The real Hollywood scandal: stars were newsworthy, their films weren't

Brangelina and Tom Cruise led the tabloids but not the box office. What gives?

In 2006, the only way to escape "Brangelina," Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Lindsay Lohan was to go to the movies. Though each of the aforementioned stars never has had a higher profile thanks to cable news, entertainment shows, newspapers, magazines, and tabloids, their recent releases were largely ignored. Perhaps the films themselves weren't nearly as interesting as off-screen dramas such as weddings, babies, and shenanigans that invariably involved the Zelig-like Paris Hilton.

As many big-name vehicles such as "Mission: Impossible III" fizzled, a few unlikely movie stars emerged to fill the void, including Meryl Streep ("The Devil Wears Prada"), Helen Mirren ("The Queen"), and Al Gore ("An Inconvenient Truth"). If Mr. Gore can somehow convert movie-ticket stubs into hanging chads, he could yet become president.

Talking of cinematic surprises, who'd have predicted that conservatives would swoon over an Oliver Stone movie? And who could forget some of the year's strangest on-screen pairings? Jack Black and Kate Winslet in "The Holiday." Snakes and a plane. Borat and America.

We've encapsulated some of the year's surprises in this movie guide. In addition to facts, figures, and reader opinions, you'll find reviews of films notable for their critical and/or box-office success. May it come in handy for your future DVD rentals.

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