MOVIES! MOVIES! MOVIES!

Oh, 2006, you cranked out some good flicks. And some goddamn awful ones, too. But the massive amount of good ones totally made up for it.

I think I had a great year at the movies. Let’s see:

Insideman

5. Inside Man– Before Clive Owen was hired as the man to make a feeble attempt at ending one of my favorite action heroes lives in The Bourne Identity, he wasn’t anyone I really knew or paid much attention to at all. And it wasn’t until shortly after seeing him hand out ass kickings in Sin City that I had heard about Inside Man. And my imagination went wild. So wild that I feared the bar I was setting might be far too high and the movie would fall tragically short. But it didn’t. Not even close. At the very least, Inside Man has all the fantastic inner workings of a crime-drama genre that, to me, seems to be dwindling. And at the very best, Inside Man is the heist movie I’ve been waiting for. So, in a genre that seems to be pumping out a lot of the same garbage the past few years, Inside Man takes the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference.

The movie is smart, quick and keeps you engaged from start to finish. Denzel plays a cop on thin ice who, per crime-drama usual, has a reputation of doing things his way, a reputation that has earned him more foes than friends in the police department. Clive Owen plays a criminal who, per heist-cinema usual, you cannot help but respect for his intelligence and the precision at which he performs his art. And enter the twist, he’s a criminal and a damn good one at that, but has this strange sense of morality that you can’t seem to shake . All this coated with a rather mischievous Christopher Plummer and Jodie Foster who plays a little dog with a great big bite.

To me, what pulls this together are the performances. Denzel is commanding as always, but don’t be fooled, Clive Owen is the one running the show here and I was gleefully “marching to the beat of his drum” (As Denzel would put it).

Bottom Line: “Why: beyond the obvious kick-ass movie motivation, it’s exceedingly simple… because you can. Which leaves us only with the How; and therein, as the Bard would tell us, lies the rub.”sunshine

4. Little Miss SunshineI don’t know where to begin with this one, except maybe the first thing that really struck me about this movie and that is Mr. Steve Carrell. Past experience with the man has trained me to look at Steve Carrell and smile or laugh, but within the first five minutes of the film we meet his character, Frank, and you cannot smile and you should not laugh. And as I was sitting there already mesmerized, my insides did this thing that they do when they know something is really tragic and terrible, begging me to look away, but you just can’t. Frank hadn’t said one word and I could have cried. Michael Scott nearly made me cry. And then, out of nowhere the title “Little Miss Sunshine” appears on the screen matched with this expression that stuck a knife in my tummy. And that’s really the best way to describe this movie, sometimes tragic and tortured and painful, but the sun is always shining. From top to bottom this thing glimmers and underneath it all is this tortured family that at the root of it all loves eachother more than anything.

Greg Kinnear, who I haven’t liked this much since As Good As It Gets, plays the success oriented dad who has internal struggles with practicing his own mantra. He’s hilarious and often times the victim of many a dry humored wise-cracks from Frank. Toni Collette is shining as she plays the mommy who is incredibly supportive of her children while trying to be the Supermom she knows she can be. I was absolutely charmed by Abigail Breslin (I thought I loved her in Signs), who plays a young girl named Olive who is so much more than your typical 7 year old. Oh, and not to mention her relationship with her grandfather, Alan Arkin, was absolutely magical. And of course Paul Dano is absolutely brilliant, for not having a single line for the first hour of the film. His little written out notes are often humorous and the relationship he develops with Frank is perfectly paired up and some of the better dialogue I’ve seen this year. Dialogue being the spoken word from Carrell and the written notes from Dano.

Bottom Line: It’s one of the best movies of the year! I’m madly in love with it. And it’s not because of its brains or personality.xmen

3. X-Men: The Last Stand- This and the number two movie on my list really stick out for me as I found something in these movies so magnificently different than their series predecessors. In both these movies was hidden a strong pulse beating behind the explosions and special effects that left me drooling all over myself. This was by far my favorite of the X-Men movies. Don’t get me wrong, the first time I saw Wolverine in X-Men, I nearly fainted out of the happy and excitement racing through my blood. And the second one was fun, but not memorable enough for me to do back flips over. The Last Stand sealed the deal. The action is enticing. I was afraid to look at anything else except the screen during the movie in fear that I would miss something that would make the action flick addict inside me weep with joy. And the drama was top tier. A particularly moving dialogue between Jean Grey and Wolverine still chokes me up just thinking about it. I know, an X-Men movie. Who would have thought? This movie introduces new characters, too. Among them, Beast, who is completely dominating both as big blue and a comedy cornerstone. And of course, The Juggernaut (bitch), which elevated Vinnie Jones to my list of personal heroes. If you’re going to be Vinnie Jones, you might as well make the most of it. Hugh Jackman delivers his best performance of the trilogy and in my opinion, one of his best ever. Wolverine has always been The Man, but this movie really sees him through growing up. His humanistic streak is running bold and strong and is a performance that should not and could not be ignored.

But, saving the best and in this case most fantastically evil for last, Sir Ian. Allow me to gush over him, please.

He’s always delivered a rather steady, stellar and strong performance throughout all these movies, but this one really stuck out in my mind as the absolute best. Besides the fact that he was one of the things I liked best about the LOTR movies, I now realize that he is definitely one of the things I like best about X-Men. Magneto is smart and terrifying with a, dare I say, mutated sense of humanity running though his maniacal mind. (There’s something about the line, “In chess, the pawns go first,” that struck me as so perfectly fitting of McKellen’s Magneto). Not to mention that The Last Stand is a brilliant exhibition of the pure chemistry that is just oozing over between Stewart and McKellen’s Xavier and Magneto and proof of some of the best casting decisions that I can think of.

Bottom Line: Sir Ian McKellen is gonna SirVe you your goddamned ass.

mi3

2. Mission:Impossible III- For a damned loon, Tom Cruise makes some of the best movies out there. From start to finish this thing delivers punch after punch and it delivers hard. Before this movie even came out the previews that gave a snippet of Ethan being shockwaved into a car on a bridge had already taken the cake for being the best thing to happen to the movies in 2006 (aside from the Spider-Man 3 trailer). This is by far my favorite of the M:I movies for three main reasons, one being the scene in which Ethan is being bombarded, literally, on the bridge and my heart’s desires were filled when I saw what the rest of the “being shockwaved into a damn CAR” scene held in store for me. I was pleased. Very, very pleased.Second being the dramatic aspect to this film. Like X-Men this movie showed a side to a familiar character that we never got to really see before. I’m not about to throw out any spoilers, but Ethan not only shows his compassion as a teacher for his student gone missing, but also as a man who’s willing to do whatever it takes to protect what is ultimately the thing that is most important to him. It’s no secret that I am a sucker for good explosions and kick-ass action sequences, but if you can throw in a pulse behind all of that, I’m sold.

And third, like I’d ever forget this, was the balls to the wall performance given by Phillip Seymour Awesome (Hoffman). He’s that damn perfect for the role. He’s used the evilness of his character, Owen Davian, to deliver the most bad-ass villain of 2006, guaranteed. There is no low that is too low for Davian and while it is simply terrifying, I found myself absolutely loving it. Mattress Man has nothing on Owen Davian.

Bottom Line: If when watching this movie you start to feel a little sore, maybe even a bit tired, just remember, that’s one of the best movies of 2006 kicking your ass.

prestige

1. The Prestige- Let it be known that Chrstopher Nolan, Christian Bale and Michael Caine shall four-close on my top movies for 2005, 2006, 2007* and 2008**.

(*Production stills/trailer for The Dark Knight.)

(**The Dark Knight)

I’m still spellbound by The Prestige, whose Pledge shows us Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as Alfred Borden and Robert Angier, magicians who are introduced as commerades but after an unfortunate accident involving Jackman’s wife Julia (Piper Perabo, who was charming), find themselves neck and neck, sometimes literally, in a race to sabatoge the other’s act and tricks. The Turn is Borden’s discovery of a new trick, The Transported Man, that leads Angier on a wild goose chase both inside his own mind and out, even leading him to Nikola Tesla, played by none other than Mr. David Bowie (I didn’t even know it was him until later that night) and his assistant, Gollum. I mean Alley, played by Andy Serkis. You feel Angier’s pain as he tries and tries to figure out how Borden’s trick was performed as you are slowly trying to figure out this whole twisted story for yourself. And even when you think you’ve figured it out, you haven’t. Trust me. The Prestige is The Prestige and saying any more would be giving too much away. The movie leaves you spellbound itching to see it again, just to make sure you didn’t miss anything. Let’s be real, the only thing missing from this movie was the meet up between Wolverine and Batman. But that’s The Prestige 2: Magicians Don’t Like Falafel.

Bottom Line: The Prestige is like all great magic tricks: You’ve gotta see it to beleive it.

Honorable Mention:

Blood Diamond: I just caught this movie and found it to be absolutely outstanding. If you can get past Leonardo DiCaprio’s South African accent (which admittedly took me a good 30 minutes to sift through, but after that didn’t notice at all), this movie is completely worth your time. While DiCaprio, as always, delivers a performance worthy of your attention, it is supporting actor Djimon Hounsou that is not to be missed. If you can sit through this movie and not feel moved by his performance, check your pulse. It is without a doubt, hands down, the best performance in 2006. And I challenge you to disprove that. I didn’t know much about diamond conflict in Africa before this movie, but from what I did know this was fairly accurate as far as historical background goes. Some might complain that some aspects of the film are too ‘Hollywood,’ but you’re too busy being blown away by DiCaprio and Hounsou to even notice. Promise. The flip side of this film is Jennifer Connelly, who delivers a mediocre performance at best. The Beautiful Mind/Requiem honeymoon stage has finally worn off and she is on her way to Chelsea’s “Anyone could have played it” actress dungeon. (See: ScarJo, Kirsten, et al)

Bottom Line: Blood Diamond is *the* movie to see when you’re sick of seeing movies.

And the short ‘let’s not forget’ list:

Breakfast on Pluto: Breakfast on Pluto is what happens when you go to IHOP and order chocolate chip smiley pancakes off the kids’ menu.

Nacho Libre: “Chancho, when you are a man sometimes you love the simple movies, eets for fun.”

Jesus Camp: Terrifying and well done cinematic proof that Jesus would run away from Jesus Camp.

The Departed: Anything you can do Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson can do better. They can do anything better than you.

The Queen: Queen’s got balls.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan: Tighter than a man’s anus. Verra nice! I like! Why not!?

Bring it, 2007.

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