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The films of 2006 - The fives and the zeros

Hotdog.gifIn the first part of this three part series I wrote about the films I was looking forward to at the beginning of 2006 and what I thought now I had seen them (if I had) at the end of the year. Well now I'm going to look at the films I saw during 2006 that were superb or worth a special mention, as well as those that grabbed the elusive No Stars in the Filmstalker reviews.

So without further ado, here's a rundown of the films that I awarded Five Stars to, and a hand picked few of the Four Star reviews of 2006. Enjoy and feel free to argue. Once you've finished, tell us what your top films of 2006 have been, and why. Let's see if we can get a few common favourites.

Five Star Films: 5star.gif
The Departed on Monday 9 October 2006Hotdog-xsmall.gif
I was really quite taken aback by this film. I thought that Scorcese was really making a mistake following Hollywood's example and remaking the Asian film Infernal Affairs, a film which was truly superb and already very accessible to the western audience. The drama was ramped up tenfold and the performances of DiCaprio and Nicolson were unbelievable. A contender for Filmstalker Hotdog Awards Best Film of the year perhaps?

An Inconvenient Truth on Thursday 7 September 2006Hotdog-xsmall.gif
I didn't really have an idea of who Al Gore was or what he would be like other than the American Presidential press and that is hardly a good indication of a person. So it was a huge surprise to see the man here, intelligent, compassionate, driven, focused and rather funny. but what strikes you more than anything is his enigmatic presentation. Gore really draws you into his presentation and makes you understand and feel as much as he does. Of course the content of the film is compelling, crushing and driving, how can we not be affected and moved by this film? Then again, people are still willing to believe the Governments that have lied about genocides, wars, taxes, affairs, etc, etc, and again, and again. This film drives it home in a simple and effective manner, and if you're anywhere human, shakes you to the core. Perhaps Filmstalker Hotdog Award for the Best Documentary of the year?

5 Days on Monday 21 August 2006
It's interesting that a documentary which shows the avoidance of any real conflict is so powerful, and it works because that is what we expect and have been led to believe to expect by the mass media. This film about the five days it took for the Israeli Defense Forces to evacuate 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip to make way for 250,000 Palestinians, and so you can see why one would expect a much different film from the one you see here. Yet it's because of the subject matter and the fact that there's so little serious controntation that makes it such a powerful film, and hearing the voices of Isreali's and Palestinian's. This is an excellent documentary and presents neither side as the right side, it just presents the story. Head to the review to hear a little from the director himself.

Air Guitar Nation on Monday 21 August 2006
Another cracking documentary from the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2006, and this was the biggest surprise for me. I read the blurb and really wasn't interested, before I saw the film I read that it was about the first year that America entered the World Air Guitar Campionships, following the contenders through the open auditions, through to the American finals and the World Championships themselves. So going into it I didn't really expect much, and yet it turned out to be one of my favourites of the festival. It's incredibly funny and hugely enjoyable, you just have to see the fun and excitement in some of these guys faces as they compete. It'll have you leaving the cinema all warm and fuzzy.

This Film is Not Yet Rated on Sunday 20 August 2006
Another EIFF documentary, and from the director of Twist of Faith, and this time he gives us another incredibly powerful film. This one has more of it's tongue planted in its cheek, but despite that manages to expose the MPAA as a group of people who don't represent the general public, look after themselves, unfairly persecute films that they personally don't like, bow to pressure from the heads of the MPAA and is just generally as corrupt as they come. It's an excellently put together documentary and well worth visiting.

Holly on Saturday 19 August 2006
From the EIFF again, what a strong line up they had this year. Holly tells us about the terrible underage sex trade in Asia and focuses on the story of one little. but very strong willed, girl called Holly. She's been sold by her family to the sex industry and an American earning a living in trading goods meets her, connects with her, and tries to save her. It's a frightening and sometimes uncomfortable story, but there's so much hope and love in the story too, not to mention how thought provoking and informative it is too. It has to be a must see.

Ils (Them) on Thursday 17 August 2006
There's been a lot more talk of this film as it's two directors have both been picked to remake the Asian horror The Eye and also tapped to remake their own first feature which is really a showcase of horror directing. Ils is the story of a couple who move to the country and one night are awoken by strange voices on the telephone and the knowledge that They have arrived. It really does feel like the directors have tried to create the perfect CV for their directing ability in this one film, and they do just that. At the same time they made an excellent horror film which I'm dying to see again, before the Hollywood remake. It also holds a lot of promise for their future careers.

The Host (Gwoemul) on Tuesday 15 August 2006Hotdog-xsmall.gif
What a superb film. Imagine if you could package up every film genre into one and still make a very effective thriller/horror you would think you would have hit the jackpot, well Host does just that, and the effects are superb as well, and all this without ignoring the story at the heart of the film.

The Flying Scotsman on Sunday 13 August 2006
Now, talking of films with heart, The Flying Scotsman is a wonderful film that tells the story of a Scottish man who builds his own race bike to enter competition and in doing so discovers some refinements that could make him even faster. So he fashions a bike out of washing machine parts, amongst other things, and goes ahead to break the records time and time again. That's not the whole story though, the man struggles against deep depression and the cycling authority that wants to squash him and his timings so that he can't change the cycling industry. It's a superb film that's wonderfully scripted and touches you time and time again with emotional and some incredibly stirring scenes. Ignore what was incorrectly said at the EIFF about this film and go and see it, it's a story and film Scotland should be proud of.

Superman Returns on Tuesday 18 July 2006
Well, this was a welcome and glorious return for Superman, and that opening sequence had me almost in tears with fondness for when I first saw the Reeve films and loved them. I doubted that the character could return without heavily moving away from the original, but Singer managed it by embracing the original and bringing us a Superman film very much in the Donner style. However, there is something quite wrong with the film, and that's the boy. It was verging on the daft with the introduction of a son, I half expected us to start seeing something like Superdog appear, but Singer dances a fine line between those and gives us an extremely strong tale. The hope is that the sequel doesn't stray into silliness with the son.

United 93 on Tuesday 30 May 2006Hotdog-xsmall.gif
What a harrowing film to watch, and yet such a worthwhile one. Strangely there's a great uplifting message you can feel at the end with a wonderfully iconic image that Greengrass closed with. Although you know how the story ends, in that small moment you are with the people on board that plane and you understand and believe in what they are trying to do, and there's nothing but a unity of strength and hope in it. Throughout the film you're drawn closer to these characters and made to feel one of the people on board, and that makes those closing moments all the more powerful. This is a fitting tribute to the people who died trying to save themselves and others. Any fears I entered with thinking that the film might over sentimentalise or push the film with an overly patriotic message were gone early on.

Brick on Tuesday 9 May 2006
Film noir in a modern day American High School, how could that possibly work, and who could have thought such an idea could? Well it does, and this is an example of scripting and directing genius and individuality. Brick takes a modern day teenage America and steeps it into the genre of fifties film noir, not in a cheesy comic way, but in a completely serious and reverent manner, and that produces a superb thriller. The dialogue is superb, and the leads deliver it believably and without fault. Brick is an excellent thriller where you are drawn right into it forgetting the possible difficulties of marrying two such distinctly differing styles.

Mission Impossible III on Thursday 4 May 2006
Many people had written off this film for two reasons, the main was the press Cruise was attracting outside of acting, and the second was the fact that this was a third in a series that although has been action rich, didn't promise much more. Then Abrams was announced and my hopes at least were really raised, and for good reason. This is the strongest of the franchise to date and with Abrams help it focused more on characters than the action, saying that the action was stunning and some of the set pieces were mind blowingly great on screen. Amazingly Hoffman agreed to play the baddie, and what a baddie too. There weren't any two dimensional leads here, they were multi-faceted and bled when you pricked them. Excellent stuff, and I really want to see another in the same vein.

Hostel on Sunday 2 April 2006
This was the second horror of the year to really scare me senseless. I remember watching Hostel in a cinema by myself, and it was a big cinema too. I was freaking it. There were a number of moments I had to move in my chair because in my head there was someone right behind me about to inflict some serious pain. That's how much this film got to me. Superbly put together by Roth, and filled with some of the most uncomfortable horror I've seen since, well the previous month.

The Hills Have Eyes on Wednesday 22 March 2006
Remakes have a bad name this year, and I think that might continue into next year too, however this was one remake where the director did something special. Not only did he not stray too far from the original ideas, but he added his own personal direction to the film and he complimented it. He packed the style into this film and added his great ability to build tension in scenes and throughout a film, added with the horror he pulled from the original and pumped in anew, and we had a cracking remake on our hands, perhaps better than the original. The first excellent horror film of the year.

V for Vendetta on Saturday 18 March 2006
This was another film that was cursed by names, Silver and the Wachowski brothers. After tarnishing themselves on the two Matrix sequels, and Silvers generally non-subtle attitude, you would have been forgiven for thinking this Moore comic would end up being relocated to mainland America and turning into some watered down all-American message. It wasn't. I personally think that this is a stunning adaptation of Moore's work, and it comes to the screen in a glorious style. No one has gone over the top here, everything is very restrained, takes place in Britain, and indeed seems to capture the tone and intent of the original work really well. It's as political as ever, and even the bombing scenes remain, scenes which had been coming under scrutiny for their appearance so close to the London transport bombings. I really enjoyed this film and I think it's an excellent adaptation showing that these guys are capable of some stunning work.

Tsotsi on Wednesday 8 March 2006
Missing this at the Film Festival the year before, I managed to finally catch it and was amazed. This is a great film that really does a good job of conveying the life in the slums of South Africa and the disparity between those slums and the rich suburbs, locations which are within a stones throw of each other. Tsotsi tells a story which might appear over sentimental on paper, but is never presented that way. It's wonderfully directed and beautifully shot, and deserves much more recognition than it has received.

Walk the Line on Monday 30 January 2006Hotdog-xsmall.gif
The second five star film of 2006 for me, and what a film. I wish sometimes that I had a six rating to go to for special occasions, this film being one. I have no idea why Pheonix didn't achieve more praise and recognition for his role because he really does outshine Witherspoon who seemed to scoop up nominations and awards galore. Both provide excellent performances, but it's Pheonix as Johnny Cash that really blows you away. What's more amazing is that I wasn't a Cash fan and really had no idea about his life beforehand and yet his story pulled me in and I was emotionally involved in the characters very early on. It's strongly directed and has an excellent opening to the film which really gets you going. I can't praise this film, and Phoenix's performance, enough.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on Friday 27 January 2006
The first film of 2006 to receive five stars, and although some of it could be accredited to the story and how well loved it was before the film came to pass, the film has captured a lot of the heart of the story and portrayed it on screen wonderfully. Similar to Lord of the Rings in the epic-ness and special effects, but altogether more family orientated


Some notable Four Star Films: 4star.gif
Casino Royale on Monday 20 November 2006Hotdog-xsmall.gif
This deserves a mention in the great films I saw this year, in fact all these selected four star rated films do. This proved all the naysayers wrong, Craig makes a cracking Bond and restarts the franchise with a much needed dose of reality. There are some amazing self references to be had, should you be a Bond fan, and if not you'll just revel in this above par action thriller. Some of the sequences are superb, and the film has been directed unlike the standard Bond fare. I think I'd be close to rating Craig as the best Bond yet.

Eve of Understanding on Wednesday 22 November 2006
This is a wonderful independent, low budget film which boasts such natural scripting that's hard to find in a lot of Hollywood films. The cinematography and lighting is very strong, as is the superb lead acting. If you can get yourself to a screening then you really should, otherwise keep an eye out for it being offered on DVD. Let's hope they get a distribution deal.

Colour me Kubrick on Thursday 7 September 2006
I didn't know what to make of this before I saw it, and again the EIFF this year surprised me. This film is superbly written and directed, and some of the moments scored to great Kubrick themes are a joy to watch, imagine Malkovich heading to the dry cleaners to the score of 2001? Genius. Malkovich gives a stunning performance, and the whole film is both funny and quite sad. Well worth catching.

The Killing of John Lennon on Tuesday 29 August 2006
One of the most powerful films of the EIFF, shot much like a documentary, it shows the life of the man who shot John Lennon, specifically focusing on the lead up to the assassination. Shots and scenes are very well framed for the most part, and the dialogue comes from the killers diaries and testimony. It's chilling stuff and although it's weak in a few places, it shows how the person standing next to you could be a killer.

Angel-A on Saturday 22 July 2006
Beautifully shot. That's the most memorable thing about this film, it's shot with a passion and just about every frame looks gorgeous. There are a few issues with the film, but it's also a beautiful story that really does touch the heart. The one scene where the lead looks into the mirror and into himself is perhaps the one that touches you the most, and one critic in front of me was in tears at this point. I wasn't far off. Besson should surely not give up such beautiful directing.

Hard Candy on Friday 21 April 2006
What a punch this packed at Dead by Dawn. It was a powerful film, and although I think the ending wasn't as good as it could have been, the journey there is a tense and horrific ride. Superbly shot and incredibly tense all the way to those final scenes. An excellent tense horror-thriller.

Lucky Number Slevin on Saturday 18 March 2006
I didn't really expect that much from the film, but great performances form Willis, Brolin and Kingsley mixed with a fair dose of visual style gave an excellent gangster type thriller. It does keep you twisting and turning to the end and is going to make a welcome return to my DVD very soon.

Jarhead on Tuesday 14 February 2006
The soundtrack, the strong performances, the great scripting, and the superb landscape shots of war, this is a very good war movie, or rather non-war movie. It looks at things slightly differently to most films, it shows you what the army life does to a person, not what war does or shooting a person, but the whole idea of being trained to kill, of being made into a frontline killing machine. What's worse is there's no one to kill.


Five Star Shorts: 5star.gif
R.I.P. - Repose en paix on Tuesday 25 April 2006
A short film from the Dead by Dawn festival that although was slightly horrific, was more comedy than anything. An animation horror comedy, and the comedy is right at the forefront. A superb little animation that along with the next film showed me that short films can be up there with the features.

La Guerra on Saturday 22 April 2006Hotdog-xsmall.gif
Also from the Dead by Dawn 2006 festival, this film was well shot and conceived and gave an incredible feeling for the character in such a short space of time. It built you up, filled you with tension, released it, and then comes the biggest reveal you'll see outside a feature, and it's a superb moment, I could hardly believe it. Another film that proved to me shorts are as mighty as the full length feature.


Zero Stars and a few notable One Star Films: nostar.gif 1star.gif
The Lives of the Saints on Thursday 7 September 2006
This was a bitterly disappointing and confusing film that just made no sense and didn't stick together. At times it was uncomfortable for me to sit still and watch it, and I just wished the story would stop trying to be something it wasn't and focus on one of its threads instead of trying to mix two very unlikely ideas, a higher power and gangsters. No thanks.

Pal-Wol-Eui Il-Yo-Il-Deul (Sundays in August) on Tuesday 22 August 2006
Slow, long, laborious and next to nothing happening. It didn't even feel like the film that was described, and it goes to show that the EIFF does not deliver loads of good stuff.

Ultraviolet on Thursday 29 June 2006
What a mess. With some good fight sequences but an utterly distasteful and confused script, it seems that this version of the film is hacked to bits. I pray for a full release and that somewhere there's a good half hour of removed material to bring this story together.

Neighborhood Watch on Sunday 30 April 2006
Vile, distasteful, poor performances, a weak script, and no real sense of involvement with the characters, it all seemed too poorly conceived and written. It certainly didn't induce any enjoyment other than wondering what the next sick setup would be.

An American Haunting on Thursday 20 April 2006
There's space down here for some big names you know. This was a disaster of a film that was going not too badly until the stupid and inane explanation walkthrough near the end with visuals and voice over. I half expected for a speaker to stand up there and start pointing out sections, replaying them for us. It was a terrible ending that really let the rest of the film down, and let it down embarrassingly badly.

Firewall on Thursday 6 April 2006
Another film where the scriptwriters seem to have used all their energy before the last few moments of the ending, there it turns into a poor and stock action thriller that even Ford should be embarrassed to be in. The sad thing is that for most of the film, although it's pretty standard fare, there are many opportunities to be different, and indeed that's where the film feels its going. For the most part though, this just shows Ford's too old for Indy. Mumbling his way through the lines and stumbling through the action scenes, I think it's over.


Well that's all folks. Those were the five stars and a few fours, ones and zeros for you to look over. Sorry there's so much, but this year has been a busy one. Rather than pick out my top ten I thought all the high rated films deserved a mention.

So what are your top films of the year and why? Get those lists in now.





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Comments

Simone's Top Films for 2006

(in no particular order)

1. Mission Impossible III
2. Superman Returns
3. The Departed
4. Casino Royale
5. The Queen
6. The Prestige
7. An Inconvenient Truth
8. Perfume
9. The History Boys
10. V for Vendetta

Don't think I actually saw 10 films this year to list them (apart from DVD repeats at home).

Next year's list:
BFG
Snow White & the Seven Dwarves
etc etc...

I love this arrangement, Richard goes to the movies so I don't have to!

Happy New Year!!!


My best films 2007:

Munich

Mission Impossible III

The Departed

Superman Returns

The Perfume

My worst films 2007:

V for Vendetta

United 93

Inside Man

And I sincerely hope this year 2007 is FAR better in cinema than 2006, which, overall, has been one of the worst years in all cinema history.

Cheers.


Excuse the mistake, my top and worst films are 2006! :P

Ach! I forgot about Munich! Thanks Peter! ;)

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