Little Miss Sunshine - A dysfunctional family must spend several days in a van together as they travel to a beauty pageant for young girls so that the youngest member of their group may compete. Along the way they endure many hardships and even a few heartwarming moments. Comprising the cast are Greg Kinnear as the father who fully believes that his self help program will take off and make his family rich any day now, Toni Collette as the mother, and perhaps the most normal member of the family, Alan Arkin as the foul-mouthed grandfather who says whatever he feels like whenever he feels like it, Paul Dano as the rebellious son who has taken a vow of silence until he can manage to make it into the air force, Steve Carell as the gay uncle who was recently released into his sister's care from a mental hospital after attempting to commit suicide, and Abigail Breslin as the young Little Miss Sunshine Pageant hopeful. This film goes up there with Children of Men, The Illusionist, and A Scanner Darkly as one of the recent movies that I've had a great deal of trouble seeing due to it's limited release. As with The Illusionist, I had to wait for DVD before getting a chance to see it. One of the main reasons that I was interested in Little Miss Sunshine was because it appeared that Steve Carell's acting ability was going to be tested beyond the boundaries of slapstick humor. I'm happy to say that he came through with a great performance. However he was just one more piece of the acting puzzle that came together within the movie, because all of the performances were outstanding. The family in the film felt real, which went a long way in making Little Miss Sunshine work. I enjoyed the movie for the most part, although the ending gets a little out of hand, as does a scene at a hospital a little earlier on. Altogether though, it was a strong effort from all involved, and I would highly recommend it as one of the best (if not the best) dark comedies of 2006.
Lucky Number Slevin - Josh Hartnett is Slevin; a young man who plans to visit a friend, but instead gets caught up in a war between two rival crime bosses: The Boss (Morgan Freeman) and The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley). Along for the ride is Slevin's missing friend's neighbor, played by Lucy Liu. Confusion and mystery reign supreme as Slevin attempts to heed the requests of both The Boss and The Rabbi, but the big question is: how is hired assassin Mr. Goodkat (Bruce Willis) involved in the proceedings? Lucky Number Slevin falls into what could be my favorite genre of film: comedy of errors with a brain and a hint of action (yes, I've taken a few different genres and bundled them into one very specific new amalgamation). Movies such as Snatch, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, GO, and Pulp Fiction also fall into this category. They are all films that wind up so many subplots that by the time it's revealed exactly what's going on, you've been trying so hard to figure it out for yourself that you're still not quite sure you understand it all. They are movies you will want to watch over and over again to relive the hilarity and excitement of what's going on. Movies like this rarely give you a moment to stop and catch your breath, and Lucky Number Slevin is one of them. Hartnett is amazing as the fast-talking, admirable loser Slevin. I loved him in The Faculty (yeah, laugh it up), but he's outstanding in Slevin. Lucy Liu also pulls off perhaps the best role I've seen her play. The only contender would be her portrayal of O-ren Ishii in Kill Bill, but this role is so different that it's hard to compare them. Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman are incredible, but really, when aren't they? And Bruce Willis is...well...Bruce Willis. Give him a gun and it's hard for him not to be good. Also of note on the subject of Lucky Number Slevin is that if you should find yourself in possession of the DVD, make sure to watch the deleted scenes as some of them are pure gold that must have been cut from the final version of the movie due to time constraints, because they were so good that I can't see any other reason why they'd have been left out. Worth a rent or a purchase. I personally can't wait to pick up my own copy.
Flatliners - Four medical students (Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, William Baldwin, and Oliver Platt), led by a classmate played by Kiefer Sutherland, ignore the warnings of their teachers and peers alike in order to prove a theory. The theory in question? Life after death. One by one the students allow themselves to "flatline" under controlled conditions, and after a short period of time are revived from their comatose states. Each experiences visions while "dead", which they initially believe to be meaningless, but as time goes on they realize that they were mistaken. It turns out that horrors from their past have come back to haunt them, and they won't stop until each of them has faced their fears. Sound corny? Yeah, well it kind of is. No wonder you've never heard of it despite the film's high profile cast. The concept of Flatliners is a pretty good one, but the execution is less than perfect. Unlike some movies that are fairly old, but don't feel dated, Flatliners is very eighties/early nineties. From the music to the clothing, I had a hard time taking it seriously, unlike other films from the time that seem to transcend their time period. The visions that the characters had were also a bit cheesy, as were their solutions for ridding themselves of their "ghosts". Nobody really makes a top notch performance, either, but it was interesting to see so many recognizable actors before they were quite so recognizable. If you've got nothing better to do, watch Flatliners, then work out for yourself how you'd make better use of the premise if you'd made the movie.