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Top 5 of '05

By Bert Ehrmann

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Fort Wayne Reader


It’s been a long year for the movie studios. According to MSNBC.com, the total box office revenue this year is projected to fall below that of 2003 and fewer tickets were sold this year than in 1998. Somehow, I don’t think movies are getting any cheaper to make.

Still, seeing movies in the theater wasn’t a total bust in 2005 (even factoring in The Island) and a few gems do exist.

1. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – The best movie of the year is, hands down, Kiss Bang Bang Bang. In fact, it’s one of the finest movies to be released in quite some time, let alone this year.

In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, bumbling crook/aspiring actor Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) finds himself in L.A. where he meets Perry (Val Kilmer), a private detective hired to coach Harry on an upcoming audition. Harry accompanies Perry on a case where the two stumble across the murder of a woman. It quickly becomes apparent that the whole thing's a set-up meant to pin the body on Harry and Perry and when the sister of a woman Harry met at a party turns up dead via suicide, everything starts to make sense. Or does it?

Arrested Development with bullets in tone, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang only played Fort Wayne a few weeks before disappearing altogether. When it appears on DVD, pick it up and prepare enjoy.

2. Crash – On a more serious note, Paul Haggis’ (writer of Million Dollar Baby) Crash stormed into theaters tackling the specter of modern race relations in America from all perspectives. There’s the story of a black producer in Hollywood, whom he and his wife deal with a racist cop, the cop’s partner whom disagrees with him, two thieves and Middle Eastern immigrants to name a few.

Told in a Traffic (2000) style, Crash easily mixes all these stories into one complex narrative which all comes (well) crashing together.

3. A History of Violence – Also hard-edged is A History of Violence. Viggo Mortensen stars as Tom Stall, mild-mannered restaurant owner who stops a robbery at his establishment by killing the thieves in the process. But all the following press attention is a curse to Tom. In fact, Tom Stall is really Joey, a gangster from Philadelphia relocated to small town Indiana trying to escape his past. And people from his past aren't the forgiving type.

A History of Violence depicts the act of violence as a type of cancer/disease that although might be put in remission, still exists stirring under the surface. Although Tom wants his past life as Joey to be over with, he cannot escape the fact that he is and always will be Joey. And that when the situation dictates, Tom will turn to his old ways of Joey, killing people in the process.

Does anyone truly know who Tom really is? In fact, A History of Violence asks, does anyone know who anyone really is?

4. Downfall – Released in Europe in 2004 and here in the States earlier this year, Downfall tells the story of the last days of The Third Reich. As the Russians shell Berlin a Parkinson riddled Hitler contemplates his next move. But the only moves he seems capable of taking defy all logic and only serve to bring more misery onto the German people. Hitler orders the entire populous to fight to the death, and that anyone who runs or does not fight should immediately be executed.

Practically the entire movie can be summed by a speech Joseph Goebbels delivers, “I feel no sympathy. The German people chose their fate. We didn’t force (them). They gave us the mandate. And now their little throats are being cut.”

5. Serenity – Released last fall and unable to make a monetary dent on the movie theater landscape, sci-fi Serenity tells the continuing story of the television series Firefly. Always one step ahead of the futuristic government “The Alliance,” this time the crew of the ship Serenity has the chance of exposing the realities behind The Alliance, even if it means putting their own lives in great danger.

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