December 27, 2007

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This is 2007
Year in movies: the Western rides again, Hollywood preaches about the war.
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com

It was the Coen-est of times, it was the Redford-est of times.

This year saw movies that kicked butt in a multitude of ways, re-affirming faith in the multiplex, and also the year saw several dour, scoldy films about The War, calling to action a country that had already thrown a party out of Congress because of its/our collective dissatisfaction. It was a year of barren, tensely shot Westerns and dramatically-barren “issue” movies.

It was also a year that affirmed the dominance of Judd Apatow and his pothead-with-a-heart-of-gold humor, so go figure.

I should mention here that, as always, some of the movies on other critics’ top ten lists have not yet been at a theater near me. I make this list having not seen There Will Be Blood, Juno, The Kite Runner, Persepolis, The Savages, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Orphanage or Youth Without Youth (though early reports indicate that movie might be horrible). For that matter, I haven’t seen Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem either, and, hey, the last Alien vs. Predator stands as one of the best interspecies love stories ever.

• Best animated feature: Ratatouille With the voice of Patton Oswalt and a cooking style that is pure Esoffier, what’s not to love about the rat Remy and the movie that might just get the kids to try French cusine?

• Worst animated feature: Bee Movie I should say that I, a Seinfeld-watching adult, liked this movie but it completely failed to capture the kids in the audience.

• Best parody of a film genre: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story This John C. Reilly/Judd Apatow creation skewers the musical biopic while creating a hilarious, brilliantly stupid version of that genre.

• Worst parody of a film genre: The Comebacks Pasting together a bunch of scenes from sports movies does not a sports movie parody make.

• Best movie about “The War”: Charlie Wilson’s War Not technically about this war (Iraq, Afghanistan, on Terror — take your pick), this Aaron Sorkin-penned based-on-a-true-story movie explains a piece of the road leading up to our current troubles with this laugh-out-loud funny look at a lone congressman and his covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

• Worst movie about “The War”: Lions for Lambs The giant heads of Robert Redford, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep spew ham-fisted distillations of the arguments pro- and con-The War for an unrelenting, self-important hour and a half.

• Best revenge fantasy movie: Shooter Mark “Don’t you dare call him Marky Mark” Wahlberg totally takes it to a rogue element in the government when they come messing with him.

• Worst revenge fantasy movie: Hannibal Rising Lithuanians eat his sister so Hannibal Lecter decides to bite back.

• Best movie about creatures of the night: 30 Days of Night Creepy, primitive-language-speaking vampires eat their way through the town of Barrow, Alaska, during its month of Artic darkness.

• Worst movie about creatures of the night: Blood & Chocolate Mopey werewolves in Budapest try to keep a young girl from escaping her duty to be the next werewolf queen. Somewhere, an Evanescence-knock-off band collects a paycheck for the moody evocative-of-a-sullen-teenager’s-diary score.

• Worst Lindsay Lohan movie: Georgia Rule It’s been a pretty bad year for Miss Mean Girl and this movie is actually the least of her problems. Also, in fairness to Lohan, her screechy, amateurish performance was only one of many things I hated about this horrific chick flick.

• Most unintentionally hilarious Lindsay Lohan movie: I Know Who Killed Me The scene of Lohan pole dancing made the movie “famous” but it’s the scenes where she has to “act” like a hard-bitten stripper girl that make you laugh ’til your stomach cramps.

• Best bun-in-the-oven movie: Knocked Up Apatow creates a comedy that is also a touching rumination about love, marriage, family and the suckiness of becoming a responsible adult.

• Worst bun-in-the-oven movie: The Brothers Solomon Idiots hire a woman to gestate a grandchild for their father who is in a coma. Why, Will Arnet, why?

• Best Boomer movie: Across the Universe The irony is that many a boomer film critic hated this musical-ization of Beatles music. Personally, I loved the pretty colors and, really, you can’t screw up those songs.

• Worst Boomer movie: Wild Hogs An unholy spawn of a drunken mating between Home Improvement and Easy Rider. Not even William H. Macy saves this movie.

• Best movie about the youngsters: Superbad The kids (Michael Cera, Jonah Hill) are very much alright in this next-generation Apatow flick about guys looking for booze and girls.

• Worst movie about the youngsters: In the Land of Woman You have to let the Seth Cohen go, Adam Brody.

• Best movie featuring non-human killer: Black Sheep The sheep take many pounds of Kiwi flesh for all those years of free wool in this fun, barely-seen New Zealand indie. A close second is the giant walking bass-bat-whale thing in The Host, a Korean film which is like a horror movie version of Little Miss Sunshine where lots of people die at the end.

• Worst movie featuring non-human killer: Dead Silence Ventriloquist’s dummies are creepy but just not scary.

• Best use of music in a non-musical: Enchanted Amy Adams and her musically motivated flocks of pigeons and cockroaches are comedy gold.

• Worst use of music in a non-musical: Romance & Cigarettes James Gandolfini should not sing.

• Movie franchise that needs to die already: Saw IV If possible, I would trap the franchise in a room in some Rube Goldberg trap where the method of death was having its own movies played directly into its brain.

• Movie that deserves a sequel: 30 Days of Night A great looking and genuinely scary tale about vampires eating their way through an Artic Alaskan town, the movie is based on a graphic novel which has sequels, and thus plenty of material for a second film.

• Best rebirth of an action franchise: Live Free or Die Hard The criticism that many of Bruce Willis’ stunts (leaping from a Mack-truck falling off an overpass onto the wing of a jet plane or bringing down a helicopter with a car, for example) are “unbelievable” is absurd. Everything about this movie is completely and inarguably unbelievable — unbelievably awesome.

• Worst rebirth of an action franchise: Rush Hour 3 Jackie Chan needs to stop saying “yes” to sequels of these movies.

• Best blockbuster sequel: Spider-Man 3 Not a great entry to the trilogy, but nonetheless a solid superhero movie.

• Worst blockbuster sequel: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End Even Johnny Depp being crazy isn’t enough to justify nearly three hours of pirate capering.

• Underappreciated movie of the year: Grindhouse The Quentin Tarantino/Roberto Rodriguez double feature was like an amusement park ride, complete with ads and trailers and a scratchy film. A close second in underappreciation was the 1970s-like sci-fi film Sunshine.

• Overrated movie of the year: Atonement We get it — you’re sorry. Move on.

• Best modern Western: No Country for Old Men The Coen brothers create a brilliant, bleak Texas landscape wherein a money-swiping yokel tries to stay one step ahead of a compressed air-gun using psycho-killer.

• Best classic Western: 3:10 to Yuma Russell Crowe plays a black hat to a desperate white-hat-wearing Christian Bale in this old-school, horses and dust, bankmen and Pinkertons shoot ’em up.

• Best movie of 2007: 300 More style than substance, this graphic-novel adaptation is one hell of a great time. The shiny bronze sheen to the film perfectly captures this fantasty version of ancient glory in battle and heroic death. Gerard Butler is a great and terrifying king, Dominic West is an excellent weasely politician and Lena Headey is the best movie queen of the year (sorry, Cate Blanchett). This movie won’t (and shouldn’t) win Oscars (except in the technical categories) but it was definitely the film in 2007 that made me happiest to be in a theater.

• Worst movie of 2007: Kickin it Old Skool Sweet merciful Zeus, shut up, Jamie Kennedy.

Top 10 movies of 2007
With some cheating
10. No End in Sight/Sicko Two documentaries to get you both completely enraged at your government and completely frightened for the future.
9. I Am Legend/Rescue Dawn In both films, one man (Will Smith/Christian Bale) struggles against a seemingly insurmountable enemy (zombies/the North Vietnamese army) in an attempt to survive. Strong performances and exciting storylines make for solid movies.
8. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead/Gone Baby Gone Both feature harrowing examples of familial betrayal and the evils of the world and both feature some knockout performances from surprise sources (Ethan Hawke/Casey Affleck).
7. A Mighty Heart/Eastern Promises Performances make these films. In Heart, Angelina Jolie is heartbreaking but unrelenting as Marianne Pearl, wife of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. In Promises, Viggo Mortensen is solid as the Russian mobster (maybe) and he delivers a damn good fight scene considering the free-hanging, quite-visible nature of his czar and little Cossacks.
6. Knocked Up Judd Apatow offers up an honest look at marriage, friendship, growing up and pregnancy (from the guy’s point of view, at least) in this laugh-’til-you-snort comedy.
5. Live Free or Die Hard He hits a helicopter with a car. A helicopter in flight. Yippie ki yay …
4. Charlie Wilson’s War It’s the Sorkin we all know and love at his geeky best — explaining legislation and making the quick quip. Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman beautifully pull off this smartypants script.
3. Ratatouille Never have I been so happy to see a rat in the kitchen. This movie was good whole-family entertainment as well as a foodie delight as well as a darn sweet story.
2. 3:10 to Yuma/No Country for Old Men Both are beautifully shot and both make a solid case for the return of the movie Western.
1. 300 This is Sparta!

Honorable mentions
• Away from Her Sarah Polley writes and directs this beautifully acted story about marriage and love in the face of Alzheimer’s.
• Once/The Host Brilliant little-seen indies that reinvent their genres (the musical and the horror movie, respectively).
• In the Shadow of the Moon Some of the very few men ever to have flown to the moon talk about their experiences in this documentary.

10 worst movies of 2007
Aghh! My eyes, my eyes!
10. Bratz Movie based on the dolls kind of makes you understand why slasher films are always killing of teenage girls.
9. Daddy Day Camp The script is so bad the leads from the original wouldn’t even return, resulting in yet another sad entry on Cuba Gooding Jr.’s resume. Why, Cuba Gooding Jr., why?
8. Balls of Fury The likely pitch? Like Dodgeball with ping pong. No. No, it wasn’t.
7. The Brothers Solomon/Norbit These “comedies” aren’t just unfunny, they’re the opposite of funny. You feel you’ve just witnessed some kind of tragedy.
6. Dead Silence/Saw IV/The Hills Have Eyes 2 Boo! There, that was scarier than these “horror” flicks.
5. Lions for Lambs Dear Mr. Redford, If you want to lecture, guest teach at a college.
4. Because I Said So/Georgia Rule I understand that Hollywood doesn’t offer many good roles for older women, Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda, but that doesn’t mean you had to play these screechy characters in these screechy movies.
3. August Rush Robin Williams AND an orphan who believes in the power of music.
2. Redline Porn-movie-level actors stumble through a porn-movie-level script in this knock-off of the The Fast and the Furious movies.
1. Kickin’ It Old Skool Paid about $6 to see it, would have paid $20 not to.

Horrible mentions
• Becoming Jane/Jane Austen Book Club Enough with the Jane Austen.
• Blood & Chocolate Even the trailer was hilarious.
• Dragon Wars Atrocious acting meets child’s-crayon-drawing-level CGI.