Here is my guide to the films of 2006. Yeah, box office receipts may be down and the threat of same day DVD releases loom, but the art of cinema still isn’t looking so bad these days. There are many films I anticipate as experiences for the big screen.
As a fan of directors, it is great that several are returning to form. David Fincher (Seven) profiles another serial killer in Zodiac, Michael Mann resurrects his own creation Miami Vice, Scorsese directs a mob tale with The Departed, Bryan Singer (X-Men) gives life to Superman, and Mel Gibson looks for a different ancient language to put on film in Apocalypto.
That is not to say that these films will be predictable or formulaic. The directors are working in the arenas they have the most experience in, which should reward the audience. On the other hand, there is nothing but originality emanating from the stylish and challenging material in V for Vendetta, The Fountain, Tristram Shandy and A Scanner Darkly. These sound like unconventional films that forge new genres and may become modern classics.
The year will also see Kenneth Branagh reunite with the Bard in As You Like it, Clint Eastwood taking on WWII’s Pacific front in Flags of Our Fathers and Damien Thorn reborn in the remake of The Omen to be released on 6/6/06, a once-in-a century opportunity. There are, of course, big sequels (X-Men 3, MI-III, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest), but seemingly less of them this year. The trend toward prequels does continue with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning and Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask.
Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story (February)
A film about a film based on a book from the 18th-century that was always thought unfilmable. Steve Coogan, a major comedy figure in Britain, stars, as does The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson as herself. Recently released, Roger Ebert gave it four stars. Like him I’ve been meaning to read the book for years.
V For Vendetta (March)
Pushed back from its November release, the futuristic vision of a totalitarian Britain and a lone avenger seeking to restore its humanity as based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel. Produced by the Matrix’s Wachowski brothers, this is the film that got Natalie Portman to shave her head. Harry Knowles from Aint it Cool News wrote, “This is the most intense cinematic cry for Anarchy since A Clockwork Orange.”
The DaVinci Code (May)
Not that Ron Howard is an auteur, but with The DaVinci Code he and star Tom Hanks are ditching next year’s Oscar parties for popcorn pastures. This film may become the top moneymaker of the year, we are all going to see it, and there will be sequels, so Hanks better hold onto that weird hair he grew for this role.
Superman Returns (June)
The most promising aspect of the super franchise rebirth is how it links to the first two Christopher Reeve films and stars an unknown instead of, say Nicholas Cage. But then what about that lame costume? And how will a squeaky clean Man of Steel fit with 2006′s jaded, complicated world? If anyone can bring Superman back to prominence, it is director Bryan Singer (X-Men).
An epic story of the Mayan civilization on the decline several hundred years before Columbus sailed to the New World. Filled with superstition, omens and an unintelligible native language, this follow-up to The Passion caused director Mel Gibson to go ZZ Top with a crazy beard.
A Scanner Darkly (July)
A story from sci-fi writer Philip K. Dick directed by Richard Linklater that blends actors with animation. Thus the delay from last year to finish all the post-production work. Starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder, this is a hallucinatory parable that looks like it will be great on acid. Check out the trailer.
Casino Royale (November)
While I am not thrilled about Daniel Craig as the new James Bond, I will be one of the first to see his Casino Royale. It brings the super spy back to his roots in a script by Paul Haggis (Crash) based on Ian Fleming’s first Bond book. My bet is it will be delayed until next year, which would work just fine with the marketing department looking to tie in 2007 with 007.
The Fountain (TBA)
Another film that should have been out by now but is probably worth the wait. Darren Aronofsky’s (Requiem for a Dream) strange tale of the search for immortality and love told over the course of 1000 years stars his pregnant girlfriend Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman.
The Black Dahlia (TBA)
When L.A. Confidential came out in 1997, I expected lots more movies based on James Ellroy novels. But the first one since is only now coming out. Directed by Brian DePalma, The Black Dahlia is about the famous 1947 L.A. murder case. DePalma is great at aping the style of better directors, notably Hitchcock or Scorsese, so with the words of Ellroy behind him, expect a noir tribute worthy of John Huston.
David Fincher returns to serial killer land with the search for the Zodiac Killer, who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s and 1970s and remains uncaught. He was like the template for every killer CSI ever saw. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo.
The Departed (TBA)
Will somebody please give Martin Scorsese an Oscar? He may have his best chance in years with the help of Jack Nicholson and Leonardo Di Caprio and a story centered on Boston’s Irish mob and the cops that look to bring them down. Also stars Matt Damon, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin.
Other films to look for:
Alpha Dog (spring), Another Gay Movie (July), Art School Confidential (April), As You Like It (fall), Babel (fall), Battle in Heaven (Feb.), Blood Diamond (Dec.), Brick (spring), Brothers of the Head (July), Charlotte’s Web (fall), Children of Men (Sept.), Flags of our Fathers (fall), Flight 93 (April), For Your Consideration (Sept.), Hollywoodland (TBA), Idlewild (March), Infamous (Oct.), Lady in the Water (July), Marie Antoinette (Oct.), My Super Ex-Girlfriend (July), Nacho Libre (June), The Omen 666 (June), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (July), School for Scoundrels (July), Snakes on a Plane (Aug.), Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (Oct.), World Trade Center (Aug.), Young Hannibal: Behind the Mask (TBA), Zoom (Aug.)