Films to watch in 2006 revisited
Last year I wrote about the films to watch in 2006, and we watched them, well most of them. So in this first part of a three part feature, I'm going to look back on what I said would be worth watching and why, then I'll look back at what I went to see and really enjoyed this year, and in the final part I'll look forward to 2007 and we can discuss some of the excellent films that are coming our way.
First though, what happened last year? What was I looking forward to? I'm actually surprised by how much I didn't see and how much has slipped into 2007 and beyond.
Read on for the look back at what I was excited about for 2006 and what I think now.
Before and after...
Munich (Filmstalker review)
Looking back at the review and thinking of the film I'm surprised I gave it only four stars and that it didn't creep into five, however since then I've read the book which expands on the film somewhat and this might be clouding my judgement.
This movie brings one of the biggest expectations of the year for me...this is taking a dark moment in history with real people, real angst, and some terrifying choices.
It's extremely realistic and with that comes the tough and often brutal representations of events from history and the book the movie is based on...At times viewing the movie becomes almost uncomfortable to watch, but you're drawn to it like watching a reality show, or news footage...The acting is of the highest quality from all of the leads....
...As I've said, this movie is tough, harsh and very realistic, resulting in a sometimes brutal portrayal of events. It's not easy watching by any means, but it is a very excellent and moving film.
It did turn out to be just that, harrowing and compelling, I think some of Steven Spielberg's best films have been about real life, and if you look back at his success rate, isn't there a huge percentage swing to those true tales? Munich is an amazing example of Spielberg's talent and devotion to film and it has to be seen.
V for Vendetta (Filmstalker review)
This really did turn out to be a surprise for me. When I heard about the film I bought the graphic novel of the comic series, read through it, and wondered how they could possibly get this right. I was really concerned about the Wachowski Brothers on this, but they turned back on the magic and produced something really strong.
Despite the attached Production names giving me a large degree of concern, I hold out good hopes for this graphic novel adaptation.
Overall this is an excellent comic book \ graphic novel adaptation. For me it's probably the best to date, sure I can hear you say Superman or Batman, but they have most definitely taken a life of their own and evolved away from those works even while they still borrow from them. This, however, is a direct adaptation, and one of the best.
The script writing, acting and direction are all very strong and provide for much more food for thought than just the walk out the cinema doors. It's current, relevant, and as bold a decision to make as that of any other political drama being touted just now, and these guys should be recognised for that.
Inside Man (Filmstalker review)
Somewhat of a disappointment as the trailer had hyped the film up so well, and it had given away the main twist, but it still came through well. Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer were amazing, but the story didn't do enough for me. So it is perhaps a little bit of a disappointment.
...a couple of things came through for me and the most prominent was Jodie Foster...she looks set to play a character that is far from her normal range, someone who is perhaps a baddie. This movie promises not to be the usual heist flick, and Spike Lee has me intrigued.
So a great cast overall, although with a couple of small blips, but for me the final execution of the plot just didn't pull me in enough to the story to then hit me with the surprises (even those not spoiled by the trailer), or to get me involved with the characters. Which is a shame as I had hoped for so much with this film. Still, it's not a write off by any means
United 93 (Filmstalker review)
This could be described as the most harrowing film I've ever seen, mainly because it's real life, as far as we can ascertain. These people fought to save others knowing their lives might well be lost, and we wonder if we could do the same thing. The film was amazing, harrowing and extremely emotional.
...it's an inspiring and selfless tale, one which although a great tragedy, provides us with a hope that we would all do the right thing in the same situation...From all accounts Paul Greengrass is recreating the events from all the factual material available, and doing a very realistic and considerate recreation.
Greengrass has created an amazing film which documents the events of that day, and tells one of the most tragic and yet at the same time hope filled stories of humanity. He's also created one of the most naturally played movies I've yet seen, with incredibly charged performances from all concerned, and believe me when I say this is not undue praise.
Although I found it emotionally hard and uncomfortable to watch, I feel like I will return again to this film, as should you. This is a movie you cannot and should not fail to see.
You can see that this film truly did live up to my expectations and deliver a stunning film.
Mission Impossible III (Filmstalker review)
Mixing J.J. Abrams with this action packed franchise was a stroke of genius and delivered the best of the franchise, brought life back to the series, and also pulled out an emotional and blistering performance from Tom Cruise.
How can this not deliver action but also wads of intrigue and layers of storyline? If Abrams sticks with what he's done so far I think we'll all be amazed, however he has something big to conquer, the image of Tom Cruise is rapidly failing...This will be a big action movie with some intelligence...I hope!
There's a quote from a reader on IMDB that says Best sequel ever, and I might well be inclined to agree. For the first time in a long time, I want to go straight back in that cinema and watch that film again. Superb performances from Cruise and Hoffman, great to see Ving Rhames back again and some strong backup supplied by Maggie Q and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Huge action scenes. Tense and exhilarating from the opening moments. A great film that does exactly what it says on the tin, and more.
X-Men: The Last Stand (Filmstalker review)
From the beginning this project seemed like it was being too controlled by the studio and far too rushed. The idea that Matthew Vaughn was going to direct was interesting, then came the terrible news that Brett Ratner was in the chair, and hope faded fast. However it was a bit of a surprise when it finally came out. Although it wasn't the best in the series, it certainly wasn't as bad as we were expecting. Yet it was most definitely too much, too soon for the series.
There's a huge cast, a string of fallen Directors, and that promise from the excellent trailer. Could this be the downpoint of the franchise, or raise it to a new level perhaps even wipe the cast slate clean for a whole raft of new mutants? Who knows. Whatever it's going to be, it's going to be watched. With spin offs coming and no end in sight to the franchise how can they do anything but fail?
...it's too soon to have a last stand. We've just started to get to know some of these characters and have an emotional attachment. We've also only met a few out of the school and Magneto's group, and yet suddenly we're at the last stand with mutants galore...I think it's fair to say that Ratner has out performed expectations here and produced a strong X-Men movie. It's not the best in the series, but it is strong. The focus on some of the leading characters and relationships is very welcome, and some of the set pieces with their effects are quite brilliant to watch...
Superman Returns (Filmstalker review)
This was a stunning return for Superman, there are problems with the film but not enough to ruin it. The opening sequence was stunning to watch and almost brought a tear to my eye as the scene harked back perfectly to the Superman from our past.
...this is touching on a much hallowed franchise and it has to really hit the mark to make it. There's concern too about the leaked plot details to date with many fans suggesting it's not in keeping with the Superman they know and love...I'm not so sure about that, but still I'm not hugely excited by this
Overall I was stunned. I was expecting a good film because it was Singer, but I didn't believe for a second that it could, effects aside, match what Donner had achieved with his version. Well he did, and he made a superbly well rounded and exciting movie. It pulled on everything that makes Superman great, exposes some of his flaws, and manages to bring him closer to humans than ever.
World Trade Center (Filmstalker review)
I did have a hard time reviewing this film because it was so close in time to the actual events and many people still felt so strongly about the portrayal of the attack on the World Trade Center. However it is a film and I have to review it for that, and when I managed to hold onto that I realised the film wasn't as good as it could have been. Too much sentimentality and some blatant moments of propoganda seriously detracted from the stories of the survivors, oh and Nicolas Cage continues to fade as an actor.
I'm not looking forward to this as much as I am the other 9/11 projects, but interested none the less, and that's despite Nicolas Cage being in it...this might just turn out to be an overly romanticised movie with a huge morality filled ending powered by a message of hope over adversity kind of thing...and that will just kill the movie for me.
Overall I think that this is a good film of the men's struggle to stay alive and be rescued, and it handles the tragedy with heart and much respect. However, there are threads, scenes, and lines that are just far too all American for an International audience. I do applaud the fact that Stone has made it so apolitical, but at the same time it has become over sentimental and incredibly black and white, right and wrong. Indeed one newspaper review I read just today says it is "American propoganda" and that it is pro-Bush. Now that may be going too far, but it does certainly lean too far in that direction.
The Da Vinci Code (Filmstalker review)
My biggest problem with this is that the film follows the book step by step, and with the book having been so successful and widely read, what could the film give us that the book hadn't? What surprise or twist could there be? How could the audience feel the suspense? Then if you add into the equation how poorly the book is written then it's surprising that this project was ever taken on by Ron Howard. So it was surprising to find that it becomes quite a good thriller onscreen and Howard manages to create some wonderful scenes.
...the book was dire, childish and seemingly copied the whole premise from another book, then there's the worrying casting of Tom Hanks as the lead, something that concerned you all...perhaps the story has been changed enough to make it a bit more intelligent and more suspenseful.
the film is a good thriller...watch it afresh then it is an enjoyable film which is well paced and provides some intelligent thoughts with some entertaining performances. I suspect that viewed in a few years, when the book phenomenon has passed us by, this film will gain in strength.
Jarhead (Filmstalker review)
It seems so far away for some, but this was just released in the UK at the beginning of 2006. It was a film that was gorgeous to look at, had some superb performances in, and made you think about what soldiers really have to go through day to day. That and the superb soundtrack.
The movie looks strong, and hopefully very realistic...so I'm hoping to see some of what the troops are going through. Not only to find some understanding, but also to be entertained...Tough, loud, and in your face, with a great performance from Jake Gyllenhaal I'm told.
Walk The Line (Filmstalker review)
Stunning. That's how I remember the opening of the film, and as for the rest of it, Joaquin Pheonix blazes a trail through the film so wide you wonder why Reese Witherspoon won and was nominated for so many awards over him. This is a superb film with excellent music and wonderfully directed too.
Although I'm no Johnny Cash fan, I have to see Joaquin Phoenix in the lead...This film just seems to suit Pheonix really well, and I'll be looking forward to seeing him absorbed in the character of Cash.
Overall it's a strong and emotional movie filled with excellent characterisations and performances. The story is very well written and transferred of screen...Without a doubt I'd recommend this movie even if you aren't a Cash fan or have no idea what his music is like. For the first time in a long time I actually want to go and see a movie a second time. Well worth watching.
Sympathy For Lady Vengeance (Filmstalker review)
An interesting film which shouldn't be compared to the other films in the trilogy especially Oldboy (Personal review). I enjoyed this as it doesn't paint the story with blacks and whites and the cinematography is superb.
From Chan-wook Park, the man who brought us Oldboy and Boksuneun naui geot (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance)...I thought Oldboy was superb and I'm looking forward to this movie with as much relish.
The story is a really good one, and although it doesn't hit home with the same power, style and cohesion that Oldboy did...Once again we are treated to a distinctly non black and white film with a similar ending, we neither have a clear sense of what is right or wrong and whether the characters have behaved in the moralistically right way. Instead we are given what life gives us, senses of grey and uncertainty.
Syriana (Filmstalker review)
This was quite a disappointment for me, the trailers looked good, the hype was strong and we were being promised a politically exposing film that was going to make us think about the Oil industry and the Governments of the World. Instead we were lectured to in lengthy speeches which just dulled the brain.
It's getting good reviews, although the one word user comment on IMDB sums them up quite well "Puzzling". The Writer\Director Stephen Gaghan brought us the excellent Traffic, and this movie has a similar feel to it.
Indeed there is a strong cast, and they do give some very good performances, but lengthy political speeches referencing dates and events of which you may have no understanding, followed by lengthy pauses and lingering camera shots, does little to make a film much less the audience have an understanding of a fragmented, multi-threaded storyline.
Alien Autopsy (Filmstalker review)
You know this film actually turned out to be a surprise for me. It was funny, entertaining and Ant & Dec managed to disgard their joint image and stand alone as comic actors. It would be great to see them in more too. This was a fun little film of a possibly true story.
Okay so the writer William Davies doesn't promise much with scripts such as Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Johnny English, but he did also write Twins, but what's really got me into this movie are two stars of British TV, Ant and Dec. These guys are great together on TV and have a quality that just puts you at ease...I'm interested to see how this translates to film and if they've not been given a rotten script to work with.
Casino Royale (Filmstalker review)
This was perhaps the biggest surprise of the year for me, a cracking film that has totally restarted the Bond franchise and brought us a new Bond actor that is probably the best Bond actor to date. After all the negativity and speculation it was great to see a film that came back fighting and hit a knock out.
There's been so much speculation around this movie from Bond to the villians and there's no sign of it letting up with continued rumour and guesswork about who will play the female lead. I'm quite frankly sick of it...This could do away with the "daft" factor of the previous Bond movies and give us something more gritty and realistic, after all there's a scene of torture in the book where Bond has his mansacks tortured
The Departed (Filmstalker review)
Another uneeded remake is what I first thought, and I had no idea why they were looking to do this, after all the original film is just so strong. However the names of the director and cast had me thinking that maybe there was going to be something more to this than a straight remake, and I was right. This is perhaps the other big surprise of the year as what is delivered is a stunningly powerful film with performances to boot. Leonardo DiCaprio deserves much recognition for his performance here.
The much awaited and loathed US remake of Infernal Affairs directed by Martin Scorsese. This is another huge cast movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Anderson, Ray Winstone and Alec Baldwin once more. There's been much made about the huge break from the original story and fans of the fantastic original movie are rightly concerned, and I'm one of them, yet I'll go and see it trying to leave any preconceptions behind...we have to wait and see and hope that Scorsese hasn't made a mistake by picking a movie that is so good already it can't be improved on.
I was very surprised by both the film and some of the performances. DiCaprio positively beams in this film, and he's close to outshining Nicholson. The cast is extremely strong and for the most they are played wonderfully, and both Scorsese and Monahan have done a wonderful job to bring life into this remake, a remake which does the original very proud indeed.
Lady in the Water
One of the films I didn't actually make it to see, and I do know why. From the outset I wasn't exactly grabbed by the film, and the production news and then reviews of the film didn't do anything to heighten my interest. With only a limited amount of films I can actually see, this one fell by the wayside. Can you provide the after?
It's not all about the ending and sometimes I think people forget that. Particularly about this Writer\Director. However there's not much coming out about this to really make me excited yet, and it's all hinging on his name for me.
Snakes on a Plane
Oh I know why I never went to see this, all the marketing just went over the top for me, and then by the time it came to see it I just wasn't interested. Maybe I should've seen it, but there's not even an interest now to catch it on DVD. Am I wrong?
"On board a flight over the Pacific Ocean, an assassin, bent on killing a passenger who's a witness in protective custody, let loose a crate full of deadly snakes." Surely that says it all? Oh, and not forgetting Samuel L. Jackson.
Yeah, it all wore off too quickly.
For Your Consideration
I don't know about where you are, but this received such a limited release here that I didn't even see it in the cinema to get a chance to see it, and I'm disappointed about that, although it is sitting on my DVD rental queue. Perhaps you've seen it and can tell us all if it's worth it.
...promising to be funny and very satirical at the same time. This should surely rip the preverbial out of the whole Movie Industry and the Oscars...well I'm hoping.
The Children of Men
This is another film where the excitement faded to the day of release, and although it wasn't as much as Snakes, it still was enough so that whenever I went to see it there was always something else to see first.
...although I'm not sure what to think, I am interested in the original idea.
Actually I'm looking back at this and wondering why I wanted so much to see it. Yes the first film was good fun, but did I really need to see a second? No, to be fair I remember the trailers looking pretty strong, and the original was pretty good entertainment. However come crunch time I managed to miss this one too, perhaps deliberately.
Fun entertainment, scares, big bangs, werewolves and vampires...oh yes, and Kate Beckinsale in leather. Real high brow stuff...ahem...but loads of fun.
I really am disappointed about missing this film, despite not enjoying some of the director's previous work this tale offered a lot and I had heard great things, but real life got in the way and the limited release didn't help either.
The trailer has me very intrigued, although I did think Michael Haneke's previous work Code inconnu: Récit incomplet de divers voyages (Code Unknown) was awful, I am interested in the concept behind this movie.
The Ice Harvest
Here's another film I'm looking back on and wondering why I missed it, I was really quite keen to see the film and all the trailers were looking good, but I really don't remember seeing it in the cinema. It promised much with the strong cast and some dark comedy. I am genuinely surprised now that I didn't see this, and somewhat disappointed.
John Cusack is an actor who I adore on screen...teamed up with Billy Bob Thornton...Oliver Platt and Randy Quaid, why wouldn't you want to go and see this? Oh, it also has Harold Ramis at the helm...it looks dark and funny, my favourite duo.
Good Night, and Good Luck
The trailers looked wonderful and the political and historical content was very intriguing, and I feel ashamed that I missed this film during its cinema run. A slew of great performances, superb cinematography and direction, all received strong recognition at the time.
It's interesting the way that George Clooney's career has moved. He's built a huge popularity and then used that to lever projects he's wanted to do, and now he's in the great position of directing and appearing in some excellent movies.
Well there's no real surprise that I didn't end up seeing this film. Another Asian remake and with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock back together to try and revitalise their careers. I don't really think I made a mistake did I?
...the original Il Mare being reviewed as an extremely good and intelligent offering from Korea, and now it's being remade...can this be anymore than a romantic romp when Bullock and Reeves are brought back together?...I especially would like to see Reeves make an acting effort and Bullock turn out a performance akin to 28 Days or her amazing performance in Crash.
Previously this was called The Visiting, and we've had it drummed into us by the studio that this is not a remake, it's a revisualisation, or some such rubbish. With the reshoots just complete (including the ending of the film) there's a concern that when we do finally get to see it even the attraction of Oliver Hirschbiegel as director, or the teaming of Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig once again, won't be enough to make it attractive.
The "isn't a remake but a revisualisation" of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers...although we all know it's a remake with the story changed. Still, I'm keen to see where they are going with this movie, especially since they are so keen to distance themselves from Body Snatchers.
The Good Shepherd
Another film that's slipped out a year, but then I don't think it's going to hurt this film. Although there's a concern over the backers who have insisted on recuts and reshoots of so many films before, the sounds coming out from this production are all good.
I heard a stern warning about this movie from Paul Schrader during the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2005. The man who was responsible for the Exorcist prequel farce as well as other movies is also financing this movie.
I've been looking forward to this film for a while, I'm a big fan of the two leads here and the story of a woman who awakes one day to find she's been bitten and is now one of the undead is perhaps not that new, but here she sets about seeking revenge against those that did it to her, and early comments are that this is going to be quite good.
I really do like Lucy Liu and Michael Chiklis, although Liu has been subject to some typecast in the past and Chiklis has only really made his impression in the excellent The Shield, both have shown some good performances and they have a lot more to show us.
Hideo Nakata is the man behind the original Ringu (The Ring) series and has been drafted in by Hollywood. This will be interesting as it is a remake of a Hollywood film with an Asian director at the helm. I hope that the studio and the Hollywood system can back off enough to allow this to be made with Nakata's own style at the helm.
...there's a lot of pressure on him to break the mould of Asian stars falling to the Hollywood machine and produce something strong, innovative, and exciting. This is the remake of the eighties movie that was supposedly based on a true story of a woman who is repeatedly sexually abused by a demon. Hopefully Nakata will bring something new and exciting to this rather than just cheap thrills.
Originally Nakata was slated to direct this, but now it's the team from Ils (Them) (Filmstalker review) who produced such a great horror film on their debut that they've been picked up by Hollywood and assigned this remake of another classic Asian horror film by the Pang brothers, who have also been captured by Hollywood. Despite the director change, I'm still really keen to see it, in fact maybe moreso since I was so blown away by Ils.
Nakata is also set to remake the Pang Brothers excellent Jian gui (The Eye)...The Pangs have not been assigned to remake this movie, despite them also moving to Hollywood...I can't help but feel that this movie should just be left alone. Okay it does have a weak ending, but the rest of the movie has some stunningly scary scenes in it and I fear this might be tainted by the Studios and be forced to be more Western style scary with jumps galore.
I'm really looking forward to this film, the original material is very good and presents a strong story, and coincidentally I read Out before I knew about the film version. This could be a really good film for Nakata who is also in line to direct this film, as long as he is allowed to make his own choices on it.
I read the book Out by Natsuo Kirino quite recently and was very surprised at just how good the story was. It had me eager to read as much as I could each time I opened the book and was almost avoiding sleep to get through it. This is the Nakata movie that I am looking forward to the most, it's original material, a Japanese crime thriller and an extremely strong story. Kirino has already written out some excellent scenes which I really hope make it to the big screen. The story is about four female factory workers who make a pact after one of them kills her abusive Husband. The story escalates time and time again, and the women find themselves in deeper and deeper trouble, facing off against a very strong male character.
...and that's it. Those were the films I was looking forward to in 2006 and looking back it didn't all turn out the way I had hoped. There were some great surprises though, and I think The Departed has to be highest on that list with Superman Returns a close second.
Next in this three parter is a look to the films I really loved in 2006. Then in the first week of 2007 we'll look to the films I'm really looking forward to this year. Hope your having great holidays so far.