NEW YORK – Here is Bill McCuddy's annual "Top 10 Movies" of the year (and three of the worst):
10. Hannibal Lecter was back for thirds with Red Dragon and I loved every morsel of it. As a fan of the Michael Mann original movie, Manhunter, I didn't think a remake could be pulled off. Director Brett Ratner didn't really have the credentials after stuff like The Family Man and the Rush Hour movies, but he did what Ridley Scott failed to do before him — made a completely entertaining film. Bon appetit.
9. It sings, it dances, it shoots, it "scores": Chicago has taken the staginess out of the musical genre — mostly — and makes audiences clap and cheer. What more do you want? Characters with redeeming qualities? Rent The Sound of Music. This is a rough-and-tumble tale that manages to satirize the media and prove these headline flappers were way ahead of their time. Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere can all sing and dance. But the showstoppers from Queen Latifah and John C. Reilly make all this jazz irresistible.
8. The only people singing in Narc are the stoolies. This electrifying cop film could have so easily been a Law & Order episode if it weren't for a great script, a few nice twists, gritty direction and unbelievable performances from Ray Liotta and the almost forgotten Jason Patric. How often do two actors give the performance of their career in the same film?
7. Producer and schmooze king Robert Evans has had such an incredible life, they should make a movie about it. Hey, they did. And this thoroughly entertaining peek behind the scenes in Hollywood has a dead on title: The Kid Stays In the Picture. He's the comeback kid, both with a quick joke and his whole damn scalawag-laden life.
6. And then there was a film about another kid, two really. One growing up, the other, just older. Hugh Grant meets a very dysfunctional family and learns About a Boy. I've accused Grant of giving very similar performances in most of his films, and he's not re-invented himself here, it just works. The smirks, the 'harumphs,' the asides. They all add up to a guy who grows up along with the kid he's hanging out with.
5. A lot of people have forgotten that one of the best films of the year came out months ago. Road to Perdition is about as perfect a movie as they come. Director Sam Mendes wisely tells the story from the point of view of Tom Hanks' son. Paul Newman is all the awards people talk about now. But I think the whole movie deserves a Best Picture nomination.
4. Roman Polanski may never set foot in this country again, but it doesn't stop him from sending his thoughts. The Pianist is the triumphant true story of a Polish Jew who hides from the Nazis in World War II. Star Adrien Brody has been kicking around for years as an actor's actor and gets the role of a lifetime. He learned to play magnificently, and suffered just as honestly, dropping 30 pounds and refusing most food during the shoot.
3. Robin Williams shows us a dark side as that guy you always say 'hi' to at the photo shop in One Hour Photo. This film could single-handedly save Polaroid. And it almost makes up for Death to Smoochy. No small feat. Williams gets to know one family very well through the lens of their Nikon. A terrific twist at the end and Robin's first real evidence of self control on film makes this one of the year's best.
2. It's way too inside show business, but audiences still liked it so maybe Adaptation can make some money. Frankly, I don't care if anyone goes because as someone who once tried to write a screenplay this film about a guy who can't write one was like three acts out of my journal. Oh, I don't have a journal either. Anyway, Nicolas Cage is great as twin brothers, one successful at writing commercial junk, the other an artist who just wants to make something good. Sounds like Cage's real career.
1. And then there is the almost unwatchable but absolutely riveting film called The Grey Zone. Tim Blake Nelson has fashioned the cruelest, ugliest and yet most brutally revealing film ever made about the Holocaust. Yes, it's Schindler's List without the upbeat Schindler part. The Sonderkommando were Jews who lied to other Jews about their prison camp fate. But they did it to bring down one of the crematoriums. The most important film of this or many other years. And you'll have to look hard to find it.
(Bill McCuddy's 'best of' list was originally run in the incorrect order.)
It must kill Dana Carvey that Mike Myers has turned his SNL days into a blockbuster movie machine, especially when Carvey is making embarrassments like The Master of Disguise. When I saw this, even the 5-year-olds were rolling their eyes.
It almost seems too easy to pick Britney Spears' film Crossroads. Her failed restaurant was better and it gave some people food poisoning.
And sorry Meryl, Julianne and Nicole, The Hours is one hour and 54 minutes too long.