Michael Cuesta's debut feature L.I.E. was such a critical darling that I suppose it's only to be expected that his followup, 12 and Holding, would get a drubbing by those same critics for not being as auspicious as its predecessor (which raised eyebrows as its most likable character was a pedophile). Thus when walking into 12 and Holding, advance critical… read more!
Movies Released in 2006 (in alphabetical order)
Art School Confidential
In the late '80s, cartoonist Daniel Clowes included a short piece called "Art School Confidential" in an issue of his Eightball comics. I found this snarky expose to be extremely funny and right on the mark, especially as I myself was in art school. Two decades later, Clowes, as screenwriter and co-producer, reteams with Ghost World director Terry Zwigoff to concoct an adaptation so loose… read more!
Subtle but consistently compelling thriller about a glum, epileptic taxidermist (Ricardo Darín) who, during a freak accident while hunting that brings to mind Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger, forges a new identity for himself: that of an assistant to a hunting lodge owner who, it turns out, is also something of a professional thief. The plot – in which the undercover… read more!
This light-hearted concoction from France is nevertheless smart and uncondescending. A perky young lady named Jessica (an actress with the unbelievable moniker of Cecile De France) takes a job as a waitress at a bustling cafe in Paris that just happens to be across the street from an enormous performing arts complex. Thus she winds up insinuating herself into the… read more!
The third feature by Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu closely follows the same theme and structure of his first two, Amores Perros and 21 Grams: A tragic accident has occurred, and Iñárritu follows the various strangers whose lives have been affected by it. Amores Perros played with different characters who never meet; 21 Grams plays with time. Babel plays with… read more!
The Black Dahlia
I'm one of few filmmakers to go to bat for Brian De Palma. It's so unhip to like his films, but I think he's churned out a number of underrated gems, including Casualties of War, Carlito's Way, even Snake Eyes. That said, he's helmed some misfires too, and The Black Dahlia is one of them. While beautifully filmed by the… read more!
The funniest thing about Borat may be its full title: Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. But the movie itself is often hilarious, though it's so relentlessly over the top that it wears itself out. Borat creator/alter ego Sacha Baron Cohen takes his character, a cluelessly racist and sexist reporter from Kazakhstan, out from… read more!
Brick is a special film, a jazzy, surreal hybrid of high school drama and classic film noir. Writer/director Johnson's script is filled with heavily stylized dialogue, influenced by '30s crime writer Dashiell Hammett (in fact the story reminds me of Hammett's 1929 novel Red Harvest), so baroque and poetic that it's hardly even English anymore. Some viewers may get confused… read more!
Yes, it's another charming, high-quality production from Pixar, with well-conceived characters, a clever conceit, beautiful scenery, and flawless animation. So why doesn't Cars measure up to previous Pixar releases? It might be its two-hour length: the film's too long by a good twenty minutes. It might be the overly familiar storyline: hotshot city boy gets stuck in small town, learns… read more!
Children of Men
Children of Men takes the classic Nativity story, adds a dash of Casablanca and a pinch of Brazil, then revs up the engine and lets it fly out of the gate at a hundred miles per hour. This tense nail-biter masquerading as a sci fi movie is set in 2027 England, some nineteen years after all the women of Earth… read more!
Conversations With Other Women
Two former lovers (Aaron Eckhart, Helena Bonham Carter) see each other for the first time in years at a mutual acquaintance's wedding, which reignites their attraction to each other. That's the pitch. The twist? The entire film is shot in split-screen. As a concept, it's not as annoying as it sounds. But ironically, while the cinematic trickery may be meant… read more!
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
A highly imaginative mockumentary, done in the style of a Ken Burns PBS special, about the last 140 years of American history... if the South had won the Civil War. Writer-director Kevin Willmott goes all out and includes imaginary slavery-themed TV commercials interrupting the "broadcast", which was ostensibly produced in the UK and is "playing" – with restrictions – on… read more!
Deliver Us from Evil
The tone of this documentary, about an Irish-born Catholic priest who molested and raped scores of children in central California throughout the '70s and '80s, instantly brings to mind the incendiary Capturing the Friedmans. However, whereas Friedmans forced audiences to come to their own conclusions through morally ambiguous storytelling, Deliver Us from Evil isn't ambiguous about anything. Director Amy Berg… read more!
I shouldn't be able to get away with calling Gangs of New York and The Aviator overly ambitious projects, for if Martin Scorsese can't be ambitious about making a movie, then who can? Nevertheless, both films were overlong; stuffed with good ideas and at least one amazing performance, but not as great as the sum of their parts. So while… read more!
The Devil and Daniel Johnston
I'm ambivalent about Texas-based singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston, who achieved cult fame despite – or, more likely, because of – his mental illness. On the one hand, you can tell that there is a brilliant if cracked mind at work. On the other, his music is so shrill and unlistenable that I've often wondered how many of his hipster fans genuinely… read more!
The first ten minutes or so of Dreamgirls explode with energy: Set during a talent show in early '60s Detroit, it showcases one powerful African American performer after another, belting out strong, intense, and unapologetically Black music. A trio of teenage girls calling themselves The Dreamettes squeak onstage at the last minute and wind up bringing the house down. In… read more!
It seems odd that Stuart Gordon, the director best known for cult-schlock titles like Re-Animator, Robot Jox, Castle Freak, and Space Truckers, would be helming a a David Mamet-written film, but Gordon's association with Mamet goes way back to the Chicago stage. Regardless, Gordon's background in horror somehow fits Mamet's lowbrow aesthetic, despite the highbrow audience that usually gravitates towards… read more!
This film is based on a Charles Bukowski novel. That's probably all that needs to be said about Factotum, but if you're unfamiliar with the late writer's work, this adaptation concerns the ins and outs of Bukowski stand-in Henry Chinaski (nicely played by Matt Dillon), an unrepentant drunk who gets fired from job after job while he drinks, slacks, gambles,… read more!
Flags of Our Fathers
An interesting history lesson of a movie, Flags of Our Fathers tells the story of the three surviving World War II servicemen from the famous "raising the flag on Iwo Jima" photograph, who were plucked from the battlefield and put to work on the home front, ordered to beg the American citizenry to buy war bonds. The film contrasts –… read more!
The Good Shepherd
A lot of critics have been writing off The Good Shepherd, an epic tale of the early years of the CIA, as boring and overlong. Personally, I found it surprisingly engaging - though it does lack the suspense you'd expect from such provocative material. The tone of The Good Shepherd is in fact an overwhelmingly sad one, as it follows… read more!