Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description
Apocalypto (2006), 139 minutes, D: Mel Gibson
Away From Her (2006, Canada/UK/US), 110 minutes, D: Sarah Polley
Babel (2006, Fr./US/Mex.), 143 minutes, D: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006), 84 minutes, D: Larry Charles
Children of Men (2006), 109 minutes, D: Alfonso Cuaron
Alfonso Cuarón's sci-fi chase action-thriller, based upon a P.D. James novel, was both a cautionary tale and a dystopic, end-of-days road movie, about a chaotic futuristic society (London in 2027) where human fertility and reproduction were no longer possible. In a small, supporting role, Julianne Moore inhabited the strong-willed, revolutionary character of Julian Taylor, the intelligent and practical leader of an activist rebel group interested in protecting immigrants and saving the human race. She was able to enlist her estranged, middle-aged husband Theo Faron (Clive Owen), a disillusioned ex-activist turned bureaucrat, for a desperate journey to transport the last known pregnant woman to safety.
The Departed (2006), 151 minutes, D: Martin Scorsese
Best Director-winning Martin Scorsese's viciously-violent, Best Picture gangster tale was based on Infernal Affairs (2002, HK), but with major revisions. The central figure was now Jack Nicholson's depraved mob boss character - only a minor figure in the original movie. The acclaimed actor showcased his oversized talent as a psychopathic gangland boss - the volatile, sadistic, and unpredictable Irish-American godfather Frank Costello (based upon notorious real-life mobster Whitey Bulger). It was one of the actor's showiest and most entertaining performances. The disheveled kingpin casually expressed nasty racial slurs in his opening monologue, and completely ruled his turf with his dominating, giant presence. In the film's cat-and-mouse game of doppelgangers, Costello's gang was being infiltrated by undercover Boston policeman Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio). At the same time, corrupt Boston detective Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), who had been raised by Costello since childhood, was working for him as a mole.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006), 109 minutes, D: David Frankel
Dreamgirls (2006), 130 minutes, D: Bill Condon
Flags of Our Fathers (2006), 132 minutes, D: Clint Eastwood
Happy Feet (2006), 108 minutes, D: George Miller
The Illusionist (2006), 109 minutes, D: Neil Burger
An Inconvenient Truth (2006), 95 minutes, D: Davis Guggenheim
The Last King of Scotland (2006, UK/Germ.), 121 minutes, D: Kevin MacDonald
Letters From Iwo Jima (2006), 141 minutes, D: Clint Eastwood
Little Children (2006), 137 minutes, D: Todd Field
Little Miss Sunshine (2006), 101 minutes, D: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
The Lives of Others (2006, Germ.) (aka Das Leben der Anderen), 137 minutes, D: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Writer/director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's socio-political dramatic thriller was his debut feature film and the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film. It provided insight into the ugly, Stasi-ridden world of the 1980s East German state. Spanning from the Orwellian year of 1984 (five years before Glasnost and the fall of the Berlin Wall) to 1991 when Germany was reunited, it depicted the final years of the city and exposed the harsh way of life under the former GDR. The film provided a gripping picture of two contrasting worlds and ways of life in the DDR with many authentic locales depicted. It was a deeply-emotional, humanizing character study of secret police surveillance agent Capt. Hauptmann Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe), a lonely and alienated member of the East German Stasi (secret police) in 1984 working for East Germany's internal spy network in a dreary tower-block. Round-the-clock, Wiesler kept watch over various artists and dissidents. His main bugging target was the apartment of suspected but successful Socialist playwright Georg Dreyman (Sebastian Koch) who was in a romantic relationship with devoted lover Christa-Maria Sieland (Martina Gedeck), an actress. Over time, Wiesler learned that Christa-Maria had been blackmailed into a sexual relationship with a corrupt German official, in exchange for prescription drugs and protection. The Stasi agent had to make difficult choices as he found himself drawn into their lives and sympathetically taking sides with them. In the revealing conclusion, Dreyman (after reading declassified surveillance transcripts years later) realized that Wiesler had concealed his illegal activities and actually protected him by removing an incriminating typewriter. In the closing scene set in 1993, former guard Wiesler walked on the Karl Marx Allee (the main shopping and parade street of the GDR) in East Berlin where he noticed Dreyman's memoirs on display and for sale in a bookstore window.
Once (2006, Ireland), 85 minutes, D: John Carney
Writer/director John Carney's low-budget, wistful romantic musical with a minimalist plot seamlessly integrated its many songs into an unforced musical story. It told about a boy-meets-girl couple in Dublin, Ireland, simply named Guy (musician Glen Hansard) and Girl (Czech singer Markéta Irglová). He was an unidentified street performer (with a violin) and she was a 19 year-old Czech immigrant and single mother who peddled roses. The two kindred spirits were immediately drawn together by their respective broken relationships, although with limited time to get to know each other. Tucked into this Irish import was a charming duet at the piano between them, singing the Oscar-winning Original Song tune Falling Slowly while in a nearly-empty music store -- among the film's many songs. The film's main virtue was the off-beat naturalism of the couple's growing platonic, bittersweet relationship and their strong bonds over music - which culminated in their collaboration to record a demo album over a marathon weekend.
Pan's Labyrinth (2006, Sp./Mex./US) (aka El Laberinto del Fauno), 119 minutes, D: Guillermo del Toro
This fantasy film, not kid-friendly, presented an inventive, multi-level world of war-time horror within an adult legend. Elements of the fantasy films and novels Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, and Spirited Away resonate from the film. Its major themes - destiny lies in one's decisions or judgments, and in darkness or death there can be light or life. A prologue told a legend important to remember as the film proceeded and concluded with a book-ending epilogue. Princess Moana (Ivana Baquero), daughter of the King of the underworld, escaped up to the human world where she was blinded by sunlight, lost her memory, became ill and died. Her father believed that her long-lost soul would eventually return by the next full moon, perhaps in another body, place, or time. Set during the mid-1940s in northern Spain in a time of civil war, Franco's repressive forces had taken hold. Pre-pubescent 11 year-old orphaned heroine Ofelia (also Baquero) accompanied her sickly pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) to meet up with her brutally sadistic new stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez) in a small remote Spanish district. The embodiment of Spanish fascism, he had established his headquarters in an abandoned mill where he led troops to quell the rebel resistance. Del Toro efficiently captured the tyranny and brutishness of the oppressively evil and vain Captain. He ordered the murder of two innocent rabbit-hunting farmers (a father and son), then blithely dismissed his wrongdoing by having his chief house-keeping servant Mercedes (Maribel Verdu), who was secretly sympathizing with and aiding the rebels, prepare a stew with the rabbit meat. Ofelia escaped the cruel real-world horrors by fleeing (or returning home) to the fairy-tale story world (with its own serious dangers) that wanted her back. Transitions between the two worlds were often prefaced by vertical camera wipes. Her mother had skeptically warned: "Fairy tales? You're a bit too old to be filling your head with such nonsense." CGI, animatronics puppets, prosthetics and extensive latex makeup were used to create the film's magical creatures, including the opening's vibrating, stick-like, preying mantis that was transformed into a fairy. After being led into the maze-like garden labyrinth, she encountered a mysterious, ominous, tall goat-headed forest Faun (Doug Jones) with curled horns - not Pan. (The movie title was somewhat misleading. In fact, the film's Spanish title translated 'Labyrinth of the Faun.') When the enigmatic Faun identified Ofelia as the reincarnated Princess, she was challenged to a quest - three risky and daunting tasks to prove herself and reunite her with the underground realm and her true father: (1) retrieve a golden key vomited from the belly of a monstrous toad, and (2) retrieve a dagger from behind a door in the lair of the monstrous, child-eating, faceless Pale Man (also Jones), with his eyes set into the palms of his stigmatic hands. (Note: The key and knife were also mirrored in the real-world, as was the mandrake root.) And then, the third task became a climactic, self-sacrificial test of Ofelia's obedience and courage in the film's tragic yet redemptive conclusion.
The Prestige (2006), 130 minutes, D: Christopher Nolan
The Queen (2006, UK/It./Fr.), 97 minutes, D: Stephen Frears
300 (2006), 116 minutes, D: Zach Snyder
United 93 (2006), 111 minutes, D: Paul Greengrass
Volver (2006, Sp.), 121 minutes, D: Pedro Almodóvar