1. The Departed:
Martin Scorsese’s gritty Boston crime movie holds the number one spot. Not only does it beguile viewers with remarkable performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson, but the film also contains a surprising ending which should leave just about any viewer speechless. A violent movie, yes, but The Departed is equally smart, intense, and shocking.
Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett deserve a great deal of praise for their work in Babel, a political drama that deals with five subplots that all come together to explain one tragic event. Leave it to director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams) to direct such a multifaceted story with care and powerhouse performances.
3. Rocky Balboa:
Richard Roeper had all the right to stand up for the Italian Stallion when he asked readers to not knock down Rocky’s comeback in his analysis of the film. Rocky Balboa is the sixth film to appear in the Rocky franchise and just as we began to suspect that Stallone had no story to tell, he proved us wrong. Turning in a charming performance and penning a clever script/story, Stallone stood tall to show the world how talented he still is at the age of sixty. This is a movie with a big heart, a personal project that was carried out with finesse, and one of the best closing chapters to a lovable legacy.
4. The Pursuit of Happyness:
Happiness is purposely misspelled and anyone who sees the film will understand why. Will Smith portrays a character who hits rock bottom, is abandoned by his wife, and is then forced to take care of his son. His journey is poignant and we can’t help but root for the main character as we embark with him on his painful journey. Based on a true story, this is an old-fashioned drama that aims straight for the heart and lands right on target.
5. An Inconvenient Truth:
Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes, it’s just plain scary. Other times, it’s both. This is a movie about such an inconvenient truth. Al Gore examines and explicates, through meticulous research, what global warming is and its effect on the future of humanity and Earth. Although his opening sentence is humorous (“Hi, I’m Al Gore. I used to be the next President of the United States of America.”), the film is anything but funny. An Inconvenient Truth is a documentary that is loaded with insightful information.
It grabs hold of the viewer and spreads awareness through every graph, picture, and word. This is a scary but informative documentary. Anyone who sees this film will be ten times more knowledgeable about the effects of global warming than someone who chooses to skip it.
6. The Good Shepherd:
2006 was Matt Damon’s year and it took but two special pictures to make it his year. The first was Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. The second is Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd. Suffice it to say that the film is directed by De Niro (his second directorial effort since A Bronx Tale in 1993) and it features a cameo appearance by Joe Pesci.
This is a thriller which moves at a necessarily unhurried pace.
The Good Shepherd demands attention and patience from its viewers. It is a fascinating polished thriller and it has mystery written all over it.
7. Little Children:
A film which stars Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly seems like a gift from above. Two of this generation’s most talented actresses shine under the care of one of today’s leading auteurs, Todd Field (who also wrote and directed In The Bedroom in 2001). Certainly one of the year’s best acted, written, and directed motion pictures.
8. V for Vendetta:
When was the last time a superhero sat beside his love interest and watched his favorite classic film? Or, better yet, when was the last time we saw a superhero listen to the song “Cry Me A River” by Julie London? The answer is never, but the main character in the Wachowski Brothers’ (the brothers responsible for The Matrix movies) V for Vendetta does those things. The story plays out as one big metaphor and it comments, very inconspicuously, on current political issues. Either way one views this movie, it is two hours of pure fun and entertainment.
9. Clerks 2:
This is Kevin Smith’s revenge movie. Forget the negativity which surrounded his last film (Jersey Girl). Clerks 2 brings Jay and Silent Bob fans back to the multiplex.
Those who approved of Smith’s first movie (Clerks) will surely admire this one.
Like previous Smith films, Clerks 2 is coarse, straightforward, and filled with jokes relating to his other films. Expect the unexpected with Kevin Smith. You’ve been warned. This is a funny movie with a convincing love story.
10. Over the Hedge:
A wild animation film for all ages. It was fun, more so than Cars was. It contains quirky characters (that are adorable to watch), inventive humor, and outstanding computer work. It will appeal to kids and adults who won’t mind sitting through 90 minutes that zip by in beautiful colors, cuteness and laughter.
The best animation film of 2006.
Honorable mentions: Bobby, Night Watch, Blood Diamond, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, Hollywoodland, The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, and Lady in the Water.