Movies Of 2006

Fun With Dick And Jane (3) --Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni portray the title characters of this remake of a 1977 film which starred George Segal and Jane Fonda. In the original, Dick lost his high-paying job at an aerospace company. This time around, the story is updated to reflect the difficulties of many people on the wrong end of the tech-boom as companies like Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, HealthSouth, and Adelphia found accounting loopholes, took their misbegotten millions and tried to run with them. Carrey plays this one in between his manic roles and his The Majestic-Man On The Moon-Truman Show roles and it was the right way to go. The ending of this movie was a bit more immediately gratifying than the one-time tech-company employees and I haven't decided yet if that helps this film or not.

Firewall (3)
-- Harrison Ford isn't too old to be playing "Indiana Jones" in 2008, but he was 64 around the time this movie was released. Sure, he's old enough to be playing an internet-security chief for a bank, but watching him kick bad-guy butt for the umpteenth time is getting to be a bit awkward. Paul Bettany (Master and Commander) seemed to be cast as the hostage-taker only because he's weird looking and has a British accent. However, for someone so intent on taking risks to get Ford to send $20 million to his bank account, he sure seemed conflicted when it came time to decide whether or not to kill one of Harrison's family members. This movie also loses style points for being set in Seattle, even though it's obvious to anyone who lives in this area that Vancouver, BC, was used for the actual filming.

V for Vendetta (4)
-- The Wachowski brothers (The Matrix trilogy) strike gold again with this film adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel. Hugo Weaving (again, from The Matrix trilogy) is "V", a man who uses terrorist acts -- and the legendary story of Guy Fawkes -- in an attempt to bring down a fascist British government. Natalie Portman (Mars Attacks and the last three Star Wars movies) plays a young woman who faces a tough decision: help V with the bombings or watch as her country's government goes after freedom of the press, freedom of speech and homosexuality, etc.

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (3.5)
-- In the first movie, Scrat was a character in a short film at the beginning. This time around, the writers have him (she? it?) running around trying to get a nut in short hysterical segments between scenes from the feature presentation. I'm guessing it was to try to take the edge of this darker, more intense sequel. Our intrepid group of extinct animals is still trying to catch the herd and outrun a thawing climate, but this time they've found a female mammoth that believes she's a possum because that's the only animal she's ever seen. Oddly enough, the moral here is the same as it was in V for Vendetta: be true to yourself and the rest will follow.

Mission: Impossible III (3)
-- In an attempt to appear topical, I suppose, action films like this one have changed the villain from the "evil government" to the "power-hungry crazy guy". I'm too young to recall much of the original "Mission: Impossible" TV series, but did every show involve the viewer thinking someone was dead only to have a fake face pulled off, showing the dead person was actually one of the bad guys? If there's a fourth installment, will it have a "Scooby-Doo" ending? Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) deserves better.

Inside Man (3.5)
-- It's been a while since I've seen a Spike Lee movie. I should go back and watch a few of those I've missed. Denzel Washington plays a detective whose first command is a bank robbery that isn't like other bank robberies. Jodie Foster has virtually nothing to do in this one, but Clive Owen has a good time playing the leader of the safe-cracking team that's one step ahead of the cops.

X-Men 3: X-Men United (4)
-- I've heard a rumor that there will be more movies after this one, featuring Hugh Jackman's Wolverine character. I expect, therefore, they won't be as good as this one because some balance will be lost. In this latest film, something has gone seriously wrong with Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and it looks like no one will be able to stop her. I know enough about the X-Men comic-books storyline to know that none of the major characters are killed along the way, but the movie's scriptwriters appear to have other ideas.

Cars (4)
-- Pixar works its computer-movie magic yet again, telling a new story with an age-old moral: No one becomes successful without help from someone else. Owen Wilson, Paul Newman and Larry the Cable Guy are the main voices in this one and while the kids will love the shiny colors (and Pixar always does a great job with the colors), I'm not sure they'll get the moral of the story. Stay past the end of the movie for an interesting take on other Pixar films.

Superman Returns (4)
-- While the title sounds like the story starts from the very beginning like Batman Begins, this new Superman film's present day is about five years after Superman III. It's probably just as well we all act like Superman IV: The Quest For Peace never happened. Brandon Routh and Kevin Spacey were fantastic as the latest versions of the hero and arch-villain, respectively. The toughest part of the movie to watch was the brief tribute to Christopher and Dana Reeve. I'm not sure there will be any more of these efforts with this current cast, but at least we know a good Superman movie is possible again.

Pirates Of The Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest (3.5)
-- Johnny Depp returns as Captain Jack Sparrow leading Orlando Bloom (the Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Keira Knightley (some recent Jane Austen movie adaptation I didn't see) into the briny depths while being chased by Davy Jones (no, not the guy from the Monkees) and some huge smelly thing called a "Krakon". Of course, the ending has an opening for a third movie, but one gets the feeling that the life of someone like Jack Sparrow never really has a proper finish.

The DaVinci Code (3.5)
-- I haven't read the book version yet, but after watching the film, I feel like I've just seen a religious version of National Treasure. Tom Hanks plays Robert Langdon, a man who never seems to be sure if he wants to find what he's looking for or not. I'm not a religious enough person to really care one way or the another if there's still a surviving blood relative of Jesus Christ, but the possibility of a secret cabal going around killing people in order to protect the secret identity (or existence, for that matter) of a descendant of the son of the Christian god seems appropriately hypocritical.

Little Miss Sunshine (4)
-- To describe this low-budget movie as a combination of Vacation, Parenthood, and About Schmidt still doesn't quite do this movie justice, but any particular thing I say about any scene gives something away and warrants further explanation. Steve Carell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), Greg Kinnear, and Alan Arkin lead a perfect cast of characters from New Mexico to California so the youngest person in the film can try to win a beauty pageant. However, after everything that happens to every member of the group, the scariest scene just might be the (thankfully) brief scenes of the pageant itself. Sometimes, life is an old VW bus with a broken clutch and a busted horn that needs a running start.

Talladega Nights: Ballad of Ricky Bobby (3)
-- Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Elf) plays yet another self-important character and, again, has a lot of fun with it. This movie might even have been a better race-car-driver spoof than Driven. Gary Cole, Sasha Baron Cohen, and John C. Reilly are just along for the ride as Ferrell shifts, screams and blusters about how second place may as well be last. I might have laughed even more if I actually followed NASCAR.

Open Season (3)
-- Mischievous deer Elliott (voiced by Ashton Kutcher) gets loyal, talented bear Boog (Martin Lawrence) in trouble and the two of them end up in the deep woods -- where the tables have been turned. Boog has known nothing but cushy captivity and Elliott wanted what Boog had back in town because he's tired of going hungry. I suppose there's a moral there somewhere (but "the grass is always greener" only works if everyone's unhappy with their situation and that's not true here) and the merciless acorn-throwing squirrels were entertaining, but (after seeing Madagascar and the two movies listed below this one) I'm in no hurry to see yet another animated movie involving wild animals.

Flushed Away
-- Aardman Animation (Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit TV series) scores another hit with this tale of a city rat finding out how the lower (both literally and economically) rat class lives. They throw in a lot of pop-culture references (but, thankfully, not as many as a typical DreamWorks movie) and somehow, there's a love story in there, but I never really figured out if there was an overall moral to this story. My wife and I probably enjoyed this a bit more because of our recent trip to the UK.

Happy Feet (3.5)
-- An all-star voice-cast (Robin Williams, Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, etc.) boosts this strange animated tale of a penguin ostracized from his group because he can't sing. Somehow, he can dance like Fred Astaire and, somehow, this helps his fellow penguins escape (for a brief time, anyway) the adverse effects of global warming. I suppose, in that way, this aspect makes the movie an updated version of Horton Hears A Who.

Casino Royale (4)
-- Daniel Craig takes over as James Bond in this new version of an old Ian Fleming story. I must admit that I've never seen the original 1967 film, but now I guess I have to. There is no "here are the gadgets you'll be showing off" scene and the bad guys seem rather low-tech this time around (no media mogul or lunatic bent on selling nuclear technology to the highest bidder), but the action is almost non-stop and the casino card game of choice has become Texas Hold Em. So if there are going to be more movies with Craig as 007 (which would mean the days of Bond being built like an average guy are apparently over), are we going to see remakes of the other movies or more new stories (the car is older, but everyone else is using current computers) in the style of Fleming?

A Night At The Museum (3)
-- This movie might be the best overall effort I've ever seen from Ben Stiller (though I haven't seen everything he's done and he does seem to be playing himself again), but Robin Williams and Ricky Gervais seemed like casting afterthoughts in this one -- and they're nowhere near as old as Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney (playing two museum employees who appear to be up to no good) so Robin and Ricky should've had a lot more to do. The film also felt more than a bit like Jumanji.

Charlotte's Web (4)
-- It's been a while since I'd read the book, so I forgot all about what happened to Charlotte at the end. Great voice work by Julia Roberts. This movie might have had more of an impact, though, if those two Babe movies hadn't already come out. The talking pig thing has kinda been done a few times now.