Category Archives: 2006 Movie reviews

Little Miss Sunshine-2006

Little Miss Sunshine-2006

Director-Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Starring-Greg Kinnear, Steve Carell

Scott’s Review #697

Reviewed November 23, 2017

Grade: A

A film that became a sleeper hit at the time of release in 2006 and went on the achieve recognition with year end award honors galore, Little Miss Sunshine holds up quite well after over ten years since its debut. Combining family humor with heart, audiences will fall in love with the antics of the dysfunctional Hoover family, warts and all, as they strive to persevere endless obstacles to enable precocious, seven year old daughter, Olive, a chance at competing in a beauty pageant hundreds of miles away. The film is a comedic treat with charm and contains uproarious fun.

Directors  (and husband and wife team) Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris start right to work kicking off the humor in style as the one hour and forty one minute film introduces depressed Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) to the rest of the Hoovers as he comes to live with the family after a failed suicide attempt. Frank, who is gay and has recently been dumped, is Sheryl Hoover’s (Toni Collette) brother, and has a dry sense of humor. He fits in well with the other peculiar members of the clan- Dad Richard (Greg Kinnear), a struggling motivational speaker, Grandpa Edwin, a vulgar, irritable man, brother Dwayne, angry and refusing to speak, and finally, pudgy faced, Olive.

The brightest spots in Little Miss Sunshine are the exceptional writing and the nuanced, non one-dimensional characters. Each character is both good yet troubled in their own way and the overall message of the film is an important one. The plot of the film encompasses a beauty queen pageant and the lifestyle this involves- the hypocrisy and plastic nature is a main theme. When the family stops at a roadside cafe for breakfast, Olive hungrily orders ice-cream and is shamed by a member of the family- she must watch her figure, she is told. Other members instead encourage Olive to be herself. In this way, Little Miss Sunshine poses an interesting dissection of the pressures very young people face to be perfect, especially in the beauty pageant business, and the message society sends. Shocking is a scene where many of the contestants, all under the age of ten, appear in sexy, glamorous makeup, and bikinis.

Little Miss Sunshine is a very funny film and this undoubtedly is due to the chemistry that exists among the cast of talented actors. Quite the ensemble, all five of the principle characters has an interesting relationship with each other. Too many film comedies suffer immensely from forced jokes or typical “set-up” style humor, plot devices created to elicit a response from the audience- to which I call “dumbing down”. Little Miss Sunshine, however, feels authentic and fresh- a situation becomes funny because there is an honest reaction by the characters. The film is a slice of life experience of an average blue-collar family.

A standout scene to mention is the hysterical one in which the Hoovers are pulled over by a highway police officer. To say nothing of the fact that the Hoovers are “escorting” a corpse to their destination, along with pornographic magazines, their classic, beat-up, yellow Volkswagen bus barely runs and contains a malfunctioning horn that beeps at inopportune times. This hilarious scenes works on all levels as the comic timing is palpable and leads to a laugh out loud response.

Furthermore, the climactic “beauty pageant” scene is fraught with physical humor. Olive, clearly the oddball in a group of hypersexualized, young starlets, takes inspiration from her grandfather to simply “be herself”. She does so in a hilarious version of “Super Freak” that is clearly R-rated, both shocking the audience and celebrated by others- specifically her entire family. Olive successfully proves that she can be herself and happily do so.

How wonderful and refreshing to find a comedy with honest, ample humor and real integrity that is able to shine many years after its first release and retain the richness and zest that originally captured legions of viewers. As proven over time with many independent films, wonderful writing and directors sharing a vision, go a long way in achieving a quality piece of film making.

Snakes on a Plane-2006

Snakes On A Plane-2006

Director-David R. Ellis

Starring-Samuel L. Jackson

Scott’s Review #607

Reviewed January 11, 2017

Grade: B

Snakes on a Plane, the surprise internet bruhaha sensation of 2006 has much to criticize. The plot is inane, the acting way over the top, and the subject portrayed in such a dumb manner, I could the results being horrific, but there is just something I really enjoyed about the film too, as admittedly stupid as it is. I simply could not help but sit back and enjoy it.

I enjoyed the setting of an airplane- trapped at 35, 000 feet, in peril, has always enamored me (think Airport disaster films of the 1970’s). The story involves a plot to release hundreds of deadly snakes on a passenger flight, in order to kill a witness to a murder trial.  Of course, innocent passengers are met with their dire fates as the cartoon-like characters are offed one by one, horror film style.

Sadly, the film did not live up to anticipated expectations, commercially or critically, and was considered somewhat of a dud after all of the hype, but I rather enjoyed it for what is was. Hardly high art, it entertained me.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest-2006

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest-2006

Director-Gore Verbinski

Starring-Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom

Scott’s Review #606

Reviewed January 11, 2017

Grade: B-

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, the follow-up to the original Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, from 2003. The sequel is decent, but certainly inferior to Curse of the Black Pearl. The visual effects are spectacular, and the budget very high, but the story wasn’t really there. The film drags along at times as well as being a bit confusing.

Johnny Depp gives his all to his role of Jack Sparrow, performing with gusto and is clearly the highlight of the franchise. The supporting characters, Bloom as Will Turner, and Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Swann, are fine, but not on the level of Depp. Otherwise, the performances are all okay, but just a carbon copy of the first film.

Story-wise, Will and Elizabeth are arrested for aiding Jack Sparrow’s escape execution, and the plot involves the attempts at locating Sparrow along with the typical adventure aspects of a film like this and the stock character villains, with grimaces, heavy makeup, and over-acting, but I expected as much.

Not a bad sequel, certain to entertain the masses, and guaranteed to make a ton of money, inevitably ensuring another sequel will be made, with little doubt of being even less compelling.

Masters of Horror: Dario Argento: Pelts-2006

Masters of Horror: Dario Argento: Pelts-2006

Director-Dario Argento

Starring-Meat Loaf, John Saxon

Scott’s Review #600

Reviewed January 10, 2017

Grade: C+

For those unfamiliar with Masters of Horror, this was a spectacular horror series which aired during the mid 2000’s featuring vignettes of superlative horror chapters- famed Italian horror maestro, Dario Argento directed two such chapters during the series run- Pelts is an okay story, but unspectacular, and really only for die-hard Argento fans.

The chapter is quite gory and extreme (this is the main positive)  and stars Meatloaf (the singer) and John Saxon (from Nightmare on Elm Street, and Black Christmas). The story centers around a fur trader named Jake Feldman, who encounters a fellow fur trader offering raccoon skin. Eager to make money and impress a stripper, Jake leaps at the chance, with dire results.

This episode of Masters of Horror is not for the squeamish. If you are a fan of raccoons this might be up your alley. My slight disappointment in this chapter merely comes from my utter love for some of the other chapters, and this one pales in comparison.

Little Children-2006

Little Children-2006

Director-Todd Field

Starring-Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson

Top 100 Films-#52

70052692

Reviewed January 9, 2016

Grade: A

Little Children is a subtle, dark drama from 2006 that reminds me a great deal of The Ice Storm and American Beauty- both equally quiet masterpieces. All are similar films about dysfunctional, interpersonal relationships that are damaged. The great film is one of my more modern all time favorites.

On the surface, the small suburban Boston town in which the members of the film reside is whimsical, peaceful, and quiet. Spacious colonial and victorian houses line the sleepy streets in similar fashion. The small town (unnamed) is affluent and, we learn very early on, is rife with scandal. A child-molester, Ronnie, (Jackie Earle Haley), who is also a resident of the town, living with his mother, has recently been let loose to resume his life, which makes the neighborhood tense and angry. It is summertime, and the air is thick with heat and secrets.

Other than the child-molester story, the main drama involves Sarah Pierce (Kate Winslet), an intelligent, bored, stay at home housewife. She is angry and frustrated.  She cares for her three-year old daughter Lucy, while her husband is addicted to porn and regularly sniffs panties that he purchases on-line, even risking his job to immerse himself in his addiction to porn. They have a sex-less marriage. Soon, Sarah embarks on a relationship with the resident hunk, Brad (Patrick Wilson), a stay-at home Dad to four-year old Aaron. His wife, Katherine (Jennifer Connelly), a “knockout”, produces documentaries and is the bread-winner of the family. Thrown in the mix is crazed ex-cop, Larry, obsessed with protecting the neighborhood from Ronnie, and a trio of suburban house-wives, who are friendly with Sarah and secretly lust after Brad.

Little Children is a film clearly about relationships, insecurities, and dreams remaining unfulfilled. How these relationships are damaged, filled with angst, or yearning for a resolution far out of reach, are explored and every character is sad in some way. Each character is unfulfilled and in the middle of all of it is the torrid romance between Sarah and Brad. They while away the summer in romance that we just know will not last. They find some happy moments, but how will this continue?

Tragic is the situation with Ronnie- despite being a child molester he is portrayed as sympathetic character. The entire town is against him- a sad scene involves the townspeople fleeing the community pool when Ronnie dares to go for a swim. When he tearfully tells the police that he just wanted to cool down, there is such a sadness in his eyes.

Despite being supporting characters in the film, my favorite performances are by Haley and Phyllis Somerville, as Ronnie’s feisty yet haggard mother, May. Determined to make sure her son has a decent life, she lashes out at anyone who bullies her poor Ronnie. Somerville’s performance is heartbreaking and, in a perfect Hollywood world, she would have received an Oscar nomination. Happily, Haley did, as injecting any sort of sympathy in a character such as his is a difficult task, but Haley does so in spades.

The film is filled with narrative- in not dissimilar fashion to the classic Barry Lyndon- as the narrator explains the thoughts and inner turmoil of the characters in regular intervals. This adds layers and clarity to the film.

A masterful scene involves one centered around the dinner table, successfully done. Curious about husband Brad’s daytime life when she is away at work, Katherine invites Sarah and her daughter to join them for a cozy dinner. As everyone eats and converses, the light bulb suddenly goes on in Katherine’s head and she pieces together events, realizing Brad and Sarah’s true relationship. All of those days when she knew not where Brad was now come flowing back to her. A similar scene was played out in 2008’s The Kids Are Allright, working successfully in that film too.

The stories eventually intersect and I love this point of the film, especially being that it takes place in a smothering small town. Character driven, cynical, tragic, and dark. Little Children is a humanistic masterpiece that I never tire of watching- one of my favorites.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane-2006

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane-2006

Director-Jonathan Levine

Starring-Amber Heard

70074100

Reviewed December 22, 2013

Grade: B-

Interesting, experimental type horror meets art film from 2006. On the surface it appears to be a by the numbers horror throwback involving a group of teens spending a boozy weekend on a Texas farm, of course, in the middle of nowhere. They are systematically offed one by one. This sounds standard, but there are some moody, artistic, beautiful scenes mixed in, hence the horror/art house label. There is a certain “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” charm to it as well. The story, however, makes little sense and the protagonist’s motivations are confusing and never explained, so while adventurous in parts, the film ultimately fails based on the story inconsistencies. The characters are also rather unlikable, perhaps intentionally so, as these are the characters the audience enjoys seeing hacked to bits.