmth from the saints and a family dealing with loss. Young Alex Etel is winsome with his heart and innocence as a son who has the money dropped into his lap around the time the currency is being changed to the Euro.


1. Walk the Line

1. Crash
Both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as June Cater Cash provide Academy winning performance in this winning bio of the legendary life and career of singer/songwriter Johnny Cash.  
2. Memoirs of a Geisha 2.Cinderella Man
Author Arthur Golden’s best seller is brought to the silver screen in this lush, tantalizing and sweeping tale of the geisha way of life. Wonderful visuals, a superb cast and an intelligent script make this a must see film.  
3. The Greatest Game Ever Played 3. King Kong
This is a superb film of living one's dream and Shia LaBeouf is one rising young star that you will be hearing from for years to come. Based on Mark Frostís best-selling book, The Greatest Game Ever Played is the remarkable yet untold story of Francis Ouimet (LaBeouf).  
4. Saint Ralph 4. Walk the Line
A sweet tender story with so much heart and pathos, that you will find yourself rooting for our young hero and his many challenges.  
5. King Kong 5. Batman Begins
Director Jackson has done a fantastic job in bringing the world of King Kong to the silver screen as a follow-up project to his Lord of the Rings Trilogy. Maintaining the same innocent feel of the 1933 ďKongĒ classic, Jacksonís remake is fresh, inspired and full of "hold on to your seat" action and suspense.  
6. Pride and Prejudice 6. Brokeback Mountain
Keira Knightley, age 20, steals the show in this wondrous remake of Jane Austinís novel that is vibrant, charming and certainly an enchanting period piece. This classic tale of love and misunderstanding unfolds in class-conscious England near the close of the 18th century.  
7. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride 7. Pride and Prejudice
Morbidly wonderful, gorgeously gruesome, sinisterly sensational. Burton returns to the delightful medium of stop-motion animation and the use of puppets, to bring us the musical-horror masterpiece of Corpse Bride.  
8. The Chronicles of Narnia 8. A History of Violence
A faithful adaptation of the C.S. Lewis novel that exudes charm, imagination and a wonderful sense of childhood fantasy.  
9. Shopgirl 9. Munich
From Steve Martinís novella, Shopgirl is a clever and witty romantic drama on contemporary love. What follows is a touching look at the disappointment, confusion, and heartbreak that accompanies unreciprocated love.  
10. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith 10. Memoirs of a Geisha
This final chapter has all the wonderful elements we have come to expect: great special effects, epic battles, stilted dialogue, R2D2, C3PO, light saber duels, and all the rich characters that have made Star Wars a part or our lives. This last chapter is a supersonic blast with classic film elements.  

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