Posted by mike in Film,Reviews at 6:43 pm on February 7, 2008

I love movies. I love seeing them, and do so a lot. I spend way too much money going to the movies, buying movies, paying for movie channels, and buying home theater equipment so that I can better enjoy movies. The name of this site, in fact, comes from the never-got-off-the-ground production company I’d intended to start about 6 years ago (and hope to revisit some day), “1000 Monkeys Productions.” (I suppose that story could be a post in itself…)

I also love talking about and writing about movies, so I have decided that this year I am going to attempt to review every movie I see. The new site design is intended to sort of go along with this, as is the new “Reviews” category that I’ve added (I’m considering expanding into reviewing other media as well, but we’ll stick with film at first and see how it goes).

As a start, I thought I’d provide short capsule reviews of movies I saw that were released in 2007. I know it’s odd to do this more than a month into 2008, but I wanted to wait until after I’d seen There Will Be Blood, which only made it to my local Art Theatre just a week and a half ago. I’m using a 4-star scale, explained here, as Roger Ebert does. This list is in order of release date. (Films denoted [limited release] are not included in the Wikipedia list, as it only contains wide releases.)

  • Smokin’ Aces (*.5)
    This movie put a lot of effort into trying to be stylish and edgy, and not enough into making any sense. The plot has more convoluted and contrived twists than any audience should be expected to follow, and I have my doubts that the filmmakers were able to do so while writing or producing it, either. Instead it’s just an overly violent, overly convoluted mess with a few jokes and hip attitude sprinkled about. Jeremy Piven playing Jeremy Piven and a couple of tense shootouts make it worth watching once, but its shtick wears out before the film itself does.
  • Breach (***)
    The interesting true-life account of Robert Hanssen, an FBI double agent who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union. Chris Cooper is as good as always as Hanssen, even managing to make you wonder at several early points in the film if he’s really a bad guy or not, despite the fact that it opens with video footage of former Attorney General John Ashcroft announcing his character’s arrest. Ryan Phillippe is serviceable as Hanssen’s young counterpart, and the story manages to keep things moving, although it does so a bit slowly until about the start of the third act, but the resolution is exciting and satisfying. Breach ultimately ends up being a character study of a man who betrays his own country, and at that it succeeds greatly, largely due to Cooper’s performance.
  • The Number 23 (**)
    This is yet another in a long line of post-Sixth Sense films that tries to incorporate a surprising climactic twist, but does so in a way that ends up being more confusing than explanatory, and more annoying than revelatory. Jim Carrey gets to show off some of his range here, playing two characters who are polar opposites of each other (or are they?!?). The film starts out with some interesting coincidences involving the number 23, but they wear thin too quickly. The plot doubles back over itself in an apparent attempt to disorient and confuse its audience, wasting some genuinely good surprises by taking the twists a bit too far.
  • Black Snake Moan (****)
    A unique, dark, frank and touching film, Black Snake Moan gives two phenomenal actors all the chance they need to shine in truly disturbing–and fascinating–roles. Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci turn in two of the year’s best performances in the same film, with both characters embodying two very different types of extremes before eventually finding believable redemption through each other. This one seemed to get overlooked a bit, but it’s worth seeking out.
  • Zodiac (**.5)
    A frustrating film that feels like a classic at times, but ultimately falls short of satisfying. The subject matter puts it at a disadvantage from the start: it’s the story of one of the most famous unsolved crime stories in American history. While some viewers may come in not knowing many details of the real-life story, it’s hard not to at least be aware of the fact that the crime remains unsolved to this day, and so you know all along that the murderer will not be captured. That there have been other attempts to bring this story to the small or big screen (the most recent only two years prior) doesn’t help matters. The film also suffers by focusing on the part of the story that takes place in the 1960s for the majority of its duration, only to start jumping forward through time with several sequences of increasing brevity as it begins to move towards its ambiguous conclusion. There are good performances throughout, some interesting scenes of clever crime-solving, a couple of spine-chilling moments and a couple of brutally violent ones too, but I felt that it didn’t quite add up to enough to push this film among the top releases of the year.
  • I Think I Love My Wife (**.5)
    Chris Rock’s remake of the French film Chloe in the Afternoon, this is a fairly enjoyable story of a man tempted to cheat on his wife when he crosses paths with an old acquaintance with whom he ends up hitting it off and spending a considerable amount of time with. The script has enough funny parts and enough real story to keep things moving along, and Rock’s wide-eyed acting style seems particularly well-suited for the role. In the end, though, the story gets a bit too unbelievable, particularly because Rock’s character’s wife (Gina Torres, of Firefly infamy) seems like the more desirable woman than his would-be fling in almost every conceivable way, so it’s hard to sympathize with the struggle he is supposedly going through.
  • Reign Over Me (****)
    Perhaps the most overlooked film of the year, Reign Over Me is a touching and personal look at a man dealing with unimaginable loss through reconnection with an old friend. Don Cheadle is as good as always, and Adam Sandler turns in a career-defining performance. The screenplay is truthful and real and at times unbearably heart-tugging, and the soundtrack (hint: there’s a particular Who song featured prominently) helps hold it all together perfectly. Particularly during the latter half of the film, I kept thinking to myself, “This is how you deal with 9/11; this is how you make a 9/11 film that really touches people.” I’m not the least bit embarrassed to say that Sandler’s character’s revelatory moment literally had me in tears, so good was his performance and so honest was the writing. I think it’s a shame that more people didn’t see and appreciate this film.
  • Blades of Glory (*)
    Will Ferrell seems to not even be trying anymore with these things. I’m pretty sure there exists a Mad Lib-esque screenplay-generating program somewhere where someone plugs in a few variables and out comes his next movie. This one has one or two laughs at the beginning, but 15 minutes into it the joke is already tired and there’s no reason to continue watching.
  • Planet Terror (***.5)
    The first part of the double feature Grindhouse, this is Robert Rodriguez doing what he does best: a movie with a plot so ridiculous it’s engaging, action scenes so violent they’re funny, and characters so over-the-top you can’t help but enjoy watching. He does a better job than Tarantino does of sticking with the B-movie theme–artificially scratched or missing reels, skips in the soundtrack, and the like–but that’s probably because his style lends itself better to the gag: characterization isn’t as important as nonstop action, style isn’t as important as over-exaggerated violence, and the biggest laughs come from the most inappropriate and unexpected situations. Interestingly enough, the funniest part may be Tarantino’s cameo.
  • Death Proof (***.5)
    Tarantino tries his hand at the fake-bad movie, but can’t help but make an actually-good movie instead. He even gives up on the “grindhouse” spiel about halfway through, and the film’s long, climactic car-chase scene looks like the modern-day film that it is. All of the standard Tarantino elements are here: witty dialog, highly stylized direction, and his unique blend of comedy, drama, and action. It’s not quite Kill Bill, largely due to not being quite as cohesive or unified in its vision (although it does feel like two separate movies, perhaps giving it more in common with his epic 2-parter), but it’s damn close, and damn enjoyable.
  • Fracture (**.5)
    Here’s another film with a surprise twist at the end, but this one is more genuine than some of the more-contrived examples of late. Anthony Hopkins is good as always, and the premise is interesting (a man kills his cheating wife and then admits to it, but then retracts his confession and proceeds to outwit the prosecuting DA, who can’t seem to find any evidence against him), but the story’s second act drags a bit too much to keep the audience fully engaged. The resolution is only partially redeeming, but this is overall a fairly enjoyable one-time watch.
  • Waitress (***.5)
    A small sweet film with a lot of charm and wit. Nice to see Nathan Fillion in a role like this, where he gets to show a bit more range than I’m used to seeing from him. There’s a lot of quirky charm to this movie, with an ending that you can’t help but feeling good about.
  • Spider-Man 3 (**)
    After surprising us by making a sequel (Spider-man 2) that was even better than the original, Sam Raimi tries to cram too much into this third go-round and ends up disappointing. Venom could be a great villain if his storyline were given more screen time, but unfortunately he has to compete with the unresolved and unsatisfying story of the Sandman. It’s obvious that Tobey Maguire had a lot of fun here, especially when portraying the evil version of Peter Parker, but it’s not as enjoyable for the audience. The film’s biggest offense is its desire to tie its new characters back into the previous movies’ story lines, from changing the story of Uncle Ben’s death to inserting a butler character that is as annoying as he is unbelievable and who ultimately provides a contrived vehicle for getting all of the characters to the climax.
  • 28 Weeks Later (**.5)
    An admirable follow-up to Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later…, this sequel manages to stay fresh and inventive while keeping enough of a connection to the original to be believable. The story at times can’t decide if it wants to expand outward and show more of a large-scale view of the virus outbreak, or if it wants to focus in on a specific group of characters, but for the most part the balance settled on is a good one. There’s a great night-vision scene that’s probably one of the most effective and scary of the year, and a suitably grim ending as well.
  • Knocked Up (***)
    It’s hard to deny the recent success of Judd Apatow, and this movie is a great example of why: it’s funny, insightful, witty, and charming. Seth Rogen is hilarious again, and the story is believable enough to suck us in but whimsical enough to stay light-hearted and funny even while trying to be serious. The film could’ve stood to have been trimmed by about a half hour, though, and the way it deals with nudity is confusing (Katherine Heigl’s character complains about her pregnancy-enhanced boobs flopping around while clothed during a sex scene, but there are multiple money shots of the baby crowning during its birth). It seems to peak a bit too soon (during the Vegas trip), too, but has enough heart during the third act to keep its audience involved.
  • Ocean’s Thirteen (***)
    In contrast to Spider-Man 3, which was a disappointing follow-up to a surprisingly good sequel, Ocean’s Thirteen is a surprisingly good follow-up to a disappointingly bad sequel. The movie returns to what made Ocean’s Eleven enjoyable: sharp dialog, actors having fun with their roles, and surprising twists that are clever enough to not feel annoyingly contrived.
  • Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (**.5)
    While not quite as childishly cheesy as the first Fantastic Four movie, this one still serves as a super hero movie more suited to kids than adults. Laurence Fishburne is a nice addition to the cast as the voice of the Silver Surfer, but the script still makes the mistake of choosing to focus on lame attempts at humor (like Mr. Fantastic’s annoying dance number) instead of what could’ve actually been an interesting plot involving the planet-eating Galactus and his servant. It still manages to provide a decent amount of action and excitement, but it would’ve been nice if they’d have given up on the cheese after how poorly it worked in the first film.
  • 1408 (*.5)
    I’m probably not a great person to be commenting on horror movies in general, as they rarely work for me, but this one is bad not just as a scary movie but also as yet another example of surprise-ending-itis. It’s a waste of Sam Jackson as the hotel’s proprietor, and John Cusack doesn’t need to be stretching this far out of his comfort zone for a paycheck, either. The premise is scary and well-done for about the first half of the film, but then it goes too over-the-top and gets too contrived to keep my interest. The attempt at a shocking twist ending does nothing to redeem it, either.
  • Live Free or Die Hard (***)
    A reasonably well-done addition to the Die Hard series, there’s enough novelty in this one to keep it interesting, even if it’s obvious that the story was originally developed as a stand-alone plotline rather than being specifically written for John McClane (as was the case with the third installment, too). The controversial decision to keep the film PG-13 proved to not be such a big deal, as a whole lot of violence is allowed at that level these days. I thought the way they handled the “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker” catchphrase was clever enough to be acceptable, and the action sequences were well done and exciting. Kevin Smith‘s cameo as a character who looks, acts, and talks an awfully lot like Kevin Smith was amusing, as well.
  • Transformers (**)
    The Michael Bay-ization of the cartoon series I remember from my childhood is about what you’d expect: overblown, overdone, overproduced, and underwhelming. The storyline is pretty weak, bearing only a faint resemblence to the surprisingly good original animated movie, the robots look kind of stupid, and the action adheres to Bay’s presumed belief, “If we make it so confusing that the audience has no idea what’s happening, they’ll probably assume it’s exciting.” The exposition has a good level of mystique to it, but once the robot battles get underway the movie becomes more or less a big hard-to-follow mess of CGI and explosions. The primary bright spots are the surprisingly good performance by Shia LaBeouf, and the ridiculous hotness of Megan Fox, who might make the movie worth seeing just for her “sweating in the desert while fixing a car” scene alone.
  • Interview (**.5) [limited release]
    Steve Buscemi’s remake of the late Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh’s treatise on celebrity, attraction, and deception feels like it might be more at home on the stage than the screen. There’s a lot of great interaction between Buscemi and the always-intriguing Sienna Miller, and a storyline that is genuinely intriguing (and surprising), although it feels a bit drawn out at times.
  • The Simpsons Movie (**.5)
    As was to be expected, this was basically a 90-minute episode of the long-running TV series, with a couple of “movie-only” gags thrown in to spice things up. The plot is sufficiently ridiculous, and there’re enough good jokes to keep it moving. The “stupid Homer” act that’s plagued the series for the past several years is kept at bay enough to not bring the whole movie down. All in all, it’s pretty good, but not great, and with few surprises.
  • The Bourne Ultimatum (***)
    Probably the best of the Bourne trilogy, this is an exciting action movie and a hallmark of the spy-flick genre. I don’t disagree with the many complaints about the “shaky-cam” technique that is used a bit too liberally, but I think that it is done well enough to not completely detract from the story. (The key is that it’s not so shaky that you have no idea what’s going on–it works when the shaky frame adds to the confusion and sense of anxiety of a scene without making it impossible to tell what’s happening, and that’s the case more often than not here.) The fact that Jason Bourne finally finds something resembling answers to who he is and how he came to be it helps to make for a more satisfying story arc than the previous two films have employed. The pacing overall is good and the characters are intriguing throughout.
  • Superbad (***.5)
    Easily one of the funniest movies of the past decade, Superbad is hilarious from start to finish while managing to have a decent story and a good amount of heart, too. This movie is able to convey the high school male sensibility better than any other I can think of. It also happens to have one of the best depictions of cops of any movie since Beverley Hills Cop, although I suspect it’s even less realistic… not that realism matters when the characters are this funny.
  • Shoot ‘Em Up (**)
    This is a somewhat fun movie that doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is: a ridiculous Elmer Fudd vs. Bugs Bunny story brought to life in the most stereotypical guns-and-tits manner possible. The fight scenes (of which there are many) are exciting and fast-paced, although they have a heavy tendency to be a bit too gimmicky (Clive Owen not once but twice kills a man with a carrot). The storyline is thin, but then again story tends to just get in the way with movies like this. To me Planet Terror is a better bang for your buck in this genre, but Shoot ‘Em Up is able to hold its own, too.
  • Eastern Promises (****)
    An engaging and intriguing look at the culture of the Russian mafia, this film takes some of the ideas in David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence (also starring Viggo Mortensen) and fleshes them out more thoroughly in a more interesting and extremely authentic setting. The plot’s twists are real, its surprises are genuine, and its attention to detail is remarkable. It is a true testament to the all-around achievement of this film that it is able to so thoroughly draw its audience members into a world that is so completely foreign to the vast majority of them. The performances are phenomenal, with a few scenes in particular that are genre-defining. I think (and hope) this movie is one that will find a wider audience on video than it did in the theaters, and can only gain acclaim the more people see it.
  • Across the Universe (***.5)
    This movie seems to fall into the “love it or hate it” category, and I am firmly on the “love it” side. A brilliant reimagining of The Beatles’ catalog, it’s reminiscent of Moulin Rouge! in its ability to take popular and well-loved songs and put a different spin on them through novel context. This film goes farther, though, with a terrific storyline that has a level of social commentary worthy of the Beatles sensibility that it so firmly embraces. I thought that it dipped just the slightest bit during a segment featuring Bono as Dr. Robert, but it quickly recovers and races towards a wonderful climax that is sparked, of course, by the always-rousing “Hey, Jude.” This is truly a magical movie that I think should appeal to anybody with a heart, but particularly those who enjoy the music of The Beatles and are willing to allow themselves to be taken in by a really unique film journey.
  • The Darjeerling Limited (***)
    Here we have Wes Anderson doing as Wes Anderson does: a quirky film highlighted by non-standard performances with a humor that comes not as much from out-loud laughs as it does from awkward situations and strange coincidences. It feels a bit like more of the same to anybody who is a fan of Anderson’s previous works–particularly its immediate predecessor The Life Aquatic, with its novel setting and questionably-motivated lead characters–but it also stands as a demonstration of a unique artist honing his craft. This film takes a more serious look at loss and kinship, and in those regards it succeeds. Be sure to preface a viewing of Darjeerling with Hotel Chevalier, a short film featuring the always-intriguing Natalie Portman.
  • The Heartbreak Kid (0)
    One of the absolute worst movies I’ve sat through in a very long time, this one has nothing to redeem it (even the presence and exposure of the cute Malin Akerman’s boobs–you can see those in Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, a movie that actually features this thing called “humor” to go along with them). Ben Stiller’s character is a dumb asshole who I can’t imagine any audience rooting for, his father is a one-dimensional charicature of himself with a nonsensical catchphrase (“crush some pussies”), and the supporting cast features such never-funny stereotypes as Carlos Mencia playing a retarded Mexican. The aforementioned Akerman is hidden away for most of the movie, coming out only on occassion to satisfy the Farrelly Brothers’ strange fetish for putting pretty girls in gross situations. What a waste, too, of Michelle Monaghan (see her instead in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). If you’re ever in a hotel room that only gets one channel and this movie is on that channel, you’d be better entertained by staring at the blank screen instead.
  • Michael Clayton (***)
    This is a movie that a lot of people seemed to absolutely love, and since I didn’t quite feel as strongly about it, I have to make it a point to not react too diametrically and convince myself that it’s worse than it is, because it is a good movie. There are really good performances here, particularly from Tom Wilkinson and the always-good George Clooney, but the script to me felt just a bit too much like Yet Another Lawyer Movie. The Clayton character feels like I’ve seen him several times before, with his smooth dress and clever dialogue and nice car and specialty niche job and hidden money problems and– you get the point. The “only one guy recognizes the atrocities of the big evil corporation” storyline feels a bit tired to me, too, but Wilkinson adds some unique twists to his role that freshen it up. And although he always does it well, doesn’t it seem like Sydney Pollack always ends up in the same role these days? The film takes longer to get going than I’d prefer, but once it does the third act is able to suck you in and take you for an enjoyable ride. While I didn’t find it to be quite the achievement the awards might have you believe it to be, this is still a very enjoyable film that’s well worth making an effort to see.
  • Things We Lost in the Fire (***)
    It might be tempting to write this film off as manipulative, or as nothing more than a vehicle for getting Benicio del Toro and/or Halle Berry an Oscar nomination (neither received one, although I feel they both probably deserved it), but I got more out of it than that. I found it to be a genuinely heartfelt story about a woman who loses her husband and a man who loses his only friend, and the two of them finding in each other a reason to go on. del Toro does give a command performance as a recovering heroin addict, and this is the Halle Berry that we’ve all suspected was there (and saw in Monster’s Ball) beneath the fluff roles she usually finds herself in, but there’s more to this film than an acting exercise. Something about the flashback scenes of David Duchovny (the aforementioned husband/best friend) really worked on me; it felt like a very real look at how sudden and unexpected death can be and how infrequently we think about what we might leave unfinished. I’ll admit that it does feel somewhat heavy-handed at times, but not enough to ruin the sentiment. I thought the fire metaphor was effective, too, but rather than spoil it here I’ll leave it to you to see for yourself.
  • Dan in Real Life (*.5)
    This film sounded like it was going to be unique, but disappointingly came out very generic. The title character, played well enough by Steve Carell, is a newspaper advice columnist, but that doesn’t matter because it has nothing to do with the plot or his character. The girl he meets, a surprisingly boring turn for Juliette Binoche, is only mildly interesting and mildly attractive; it’s confusing why he falls for her so readily and so thoroughly. His brother, who–gasp!–is already dating the girl he’s just fallen for, is Dane Cook doing all he knows how to do, which is to be and act like Dane Cook. It’s hard to root for a guy who’s trying to get with his brother’s girlfriend, and at his parents’ house during a family get-away weekend, no less. Given such a bland and unsympathetic premise, the film has to try extra hard to entertain, but it doesn’t come through. It’s not totally bad, but it’s not very good, either.
  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (***) [limited release]
    Sidney Lumet shows that he’s still got it. This film depicts two unlikely-cast brothers, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke, struggling to work what they thought was a safe scam to help them out of their respective troubles. The plot is twisted, and the story is told in a unique flashback-based structure that manages to not get confusing. Marisa Tomei, who seems to get even more beautiful with age, adds an additional complication as the girlfriend of, well, both of them. (Side note: she has multiple nude scenes here, too, which are worth the price of admission on their own.) This is a good film with an elaborate plot structure that deals with family, despair, and betrayal, and does so in a novel manner featuring solid performances all around.
  • American Gangster (***.5)
    Ridley Scott’s true-to-life depiction of drug kingpin Frank Lucas’s rise and eventual fall at the hands of Detective Richie Roberts, this is a return to the epic American gangster movie style that we haven’t seen since Goodfellas, and it’s almost as good. Everything here is well done, from a great script by Steve Zaillian to the performances by Denzel Washington (who I usually dislike, but fits the role here perfectly) and Russell Crowe. At over two and a half hours long, the film manages to keep a good pace, helped a bit by its glossing over of the somewhat cliched (a la Donnie Brasco) story of Roberts’ wife and children leaving him. In fact, towards the end it almost feels rushed to cram in all of the details of Lucas’s prosecution, eventual cooperation, and sentencing and skips straight to his eventual release. While it’s not the type of movie you’d typically expect to be sequel-worthy, I found from reading articles about Lucas and Roberts that there is a just-as-interesting story between them that begins after Lucas’s jail time, wherein they became real-life friends to the point where Roberts even “became godfather to Lucas’ 6-year-old son and has made plans to pay for the boy’s education.” I think that could be a very interesting movie some day, too, of an altogether different variety. For now, though, we have the story of Frank Lucas, heroin king of New York, and it does not disappoint.
  • No Country For Old Men (****)
    My no-doubt-about-it pick for best movie of the year, the Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men is a remarkable achievement in filmmaking on many levels. As an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s book, it reaches a perfect balance between knowing what to change from the text and what to keep the same. Roger Deakins’s cinematography is no less than a sprawling work of art, and the attention to detail employed throughout the film sets a new high-water mark. Javier Bardem depicts the baddest ass badass seen onscreen in quite some time, and this is the role Tommy Lee Jones has been playing for years (he finally found the right movie to play it in). The rest of the cast is equally good, the story is breathtakingly intense, and the ambiance of the whole film is undoubtedly crafted to perfection. I saw this movie, then went and bought the book and read it, and then went and saw the movie again. I’d recommend anybody with an interest in the art of filmmaking do the same, because this is as good as it gets.
  • Juno (****)
    This year’s indie darling du jour is truly a great little movie with genuine charm and wit, and a sufficient amount of heart to go along with it. A lot of critics turned on this one after it became trendy to sing its praises, but don’t let that fool you–it really is a very enjoyable film that’s well worth seeing. (Anybody who says that people don’t actually talk like Juno does need only see an interview with screenwriter Diablo Cody to realize the error of their judgment.) The dialog is sharp-witted, the performances all around are excellent, and the story has a genuinely surprising (yet believable) twist that adds an extra dimension of realism to it. This film is cute yet thoughtful, clever yet insightful, and funny yet sincere. Definitely one of the best of the year.
  • I Am Legend (**.5)
    Will Smith seems to keep getting better with every role he takes, although he still tends to choose questionable movies to star in. This one has a lot of promise and a lot of potential, but ends up a bit disappointing. The exposition is great, featuring a really well done post-apocalyptic New York and Will Smith’s character as the last man living there. There are also very intense flashback scenes, done as dream sequences, that gradually build up the story of how this situation came to be. The exposition is so great, in fact, that it’s a letdown when the plot actually gets moving, and that’s the movie’s weakness. Zombies are far more scary when they lurk in the shadows than when they come out into the open to attack. Likewise, Smith’s character is far more interesting when he insists on continuing to find a cure to the virus that has caused the state of affairs he’s in, driving himself to the brink of insanity, than he is when he’s running around shooting bad guys and protecting the girl and her child who unfortunately show up two-thirds of the way through. From there it’s quite similar to 28 Days Later…, with the plot focusing on escaping to a zombie-free safe haven, only it’s not as well done and the climax is very disappointing, not just for what happens but also for how unnecessary it is. Overall this movie is well worth seeing, but the same style that makes the first half so interesting can’t be maintained throughout the whole storyline, and the second half is a letdown in comparison.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (***)
    Tim Burton’s take on this Sondheim musical is done in an enjoyable style that’s to be expected coming from him, but it’s probably not everybody’s kind of pie (and if you know the story you’ll get that really lame joke). The highly stylized London setting feels a lot like some of Burton’s other films (most notably the exaggerated Gotham of Batman Returns, except that it’s not night all the time), but it fits the dark story well. I think that Burton could direct Jonny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in just about anything and I’d see it and most likely love it, but the novelty of them singing here adds an extra layer of enjoyment, as do the appearances by Sacha Baron Cohen and Alan Rickman in supporting roles. It’s a fun, dark story, but if that’s not your thing, or you don’t like musicals, you might not like it. As far as the genre goes, though, it’s very well done.
  • Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (*.5)
    I was excited to see this movie, because I love the idea of John C. Reilly finally getting a starring role, and with Judd Apatow’s name attached to it I was hoping it’d keep up the trend set earlier in the year by Superbad and Knocked Up. Unforunately, it played more like a bad Will Farrell movie than an Apatow one, with a lot of lame jokes and an out-of-control script that tried to lampoon just a few music biopics too many. The funniest part of this movie is probably Tim Meadows’s character, and the funniest line is probably his first; it’s all downhill from there. I also found it disappointing that the Cox Sausage commercial that circulated online prior to the movie’s release was not included in the film; in fact, it’s probably funnier than any single scene in the film. It’s not all bad, though: one of the most humorous turns the film takes is in employing gratuitous penis exposure rather than the stereotypical gratuitous breast exposure (although there’s some of that, too), which I found to be pretty funny. If dumb humor is your thing, you’ll probably like this more than I did, but if you expect some level of cleverness or insight to go along with the satire, you won’t find much here.
  • There Will Be Blood (****)
    Perhaps even moreso than Paul Thomas Anderson’s other films (e.g., Magnolia), I think most viewers will get out of There Will Be Blood what they want to. It’s a challenging film, to say the least, but one that can be immensely entertaining and poignant if you allow it to be. That this is a great work of art is without question; that it’s entertaining is probably up to the beholder. I found it to be squirm-in-your-seat awkward at times, and spine-chillingly revealing at others. The soundtrack deserves particular mention for being very invasive, which will unnerve most audiences (as it did me). By far the highlight of this picture, though, is Daniel Day-Lewis’s characterization of Daniel Plainview, the heartless oil prospector who enforces his will upon everybody around him. It’s reminiscent of his deep and thorough characterization of Bill the Butcher from Gangs of New York, but I felt that Day-Lewis took on the role of Plainview even more fully. Any movie fan owes it to him or herself to see this film, but be sure to settle in for an unconventional and challenging experience, but one that can be very rewarding in the end.

As I said, I see a lot of movies. There’s always some that I miss, too, though. Here are the movies from 2007 that I haven’t yet had a chance to see; I’d love to hear any comments anyone might have on them.

  • Catch and Release – Just because Kevin Smith got such good reviews for his role in it.
  • A Mighty Heart – I’m curious.
  • Ratatouille – By all accounts, another Pixar classic.
  • Sicko – I buy into Michael Moore as a documentarian, and this seems to definitely be a topic that could use the exposure.
  • Sunshine – I’ll give Danny Boyle a shot with whatever he chooses to do.
  • Hot Rod – Andy Samberg’s music videos are so funny, could this movie really be as dumb as it looks?
  • Death at a Funeral – Looked like it’d be a quirky comedy. Seems like lots of people were disappointed by it, though.
  • Balls of Fury – With Christopher Walken as a crazy pinball emperor, this one looks so weird I’ve gotta see what it’s about.
  • The Brave One – What can I say? I love Jodie Foster.
  • In the Valley of Elah – I’m willing to view Crash as an unfortunate low spot in the otherwise decent career of Paul Haggis.
  • 3:10 to Yuma – By all accounts a good solid Western.
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – This one looked epic, and I haven’t heard anybody say anything bad about it.
  • We Own the Night – Looked gritty and intriguing.
  • Lars and the Real Girl – Another indie scene favorite from this year.
  • Gone Baby Gone – Ben directing Casey–good for them. I can’t believe I haven’t seen it yet.
  • Lions for Lambs – One of those movies that always seemed like it’d be such a major endeavor to watch, I haven’t gotten around to devoting the energy to it yet.
  • Charlie Wilson’s War – I’m not a huge fan of Tom Hanks or Julia Roberts, but everybody seems to say this one was good, so I should give it a shot.
  • The Great Debaters – This didn’t appeal much to me when it was released, but it’s shown up on enough top 10 lists that I figure I should check it out.

Comments (6)

6 Responses to “Movies of 2007”:

  • My Netflix queue just got longer. Good post.

  • I can honestly say that you’ve seen more movies in the past year than I’ve seen in ten. Good reviews, though. I have a bad habit of making mental notes of movies I’d like to see and then never seeing them.

  • Someone at RPGnet pointed out that the American Gangster marketing left out the one obvious tagline they could have used, for some reason:

    “Featuring the stars of Virtuosity!”

  • Wow that’s a lot of movies, and I can honestly say I’ve never seen any of them, let alone even heard a 1/3rd of them.

    New site design I see. Who did it? I noticed your monkeys logo is a bit pixelated.

  • I made the new theme myself. The “typing monkey” logo was drawn by hand (with a mouse), which is why it’s a bit pixely (but that was intentional).

  • […] here, though, is Adam Sandler. The guy has shown in recent years that he can actually act (Reign Over Me) and that he can be actually funny while actually acting, too (Funny People). And yet he keeps […]

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