July 2, 2006

This Year at the Cinemas: 2006 First Half Recap

Welcome! The first half of 2006 is over, but there is still a half year still ahead of us. Will it be better than the first half? There are still a lot of summer releases to come, including Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, not to mention the Fall Oscar season.

The first six months brought some very good films, as well as some monumental failures. Will any of these films still appear on the "Best of 2006" lists come January? I think there is a good chance for a couple of them. As well all know, any type of list is fluid and can change at a moments notice, so keep that in mind as we go over my first half stats.

Part I: The Numbers

  • Total Movies Seen: 73
  • Total Movies Eligible: 65
  • Number of Theaters Visted: 7
  • Longest Movie: 157 minutes (Superman Returns)
  • Shortest Movie: 82 minutes (The Pink Panther)
  • Rated R: 21
  • Rated PG-13: 29
  • Rated PG: 10
  • Rated G: 3
  • Not Rated: 1 (but I can't tell you about it...)
  • *: 2
  • *.5: 4
  • **: 8
  • **.5: 16
  • ***: 27
  • ***.5: 6
  • ****: 1
  • *****: 1
Part II: The Movies

Top Ten.

  1. Brick. Rian Johnson's modern high school clique/noir flick is absolutely amazing. Its performances are spot on, the dialog intriguing, and the story involving. It tells the story of a high school outsider kicking up a hornet's nest of trouble while trying to find his estranged girlfriend's murderer. Simply incredible.
  2. V for Vendetta. The Wachowski guided, McTeigue directed adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel is fantastic. A film full of ideas and concepts, all of it wrapped in a wonderfully visual film. It features some wonderful set design and excellent performances from its two leads.
  3. Superman Returns. Beautifully realized, yet flawed, film that succeeds in bringing the comic icon back to the big screen in amazing fashion. The leads do a fine job of keeping the spirit of the original Donner film while instilling it with a sense of freshness.
  4. The Lake House. What a sweetly romantic film. Alejandro Agresti works from the original Korean film and craft a film based around the improbable plot device of a magic mailbox, and make it work without so much as an explanation. Very impressive film.
  5. Running Scared. Deliriously over the top thriller that takes its story to the edge of oblivion yet never falls into the abyss. This movie was a surprise on many levels, not the least of which it made Paul Walker seem capable. Vastly underrated.
  6. Thank You for Smoking. Ivan Reitman's son, Jason, delivers this hilarious look at the world of lobbyists, in particular the tobacco lobby. This film doesn't really deliver anything new, but what it does is present that information in endlessly entertaining fashion.
  7. The Libertine. Johnny Depp carries this film on his back. The film is muddy and dirty and enthralling. Depp stars as John Wilmot, and we bear witness to his fall from fame and his ultimate demise.
  8. The Devil Wears Prada. Surprisingly good. Streep and Hathaway come together to create a film which will make you feel a little better about there own. It also is surprisingly subversive, in a way that you don't even see it coming.
  9. The Notorious Bettie Page. A delightful look at the pin up queen's rise to fame, and the decidedly non-s;eazy approach. Bettie is portrayed as a sweet girl who sees nothing wrong with what she's doing. It is a breath of fresh air.
  10. Nacho Libre. Insidiously sweet natured film. Jack Black plays the thoughtful Ignacio, aka Nacho, who seeks to do more for the kids of his orphange. He takes on the guise of Nacho the lucha libre wrestler, a persona he uses to raise money for the children, plus giving those kids a hero. This will have you leaving with a smile.

Note: United 93 is a powerful experience, but that is what it primarily is, moreso than a film, which is why it is not on this list despite my giving it *****.

Bottom Five

  1. Basic Instinct 2. Simply the worst. Sharon Stone must be getting desperate for a paycheck to do this. There is nothing sexy about it, nothing thrilling, nothing intriguing. This is a sequel that no one needed, and no one wanted.
  2. Date Movie. Terrible. There is only one reason to go near this, and that is the lovely Alyson Hannigan. This is just flat out not funny, all they do is mimic scenes from other films and never take them anywhere or connect them in any worthwhile fashion.
  3. Pink Panther. What an absolutely horrid mess this was. Not funny, not clever, just overly dull. This is definitely one to skip.
  4. When A Stranger Calls. Dull and pointless. Why was this movie made? I guess it is to show how not to make an effective thriller.
  5. An American Haunting. The only thing that kept me awake were the jump scares that came every 15 to 20 minutes. The story was pointless and did not go anywhere. I am sure a better film could have been made with this material.
Top Three Guilty Pleasures

  1. Ultraviolet. I don't care what anyone says, I like this movie. Milla Jovovich is convincing in the action heroine role. I just had a lot of fun with this cheese fest.
  2. Slither. This movie is a blast. It tells the tale of invading alien brain slugs in a small town. Nathan Fillion stars as the town's sheriff who goes into the battle. This plays the line of horror and comedy very well.
  3. See No Evil. The first entry from WWE films turns out to be a fun old school slasher film starring Kane (Glen Jacobs). It doesn't tread any new ground, but it has some nice blood and an imposing killer.

Part III: The People

Top Three Actors

  1. Johnny Depp (The Libertine). Like I mentioned above, Depp carries this film, and his portrayal of Wilmot is just another feather in his cap. He is by far one of the greatest of this generation.
  2. Hugo Weaving (V for Vendetta). Weaving is magical in his portrayal of V, an impressively effective and emotive performance for a man hidden behind a mask.
  3. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Brick). He stars as an outsider seeking answers and he goes about it in impressive fashion. He delivers every noir inspired line with complete believability.
Top Three Actresses

  1. Natalie Portman (V for Vendetta). Portman is impressive as her character blossoms from the rule follower to the activist/sympathizer later on. Very strong work.
  2. Gretchen Mol (The Notorious Bettie Page). Gretchen brings a delightful innocence to the role of Bettie. Charismatic on the screen, an intriguing portrayal.
  3. Sanaa Lathan (Something New). A surprisingly strong film, and an excellent performance. She helps anchor this film about an interracial relationship, finding love where you aren't looking and least expect it.
Top Three Supporting Actors

  1. Mos Def (16 Blocks). Mos plays a big part of the film, but he is really the device used for Willis' character discovery of himself. I loved the child like innocence, and the mannerisms Def injected him with.
  2. Stanley Tucci (The Devil Wears Prada). Tucci has given some fine supporting characters over the past few years, and this is one of them. He plays an employee of Runway magazine, sacrificing his life for his job.
  3. Hector Jiminez (Nacho Libre). It may not be the most wide ranging character, but try to laugh at his love for corn, or his scrawny wrestling physique.
Top Three Supporting Actresses

  1. Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada). It could be argued that she is a lead in the film, but ultimately it is not her story, but she is a big part of the story's thrust. She is delightfully dismissive, and coolly evil.
  2. Samantha Morton (The Libertine). Playing opposite Johnny Depp never hurts, but Morton does a fine job of creating a strong character to deal with the lech that Depp plays.
  3. Vera Farmiga (Running Scared). Besides Walker's arc, Vera Farmiga has a strong subplot and character of her own. She is more than the stay at home wife, she has an intriguing adventure of her own to contend with.
Top Three Directors

  1. Alejandro Agresti (The Lake House). Agresti did a wonderful job of making you care about this couple. The storyt moves in such a fluid way that you don't care about the ludicrous plot device.
  2. Wayne Kramer (Running Scared). A roller coaster of a film that Kramer somehow manages to keep on its tracks will getting more and more insane. I can't believe that he was able to keep this thing together.
  3. Christophe Gans (Silent Hill). One of the more stylish films of the year. Gans successfully brings a creepy, atmospheric horror to the screen. The script may be lacking, but the style is completely successful.

Top Three Writers

  1. Rian Johnson (Brick). His transporting of hard boiled '40s era detective dialog into the modern high school is ingenius. The combination of genres works perfectly creating one of the most unique films of the year.
  2. Garrison Keillor (A Prairie Home Companion). When I watched this in the theater, I felt disconnected, upon further reflection of what I saw, it is a wonderfully layered script that gives a look into the lives of a number of characters. It is a very good script.
  3. David Auburn (The Lake House) based on Eun-Jeong Kim and Ji-na Yeo's Il Mare. Much like the direction, the script draws you into these two characters, you quickly forget the mailbox and become invested in their potential relationship.

OK, are you still with me? I know this is long, but if I stop now, I'll never finish. I promise we are in the home stretch. This final section is where I will tell you my favorite films in some of the big genres. These aren't necessarily the "best," but they are films that held my imagination. Here we go.

Part IV: The Rest

Favorite Horror

  • Silent Hill. Christophe Gans beatifully atmospheric film is a dark and twisted little horror film, and one of the better video game based films. The script may have lacked at times, but I was still completely engrossed in where it was headed and what was waiting around the next corner, just what I want from a horror film.
  • Special Note: Slither was a blast, but falls more towards horror/comedy.

Favorite Science Fiction

  • X-Men: The Last Stand. May not be the best of the series, but it is one of the better science fiction related films this year, which may be a testament to the like of big screen science fiction so far this year. This was a fun action spectacle, with some interesting sci-fi bent.

Favorite Action

  • Mission: Impossible III. Possibly my favorite of the series. JJ Abrams has delivered a fun action packed film that doesn't let up from start to finish. Cruise is good in this role, and he has a good crew around him for the ride.

Favorite Animated

  • Over the Hedge. This was a fun movie, and definitely a step above other fare like the Ice Age sequel, Doogal, and even the gorgeous animation of Cars can't top it. Still, this year has not delivered that killer animated flick yet. Hedge is a fun movie with a fun cast of celebrity voices.

Favorite Comedy

  • Nacho Libre. This isn't the traditional gut buster of a comedy, but it is a crowd pleaser that will leave a smile on your face. It features a sweet and weird central character in the center of an idealized world. This movie is a lot of fun.

Favorite Drama

  • United 93. Powerful experience of a film. It captures a moment in time which is hard not to have an emotional reaction to. It is also possibly the closest recreation of what actually happened that we may ever know.

Well, that does it. You have made it to the end of the recapping of the first half of 2006. Now we have 6 more months to look forward. What do we have to look forward to? Well, here are a few movies I'm looking forward to seeing:

  1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  2. A Scanner Darkly
  3. Clerks II
  4. Lady in the Water
  5. Monster House
  6. Miami Vice
  7. The Descent
  8. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
  9. Pulse
  10. World Trade Center
  11. Snakes on a Plane
  12. Wicker Man
  13. Hollywoodland
  14. The Black Dahlia
  15. Fearless
  16. Flyboys
  17. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
  18. The Fountain
  19. The Grudge 2
  20. Saw 3
  21. Casino Royale
  22. Happy Feet
  23. Apocalypto
  24. Charlotte's Web
  25. Rocky Balboa

To be honest, the only big hit I see is Pirates. The rest of the summer sees a little lackluster. I guess time will tell.

See you in six months and we'll see how it all comes out.


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