Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Movie Year-End Wrap-Up

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Seventeen films vie for my top ten of 2007, which I’ll announce tomorrow. I’ve viewed 65 films theatrically this year; below are my one-line commentaries on each:

“Top Ten” Nominees (Must See Films) [17]
1. 300. Entertaining and creative.
2. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days. A punch to the solar plexus.
3. American Gangster. Engrossing; solid ensemble.
4. Away From Her. Startling achievement from 20-something Polley; absorbing, beautifully written and acted masterpiece.
5. Bourne Ultimatum, The. Exciting; terrific wrap-up to one of the movies' best trilogies.
6. Darjeeling Limited, The. Not-for-all-tastes; escape to a rare romanticism for those on-board.
7. Grindhouse. Original and fun.
8. Into the Wild. Ambitious masterpiece; incredible ensemble.
9. Juno. First third is as overtly screenwritery as the trailer but second two-thirds with great performances (particularly Garner and Cera) and smart plot make the film ultimately a winner.
10. King of Kong, The: A Fistful of Quarters. Brilliant; dream "cast."
11. La Vie en Rose. Epic.
12. Once. Slow boil, and a 25 cent budget, but charming.
13. Paris je t'aime. Plays like a collection of the best one page short stories.
14. Ratatouille. Irresistibly cute.
15. Rescue Dawn. Edge-of-your-seat and well played.
16. Sicko. Frustratingly real.
17. Superbad. Imperfect good-natured fun.

Recommended [8]
1. 3:10 To Yuma. Solid entertainment.
2. Eastern Promises. Worthy companion to "A History of Violence."
3. Live Free Or Die Hard. A blast, if a far cry from the "reality" of the original.
4. Reno 911!: Miami. Silly.
5. Savages, The. Imperfect and depressing but not dismissable; Laura Linney characterization excellent.
6. Simpsons Movie, The. TV show creators managed to pull off the impossible: a lot of fun and big screen-worthy.
7. There Will Be Blood. Aimless narrative is rich and unusual enough in its parts to warrant a look.
8. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Parody bounces from sharp to obvious, but the whole is a good time at the movies.

Skippable [32]
1. Alpha Dog. Not bad; among the better January '07 fare.
2. Assassination of Jesse James..., The. Ultimately unsuccessful.
3. Bee Season. Clunky plot with no payoff, this is an OK timewaster at best.
4. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Entertaining genre piece with good cast is not deep and quite farfetched.
5. Beowulf. Never really transcends its stylistics.
6. Black Snake Moan. Didn't rise to the occasion.
7. Blades of Glory. Few real laughs.
8. Bridge To Terabithia. Made no sense until the "twist" which should have been revealed from the get-go despite the way the book might be written.
9. Charlie Wilson's War. Messagey film with star power is decent but lacking dramatically.
10. Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The. Certainly has merit but weak in characterization and theme.
11. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Minor.
12. Gone Baby Gone. Interesting genre piece but entirely implausible.
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Actually one of the better entries but a weak story hampered it.
14. Hot Fuzz. Uneven like "Shaun of the Dead" but not as worthy of forgiveness.
15. Knocked Up. Didn't live up to the trailer, and occasionally mean-spirited.
16. Lars and the Real Girl. One-note; picked up a little toward the end.
17. Lives of Others, The. Didn't grab me.
18. Michael Clayton. Hard not to recommend but its too weighted to the (albeit terrific) ending.
19. Mighty Heart, A. Quite ambitious, but with all due respect just barely a movie; Jolie overrated.
20. Music and Lyrics. Hugh Grant fun; Barrymore character underwritten.
21. My Best Friend. Good natured but weak.
22. National Treasure: Book of Secrets. A lot like the first: utterly cartoonish, but a pleasant diversion.
23. No Country for Old Men. Pointless on purpose— I expected the Coens to appear on-screen at the end to say "Ha, ha. Made you look!"; times like these call for a Big Lebowski.
24. No End in Sight. Very informative but not a "movie" classic.
25. Ocean's Thirteen. Didn't ever get off the ground due to its never ending explaining of itself.
26. Rush Hour 3. Dumb.
27. Shrek 3. Best of the "May" blockbusters, but that's not saying much.
28. Spider-Man 3. A mixed bag.
29. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber... Great score is too Broadway for the film medium; nice Burtonisms, production design make it entertaining fare nonetheless.
30. T.V. Set, The. Not sharp enough.
31. Transformers. Great first half then the Transformers started talking; finale just a string of LOUD action.
32. Walker, The. Oddly retro film is interesting, but if seen at all, is best viewed as a companion to Paul Schrader's earlier efforts.

Avoid [8]
1. Atonement. A bore.
2. Dan in Real Life. Tedious; a letdown.
3. Fred Claus. What you get when you film a first draft screenplay— that was written over a weekend.
4. Ghost Rider. Textbook disaster; almost worth seeing on that basis.
5. Hairspray. Demands to be loved from the first minute.
6. I'm Not There. Torture.
7. Persepolis. Spoiled child leads a relatively charmed young adult life but she knew people who suffered and died, the end.
8. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Incomprehensible and endless.

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