Posted January 04 2006 - 08:37 PM
Updated on: 02/25/07
2006 films seen: 107
Underworld: Evolution - *3/4
Better than the first film or Blade: Trinity, but far, far away from Blade II in this horror-action-leather fetish subgenre
Glory Road - **3/4
Entertaining and not insulting to real life figures, but overly on the safe side as Remember the Titans was. Still, this line of Disney sports movies are all better than Cinderella Man.
Something New - ***
Very good chemistry between the two leads makes this fairly interesting movie about interracial and class difference romance entertaining.
Firewall - **
Ford is good in a generic thriller with some laugh out loud plot points; the film also does not utilize the Ford home enough.
16 Blocks - ***
Through and through a genre film, but tense, well thought out, and features good chemistry between its two dyads of Willis and Mof Def, and Willis and the dependable David Morse.
V For Vendetta - ***
Despite the first time director's failure to bring a liveliness to the pacing or excitement to the visual style, the film is intriguing because of the quantity of ideas.
Inside Man - ***1/4
Lee is interested in the "how," so little pieces and bolts are paid with great attention, and the cat and mouse game becomes very entertaining. Foster is beautiful and cunning in a role that exemplifies the corruption swirling everywhere around the robbery.
Ice Age: The Meltdown - **
The marketing gurus at Fox advertised the squirrel non stop, and it was the right decision. As in the first movie, Scrat is the by far and away the best part of the movie, but that movie had more laughs too.
Lucky Number Slevin - *1/2
A mixture of faux coolness, moral bankruptcy, annoying characters, and less than clever plotting. The writer has an ear for screwball comedy type of lines, but it doesn't work here.
L'Enfant - ***1/2
A character study film that is at once realistic and larger than life. The style of the film is less mannered and more immediate than someone like Soderbergh's. Very well directed and acted.
Thank You For Smoking - ***1/4
Here's a comedy filled with colorful characters and killer lines one after another, showing that comedy does not require the filmmakers to go soft near the end of the movie, as the two big summer comedies of last year did.
Akeelah and the Bee - ***1/2
Inspiring and moving, with two terrific performances by Palmer and Fishburne. The movie does not reinvent the genre, but is filled with little beautiful moments that show Akeelah's personal growth and her effect on others. "And as we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same."
The Wild - *3/4
The texture and colors of this animated feature are equal to or better than any other, but the plot is uninspired and the jokes are tiring.
Mission: Impossible III - **3/4
Even in Hollywood action movies, this one can be distinguished from all of them in two ways: more non-stop action than any except for those by Sommers, and virtually devoid of any plot or character. The first element is handled better than the likes of The Mummy Returns, and makes this a mild recommendation, and the second makes the film ultimately forgettable.
United 93 - ***
Greengrass specializes in making movies that put the audience in the specific moment and place, and this is no different from his previous two films. That said, Bloody Sunday was an event I knew far less about, and came away much more moved.
Fearless - ***
The spectacular fights are not supported by heightened drama, making this film sometimes great to watch for action, and tedious to watch because of the story. Li's final scenes can be moving as the accumulation of his historical characters' image.
The Da Vinci Code - **1/2
McKellen makes one part of the film significantly more entertaining than others. Too bad he's not the main guy.
Poseidon - **
It has a lot of the normal disaster movie moves, but no new ones, and no memorable characters or lines. Josh Lucas still has not proven he is a leading man.
X-Men: The Last Stand - ***1/2
Shock and awe made this a pretty intense movie, but I will need time to reevaluate the film as a whole. Right now it is sufficient to say that Magneto continues to be best character of the series, but Wolverine has become less interesting.
Cars - ***
This is a comparatively sluggish film in the Pixar canon, not helped by some so so comic relief and race car driving. The movie kicks into better gear in the second half.
Nacho Libre - **3/4
Hess's smug style still doesn't work for me, but the force named Jack Black saves the film with his all out effort.
The Break-Up - **1/2
The few comedic scenes are funny, but the movie is really spending some serious time with the bad consequences of each side playing a game.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift - *1/2
The best car sequence is the only one that uses Tokyo as background, the others could be anywhere. The plot is nonsense all the way.
The Praire Home Companion - ***
A warmer entry into the Altman filmography, yet still retains his characteristic styles.
Over the Hedge - ***
Some laugh out loud moments and generally entertaining movie.
Last Holiday - ***
This is what Hollywood can do very well: cast a central charismatic actor with colorful supporting roles in a charming, simple story.
Superman Returns - ***1/4
Flawed big time, but also has many great moments. How much of its success should be credited to the filmmakers and how much to Superman the character himself needs time to decipher.
An Inconvenient Truth - ***
Gore's slideshow presentation is interesting and engaging. The filmmakers add probably the right balance of Gore the person into the film, but it's too short a glimpse.
Tristan + Isolde - ***
The love should be earth shaking, but it's not. Other than that, it's a solid overall movie, with Sewell's character being far better than Connery's Arthur or Marsden in Superman Returns, two comparable characters.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - **
Hard to imagine from the sound and look of it, but the central new plot and villain in the movie create no suspense or excitement. Funny images are what the series is best at, not character or the supposedly thrilling action.
The Devil Wares Prada - **3/4
This is an automatic recommendation if the movie had more of Streep's character. Instead, the Hathaway one is pretty uninteresting in her early innocent stage, or in the late "lost" stage. Tucci is very good once again.
Lady in the Water - ***
Shyamalan has paired up a ridiculous story with thin characters, relying on a great Giamatti and his own directorial force to make this movie. Damned by most, his latest "failure" further shows his uniqueness in Hollywood. The man is incapable of making an unmemorable movie.
Click - zero
I have laughed during most of Sandler's movies, but I cannot recall a great moment in this one. It is also, by far, the most painful (not in a genuine, good way) movie in Sandler's career.
The Pink Panther - *3/4
No effort to make any resemblance to a plot or storyline unfortunately wastes a funny Martin, Kline and Reno.
Miami Vice - ***
Mann the director continues his exploration of digital filmmaking and exercise of style, but Mann the screenwriter does not provide a strong enough entry.
A Scanner Darkly - **
The central moral dilemma is overstuffed, not by the animation method--which is well suited to the material--but by the mostly uninteresting plot and small talk. It's as if the filmmakers didn't know what else to say.
Scoop - ***
Johansson handles Allen's material very well, so her fast talking is perfectly matched with Allen's usual character. The movie is like a companion to Manhattan Murder Mystery, and the flip side of Match Point. Lots of good laughs, if light weight.
Monster House - ***1/4
The Monster House is clearly the creature of the year so far. A memorable triumph in design and execution. The kids are also well defined, with many funny observations.
Clerks II - ***1/4
When Smith tries to expand his range, we get big messes like Jersey Girl and Dogma. This is what he is good at: sketching small time characters and their thoughts, pop culture and dirty jokes.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby - **3/4
The casting is terrific, almost every part can get a laugh. It's a movie of scenes, bits and lines.
Snakes on a Plane - **
Why waste any time off of the plane when those material are so awful and nobody cares about it? This should have been only on a plane, funnier and crazier. Nuttiness is needed.
Running Scared - ***
A B-picture all the way, made with no regard for plot holes, morality or story coherency. It's a success, because the movie goes for broke in its non-stop adrenaline thrill ride. In some ways, Lucky Number Slevin tried to be this film.
Find Me Guilty - **1/4
Diesel shows why he was so highly sought after and regarded only a few years ago, because though he is not handsome, he can be charming, and though a big man, his acting is alive with his whole body. The movie is not as good as him, with no drama or intensity, and only a few laughs.
Freedomland - **
The movie is trying to say something about the relationship between society and individual acts, but it fails. Admirable, dull and confused.
Little Miss Sunshine - ****
Frankly, the film yanks the audience around. That's what the majority of good and bad movies do, but the difference between them is demonstrated by this movie, because its handling of outrageous situations, the ups and downs of life, and character relations is masterful.
Date Movie - zero
The references to other movies have no wit at all, only gross out gags that fail miserably. The "Scary Movie" franchise has never looked so good.
World Trade Center - **1/2
Stone treats the material with utmost respect and sincerity...just as any other person would. It is an undistinguished movie, with its power coming from The Event itself.
Accepted - **1/4
Devoid of any resemblance of reality, but with some funny lines and feel good scenarios.
The Illusionist - ***
A nice blend of character and story. It's not clever enough, but the two leads sell the movie convincingly.
The Protector - ***
Outside of action--and even some of the action is incomprehensible--the film is incompetent. But turn on Tony Jaa, and the greatest special effect in the world is in play.
ATL - *3/4
This is a movie about growing up, love, drugs, class identity and roller skating, so how the filmmakers made such a bland movie is impossible to understand.
The Last Kiss - *
Wilkinson has a few graceful moments, but almost everything in this movie is stock.
The Black Dahlia - *1/2
Good production design, cinematography and music cannot save a badly written and cast movie. The staircase sequence is a good one.
Hollywoodland - **3/4
The Reeves segments are very interesting, and the investigation segments have interesting parts. There is an imbalance here, and the film loses momentum everytime it switches, making both good stories less powerful. Good look on Hollywood.
Dave Chappelle's Block Party - **3/4
My lack of knowledge regarding certain performers didn't prevent me from enjoying them. Though Chappelle's role in the film is nicely balanced, more interaction between him and the crowd, as well as a closer look into how everything got together would make the film better.
The Departed - ***1/2
No one is better at using precise cutting coupled with camera moves and musical choices than Scorsese. Just watch the film run! The result is a film significantly more exciting than Infernal Affairs, and that would have been the case even without its all star cast, which is excellent.
Flyboys - *1/2
One joke in the middle of the film painfully points out how little fun and humorless this movie is. The filmmakers drop the ball on many standard, can't-miss scenarios. Franco has yet to prove he is a leading man.
Kinky Boots - ***
Another Ejiofor home run performance makes this safe and formulaic movie entertaining. Ejiofor may not look like a stunning woman in drag, but his behavior and spirit is utterly convincing. The next big musical should get him immediately.
Bubble - **1/2
The place and life of the characters is pretty interesting, but the movie doesn't allow them to breathe. Maybe Soderbergh decided this was a take on some small timers, but it needed more time and interaction between the characters to blossom.
Shortbus - ***
This movie is using sex, and a lot of it, to explore existentialism. JCM seems to believe that people can have depths of sadness that no other can understand and still maintain a hopeful attitude.
The Prestige - ***1/2
Nolan proves once again he is a master of narrative and engaging in audience participation. The movie directly solicits interpretation and parrallelisms, making every twist and turn tense, exciting, and fulfilling.
Flags of Our Fathers - **1/2
The implicit criticism of heroism and use of persons as symbols continues Eastwood's examination of the dark side of institutions and beliefs, but the movie is too predictible, talky, and stylistically unimaginitive.
Running with Scissors - *3/4
This picture reminds me of White Oleander. They are both deeply personal memoirs, but the story is tedious and at time irritating. Brian Cox and Annette Bening deserves kudos though.
Flushed Away -- ***
Aardman shows that they think of witty gags as well as anyone, and at a higher volume than most, but the movie feels too eager to please when compared to the simple charm that is the flagship of Wallace & Gromit.
Marie Antoinette - ***1/2
A mise en scene and photography feast, which would look good on a small screen, but scrumptious on a big one. Coppola uses Dunst and Schwartzman more maturely than anyone before. It's possible this could have been a masterpiece if Coppola decided to focus more on the failure of leadership and social/political conditions. As it is, it will be cited as one of the most beautiful pictoral pictures in the medium.
Borat - ***
The offensiveness of the movie knows no boundaries. To me, that is only amusing to see how far the filmmakers go, but not hilarious. Still, there are some LOL scenes that really surprise and/or push the envelop. It is clear from this movie and Talledega Nights that Cohen is a talent.
Looking For Comedy in a Muslim World - *1/2
Albert Brooks can write very funny lines, so how few there were was surprisingly unfortunate. The movie has a good setup, but the payoff jokes don't come.
Babel - ***1/4
Though some plot points don't ring true, Iñárritu's latest cinematic powerhouse is very sure footed and full of intimate moments. However, the life and moral choices of the characters could be explored more deeply.
The Queen - ***
The "behind the scenes look" genre is one of the most reliable in cinema, and here with a sensitive look at how one person's position (both status and decision) affects others is pretty effective.
Harsh Times - **
This Christian Bale vehicle tries desperately to look at the consequences of the idea of masculinity and showcase Bale's intensity, but both are obvious and lack surprises or interest.
Imagine You & Me - *1/2
Tough genre to pull off, the in-between space of a flat out romantic comedy and a serious look at relationships. "Something New" beats this handedly, because it is both more entertaining and more truthful.
Scary Movie 4 -- **
No plot, just parody sketches and jokes one after another. Enough of them work for this movie to better than Scary Movie 2, or Date Movie.
Stranger Than Fiction - **
An interesting concept with paper thin characters, which even the good cast cannot bring life to. The foreshadowing to the end is done completely without any integration to the story.
Casino Royale - ***
A more emotionally charged Bond and a smaller planning villian makes this a comparably believable 007 movie. Craig does quite well, especially in scenes with Eva Green.
Happy Feet - **
The decision to keep the penguins less expressive and more anatomically correct (than say Aardman or Pixar) makes the singing and dancing less thrilling than it should be. One of Williams' characters is quite funny.
Basic Instinct 2 - **
Stone tries very hard to light up the screen, and succeeds admirably considering that the leading man is badly miscast and the film lacks thrills.
Friends With Money - **1/2
The Keener and McDormand couples are pretty interesting, but get short changed a little because of the other couples. The Aniston character arc is particularly unexciting.
Bobby - **
In the best big ensemble cast movies, each storyline builds with each other to a crescendo. The characters here have very little to do with the climax, and many of them are pedestrian and should have been cut.
The Fountain - **1/2
Arronofsky probably believes that he is cinematically powerful and philosophically profound. The latter is not proven here, and his toolbox of techniques is surprisingly less successful here, too. Still, a pretty fascinating picture.
For Your Consideration - **3/4
A noticeably lesser film than previous Guest efforts, but still offers plenty of laughs. There is probably endless Hollywood/adwards material to spoof, so this could have been drawn better overall.
The Sentinel - **
The setup is intriguing, but it lets the Douglas off the chase too early, and let's the conspiracy out of the bag too easily. The filmmakers obviously ran out of ideas.
Apocalypto - **
A slight movie, despite it immersing the audience in the world. The first trailers suggested a movie with greater ambitions, whereas the actual product is fairly single minded.
Deja Vu - **1/2
In 12 Monkeys, the filmmakers avoided giving the details of time travel. Here, the discussion is only somewhat interesting, but also silly. The human connection is effective with Washington and Scott direction, so more on that would have better.
The Proposition - ***1/4
The desolate landscape is contrasted with the suprising major characters. This is a short story that could be vastly expanded, but is chooses not to and makes itself all of a piece.
Little Children - ***
Expert in controlling the tone through editing and photography, Field has more storylines and characters to juggle here than before, and they don't jell cohesively.
Volver - ***1/4
Compared to the last few films, Almodovar seems to care less about intricate plotting or generating dramatic tension here. The film still works because of the characters and their interactions.
Curse of the Golden Flower - **
Though constantly an eyeful, both as a spectacle and a treachorous family power struggle, the movie does not succeed. The martial arts sequences also felt somewhat tacked in.
Take the Lead - **3/4
The Good Teacher and Underdog movie, paired with hip hop and ballroom dancing. Should be a slam dunk, but some contrivances and very poor characterization bring it done a notch.
Dreamgirls - ***1/4
The characters are drawn very thin, but the non-stop dazzling musical scenes keep coming. Hudson's first solo scene is indeed a highlight of the year.
Rocky Balboa - ***
"Tough ain't enough," so said Eastwood, but Rocky has always been about having "heart." The first majority of the film is a character piece nicely done, the fight is probably the most realistic of all the Rocky films.
Night at the Museum - **
The old timers have some fun time, but Stiller's scenes are mostly not very funny. A simple premise, with very pedestrian execution.
Charlotte's Web - *1/2
When two animals start talking to each other, without much wit or dramatic tension, it's yawning time. This film has a lot of that.
Fateless - ***1/4
The concentration camp scenes are well done and believable, but the post-camp scenes are really what is special. More of that could have made this film a true standout in the holocaust genre.
Eragon - **
Standard fantasy/hero's journey with no surprises and one note throughout. Carlyle chews up the scenery badly. The Dragon design and execution is pretty good, but less impressive than the dragon in Harry Potter.
Manderlay - **
Less grueling than some other Von Trier movies, but also less effective. The emphasis on race, slavery, and slavish attitudes seems less piercing than his comments in Dogville.
Children of Men - ***1/2
Perhaps the most technically brilliant movie of the year, with several themes well done to support it. Still, the movie only tries to reach so far, making it less than completely satisfying.
The Pursuit of Happyness - ***
Many feel good movies are premised upon devastating personal stories, and this is one of them. Smith is good, but too insistently nice to round out the character.
The Holiday - **1/2
There are several obvious, but still entertaining takes on Hollywood, including trailers, film scores, and discussion on the industry. The stars are likeable, especially Jack Black, but the true standout is Eli Wallach.
RV - *
Williams can be hilarious, so why this movie decides to go with bathroom jokes instead of utilizing Williams' talent is mystifying. His family members are annoying to no end.
Brick - ***1/2
If noir is a primarily about a fatalistic attitude, this film exhibits it, even if the movie uses color, high school, and a completely different universe of language, which only makes the movie stand out more. A different setting, but still a genre film triumph.
The Good Shepherd - ***
Finely crafted so that the paranoia is in the air, but somewhat lethargic. Damon gives a very convincing performance.
The Last King of Scotland - **1/2
A subpar movie made worthwhile by its performances and look into power. The director has specifically shot Whitaker in such a frantic way as to enhance his much-praised performance.
Blood Diamond - ***
Dicaprio and Connelly have great chemistry, but Zwick likes a lot of senseless explosions, which overshadow the human story. Heavy handed in delivering its message, but not unmoving.
Pan's Labyrinth - ***1/4
The fantasy and the civil war background don't always mesh seemlessly. However, ultimately the movie gains its power from the two different realms. Well designed with great effects.
Letters From Iwo Jima - ***
The script and actors have very fine moments, but the movie lacks the kind of energy that pushes great war films into a memorable experience. The cinematography and score do not help the movie.
Notes on a Scandal - ***
The subject of this movie is all tabloid trashiness, and entertaining it is. Dench has an especially juicy role, including her narration, which makes many words and sentences a pleasure to listen to. Blanchett has rarely been as sexy.
Venus - **1/2
The role gives O'Toole a wide range, and he's exposes himself in all these ways beautifully. The movie has some serious missteps in the 3rd act, and it wastes some really well cast supporting actors.