The best and the rest of 2007

The writer’s strike happened at the end of this year, right?

Looking at the list of films released in 2007, I could swear that there is no way in hell someone could have been paid to release some of the films on the list. Honestly, there was someone who was able to purchase a b each house on their paycheck for penning “Delta Farce.” Someone’s kids went to college on the residuals for “Wild Hogs.”

On the other hand, Hollywood did get experimental on a much larger scale – greenlighting such non-traditional theater fare as “Grindhouse” and “Beowulf” and are desperate to try anything to keep from mirroring that financial hemorrhaging that is currently draining the life out of the music industry.

But the end of 2007 may be the best time to drink in the offerings from the cinematic cup, as it may dry up future offerings for the following year if the stalled negotiations between the studios and scribes continue.

Here is but a sampling of some of the best and the rest reviewed on local screens in the past year:

 The worst

10) “Shrek the Third,” “Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World’s End,” “Spider-Man 3,” “Rush Hour 3” – To paraphrase an old adage, “You can’t polish a third.”

9) “Mr. Brooks” – This babbling “Brooks” suffered from multiple personality disorder, as it introduced far too many characters to its plot. Kevin Costner, William Hurt and Demi Moore are all sucked down the drain of rancid, festering cinematic waste where their co-star Dane Cook already resides.

8)” The Ex” – A perfect ex-ample of an ex-hausting ex-ecution and an ex-eracble ex-ercise in lowered ex-pectations, this ex-periment in ex-cess is an ex-cursion in cinematic ex-crement. The only way to adequately surmise this film? With ex-pletives.

7) “I Know Who Killed Me” – Twice the Lohan might typically mean one hell of a bar tab, but here it’s an exercise in absurdity that which has the dubious distinction of becoming only the second looniest stripper movie ever made (“Showgirls” still flaunts that tarnished tiara).

6) “The Heartbreak Kid” – Not even copious amounts of Ben Stiller’s “hair gel” could hold this lazy Farrelly Brothers comedy together.

5) “Evan Almighty” – This Noah’s Ark comedy may have God on its side, but without one funny joke, it doesn’t have a prayer.

4)”I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” – Adam Sandler masks his homophobic humor in a supposed “tolerant” comedy with Kevin James, but there is nothing civil in this union of misogyny, ethnic slurs and Rob Schneider cameos.  There is one silver lining – they certainly deserve each other.

3) “The Number 23” – Now, if I were to say Jim Carrey stars as a saxophone-playing dogcatcher, you may think, “Awesome. Ace Ventura is back on the scene!” Trouble is, this was supposed to be a thriller. Sorry, Ace fans, the only talking buttocks provided here are the writers of this woefully miscalculated numeric thriller.

2) “Epic Movie” – The so-called writers of these seemingly endless “Movie” movies now have a formula for their flicks: Random Movie Reference + hip-hop x hits to the groin / empty pop culture reference = hilarity. It’s about as funny as being trapped on an elevator with the guys in your office who still greet you with “Whazzzuuup?” For those who find Larry the Cable Guy too cerebral, here’s the film for you.

1) “Norbit” – While technically not as inept as “Epic Movie,” the combination of deflated expectations and detestable characterizations rocketed “Norbit” to the bottom of the list. With both of Eddie Murphy’s concert films, “Raw” and “Delirious” re-released on DVD this year, it brings a tear to the eye to think this once-brilliant comedian continues to prostitute his name like those streetwalking transvestites of whom he is so fond.

 The best

10) “3:10 to Yuma” – It may not have brought about a resurgence in the Western, it certainly snatched it back from the manicured, moisturized hands of those “Young Guns.” Russell Crowe should be contractually obligated at least have a role in all future similarly themed films, as his mix of brawn and bull-headedness put much-needed swagger back in the saddle.

9) “The Simpsons Movie”  — In a time where two-dimensional animation was considered dead and buried, our omnipresent family rose from the ashes like a yellow-skinned phoenix and demonstrated that whip-smart writing trumps technology any day. Let’s see those flaccid phonies over at “Family Guy” do that two decades from now.

8) “Breach” – Chris Cooper will be completely overlooked at awards season for his riveting role as former FBI senior agent Robert Hanssen, which is just as criminal as Hanssen himself.  Pious, manipulative and ultimately tragic, Cooper keeps up captivated on his every move to elude his colleagues as he secretly feeds information about his agency overseas. Even though the film’s conclusion had been played out in papers throughout Hanssen’s trial, the film manages to hold the audience captive through every twist of his labyrinth of lies.

7) “Ratatouille” – After the stale exhaust of “Cars” cleared, Pixar returned to form with perhaps one of its most accomplished, nuanced works. With visuals as sumptuous as the meals it describes, “Ratatouille” is yet another feast offered from the Iron Chefs of animation.

6) “Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” – Johnny Depp and Tim Burton are the Scorsese and DeNiro of this generation. Their most recent outing cuts deep, pulling off  an unthinkable hybrid of horror and song with a razor-sharp wit and musical bits as frothy as a can of Barbasol.

5) “Michael Clayton” – George Clooney gives his finest performance without having to lose a fingernail to pliers. It’s slow and steady, which hypothetically should win a race or two. But it’s diminutive box office will unfortunately leave it behind for future generations to deem it classic.

4) “Grindhouse” – I know it’s two films. I know that one (“Planet Terror”) is inferior. But this was the single-most loving tribute to the actual long-lost art of watching movies as a communal experience. And while “Terror’s” director, Robert Rodriguez got all the superficial elements of the era right (the missing reel, the grainy, choppy print), it was Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof” that gave us the authentic rush of watching a loving homage to the genre.  Now that they have been severed and sold separately for their DVD release, they would not appear on the list. But for the time that they both shared the screen with a handful of mock exploitation trailers, it was pure geek bliss.

3) “Into the Wild” – One of those Halley’s Comet moments where the film exceeds the book, “Wild” follows a clueless little rich boy on his self-absorbed nature walk into the harsh Alaskan terrain. While director Sean Penn’s lens may incite viewers to answer their own call of the wild, Emile Hirsch’s heartbreaking performance may have them readjusting their travel agendas.

2) “Eastern Promises” – Sorry, but director David Cronenberg’s “A History of Violence” has nothing on this layered Eastern Bloc crime drama. “Promises” got lots of notoriety for star Viggo Mortensen exposing his little hobbit in a bathhouse sequence, but his performance is equally naked. He’s a man trapped in a world of violence, but who also appreciates the beauty of life on the other side. It’s a film that blossoms wider the more it is examined.

1) “No Country for Old Men” – Reminding us why they matter as filmmakers, siblings Joel and Ethan Coen have created a modern rumination on life, death, fate and life’s meaning (if any) is stark and desolate in every sense of the word (minutes tick by without one note of a soundtrack to manipulate its audience).  In Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) ,it also introduces us to one cinema’s  most chilling killing machines in more than a decade.  A deep mediation of America’s ever-changing landscape and man’s search for his place within it.

~ by usesoapfilm on December 21, 2007.

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