It's easy to bash the big-budget blow-'em-up epics that Hollywood wants audiences to like, but harder, as a critic, to go against the tide of movies deemed Important Artistic Triumphs. I've always been a contrarian, though, so with due apologies to my critical colleagues, here are the movies you're wrong about:
Closer --A better movie back when it was called Your Friends and Neighbors and directed by Neil LaBute.
Maria Full of Grace -- "Based on 1000 True Stories" is the most pompous tagline of the year by far, especially from an American director claiming to speak for all the people of Colombia. It does, however, explain why the characters feel so one-dimensional -- they're ciphers standing in for a thousand others, after all. Yes, the drug-swallowing scenes are discomforting, but I saw the same shtick in a Beavis and Butt-head episode a decade ago.
I'll Sleep When I'm Dead --Mike Hodges and Clive Owen tried to repeat the cleverness of Croupier and ended up sending us to slumberland a good deal sooner than the title implied.
Open Water -- Just because Blanchard Ryan does full-frontal nudity doesn't make her a good actress. Especially since, while she's suffering from sunstroke, dehydration, hunger, seasickness, and jellyfish stings, she still looks like a million bucks. Applaud the actors for swimming with real sharks, but don't applaud the lack of drama that ensues.
Bright Leaves --Director Ross McElwee seems to have no idea how boring he and his family history are. Understandably, those who liked Sherman's March wanted to find out what happened to its director-protagonist; the answer turned out to be: not much.
Red Lights -- If you want good reviews, make your film in French. American critics will hail films on that basis alone -- even this tonally inconsistent hodgepodge about an obnoxious drunk who drives badly.
The Aviator -- Of all the figures in cinematic history I'd be willing to spend three hours watching, Howard Hughes ain't one. If you genuinely think the special effects here are good, you might be on crack.
Mean Creek -- Angry kids on an unsupervised boat trip? Constant ominous music? Gee, wonder what's going to happen next?
Garden State -- You mean to say that depressed people can snap out of their funk after sex with Natalie Portman? Never woulda guessed.
Shrek 2 -- Using "Livin' La Vida Loca" as a set piece musical number should be grounds for an automatic thumbs-down. Stealing an entire song from Footloose for the climax ought to clinch the deal. Mostly, though, depending upon a stale pastiche of recycled gags from other movies is pure cinematic laziness, and needs to be labeled as such.