Recently I have seen Children of Men, which I found to be fairly overrated. Good action sequences, admittedly, and decent enough performances, but overall this is not a particularly convincing or especially suspenseful film, and not in the least bit moving. Of course it made critics' ten best lists for 2006, along with all the other mediocre or plain lousy movies that these moron critics rate nowadays. But for a sci-fi classic, it's a poor show. Even Clive Owen and Michael Caine as a hippy can't save it from pedestrianism.
The one deserved "film of the year" contender was Pan's Labyrinth, an astonishingly well-crafted blend of adult realism and children's fantasy, beautifully shot and acted, both moving and quite disturbing, even shocking at times. After Stranger Than Fiction (more on which later) this was probably the film of the year, though I don't know who really keeps score besides morons. Certainly the best fantasy film since Mirrormask, and every bit as original.
The Prestige I was pleasantly surprised by, having read almost unanimously luke warm reviews. Admittedly it's a little slick and soulless, and not really that convincing, but it's entertaining stuff, and a partial return to form (or rather, substance) for director Chris Nolan after the disappointing Batman Begins. Of course, critics hailed that slop as a masterpiece, so Nolan won't have a clue, will he?
I also saw Nolan's first film, Following, which is unbelievably bad, tho not entirely uninteresting. Terrible acting renders an otherwise intriguing storyline ridiculous in the extreme. No indication of a major talent on the rise, so don't waste your time with this one.
The Illusionist is similar to The Prestige but much classier all round, terrific performances from Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell (whom by the way I ran into once in the west end, friendly guy) and some very nice direction by Neil Burger. This is also based on a novel and concerns a stage magician's battle with royalty. Unlike The Prestige, which never really rises above the level of a good yarn, this has some impressive visuals and a pleasingly restrained air about it, as well as a hugely entertaining (tho slightly implausible) finale.
A Scanner Darkly was a pleasant surprise; having seen the first twenty minutes last year I thought it looked fairly shoddy, but it is actually a partially successful exploration of true Dickian terrain, with some terrific little scenes between Reeves, Harrelson and Downey Jr. (as well as a pleasing return to the screen from Winona Ryder), and a few moments of genuine poignancy. Overall probably the best Dick adaptation since Blade Runner.
Hard Candy is pretty lame, nothing much of interest here, give it a miss.
Last and definitely least, I saw Little Miss Sunsine and boy, what a stinker it is. I am completely baffled and bewildered why so many people (never mind critics, we already know they are a bunch of morons) loved this shabby, sleazy little movie so much. It has absolutely nothing to recommend it except Pete Carrell and a few forced chuckles from Alan Arkin as ornery grand-dad. The whole thing is actually kind of queasy, probably the most overrated and misguided indie comedy since the truly revolting Garden State. This is the film of the year? I tell you, you people are insane!