Happy New Year, faithful readers! That’s right, it’s movie retrospective time again! And the update is so big this year I actually had to invent a new word to describe it. “Hugenormous.” Look that motherfucker up on UrbanDictionary. I saw so many movies during the past year that I almost classify as a real movie critic. Like a real movie critic, I considered just putting together a top ten list of my favorite films of the year and ending it there. However, boys and girl, this is the internet! All bets are off! I’m determined to honor the hard work of everyone that worked on the flicks I saw this year, even the really crappy ones. So bend over and get ready for 66 mini-reviews, listed from most awesome to most painful!
As far as film goes, 2007 wasn’t an awful year, more of a disappointing one. A lot of hotly anticipated pictures kind of, you know, blew. However, not all was lost, as a number of smaller, obscure, indie pictures came out and saved the day from mediocrity. Despite seeing nineteen new releases in theaters, thirty-one on video, and eight on-line, they’re were still a few well-reviewed pics (“No Country for Old Men,” “I’m Not There") and a few not-so-well reviewed ones (“The Darjeeling Limited,” “Wristcutters: A Love Story”) that I didn’t see. Still, on a one/ten scale, I’d rate 2007 a six. Better then average but not quite great.
Without further ado, I present THE LIST, in its completely uncensored, unedited, unfiltered, ungood, form. Enjoy. Or don’t. Ah-hum.
I love “Grindhouse” for many things. It reminded me that movie going should be an experience, allowed me to live a time I wasn’t alive for, made Kurt Russell badass again… The list goes on and on. However, now that a backlash has started due to the box office failure, what I appreciate most is how it flicks off anyone not cool enough to get it. If you didn’t all ready love grindhouse movies, this probably won’t impress you. But for aficionados, it’s a joy fest. A geek movie, made by geeks, for geeks. “Planet Terror” is hilarious fun, “Death Proof” is expertly written and I want movies to accompany those fake trailers immediately. This is undeniably the most fun I’ve had in a theater in years.
2. Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
The first half is a hilarious mockumentary that deconstructs all the rules and subtext of the slasher film subgenre brilliantly. The second half then uses everything we found out against us, crafting something that’s just as cool and scary as it is funny. The cast is great, the in-jokes plentiful, and the direction extremely clever. For a fact, “Leslie Vernon” might be the most clever film I’ve seen in some time. A treat for genre fans. And bring on the sequel!
3. Hot Fuzz
“Shaun of the Dead” made Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright a comedy team. “Hot Fuzz” proves that success wasn’t a fluke. This one is different from their first effort too. The humor builds slowly, starting out with chuckles before growing to fall out of your seat, in pain from laughing so much, hilarity by the climax. The cast and direction is great and action fans will probably get a kick out of the over-the-top theatrics. To put it shortly: More films need old ladies with double barrel shotguns getting flying kicks in the face. The best comedy of the year.
An excellently written story about the lingering ramifications of cruelty. The subtext is very rich and the characters are layered and nuanced. It’s chilling because the story is so close to reality. The supporting cast is solid but Dallas Page is a little broad and Ricky Ullman is miscast, I think. After the cool “2001 Maniacs,” Tim Sullivan has graduated to horror expert with this one.
It might seem overly quirky at first but you’ll be won over by the excellent performances, unique musical score, and hilarious dialogue. Ellen Page continues to prove she is the best actress working today and the supporting cast, including the ever reliable J.K. Simmons, is great too. If this lovable little movie was a person, I’d want to be its best friend. And the writer wins all sorts of points for the obscure horror movie references. (Even if “Wizard of Gore” is nowhere near as good as “Suspiria.”)
6. Day Night Day Night
Feels as if a camera was dropped into the life of a girl forty-eight hours before she suicide-bombs herself in Time Square. We are told as little as possible and almost everything is up to you. The deliberate pacing leads up to an agonizingly intense final act. Lusia Williams’ anchoring performance is build entirely on mannerisms. The film is hypnotic, fascinating, and stark. I’m not sure what it means but it could quite possibly be great. Writer/director Julia Loktev has got something up her sleeve, for sure, and is certainly one to watch.
This anime flick is the most visually intense, imaginative, and inventive film of the year. The story is about dreams, which more or less gave the filmmakers the chance to stop worrying about plot and instead focus on creating mind-bendingly amazing animation. It’s like “Fantasia” for the modern, adult audience.
This “contemporary musical” about street musicians in Ireland has its greatest strengths in two things: A surprisingly good set of songs and performers behind them, and, more importantly, one of the most realistic, and heart-breaking, romances I’ve seen on screen recently. These two people fall in love, slowly, but are all ready in love with other people. As the film goes on, the usually sad music brings this point home even more.
THREE AND A HALF STARS:
The motion capture isn’t perfected yet but this is still an excellent and surprisingly layered action/fantasy film. The cast is fantastic, the battle scenes are intense, and some interesting new angles are added to the old tale. Most important is the dragon sequence which might be the best sequence involving a dragon in the history of cinema.
10. Live Free or Die Hard
Follows the “Die Hard” formula to the T. Not like that’s bad, as the formula is frikin’ awesome. Bruce Willis is as badass as ever. The plot is as tight as the previous films, the action set-pieces might be the most intense of the series, and Justin Long is an amusing sidekick. Len Wiseman’s direction is occasionally shaky and Timothy Olyphant is a weak sauce villain. Still, this might be the best one yet.
11. Black Sheep
Sheep are pretty funny creatures, generally speaking. Killer sheep? Hilarious. Were-sheep? Forgitaboutit. This follows in the proud New Zealand tradition of Peter Jackson by being a fantastically funny splatter-comedy. The cast of characters are surprisingly well realized too.
A creepy character drama/psychological horror film anchored by a sharp script, a fantastic performance from Michael Shannon and a pretty decent one from Ashley Judd. We find ourselves in a frightening world of paranoia in which even the smallest personal slight can be tied into a wider, insidious conspiracy… Could be a normal day for anybody.
13. The Last Mimzy
The big surprise of the year. What we have here is an intelligent, very well-acted, multilayered cerebral sci-fi film that not only avoids feeling pretentious (like most cerebral sci-fi films), but has a non-forceful eco-friendly message and is suitable for the whole family.
14. The Tripper
The directorial debut of David Arqutte makes a few missteps visually but is mostly a delightfully twisted slasher film and a hilarious social satire with a great cast. The scene where Ronald Reagan massacres hippies set to the tune of Reagan Youth is worth the rental price alone.
15. Black Snake Moan
Thematically jumbled Southern fried character study has that unique sort of texture, charm, and, dare I say, magic, that jumbled messes can only have. The understanding of location and characters are fantastic and the two lead performances are great. What especially stands out is the use of music which is almost revolutionary. Further viewings might reveal a higher final score.
By completely reinventing and redefining the mythology, Rob Zombie has created the first scary “Halloween” film since the original. The attack scenes are intense and disturbing, the cast is quite good, and the story has a newfound character and reality to it. Zombie’s love of excessive profanity/sex, a rushed second act, and an overlong ending are the only weak screws.
17. American Gangster
Expertly done best describes this. It’s excellent work from excellent people. The only glaring flaw is an overlong run-time. Ridley Scott’s direction is his best in years and he really should get the Oscar this time.
18. Wrong Turn 2: Dead End
Everything the first movie should have been. An awesome splatter movie in addition to being a hilarious satire of reality television with vivid characters and cast, especially Henry Rollins.
19. The Host
This Korean monster movie has a great cast, wonderfully written characters, a real emotional center, more then a fair share of thrills, and one of the cooler looking fish creatures in recent memory. It also has a lousy ending and an overzealous soundtrack.
20. Alien vs. Predator: Requiem
Dropping monsters into a small town filled with CW style teenagers might sound retarded but this movie has some badass monster action. You see a predator and some aliens seriously rumble and messily tear up any humans unlucky enough to get in the way. It might lack the human drama and thrills of the originals but, as a fan boy movie, it delivers. And its world’s better then that abortion called “AVP.”
Totally solid, highly entertaining horror picture with several moments of very funny dry British humor. For a fact, the grisly survival horror is balanced perfectly with comedy. We even get some good acting and social commentary, too. What’s to lose?
A genuinely clever idea (Zombies as pets) mixed with a great Billy Connelly performance and cute social satire make for a highly amusing parody of zombie films and the “A boy and his dog” genre.
A slasher film that acts like the “gory” days of the ‘80s never ended. The characters are underdeveloped and the story rushed, but the location’s creepy, the killer’s badass, and the death scenes feature some awesomely over-the-top gore effects.
24. Futurama: Bender’s Big Score
“Futurama” got a movie this year too, but unlike that other Matt Gorening show, it was too cool for theaters and went straight-to-DVD. Okay, it drags a bit in the middle and the bad jokes hang like dead air, but it’s just great to see these characters in new adventures after so long.
Creative direction and John Cusack’s strong performances drawls you into a creepy atmosphere. Not all the scare scenes hit but the movie tries to scare you on a deep, personal level and that earns “1408” a lot of kudos.
Visually vivid and uses the CGI backgrounds to great effect but this movie is really just a bunch of mostly naked guys stabbing people and screaming “SPARTA!” That’s pretty entertaining at first but does grow tiresome after an hour. Gerard Butler gives a great performance.
27. I Am Legend
Will Smith has developed into a surprisingly good actor and while I didn’t enjoy this as much as the novel’s previous adaptation (“The Omega Man”), it’s still pretty good. It feels a little overly melodramatic in spots and some of the humor is forced. But there are several intense moments and at least it’s different from most big budget fare. And, yeah, I was totally weepy-eyed when the dog died.
The direction is choppy and it should have been more focused on the robots themselves, but, considering all the worries I had during production, this is a pretty entertaining “shit-blows-up” movie that gets more things right then it does wrong.
29. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Wraps up the franchise surprisingly well, has some nice special effects moments, and avoids many of the second film’s mistakes. Probably still too long and the middle section, with all its constant double crossing and deal breaking, is a wee confusing.
Despite the critics’ downpour of admiration, the public’s half-heartedly positive response is the correct one. Not to say it isn’t good. There are several very funny moments, the characters are well-realized and acted, and the movie is visually impressive. However, the story is cliché and lacks the comic energy of every other Pixar movie. It’s not hilarious like it should be, especially with Patton Oswalt and Janeane Garofalo in it, and it’s not as heart-warming or involving as it could be.
31. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I would compare the Harry Potter series to the James Bond franchise in that few of the films rise above the others in quality but they’re all a solidly entertaining time. This one is worth seeing just for the wizard’s duel at the end.
32. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
I was one of few who liked the first “FF” but this sequel is easily superior. It fixes the first films two biggest problems: Having a better written, better paced story and making Dr. Doom the badass he should be. The Silver Surfer is awesome (As is his performer Doug Jones) and adds a lot of much needed energy. It’s still too focused on comedy.
All the plot that is the turtles and their family affairs is awesome and gets everything right. The rest of the plot is somewhat less awesome. The visuals are impressive if too video game-y. And I hated the soundtrack. Still the best representation of the characters on-screen yet.
34. I Know Who Killed Me
Overlooked and looked-down-on due to its skank star’s off-screen antics but is a good attempt at an American giallo. Chris Sivertson’s direction is gorgeous and the music is great. The plot is convoluted which is typical of the sub-genre. And you know what? Lindsay is actually pretty decent in the lead.
35. Ghost Rider
An energetic, appropriately goofy, superhero movie with fun action scenes and quirky performances. Well, except for Wes Bentley. He’s awful.
A competent thriller that, why it doesn’t really do anything new, is never boring. A good rental.
37. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters
I can’t believe this was actually made, much less released to legitimate theaters. It’s basically an R-rated, 86-minute long episode of the show. So the humor is spread out a little more but just as funny. And it’s certainly just as fucking bizarre as the show’s fan will expect.
TWO AND A HALF STARS:
38. Wind Chill
This character-driven ghost story gets good mileage out of its creepy snowbound setting and solid lead performances. Sadly, all that build-up tension is squandered by the silly climax and dower ending. Still, give this one a rental as it was unfairly overlooked in theaters.
39. 28 Weeks Later…
The protagonist shift halfway through hurts what is otherwise a pretty decent sequel, with the good acting, direction, music and all. It maintains at least some of the first movie’s sense of panic. But I don’t think “28 Months Later…” needs to be made.
A reverse version of “May,” in which director Lucky McKee stars and actress Angela Bettis directs. Neither is bad but they should stick to their day jobs anyway. An interesting experiment in characters and themes but only has so much to offer. It’s probably too slow and too weird for non-fans.
As a modern day, teenage version of “Rear Window,” this works pretty well, with good performances, funny writing, and decent direction. Not particularly original, but entertaining and it could have been a lot worse.
42. DOA: Dead or Alive
I saw this back in November of ’06 when copies first leaked online. I vaguely remember it being a pretty fun, cheesy action film with hot ladies and a sense of humor. Considering it’s based on a video game, that’s pretty good. I would have loved it when I was eight.
43. Southland Tales
The good things are the esoteric cast, the hypnotic music, the twisted humor, and the sense of poetry throughout. The bad thing is the convoluted plot which crushes the film. And it’s not like you can ignore the plot and just take the movie as an experiment because so much time is devoted to explaining the story. Oh, well. It was almost good.
44. Eastern Promises
I wish they’d give Dave Cronenberg an Oscar all ready so he can stop making blatantly mainstream awards bait like this and get back to awesome horror. Viggo Mortensen’s performance is fantastic but the movie even ruins that with a stupid plot twist towards the end. And, yes, you see his balls.
45. Murder Party
Works better as a satire of pretentious hipsters and the college art scene then as a horror comedy. This is a feature version of a short film and the amount of filler makes that far too obvious. Despite some funny dialogue, decent performances, and solid special effects, the premise is better then the movie as a whole.
46. Meet the Robinsons
The interesting characters aren’t developed and the ones that are developed aren’t interesting. There’s an attempt at some Classical Disney Drama at the end but it just comes off feeling out of place. There are several funny moments and the filmmakers get points for actually casting Tom Selleck.
47. The Simpsons Movie
Admittedly funnier then the shows been in the past eight years, which is to say it has a handful of laughs. But did we really have to see Bart’s dangle?
48. The Number 23
I was diggin’ this paranoid thriller, with its cool direction, good performances, and interestingly different plot, up until the reveal, which was sadly predictable, and the cop-out conclusion that betrays all the themes and mood that came before.
49. 30 Days of Night
The central concept’s awesome, I love how the vampires are handled, and the acting’s pretty decent, even Josh Harnett. Two things keep this from being a potentially great fright film. The awful shaky-cam direction of the formally reliable David Slade ruins all the scare scenes and I’m just tired of horror films that are all doom, gloom, and no fun.
50. The Mist
The creature effects were neat and the writing’s decent. But the religious zealot character was seriously annoying, in addition to being an overplayed cliché, and the ending was unnecessarily bleak.
51. Shrek the Third
Has just enough funny moments towards the end to barely squeak by. The “Shrek” films have gone from being a hilarious summer surprise to being another tired, over exposed Hollywood franchise.
Considering this movie’s whole selling point was Jet Li vs. Jason Statham, the two chase after each other more then anything else. At the end, when they do fight, the confrontation is disappointingly short. There are some decent action set pieces, like an above average sword fight and car chase, but the plot is confusing and the direction borderline awful.
53. Spider-Man 3
You know all the little problems the first two “Spider-Man” films had but you could overlook because everything else was so right? Those problems have blossomed into huge issues. An overstuffed plot, listless performances, and far too much trite drama has ruined Spider-Man.
54. The Hills Have Eyes II
Nastier then part one with the same quality gore and acting but the shaky-cam direction, trying-to-hard musical score, and weak script make for a generally unsatisfying horror experience.
55. Hostel: Part II
Same plot and characters as the first. Only difference is they're girls, trading in blatant homophobia for blatant misogyny. The business aspect is interesting, the finale is somewhat plausible this time, and there's some dark humor. Still, mostly boring and not as violent or disturbing as it thinks it is.
56. Mad Cowgirl
An unstable girl gets mad cow disease. She then goes crazy and kills some people with her rad kung-fu skills. Not as stupid-awesome as it sounds. Decent performances and cool music but this transgressive horror/comedy/drama just isn’t very good.
57. Wild Hogs
A routine, cliché studio comedy that has maybe one or two funny moments. Considering it stars the humor sucking black holes that are Tim Allen and Martin Lawrence, that’s actually a compliment.
58. Dead Silence
I’ll give James Wan this. After “Saw” he could have done any number of torture films. Instead, he did an old fashion ghost story. Shame it isn’t any better. The plot is contrived, the characters stupid as shit, the acting below par, and the “twist” is completely incoherent.
59. Balls of Fury
The cast is so much better then this relatively stupid, sporadically entertaining spoof of kung-fu and sports film deserves. Christopher Walken and Diedrich Bader manage to wrangle some laughs out of the material but there’s not much else to report here.
A few potentially interesting ideas are trapped inside this painfully dull and mediocre horror film. Too much obvious CGI, annoying rock video editing, and a ridiculously stupid twist ending are included within.
61. Hannibal Raising
Gaspard Ulliel was so not up to the job. He’s laughably bad. The rest is a standard, mediocre revenge story that does nothing to build upon the tired Hannibal character.
This very silly, convoluted, supernatural thriller features clumsy dialogue and stars a still sexy Adrienne Barbeau, who was probably just happy to get a lead role, and a doughy Nicholas Brendon, who probably owed somebody money.
ONE AND A HALF STARS:
63. The Reaping
An attempt to do a classy studio produced demonic horror film, of the like we haven’t seen since the seventies. However, that kind of film needs a subtle director that’ll slowly build an atmosphere of mounting dread. Sadly, this is just another dumb, loud, stock-and-shock horror film with a stupid story and not one, but two!, insulting twist endings.
64. Because I Said So
Why did I rent this? Because Michael “Heathers” Lehmann directed it and Lauren “Gilmore Girls” Graham co-stars? It takes the usual rom-com formula but makes it worse by adding obnoxious characters and awful slapstick.
65. The Hitcher
Takes a minor classic from the eighties, sucks out all the soul and subtext of the original and replaces it with an obnoxious MTV slickness.
66. Epic Movie
This is literally just like a porno movie parody without the porn. Why did I rent this? Because of Crispin Glover? Because Jayma Mays is cute? Because I wanted to see something worse then “The Hitcher?” Words really don’t do the awfulness of this movie justice.
As for this year, two-naught-naught-eight, my most anticipated films are:
1. The Diary of the Dead
3. Iron Man
4. Synecdoche, New York
5. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
6. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
7. Embodiment of Evil
8. Tropic Thunder
9. Midnight Meat Train
10. Revolutionary Road
Other upcoming motion pictures of interest are as follows:
2001 Maniacs: The Beverly Hellbillies, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Babylon AD, Be Kind Rewind, Body of Lies, Bolt, Burn After Reading, Cabin Fever 2, Cloverfield, Charlie Bartlett, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, The Dark Knight, The Dead Sleep Easy, Doomsday, Hancock, The Happening, Haunted World of El Superbeasto, The Incredible Hulk, Inkheart, Johnny Got His Gun, The Lost, Mamma Mia!, Mary, Mirrors, The Mummy 3, My Name is Bruce, The Other Boleyn Girl, Rambo, Red, Return to Sleepaway Camp, Rogue, The Ruins, The Signal, Speed Racer, The Strangers, Stuck, Teeth, The Third Mother, The Tracy Fragments, Trailer Trash, Trick r’ Treat, Valkyrie, and WALL-E.
Yes, I realize how much time I must have on my hands. And, once again, I thank you and apologize to you for reading. So, should I not be murdered or an atomic cataclysm take place, I will see you here, this time next year, same blog channel, same blog place. Thank you.