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12.31.2006

Best and Worst Movies of 2006

Speaking strictly for 2006 releases I have actually seen, here's my list:

Best:
Apocalypto - absolutely riveting if anachronistic tale of life among the Mayans as their empire declined. How good was it? I couldn't even leave my seat to use the restroom, and braved significant discomfort so as not to miss a moment.

Hard Candy - inventive, brutal, and enthralling. Like "Lifetime" if the women's network were run by Camille Paglia.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby - riotously funny NASCAR parody; Will Ferrell's best movie, which Gary Cole steals.

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D - This is what Terry Gilliam's work would be like if he maintained the creativity he brought to "Brazil". Technically a re-release, but the 3-D is so well done as to warrant evaluation as a new film.

Worst:

The Hills Have Eyes - When a horror movie's not scary, it's got big problems. It's also an ugly piece of work, although mildly less offensive than the Wes Craven original.

Stranger than Fiction - Will Ferrell does semi-drama. It's awful.

Other:

Hostel - Very scary and disturbing, but the mutilation porn here is more gratuitious than any grindhouse or splatter film of the last 20 years. Just because "Fangoria" loves it doesn't make it art.

Thank You For Smoking - Entertaining version of the Christopher Buckley novel, but ultimately lacks the tooth of the book. Satire should be done with utter disregard for P.C.

V for Vendetta - The look of the movie is absolutely perfect; the problem is the Wachowski Brothers couldn't bring themselves to refrain from injecting their smelly little orthodoxies (to paraphrase Orwell) by making the bad guys religious stereotypes. A key scene is also dramatically altered to provide a great visual which also guts the impact of the climax. They don't seem to understand the source material conceptually, although the visuals were well done.

The Notorious Betty Page - Excellent performance by Gretchen Mol as the infamous cheesecake model, but suffers from a meandering storyline which ultimately doesn't seem to cohere.

Strangers With Candy - I loved the Comedy Central show, but surprisingly it was severely damaged by the lack of restraint previously provided by basic cable suits in the transition to the silver screen. The nastyness of it diminishes the humor in much the same way some of the later Christopher Guest work does. Putting people onscreen to be mocked only works to a point. The less likable they are, the less we want to spend 2 hours with them.

Borat - Same goes for "Borat", which would have been much funnier had Cohen grown some real cojones and targeted the strong rather than the weak and the weird. You won't see him making any points about anti-Semitism in a mosque, where it's preached openly daily, for example. But Pentecostals speaking in tongues is easy pickings so he goes for the obvious punchlines there.

Beerfest - Very funny but too long by about 40 minutes.

loudQUIETloud: A Film About The Pixies - I love The Pixies, but only diehard fans will want to sit through 90 minutes of the least communicative people in the world not talking to each other.

The Prestige - Strong, but much more obvious than Christopher Nolan's earlier work (such as "Memento"). A puzzle movie needs to be puzzling; this one gives the game away in a very early shot, possibly because somebody thought people might not "get it" and needed to be beaten over the head.

Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny Very funny, but limited in appeal to former metalheads, I'm afraid. The soundtrack rocks, though.

2 Comments:

Blogger Reel Fanatic said...

I'm definitely with you on Hard Candy .. it easily could have devolved into your average revenge flick, but young Ellen Page and company manage to keep it solidly in line with great psychological thrillers like Polanski's "Death and the Maiden"

7:07 AM  
Anonymous Kate P said...

Your reviews are much appreciated--I didn't get the chance to see "Thank You for Smoking" in the theaters and I was wondering if I should read the book first anyway.

BTW Frank Black was the opener at my first official concert in '93. I'm sorry to say my friend and I weren't too into him. Maybe he needed to be with the Pixies?

11:18 PM  

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