Monday, January 14, 2008

Best and Worst Movies of 2007 (Part 1)

The amount of movies I saw in 2007 outweighed the number of (new) albums I listened to and concerts I attended almost two to one. And again, like my brief Best and Worst of 2007 in music, I mean this post to read "Favorite and Least Favorite in Movies," except that in Part 2, I'll change "Least Favorite" to "Most Disappointing/Most Overrated."

Did you follow all that?

Best of 2007

(Click on the pictures to follow a link to the movie's IMDB page.)

10. I Am Legend - Dir. Francis Lawrence

Where's DJ Jazzy Jeff? Oh yeah, he was killed along with more than 90% of the planet after that woman doctor tried to cure cancer.

That's the premise for I Am Legend, a movie with its flaws, yes, but with a great delivery. Not too many movies about solitary confinement (an example from just this year: Into the Wild) actually show solitary confinement that well.

Here, Smith is just going along his strict daily routine, a schedule that helps him maintain his sanity. When things go awry, he starts to lose a few screws, and he does it very well.

The only unforgivable part for me was that I knew a major plot development from the trailer -- when Sam dies. (You can see Smith carrying the limp dog in the street in one of the trailers.) Laammmee. I don't think I'm even going to watch trailers anymore.

In the end, I didn't really care about the bad animal and monster CGI, the plot holes, or other minor flaws as much as I cared about the impact of the film. The question it poses is similar to a question I'd been thinking about before: What would you do if you were completely alone?

My question was: What if you were the only fan of your favorite band on the planet?

The answer to both is: Turn it up to 11.

9. Waitress - Dir. Adrienne Shelley

Waitress edged its way into the list partly because it was a film I did not expect to be quality. But its character development, plotting, acting, and general charisma lends the movie a certain charm that is absent from most romantic comedies of this age.

While it's really an orange compared to the apple of my favorite rom-com, Gross Pointe Blank, Waitress also mixes comedy with aptly made moments of drama, levity with emotional depth, and creativity in place of the violence and action of Gross Pointe Blank to give it a lasting charm.

All that with the surprisingly amusing cameo in the role of the restaurant owner (I won't give it away -- go see it) and the bittersweet reminder that the director, who also played the geeky co-waitress Dawn, looking for love, died shortly after the completion of the film. If you look up the trailer for this one, don't believe it -- it has a lot more depth than suggested, and I believe the trailer was made to rope unsuspecting viewers in. (Isn't that the point of every movie trailer?)

8. The Simpsons Movie - Dir. David Silverman

As a self-admitted huge fan of The Simpsons, I submit my 8th place winner with a couple of grains of salt to the few uninitiated Simpsons devotees.

This movie was rumored for so long, and I heard that the series was going to stop after it came out, and that wasn't true (I guess). But considering the topsy turvy nature of the quality of the TV show, I was more than pleasantly entertained by this feature film. (It sure beats the crap out of Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story and The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in terms of animated feature lengths based on TV

With its usual sharp wit towards current events, politics, and spider-pigs, The Simpsons Movie is a real winner.

7. The Darjeeling Limited - Dir. Wes Anderson

Sure, Anderson has a quirky-for-quirkiness's-sake nature at times with his movies, but he has certainly cut a name for himself in the directing world.

Tons of films, especially the "indie" ones, are aping the Anderson style, but most fall short with melodrama, excessively verbose dialogue, and shitty attempts at artsy shots (subjects I will address later in the "Worst of" category).

In short, anyone can pretty much spot an Anderson scene from a mile away. And while distinct directing does not equal great directing, Wes has ironed out some of the flaws since Bottle Rocket and is in full stride at the helm of The Darjeeling Limited. With this entry, I once again found that I liked the movie more than I thought I would based on the trailer.

6. 28 Weeks Later - Dir. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo

There's just something about frantic zombies that sprint instead of waddle around. In a fitting sequel to the endearing original, 28 Weeks Later picks up at a time when the original disease is "gone" and all the survivors try to continue to survive.

It's an artful and worthy sequel that deserves attention. I don't even remember all that happens, but I remember liking it. I guess that means I should see it again.

5. The Bourne Ultimatum - Dir. Paul Greengrass

Beats the hell out of James Bond. (Okay, Casino Royale was a noted advance in the series.)

So at a time when a lot of franchises are springing up and a lot of remakes are being done, and a lot of them suck, Jason Bourne just comes blazing through every time. I think I saw the second one before the first, but no matter what order you watch them in, the Bourne trilogy delivers.

The movie's got smarts, it makes you wonder, it makes you think (but not too much), and it just delivers great excitement, great ideas, and unbelievable action (seriously, I don't believe that anyone can ride a moped like that -- ex-special agents and hired killers still have to abide by physics).

It was kind of hard to believe that such a mainstream movie franchise could be so good, but it is. Go see 'em all. (I can't tell what language that is on the poster, but it looks a lot cooler than any of the American posters. Maybe Hollywood wasn't comfortable with putting out promo pictures involving metropolitan explosions, but I think this poster gets the point across just fine.)

4. Hot Fuzz - Dir. Edgar Wright

The idea that this movie could come in at #4 on my list shows that this was a strong year for movies. (Or that I haven't watched it enough.)

The witty guys behind Shaun of the Dead return with another spoof/homage that plays out very well, pitch perfect even. I dare any movie makers to do this just as well. Can't be done.

Funny, gripping, witty, dramatic, melodramatic for humor's sake. It's got everything going and I'm not even going to write about any of it, because if you haven't seen it you're in for an eye-opening world of fantastic surprises.

Pump. That. Shit.

(I think that's what it says... you know... when they start the car up?)

3. No Country for Old Men - Dir. Ethan & Joel Coen

This movie is totally polished. Wonderful cinematography, wonderful acting, top-notch directing.

A creepy villain follows around the accidental benefactor of a drug deal gone bad. A working class hero finds a fortune. A sheriff shows his age.

Abrupt ending aside (I'm willing to excuse it), this movie was perfectly plotted, perfectly shot, perfectly edited. I was left (and am still left, to an extent) speechless about it.

2. Superbad - Dir. Greg Mottola

I almost, almost felt bad for putting this above No Country, but then I remembered that it was the second best movie of 2007, hands down.

Once again, the trailer to this movie doesn't do it much justice. I thought it would just be a screwball thing, but then I saw it and couldn't stop laughing.

It's my favorite comedy since The Big Lebowski, and for me, that's saying a lot. I plan to re-watch this at least half the number of times I re-watch TBL, if that made any sense whatsoever.

1. Grindhouse - Dir. Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino

This is unprecedented filmmaking. Planet Terror and Deathproof challenge audiences nearly every step of the way, but if you just let go, you can get all the enjoyment out of Grindhouse as you want.

Rodriguez and Tarantino approached their features in different ways, but no two other movies could have complimented each other so well. The trailers in the beginning and in the middle were the ultimate clincher. This movie (YES, BOTH COMBINED) deserves better treatment (E.G., DUAL RELEASE in THE LEAST, BOTH ON ONE DVD at THE MOST; TRAILERS on the DVDs MOST DEFINITELY).

I heard a rumor from an acquaintance that the trailers from Grindhouse were left off the DVD releases. If this is true, this is a travesty. I have been unable to confirm this, not owning the DVDs myself, and not taking the 10 minutes it would probably take to search the internet to find out.


Well, there you have it. I thought I would be able to include the "Worst of" in this post as well, but I'm drained. I'll get to that soon.

And, okay okay, honorable mentions, short and sweet:

Shoot 'em Up: All style, no substance.

The Lives of Others: Possibly the only foreign film I saw last year. Worth it.

EDIT (01/20/08): After chewing on it a bit, and after some mentions from friends ragging on my list, I've decided to add two more honorables and leave my original list intact (despite my want to reorder the numbers, or possibly shift things out).

300: I did remember this title when I was composing my list, but when I looked it up in IMDB, it said (2006) next to it for some reason, even though it came out in March 2007, and I was thrown off including it in the best of 2007. This would at least push out my current #10 (Legend). I don't know what it was, but I really enjoyed this -- be it my study of classics (though it approaches accuracy about as much as Troy did, which is to say as much as a piece of plastic is pulled towards a magnet), my enjoyment of Sin City, whatever. The visuals were amazing, and I didn't find any part boring or annoying as much as my close friends did.

Sunshine: I'm not really sure where this would fit in my list, so would probably just have been in the honorable mentions. I enjoyed this mostly because it had some reasonable twists that I didn't see coming. 'Nuff said.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters: Shoot. This is getting out of control, so this is the last one. A pretty good adaptation from the tv series, but it almost demands to be either watched at 2 a.m. or tipsy, as with the tv show.

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