craiger'stenbestfilms

of2006

No matter how much visual diarrhea that the Hollywood studio machine threw at my eyes in the past year, 2006 still demonstrated that there were ten films that managed to make me fall in love with the movies all over again.

 

Even in the midst of a year that saw a uniformly weak selection of films, 2006 nevertheless had it few shinning moments.  Yes, I did - in fact - give more 4 star reviews to films than I did the previous year, but even a cursory examination of my archive would show that for every great film there was a corresponding stinkeroo. 

 

Perhaps what surprised me the most about 2006’s crop of excellent films was that many of them came early in year, which is fairly atypical.  Under most normal instances the studios usually vie for a coveted spot of a deep fall-winter release to appease Academy voters.  However, some of the year’s greatest films – and my choice for the single best of the year – came out within the first few months.  Yes, some my picks also saw the light of day in the fall, and the wealth of terrific movies from this period should not be overlooked.  However, perhaps the most grating thing that many film critics do when compiling their lists is developing acute amnesia for the wonderful films that came out before the summer.  I have elected to use a greater amount of long-term memory and honor films throughout the whole year.  I do this (a) because it’s just and (b) because it hopefully will allow people to look at films that they may have completely forgotten about earlier in the year.

 

As with previous lists of the TEN BEST films of the year, I have opted to make a TOP TEN and then follow that by ranking the rest from 11 to 25.  I do this as a way of paying respect to the other great achievements of the year that I just could not manage to put on my main TEN BEST list.  With each year as a critic I see an increasing number of films and – at the end of the year – I have found it increasingly difficult to hone down a list of the TEN BEST.  2006 was no exception.

 

I will also mention that – as an amateur critic seeing films on my own dollar – I simply am not afforded the opportunity to see everything that was released.  Furthermore, since I live in a relatively small Canadian city, many films simply never get release here (I love Saskatoon and it’s a wonderful place to live, but it’s Hickville when it comes to the movies; art house choices are hard to come by here).  As of the beginning of January some large marquee films have yet to be released in Saskatoon (i.e. – LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, THE GOOD GERMAN, and DREAMGIRLS).  When I do see these films and they warrant me changing this list, I will do just that.  Scout's honor!

 

And finally…a word or two on my choices.  I have been somewhat criticized in the past for not being objective in my picks.  People who say this miss the point.  These lists – and my reviews – are wholeheartedly subjective.  These are my picks, not someone else’s.  Reasons for their inclusion are primarily my own.  If anything, I have attempted for variety on my list as I have done every other year.  My list for the BEST OF 2006 reflects this.  Everything from foreign language films, low budget independents, mocumentaries, westerns, and even large scale, sci-fi blockbusters made the cut.  Hey, just because a film has million dollar visuals and is polished does not mean that it should be instantly discredited.  A film’s price tag alone should not be held as a demerit.

 

All right boys and girls, enough silly and long-winded pontificating on my part.  Here are my...

 

 
 

 

 
 

1.    UNITED 93

 
 

Forget about Oliver Stone’s noble-minded, but problematic WORLD TRADE CENTER, because Paul Greengrass’ UNITED 93 was the first - and best  - major big-screen, Hollywood financed work that chronicled the disastrous events of over five years ago.  Many people balked at going to see the film because – in their minds – UNITED 93 came out “too soon” after the tragedy.  Certainly, the ethical question that Greengrass’ film raises is legitimate:  Is it too soon for a film like this to be released?  

The short answer is this:  It could not come any sooner.  UNITED 93 is easily 2006’s most powerful visceral experience, which chronicles the events of the other hijacked 9/11 plane - United Airlines Flight 93 - that eventually crashed to the ground in a Pennsylvanian field only after it was retaken by its passengers.  It should be pointed out that Greengrass’ film is not exploitation.  It does not take a horrendous event of the recent past and trivialize it for the sake of melodrama or entertainment value.  Films like Michael Bay’s abortive PEARL HARBOR exploited its calamity for the sake of telling a love story and crafting popcorn entertainment.  UNITED 93 is the complete antithesis.  Filmed in an extraordinary pseudo-documentary style, using real-life people that re-create themselves for the film (an utterly thankless job), and a discrete and sensitive level of tact and delicacy with the material, Greengrass gives us an in-the-moment look at the doomed flight.  It’s not about demonizing the terrorists, nor is it about glorifing the heroes.  

With an impeccable eye for detail and an unflinching and brutal realism, UNITED 93 is one of the most realistic historical recreation films that I have ever seen.  Most importantly, it’s a heartfelt eulogy to heroism and an unflinching account of the events of September 11, 2001.  Thankfully, Greengrass had the courage and undying willingness to look at a painful, past incident and explore it with compassion and propriety.

 
 

2.  THE DEPARTED

 
 

The greatest living director and the finest filmmaker never to win an Academy Award reminds Oscar voters – yet again – of his worthiness of that elusive prize with his masterful THE DEPARTED.  With five Oscar nominations throughout his career for Direction, and a film resume that underlines some of the best films of the last quarter century (MEAN STREETS, TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL, THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, GOODFELLAS, CASINO, GANGS OF NEW YORK,and THE AVIATOR),  Martin Scorsese has once again struck gold with his stirring and sweeping police/crime masterpiece, THE DEPARTED.  

Based on the largely B-grade Hong Kong police procedural, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, Scorsese’s remake here is his best work since 1990’s GOODFELLAS.  This is his purest, strongest, most confident, assured and unabashedly rough n' tough films that he has made since his last foray into the mob.  THE DEPARTED shares many similarities with his 1990 opus.  Both films center on the mob, albeit in a different form and environment (THE DEPARTED hones in squarely on Bostonian crime lords) and both examine the nature of loyalty and how men are divided by both power and their need to be loyal.  THE DEPARTED is a continuation of a universal Scorsesian theme in the sense that it deals with men – one on the side of the law and the other not, and played in two of the best performances of the year by Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon – as they are thrust into corrupt and duplicitous lives that also challenge their notions of family and betrayal.  Beyond the two leads and pitch perfect direction, THE DEPARTED should be noted for its revitalizing performance by Jack Nicholson as a vicious mafioso that does not play up to his usual, sneering, camera mugging theatrics.  On the whole, THE DEPARTED reminds us why Scorsese is the most authoritative and evocative directors of his generation.  

Oscar voters…did ya hear me?  Let’s please not make this man go 0-6 come springtime.

 
 

3.  THE GOOD SHEPHERD

 
 

Matt Damon gives one of his most quietly commanding performances of his career as CIA-man Edward Wilson in Robert DeNiro’s grand, epic, and passionately directed THE GOOD SHEPHERD.  DeNiro’s film – his first since 1993’s  A BRONX TALE – is a fictitious chronicling of the origins and rise of the C.I.A. that was written with complexity, rich detail, and Cold War intrigue by Eric Roth, who also penned last year’s best film, MUNICH.  Like CITIZEN KANE, THE GOOD SHEPHERD uses a disjointed narrative that weaves and interweaves from 1961 back to and through the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. It  gives us glimpses and hints at Wilson’s developing allegiance to God and country and how he – ultimately – is forced to personally challenge his lifelong occupational commitments.  The film is a fascinating and absorbing grunt perspective of America’s then developing foreign covert intelligence infrastructure.  Past films with similar subject matters have often zeroed-in on the more romanticized elements of the spy game.  But what Roth and DeNiro do here is de-mystify intelligence work by making it anything but romanticized.   Aside from the consummately slick and assured direction from DeNiro, THE GOOD SHEPHERD highlights Damon at the top of his form.  Like the film’s screenplay, Damon’s layered portrayal here slowly and patiently develops this man’s fanatical loyalty to his job that ultimately grows to haunt and destroy his life.  

At its core, THE GOOD SHEPHERD is about how diehard patriotism and stern loyalty makes one go down a road where decisions made out of professional necessity can inevitably have disastrous consequences.  It’s about how good, moral men become amoral without any turning back.  DeNiro coordinates all of these fiercely ambitious elements with the precision of an orchestra conductor

 
 

4.  APOCALYPTO

 
 

Hey…I have a great idea: Let’s try our hardest to forget that Mel Gibson appears to be an alcoholic with a penchant for engaging in anti-Semitic diatribes and instead focus on his filmmaking talent.  If you are willing to look beyond his fragile personal life, then it should be no problem to see APOCALYPTO as one of 2006’s great out-of-body experiences.  

 

Like his pervious film – THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST – Gibson's APOCALYPTO is a historical film told in a foreign language (in this case, it deals with ancient Mayan civilizations using their own native tongues), but even more so the film is able to inspire legitimate awe it its spectacular visuals and ambience.  Gibson is able to craft unbelievable images that transport the viewer six hundred years back in time during which one civilization is nearing its end and some unexpected visitors will make their presence felt.  More than any film from 2006, APOCALYPTO made me feel less conscious of my theatre surroundings.  Like great escapist entertainment, the film packs such a powerful, ethereal stature that we begin to live in its moments, forgetting out surroundings.  With jaw-dropping scenery, immaculate costume design, intrepid performances, and an unrelenting level of kinetic action, tension, and bone-crunching, blood spattering carnage, APOCALYPTO is a brutal and compellingly fearsome period thriller.  It’s also a daring personal work by a filmmaker with a vision to show us sights not seen before.  The sheer immediacy with which this film operates on the viewer is its most noteworthy trait.  It’s one of 2006’s most transcending experiences.

 
 

5.  CHILDREN OF MEN <

 
 

The Mexican born Alfonso Cuarón is one of the finest filmmakers to emerge from his home country.  His screen resume reveals a strong and assured depth, with works ranging from fairy tales (THE LITTLE PRINCESS), adaptations of classic literature (GREAT EXPECTATIONS), sexually laced melodramas (Y tu mamá también), and even populist fantasies (HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN).  Now comes his take on a post-apocalyptic dystopia in his marvelously crafted and astoundingly directed CHILDREN OF MEN.  Based on the 1992 novel of the name by P.D. James, Cuarón’s film focuses on London of 2027 after decades of world wars, nuclear terrorism, and worldwide strife.  Women have become infertile and are incapable of giving birth.  Humanity, in essence, will cease to exist in a hundred years.  Obviously, tales of despotic futures ruled by dictatorial rule are hardly nothing new (George Orwell has spawned countless imitators), but CHILDREN OF MEN is an extraordinary accomplishment in the way Cuarón and his cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, are able to create virtuoso set pieces and elaborate camera moves to fully immerse the viewer in the decayed world of Great Britain.  

With strong, low-key performances, a narrative that deals with many pertinent themes to today’s audiences, and some of the most breathtaking and painstakingly realized action set pieces ever conceived, CHILDREN OF MEN represents one of the better sci-fi parables in a long while.  Its view of London is one of the greatest visions of a repressive future world that I’ve seen.  

[< added January 6, 2007]ry 6, 2007]

 
 

6.    THE PROPOSITION

 
 

John Hillcoat’s Australian western has stayed with me since the day I saw it in the spring.  I still remember its most minute details: The dirt-infested buildings.  The grungy, dust filled skies.   The ever-present flies circling around people.  The sun drenched and desolate landscapes.  THE PROPOSITION is a western of such unyielding and authoritative power that it reminds us why the genre is one of the most evocative.  The film – more than any western that I have seen – creates such a gritty - almost omnipotent - level of forceful, depraved, and ugly verisimilitude.  THE PROPOSITION is unlike any other recent western in the way it absolutely nails down the haunting details of frontier life with utmost realism.  The hair on the cowboys is oily and mated, their teeth yellow and stained with months worth of plaque, and their clothes and hats seem forever covered by the soiled and polluted haze of the environment that surrounds and strangles them.  The men look like they actually have traveled for miles and days without bathing. The soundtrack supports this desolate vision.  While characters speak you can hear the faint humming of flies around every corner.  

This is not a western that looks like John Wayne would populate.  This is a hellish vision, and its story and characters reinforce the moral decay.  Because of this, THE PROPOSITION is one of 2006’s most unforgettable visions. 

 
 

7.    THE QUEEN <

 
 

Helen Mirren’s towering – and meticulously nuanced and underplayed – performance as Queen Elizabeth II highlights Stephen Frears’ brilliant and enthralling THE QUEEN.  Set in 1997, the film deals with how Princess Diana’s tragic death affected the actions of two political figures in the UK – the queen and Tony Blair, the latter being then-newly elected Labour Prime Minister.  Frears effortlessly tackles the ethical and political  conundrums that the two face while not only dealing with the public’s sadness and dismay, but also with dealing with their own strained relationship.  Elizabeth is shown as a stern and fiercely loyal figurehead that believes in tradition first and appeasing public sentiment second.  In Blair we see someone that is a polar opposite to the queen, a man that understands the mood of his country’s people and facilitates their desire for someone in charge to step up and say something publicly to give them solace.  Amazingly, the film is remarkably bi-partisan in its outlook and handling of the characters, not to mention that it is not an absolute evisceration of the monarchy.  Instead, Frears allows us to understand the actions by the queen, even if we don’t necessarily agree with the.  With the confident and focused performance by Mirren in the title role, and Frears' evocative handling of the material, THE QUEEN emerged as one of 2006’s most quietly powerful films. 

[< added February 5, 2007]

 
 

8.    HARD CANDY

 
 

HARDY CANDY is a film that was missed by many in a sea of regurgitated and mindless gorefests.  It simply is one of the most disturbing film-going experiences that I have ever had.  The film is not outrageously violent, nor is it – to take a page out of Roger Ebert’s playbook – a "vomitorium" of wicked, wanton excess.  No, HARD CANDY is a thriller that many filmmakers seem to have forgotten how to make; one's with tension, a queasy level of spin-tingling intensity, and suspense that will make many a viewer – particularity men – want to watch it through their fingers.  The film features two of the best performances of the year by Ellen Page (who was in X-MEN: THE LAST STAND) and Patrick Wilson.  Page is a 14-year-old girl that surfs chat rooms and meets a man twice her age.  He is a pedophile.  They meet, exchange small talk, and eventually head back to his place.  Soon, the teen gets the upper hand and – in pure, revenge-film fashion – decides to teach the career molester a lessen he will never forget.  

HARD CANDY is a pure, unapologetic endurance test.  It's a film that tests our collective will to endure its psychological horror story filled with brutal, uncompromising scenes.  It also poses an interesting moral question:  Who is sicker – a vile child molester or a girl that viscously tortures him and threatens to do the unspeakable to him?  HARD CANDY is not a film of simple questions and easy answers.  It tantalizes us on moral grounds, shocks us with its sentiment and tone, and unmistakably is 2006’s most transfixing and challenging films.

 
 

9.    HALF NELSON

 
 

HALF NELSON – on some superficial levels – could have been yet another one of those dime-a-dozen, saccharine, inspirational inner city high school melodramas.  However, the film goes rigidly against the grain of those types of genre films in the way it’s a quiet, understated, and masterfully mounted drama.  It takes the standard elements of these inner city high school flicks and wickedly turns them up on their heads.  What the film does – that few others like it don’t – is that it goes for stark realism at every corner.  It features Ryan Gosling - in a career making performance that screams out “Oscar” - playing a high school teacher with a habitual drug problem.  He is, arguably, even more emotionally damaged than his fragile minded students.  He’s a tormented person that does cruel things to himself and those around him.  Even when he strikes up a relationship with a fellow, struggling student (played in the film’s second commanding performance by Shareeka Epps), there are hints that neither are really going to help one another.  This is a film where wounded characters neither want aid nor welcome it.  It is the film’s bleak and honest portrait at subjugated individuals that makes it work as a small masterstroke look into nihilism and despair...and Gosling is definitely an actor to watch out for.  

 
 

10.    V FOR VENDETTA

 
 

The Wachowski Brothers – as they did with the first two MATRIX films – prove in V FOR VENDETTA that the best sci-fi film is one that infuses social commentary and stirring, challenging political themes in it.  Their script for the film – based on the landmark ten-issue limited series of the mid-1980’s by comic mastermind Alan Moore – tackles issues that many other lesser sci-fi films would never cover.  It’s arguably one of the first great post-911 films that has the frankness and audacity to use its more fantastical elements to forge a story that has the clear potential to polarize and challenge its audience.  Terrorism is an evil that must and should be fought, but at what ultimate price?  Does the end ever justify the means?  V FOR VENDETTA is a lot more fascinating and thoughtful than most critics gave it credit for.  What makes it stand far, far apart from other similar ventures is that it feels more inclined to be about ideas and themes and less about explosions, bullets flying, and blood flowing.  It has the latter elements, to be sure, but its heart lies in posing moral conundrums: Where does the line draw between freedom fighters and terrorists?  Is there a line?  When a “hero” or “crusader” commits acts of destruction, is he no better than an extremist?  Like a breath of fresh air, it’s great to see comic book films like V FOR VENDETTA be about something.  The film is a sure-fire, subversive triumph that never once looks back, nor does it ever apologize for its controversial motives.

 
  ...and now to round off my BEST FILMS OF 2006 with my selections from 11-25:  
 

11.  AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH Al Gore (yes, the former Presidential candidate) highlights one of the most provocative documentaries of the year by focusing on the alarming real trend of global warming.  The film is solid and rock steady in its presentation of facts, not conjecture.  [adjusted off of TOP TEN February 5, 2007]

 

12.  BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTANAs the most famous Kazakhstanian in the cinematic world might utter, I would describe this film by saying: "Nice.  Very Nice.  I liked this movie-film very much."  Beyond it's defiant crudeness and scatological jokes, BORAT is a masterfully mounted satire that speaks vast truths about racism and bigotry, namely that racist imbeciles can draw out the bigotry of others.  Sacha Baron Cohen does so very effectively here.

 

13.  BLOOD DIAMOND Leo DiCaprio gives another of 2006's finest performances and Djimon Hounsou gives his best yet in this topical and thought-provoking film by Edward Zwick; a wonderfully evocative Golden Age Hollywood adventure yarn mixed with penetrating and timely issues.

 

14.  BRICK One of 2006's most inventive films:  A 1940's film noir detective yarn, set in a modern day high school and featuring teens that speak like they went to a class in Sam Spade-jargon 101.  Once you get past it's odd artifice, BRICK is stunningly original.

 

15.  LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE2006's best assemble dramady about a highly dysfunctional family.  Steve Carrel proves he can effectively balance absurd laughs with genuine sentiment.  Very funny black comedy that wisely underlines that laughs can often be generated from human misery.

 

16.   TRISTRAM SHANDY: A COCK AND BULL STORY: One of the best films about the making of a film, not to mention a perversely funny and spirited satire that deserves worthy comparison with THIS IS SPINAL TAP!.

 

17.   THANK-YOU FOR SMOKING:  One of the finest mounted social satires and black comedies in many a moon, with venomous sarcasm and droll, nail-biting performances that thankfully never sugarcoat the material and its targets.

 

18.   DREAMGIRLSBill Condon (KINSEY, GODS AND MONSTERS) crafts the best musical since 2001's MOULIN ROUGE and garners Oscar calibre performances by the remarkably strong Jennifer Hudson and the boisterous Eddie Murphy.  It's big, spirited Hollywood showmanship that only this type of genre film can muster.  [added January 22, 2007]

 

19.   THE LAST KISS:  Hollywood's newest Golden Boy, screenwriter Paul Haggis, has crafted another memorable screenplay adapting 2001's L’ultmo bacio.  Another solid performance by Zach Braff, as well as an Oscar worthy turn by the underrated Jacinda Barrett, make this film work as a perceptive investigative piece on the nature of male/female relationships.  

 

20.   BABEL: Brad Pitt sheds all vanity whatsoever in his searing and penetrating performance in Alejando Gonzalez Iñárritu's multi-layered film, and Rinko Kikuchi's work as a sexually repressed and introverted teen is chilling.

 

21.   CASINO ROYALE: Nobody does it better...and the new James Bond, Daniel Craig, proved he was the real deal in this revisionist 007 adventure that successfully reboots and revitalizes the franchise the way BATMAN BEGINS did for its once failing series.

 

22.   ROCKY BALBOA: Don't let ignorantly cynical moviegoers cloud your judgment, because Sylvester Stallone's six - and final - film in the ROCKY series emerged as one of 2006 sublime surprises; it is a wonderful bookend to the 1976 original, and Stallone gives his best performance ever here.

 

23.   HOLLYWOODLAND: Ben Affleck should more than defy his critics with his sad and emotional turn as former TV Superman star George Reeves.  The film is an exemplary crafted look at the death of Old Hollywood and the loss of a small screen icon.

 

24.   THE PRESTIGEChristopher Nolan makes another stylistic splash with this atmospheric and absorbing period thriller about dueling illusionists.  Christian Bale delivers another rock-steady performance, and Hugh Jackman has never been better.

 

25.   JET LI'S FEARLESS: Jet Li's apparent "last film" of his wushu career (yeah...I'll believe that when I see it) rises above chop-socky mediocrity by being an ambitious and impressively staged historical morality play that has a voice and something to say.  A rare martial arts extravaganza with a heart.

 
  Beyond my TOP 25, here's a further selection of films that are definitely worth seeing, but just not quite great enough to make the final cut:  
 

RUNNING SCARED: Paul Walker - who typically is lynched by critics - confidently headlines this wild, eccentric, and flamboyantly stylish exercise into exploitation filmmaking.  The movie is a masterfully hyperactive effort at making the viewer feel uneasy.

 

STRANGER THAN FICTION: Will Ferrell approaches Robin Williams territory here by demonstrating himself to be an actor of impressive range while playing against type.  He leads a stellar supporting cast in a witty romantic farce with an ingenious and inventive premise.

 

DEATH OF A PRESIDENT: Largely dismissed as a "stunt" film without a moral barometer, but this fictitious documentary about the murder of George W. Bush is less a character assassination piece and more a intriguing what if commentary piece on nature of the escalating nature of the US government infringing on civil liberties.

 

GAME 6: Michael Keaton is dynamite here as a playwright who has deep, personal wounds opened with the infamous New York Mets loss at the 1986 World Series. 

 

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: III: Tom Cruise may be a lunatic that jumps on talk show host's furniture and calls psychiatry a "Nazi science," but he still is a reliable star that - with the help of ALIAS/LOST creator J.J. Abrams - concocted the most thrilling and action packed of all the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE films.

 

16 BLOCKS: Veteran action filmmaker Richard Donner is in fine form with this well paced and exciting police procedural staring Bruce Willis.

 

THE BREAK UP: Somewhat wrongly marketed as a screwball romantic comedy, THE BREAK UP is a remarkably sincere, honest, and candid look at the nature how how men and women fail to understand one another.

 

CLERKS 2: Kevin Smith returns to his old stomping grounds with a look at the characters that gave his career a jumpstart.  A scatological riot with some surprisingly heartfelt sensitivity made the film incredible lewd and loveable. 

 

DEJA VU: Tense and thrilling pacing and yet another effortlessly strong and captivating performance by Denzel Washington helps DEJA VU stand apart from its ludicrous premise.  

 

GLORY ROAD: It easily could have been another run-of-the-mill, inspirational sports films about overcoming odds, but GLORY ROAD eclipses genre clichés by actually having something profound to say about the transition that NCAA basketball made to crossing the color barrier.

 

INSIDE MAN: Spike Lee returns to fine form with the always reliable Denzel Washington as his co-pilot in this wonderfully directed and acted heist thriller.

 

MIAMI VICE: Director Michael Mann comes a bit full circle with his big budgeted, silver screen re-imagining of the landmark TV series he created in the mid-1980's.  MIAMI VICE is representative of what great remakes should do: Be fresh and inventive, but also be faithful to the source material and not so much to the point of being slavish.

 

MONSTER HOUSE: Executive Producers Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis present this darkly funny and somewhat macabre CGI animated tale done in the same eye-popping visual style as THE POLAR EXPRESS.  A joyous and entertaining film that is not too scary to make kids flee in terror and just smart and whimsical enough to keep adults in their seats.

 

NACHO LIBREJared Hess' sidesplitting comedy is every bit as absurdly comical as his NAPOLEON DYNAMITE.  Jack Black goes for broke and engages in all manners  silly and preposterous as a Mexican friar that wants to be pro-wrestler despite being a "stinky warrior." 

 

TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY: It's "shake n' bake" time with this uproarious comedy which again proves my theory that some of the best comedies will do just about anything to garner strong laughs.  Will Ferrell is in a state of dimwitted euphoria here playing a cataclysmic doofus that only her can do best.

 
 

Finally, here's a list of good films from 2006 that deserve mentioning:

 
 

A SCANNER DARKLY: Another successfully trippy and engaging film from Richard Linklater that rather faithfully adapts one of Philip K. Dyck's more intriguing sci-fi stories.

 

CRANK: The master of the Cinema of Incredulity - Jason Stathum - once again oozes macho bravado and dropkicks his way through every unrelentingly implausible - but wickedly entertaining -  scene in this testosterone-induced action film.

 

DISTRICT B13: This French martial arts film may have two lead stars that look like rejected members of a boy band, but Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle give virtuoso physical performances that deserve comparison with the best of Jackie Chan.

 

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT: Here's a movie that knows it's a bad movie which, paradoxically, is what makes it a fun and enjoyable movie.  This one never has any pretensions beyond being a slickly made teen exploitation film.

 

IMAGINE ME AND YOU: Piper Perabo lesbian love triangle film #2 on her resume.  Her good performance in IMAGINE ME AND YOU makes this a fairly light-hearted and enjoyable romantic comedyIt ain't a female BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, nor does it ever aim to be.

 

INVINCIBLE: A decent true story sports film with definitive echoes of a classic rags-to-riches story of an Italian Philadelphia pugilist; Mark Wahlberg's earnest performance helps you root for him in his character's quest for NFL fame.

 

LITTLE CHILDREN: Todd Field's follow-up film to his great IN THE BEDROOM is a fascinating and unsettling look at adulterous lovers and sex offenders placed in a seemingly peaceful, American suburbia; the performances by Patrick Wilson, Kate Winslet, and Jackie Earle Harley are resoundingly strong.

 

MY SUPER EX-GIRLFRIEND: Ivan Reitman successfully returns to a hybrid genre he helped envision: zany and capricious comedy mixed with a state-of-the-art effects action picture.  He balances the two here in this lively and frequently funny film of a jealous super hero and her jilted lover. 

 

PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST: The number one grossing film of 2006 marks the return of Captain Jack Sparrow to the cinema and Johnny Depp - as he displayed in the first PIRATES film - is an absolute hoot.  Garrr!

 

SNAKES ON A PLANE:  Although the film never achieved the high level of success that it's massive advance Internet pre-publicity said it would, this foray into B-grade exploitation horror films was a mutha-f - - kin' good time.

 

SUPERMAN II - THE RICHARD DONNER CUT: One of 2006's great curiosity pieces; a completely re-tooled version of the 1981 SUPERMAN sequel that more closely resembles Richard Donner's original vision of the film.  It is not the definitive SUPERMAN II experience, but is has some noteworthy improvements over the original.

 

SUPERMAN RETURNS: THE 3D IMAX EXPERIENCE:  Bryan Singer's lavish and expensive return of the Man of Steel to the cinema has jaw-dropping spectacle and visual effects, but lacks a bit of the whimsicality and charm of the original Christopher Reeve films.  Nevertheless, this new film - especially in the stupendous IMAX 3-D format - was a sight to behold.

 

TENACIOUS D: IN THE PICK OF DESTINYJack Black and Kyle Gass try to become the greatest rock n' roll band of all time in this advertised "greatest film of all time."  Well, it's not the best film ever made, but it certainly has a zany and pathological energy to its comedy, which is helped by a performance by Black that is pure, unrefined adrenaline.

 

X-MEN: THE LAST STAND: Like STAR TREK, the X-MEN movies have always infused social commentary into their fantastical storylines, and X-MEN: THE LAST STAND continues that tradition with respectable results.

 
 

 

 

 
     
 

  H O M E