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."