Movies Released in 2004 (in alphabetical order)

Bad Education

Bad Education

I should learn a few publicity tips from Pedro Almodóvar. When a movie of mine comes out, I tend to downplay it, saying "I just hope you like it" and such. Comparatively, Almodóvar raves about Bad Education as "my darkest film since [1986's] Matador." I beg to differ. The director's previous feature Talk to Her is much darker, and on… read more!

Broadway: The Golden Age

Broadway: The Golden Age

When my girlfriend and I went to see this movie, our audience was neatly divided into two groups: elderly couples and middle-aged gay men. Such should be expected with a fawning documentary about the heyday of the Broadway stage, which according to filmmaker McKay spans the two decades between the mid-1940s and the mid-'60s. This film consists mostly of talking-head… read more!

Bush’s Brain

Bush’s Brain

For the uninitiated, Karl Rove, the subject of the documentary Bush's Brain, is George W. Bush's shadowy adviser whom many - including the authors of the eponymous book on which this film is based - consider to be something of a co-president, and in any event a brilliant, devious man who makes all the key decisions for his allegedly clueless… read more!

Collateral

Collateral

You may not know this, but right now the current idol of film school students and other would-be auteurs is no longer Martin Scorsese, Roman Polanski, or Stanley Kubrick. It is Michael Mann. A filmmaker known for displaying a flashy style over the last 20 years (including the Miami Vice and Crime Story TV series), Mann's significance as a director… read more!

The corporation

The Corporation

Sprawling, fascinating documentary about that all-powerful contemporary institution, the multinational corporation, charting its growth from its origins in post-Civil War America to its status today as the driving force behind global politics, greed, pollution, and human suffering. Mixing footage from campy old educational films, protest events, glimpses of first world boardrooms and third world factories, and (mostly) intelligent talking heads… read more!

Crash

Crash

Every few years, some high-minded writer/director decides to make a "tapestry" movie about troubled Los Angeles, documenting the preternaturally intersecting lives of its fictional citizens. This year it's Crash, the stoic effort of Paul Haggis (best known for his screenplay for Million Dollar Baby) to explain What It's All About. Crash - and Haggis should've chosen a title that wouldn't… read more!

Crimson Gold

Crimson Gold

Crimson Gold has the usual elements of contemporary Iranian cinema: nonprofessional actors, deliberate pacing, little dialogue, and a small scope. What differs is that, rather than focusing on children or women, Crimson Gold is more or less a crime story. During the 4-minute-long opening shot, we watch as an obese man breaks into a jewelry store, kills the jeweler, then… read more!

A Dirty Shame

A Dirty Shame

Amusing but forgettable little trifle from John Waters, who is clearly no longer the iconoclastic underground filmmaker he once was and has long since settled into his current role as avuncular campmeister. The bare-bones plot: in a quiet Baltimore suburb, random locals are becoming rabid sex fiends after each receives an accidental blow to the head. What follows is a… read more!

Dolls

Dolls

Shot before Kitano's most recently released feature (his lively Zatoichi remake), Dolls is an extremely slow, quiet drama that weaves together three tragic tales of love and loss. The central story is about a young man who abandons his girlfriend in order to marry his boss's daughter. Upon hearing that his girlfriend has attempted suicide, he leaves his bride at… read more!

The Dreamers

The Dreamers

Dull "erotique" drama about a young American named Matthew (Leonardo DiCaprio lookalike Michael Pitt) who goes to Paris in 1968 to study French and avoid Vietnam. He befriends Theo and Isabelle (Louis Garrel and Eva Green), two French-English siblings who share his passion for the movies, and when their bohemian parents leave town for a few weeks, they invite him… read more!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

When we first meet sad-sack New Yorker Joel Barish (Jim Carrey), his voiceover tells us that it is Valentine's Day, 2004, as he spontaneously skips work and takes a train out to Montauk, Long Island instead. Wandering the empty beach, he bumps into blue-haired free spirit Clementine (Kate Winslet), and they wind up spending 24 hours in each other's company.… read more!

Fahrenheit 9/11

Fahrenheit 9/11

Moore's entertaining, emotionally-charged indictment of the Bush administration and its handling of the events of September 11, 2001, as well as the ensuing invasion of Iraq, will offer no surprises for those who have harbored suspicions about the administration's actions over the last four years (read: Moore's regular liberal audience). The film's true goal must instead be to convince those… read more!

Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland

Curse you, Finding Neverland! Curse you for being a shamelessly manipulative tear-jerker! Curse you for every note of your sappy soundtrack coming in at just the right moment to reduce your audiences to a blubbering mess! Curse you for hauling out every old trick in the book and still turning me into a choking, sobbing idiot just like everybody else… read more!

The Five Obstructions

The Five Obstructions

A truly one-of-a-kind motion picture. In 2001, famed director Lars von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, Dogville) decided to submit his cinematic hero, Danish documentarian/experimental filmmaker Jørgen Leth, to a rather sadistic series of tests: Over the following two years, Leth was to take his own 1967 short The Perfect Human (which Trier loves so much that he calls it… read more!

Garden State

Garden State

For many years, I thought the word disingenuous meant "not very clever". In fact it means "insincere and calculating". But it's a nuanced word, one that suggests not so much a liar as one who is bending over backwards trying to appear honest, and may even believe that he is being honest, but who is still just putting you on.… read more!

Good Bye Lenin!

Good Bye Lenin!

Weeks before the Wall comes down in 1989, a diehard socialist in East Berlin (Katrin Sass) has a heart attack, lapsing into a coma and missing the action. When she awakens eight months later, East Germany is no more, and her 20-year-old son (Daniel Brühl) takes it upon himself to keep his mother from dying of shock upon seeing these… read more!

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I'm a latecomer to the whole Harry Potter franchise. I never read the books, and eschewed the first two movies because I'd heard they were unimaginative, if slavishly faithful, adaptations. But I had heard such advance praise of Azkaban that my curiosity was piqued; no less so because of its director, Alfonso Cuarón. So I rented the first two Potter… read more!

Hero

Hero

Boy, the People's Republic of China sure went all-out when they wanted to make a fancy martial arts fantasy that was also pro-nationalist propaganda. For the most expensive Chinese feature ever (with a budget of a whopping $20 million - that's about as much as Adam Sandler makes per film), they hired one of their nation's greatest directors, Zhang Yimou… read more!

Hotel Rwanda

Hotel Rwanda

Powerful fact-based drama about Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle), the manager of the posh Hotel Milles Collines in Kigali, Rwanda, who inadvertently turned the four-star resort into a harbor for over a thousand frightened Rwandans during the terrible massacre of Tutsis by rebel Hutus in 1994. The film serves two purposes: The first is to recognize Rusesabagina's modern heroics - no… read more!

House of Flying Daggers

House of Flying Daggers

In ancient China, one of the Emperor's generals (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is sent to a brothel to track down a blind showgirl (Zhang Ziyi) who is believed to be part of an underground group of rebel assassins called the House of Flying Daggers. So he pretends to be a confederate of hers, later "rescuing" her from prison and, while on the… read more!