Every reviewer puts out lists at the end of December:  the best list, the worst list, the what should win an Oscar list, the what will win an Oscar list, the if they’d only had a clue while making it list.  This year, I will eschew that impulse.  I’m simply going to tell you the best movie of the year.  Hands down.  No arguing about it, the answer is clear. 

Now, before I tell you what the best film is, the question must be asked:  how is “best” judged.  Not to get too Clintonian on this, but the question is actually important.  Does one look at screenplay, directing, acting, cultural significance, or horror of horrors, box office receipts?  As much as we’d all like to poo-poo that notion, let’s face it, box office receipts play a role.  Let’s not get into a discussion of whether or not they should, it is a far too lengthy topic to take on here, let’s just all be adults and admit that they do.

Taking all of this into account, carefully looking at every possible aspect and facet, I can come but to one conclusion this year.  Unquestionably, inarguably, utterly convincingly the best movie of 2006 is Casino Royale.

Stop and take a breath before you start ranting- hear me out on this one.

James Bond is one of the longest running franchises in film history.  James Bond is one of the most successful franchises in film history.  James Bond, following Casino Royale, is rejuvenated and poised to continue for years to come. 

The producers of the series, following Die Another Day, dismissed Pierce Brosnan despite the huge box office take of that film.  They recognized the franchise needed change and they rethought it all from the ground up.  They went younger, they went rougher, they went mean.  They brought in Daniel Craig, who took a beating in the press that might have even laid out 007 himself.  But everyone at the production stuck to their guns and the result was Casino Royale, which opened to much critical acclaim (something the most recent Brosnan film did not have, despite its box office success).  Royale opened as number one at the box office in almost every country in the world (save the U.S., where it was beat by a totally different kind of tuxedoed character).  It surpassed box office records in some areas, and was a success universally. 

So, let’s tick off the accomplishments:  1) huge box office success, 2) huge critical success, 3) damn good movie, 4) successfully rejuvenated and changed direction of one of the most success film franchises ever, and 5) perfectly paves way for next Bond appearance, which will be in 2008.

What more could anyone possibly want?  Critical success, box office success, and sets the stage for more to come.  Hollywood can’t possibly imagine having a merrier Christmas than that.