2018年6月11日 星期一

Some Other Movies From 2006

In 2006 I moved to Taitung City, Taiwan, where I still live.  Back then I was teaching at a junior high school.

Given that Taitung didn't even have a movie theater then, and also given the fact that the nearest movie theater was a 3.5 hour drive away, you wouldn't think I saw a lot of the movies from 2006.  But having reviewed the wide releases from that year, I can affirm that I saw just about all of them.  I had a hard time finding the movies from this year that I hadn't seen.

The top ten movies of 2006 were Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Da Vinci Code, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Casino Royale, Night at the Museum, Cars, X-Men: The Last Stand, Mission: Impossible III, Superman Returns, and Happy Feet.  Of these movies, I think most people would agree that Casino Royale was the hands-down winner.  Mission: Impossible III wasn't bad though.  It was a definite improvement over Mission: Impossible II.

This said, for me 2006 will always be the year of The Departed.  I have seen The Departed so very many times, and just typing its title makes me want to see it again.  Possibly the best Scorsese movie, with Casino a close second, and Goodfellas not far behind.

Some Good Ones 

1. Shortbus

Hey, it's porn!  No it's not - it's art!

Whatever it is, Shortbus is watchable.  If you haven't heard about it already, it's the story of New Yorkers looking for love, or looking for an orgasm, or looking to be anally penetrated.  There's plenty of graphic sex, but it's not always convincing.  I have two complaints about this movie, and they are: 1) they should have cast more porn performers that could act, rather than actors willing to do porn, and 2) the "Sofia" character is way too neurotic to have ever functioned as either a sex therapist or couples counselor.

Fun Fact: On the wall of "Sofia's" office there are two framed Chinese characters, 救 and 命.  These two characters together form the phrase "Help!" or "Save me!"  The symbolism is obvious, though perhaps less obvious is the fact that no traditionally-minded Chinese person would ever put such a phrase on their wall.  It would be extremely bad luck.

2. For Your Consideration

The Spinal Tap trio tackles Hollywood.  The humor in this movie is so dry it wants to borrow your moisturizer, but it might be the best thing Catherine O'Hara has ever been in.  Earlier films like A Mighty Wind or Best in Show are easier to relate to, but this one is definitely worth watching.

3. Akeelah and the Bee

Good, if slightly predictable movie.  A young girl from south-central L.A. takes part in the national spelling bee.  Great performances from Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett, and yes, it does tug on the heartstrings near the end.

Fun Fact #1: This movie reunites Fishburne and Bassett, who earlier appeared as Ike and Tina Turner in What's Love Got to Do With It.

Not-So-Fun Fact: There are entire academic papers devoted to the racial dynamics of this film.  If you want my two cents, it's not like racist Chinese-American fathers don't exist...

4. The Queen

A truly excellent movie.  Definitely one of the best of that year, but also one of the best I've seen in a long time.  As an American, I've always been somewhat mystified by the relationship between the Prime Minister and the royal family, and this movie cleared up a lot of my confusion.

Helen Mirren was one of those actresses destined to play the queen at some point in her career, and in this movie she doesn't disappoint.  As film portrayals of the British monarch go, I'd have to say that hers is the best I've ever seen.

The Queen details the public relations disaster experienced by the royal family in the wake of Princess Di's untimely death.  And yes, like most non-British people, I had a hard time understanding what the big deal was, but the film illustrates the relevance of these events nicely.  Who knew that the workings of modern British government could prove so interesting?

Fun Fact: the actor playing the queen's private secretary (Roger Allam) also played the bad guy in Speed Racer.

5. Annapolis

A riveter tries to become a naval officer.  James Franco stars, with Tyrese (Gibson) as his commanding officer.  It's a good movie, though the score's a bit overdone and this movie bears too many similarities to the far superior An Officer and a Gentleman.

Fun Fact #1: Director Justin Lin, better known for several of the Fast and the Furious movies, would go on to direct both Tyrese and Jordana Brewster in those films.

Fun Fact #2: Due to certain inaccuracies, this movie really pissed off both the U.S. Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense.

Fun Fact #3: Donnie Wahlberg, brother of Mark, appeared in this movie between Saw II and Saw III.

6. The Last Kiss

A relationship movie if there ever was one.  The cast is excellent, with Casey Affleck making a memorable appearance as one of four friends rethinking their future.  BUT trying to stab your boyfriend just because he's kissed another woman is kind of psycho.  Not sure if winning her back is really "winning."

7. The Guardian

Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher star as a pair of coast guard rescue swimmers.  It starts out great, but gets bogged down in training details and unnecessary story arcs near the end.  Costner and Kutcher are both good in this movie, but the script wasn't doing them any favors.  Editing a half hour or so out of this film would have worked wonders.

8. Employee of the Month

It's not hilarious or anything but it has its moments.  Two coworkers compete to win both a car and a hot girl's affections.  The underrated Dax Shepard stars as one of the coworkers, with the superfine Jessica Simpson as the hot girl.  How Beerfest (see below) has a higher score than this movie on Rotten Tomatoes is beyond me.

Fun Fact: Jessica Simpson later dated Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.  She was often blamed for his declining performance on the field.

9. School for Scoundrels

Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Heder, Ben Stiller, Sarah Silverman - a lot of funny people who've been in a lot of funny movies.  I'd like to say it was the funniest movie of 2006, but Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby came out the same year.  Michael Clarke Duncan was in both films.

10. Flags of Our Fathers

Iwo Jima.  That was some nasty business.  Have you seen the footage they shot?  Dudes running in and out of holes with flamethrowers.  In a word: Yikes.

This film, directed by Clint Eastwood, has a subtlety that most war movies lack.  It ventures into both the front lines and the economics of the Second World War, and does so in a way that still seems timely.  It also builds upon the efforts of previous films like Saving Private Ryan and We Were Soldiers without seeming like an obvious copy.

If actor Ryan Philippe isn't proof of Hollywood's fickleness I don't know who is.  He obviously had the talent, he obviously had the looks, but for whatever reason he never quite crossed that threshold into real fame.  What's he up to these days?  He's the star of a USA Network show based on a mediocre film that starred Mark Wahlberg.

Fun Fact #1: Clint Eastwood's son Scott Eastwood is in the beginning of this movie.  It was his first.  His other son, Kyle Eastwood (who appeared on film much earlier in Honkytonk Man), also did some of the soundtrack.

Fun Fact #2: Clint Eastwood and Spike Lee got into a minor feud over this movie.  Lee complained that it featured no black marines, even though they are clearly present in the film.

Fun Fact #3: Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers, and Flags of Our Fathers - Canadian actor Barry Pepper appeared in all three films.

11. Invincible

The setting will remind you of Rocky, but this movie about a local guy trying out for the Eagles is very much its own film.  Mark Wahlberg is entirely believable in the role, and the soundtrack is excellent.  As football movies go, it's not as good as either Friday Night Lights or Any Given Sunday, but it was definitely one of the best movies of 2006.

Some Bad Ones

1. Beerfest

Once in a great while you see what you think is the stupidest movie ever made.  Last month, for me, this movie was Without a Paddle.  Last month I was convinced that Without a Paddle was - without a doubt - the dumbest movie I'd be seeing in a long time.  And yet - what is this I see before me?  Why yes good friends, it's Beerfest, and compared to Beerfest, Without a Paddle is positively intellectual.  I don't know why someone greenlit this movie, and I can't imagine what drugs they were on at the time, but it's bad - so bad.

2. Final Destination 3

I think calling the demonic forces "evil" is very insensitive.  They were considerate enough to let the high school students know when their own deaths were coming, weren't they?  They even added helpful hints, like: "You will be burned to death in a tanning salon." or "You will be decapitated by exercise equipment."  Really, it's the high school students who are the "evil" ones, because who is the real source of emotional distress in this movie?  Why the high school students of course.  Instead of blithely accepting those burnings, and decapitations, and stray nails from nail guns, they insist on fighting their final destination, even when the sensible thing to do would be to lie down, and resign themselves to their fate.

The deaths in this movie are memorable, but in-between those deaths lie oceans of conversation, in which boring people you'd rather see dead discuss their imminent demises.  I, for one, would like to thank the demonic forces that made these deaths possible, because it is only these deaths that make this movie halfway interesting.

3. RV

Yes, Robin Williams is dead now, and that's sad.  But RV still isn't funny.  I'm assuming that he was only in this family-friendly comedy for the paycheck, because the script - a lame pastiche of every road trip movie you've ever heard of - sure wasn't making him any funnier.

Fun Fact: This movie won the Golden Raspberry award for "Worst Excuse for Family Entertainment."

4. Firewall

It's not so much bad as just completely forgettable.  Harrison Ford has his house invaded by Paul Bettany and some paramilitary types.  SPOILER ALERT: I'm pretty sure it's impossible to impale someone who's standing right behind you with a pickaxe.

5. Pulse

An evil presence takes over the Internet.  Or wait, hasn't that already happened?  Whatever the case, this movie squanders what might have been an interesting premise for the sake of jump scares.  I'd like to see the Japanese original.

6. My Super Ex-Girlfriend

G-Girl, huh?  The only thing "super" about this movie is how cringeworthy it is.  Luke Wilson was probably overjoyed to have a big budget movie on his schedule, but Uma Thurman?  She really should have known better.  Surprisingly, Ivan Reitman was the director.

7. Freedomland

So... the police cordon off an entire housing project in New Jersey on the word of an obviously deranged woman without any evidence?  With all those reporters lurking around, I can't imagine that this would have flown in 2006, much less 2018.  Samuel Jackson stars as a detective, with Julianne Moore as the mother of a missing child.  Both of the leads are solid, but the direction's a bit too manic, and the story could have done with some thinking over.

8. Gridiron Gang

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson coaches a football team in a youth detention center.  The Rock's acting skills aren't quite up to the task, though in fairness he's gotten better since then.  My main problem with the movie is that it doesn't seem to know how to present the members of the team, and for this reason the movie seems unfocused.

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