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The Best (and worst) in Films - 2004

The Best Films
Michael Mann's precise, harrowing, laconic, knock-out, nail-biting thrill ride about a cabby (Jamie Foxx) who gets hijacked by a hitman (Tom Cruise) is pure classic drama, preserving the unity of time, place, and action in the City of Lights while having us look into the murky depths of the characters.

2. The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi
Takeshi Kitano's over-the-top sword and sandal yarn about a blind 19th century master-swordsman finds humor and art in excessive bloodshed and makes Tarrantino's franchise almost look like PG 13-rated matinee fare.

3. Sideways
Alexander Payne's light-hearted look at two washouts hitting the wine country is a perfect little film to enjoy and watch the flaws in all of us.

4. Garden State
Zach Braff's impressive directorial debut engages audiences with its unassuming charm and haunting soundtrack.

5. Baadasssss!
Unfortunately, Mario Van Peeples' soul-filled tribute to his baadasssss dad, Melvin, failed to attract the crowds that it deserved, but it helped carry me over the summer.

The Worst Films
1. Van Helsing
When will Hollywood ever learn: great special effects alone no great movie makeónot in this cloned monster mash anyway.

2. Passion of the Christ
This epic show of bloodletting reveals more about the disturbed state-of-mind of its maker, acteur-turned-directeur Mel Gibson, than any reviewer could do justice.

3. Cat Woman
There's not much to love about this stinky hairball by one-named director, Pitof, who litters the screen with his sloppy dependence on digital tools and high-speed projectile editing.

4. Stepford Wives
Like the wives of Stepford, this movie has one major annoying flaw -- the more you stare at it, the more you realize it's all looks and no brains. Not that amazing after all.

5. Alexander
When asked on a public radio show whether Oliver Stone got the facts right, a Harvard historian answered, "The real question is not whether he got the facts right, but why is this such a boring film?" 'Nuff said.

Best Performances
1. Jeff Bridges, The Door in the Floor
Bridges as a children's book author/illustrator, like the film, gets in your head. Is it possible for Bridges to deliver a bad performance, ever? I think not.

2. Paul Giamatti, Sideways
Making a splash with his performance in American Splendor, Giamatti shows that he is an actor with staying power and a very welcome fresh new face on the big screen.

3. Brad Bird, The Incredibles
Brad Bird is not only the very talented writer-director dude who shepherded The Incredibles to an impressive box office showing, but also donned his voice to fab Edna, the film's incredibly eccentric Edith Head-inspired fashionista.

Worst Performances
1. Halle Berry, Catwoman
Hey, Halle, whoever tried to convince you that you need a franchise to be successful is not your friend. Put that Oscar to work, baby -- but not in that slinky leather outfit.

2. Angelina Jolie, Alexander
What's with that Transylvanian accent, Angelina? Speak up.

3. Julianne Moore, Laws of Attraction
It pains to see an otherwise great actress sink to a new low. Why-oh-why did your timing misfire all over the place in this less-than-admirable approximation of a screwball comedy of yesteryears?