Critical Consensus: "Departed" Is Best Reviewed Wide Release of 2006

This week at the movies, we've got cops and robbers in Boston ("The Departed," starring Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon), chainsaw massacres in Texas ("The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," starring Jordana Brewster), and retail employees in New Mexico ("Employee of the Month," starring Jessica Simpson and Dane Cook). What do the critics have to say?

Is Martin Scorsese America's greatest living filmmaker? He's certainly bolstering his case with "The Departed." The film, which is a loose remake of the Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs," tells the story of two moles, one of whom (DiCaprio) a cop undercover within a Boston crime family led by Jack Nicholson, and the other (Damon) a hood who has infiltrated the police department. Critics say Scorsese has created a crime drama with the gritty authenticity and soupy morality that infused such past triumphs as "GoodFellas," with outstanding work from an excellent cast. At 96 percent on the Tomatometer, "The Departed" may signify a new arrival for the master director; Scorsese's best reviewed wide release since "GoodFellas." And it's not only Certified Fresh, but it's also the best reviewed wide release of the year.


"Wait a minute... you're telling me I ripped that 'how do you like them apples' line off from you?"

The lives of wage slaves are often grist for the cinema's mill, whether comic ("Clerks"), dramatic ("One Hour Photo") or both ("The Good Girl"). Now comes "Employee of the Month," starring Cook as a slacker at a Costco-like box store who whips himself into shape when attractive new hire (Simpson) comes on board. Critics say the movie has a few good laughs, but Cook and Simpson lack chemistry, and the film doesn't do much beyond showing employee antics. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, audiences may want to hire a different "Employee."


"And these are called 'numbers.' I know, it's confusing."

For horror fans who are interested in the origin of Leatherface, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning" provides some back story on the Lone Star State's scariest resident. It also provides oodles of gore, and a style reminiscent of the original. Unfortunately, the critics say it doesn't provide enough scares to make the experience worthwhile. The plot involves a group of young adults headed to Mexico for a good time before two brothers go to fight in Vietnam; naturally, Leatherface curtails their enjoyment in a hurry. The scribes say the film is a little too rote, and at 14 percent on the Tomatometer, this "Chainsaw" doesn't cut very deep. (Read RT's interview with director Jonathan Liebesman here.)


"The unsuspecting teenagers wail/ along the trail/ deep in the heart of Texas"

Also opening this week in limited release: "Blood Tea and Red String," a handmade stop-motion fairy tale 13 years in the making, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; "So Goes the Nation," a documentary about the 2004 election season in Ohio, is at 100 percent; "49 Up," the latest in Michael Apted's remarkable documentary series about growing and changing in England, is at 94 percent; "Black Gold," a documentary about the global effects of the coffee trade, is at 88 percent; "Little Children," a tale of suburban angst starring Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson and Jennifer Connelly, is at 79 percent; "Shortbus," John Cameron Mitchell's warmhearted exploration of unconventional sexuality, is at 68 percent; and "Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner," a documentary about the eponymous Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning scribe, is at 55 percent. And "The Queen," which is expanding this week, is at 98 percent, making it the third best reviewed limited release of the year.


"Blood Tea and Red String":"The King of Cartoons!"

Recent Martin Scorsese Movies:
---------------------------------------
92% -- No Direction Home: Bob Dylan (2005)
89% -- The Aviator (2004)
77% -- Gangs of New York (2002)
100% -- My Voyage to Italy (2001)
72% -- Bringing Out the Dead (1999)

Texas Chainsaw Massacres:
----------------------------------
86% -- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
50% -- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
23% -- Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3 (1989)
16% -- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1994)
37% -- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

Best Reviewed Wide Releases Of 2006
-------------------------------------
(Releases with at least 40 reviews)
96% -- The Departed
93% -- Dave Chappelle's Block Party
93% -- Little Miss Sunshine
90% -- United 93
88% -- Inside Man
84% -- Akeelah and the Bee
83% -- Slither
83% -- The Descent
80% -- A Prairie Home Companion
78% -- The Devil Wears Prada

Best Reviewed Limited Releases Of 2006
---------------------------------------
(Releases with at least 40 reviews)
98% -- Kekexeli: Mountain Patrol
98% -- The War Tapes
98% -- The Queen
96% -- Army of Shadows
95% -- Wordplay
93% -- Fateless
93% -- Little Miss Sunshine
92% -- The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
92% -- An Inconvenient Truth
92% -- Lassie

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