Whether it be because of effects or story, good or bad, I've compiled a list of films from the past decade that will forever stand out as movie experiences that either exceeded expectations, or disappointed beyond belief.
Chicken Run (2000) - Chicken Run opened the door for a Best Animated movie award at the Oscars. It's saying a lot that I'm putting this on this list. I think one of the reasons it's so memorable for me is because of how much I HATE any kind of stop-motion animation, whether it be done with clay or puppets... it's not beautiful to me... it's annoying. Regardless of my general feelings toward the style, Chicken Run was very well animated with a fun story, witty dialogue and a great musical score.
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2000) - Having been released in the past decade I felt it was important to include Blair Witch 2 on the most memorable movies list because it will always stand out as, in my opinion, the worst movie ever. The movie is called Book of Shadows and maybe i just stopped paying attention, but I'm fairly positive that there was a single book in the whole movie... actually, that's not true, they did use the phone book at one point. Perhaps Book of Phone Numbers, or Phone Book of Shadows might have been a better title. The fact of the matter is that whether you like the first installment or not, you have to admit that it was an original idea. I happen to think it was enormously frightening. Unfortunately, the sequel left me frightfully disappointed.
Unbreakable (2000) - Unbreakable was the biggest 'about-face' I've ever made with regards to a movie. This movie opened on Thanksgiving weekend and virtually the entire crew at the theatre turned up to screen it the night before it's release to the public. I think everyone hated it, myself included. That weekend was miserable. Here's an inside tip: If a movie theatre employee tells you that they haven't seen a movie, there's a 75-90% chance that they saw it, hated it, and don't want to have to tell you about it. On the Wednesday before that Thanksgiving, there I was selling in the box office with two fellow associate "friends" who would refer every guest that asked if it was a good movie to me after denying having seen it. One of them reads this blog... and he knows who he is... After being put through the torture of having to tell people what it was about and why I didn't like it, I rewatched it on DVD and now it's one of my favorite movies... go figure!
Memento (2000) - Memento was the first "puzzle movie" I ever watched. I know it's not a real genre... I actually just made it up, and you might be thinking that Pulp Fiction should also fall into that category. It's my genre and I make the rules and I say Pulp Fiction doesn't count. The rules for "puzzle movie" are: The story must be told out of sequence and there must be a mystery involved. Your job during a puzzle movie is to try to put the pieces together in order to solve the mystery. What I think makes this movie stand out, is that he didn't just tell the story out of sequence to confuse the audience, it actually made sense to reveal the plot that way due to the handicap of the character that was trying to solve the mystery. This was also my introduction to Christopher Nolan who is represented on this list a whopping total of 3 times. Nolan has a knack for story telling that many filmmakers are lacking... I'll rave more about his film making skillz later on the list.
Moulin Rouge! (2001) Moulin Rouge brought back the movie musical... I can't say that i was ever a huge fan of movie musicals. I mean, yes, I like the "classic" animated Disney musicals (The Little Mermaid through The Lion King), but that's not what I'm talking about here. Back in the day, if you wanted to win Best Picture at the Oscars, you had to have produced a musical... The Sound of Music, West Side Story, Oliver, My Fair Lady, Gigi... the list goes on and on. After that it just kind of died away. Moulin Rouge was original, brilliant, told a beautiful story in a clever way... it was nominated for Best Picture and lost to an exceedingly inferior film. Then, people started making musicals again... Chicago, Hairspray, Rent, Nine, Sweeney Todd, and Dreamgirls were all hugely successful thanks, primarily, to Baz Lurhman and Moulin Rouge.
Shrek (2001) - I don't like the Shrek movies. I think the disproportionate animation is sloppy and I really hate when animated movies that take place in fictional lands in different time periods make currently relevant pop culture references. To be fair, the first film in the series was less guilty of the pop culture issue than the next two installments, but, as with many series', even if the first movie is great, if the second movie is garbage, it tends to bring the original down with it.
Donnie Darko (2001) - I watched Donnie Darko when it first came out on DVD and when it ended I stared at the television for the entire length of the end credits, the menu came back up, I said "What?" out loud, and then pressed play again and sat through the whole movie again... it didn't really help me to understand it at all, but I still love that movie. I think I understand it a lot better now that I've seen the director's cut, but still...
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) - The Royal Tenenbaums is another movie that I hated at first, and is now one of my favorite movies of all time. Although director Wes Anderson has left me disappointed ever since, his masterwork about a dysfunctional family makes you laugh at appropriate and at inappropriate times. It also has a dramatic side making you realize that while it is possible to laugh at some situations out of awkwardness or to make light of a serious problem, those situations can cause serious psychological damage. The cast and crew of The Royal Tenenbaums did an amazing job at balancing the humor with the drama, so much so that you probably don't even realize when something is funny.
Lord of the Rings (2001-03) - I don't really have much to say about Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy that you don't know or haven't heard. The special effects are un... well i guess they actually are believable. That what makes them so great. The actors put forth powerful performances and the set designs are absolutely stunning.
Chicago (2002) - Chicago succeeded where Moulin Rouge couldn't and I honestly believe it's the Academy's way of rewarding films when they realize they've made a mistake... Moulin Rouge should have won best picture and Nicole Kidman should have won best actress for her performance in it. Not that Chicago didn't deserve to win, but the year after Moulin Rouge was snubbed, a musical won best picture and Kidman won best actress for The Hours. This theory is further proven by the fact that they created a best animated film category once they realized that Pixar and Pathe were deserving of recognition and by the new rule for the 2009 Oscars that I'll mention later on the list. Chicago took the concept of a musical and made it make sense, kind of. Instead of having the characters sing and dance out in the open, the film examined the suppressed need for the characters to perform, showing the musical numbers in their heads.
X2: X-Men United (2003) - X2 really paved the way for superhero movie realism. Spider-man and even X-Men were both on the right path, but still had a kind of cartoonish quality about them. X2 wasn't perfect either, but it took the characters out of the comic book and put them on the big screen in a way that it's predecessor wasn't able to. The film was more of a drama about superheros than a dramatic superhero movie... does that make sense?
Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) - What can I say? I like pirate stories. Here is an example of how low expectations can really help you enjoy a movie. I thought this movie was going to be awful. Turns out to be great and the beginning of a great franchise. The next two installments didn't get the love from the critics that they deserved, but they really were entertaining movies with fun plots, great dialogue, and wacky characters portrayed by some talented actors.
Kill Bill (2003-04) - Kill Bill is a true Tarantino film. Told completely out of sequence and chock full of bloody violence and monologuing characters, this film is the true definition of entertainment.
Shaun of the Dead (2004) - Shaun of the Dead introduced the world to Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. While there second outing (Hot Fuzz) wasn't nearly as good, they have successfully mocked two genres while still respectfully paying homage to them, delicately balancing the humor with the horror.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - I really wish Jim Carrey would take on more dramatic roles like this one. I new there was something there when he starred in The Truman Show, but the fact that he wasn't nominated for his performance in this mind-bending sci-fi drama is stunningly incomprehensible. I'll never forget walking out of the theatre and saying to a friend, "... I think I liked that." The next day, a customer came to me after the movie was over and told me that they wanted their money back because the movie was so terrible. I have no problem refunding them when a movie actually is terrible, but if a movie is brilliant and they just don't understand it... that's a different story.
Crash (2004) - Everyone was surprised when Jack Nicholson didn't say Brokeback Mountain at the Oscar ceremony in 2005, but instead read out the name of this amazing movie. I was on board from the moment I saw it, alone, because no one would go with me. I told several people to go see it and they all loved it as well, however, the Internets movie forums were flooded with nay-sayers who stuck to their guns even after it clinched the Oscar for Best Picture. People call it one of the "worst" best pictures ever... but I can name several that are worse... The English Patient, The Deer Hunter, Gladiator, Titanic, No Country For Old Men, A Beautiful Mind to name a few. Crash should be required viewing at high schools across America.
Saw (2004) - The first film in the Saw franchise was bloody, suspenseful, and shocking and although it contained some of the worst acting ever and spawned some of the worst sequels ever it is still one of the most memorable movie going experiences of the last 10 years.
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) - For the rest of my life, I will remember when George Lucas single-handedly destroyed the Star Wars franchise. I know that he actually began the massacre in 1999 when he vomited The Phantom Menace onto the screen, but 2005 is when he won the war against Star Wars. He betrayed us all and he couldn't care less.
Batman Begins (2005) - Christopher Nolan entry number 2. Batman Begins brought us into a new world of Batman movies, where substance matters more than style. For years, Warner Bros was wringing all of the money it possibly could out of the Caped Crusader, but this reboot proved to them that if they took it seriously enough, this was one franchise that could really go the distance.
The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005) - Was the beginning of the Judd Apatow empire (as far as I'm concerned). The 40 Year-Old Virgin is vulgar, crude, dirty, funny and sweet all at the same time. I love Catherine Keener in pretty much everything she does and Steve Carrell is always funny. This is also where I met Seth Rogen when the first sparks flew that eventually led to my man-crush on Paul Rudd. This group of film makers then brought us Knocked Up, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Superbad, I Love You Man, Role Models, Pineapple Express and Funny People.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) - We waited 9 years for this??? The fourth installment has none of the witty banter or believable action sequences from the original trilogy. At no point did I feel like any of the characters were in danger; they are all such great duckers. I can actually say that I was bored from beginning to end. The special effects looked worse than they did in 1981 and back then, they had none of the capabilities that we have now.
The Dark Knight (2008) - I can't remember the last time I was this excited to see a movie. I started to try to convince myself that it was going to be terrible just so that I wouldn't be disappointed. Try as I might, I was still on the edge of my seat when the movie started and I didn't sit back once (metaphorically). The Dark Knight is not even really a "superhero" movie, but more of a crime thriller and is almost, if not perfect on every level of it's multitude of levels.
The Hangover (2009) - Consistently funny from beginning to end but never particularly heartwarming, The Hangover doesn't possess the "heart of gold" that The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and I Love You Man, had; though in this case it isn't a bad thing. It's a raucous, raunchy, adventure-mystery-comedy that, as wacky and wild as the plot gets, never goes too far.
Up (2009) - Pixar rounded out the decade with another brilliantly rendered, emotionally wrenching, colorful, funny, exciting, sad, perfect addition to it's already extensive catalogue.
Avatar (2009) - Everyone loved Avatar for the eye-candy, but I was so bored with the story that I just didn't care about the effects at all. Sure it was revolutionary, but if Avatar is going to "change the way we watch movies", you may see this blog fall by the way side. I just don't want to watch movies like that.