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A History of Violence (2005)
The most overrated film of the year!
Yeah that's right, I said it! I'm sorry, but were we watching the same film? Because the one I saw started off promising and then got absolutely ridiculous in the third act. Viggo Mortensen , Maria Bello, and Ed Harris all give great performances, but this disaster cannot be saved. The sex is unnecessary, over the top and superfluous. The violence is supposed to realistic, powerful, and poignant, but it ends up coming across gratuitous and over the top (what do you expect from the director of Scanners and The Fly). Yes I get it: men are drawn to violence, violent behaviors are instilled, a man can forget, but can he change? The truth is these are brilliant themes, and this could have been a brilliant film, but unfortunately David Chronenberg is tremendously out of his league. His passion for gore, and his disconnect from reality are too overwhelming, and ultimately the film fails to connect.
Probably the most underrated film of the year. Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition). Scores his third straight knockout, with this gripping Desert Storm manifesto. The best film since Three Kings to tackle the subject and definitely the most realistic. The film is taken from the true fist-person account of Private Anthony Swafford, who ever so poetically admits he joined the Marines because he "got lost on the way to college." Swofford (played sharply by "I'm having the best year of my career" Jake Gyllenhaal) is like so many other Marines, in the sense that he just wants to live up to the aspirations of his Viet Nam veteran forefathers and make his mark in history. Like all Marines, he becomes desensitized and lethal during basic training, and jumps at the opportunity to go to war. When he gets to Iraq, he finds that things are much different than he had imagined, and what unfolds is a gripping account of one man's torment as he slowly begins to lose his mind. People's major gripe with the film was that it didn't have enough action, obviously they missed the point. The boys didn't get to see any action either, and they long for that one kill. When they finally encounter death in the form of charred bodies, it's far less glamorous than they had anticipated. The film does an excellent job of keeping the focus on the first Gulf War and not the current debacle, and Jamie Foxx also gives another Oscar worthy supporting turn as a tough-as nails drill sergeant. One of the greatest wartime films of all time.
The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
Best comedy I've seen in a long time!
Without a doubt the funniest film of the year, and the best of it's kind since American Pie. Steve Carrell exquisitely plays the titular prude Andy Stitser, a lovable guy who works at a Best-Buy-like electronics store and spends his free time playing video games and adding to a $500,000 collection of action figures. One day Andy is "befriended" by a group of thirty-something's who out of sympathy make it their strange mission to deflower him. What results is pure comic gold, but underneath all the chest-waxing hilarity, is a much deeper interior. In society Andy's band of instigators are regarded as acceptable, even admirable. But beneath all their womanizing, heartless misconduct is an extreme case of arrested development. These guys have never grown past the typical high-school sophomoric rhetoric. On the other hand, you have Andy, a man that in today's over-exposed world is regarded as an outcast simply because he chooses not to have sex. But once Andy meets Trish (Kathrine Keener) we realize that he is capable of a much deeper more intimate relationship than his comrades. Ironically this "outcast" is far more emotionally developed than his peers. Steve Carrel plays Andy with a gentle boyish warmth than when combined with his impeccable comedic timing produces the best comedic performance in recent memory.
Hustle & Flow (2005)
Terrence Howard is phenomenal!
Incredibly moving, yet definitely not for everyone, Hustle & Flow tells the story of D-Jay, an incredibly conflicted Memphis pimp down on his luck. In one of the most raw and intense performances of recent memory, newcomer Terrence Howard embodies D-Jay with an animal-like ferocity that will help you overcome what few formulaic clichés embody the script. In his mid forties, D-Jay seems too old and far too nice for his profession, and his "hos" seem to take notice. You see, D-Jay represents a lifetime of failed dreams, ambitions, and wrong turns. It seems as if it could all be over, but then fate offers him the opportunity to realize his life-long goal of becoming a successful rap star. D-Jay pours his heart and soul into his music, just as Howard pours his into the performance, and the result is somewhat of a urban Rocky, a true underdog tale. This is perhaps the first hip-hop film to actually get it right, and everything that 8-Mile should have been. Don't let the subject matter keep you from enjoying Howard's brutal tour-de-force.