Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Favorites of the 2000's: 2006

The Departed: Scorsese won his first (long-overdue) Oscar with this flick, and his movie deserves every accolade it received. Inspired casting, an awesome script, and great direction kick this movie into a realm some films can only dream of reaching. The twisty storyline left everyone wondering how it would play out, and the shocking ending was the only satisfying way this story could have ended. Easily rewatchable.

The Prestige: Like The Sixth Sense before it, I wanted to see The Prestige again immediately after walking out of the theater. I keep mentioning casting, but I can't oversell its importance in a film, and they really knocked it out of the park here. The pairing of Jackman and Bale with supporting turns from Scarlett Johansson and Michael Caine made for an incredibly entertaining battle that wouldn't have been nearly effective with lesser actors. The script was fantastic, and although the story delves slightly into the supernatural, it still feels plausible within the world Christopher Nolan and his team created. This is hands down one of my favorite movies of the decade.

The Fountain: This one doesn't get enough love, and I'm doing my part to change that. Another intense performance from Jackman, solid work from Rachel Weisz, and brilliant direction from Darren Aronofsky add to the emotional core of this movie, one which connected with me on a personal level. It's very ethereal, and definitely not for some, but for those who stick it out and don't mind considering some heavy concepts like death and the afterlife, The Fountain is sure to pay off.

The Protector: Tony Jaa's follow-up to Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior, The Protector is a Thai action film that sees Jaa evoking the days of early Jackie Chan, and then smashing those memories with an elbow drop. The story is simplistic (Jaa's pet elephant is stolen, he must get him back), but the action is so heavy that it's hard to pick out a favorite scene. Whether it's the four minute continuous long shot up a massive staircase or the scene where Jaa's character takes on fifty guys singlehandedly, The Protector offers loads of badassery and is a must-see for any action junkie.

Crank: Nevaldine and Taylor made their mark with this high octane thriller. Injected with a lethal poison, Jason Statham's Chev Chelios must keep his heart pumping long enough to enact revenge on the men who poisoned him. Spoiler alert: he does, and it's ridiculously entertaining. It's a shame the sequel didn't capture the same amount of fun that this one did.

V For Vendetta: Something about this movie really stuck with me, and I'm not entirely sure what it is. Perhaps the whole picture - Natalie Portman's strong performance, Hugo Weaving as the charming and mysterious V, the political allegory in a movie based on a comic book - made an impact, but I really dug this movie and harbor no apologies for liking it.

Lucky Number Slevin: The trailer for this movie undersells the hell out of it, and I came out of the theater pleasantly surprised. The dialogue is incredible, sharp and witty, and this film completed the unlikely task of turning me into a Josh Hartnett fan. Even Lucy Liu, whom I normally despise, was shockingly watchable here. The script is fantastic and the one-liners fly left and right in this story of betrayal, assassination, and a man in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Casino Royale: The reinvention of the Bond franchise caught me off guard, especially Daniel Craig as Bond. I was a vocal detractor of his, but this movie caused me to place my foot squarely in my mouth. Much of the credit for the success of this movie must go to Martin Campbell, who also gave the dying franchise a shot of adrenaline with Goldeneye back in 1995. If only they'd bring him back for the sequel to the dismal Quantum of Solace...

Mission: Impossible III: J.J. Abrams' directorial debut was a spectacular action movie with some amazing set pieces. Philip Seymour Hoffman's nefarious villain was not physically threatening, but the madness behind his eyes made him the biggest threat Ethan Hunt has yet to face. Cruise, whom one might assume would be getting a little old for the role at this point, carried the character without a hint of aging, and I'm definitely interested in seeing another Mission: Impossible movie in the next few years if it's anything like this one. And that bridge sequence? Excellent.

Likely to see on everyone else's "Best Of" lists: The Science of Sleep, Thank You For Smoking, Letters From Iwo Jima, Pan's Labyrinth, Children of Men, The Good Shepherd, Curse of the Golden Flower