Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 2006!

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Welcome back. No doubt there will be some turkeys this year, and probably a few bad movies. Lets see what I picked.

Nanny McPhee

This was one of those films which rubbed me wrong (and not in a good way) from the beginning. The title, the cast, the trailer, it was something I convinced myself I would never like, and hopefully never see. These sorts of British comedies fill me with bile and it reminded me, obviously, of Mary Poppins, which I can’t stand. But wouldn’t you know, once the kids come along you inevitably get pulled into watching stuff like this, especially when my wife keeps telling me the kids can’t watch Robocop. In all fairness it wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating and it’s perfectly fine for kids. There wasn’t as much singing and polite ‘humour’ as I had feared would be there, but it’s not as inventive or interesting as it thinks it is. So this makes the list purely for being one of those movies I will never like, but kids might enjoy it. Not as much as they would enjoy Robocop.

Ultraviolet

On paper it seemed like a no-brainer; Milla Johovich, vampires, tight clothes, guns – it was basically Underworld. Unfortunately it doesn’t make a lick of sense and it lacks a single cell of the style of Kate Beckinsale’s vamp slaying series. When it comes to crap like this, I’m not hard to please – hot woman killing monsters – go! Not everything can be elevated to Buffy levels but it’s not difficult to knock out a better than average brainless action flick. It has been highly publicized that director Kurt Wimmer and Johovich were blocked out of several aspects of the movie which goes some way to explaining what a complete mess this is. Wimmer went from the pretty great Equilibrium to this – and hasn’t directed a movie since.

V For Vendetta

What a load of egotistical tosh. A film with so many words but absolutely nothing to say, preaching in the echo chamber of basement dwelling fanboys and faux anarchists whose idea of rebellion is celebrating when the train conductor forgets to check them for a ticket and they get away scot-free. A film which unleashed a bunch of teenage freedom fighters so brave they fight behind a mask and a screen. It’s a film with a message so bland that any extremist from any angle can hold it as sacred. It’s the politics of entitled suburbia, or in truth it’s politics for profit – just like every politician you claim to despise. If these people were in charge of a Revolution, I’d want to be on the other side. Plus it’s almost as incoherent and drab as Ultraviolet. Almost. Do a faithful retelling of Moore’s work, then we might have something worthwhile. Sadly it’s one I was hyped for – it looked great from early pics, it features Natalie Portman, it…. had cool masks. Pull the mask off and you have little more than misguided nihilism and a generic story about a fight against a totalitarian state. It’s a film I wanted to love, but it just made it so damn hard, like a dog who keeps shitting in your shoes. While wearing a mask which clearly makes it look like an idiot.

X-Men The Last Stand

Bryan Singer made two of the best comic book movies ever in his first two X-Men flicks. He stepped down for part three, and it all fell apart. Brett Ratner, whose career remains a mystery to anyone who has ever seen a film or been near another human, took over, slapped a helmet on Vinnie Jones and let him headbutt doors. You take the well established characters and their relationships, piss all over them, kill most of them off, and ignore the series’ own mythology. And lo, what was left was the worst comic book movie since Superman IV: Nuclear Dude. 

Superman Returns

Singer dropped from X-Men for Superman. Back then, when I cared more about such things, I was hyped. Then I watched it and eehhhhhhhh. I guess Routh looks good in a cape. Eva Marie Saint’s in it. Kevin Spacey is Kevin Spacey, pretending to be Lex Luthor – and Luthor has never looked so tame. Does anyone remember what happened in the film? Something about Lois being pissed off that Superman flew away? Then stuff blows up? It never made me care and I have no interest in revisiting.

Dead Man’s Chest

Black Pearl was one of the most fun adventures for years – unique and with a great cast, pace, and plenty of thrilling action. Dead Man’s Chest, like all of the sequels, should really be called Pirates Of The Caribbean: Which One’s This Again? Guys, it’s a movie based off a rollercoaster – the original had a simple plot. By the time this rolled around it ballooned into one of the most needlessly convoluted plots you’ve ever had the displeasure of not giving a fuck about, the amount of retcons is ridiculous, and the cast clearly don’t want to be there. It looks good though. Like boobs.

Little Miss Sunshine

I picked this up as part of some buy 5 DVDs for x quid in an Xtravision closing sale shortly after this was released because my wife ‘had heard it was good’. Now, movie fan that I am, I knew it had been an Indie critical darling and had one or two names in the cast I enjoyed. Maybe it was the hype, maybe it was all the awards and praise it had received, but when I watched this – with a completely straight face growing more dour with every passing minute – I wondered how much the filmmakers had paid The Academy to get all those glowing reviews. I don’t get why this is a comedy. Comedies, even when they’re bad, have jokes, wit, something. This has a bunch of twats in a van and then one of them dances and it’s over. My wife, who would be more inclined towards this sort of thing shifted in her seat uncomfortably when it ended, looked at me, and said ‘sorry’. Making me watch this, she knew, was the equivalent of cheating, and she felt just as guilty as if I’d caught her in bed with the postman.

The Black Dahlia

American Crime novels getting a glossy, gritty big screen adaptation generally leads to great results. The Black Dahlia is a personal favourite novel and Brian De Palma seemed like a strong choice for helming the violent, twisting tale. I don’t know where this went wrong – the lead characters of Bucky and Lee don’t feel right, and the narrative – already fairly complex – shoots off in meaningless directions without ever being tied up. Turns out the film had around an hour cut from it, hence the puddle of chaos we’re left with. It looks the part, at times, but what should have been a worthy successor to LA Confidential feels more like a bad Chinese translation of an episode of Police Squad – without the laughs.

Babel

I loved Amores Perros when it was released. I kind of liked 21 Grams. I was bemused by Babel moreso by the praise it garnered than how plain the film was. It’s certainly well-edited and directed and Brad Pitt is better than he’d ever been (he’s best when he’s not trying to play an outlandish character), but Jeebus you’d think there’d never been a film before following different characters and narratives which, shock, are actually tied together. The Morocco piece is the only section worth watching, everything else feels incredibly tacked on – we know early on that that’s the narrative and all the rest is dressing. It’s a shame then that the characters of Richard and Susan, are kind of dicks. The supporting actress Oscar nods here are complete mysteries, but at least Inarritu got back on track shortly after this.

Dreamgirls

My almost yearly musical pick, Dreamgirls features a fantastic Eddie Murphy acting rings round a bunch of nobodies. If there was ever a mainstream, big budget musical I was going to enjoy, it was going to be this, given that it focuses on actual decent music – not something musicals ever do. Sadly, it stains the Motown style with modern day hacks and their sensibilities, completely stomping all over everything which made Motown worthwhile. With less emotion and complexity than my left bollock, it’s yet another self-serving story which confuses character with costume, performance with camp, and soul with glitter.

Another year in the sack, and another list of films which I know some hold dear. For me though, they represent both the worst, the most disappointing, or the most undeserving of praise when there were many more movies which you should be talking about. Let us know your picks in the comments!

Nightman’s Updated Top Ten Films Of 2006!

I’m doing something a little different here – I’m adding another film because I somehow missed it in my original list and given that it’s one of my favourite films of the decade, it should have been there. Silly me. I’m not changing the order – I’m just adding it as Number 11, even though it would probably have been at 3, 4, or 5 if I’d remembered to put it in first time round.

11. Black Book

We begin with the one I’d missed first time around – even though I saw and loved it at release. Sometimes when making these lists it’s easy to forget. Nevertheless, Black Book is Verhoeven’s Magnum Opus. It’s not my favourite from him – given that he’s made Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers etc, but it’s not far off. It’s his return to more legitimate film – not sci-fi – and a return to WWII. It’s just as powerful and violent as the stuff he’s widely known for and in Carice Van Houten he has a powerfhouse lead performance. This deserves to be mentioned alongside Schindler’s List as one of the all time great WWII movies.

10: Paprika (Japan) Satoshi Kon

There’s a case for Satoshi Kon being the greatest animated feature director of all time. He never had the chance to make a bad movie. Well, he had plenty of chances, but each movie he released before his untimely death is unique and brilliant, filled with ideas which others have shamelessly riffed on, and visuals forever etched in your memory. Paprika was his final film, following Tokyo Godfathers (classic), Millennium Actress (excellent), and Perfect Blue (an all time great). Put quite simply – there would be no Inception without Paprika, just like there would be no Black Swan without Perfect Blue. Yet nobody knows these films, in the West at least. It is startling and inventive from top to bottom, yet the story can feel labyrinthine. A crowning achievement by one of the greatest filmmakers the world needs to learn from.

9: The Host (SK) Joon-ho Bong

I’ve always loved monster movies – one of my earliest movie memories is of a Godzilla movie – no idea which one, and something about the mix of special effects and the ability of a film to make me sympathize with a creature I should be terrified by turned me into a big fan of creature features. I’d been watching plenty of South Korean movies since the late 90s, but I believe The Host was the first monster movie I’d seen from the country. Like many Western movies it blends humour with the action and horror, but where is stands out is in the emotion, the dedication to character, and in the numerous gut punches which Hollywood movies typically shy away from. The effects are a little dodgy in places, but putting that aside it’s one of the best movies of its kind.

8: Death Note (Japan) Shusuke Kaneko

I’m not a huge Manga or Anime person, so any time a live action movie comes out based on one or the other, it doesn’t mean a lot to me. I watch the films on their own merits, and I typically only watch those with a premise which sounds interesting or from a director I enjoy, or if it features some actor I like. When I saw this starred Tetsuya Fujiwara of Battle Royale fame my interest was piqued. Then I read the synopsis – a student finds a book with the power to kill anyone whose name is written in its pages, and decides to use that power to make the world a better place. The book thing sounded a little YA and silly, but that moral core – killing anonymously to make the world ‘better’ sounded ripe for goodness. What I didn’t count on was a giant fuck-off animated apple eating angel/demon thing lurking in the background. Yeah… it’s a strange hybrid film.

The film, and the series steps away from its premise to become a game of wits between the holder of the book and a brilliant and eccentric (and teenage?) detective called L. It twists like a bizarre noir thriller as private and personal and public struggles collide and intertwine and Light – the holder of the Death Note – seeks to consolidate his power without losing touch. It was more enjoyable than I was expecting, and the rest of the series is pretty good too.

7: Idiocracy (US) Mike Judge

What is it about MIke Judge? His stuff is always entertaining – Beavis And Butthead was one of my favourite shows growing up, King Of The Hill remains sorely underrated, Office Space is the definite workplace movie, and Idiocracy – clever at release – seems increasingly prescient with each passing month. It stars Luke (I’m not Owen) Wilson as a military librarian (is that a thing?) who is selected for a brief suspended animation experiment alongside a prostitute. As always happens with these things, they are forgotten and left there for 500 years, waking in a future where materialism and advertising are the only things which matter, and society has been dumbed down to such extremes that they try to water plants with Gatorade. The satire is on point, but the humour wide enough that everyone can get a laugh out of it, and the visuals are surprisingly unique. With endearing performances and plenty of laughs, it’s one of the best comedies of the decade.

6: Children Of Men (US/UK) Alfonso Cuaron/Pan’s Labyrinth Guillermo Del Toro.

First time around I somehow missed Pan’s Labyrinth – unacceptable. I’ve slapped it in alongside Children Of Men for no reason. It probably remains Del Toro’s finest work, detailing his love of fantasy and horror to heart-rending extremes, placing the story in a very real time and place against a frightening backdrop. It features some of the best creatures in modern cinema and some of the most knuckle-gobbling set-pieces which never fail to set your heart on edge. As well as being brilliantly acted by the young heroine Ivana Baquero and her wicked step-father Sergi Lopez. One of the easiest ways to get people into non-American Cinema is to stick this on.

Children Of Men brings an oft-ignored authenticity to dystopian fiction – it looks just like our world today, shunted a couple of steps to the right. With the wrong steps taken today, you can imagine ourselves in a world just like it in the future. Clive Owen is never better, and the action has a gritty realism to it – anyone who has witnessed or been part of a riot, a car crash, a skirmish, or outright war will have familiarity with the pulsating set-pieces here. Such incidents are not clean, they are not lived through step by step – they happen around you, absurdly, leaping at you unexpectedly, and the best you can do is keep your head down, react instinctively, and run. It’s another Cuaron masterwork.

5: The Hills Have Eyes (US) Alexandre Aja

Who would have thought it – a remake of a filthy Wes Craven classic by some French guy – would not only be better than the original, but one of the best horror movies of the era? There are some caveats – The Hills Have Eyes original isn’t that well thought of and in truth it’s not a particularly special movie. And this isn’t just some French guy, but the director behind the glorious High Tension from a couple of years earlier. His vision for The Hills Have Eyes doesn’t stray very far from the original at all – it’s still the time honoured story of a family outing gone wrong, of the wrong road taken, and of the lengths suburban white folks will go to for survival, for revenge. It’s wonderfully brutal, excessively so, with a a streak of black (blood red?) humour throughout. Crucially, it has the bigger budget and a more accomplished cast behind it. It’s more fun than people remember and is something easy for a weirdo like me to stick on and chill out to.

4: The Departed (US) Martin Scorsese

When I first heard this was announced I thought ‘cool, Scorsese is doing a trilogy’. Then I heard it was actually taking elements from the three Infernal Affairs movies and squeezing them into one movie, and I was apprehensive. America’s recent attempts at remaking Asian classics, usually in the horror genre, had not gone well but if anyone had a good shot and doing it well then it was Martin Scorsese. Turns out I had no grounds for concern because it’s at least on par, if not much better than the originals. Something about having the familiar cast of faces and having it on more familiar cultural territory lends a different vibe and I find that I watch this one more than I go back to the originals. With a stellar cast including Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Di Caprio, Farmiga, Sheen, Winstone, it’s the crime movie fans had been waiting for since Goodfellas.

3: Apocalypto (US/Mexico) Mel Gibson

How is this film still so little known? I don’t get it. People clearly must be put off by the language, by the setting but Apocalypto is easily more thrilling and action packed than any number of Marvel movies and is equal to the achievements of Braveheart and The Passion Of The Christ. I much prefer this to those two movies – it shaves things down to the bare essentials; a tribesman is captured by a powerful cult and taken to their city to be sacrificed, leaving behind his heavily pregnant wife and child in a pit steadily filling with water. Not only does he have to escape and overcome insurmountable numbers, but he has to return home to rescue his family before they drown. It’s a pedal to the metal chase movie, a mixture of First Blood and Mad Max, which just happens to be set hundreds of years ago in the South American jungles. It’s wonderful, and you owe yourself a watch.

2: Borat (US/UK) Larry Charles

I believe Borat made my Decade movie list, so I’m not going to talk much more about it here. It’s lung-collapsingly funny, that should be enough

1: Casino Royale (US/UK/Czech/Germany) Martin Campbell

Same as number 2, this made my decade list, so go read that for more info. I love Bond, and this is one of the best.

Let us know your favourites in the comments!

Nightman’s Top Ten Films Of 2006

Greetings, Glancers! We continue my new series of posts which will detail my favourite films of every year since 1950. Why 1950? Why 10? Why anything? Check out my original post here. As with most of these lists the numbering doesn’t really matter much, though in most cases the Number 1 will be my clear favourite. As I know there are plenty of Stats Nerds out there, I’ll add in some bonus crap at the bottom but the main purpose of these posts is to keep things short. So!

This is where it starts getting difficult… from here to 2010 I still saw plenty of movies but fewer and fewer truly grabbed me or made much of an impact, and then from 2010 onwards I watched less of the current releases. Those lists won’t be great as there are probably a tonne of great movies out there that I simply haven’t seen yet, while the next few lists don’t have many movies I outright love. I think these ten in 2006 are very solid though, and quite a few I do hold dear.

10: Paprika (Japan) Satoshi Kon

9: The Host (SK) Joon-ho Bong

8: Death Note (Japan) Shusuke Kaneko

7: Idiocracy (US) Mike Judge

6: Children Of Men (US/UK) Alfonso Cuaron/Pan’s Labyrinth Guillermo Del Toro.

5: The Hills Have Eyes (US) Alexandre Aja

4: The Departed (US) Martin Scorsese

3: Apocalypto (US/Mexico) Mel Gibson

2: Borat (US/UK) Larry Charles

1: Casino Royale (US/UK/Czech/Germany) Martin Campbell

How Many Of My Films Were In The Top 10 Grossing Of The Year: One

How Many Of My Films Were Nominated For the Best Picture Oscar: One (The Winner)

Note: It has come to my attention that I somehow missed Pan’s Labyrinth from this year, which is of course one of my favourites, so I’m adding it back on to the list.