1. A Lot like Love: out of basically nowhere came this romantic gem taken to a superior level by the charming and engaging performances of Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet. A Lot like Love beautifully balances the expectations of a romantic comedy with the mature sensibilities of a sincere drama.
2. Walk the Line: a fabulous film about the life and times of Johnny Cash. Walk the Line is not just an irresistible love story but also a spirited musical showcase. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are absolutely brilliant and Oscar-worthy in this powerful biopic about the Man in Black.
3. Shopgirl: the quiet grace of Claire Danes’ performance is the driving force of this perceptive film where Jason Schwartzman and Steve Martin are also in fine form in a masterful adaptation of Martin’s novella.
4. The Exorcism of Emily Rose: this is both a very frightening horror movie and a demanding but enthralling courtroom drama, with stellar performances from Tom Wilkinson, Laura Linney and Jennifer Carpenter. A thought-provoking genre effort.
5. Corpse Bride: energetic, funny and touching. Artfully imbued with muted sadness, this film is a real treat for the eyes, ears and heart. Death comes alive in Tim Burton’s latest creation.
6. Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire: this great addition to the franchise juggles exciting magical adventures and nicely observed adolescent concerns with style and a clear understanding of the book’s material. Highlights include the stunning Beauxbatons arrival and the emotional handling of death at Hogwarts.
7. Serenity: for pure entertainment value it ranks as one of the very best films of the year. Jewel Staite (Kaylee) has possibly the funniest line of the year when she says “To hell with this… I’m going to live!!!” with a delightfully over-the-top resolve.
8. Saw II: Jigsaw is back for more deadly moralizing in this gory, inspired horror movie whose shocking ending qualifies as one of the best in the genre’s history, nothing less.
9. Batman Begins: Christian Bale is simply terrific as Batman in this origin story that looks at how the themes of anger, guilt, fear and justice shaped the personality and motives of the Dark Knight. Superior writing, excellent direction and exciting action sequences also make this film a new reference of the superhero genre.
10. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: Andrew Adamson’s ambitious film can be appreciated on many levels: as a Christian parable, an enchanting fantasy epic or an old-fashioned love letter to sibling solidarity. Rich themes, magnificent use of computer-generated animation and heartwarming family dynamics: I loved it.
Very honourable mentions go to The Family Stone and Sin City, which came closest to inclusion on the above list. I also want to bring up these especially good films, which one way or another gave me a great time at the movies in 2005: Racing Stripes, Dreamer; Crash (Matt Dillon would be my pick for Best Supporting Actor), The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Coach Carter and King Kong.
1. The Amityville Horror: this assault on our senses is much more annoying than frightening with Ryan Reynolds in full psycho mode, weird behaviour from every character and cheap scare tactics. A wholly unpleasant experience.
2. Stealth: She’s a gorgeous young woman, but even Jessica Biel can’t make up for the outrageous plot and cringe-inducing dialogue of this jingoistic turkey. I felt like using some stealth of my own to disappear from the theater.
3. The Skeleton Key: I was fighting boredom from all the plodding hocus-pocus long before I was shaking my head at the nonsensical, out-of-nowhere final twist.
4. Cry Wolf: Severely lacking in star power (unknown actors can sometimes be a good thing, as in The Blair Witch Project or Open Water, but certainly not here), with stupid stock characters and a very weak twist ending.
5. Unleashed: this bungled attempt at contrasting bizarrely conditioned violence with the humanizing effects of a few gentle souls is mawkish, corny and supremely ridiculous.