Lights ... cameras ... action! The best films of 2006.


Byline: Jim Keogh How many chances do you get in Hollywood? If you're a big enough star, that's a trick question, because "infinity" has no number. Consider these plummets and ascents from 2006: Mel Gibson is stopped for drunken driving, goes on a vicious tirade about how the Jews are responsible for everything from world wars to bad puns, and creates an international scandal. Doomed career? Nah. He blames the booze (instead of a childhood learning at the knee of his Holocaust-denying dad), goes into rehab, apologizes to Jewish leaders and releases "Apocalypto," his subtitled Mayan epic that does decent box office despite the fact it's a subtitled Mayan epic. Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, tired of Tom Cruise's couch-jumping, reporter-baiting antics, which he blames for the lackluster returns on "Mission: Impossible III," severs the actor's development deal with Paramount. No worries. The world's most famous free agent, like his "M:I3" character, lands on his feet, resurrecting United Artists with a group of MGM executives. Oh yeah, in case you hadn't heard, he got married and had a kid, too. After years spent brooding about being typecast and living in gilded exile as Hollywood's nowhere man, Sylvester Stallone, at age 60, finally embraces his legacy, and brings Rocky Balboa into the ring one last time, fashioning an endearing fitting capstone to the saga of the Italian Stallion. Yo, Adrian. He done it right. We treasure them, trash them, treasure them again, then throw up our hands and ask, What the hell just happened? Maybe Borat should stake out an American movie theater and ask audience members to explain our collective schizophrenia, that is if he's not too busy urinating on the potted plant in the lobby. Anyway, there was plenty of other stuff to gab about in 2006. The year at a glance: Two of the top money earners were blah-ckbusters whose success can be attributed to killer source material: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" (which sprang, Johnny Depp intact, from the hit "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Black Pearl") and "The Da Vinci Code" (the eagerly awaited adaptation of Dan Brown's bestseller). Both movies were overlong and incoherent and made a bunch of people very, very rich. Horror pictures like "Hostel" and "Saw III" continued to pull big box office numbers as filmmakers discovered bloodlust never goes out of style. However, one of the best of the lot, "The Descent," relied less on sheer gore and more on its creepy subterranean...

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