I used to be one of those people who hated creating top 10 lists each year. I always found it kind of trite and cliche. Now find it an interesting exercise to see if I can remember even a third of the movies I saw, much less come up with a top ten list. This has been one of those years where nothing really excited me enough to attend a screening. So I probably only saw about 150 movies this year. Out of that short list here are my top 10 films of 2007. Followed by a quick parting shot at the worst.
10) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
The first two Pirates films are two of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t do the full walk-out because I had my Niece and Nephew with me. So I wondered the theater for 40 minutes and when I came back, they were still on that damn Island. I loathed everything about that film – especially Captain Jack Sparrow. A little of him goes a very long way. So needless to say I wasn’t looking forward to sitting through the 3rd and final installment, but something amazing happened, I loved Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. I thought the story worked really well, the set pieces were gorgeous, I didn’t find Sparrow as annoying – because he was used sparingly. It wasn’t as gross and slimy as the 2nd one and most of all everything made sense.
9) King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
I’m a huge fan of documentaries but this year has been pretty weak. I really slacked off and only watched two – Sicko and King of Kong – A Fist Full of Quarters. King of Kong would have been a top 10 documentary in any other year but this year it truly stands out as the best. You had it all. The every man, Steve Wiebe, taking on the evil corporation in the form of Billy
Walsh Mitchell the raining Donkey Kong Champion. We watch as Wiebe decides one day that he really wants to get good at something and he chooses to play Donkey Kong. He wants to break the world record, but the machinery does every underhanded thing in their power to keep invalidating Wiebe’s scores. As a viewer you really start to feel for the poor guy, especially since Walsh comes across as a total douche bag. Instead of showing up and playing the guy one on one to settle this thing. He and his “referee” friends keep changing the rules on Wiebe. Meanwhile the rules don’t apply to Walsh. It’s funny how petty people can get and watching this just reminds us of that.
8) The Waitress
Honestly, there are probably 5 or 6 other films (like Eastern Promises) that deserve the number eight spot before The Waitress. But I really enjoyed this little indie film. Serenity’s Nathan Fillion, Keri Russell, and Jeremy Sisto all give standout performances in Director Adrienne Shelly‘s last film. It’s a bitter sweet film, punctuated by gorgeous shots of pies being made. It’s a non-pretentious “Like Water for Chocolate.” When I first watched this I didn’t know about Shelly’s tragic murder the day it got into Sundance. But when you understand the history of the film, it adds to the feeling of “tragedy” while watching it. Even though the film isn’t meant to be “tragic,” it’s meant to be hopeful and some ways it is.
7) 310: To Yuma
Christian Bale is having a standout year, it started with his amazing work in Rescue Dawn and quickly followed up with 310: To Yuma. This is the film that hopefully will revived the western. I’m not a fan of Russell Crowe but he really shines in this as the smooth talking sociopathic killer. One minute you start to like the guy and think he’s alright. Then the next minute he’s killing 3 or 4 people in cold blood. Just because they annoyed him. The relationship he forms with Bale’s character weirdly works. Even though Bale is trying to put Crowe on the train to Yuma Prison where he’ll be hanged. You can see how these two would become friends and the both have their own weird sense of honor.
6) Things We Lost in the Fire
I’m not sure if I really liked this film or not. It’s manipulative as hell and has an Lifetime movie of the week feel to it, but it features one of the best ensemble casts of the Year. Halle Berry proves once again that her performance in Monster’s Ball wasn’t a fluke. You feel her pain as she loses her loving husband (David Duchovny) in a tragic killing, and tries to honor his memory by attempting to help his drug addicted best friend Benicio Del Toro get on his feet. The film is filled with cliches and Benicio is Benicio in this, but the combination of the three leads elevates this trite material into something special.
A horror tale set in contemporary Moscow that revolves around the conflict and balance maintained between the forces of light and darkness–the result of a medieval truce between the opposing sides. This ancient war between the forces of Light and Darkness is reaching a tragic outcome. Each side has gained a powerful Great Other, who are headed for a clash, and Anton Gorodetsky is once again caught up in the midst of things. (TPS from Yahoo Movies) This is the best Summer Blockbuster film in years and it came from Russia. Director Timur Bekmambetov visual style is truly unique and he gives us some truly stunning visual sequences, I’ll never forget the scene where one of the Vampire chicks drives her car up the side of a sky scraper. The movie fools you because it opens with a 10 minute prologue that’s completely in English, leading you to believe it’s an English dub, but then it quickly switches to Russian. This film’s story is completely confusing at certain points but you forgive it because you want to see what visual tricks the Director comes up with next. I usually hate it when Directors go for style and “hey look what I can do,” over substance but in this case it works. I wish this film was properly marketed when it came to America, it could have easily been as big a hit here as it was in Russia. Especially considering all of the American Studio summer films were so terrible this year.
4) Before The Devil Knows You Are Dead
Two brothers organize the robbery of their parents’ jewelry store. The job goes horribly wrong, triggering off a series of events that send them and their family hurtling towards a shattering climax. (TPS from Yahoo Movies). From this point on, what makes my top four films of 2007 shine are the great ensemble casts. Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman team up to give us one of the most arresting films of the year. Director Sidney Lumet proves that he still got the chops to pull off complex dramas. In Devil there are so many twists and turns that are head starts spinning. This is one of those films that’s one story told from different viewpoints. So there are numerous points where you are watching the same scene only 4 different times. Generally speaking I despise this method of filmmaking, but Lumet manages to pull it off and make it work here. Thanks in large part due to an an amazing performance from Ethan Hawke as the brother who just can’t seem to get it together, while PSH is the one who – on the surface seems to know exactly what he’s doing. It’s good film, with great performances and a strong ending.
Two films from two of America’s most unique film makers Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. I was in the middle of moving to LA for the summer so I missed the screenings and opening weekend of this. It came and went so fast that I just didn’t have time to catch it in the Theater. So I actually watched Tarantino’s Death Proof and Rodriguez’s Planet Terror on DVD last month. The studio made the right decision to split these two films up and market them separately. If I had to sit in a theater for 3 1/2 hours watching both of these films in one sitting I probably would have hated it. But as individual films they both work. Primarily because of the excellent ensemble cast. Kurt Russell gives one of his best performances in years at the deranged Stuntman Mike in Death Proof and I loved Josh Brolin and Freddy Rodriguez in Planet Terror. The one thing I hated about Grindhouse Tarantino’s tired dialog in the 2nd part of Death Proof. His judicious use of the N word is starting to tick me off and the only reason he gets away with is because he has his black characters say it in every film he does. It’s getting old.
Juno is a whip-smart teen confronting an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate Bleeker. (TPS from Yahoo Movies) I love this film. It’s smart, funny, and charming. Ellen Page‘s Juno easily could have become the standard, whiny Teenage mother, but in this film. Juno takes control of her situation and is determined to do the right thing. J. K. Simmons should get nominated for a supporting role as Juno’s supporting father. Everything about this film just work, the dialog is sharp, the acting is right on point. It’s this year’s “Little Miss Sunshine,” only 100 percent better.
1) No Country for Old Men
Set in West Texas, a man on the run with a suitcase full of money is pursued by a number of individuals. This movie is brutal and relentlessly bloody. The Coen boys are in rare form. Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem, are amazing in this movie. While watching it, I kept thinking I have finally seen it – the clear best film of the year, then the film gets to a critical point and literally stops. The last 20 minutes of this film I was scratching my head going WTF is going on! I left the movie literally angry. I didn’t bother to right a review of it, because I couldn’t figure out if the last 20 minutes were enough to make me despise the entire movie. I understand that the entire film is about random acts of violence and coincidences so in that context yes the ending works. I also understand that there’s no way a story like this can have a happy ending so do we really need to actually see the inevitable confrontation? I’ll give you a different answer on how important that ending is, depending on when you ask me. Today, I’m going to say no, it’s not. But if you ask me tomorrow, I would probably say it’s just the Coen’s totally giving up. But the first 90 minutes takes you on an incredible ride.
Into The Wild, Gone Baby Gone, Eastern Promises, Once, Enchanted, The Brave One, Rescue Dawn, La Vie Rose, American Gangster, Jesse James
Films that I missed
I Am Legend, Charlie Wilson’s War, and There Will Be Blood (although I really wanted to see this), Sweeny Todd
Most Disappointing Film of the year – Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix
I love the Potter films, each one has made my top 10 list when they came out so I thought for sure HPOTP was a sure fire hit in a sea of duds. Boy was I wrong, this film was the one that most relied on prior knowledge of the books (which I loved). First, I wish WB would get it through their heads that the Harry Potter films are WINTER films, not SUMMER movies! There were so many disjointed scenes and plot threads introduced and then dropped. While watching the film, I was loving every moment of it thinking – this is really cool, can’t wait to see xyz moment from book. Since they would introduce X element so well, but then at the end of the film, I was thinking, “wait a second, that made no sense. Why introduce Kreacher, if they don’t follow his story to the final betrayal.” Why have Tonks in this and not explain who she was or do anything with her? Same with Lupin. I loved the fight at the Department of Mysteries, but again once it ended, I thought that’s it? The death eaters and order just Aperate around each other? I loved the stuff with the D.A., but everything with Filch just sitting outside the door was incredibly lame and stupid. The Occlumency lessons with Snape was given such brief screen time that they might as well not include it. Why bother including Gwap in the movie? They didn’t bother to explain the significance of Snape’s worst memory, so why include it? Anyway, I’m getting angry again just thinking about how bad this movie is. I always though OOTP was one of the worst of the HP Books (until I read Half Blood Prince) but thought it was JKR’s most straight forward book, therefore making it the easiest to film. I’m scared what they’ll do with HBP which is the worst HPB book with an unfilmable ending – well you could film it, it would just be incredibly lame and boring.
Worst Films of 2007
8) Shrek The Third
7) Happily N’Ever After
6) Bourne Ultimatum (just dislike all of the Bourne movies and Greengrass’ in your face quick cut action scenes.)
5) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
4) Michael Clayton
3) Knocked Up
1) Super Bad
Most Hated Film Review
Knocked Up – I was amazed at how much controversy my Knocked up review generated. Over 500 emails, 83 comments on RT, and tons of comments in other film message boards. Who knew so many people had really bad taste in movies.