The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
The best and worst of 2004

December 23, 2004
By Franklin Harris

It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. But you can say that about any year, not just 2004. So, without further ado, here is my list of the best and the worst in genre entertainment for the past year:

Best Movie: "Kill Bill: Vol. 2"

Quentin Tarantino delivers a knockout punch with the concluding chapter of his saga of a woman done wrong (Uma Thurman) and the man who wronged her (David Carradine). This isn't just the best genre film of 2004. It's the year's best film, period. Thurman and Carradine give the performances of their careers, while Tarantino draws upon his encyclopedic knowledge of kung fu movies and spaghetti westerns to transform a hackneyed revenge story into high art.

"Kill Bill: Vol. 1" delivers the style, but the follow-up delivers both style and substance.

Worst Movie: "The Village"

M. Night Shyamalan's winning streak stops cold with this lifeless and absurd thriller about an isolated, rural community menaced by mysterious woodland creatures and the town elder's dark secrets. It's difficult to decide which does more damage to the film: its laughable "twist" ending or the understated line readings (one dare not call them performances) of stars Joaquin Phoenix and William Hurt.

Best TV Series: "Farscape"

Technically, the Sci-Fi Channel canceled "Farscape" last year, but fans finally got the closure they demanded with the two-part mini-series "Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars."

Here was a space opera that wasn't afraid to show us aliens who were truly alien, heroes who were not always heroic and villains with believable motivations beyond simply conquering every planet in sight.

If the new "Battlestar Galactica" lives up to the hype coming out of the U.K., where it is already airing, the Sci-Fi Channel may have a worthy successor to "Farscape." But it will never be a replacement.

Worst TV Series: "Star Trek: Enterprise"

I don't want to dump too much on "Enterprise," which is vastly improved this season under the stewardship of new writers and a reinvigorated production staff. To be fair, you could also call this the "most improved TV series." But "Enterprise" still has a long way to go before it becomes appointment viewing for anyone but the most die-hard Trekkers. With its ratings still in the cellar, however, it may not have much more time to improve before the curtain falls.

Best Comic Book: "She-Hulk"

Here is a title that came out of nowhere. The Hulk's cousin, attorney Jennifer Walters, a.k.a. She-Hulk, divides her time between saving the world and providing legal services to some of the Marvel Universe's most recognizable characters.

It was obvious that writer Dan Slott was on to something as soon as he had She-Hulk represent Spider-Man in a libel suit against his longtime nemesis Daily Bugle Publisher J. Jonah Jameson.

Unfortunately, the book has failed to find an audience. Fortunately, Marvel Comics isn't giving up on it yet and plans to relaunch the series next year.

It's a brand new No. 1 issue, so even if you're not reading "She-Hulk" now, you have no excuse not to give the new series a try.

Worst Comic Book (tie): "Identity Crisis" and "The Avengers"

A few months ago, I was sure I'd be giving this dishonor to "Doom Patrol." But not so fast, my friend.

These were highly promoted "event" books for DC Comics and Marvel, respectively. And both were terrible.

Crime novelist Brad Meltzer's "Identity Crisis" mini-series brought the DC Universe to a new low with a murder mystery that wouldn't have made the cut even as a Lifetime channel movie. After seven issues of red herrings, the killer turns out to be a crazy ex-wife, who murdered the wife of superhero (Elongated Man) in order to get back with her ex-husband, the Atom.

Yes, I just spoiled the ending. But if you haven't yet read "Identity Crisis," think of it as money saved. Or you could buy it anyway for Rags Morales' art, which is nice to look at.

As for Brian Michael Bendis' dubious revamp of "The Avengers," which I reviewed two weeks ago, time has not mellowed my judgment: Avengers die, a heroine goes bad, and no one cares, least of all Bendis, whose disdain for the core "Avengers" cast is obvious on every page. And in this case, the art, by David Finch, is not a saving grace.

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