2006: Movies Sorted By Tier
Submitted by jim on Thu, 06/22/2006 - 01:09
- Children of Men ... Man, how'd Alfonso Cuaron get so good? Fabulous direction, and those long tracking shots... My goodness. Such a sense of decay, despair, and tension. Clive Owen is almost like our embedded reporter. I think you have to credit P.D. James with the key piece that makes this particular vision of the apocalypse so powerful, though: our survival is pinned to one mother, and it's just impossible not to fret over her survival. In other movies... yeah, yeah, the plucky band of heroes has to get the antidote through or whatever to avert or otherwise reverse the end game, but it just doesn't have the same immediacy and intimacy that this movie delivers.
- The Departed ... I preferred Infernal Affairs, but this was certainly good enough that is has me wondering if that's just because I happened to see it first. Comparing the two films (unfair, I know), Jack Nicholson delivers the better bad guy here, but Tony Leung wins the hero award there. I do love the devices of two moles trying to ferret each other out (can I mix rodential metaphors like that?), and in each movie the scenes where the moles are trying to surreptitiously communicate with their masters at the same time as they are trying to conceal themselves from their infiltratees are spectacular. Each film is worth seeing for those scenes alone, and they are handled differently, so one doesn't spoil the other. The Departed wins the soundtrack award though, especially for sticking a Dropkick Murphys tune on there, a band I've been overplaying lately.
- Inside Man ... What a lineup, a who's who of artists identifiable by first name only: Denzel, Clive, Jodie, Willem. I'd include Spike too, but Jonze came along and messed that up. All those one-namers deliver, except perhaps Jodie, who struck me as a touch off her game. Odd, as I usually love her. Anyway, is this Spike Lee's post-9/11 movie? I loved the "everybody's a suspect" theme. The heist genre usually disappoints me, but this one sure did deliver. Spike still hasn't found a way to craft an ending that lives up the rest of the movie, but this one came through in a pretty big way. I am embarrassed to admit that my wife had to tell me what the hole in the floor was for.
- The Lives of Others ... I'm late on the review, so it's no longer fresh in my mind, but this was fantastic. Really well acted, didn't go where I thought it was going to go, and I was hooked from the early interrogation and classroom scene. Also, that cafeteria scene where that poor stiff tells the joke. Oh my. Perhaps not better than Pan's Labyrinth, but I don't begrudge it the win by any means.
- Pan's Labyrinth ... Now this is old school fairy tale work straight from those dark corners of the woods and the mind.
- The Prestige ... I probably shouldn't rate this quite so highly, as the tragic elements of the story really didn't affect me much, I just loved it for the way it twists around in my head - the recursive bits, the fractured timeline, the muddling of expectation and reality (if you can figure out what the reality is). Excellent cast; if there's a standout it's Bale, and if there's a weak link it's Johansson. I completely failed to spot David Bowie, which I wouldn't have thought possible.
- Stranger Than Fiction ... I will reveal myself (again) as terribly uncool, but this is the movie I always wanted from Charlie Kaufman, but never quite got (not enough heart in his movies). And in one blow it has me reconsidering my dismissal of Will Ferrell. As for Maggie Gyllenhaal, she climbs higher up my "favorite actresses" list each time I catch her in something. The whole cast rocks; I'd be hard-pressed to pick a favorite performance. I imagine some will find the ending unsatisfying, but not me. Update: rewatched this, my 9-year-old joined me, and I was quite psyched and surprised to discover that she liked it! Also, the ending bothers me less, as I think it works as a of Emma Thompson's character's novel.Spoiler: Highlight to viewmeta-parallel
- Akeelah and the Bee ... I resisted seeing this for the longest time because I thought it was just a cheap ploy to capitalize on the surprise success of the excellent documentary Spellbound. My loss, really enjoyable, and it turns out it was in the works forever, and Spellbound's success provided the nudge needed to actually get it made. Funny that Lawrence Fishburne's in this: it's like he always wished he'd played the Ben Kingsley role from Searching for Bobby Fischer, and now he's finally gotten his chance.
- Amazing Grace ... The William Wilberforce (abolitionist parliament member) / John Newton (slave ship captain who repented and wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace"). Brief Googling suggests this movie mostly gets the history right, which is cool. Excellent cast, and Ioan Gruffudd does a great job. I've liked him since Horatio Hornblower, and it's nice to see Mr. Fantastic hasn't ruined him for quality work.
- Apocalypto ... Gibson may be a wacko, but I have to admit he taps into something primal and compelling with this one. Beautifully shot, too.
- Borat ... The most fun I've had cringing in quite awhile. Even allowing for the fictional elements, I can't believe Sacha Baron Cohen got out of some of those situations alive (and not just the naked wrestling match with the hairy fat guy). In addition to funny, it was educational: I had no idea Kazakhstan's national anthem was so awesome.
- Cars ... For the first half-hour I thought I was watching the first Pixar dud. It was loud and off-putting, and the common complaints seemed all too accurate: Owen Wilson either miscast or too conspicuous, cars not anthropomorphizable enough, our hero too much of a jerk, etc. By an hour in I figured they had enough going for them that they'd at least break even on the effort, and by the end I was completely won over. Owen Wilson is perhaps the most conspicuous Pixar voice yet, but he gradually disappears into the role. The cars are damn hard to anthropomorphize, and this may have been the biggest obstacle, but the folks at Pixar do finally manage to get a leg over it (a Herculeaen effort - is there anything they can't do?). Finally, I liked Lightning's character arc, and the big finish is fantastic. I also had no idea how they would have our hero either win, lose, or no-show in a satisfying manner, and they pulled that off too. Pixar's voice casting is again uncanny, and I'm thrilled, THRILLED that the Pixar/Newman thing worked so beautifully. The supporting cast/characters are excellent across the board (gotta love the Italians), except for poor Sally. Pixar makes boy movies, but they are capable of giving us an Elastigirl or a Dory. Here we get more of a Bo Peep. Anyway, one of my rare theatrical outings and definitely money well spent. The movie is not without significant flaws (aforementioned, and the fact that my four-and-a-half-year-old was bored, bored, bored (a Pixar first for her, as she's loved all the others (at least my 8.5-year-old liked it))) but I'm very happy to write this is merely Pixars least-great movie rather than their worst movie. Oh, stay through all the credits. I think Pixar should run the credits twice - once for watching, once for reading.Spoiler: Highlight to viewI had no idea how they were going to get his friends to the big race in a satisfactory manner after the way he left town, but they solved that with one line from Paul Newman (is there anything he can't do?).
- Curse of the Golden Flower ... Zhang Yimou bounces back from his one-and-only misfire (House of Flying Daggers) by going back to his roots: a richly cinematographied period piece laced with Shakespearianly tragic themes. He doesn't do the tragedy quite as well as his early forays in that genre (Raise the Red Lantern, Ju Dou), and he doesn't do the kung fu as well as he did in his first foray into that genre (Hero), but close enough to make me happy. Even after a 10 year break, Gong Li is still his muse.
- Death Note and Death Note: The Last Name ... Very fun adaptation of the manga, in which a student finds a death-spirit's notebook, which allows the wielder to kill anyone simply by writing their names in the book. The power goes to the kid's head a bit too quick, and the demon looks a bit cheesy, but the ensuing cat-and-mouse game is great, and the means by which the kid's nemesis starts narrowing down who he is are ingenious. Part two started off a bit loopy, and looked like it was throwing more balls into the air than it could handle, but the twists keep coming, and was ultimately quite satisfying. At times corny and melodramatic, it's worth it for the concept and overall cleverness, plus L is a very fun character (amusing aside: I read that on one of the featurettes that actor said he was through with candy). Don't watch the second without watching the first. It's definitely a two-part movie rather than an original with a sequel.
- Deep Water ... It would be interesting to watch this as a double feature, paired with Into the Wild. Two very different men, two very different wildernesses, but they both get in over their head with tragic consequences (I don't think I'm spoiling anything there). So sad, the kids at home, and this guy out there, totally screwed. Come home and lose everything, or stay out there and lose EVERYTHING. Interesting to watch this and medidate a bit on choice. I'm sure Donald Crowhurst thought he was choosing his path, but we as viewers can watch him get nudged, not to mention the twist in the race at the end.
- Flushed Away ... Who needs clay? Gives Aardman's better known efforts a run for their money. I don't think it quite deserves to beat Curse of the Were-Rabbit at the box office, but I certainly won't begrudge it that success. And I didn't realize until the opening credits what a great cast they'd assembled: Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen, Jean Reno, Bill Nighy, and Andy Serkis. Honestly, I had my doubts and only went because I wanted to take the girls out somewhere, but it ended up being a very pleasant surprise. Their streak isn't quite as long as Pixar's yet, but Aardman joins them in "can do no wrong" territory.
- Half Nelson ... Let's face it, most teacher movies go a bit over the top with the sentiment. Not that I mind, I'm a sucker for that stuff. This one avoids such obvious button pushing. It's a keeper.
- The Hoax ... Wow, this really happened?! Hard to imagine anybody having the cojones to try something like this, but nothing should surprise me. Kinda a backhanded compliment, but Richard Gere is the perfect guy to portray a character like this; he conveys a certain indefiniable smarminess (totally unfair of me, he's probably a great guy).
- The Illusionist ... I suspect the excellent performances (no surprise from Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti, but I didn't know Jessica Biel had it in her, and it's awfully nice to see Rufus Sewell getting work) and pinhole-cameraesque cinamatography do a lot to cover a rather thin plot, but even if it's smoke and mirrors it worked for me.
- Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple ... Nobody plans on joining a cult. You think you've found a community, you get sucked in, and by then it's too late. Only folks on the outside can see the truth and you, more likely than not, won't be able to hear it. Or the guys with guns will have you hemmed in. Really good documentary illustrating all this via the Jonestown mass murder/suicide. Man, we have so many buttons to push, and so often the best button pushers are the worst people.
- Lucky Number Slevin ... After the poor Rotten Tomatoes showing (51%), I really wasn't expecting much, but this is one of those rare occasions where the IMDb rating (7.8) is more in line with my experience. It brings to mind a couple other movies I also liked more than reviews would have suggested, Payback (note the Lucy Liu connection) and Bandits (note the Bruce Willis connection). If you think I'm on crack for liking those, than this might not be your cup of tea, but man, I really enjoyed it. Even now, I still can't quite believe I can write that with a straight face.
- My Best Friend ... I really like Patrice Leconte, and this is one of his good ones. I bit saccharine, I suppose, but I like it like that. I always enjoy Daniel Auteuil.
- Penelope ... I continue to think it's a good time to raise kids as a movie fan. Plenty of good movies for the whole family, and this is a nice modern fable. Score one for the good heroine (I have girls). Also, two great things:  Peter Dinklage, and, related  this may be the first movie I've seen with a role for a little person where no character takes note of his height, makes jokes about it, looks at him funny, etc. and yet it's integral to his character. Fantastic.
- Perfume: The Story of a Murderer ... Bizarre, grotesque, and I liked it. Even the overblown bits, which are pretty hard to miss. Tom Tykwer's style always shows through in his movies, even when they are very different (and when they feel almost like Jean-Pierre Jeunet movies).
- The Pursuit of Happyness ... Leans on your buttons pretty hard, but for me, in all the right ways. Will Smith turns in an excellent everyman.
- Slither ... Heir to the throne that Tremors has occupied for so long. A guilty horror pleasure that somehow transcends the guilt. And if you'll forgive me indulging in a little local pride, Elizabeth Banks is from around my neck of the woods.
- Special ... Fantastic performance from Michael Rapaport as a lonely, depressed fellow that signs up for an antidepressant drug trial and has a reaction that makes him believe he has superpowers. The filmmakers never leave it ambiguous that his powers might be real, which was an interesting choice. A good one, I think, although I wasn't sure of that at the time. They do a great job showing the strength of his delusion, and showing his reaction to the world, and the world's reaction to him. It's impressive how they made me care about this guy, even though he spends most of the movie in a fantasy world. I'm not quite sure how they pulled that off.
- Superman Returns ... So is it taken straight from the Superman source material that Lex Luthor finds his financial feet after a prison stint by showing a wealthy old woman "such pleasures", thus ensuring his place in her will as her sole beneficiary? To quote another, better archvillain, "Lame, lame, lame, lame, LAME!" Furthermore, as others have noted, this one really feels like a sequel setup. But in the end it is a sequel I am anticipating rather than dreading. This is because what this one lacks in action it makes up for in heart, and that ain't so easy when your hero is a demigod. Really nice effects, even on my small screen, and the few thrilling moments combined with the involving (for a comic book) relationships helped the longish running time speed on by. Can't wait to see what Singer does with this one next.
- This Film Is Not Yet Rated ... Very interesting. Hiring and filming the PI seemed a little gimmicky, but it pays off when it comes to the composition of the appeals board. Lots of good interviews, Maria Bello stood out, I thought.
- United 93 ... It was clear from Bloody Sunday that Paul Greengrass was the perfect choice to direct this, and he doesn't disappoint. Riveting and heartbreaking without moralizing or being too sentimental. It did bother me that he made the only non-American on the plane the "coward" (for lack of a better word, and not knowing how I would react under such circumstances). I also wondered at various points if the movie would have held my attention had 9/11 never happened, and it were purely a fictional tale. Impossible to say, but I think it would have. The first 30 minutes would have been pretty slow going, though.
- Unknown ... Very pleasant surprise, even if you have to swallow a few preposterous elements (like it couldn't possibly have been cost-effective to secure the warehouse so thoroughly). Anyway, the movie is all concept: five guys wake up in a warehouse with no memory of who they are or how they got there. One is tied up (hooray, Joe Pantoliano), one is shot and handcuffed, and it soon becomes clear that three of them are kidnappers and two are victims, but nobody knows who. There are no deep existential explorations into the meaning of identity, which is a bit of a shame, but it's a fun popcorn flick with a few (perhaps too many) twists. I even felt some empathy for Jim Caviezel's character, kudos to him, nice work.
- We Are Marshall ... Doesn't just push all the sentimental buttons, it LEANS on 'em. I guess I'm just a big softie.
- Who Killed the Electric Car? ... Totally depressing. I know these issues are more complicated than portrayed here (cradle-to-grave impact of electric cars vs. gas cars when you factor in mining of the battery metals and such, for example), but there's also no question we have the technology to do TONS better in terms of environmental impact and dependence on foreign oil, but we aren't willing, both as consumers and producers. We suck.
- Wordplay ... I don't know what it is about these little documentaries about little subjects (spelling bees, and now crossword puzzles) that grabs me. I admire folks that excel in their niche, no matter what it may be. And for some reason it makes me happy that we live in a world where a guy (Will Shortz) can carve out a nice life for himself by inventing the position of "enigmatologist".
Glad I Saw
- The Abandoned ... Kept from greatness by not really being emotionally engaging, but this one really did the best job of bringing out my latent fear of the dark since The Blair Witch Project (including The Descent, even if that one was a better movie).
- Black Book ... A surprising turn for Verhoeven, although that may be unfair of me, since I've only seen his Hollywood entries (5 of 6, only missing Showgirls, doubt I'll remedy that any time soon). It's still more of an entertaining thriller than a moving drama, but its better entertainment for the dramatic elements, and Carice van Houten and Sebastian Koch are excellent.
- Blood Diamond ... Makes all the right moves and the cast really does a great job, but I'm finding it surprising forgettable just a week later. I wonder if, after their movies are cast, all screenwriters get revisions back saying, "have one of the characters comment on how beautiful Jennifer Connelly's character is." They are right, of course, but it's happened often enough now that I have to take note.
- Casino Royale ... There was lots to enjoy about this Bond outing. the whole "blunt instrument" characterization, Bond origins, the lack of Q (or, more specifically, his gadgets), the cast (Daniel Craig is a very good Bond, but no better than Connery or even Brosnan), the Parkour on display in the crazy foot chase (it is me, or are foot chases the new car chases?). Not sure why I didn't like to more, honestly. Probably a combination of the hype, and the runtime. Does a Bond movie really need to run to almost 2:30? Oh, and that guy who looks like Topol narrating the poker game for the audience's benefit. We didn't need hand-holding for Baccarat,and nobody knows how to play that game. Why do we need hand-holding for poker, when you can't get away from that "sport" on ESPN?
- The Devil Wears Prada ... Great cast, mediocre script. The big problem was that whole "heroine loses herself, her friends decry the changes, and she remembers what really matters" routine. In this case, the only thing that changes about our heroine is her clothes. Otherwise she just puts in long hours trying to be good at her job so she can ultimately pursue the job she really wants, and her friends/boyfriend are irritating unsupportive, juvenile, and whiny. I do NOT think that was intentional. What I DO think was intentional was the multidimensional not-pure-evil performance Meryl Streep brings to her role as the devil. Boy, who the heck is this Streep woman? She's pretty good.
- Eight Below ... Some of the acting puts a crimp in this one, but I still had to beat off the impulse to cry at the end with a stick. And there's this thread titled "OMG!!! I JUMPED OUT OF MY SKIN!!" on IMDb regarding this one scene and it has like 75 people posting agreement. Add me to the list.
- Fearless ... One of the better Jet Li outings, even if it pretty much totally fictionalizes a real guy (so much so that his family sued). It's too bad Yuen Woo-ping is so 1999, as I really think this is some of his best work.
- For Your Consideration ... Kinda a departure for the Guest-helmed mockumentaries, as this one isn't really a mockumentary at all. Which is a bit weird, because the camera work and performances make you think it is, but it's a satire without the documentary slant. Pretty fun, but still odd. The more of these I see, the more I appreciate Catherine O'Hara (amazing work holding that frozen face-lift expression and still being able to act through it) and Jennifer Coolidge (who's always hysterical).
- Glory Road ... It's hard to screw up when reality hands you such a good story. I do wish they hadn't condensed the timeline, but the movie works quite well. My only real complaint is around a few spots of portentous dialog, but speechmaking is an easy trap to fall into in a movie like this, and it only happens a few short times, so it's forgivable.
- Invincible ... Underdog sports movies and me... Need I say more? I'm embarrassed to say I didn't get the Vince/Invincible thing until the next day.
- The Last King of Scotland ... Pretty good, but Forest Whitaker really is as important to the success of this movie as everybody says. Tough to relate to our hero, but maybe that's just because I'm getting old.
- Mission Impossible III ... A much better outing for Cruise than War of the Worlds. As this particular brand of action movie goes, MI3 has two things going for it:  while there's lots to roll your eyes at in this movie, it's not out of proportion with its peers, and  Philip Seymore Hoffman turns in what may be the best villain in this type of action movie since Alan Rickman did his thing in Die Hard. That said, the word "impossible"... I do not think it means what they think it means.
- Monster House ... Really nice house effects, and they did a bang-up job getting the kids' language and mannerisms just right. I think this answers the question "is it possible to make a horror movie for youngsters?" The uvula line from the trailer is the best line in the movie. The kids and Steve Buscemi do a great job voicing. Didn't quite whisk me along from start to finish as briskly as I would have liked, but still an enjoyable outing.
- Over the Hedge ... Wow, not bad! And to think I'd just about given up on all non-Shrek Dreamworks CGI efforts. I still favor the big green guy, but he's been slipping with rewatches, so this one may eventually replace him as the Dreamworks CGI movie most worth licking Pixar's boots.
- Princess ... Not really sure what to think of this one, honestly. It's a revenge film, going for catharsis, but it feels more sullying than purifying, but maybe that's just the dark stuff--seedy porn underbelly (shown), child abuse, pedophilia (threatened, implied, forced to imagine). It's just dark stuff, grittily visualized in a mix of mostly animation with some live action woven in. Some stuff is hard to buy, and the end credits epilogue was a poor choice, although I guess it answers the question of how the director feels about the possibility of redemption. Speaking of our hero, I did like the question of how much of his rage stemmed from self-loathing. Anyway, there's a fair bit to chew on here, but it sure ain't for everybody, and I can see where one might watch this and just chalk it up as exploitative vengenace porn, but I think there was more going on.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ... Bloated and surprisingly ponderous at times, this is The Matrix Reloaded of pirate movies. I also hate it when sequel characters go out of character (as defined by the original) on me. Norrington is handled particularly poorly, but there's really too much just-looking-out-for-number-one across the board. Some really nice action set pieces. Verbinski clearly thought so as well, as he does redundant encores for all of them. Like all movies, this one gets better when Bill Nighy appears, and his CGI face is amazing. My wife tells me it's all CGI: the tentacles (obviously), the eyes, the lips. So good I have a hard time believing her, but she's always right. Anyway, towards the end I was thinking this would follow the same quality arc as The Matrix trilogy, but the last 10 seconds gave me fresh hope for the third installment.
- Accepted ... I don't have a TV at home (except as a DVD terminal), so when I find myself in a hotel with cable I'll watch just about anything that happens to be on HBO. So that's how I came to watch this. It's no Animal House to be sure, but I smiled from time to time. I wanted to see how it turned out. See what hotels do to my already low standards?
- Altered ... It would be interesting to watch this movie with the most annoying character, Cody, CGI'd out of the movie. Not only would he not be there, but you'd have all these other characters reacting to some kind of shared delusional character. Might make for an interesting insanity angle. Anyway, even with the full Cody effect (not a knock on the actor, by the way), I was pleasantly surprised. Feels a bit like updated 50s B-movie sci-fi/horror schlock, done well enough to warrant popcorn.
- Aquamarine ... It scored a rating of three-and-change on IMDb. It's for preteens. It's for preteen girls, even. And yet I liked it. The whole twist is a nice one. This is twice in recently memory a movie has set me up with "I know what's coming and it simply doesn't work with what we've seen so far" only to have the movie go somewhere else entirely. Between this, Splash, and The Little Mermaid, I guess Hollywood is 3-for-3 with the mermaid movies (this is clearly the weakling of the lot though). Oh, the girls loved it.Spoiler: Highlight to view"nobody said it had to be romantic love"
- Deja Vu ... Absurd, obviously, as are most movies. But I liked the last Tony Scott/Denzel Washington project (Man on Fire) better than I would have thought from the reviews (quite a bit, actually), and I'd say that's true of this one as well (but not nearly to the same extent).Spoiler: Highlight to viewtime travel
- Failure to Launch ... There are two places these throwaway romantic comedies commonly go off the rails: either they set the hook effectively and then run out of steam after the first 30 minutes, or they mismanage the crisis. Much to my surprise this movie navigated both those turns. For awhile there I struggled with why I should feel guilty about this one. I mean, I know there's the problem of the animal attacks and essentially cruel behavior of our lovely couple (pretty much everybody else has their moments as well), but I still had quite a bit of fun and was considering not feeling guilty until I sanity-checked myself with a couple other reviews. Oh. Right. Guilty. Okay then. Nonetheless, McConaughey and Parker have charm to spare in overcoming their characters ethical shortcomings (he continues to personify all the best atttributes of good-ol-boyness, and I do believe this is the first Parker role that I've taken notice of since the great LA Story), and I laughed. When you get down to it, that last bit is really all that matters.
- Posiedon ... When my older daugher was born, she was colicky. Except for one three-hour stretch at night, and occasional 20-minute catnaps during the day, she screamed constantly and bloodcurdlingly. All we could do was hold her and walk the floors in that rolling bounce-on-the-balls-of-your-feet gait that sometimes comforts babies. We wore out our Blockbuster card during those days, and I paced back and forth with her in front of many a movie. One night the only movie on hand was Sly Stallone's Daylight. Circumstances being what they were I watched that movie three times in a row and lived to tell the tale. It was a middlin' guilty pleasure for which I will always hold a little extra affection for helping me through that night. Anyway, Posiedon reminds me of Daylight, the main diffference being this time I had no screaming baby with me to fix the occasion in my mind. Well, except this: my daughter is nine now and she watched it with me, so that made it a very nice experience indeed.
- The Sentinel ... It's no In the Line of Fire, but it was fun enough.
- Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby ... My wife and I both lost it over the coffin joke, and the next day we weren't even sure why. Perfect delivery, perhaps? Anyway, worth the price of admission for that alone, and there were other laughs to be had as well, even if the movie was a little long and uneven. I'm getting a little tired of only being able to get the "uncut" versions of these comedies, as I imagine tighter would have been better.
- Rocky Balboa ... I hate to say it, but it was fun to see the old man back in the ring once more, and the result of the big fight was surprisingly satisfying. I have an unfair advantage, though: I've never seen the lamentable (by all accounts) fifth chapter. They should have hired the Cinderella Man fight choreographers though, as the boxing there looked much better (okay, everything about that movie was better, but I only thought of it for the boxing).
Very Guilty Pleasures
- High School Musical ... Pure preteen camp. Is it really so much worse than Grease, though? Is it possible my little girls are turning me into a bit of a little girl myself? Don't answer that.
Could Have Missed
- 300 ... I should probably stay away from the visually slavish Frank Miller graphic novel adaptations. What thrills me on the page embarrasses me on the big screen, and even makes me question my admiration of the books. Sin City had enough going for it to make it a guilty pleasure, but this one misses that cut. On the bright side, the trailer made me think all the shouting was going to make me cringe ("This! Is! Spar! Ta!"), but some of it worked better than it probably should have ("Give them nothing! But take from them! Everything!"). I enjoyed The War Nerd's take.
- The Ant Bully ... "Did you hear? Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Paul Giamatti, Bruce Campbell and Lily Tomlin are going to be in a movie together?" ... "Really?! Wow, I can't wait!" ... "Yeah, it's going to be a CGI movie." ... "Oh. Is Pixar making it?" ... "No." ... "Oh." Adequate, with a few laughs, and my five-year-old loved it, so I can't complain too much.
- The Break-Up ... Rob Lowe steals his scenes. Otherwise, eh. It was a bit too much like watching an ugly break-up, but I suppose I should have deduced that from the title.
- Bug ... As a thriller, not very thrilling. As a drama, not very involving. Often happens when you make a movie from a play. I bet it was pretty good on stage, but there are different rules for movies, and this was too direct a translation. I also feel like Ashley Judd's character's introduction and establishment didn't jibe particularly well with her ultimate arc.
- Dreamgirls ... Kinda like watching a parallel universe version of R&B history. Interesting in that regard, and a few of the performances were good (like Eddie Murphy, but not so good it warranted walking out on the Oscars when Arkin (rightfully, IMO) pulled off the upset). Overall, I'm going to have to call "overrated" on this one.
- Fast Food Nation ... Interesting idea, loosely basing a fictional story on a nonfiction book. And normally I don't like to use the "book was better" pseudo-critique, but since they are different beasts entirely I don't feel bad encouraging you to read the book instead. Linklater really needs to stop with the all the musing, philosophizing, preaching dialog. Waking Life (which I enjoyed) had a whole career's worth packed into one movie. Enough already. A Scanner Darkly is going to do that too, isn't it? Somebody let me know if I should pull it out of my queue (even though I dig me some rotoscoping).
- The Foot Fist Way ... Kinda a Napoleon Dynamite for the martial arts crowd. If I had to pick which of those movies preferred I guess I'd go for ND, but neither really did it for me. Some nice cringing in this movie though, and you do almost like the pompous, ridiculous jerk at the heart of this movie by the end. Almost, not quite.
- The Host ... Great opening, followed by an interminable, unengaging muddle of a middle, which manages to be juuuust interesting enough that the ending can still crackle. It's like having really great bookends, but not such great books. Good creature CGI, except for when it's on fire. That looked pretty lame.
- Ice Age 2: The Meltdown ... Possibly funnier than the original, but not as good. Might just be the wonderful cave painting scene from the first one tipping me in its favor though.
- Just My Luck ... The girls rented this, and it was a diverting enough trifle, but I wasn't paying that much attention. They liked it though.
- Little Miss Sunshine ... Wow, that WAS Steve Carrell! He was the best part of the movie. The cast was all very good, actually. Otherwise, though, I can't really see what the fuss is about. Family dysfunction has been funnier, sadder, or both in any number of other movies.
- Night at the Museum ... More fun than I thought it would be. Not quite enough fun, but it did keep me awake and I enjoyed a few moments.
- Paprika ... Worth watching for the imagery and imagination alone. The story's too trippy to care much about, and the philosophising gets tiresome, but it's quite a feast for the eyes and a pretty wild ride at times.
- The Queen ... Not quite my cup of tea, although Helen Mirren is marvelous, as usual.
- X-Men: The Last Stand ... Mediocrity itself. Fine, but forgettable. Given the franchise traded Bryan Singer for Brett Ratner this was an unsurprising—but still disappointing—outcome. Still, there was some fun to be had, and I'm actually more inclined to blame the script and dialog (I mean, fer cryin' out loud: "what have I done?") than Ratner, but he's such an easy target.
Should Have Missed
- Arthur and the Invisibles ... Listening to the dialog is like watching a lead ballooning race. I can't decide if it was the script, awful, mailed-in voice performances, or the worst matching of voice actors and characters ever. Whatever the cause, it sunk this sucker, despite it being pretty to look at. The girls really liked it though.
- Lady in the Water ... I missed The Village, so I can't say definitively that M. Night Shyamalan's movies keep getting worse. Another obstacle to making that judgment is that I can't decide if this is worse than Signs. If not, it's only because Paul Giamatti is always interesting to watch. Did anyone else cringe at Shyamalan casting himself ? I am quite proud of my 9-year-old though for thinking this was pretty poor too, so that was something good to take away from this one.Spoiler: Highlight to viewas the world-changing writer
El Sucko Grande
- Crank ... I like Jason Statham, but I still recognize that awarding a movie the title: "Worst Jason Statham Movie" is saying something. I can see where folks would enjoy this as the ultimate guilty pleasure, but it didn't do it for me. Still, it spawned one of the funnier IMDb threads (at least near the top), 100 Things I Learned From Crank, so that's something. And, by a hair, it kept me just interested enough to see if our hero lives in the end.
- The Pink Panther ... My second 2006 movie. Ouch again. It's interesting how Peter Seller's French accent was intrinsically funny, while Steve Martin's just seems bad. With all the bad French accents in this movie it's a relief when Jean Reno finally shows up. Of course, his genuine accent just throws the others into starker relief. All would be forgiven if the movie were any good, but it ain't. I think I laughed three times (don't ask me at what, I already can't remember). Flatlined for the rest.
- Smokin' Aces ... Two good scenes: the Neo-Nazi hitman using Ben Affleck as a puppet, and Ray Liotta realizing who he's in the elevator with. Maybe I would have found it enjoyably ludicrous if I hadn't found it so humorless.
- Snakes on a Plane ... I could have listed this as a guilty pleasure, but only because my wife and I are so good at making such outings worthwhile. Where there is no fun to be had, you have to make your own. In this case it took for form of a scorecard. Prior to the snakes being released, write down all the "major" characters (amorous surfer couple, lady in muumuu, etc.). Make predictions as to whether each will live or die (the surfer couple is a gimme). Tally the results at the end. You can change your votes up until the snakes are released. Don't worry if it seems like you've lost track in the initial chaos, you'll be able to catch up on the scorecard later (we each went 15 fo 23). If you aren't going to play, don't bother with the movie. There are no other laughs, scares, or thrills to be had.
- Underworld: Evolution ... My first 2006 movie. Ouch. Not an auspicious start. Should have been called "Underlit: Evolution". Or perhaps "What the Hell Was Derek Jacobi Thinking?".
- You, Me and Dupree ... Ended up with this to watch when I was sick, as my wife couldn't find movies from my list at the video store, and wasn't sure what I'd seen. It was worth a try. I do like Owen Wilson, after all. Not here though. Completely, utterly indifferent to our put-upon couple.
- The Fountain ... Really good, I think, but I'd have to sink some more mental energy into it along with at least one more viewing to be sure.
- The Wind that Shakes the Barley ... I watched the first hour and it didn't really grab me, so I started puttering around, answering e-mail, only half paying attention, before finally tuning back in for the end, which revealed to me that I really should have watched the whole thing. I'm guessing the second hour was the one to watch. Dammit. Don't make the same mistake I did (and I can't really pin down why I didn't care for the first hour, so you may love it).
- 16 Blocks ... Couldn't care less about the characters or the outcome by 30 minutes in. Pulled the plug in favor of watching Thank You For Smoking again, which was even better the second time through (Aaron Eckhart rocks - more work for him, please).
- Clerks II ... I give every movie at least 30 minutes before hitting the kill switch. My trigger finger was pretty itchy by the 20-minute mark, but I toughed it out for another 0:15. Am I simply too old for this shit? Would I like Clerks if I rewatched it? At the moment I'm not tempted to try. I generally don't rank movies I don't finish, but it's pretty tempting to write this one off. Maybe later.
- Dog Bite Dog ... Flat characters, and seriously underlit. I understand they were going for nihilistic, but can't it be symbolically or morally dark without being literally dark? Gave it the 35-minute try, then hung it up.
- Running Scared ... Made it more than halfway, and kinda wanted to see how it turned out, but it leans too heavily on the easiest buttons to push. For example, that whole pedophile sicko bit is riveting and disturbing, but in a cheap and superficial way, know what I mean? In the end, needing sleep won out over finishing.