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Listmania 2007

2007 has passed me by, 2008 has officially begun and everyone’s making lists. I’ll be putting my trimester top ten together in a few days, but this is a little different. I made a real effort this year, and the move to a new city made more movies available to me than before as well. As a result, I think I did much better at keeping up with the hottest stuff than last year (when, for instance, I’d seen a single Best Picture nominee when the list was published). Still, there are lots of movies I still haven’t seen, and I’m really not in a position to compile a list of the best movies of 2007. Instead, I present 3 alternative year-end lists:

15 Movies of 2007 That I’d Happily See Again:

The Simpsons Movie

Homer, Bart and company were personae non gratae in my house when I was growing up, so I never really watched the enormously popular TV series until it began to hit DVD in recent years (working my way through season 8!). Nevertheless, I enjoyed their big-screen debut from start to finish, and I look forward to revisiting it once I’ve caught up on all of the family’s small-screen adventures.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

Sure it didn’t quite live up to the promise of the first, or even second, chapter in the trilogy, but it was still fun. It took awhile to really get going, but I for one wasn’t lost by the labyrinthine subplots and the movie had some fantastic set pieces. I’m looking forward to a box-set release of the whole trilogy so I can buy it and watch them back-to-back.

Hot Fuzz

I’ve already seen this hilarious spoof on the buddy cop genre three times (once in the theater and twice on DVD), and I certainly wouldn’t object to seeing it again. While not quite as manically brilliant as Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s previous effort (Shaun of the Dead), it’s still roll-in-the-aisles hilarious.

Dan in Real Life

I went to this movie expecting no more than a light-hearted, family-oriented situation comedy about life and love and all that stuff . . . and that was pretty much what I got. What I didn’t get was all of the trite sentiment and cliche plot turns that normally walk hand-in-hand with this genre. It’s cute, but not in-your-face about it: A safe crowd-pleaser that I could enjoy watching with friends, family and casual acquaintances (now that’s rare).

Zodiac

On top of providing an exhaustive account of the crimes, investigations and general madness surrounding the Son of Sam serial murders, it is also the fascinating account of an unhealthy obsession. Great performances, edge-of-seat suspense and stunning attention to detail make this a really great watch that I’d really like to revisit.

Juno

I don’t think I’m as over the moon for Juno as some, but it’s got a smart script with lots of heart and lovable characters who never run out of razor-sharp dialogue. Ellen Page is charisma incarnate as the title character, a snarky 16-year old who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. The supporting cast is great too (J.K. Simmons is always a riot). I just saw it last week, but I’d gladly go again with a few more uninitiated.

Reign Over Me

This movie does so many things that sound completely wrong (casting Adam Sandler in a serious role, milking the 9/11 tragedy), but the total effect is so very right. Don Cheadle’s character is a dentist who runs into his old college roommate (Sandler). Sandler’s character has suffered a terrible tragedy and he is an emotionally broken man. Reign Over Me is a near perfect balance of laughter and tears. Sandler is great, as are Cheadle and Jada Pinkett Smith and various other supporting actors who make their characters matter to us by movie’s end.

Hairspray

Speaking of doing things wrong, John Travolta in drag and a fat suit? Really? Yes. Hairspray unites one of the best ensemble casts of the year for 2 hours of bubble-gum musical fun. Not to be taken seriously even when it’s acting serious, this is just a fluffy good time. I’m still enjoying the catchy soundtrack on a regular basis.

3:10 to Yuma

Sure it went a little stupid in its climax, but by then I was enjoying it too much to care. Russell Crowe as a ruthless outlaw and Christian Bale as a poor farmer who is determined to bring him to justice are both magnificent in the movie that revived my waning faith in the viability of the historical western. It has an excellent balance of gunslinging action and philosophical considerations. I’m always fascinated by stories that blur the distinctions between the “good” guys and the “bad” guys (like American Gangster, another Russell Crowe movie that came out this year).

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Sure it’s dark and bloody, but this is such a slick production thrown together with so much style as to be quite irresistible. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter are always (always) fun to watch, and Tim Burton really delivers a thrilling musical ride. I’m not sure which I want to get my hands on first: the DVD or the soundtrack.

Lars and the Real Girl

This movie is adorable in a way that a movie about a sex doll really has no right to be. Lars has a fantastic cast, including a turn by Ryan Gosling that really deserves some attention, and a very original story. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a mug of hot chocolate, and I’m always up for that.

Ratatouille

The latest Pixar offering about a rat who wants to be a chef was scrumptious in every way. I’ve seen this one thrice, as well (twice in the theater, once on DVD). Those guys are such amazing storytellers, and they seldom fail to entertain me.

Gone Baby Gone

This movie didn’t get nearly as much attention as I felt it deserved, but I for one was thoroughly impressed and affected by Ben Affleck’s directorial debut. Casey Affleck stars as a private investigator who finds a lot more than he wanted to when he is hired to help recover a kidnapped girl. No one that I know has seen it, and I’d love to watch it with someone else (or multiple someones) and discuss the questions it raises so skillfully.

Atonement

I haven’t read the novel on which this movie is based, but I hear it’s a real corker. It must be, to have produced a film like this . . . and I’ve mentioned recently, kudos to the crew responsible for the quality work on display in the background of what is already a compelling story. I’ll almost certainly be revisiting this one.

No Country for Old Men

I’ve already been three times to see this in theaters, and I’d happily go again. I’ll definitely be snatching it up on DVD. This is, no question, the greatest movie I saw in the last year. A genuine masterpiece in every way which I expect to revisit with great pleasure for years to come.

10 Movies of 2007 That I Can’t Wait to See:

The King of Kong

I was so disappointed not to have an opportunity to catch this documentary about obsessive arcade gamers when it blazed through a few select theaters several months ago. Of course, finding documentaries in theaters is pretty rare in my neck of the woods anyway. In any case, it’s set to come out on DVD some time this month, and my Netflix queue will be prepared when it does.

Southland Tales

The latest cinematic effort by the guy that brought us Donnie Darko garnered decidedly mixed reviews when it was released (nowhere near me), but as soon as I have a chance to catch it, I’m so there. I’m not expecting a masterpiece, but it should be quite a ride at the very least.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

I had to choose between this and Lars and the Real Girl on a visit to the big city a few months ago. I don’t regret my choice, but I am sad that I had to make it. If the movie itself is as impressive as its title, it’ll be well worth the wait. Wow, another western that I’m looking forward to. Guess I should get over my prejudice.

There Will Be Blood

The word on the street is that I shouldn’t be so quick to declare No Country for Old Men the best of the year while this story of evil and greed in 19th-century oil country remains unseen. Talk about inflated expectations . . . I don’t know when or where this movie is going to appear, but as soon as I spot it within easy driving distance of wherever I am, I’ll be on my way.

Persepolis

I think this animated foreign film about growing up during the Iranian revolution looks simply fantastic, but my chances of seeing it before it hits DVD are admittedly very slim. I’ll keep my fingers crossed, but I’m sure I can stay busy if the wait should prove long. *sigh*

Away From Her

This one was already out on DVD before I had heard enough about it to want to see it, so I won’t have long to wait. I still haven’t wrapped my head around how you go from starring in the zombie horror remake of Dawn of the Dead in 2004 to writing and directing one of the most critically-acclaimed films of 2007, but Sarah Polley did. Impressive. It’s already lined up and ready to speed my way on Netflix as soon as I’m home from the holidays.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Killer cast (what a year for Philip Seymour Hoffman!) and an intriguing plot about 2 estranged brothers who are desperate enough for money to conspire to steal from their parents’ jewelry store . . . Too bad it never surfaced anywhere near me. This one is almost definitely waiting for a DVD release.

Starting Out in the Evening

Looks reminiscent of Finding Forrester, which is one of my all-time favorites. Throw in Frank Langella as an overlooked literary genius nearing death and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) as a grad student looking to preserve his legacy and I’m on board.

The Orphanage

Oh, boy! A horror movie produced by amazing Mexican director Guillermo del Toro. By all accounts, it’s a scary movie that lets your imagination produce most of the fear; an admirable show of restraint that most examples of the genre regrettably don’t seem capable of. It looks terrifying . . . in a good way.

Charlie Wilson’s War

I don’t have a reasonable excuse not to have seen this already . . . it’s been in wide release for over a week now. Nevertheless, thanks to holiday travel and whatnot, I haven’t. I will soon, and I expect to rather enjoy it. In the meantime, it’s filling out my “to see” list.

10 Movies of 2008 That I’m Already Anticipating:

Synechdoche, New York

The directorial debut of Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter behind Being John Malkovich, Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, should be a real treat. It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, a theater director who is creating a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse (!) as part of his new play, and a formidable battery of talented actresses.

The Other Boleyn Girl

Costume epic based on acclaimed novel with, to say the least, an interesting cast . . . This could be pretty decent or epically bad. Either way, I’ll be watching. Henry VIII is a rather popular historical figure in the movie world, so we’ll see.

Prince Caspian

I’m looking forward to the 2nd Narnia movie with great trepidation. All indications are that the source material has been mutilated to appeal to much shorter attention spans than fans of the books are blessed with. I have hopes that there will be fun and entertainment anyway, and they have five more books to get it right. (Oh, I’m so naive.)

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Please let them get this right, even if it’s only in a small way. But surely Indy’s return to the big screen will be, at the least, a thrilling adventure with plenty tips of the fedora to movies many of us grew up loving. One can only hope.

The Lovely Bones

Peter Jackson’s latest book-to-movie adaptation, about a murdered girl who watches what happens to her family after her death, sounds . . . special. Maybe I should try reading the book ahead of time on one of these for a change, but it probably won’t happen.

Get Smart

The mania for remaking old stuff into new stuff goes on, only this time with one of my favorite TV shows of all time and starring what appears to be a perfect cast: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Alan Arkin, Bill Murray . . . Sweet.

Star Trek

Speaking of remakes, how about this franchise reboot, set for release on Christmas Day, 2008? I’m working my way through the movies right now (Christmas present), several of which I’d never seen before. I’m always up for some goofy Enterprise action.

Wall-E

I’ve mentioned already that I’m super-excited about Pixar’s next summer release. I’ve loved every trailer I’ve seen so far, and I can’t wait for them to knock yet another one out of the park. That little robot is ridiculously fun to watch, no matter what he’s doing. And his sounds are great.

The Dark Knight

Batman Begins was by far the best non-Adam West Batman movie ever (say I, tongue firmly in cheek). This sequel will bring Batman’s most ubiquitous arch-nemesis to life, and preliminary footage indicates that the results will be explosive. I’m just hoping for a better summer superhero sequel than Spiderman 3.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

After a brutally butchered adaptation of book 4 we got a passably entertaining rendition of book 5 this year (not one of the strongest offerings in the series anyway) that almost lived up to the promise of the 3rd movie. With the same director at the helm, I’m hoping for some real fireworks from the adaptation of what might be my favorite chapter in the series.

And there you have my Listmania for the end of the year. Hopefully you just skimmed through the titles and didn’t spend too long on the tripe I scribbled under them. I expect my favorite picks from next year to be movies I haven’t even heard of yet anyway . . . that’s always the way it is. Anyway, happy new year, everyone.

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~ by Jared on January 1, 2008.

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