Sunday, December 31, 2006

My Top 10 Movie List of 2006

Okay, now that I totally bashed A. O. Scott for his top ten list in my last blog entry, now it's time to give my own top ten list, which may be equally as frustrating to some.

I'll have to confess right up front, that I only saw about 20 movies in the theater this year. All of them, except Talladega Nights, are reviewed at my MySpace page, and some of the more recent ones are included here at Blogger as well. I hope to see The Queen some time in the next few days. If it or any other 2006 movies I see later deserve to be in the top ten, I'll update my list accordingly (but will probably only go to the trouble if I see it in the theater in January or February, not on video several months later).

Anyway, out of only 20 movies, a top ten list is really more like a "Better Half" list, but I gave all ten of these movies between a B+ and A rating, which all rank as 4-stars or 5-stars on my 1-to-5 star system (no half-stars). But, at least it's a fairly mainstream list, something the average person may be able to appreciate (no documentaries or foreign language films in the bunch).

[10] The Nativity Story

Although you can often tell when a biblical city in the distance is really a matte painting or computer graphic, the movie delivers an interesting and faithful portrayal of the birth of Christ. The movie helps flesh out the political climate of the time, people's skepticism toward Mary's claim of her virgin pregnancy, and a theory as to what kind of husband Joseph may have been. While connecting all the dots from the Bible as carefully as possible, the writers take creative license with the wise men from the East, lending to the movie some humor, a demonstration of faith, and a sense of wonder.

[09] My Super Ex-Girlfriend

Panned by many but strongly recommended by a friend of mine at work, this movie takes a comical approach to the concept of superheroes, and for me, was more entertaining and enjoyable than Superman Returns. Uma Thurman is perfect as the mentally unstable female superhero struggling to have a relationship with an average man.

[08] V for Vendetta

Based on a graphic novel, V for Vendetta paints an intriguing picture of a fascist, future Britain in which one masked radicalist wants to complete a feat attempted by Guy Fawkes several hundred years prior--blowing up the Houses of Parliament as a political statement. Although a bit too violent at times, the film is unique, unpredictable, thought-provoking, and enjoyable.

[07] World Trade Center

An emotional story about two police officers trapped in the rubble at ground zero on 9/11, World Trade Center delivers excellent performances, especially from Maggie Gyllenhall and Maria Bello, who play the wives of the trapped officers.

[06] Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith skillfully carries this movie, portraying an intelligent man extremely down on his luck financially. Forced to raise his son alone on almost no cash while enrolled in a prestigious, non-paying internship at Dean Witter, this is a great story about dreams, determination, and survival. Will Smith's real-life son does a great job in the role of the main character's son.

[05] Casino Royale

A re-boot to the long-lived James Bond franchise, Casino Royale delivers action, drama, romance, and even a little humor with Daniel Craig playing a new 007 of less experience, fewer gadgets, and a cat-like physicality. Royale makes one look forward to future Bond movies which may delve into a continuing story arc, if internet rumors are correct. Men, beware the torture scene; it's not easy to sit through.

[04] Cars

A movie in which humans don't exist and automobiles are the people is made believable through some of Pixar's best computer graphics yet and excellent performances from the voice cast. Visually impressive, funny, and heart-felt, this movie delivers for viewers of all ages.

[03] The Lake House

While never explaining just how a man from 2004 and a woman from 2006 can communicate to each other through a magical mailbox at a lake house they both own (at different times), this movie delivers believable romantic drama. In addition to excellent performances by Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, the movie includes superb camerawork and a real architectural appreciation for the city of Chicago.

[02] The Prestige

With a double twist that no one should spoil for you, this is a must-see-twice story about obsessed magicians competing over the perfect magic trick in turn-of-the-century London. Written & directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johanssen, and the excellent Michael Caine, this movie has enough intrigue, mystery, and overall quality for two movies. I was really tempted to make this my #1 pick for the year.

[01] Akeelah and the Bee

Yes, that's right, a movie about an 11-year-old girl from South Los Angeles training and competing her way to the National Spelling Bee is better than all the superhero movies, better than James Bond, better than Pixar, etc. I never would have thought it.

Severely overlooked while it was in theaters, I watched Akeelah and the Bee again on DVD today (thank goodness I got it as a Christmas present), and it confirmed how much I liked it in the first place. The publicity it got made it sound like an artsy fartsy film, but it really feels more mainstream than that. In a way, it's like a sports movie, only instead of playing football or basketball, this underdog spells words.

It may sound boring, but it's not. Skillfully written & directed by Doug Atchison and starring Keke Palmer, Laurence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett, the movie has a good pace, smart dialogue, and excellent performances. It tugs at the heart but in a way that feels genuine. The movie earns every laugh and--okay I'll admit it--every tear. While not as intriguing or visually impressive as The Prestige, it is the unexpected emotional impact in Akeelah and the Bee that put the movie over the top for my #1 spot.

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