Projections - Movie Reviews

Top Films of 2006

Frank Jim
1. Dreamgirls 1. United 93
With stunning performances particularly by Jennifer Hudson, we see the 60's Dreamgirls rise to prominence both in personal strength and prominence, through sparkling direction from Bill Condon. Dreamgirls fills the screen with the best film experience of the year. Unmissable and unforgettable, Paul Greengrass's unsettling drama makes 9/11 resonate in a you-are-there way on the ground and mainly in the air through the shocking and finally uplifting intersection of recreation and supposition.
2. The Queen 2. The Departed
Helen Mirren brings us the best performance of the year as she assumes royalty in the role of the Queen. She brings insight and drama along with affection for the decisions Queen Elizabeth made with the urging of the Prime Minister during the time after Princess Diana's death. Martin Scorsese reinvents a laudable Hong Kong saga with class and fervor for Boston, religion, and the duplicity within the Massachusetts State Police, as his first-class ensemble is lead by Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson, as two moles out to ferret out the other, and a powerful Irish kingpin.
3. United 93 3. Pan's Labyrinth
Paul Greengrass brings us what is probably the best directed film of the year, which allows us to travel along with the heroic passengers on the ill fated United 93 flight on nine-eleven. The use of actual bureaucrats adds effectively to the drama and reality of the presentation. A spellbinding child-like fable that appeals to adults that elegantly marries fantasy and the grim reality of fascism under the direction of Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) with affecting work by the young, exploratory Ofelia and Sergi Lopez as her cruel stepfather.
4. Babel 4. The Queen
A truly international film that reaches from Morocco to Mexico and finally to Japan. It allows us to explore a gun tragedy with roots on the other-side of the World and the fallout for children and their care-taker in California and south of the border. It is one of the most powerful films of the year. Helen Mirren gives a master class in acting in Stephen Frears' docu-dramedy that covers the aftermath of the sudden death of Princess Diana when Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) came into power and would understand how "uneasy lies the head that wears the crown."
5. Stranger Than Fiction 5. Volver
With the best scrip of the year we follow a man who hears his future from a voice in the air coming from an author who apparently is writing his life story. Nicely crafted and filled with creative hints about the future, this wonderful script is presented in a delightful manner that is thoroughly enjoyable to watch. Pedro Almodovar's latest absorbing surreal showcase in cinema is a telling tribute to women and that those we truly love don't leave us as Penelope Cruz effortly lets us into Raimunda's need to love and be loved.
6. The Departed 6. Babel
Director Martin Scorsese scores in a Boston bloody battle field between cops, troopers, the FBI and the underworld. With some reminders of a true life Boston story and skilled performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson the script is frightening and even periodically comical. It holds our attention and interest even when the slaughter is way over the top. Striking filmmaking from the director of Amores Perros and 21 Grams consistently grips with a human longing and isolation as a rifle shot affects characters played by the likes of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett who try to understand others and themselves in out-of-order storytelling.
7. The Illusionist 7. Dreamgirls
The illusions on stage and in the lives of the players who connect overtime in an enticing tale of magic in Vienna. Paul Giamatti, Edward Norton and Jessica Biel travel a path from childhood to a point in which Rufus Sewell must be confronted to free Biel from his control. The illusions by Norton's character fill the stage - they also become a part of life off the stage leading to a creative conclusion and ending. Bill Condon writes and directs with passion for Michael Bennett's 1981 Broadway smash about the ups and down of a girl group during the 60's and 70's with Jennifer Hudson as the sassy, revelatory Effie summoning Jennifer Holiday's spirit and getting revenge on not winning "American Idol."
8. Flags of our Fathers 8. Little Miss Sunshine
The outside story of heroes at Iwo Jima who raised the flag, reaches from the island back to the United States. The praise and confect which follows their lives during the battle and later at home is heartwarming and disappointing. It speaks to the lives of the greatest generation how they were used to promote and fund the war and how they were forgotten when the light of publicity went out. Clint Eastwood's direction again debunks the flashy John Wayne screen view of war and its consequences. An endearing fractured family, the Hoovers, are on a road trip to Redondo Beach, Calif to fulfill the fondest dream of the ordinary 7-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin) in this adult comedy featuring an ensemble led by Toni Collette, Greg Kinnear, and Steve Carell.
9. Cars 9. The Last King of Scotland
Absolutely delightful animated feature with cars and a script that inspires kids and adults who long for an opportunity to see one more 1951 Hudson Hornet. The story of helping others plays well in the atmosphere of auto racing an exciting sport particularly when the cars have personalities. This is the best animated feature of the year. A strange, yet absorbing relationship comes between a naive, ambitious doctor (James MacAvoy) and a rising leader in Idi Amin, played with vicious magnetism by Forest Whitaker in 1970 Uganda.
10. Little Miss Sunshine 10. A Prairie Home Companion
The story of a fractured family, who we grow to love as they travel to Redondo Beach to fulfill the dream of their daughter to become Little Miss Sunshine. Great performances by Abigail Breslin as the little girl, Alan Arkin as the dirty-old-man grandfather, along with Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette as the parents. The messy family in a film in which nothing goes right is the best comedy of the year. Robert Altman's last film relates his extraordinary talent for making chaos flow from a spirited ensemble including Meryl Streep and Lindsay Lohan depicting a fictional last night at St. Paul's Fitzgerald Theatre of Garrison Keillor's eponymous radio show.

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