2004’s Best & Worst by Jean-François Tremblay

1. Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi): as thrilling for its love story as for its chronicle of a superhero’s inner and outer struggles, this is a shining example of vintage Sam Raimi filmmaking. Working from a great script, Kirsten Dunst and Tobey Maguire do a fantastic job of navigating their characters’ emotions.
2. Hellboy (Guillermo del Toro): I’m a sucker for quotes like this one: “Hey you on the other side (Hell)…let her go, because for her… for her I’ll cross over… and then you’ll be sorry.” A wildly entertaining adaptation of a most interesting comic book.
3. The Blue Butterfly (Léa Pool): a truly engaging story about the pursuit of dreams that’s also a beautifully shot presentation of the colorful insects and butterflies of the rainforest.
4. Open Water (Chris Kentis): an unblinking tale about helplessness and the deep-seated fears that arise when events spiral way beyond our control.
5. Finding Neverland (Marc Forster): what a beautifully thoughtful film. The perfectly restrained performances of Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet anchor a finely detailed portrait of life and death framed by one man’s creative endeavor.
6. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Kerry Conran): a visual masterpiece that’s full of surprises, this retro sci-fi adventure makes you feel like you’re on an exciting trip to undiscovered locales.
7. The Chronicles of Riddick (David Twohy): it’s great to look at, it has an interesting and well-developed mythology and it features a great role for Vin Diesel. I was honestly surprised it didn’t do better.
8. Secret Window (David Koepp): this excellent psychological thriller makes the most of its strong supporting performances and wraps up with a masterful finale.
9. Anchorman (Adam McKay): What happens to Baxter the dog, and his side-splitting triumphant return, was some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever seen. Add Will Ferrell at his best and some hilarious sight gags and you have the funniest movie of the year.
10. The Punisher (Jonathan Hensleigh): a terrific journey to the potential darkness of the human heart, this slice of vigilante justice features a strong performance by Thomas Jane and a really cool voice-over closing statement by the title character.

Honorable mentions

Everything about the charming Les Aimants, plus the powerful finish of Friday Night Lights, the originality of Napoleon Dynamite, the sharp writing of Mean Girls, the romance and cinematography of The Notebook, the energy of The Incredibles, the banter and sweetness of Wimbledon, the frenzied pace of Cellular, the many great laughs of Team America and Dodgeball as well as the costumes of Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale in Van Helsing..

Worst 5

1. Catwoman: a dismal failure on virtually every level, notably the mystical “island of the cats” scene where Patience becomes Catwoman and the utter lack of believable interaction between Halle Berry and Benjamin Bratt.
2. The Village: M. Night Shyamalan’s latest was a huge disappointment, a poor metaphor for insular fears of the big, bad outside world that belabors its point with irritating gravity.
3. Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events: a vaguely surrealistic, thoroughly boring and emotionally remote dud with a rarely more annoying Jim Carrey.
4. After the Sunset: this is a movie with no real beginning, not much development beyond yet another one of those ridiculously hi-tech diamond heist and no ending to speak of. It just plays itself out in all-embracing irrelevance.
5. Christmas with the Kranks: Jamie Lee Curtis’ shrieking and overacting takes the cake from a wide selection of truly bad elements, starting with the awful characterizations and moronic plot twists.

By Jean-François Tremblay