Saturday, December 31, 2005

TV, Films: Farewell to 2005

You can't really call yourself a critic if you don't end the year with some kind of "best-and-worst" list, so here's my list of the highlights and low points of 2005.

The good stuff

Battlestar Galactica: On television, it's no contest. This is hands-down the best show on television, fearlessly addressing contemporary controversies in a way that hasn't really been attempted since the glory days of the original Star Trek. Sci Fi Channel, about which no one with a brain can be anything but ambivalent, deserves a world of credit for this unexpected triumph.

Serenity: This tale of a band of misfits struggling to reveal the truth about a society in which the do-gooders have just gone way too damned far is the best science fiction film in years. Joss Whedon proves yet again that he's the absolute master at seasoning a wrenchingly tragic story with just enough humor to keep it bearable. Like the television series it's based on (Firefly), the film was criminally underrated by the few mainstream critics who bothered to notice it at all. It's already out on DVD--run, don't walk, to the video store, unless you're a big fan of big, God-fearing, altruistic government…no, wait, those are the people who need to see it most.

Lost: I have a bad feeling about the future of this series, but throughout 2005 it was consistently riveting. Re-energized by the addition of new characters from the doomed aircraft's tail section and sporting a whole new level of weird, courtesy of "the button" designed to prevent "another incident," it's as addictive as crack.

Batman Begins: The darkest Batman movie yet, and also the best (although I remain fond of the version that starred Michael Keaton). It was wonderful to see the franchise legitimized again this way.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: People who only saw the film probably liked it better than those of us who had read the book--they don't know the vastness of what was lost in translation. But the dragon sequence alone was worth the price of admission. While most of the media attention focused on how dark the film was, it's worth mentioning it also was laugh-out-loud funny a lot more than any of its predecessors. Still in theaters (and threatening to overtake Revenge of the Sith as the year's top-grossing film), and definitely worth the ticket.

CSI: The old fascination came back this fall, with the resumption of character development, especially for Nick Stokes after his near-death experience at the end of season 5, and the blessed restoration of the show's sense of humor.

Without a Trace: Is there anything that can keep Jack Malone nailed to his humanity, now that his father's passed away? It's hard to imagine what would, but I'll buy a ticket to find out, and so should you.

Disappointments

War of the Worlds: If Spielberg can't do science fiction any better than this, he should give it up and stick to history. It wasn't bad--but it wasn't very good, either, and I think we've rightly come to expect better from Spielberg.

The Stargates: I wanted so much to be a fan of the retooled Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis. But it's not possible to be a fan of anything as uninspired as these series were this past year. I'm sorry to say it, but I'm starting to think this concept is just so tired it can't be refreshed.

Just plain ugly

Surface: Oy. Clueless rip-off with a mediocre cast and amateurish special effects. I know, I know--I keep harping on this series. But it really is just that bad.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith: In fairness, one of the problems was that everyone knew how it would end, and that was nobody's fault. But that being the case, what was the point? Stilted dialogue, abysmal acting and not a plot twist in sight.

And how lucky do I feel that I didn't have any reason to go see Aeon Flux or Fantastic 4?

Now you ask, "But what about King Kong?" Haven't seen it. I keep thinking about seeing it, but it's King Kong--I've already seen it. I may yet, but it's three hours long, and I keep thinking about all the other stuff I have to do, and the idea of renting it from Netflix starts sounding good again...

What can I say--it's still just King Kong.

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