2007: The Year in Movies
THE BEST MOVIES OF 2007
1. No Country for Old Men (Miramax)
Fans of the Coen brothers’ trademark blood-and-money crime dramas can finally rest easy. Not only is “No Country for Old Men” one of the best movies of the year, it’s one of the best movies in the genre. One part crime thriller, one part postmodern Western, the film owes much of its success to Cormac McCarthy’s bestselling novel (on which the movie was based) and the Oscar-worthy performances by Josh Brolin, Javier Bardem and Tommy Lee Jones. Bardem, in particular, delivers one of the coolest villains in recent years – “the ultimate badass” whose weapon of choice, curiously enough, is a cattle gun. Yes, it’s bloody, and yes, it’s even quite funny at times, but what makes “No Country for Old Men” rise above the rest is its ability to take a classic story and spin it into one of the most engaging theater experiences of the year.
2. Juno (Fox Searchlight)
The official must-see indie flick of the year, Jason Reitman’s “Juno” may have some people scratching their heads over its mainstream appeal, but there’s a lot more to the quirky comedy than stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody’s pop culture-infused dialogue. Sure, you’ll probably never hear the term “honest to blog” ever again, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any less real. This is how teenage girls speak (trust me), and Cody’s ability to write these voices so colorfully proves why she’s the hottest talent in town. Of course, it always helps when you’ve got a gal like Ellen Page in the lead role. The young Canadian isn’t only cute, she’s amazingly talented too, and should give fellow A-listers like Keira Knightley a run for their money in the coming years.
3. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (DreamWorks)
The slam-dunk team-up of Tim Burton and Johnny Depp is at its very best in this wildly enjoyable adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim gothic musical. Simply put, it’s unlike any other song-and-dance show in the genre, and Burton masterfully brings the story to life in a way that it makes it feel like a musical without making it look like one. The camera doesn’t just follow the actors around as if they’re on stage, but instead composes an actual movie out of the material. Depp’s performance is excellent as usual, and Sacha Baron Cohen provides some early comic relief, but it’s fellow Burton alum Helena Bonham Carter who steals the show as the deliciously twisted Mrs. Lovett. Oh yeah, and there’s blood. Rivers and rivers of rich, red, gloriously over-the-top blood.
4. Hot Fuzz (Rogue)
“Hot Fuzz” was one of the best-reviewed movies of 2007, and yet somehow, most critics will probably forget about it when it comes to compiling their year-end lists. It’s too bad, really, since the comedic trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost has delivered some of the funniest films and TV shows of the past five years. Their second feature doesn’t surpass the 2004 cult hit “Shaun of the Dead” in laughs per second, but it comes pretty darn close, thanks to a cheeky script (co-written by Wright and Pegg) that playfully honors buddy cop flicks like “Point Break” and “Bad Boys 2.” Of course, the film is more setup than payoff, but when the payoff finally arrives (a lengthy “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid”-style shootout), it’s well worth the wait. The only thing funnier than a gun-toting reverend is watching a mean old lady get kicked in the face. Cheers to the boys of “Hot Fuzz” for finding room for both.
5. The Host (Magnolia)
Why wait ‘til January to see J.J. Abrams’ top-secret monster movie when you can see something you know is going to be good? Forget the fact that it’s South Korean, or that the snarky political commentary is about as anti-U.S. as you can get: Joon-ho Bong’s “The Host” is the single greatest monster movie since Steven Spielberg put fear in the hearts of beachgoers with “Jaws.” A strikingly original (and surprisingly funny) genre hybrid about a science-project-gone-wrong, “The Host” is one-part “Godzilla,” one-part “Little Miss Sunshine” – an unlikely combination if there ever was one. The contrasting elements work together so well, though, that it’s refreshing to think Hollywood would never try to replicate something as high-concept as this. At least, let’s hope so.
6. The Darjeeling Limited (Fox Searchlight)
The premise behind Wes Anderson’s fifth film isn’t going to win any awards for originality, but it didn’t win much of an audience, either. Then again, a movie about three brothers on a train tour through India does sound pretty snooze-worthy, but Anderson pulls it off without a hitch. Well, almost, anyways. Though Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman are all fantastic in their roles as the Whitman brothers, the 11th hour appearance by Anjelica Huston feels so out of place that it’s hard to imagine Anderson would have included it under different circumstances. Of course, the movie has already won you over by the final act, and the addition of the short film prologue “Hotel Chevalier” helps to tie some of the more confusing bits together. Plus, you get to see Natalie Portman naked, so it’s win-win.
7. Ratatouille (Disney)
It shouldn't surprise you that Pixar's wildest idea – a rat who dreams of becoming a world-renowned French chef – is also the company's best movie to date. After all, these are the same people responsible for featuring toys, bugs, fish and cars as main characters in past films, and while it's become common knowledge that Pixar can do no wrong, it doesn't make it any less amazing with the release of each new film. Pixar has always managed to maintain a healthy balance of both child and adult humor in all of their projects, but they've never done so quite as effortlessly as they have here. The casting is flawless (there's no other studio in the world that would ever – ever – hand a no-name comedian like Patton Oswalt the lead) and the animation remains top-notch.
8. Grindhouse (Weinstein Co.)
Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s three-hour slaughterfest may not have performed well at the box office, but it entertained the hell out of the few people that did see it. Killer zombies, strippers with machine-gun legs, and psychotic stuntmen are only the tip of the iceberg. Heck, you can even get all of those things by watching the movies individually on DVD, but what you won’t get is the unique moviegoing experience that the two directors have crafted with this homage to B-movie cinema. True, Tarantino’s “Death Proof” is actually a better movie in its extended format, but Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” plays stronger as part of the double feature package. You can’t complain about ticket prices with that kind of deal, and the inclusion of fake trailers by guys like Eli Roth and Edgar Wright only help in ramping up the cool factor.
9. Zodiac (Paramount)
Poor David Fincher. First, his movie gets bumped from an end-of-the-year release date, and then it’s dropped in the middle of a season notorious for delivering some of the year’s worst. “Zodiac” deserved much better, but Paramount wasn’t listening. The movie’s 158-minute runtime can’t have helped its appeal, but for once, it was entirely necessary. Some might say that it was a little too thorough, but considering that the story spans over two decades, it certainly makes sense that Fincher would want to flesh out as many facts as he possibly could. “Zodiac” is unlike any other crime thriller you’ve ever seen, and thanks to some great performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo, it’s also likely one of the best you ever will see.
10. American Gangster (Universal)
Denzel Washington. Russell Crowe. Ridley Scott. Those three names alone are enough to convince most why a film like “American Gangster” has been so well received, but the movie shouldn’t be judged exclusively on the star power involved. Like “Zodiac,” Scott’s portrait of real-life gangster Frank Lucas could go on and on without anyone noticing, and, well, it does. Clocking in at just under three hours, the film takes its time in building to its explosive ending, but it doesn’t feel at all overlong. Splitting the workload between Washington and Crowe was probably the best thing the veteran director could have done, because though many came to watch the powerhouse actors stand toe-to-toe, the events that precede it are so much more enjoyable that it hardly matters when the last-minute meeting finally arrives.
THE SECOND-BEST OF THE BEST
THE WORST MOVIES OF 2007
1. Epic Movie (20th Century Fox)
For as much as I despised Eli Roth’s “Hostel,” it doesn’t really get any worse than this. Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Didn’t a similar movie make your ‘Worst of’ list last year?” Indeed, but whereas “Date Movie” actually had a somewhat linear narrative, “Epic Movie” is all over the place; it’s a McG-inspired music video hodgepodge of summer movie parodies involving several variations of piss, shit and puke gags. As long as talentless hacks like Jason Friedberg and Adam Seltzer continue to find work, Uwe Boll can rest easy. At least his movies are fun to watch.
2. The Brothers Solomon (Sony)
Not to be outdone by the sheer idiocy of “Epic Movie,” Bob Odenkirk’s “The Brothers Solomon” comes in a very close second – if only because the film actually tells a story. Still, there’s simply no excuse for the kind of lazy filmmaking that this movie promotes. A monkey could write a funnier script than the one Will Forte has delivered, and Will Arnett certainly isn’t winning over any “Arrested Development” fans with his recent streak of bad script choices. Sure, the basic concept is actually rather giggle-worthy during the film’s opening minutes, but it quickly wears out its welcome long before Jenna Fischer shows up in the official What the Hell Were You Thinking? cameo of the year.
3. Code Name: The Cleaner (New Line)
It’s very disheartening to have to place this January turd so high on the list – Lucy Liu does appear as a sexy CIA agent in disguise as a waitress, after all – but the rest of the film is so embarrassingly bad that you have to wonder how the actress even got involved. Cedric the Entertainer never quite lives up to his name (Cedric the Annoying would be more accurate), while Mark Dacasos plays one of the cheesiest villains since Ponytail Thug #4 made his debut on “Miami Vice.”
4. Because I Said So (Universal)
I could have easily used the film’s title as a four-word write-up as to why it belongs on this list (and don’t think it’s beneath me, as I’ve done it before), but “Because I Said So” is such a horrible moviegoing experience that it begs to be more thoroughly deconstructed. Obvious flaws aside, “Because I Said So” is the closest I’ve ever come to losing my hearing. Sitting through this movie is like standing in the middle of a high school girl’s restroom for two hours, and unless you enjoy the simulation of bleeding from all orifices, you’d be wise to stay away. A couple bottles of aspirin and almost a year later, the daily migraines have finally begun to subside.
5. The Hills Have Eyes II (Fox Atomic)
It doesn’t take much for a horror film to be considered for a list like this, but the sequel to “The Hills Have Eyes” isn’t just any ordinary horror film – it’s direct-to-video bad. Alejandro Aja’s remake of the Wes Craven original was actually pretty good, and Craven himself had a hand in the script, so what more could you ask for, right? Apparently, a little tact would have been nice. Apart from its desperate attempts at being controversial (mandatory rape scene, anyone?), the film ends up playing like a cheesy B-movie starring a cast of up-and-coming soap stars who are killed off in a series of grotesque, death-by-stupidity casualties. Mr. Craven, you’re officially on notice.
6. Norbit (Paramount)
There was an ongoing joke amongst the local film critics that the “Norbit” marketing team should have taken full advantage of Eddie Murphy’s Best Supporting Actor nomination for "Dreamgirls." After all, repetition is the key to persuasion, and what’s more repetitive than “Starring Academy Award-nominated Eddie Murphy, Academy Award-nominated Eddie Murphy, and Academy Award-nominated Eddie Murphy”? Seriously, though, “Norbit” was one of those movies we all knew was going to be bad and – surprise, surprise – it didn’t let us down in the slightest bit. May we never have to see a comedian in a fat suit (or in drag) ever again, so help us God.
7. Hitman (20th Century Fox)
Video game movies have gotten a bad rap over the last few years, but if there was ever an argument against them, surely it’s this adaptation of the popular Eidos action/adventure title. The list of things wrong with this film could supply an entire third-world country with paper for a month – from the inappropriate casting of Timothy Olyphant to its surprising lack of violence. What’s perhaps most grating, however, is that Fox knew what a monumental clusterfuck the movie was (director Xavier Gens was even fired before production wrapped), and yet they still released it in theaters.
8. Resident Evil: Extinction (Sony)
You’re probably looking at the above write-up and thinking “Doesn’t the ‘Resident Evil’ series fall into the very same category?” Not exactly, since the films are more B-movie zombie flick than shoot-‘em-up video game fodder. That doesn’t excuse the makers of “Extinction” from producing the worst installment yet, however. Milla Jovovich’s acting is wooden as usual, while the whole “The Road Warrior”-meets-“Day of the Dead” concept falls remarkably flat. Is it so much to ask for a zombie movie that’s both smart and entertaining? Apparently so, because “Resident Evil: Extinction” is neither.
9. I Think I Love My Wife (Fox Searchlight)
Chris Rock in a remake of a French film. And it’s not a straight-up comedy. Could the casting be any more wrong? You bet. Steve Buscemi trots around as Rock’s womanizing best friend, while Gina Torres (an Amazonian beauty if there ever was one) is completely de-sexified in the role of Rock’s wife. I can understand how the comedian was attracted to the project (his act shares the same “life of a married man” themes with co-writer Louis C.K.), but the movie just isn’t funny, and it probably would have served both men better had they just collaborated on something more original and a little closer to home.
10. Into the Wild (Paramount Vantage)
Surely I’m in the minority when it comes to my feelings about Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild,” but even those who liked the film agree – heroic adventurer or not, Christopher McCandless was a big douche. The sheer fact that he never once contacted his younger sister (whom he claims was his best friend) during the course of his cross-country journey is unforgivable. And let’s not forget about the ridiculous alias he gave himself (Supertramp) along the way. You simply can’t make that shit up. Of course, the selfish protagonist isn’t the only reason why “Into the Wild” made the cut. Penn has absolutely no idea what he’s doing behind the camera (to the point where he allows actor Emile Hirsch to speak directly to the audience), and though the story allows for some great supporting performances, they’re all overshadowed by the film’s more nagging flaws.