The Big Screen Bulletin 01.08.07: My Top 10 Best/Worst Films of the Year
Posted by Chad Webb on 01.08.2007
Find out what made my best and worst lists, view my entire 2006 archive, news on the Bob Dylan biopic, Johnny Depp rumored to play Queen frontman, A comeback for Mike Meyers, new DVD releases, quickees, trailers, the Movie Dictionary, and much more!
My Top 10 Best/Worst Films of the Year
What is so maddening to me is when a person replies that "no good movies came out this year." That is always a false statement, especially so for 2006. The problem is people are too scared to look for what is decent. In my opinion, this year has given us two of the best films of the last ten years. What is so interesting about all the mainstream critics' top 10 lists is how varied they are. Now every list is different, and most have some consistent selections, but 2006 has been an extremely diverse year. Because of this, and the absence of Roger Ebert, it will be interesting to see how the Oscars pan out. Many categories will have no easily predictable winner.
I construct my top lists in a specific way. My goal, whenever possible, is to include films from many genres. Sometimes certain genres contribute all the best movies, and other times one specific genre has no worthy offerings (:cough: horror). The point is I pick my favorite films of the year, while also trying to cover each genre. I also factor in how the film is different with a second viewing. This year marks the first time in many years that I have enjoyed a horror film to the point of putting it on the final cut. I noticed that some critics' lists include crossovers from 2005 to 2006. If they were released in 2005, they belong on a 2005 top 10 list. I have seen about 160 films this year, and have listed every one for you to observe. I did not see as many documentaries as I would have preferred, but I did see most of the good ones. Here are my top 10 best and worst films of 2006.
The Best 10
10.Flags of Our Fathers/Letters From Iwo Jima - Yes, I cheated on this one, but this stunning saga must be viewed as one unit, not seperately. 9.The Good Shepherd - Robert Deniro and a stellar cast have crafted a classic with shades of Francis Ford Coppola. 8.The Descent - I gave this a favorable rating, and moved on, but its disturbing images have remained in my head. 7.Little Children - Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson sizzle in this story of all the secrets a suburban town has. 6.Cars - Pixar is saving animation, and this is without a doubt the year's best animated film. 5.Dreamgirls - Unexpectedly, I loved this for the performances, the songs, the camera work, and everything else. 4.Thank You For Smoking - This is the most intelligent and persistently hilarious movie of the year. The cast is spectacular. 3.V For Vendetta - I love revenge movies, and I absolutely loved every riveting portrayal and striking visual this incredible film displayed. 2.United 93 - Paul Greengrass has fashioned a masterpiece and a tribute to all who died on that tragic day. It is irreplaceable. 1.The Departed - There is no question here. Martin Scorsese is the best filmmaker alive, and he is responsible for the best film of the year, which is also a remake.
Honorable Mentions - Rocky Balboa, End of the Spear, Babel, Pan's Labyrinth, and The Queen
The Worst 10
10.Hostel - This made a lot of money, but that doesn't mean it was good, as a matter of fact it was excruciating. 9.Pulse - Yet another Japanese horror remake that was simply painful and boring to watch. 8.Hoot - This story of saving an endangered group of owls is so preposterous, cartoonish, and poorly acted it makes me crazy. 7.The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning - This is an insult to the original classic, and just plain despicable. 6.Artie Lange's Beer League No other film was as clichéd and retarded as this comedy was. 5.The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift - I hate this franchise and everything it stands for. That is all. 4.When A Stranger Calls - I cannot remember a horror film so pointless and laughable as this dreadful remake was. 3.Doogal - In a year of so many horrible CGI films, this was the worst excuse for an animated film I can think of. 2.Ultraviolet - This sci-fi film was so torturous I cannot put it into words. I detested every second. 1.Running With Scissors - I am mad that I wasted my life by seeing this idiotic film. That is when you know a movie is bad.
Honorable Mentions - Annapolis, Zoom, Night at the Museum, The Marine, and Date Movie
Most Overrated Films of the Year Apocalypto
Most Underrated Films of the Year The Da Vinci Code
Most Overlooked Films of the Year Catch A Fire
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
A Prairie Home Companion
The Best Western Award Goes To…. The Proposition
The Greatest B-Movie This Year Is… Snakes on a Plane
You Should Watch This At Parties Beerfest
This One is For All The Weirdos Out There A Scanner Darkly
For the Gentleman Casino Royale
For the Ladies Friends With Money
The Best Documentary of the Year An Inconvenient Truth
If You Love Music, You'll Love This Neil Young: Heart of Gold
Buy This Blind The Prestige
Most Enjoyable High School Pic Brick
Don't Forget About This Either! Bubble
My 2006 Archive
Children of Men
Letters From Iwo Jima
We Are Marshall
Night at the Museum
The Good Shepherd
The Pursuit of Happyness
For Your Consideration
The Nativity Story
Let's Go To Prison
Stranger Than Fiction
A Good Year
Borat!: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
Running With Scissors
Catch a Fire
Flags of Our Fathers
The Grudge 2
Man of the Year
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
The Last King of Scotland
School For Scoundrels
Jackass: Number Two
Jet Li's Fearless
The Last Kiss
All the Kings Men
The Black Dahlia
The Wicker Man
Snakes on a Plane
Little Miss Sunshine
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
A Scanner Darkly
World Trade Center
The Night Listener
John Tucker Must Die
The Ant Bully
Lady in the Water
My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Devil Wears Prada
An Inconvenient Truth
Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties
The Lake House
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Mountain Patrol: Kekexili
A Prairie Home Companion
The Break Up
X-Men 3: The Last Stand
Over The Hedge
See No Evil
The Da Vinci Code
Just My Luck
Mission Impossible III
An American Haunting
Akeelah and the Bee
The Notorious Bettie Page
Friends With Money
Scary Movie 4
Neil Young: Heart of Gold
Take The Lead
Lucky Number Slevin
Ice Age: The Meltdown
Thank You For Smoking
She's The Man
V For Vendetta
Dave Chappelle's Block Party
Greece:Secrets of the Past (IMAX)
Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
The Pink Panther
The Worlds Fastest Indian
Why We Fight
Final Destination 3
Imagine Me & You
When A Stranger Calls
End of the Spear
Tristan & Isolde
2006 Direct-to-DVD Archive
Final Fantasy: Advent Children
Like Mike 2
Hollow Man 2
I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer
The Tooth Fairy
Road House 2
Dorm Daze 2
Behind Enemy Lines II: Axis of Evil
The Butterfly Effect 2
Save the Last Dance 2
The News Bulletin
A Three-Peat for "Night at the Museum"
Although 20th Century Fox's "Night at the Museum" and Sony Pictures' "The Pursuit of Happyness" captured the top two spots at the domestic boxoffice for the third weekend in a row, a portion of the audience was looking for something different during the first full frame of 2007, and that catapulted Universal Pictures' "Children of Men" into the No. 3 spot. Among the new releases, Lionsgate earned decent marks with its animated film "Happily N'Ever After," which bowed to an estimated $6.8 million and the sixth-place spot. New Line Cinema's comedy "Code Name: The Cleaner" didn't fare as well, however; the Cedric the Entertainer starrer bowed in 11th place with a weekend gross of an estimated $4.6 million. Paramount Pictures also benefited from being nimble as it bowed its schoolroom drama "Freedom Writers" a week earlier than planned, grossing an estimated $9.7 million, good for fourth place.
People are still seeing Night at the Museum for some odd reason. I don't understand it with all the terrific films out right now. I guess Freedom Writers coming in at #4 is considered strong, but I'm not that impressed. The other new releases did not fair as well. I'm not surprised by the horrible openings of either flop. I am glad to see Children of Men at #3. The middle of the top 10 shows Dreamgirls performing fine at #5, Charlotte's Web and The Good Shepherd still raking in money at #7 and #8, and Rocky Balboa and We Are Marshall holding on at #9 and #10. In limited release, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer opened adequately, while the stronger showings are Pan's Labyrinth and Notes on a Scandal. Other limited release films are continuing to chug along smoothly. Next week, Alpha Dog with Justin Timberlake enters the fight.
Let the James Brown Rumors Begin!
Godfather of soul James Brown died on Christmas but he'll be back -- on the big-screen that is! The news broke shortly after Brown's death that director Spike Lee and producer Brian Grazer had been developing a warts-and-all biopic of Brown with the soul legend's blessing. Now comes the inevitable rumor-mongering about who will play the Godfather in the new movie. First up, courtesy of the British tabloid Daily Express, is none other than Shaft himself, Samuel L. Jackson. "The film of James's life had actually been planned for some time prior to his sudden death and it had obviously been hoped that the great man himself would be onboard to help out," said the Express' source. They added, "Filming is now expected to begin in 2008 and it's understood that Samuel is in pole position to land the role." The "Snakes on a Plane" star previously worked with Lee on" Do the Right Thing", "Mo' Better Blues", "School Daze" and "Jungle Fever."
Two things are curious about this casting rumor. First is the fact that Jackson will be 60 years-old in 2008 when this movie reportedly begins filming. He'll be too old (and too tall) to be believable doing the young James Brown's famous stage moves. Seriously, can a 60 year-old even do a split without needing surgery afterwards?! And if this casting rumor is true then that suggests Jackson and Lee have buried the hatchet. Lee took Jackson and "Jackie Brown" to task in 1998 for the film's repeated use of the N word. Jackson reportedly shot back at Lee, saying, "This is a good film, and Spike hasn't made one of those in a few years."
I first heard that Eddie Murphy wanted the role, and after seeing him in Dreamgirls I thought it was a good idea. It doesn't look like Eddie has a strong chance now. Jackson is an interesting choice for Brown. He could look the part in the face, but as the article says he is way too tall. I guess since Lee and Jackson know each other so well, he will probably be a lock for the role. This casting choice makes me nervous. Hopefully this will not be set in stone any time soon. Lee still has some time to reconsider.
VIP member of the ridiculous rumour club, Johnny Depp – last we heard he was mulling a Michael Hutchence biopic, wasn't he? – is said to be in early talks to play former Queen front man, Freddie Mercury, in a pic. According to the New Zealand Herald – and the forty other news-wires that ran the story on Christmas day – the Caribbean Pirate is the frontrunner for the role, as confirmed by former Queen band mate, Brian May. "Discussions are at an early stage," May, who is said to be developing the film with Bobby DeNiro's Tribeca Productions, said on his website. "He [Depp] would be a worthy counterpart for Freddie on screen. I don't think I can say any more right now," he added. Of course, there could be a project – there just mightn't be a financer aboard it. And what do you do when you need cash? You wank it up. So someone could indeed be simply throwing Depp's name in the mix, in order to give the project the beef it needs to sound appealing to investors. On the other hand, it is a Queen/Mercury biopic, and it would seem to have a built-in audience anyway, so there is really no need to throw names around for the lead role, unless there was something to it. Ah, shucks, I dunno. I wouldn't be surprised if May had merely been put on the spot – asked by someone who he'd like to see play Mercury in a movie, and that's the answer he gave. Sort of a "Well, Johnny Depp is great. But that's a long shot. Whoever looks like Freddie", kinda answer. We'll see. Depp always seems to be linked to these rock-star biopics – as I said, the Michael Hutchence one was another he was tipped for a while back; and back in the 90s he was going to play Bobby Darin - for little reason other than he's a fab actor that can play a guitar. Screw the fact that he looks nothing like the guy's he is rumoured to be playing.
Sometimes it is hard to untangle all the rumors that float through movie news. Are they valid, or fabrications? This one seems like a definite possibility to me, especially now that musician biopics are so popular and acclaimed these days. I think Depp would be a decent Mercury. He could mold into the role well. I mean he looks about as similar to him as anyone, and we would need a decent actor. We can't just cast Tom Selleck can we? Mercury's story would be fascinating if you ask me. Obviously this news bit is still up in the air, and even if it is true, it is still a long ways away from becoming a reality. The question is how will Depp be able to sing even semi-close to Freddie Mercury's distinct voice? That will be tough.
The Return of Mike Meyers
According to The NY Times, Myers is on the comeback trail. He's still attached to play Keith Moon in a biopic about the famous drummer for ‘The Who', but more so, he's got a new character to introduce to the world, an Indian ‘Guru' character, Pitka. David O'Connor, Mr. Myers's agent, said there were two completed drafts of the ‘Pitka' script, advanced discussions with Paramount Pictures and the possibility of sequels. "He's a love guru," Mr. O'Connor said of Pitka. "He's somebody who's become an expert on relationships. That's what leads me to think that if it works, it can be a franchise. The guru can be thrust into all kinds of situations in that regard." After that, Myers may finally make this ‘Keith Moon' pic he's been linked to for years. Roger Daltrey, the lead singer of ‘The Who', has wanted Myers to play his band mate from day one. "Roger's dream has always been to have Mike do the role," said Nigel Sinclair, a partner in Mr. Daltrey's Spitfire Pictures production company and a co-producer on the untitled film. "He saw Mike as the creative force for pulling the project together, with help from us."Donald Margulies is writing the screenplay."He said, ‘I love your work,' " Mr. Margulies recalled of their initial meeting. "And he said he'd be delighted if we could find a way to work together. I found it flattering, surprising and commendable that he could see a relationship between my work and his."
Last summer Mr. Margulies delivered a first draft of the script about the years leading up Mr. Moon's death in 1978, a project he describes as an "antibiopic." He's now working on a third draft. "The task that I've enjoyed is not only to do Keith Moon on screen — someone who has become a rock 'n' roll icon — but to use Mike as a conduit towards making that person real," Mr. Margulies said. Another Myers project, "How to Survive a Robot Uprising" – which has been in the works for a while – is supposed to be kicking off at New Line soon. The first draft was completed by Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, co-creators of "Reno 911." They left to work on another project and may eventually return to this one, says the paper.
Ok, this Keith Moon project has been talked about for too long now. It is about time they get their butts in gear. I want to see this movie, and all I keep hearing is that they are "working" on it. Meyers should be a nice fit for the famous drummer. He can play serious roles when he wants to. 54 proved that. I am pleased to hear of so many new Meyers pics on the way. He is one of funniest guys I know, despite some of the duds he has completed. This new character of "Pitka" sounds a bit strange, but since it's Meyers, anything could happen. I just hope Mr. Meyers doesn't follow the trend of making sequels to films he did long ago like Waynes World 3 for example. As I said above, so many stars are being linked to music biopics these days. It is a good thing because there are so many stories that are worth telling.
The Many Faces of Bob Dylan
The Weinstein Co. has snatched up filmmaker Todd Haynes' forthcoming Bob Dylan film, "I'm Not There", for distribution in North America and the U.K. The movie is presented in a surreal style that features several characters who embody a different aspect of the musician's life and work. Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Richard Gere and Cate Blanchett (yeah, you read that right) play the legendary singer-songwriter at different times in the film. "The folk Dylan had very little to do with the rock 'n' roll Dylan, who had little to do with the preacher Dylan," producer Christine Vachon told Variety. The trade says that The Weinstein Co. will release the film later this year, adding that the release will be timed to coincide with an ambitious soundtrack album featuring dozens of Dylan songs, many recorded by other musicians. The trade confirms that Willie Nelson and Yo La Tengo will be featured, and that Dylan himself will perform songs. "I'm Not There" is the first dramatization of Dylan's life that's had his personal approval. Director Haynes, who previously helmed the similarly music-themed "Velvet Goldmine", co-wrote the pic with Oren Moverman (Jesus' Son). The film also stars Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin, David Cross and Bruce Greenwood.
I still think this will be bizarre as all hell. A woman will portray Dylan, along with several different men? I hope Haynes did his homework here. This could either be a great big bomb, or a huge success. The craze lately has been one actor, who delves deep into the part, and really devotes himself to the particular role. This is a rapid change of pace, and I am both anxious and afraid to see it. At least the cast looks great, and by picturing each stars regular appearance, it is not hard to imagine which portion of Dylan's life each one will be playing. If Blanchett pulls this off, she will take a step into super stardom that we could never expect. It is interesting that Dylan has chosen this time to approve a film on his life. After the magnificent documentary by Scorsese, this is surprising and unexpected, even though I have known about it for awhile.
The 20 Second Sermon
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are thinking of doing a Mr. and Mrs. Smith sequel which involves them becoming parents. I hope not, that film was overrated and horrendous. I usually don't do T.V., but I'm throwing a party to celebrate The O.C. cancellation. Silent Bob a.k.a. Kevin Smith has a part in Live Free or Die Hard. I'm not sure whether to cheer or cry at his decision to move into acting. Oh yeah, Prison Break star Dominic Purcell has squashed rumors that he will star in the next Incredible Hulk film. I doubt anyone even knew about this rumor. There is much movement on Saw IV and The Ring 3, and it seems as if these franchises will keep torturing with sequels for decades to come.
What's Coming to DVD….Buy or Avoid?
The Illusionist - The first magician tale of the year was just as good as the second. It has Edward Norton, who rules, and that should be enough reason to buy. Buy
Crank - This Jason Statham action flick was actually good with some funny scenes and decent action, but the end sucked. Avoid
Idiocracy - The new film by Mike Judge. It will be on my straight to video nightmare list.
The Night Listener - This was dull, unexciting, and relied too heavily on a "shocking" ending. Avoid
Bandidas - It is a film with both Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz. Does it really matter what the plot is?
Quinceanera - This received some decent buzz earlier in the year, but I did not see it. Hopefully I get a chance to rent it.
Letters From Iwo Jima - If you want to read about this masterpiece, read my full review by clicking here.
Pan's Labyrinth - The new fantasy film from Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro's is given my examination, and you can read it by clicking here.
Children of Men - This futuristic sci-fi thriller from Alfonso Cuaron is more stunning in its visuals than it is in any other area. The cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki is both potent and mesmeric. As for the plot, well, it is engaging and absorbing, but not near as much as its potential packs. The world Cuaron has fashioned is terrifyingly real, yet hauntingly hypnotic. It is scary to imagine our planet becoming chaotic like it is depicted here. Clive Owen lends a memorable performance, but Michael Caine is the treasure here as he is always fabulous to watch. Julianne Moore was surprise since she is only seen for about 10 minutes. All in all I was pleased with Children of Men on basically all levels. Certain sequences are so poignantly executed that it might bring viewers to tears. My main problem is that the film is a bit too short in length. I would have loved at least 20-30 minutes more of this frightening vision. This is a fine film, but not great enough to alter my top 10. Final Rating = 8.5/10.0
Movie Dictionary: Word of the Week
Cinematographer - A cinematographer is one photographing with a motion picture camera (the art and science of which is known as cinematography). The title is generally equivalent to director of photography (DP or DoP), used to designate a chief over the camera and lighting crews working on a film, responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image. The cinematographer is sometimes also the camera operator. The term cinematographer has been a point of contention for some time now; some professionals insist that it only applies when the director of photography and camera operator are the same person, although this is far from being uniformly the case. To most, cinematographer and director of photography are interchangeable terms.
The English system of camera department hierarchy sometimes firmly separates the duties of the director of photography from that of the camera operator to the point that the DP often has no say whatsoever over more purely operating-based visual elements such as framing. In this case, the DP is often credited as a lighting cameraman. This system means that the director consults the lighting cameraman for lighting and filtration and the operator for framing and lens choices.
In the American system, which is more widely adopted, the rest of the camera department is subordinate to the DP, who, along with the director, has the final word on all decisions related to both lighting and framing. The cinematographer typically selects the film stock, lens, filters, etc. to realize the scene in accordance with the intentions of the director. Relations between the cinematographer and director vary; in some instances the director will allow the cinematographer complete independence; in others, the director allows little to none, even going so far as to specify aperture and shutter angle. Such a level of involvement is not common once the director and cinematographer have become comfortable with each other. The director will typically convey to the cinematographer what he wants from a scene visually, and allow the cinematographer latitude in achieving that effect.
On some shoots, a director may assume the duties of the cinematographer, especially when shooting nude scenes or in other physically intimate settings where the director wishes to have as few people as possible present.
Based on the Trailer…
The Number 23 - Carrey's switch to a darker role looks ok, but nothing overly fantastic. I hope it's decent. Trailer Rating = 7.5/10.0
The Kingdom - Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Garner in a thriller about the Middle East. Ehhh is all I can think to describe this right now. Trailer Rating = 7.0/10.0
The Hitcher - This horror remake is coming from the same morons who gave us remakes of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Amityville Horror. It will likely suck. Trailer Rating = 3.0/10.0
Zodiac - David Fincher's new thriller with Jake Gyllenhaal looks outstanding. I cannot wait for this. Fincher is a genius. Trailer Rating = 9.0/10.0
The Simpsons Movie - I am not the biggest Simpsons fan, but this trailer is hilarious. Maybe this movie won't be all that terrible. Trailer Rating = 8.0/1.0
Bridge to Terabithia - I realize this was a popular book, and I don't care which one came first, but this is so close to Chronicles of Narnia. I see no originality. Trailer Rating = 5.0/10.0
Hostel: Part II - If you have read my material for the past 10 months, you know how I feel about this. The first one sucked, and this one will also. Trailer Rating = 3.0/10.0
Reno 911: Miami - I have never really watched the show, but this looks very funny. Trailer Rating = 7.5/10.0
Evan Almighty - This sequel doesn't have strong plot. Evan is told to build and ark. Dumb, but Carrell is still funny. Trailer Rating = 6.0/10.0
Hot Fuzz - This is the new film from the Shaun of the Dead group. It looks very funny. I'm looking forward to it. Trailer Rating = 9.0/10.0
Grindhouse - The unique offering from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez will most likely rock, but the trailer makes it look quite bizarre. Trailer Rating = 9.0/10.0
300 - This is a new film inspired based on another Frank Miller graphic novel. It catches my interest, but perhaps a bit too much CGI. Trailer Rating = 7.0/10.0
Norbit - Another movie where Eddie Murphy plays a zillion roles. Don't care. It's not funny anymore. Trailer Rating = 3.0/10.0
Home of the Brave - It is a war film with Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, and 50 Cent. It doesn't look terrible, but what an odd cast. Trailer Rating = 6.5/10.0
TMNT - Since I grew up watching these guys, I will go see this movie no matter what. The trailer is average. Trailer Rating = 7.5/10.0
Spiderman 3 - Despite my dislike of the second one, this newer trailer is friggin awesome. I'll admit, I'm looking forward to this greatly. Trailer Rating = 9.0/10.0
Transformers - My initial reaction to this teaser was laughter, not like I thought it looked bad, but because it was totally unexpected. A little early to tell, but so far so good. Trailer Rating = 7.5/10.0
Ghost Rider - This looks decent to me. The special effects might be a downfall, but all in all I'm looking forward to Cage in this role. Trailer Rating = 7.5/10.0