Thursday, October 25, 2007

A bad movie year? Maybe, but here are 20 2007 movies that I just love

It certainly does seem like, especially after our sequel-happy summer, this has been a down year for quality movies. And I can buy that, but there's still been plenty this year to make me smile (and, of course, two more months to go.)

With the caveat that not everything plays in my little corner of the world, here are, for my money, the 20 best movies that have made it out into wide-release world this year (in calendar rather than preferential order, except that "Ratatouille" is easily my favorite movie of the year so far.) Here goes!

Daddy's Little Girls/Why Did I Get Married?
OK, I'm cheating from the outset, because this two-fer means the list includes 21 flicks, but I'm just astounded that Tyler Perry managed to release two movies so good in the same year. Of the two, I'll take "Daddy's Little Girls" by a nose, mostly because Idris Elba is so great in it and because Tyler Perry should keep his movies in Atlanta, where he has a real sense of place.

This movie is so claustrophobic that I had to watch it twice, the second time on a plane, to truly appreciate it. It's far from your traditional spy-vs.-spy flick, but for a psychological thriller you won't get much better than this Billy Ray movie starring Chris Cooper as Robert Hanssen and a surprisingly good Ryan Philippe as the spy sent in to take him down (with an assist from the always-welcome Laura Linney.)

Starter for 10
I watched this one on a plane too, and I'd call it simply a guilty pleasure if it weren't so charming. In essence, it's a very British take on those John Hughes '80s flicks, with James McAvoy playing very young. Even if that sounds appalling, just give it a chance.

Despite it's early calendar position and carping from misguided critics that it was simply too long, I'm still hoping David Fincher's great movie gets some award-season consideration. Robert Downey Jr., at least, is worthy of a supporting actor nomination for his portrayal of an overzealous and underscrupulous L.A. Times reporter.

OK, with the passage of time, I'm willing to concede that this Frank Miller/Zack Snyder flick was, indeed, pretty darn stupid, but so what? It was also the funnest movie of 2007 for my money.

The Wind the Shakes the Barley
Ken Loach finally finds a subject epic enough to fit his conscience and takes home a well-deserved Palme d'Or for it. Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney play two brothers swept into the Republican movement in early 20th-century Ireland.

The Lookout
Predictably few people saw this off-key bank heist flick starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the promising young actor who you might remember from "Third Rock from the Sun." The movie is at its best when it's just he and Jeff Daniels as two physically and mentally damaged roommates.

What is there to say about this if you somehow missed the experience in the theater (as many, many people apparently did)? Tarantino made the slightly superior flick in my book, but it just works so much better sewn together with Rodriguez' zombie zoo. My favorite moment of all, however, would still have to be the old-school intermission logo with Dangermouse/Doom/Talib Kweli's "Old School" playing behind it.

Hot Fuzz
Though it certainly had hot competition from Camp Apatow, I think Edgar Wright and friends just may have made the funniest movie of 2007. All those directors who claim to be making "spoof" movies need to watch this riff on big-action movies to see how it's really done.

It's still hard not to watch this one without thinking of poor Adrienne Shelley, but if you can manage to do that this sweet little flick still stands the test of time for me. It's occasionally just too syrupy, but Keri Russell, Captain Mal and Andy Griffith are all great.

Knocked Up
This makes No. 11, so I should probably refresh my coffee at this point. Just about the only negative thing I can say about Judd Apatow's movie is that I was hoping for hours and hours of Seth and his stoner buddies just goofing off in the DVD extras, because I love those guys. You do get Jonah Hill's extended and extremely foul riff on "Brokeback Mountain," which makes the DVD worth at least renting by itself.

Like I said, my favorite movie of 2007 so far, but I think "Gone Baby Gone" (which I just might see today), "Juno" and "American Gangster" will give it some stiff competition. I've been happy to see that this Pixar flick, which only did so-so (by Pixar standards) in the U.S., has just been cleaning up at the worldwide box-office till.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
The best of the Harry Potter movies so far, for my money, but take that with the grain of salt that I'm not exactly a Harry Potter fanatic. I did, however, manage to finish reading "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince," which was just sensational, even if Dumbledore is gay (not that there's anything wrong with that.)

The Simpsons Movie
The only midnight movie I enjoyed this year (the other being "Spidey 3," which just sucked hard in my book.) The Simpsons' flick worked because it was really little more than a 90-minute episode of the show with a lot more time and money thrown in to make the jokes all work (and spiderpig just kicks ass.)

Rocket Science
Opening on the same weekend with the teen flick that comes next on this list certainly didn't do any favors for Jeffrey Blitz' autobiographical followup to the doco "Spellbound." Probably because this utterly charming movie about a stuttering teen growing up in New Jersey made about $5, Mr. Blitz has no upcoming directing credits on the IMBD except for two episodes of "The Office."

Of the two Camp Apatow flicks this year, I'll give this one the edge for two reasons: Jonah Hill and Michael Cera are simply two of the funniest guys on the planet and, in it's own warped way, it's a surprisingly sweet movie about hetero man love (made stronger, of course, by the relentless pursuit of beer and chicks.)

Shoot 'Em Up
Even though it plays out at various times like an extended (and very bloody) music video or a warped take on the old Looney Tunes cartoons, I guarantee that if you watch this Michael Davis flick it will make you smile. You can certainly tell from watching it that Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti and la bella Monica Bellucci had just as much fun making it as I did watching it.

Eastern Promises
Even if this one doesn't stand up to David Cronenberg's best work, it's still a solidly entertaining gangster flick, which rises to a higher level thanks to Viggo Mortensen's steely performance, which should get some awards-season love too.

The Kingdom
Whew! Only two more movies to go, so I'll probably keep these last two short. Anyone who thinks this political thriller from Peter Berg dumbs things down too much is more than a bit of a snob. 'Nuff said.

Michael Clayton
Tony Gilroy's directing debut is the most satisfying legal thriller I've seen in many years, and Tom Wilkinson's performance as a big-time lawyer who becomes unhinged will linger with you for a long time.

So, there you have it. I hope this offered some ideas for DVD rentals, and as always, please feel free to add any 2007 movies you loved that I have managed to snub. Peace out.


Chalupa said...

Great list. There's a few of these I still need to see.

jeremy said...

We need to be netflix friends so we can see how similar we are to one another (and to get good ideas for rentals).

Reel Fanatic said...

I think we do, Jeremy, but i have to confess I don't know how that works ... If you do and can add me to your friends list, I'd gladly accept the invite

Ashok said...

What happened to "Once" and "Into the Wild" :-)?

Bob said...

I've seen most of yours (a few I must rent) and I agree with the majority of them. As of right now my fave this year is "Hot Fuzz" by miles. And the fact that you have "Shoot 'Em Up" there makes me happy. If the bookers in Macon are remotely cool you can hopefully check out "The Assassination of Jesse James" (right alongside "Zodiac" in my two and three spots), "Lars and the Real Girl," and "King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters." And you should rent "Color Me Kubrick." John Malkovich's performance is about as Oscar worthy as any I've seen all year and the script is incredibly clever.
Personally I think it's been a great year for movies. Sure there's been some garbage but isn't that always the case? So far this year though I have seen far more good movies than bad. For every "Spider-Man 3" or "License to Wed" there's been a "Knocked Up," "Superbad," "Everything's Gone Green," and "Ratatouille" to counteract the suck.
And though it's technically an '06 you must must rent "Snow Cake" if you haven't already. The DVD was just finally released recently and it's one of the best movies you'll see no matter what year you watch it in.

Marina said...

I think I may not be giving Tyler Perry enough credit. I'll check at least one of these out to see if it's my cup of tea. There are a few others that I still need to see but even those are, according to word of mouth, excellent choices.

I was particularly happy to see "The Lookout" on your list! What a great little film!

Reel Fanatic said...

The answer to what happened to both of those, Ashok, is that they haven't reached my rather rural little corner of the world .. I am 100% certain that "Once" will occupy a lofty position on any revamped version of this list, and I will eventually get to see it on a proper screen because our fantastic film guild is showing it soon ... And that list of flicks I haven't seen, Bob, just makes me jealous, but I will certainly rent "Snow Cake" as soon as I can!

Chalupa said...

Here's my review of Once. I really enjoyed it.

Shorty said...

Nice list...

I agree with Superbad, Knocked Up, Breach, 300, Zodiac & The Kingdom...

I did not like Lookout nearly as much as I would have hoped to...the same could be said recently about Rendition...

As for Grindhouse, i feel like people who didn't catch it in theatres could not fully understand the experience of seeing the double feature w/ faux trailers...

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Great list! It has been a pretty good year so far. I think I ended up catching up watching a lot of films that came out late last year because I've only see 37 of the 2007 releases so far.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'd say you're definitely right there about Grindhouse, Shorty, as I found out from my own experience .. I sprung for the separated edition of "Death Proof," and while it is a very entertaining movie in itself, I felt cheated because they had ever been split at all

Bob said...

"Grindhouse" just isn't "Grindhouse" without "Don't" and "Thanksgiving." Not to mention the advertisement for the Mexican restaurant. "Right next door to this theater!"

Linda said...

Awesome list, I loved them all! Additions from my "best of" list for 2007 include The Host, Once, Into the Wild and Lars and the Real Girl. I've had a blast at the movies so far this year, and we still have Oscar season to go!

Jonathan said...

I know you disliked them, but I really enjoyed "Black Snake Moan" and "The Bourne Ultimatum." I also enjoyed the hell out of "Severance," a nice British comedy that played to both slasher and action film fans. And I'm not sure if "Broken English" is considered a 2007 release, but that was a hell of a sleeper that no one seems to be talking about, and it's available on DVD now.

I liked all the movies you had that I've seen, but I couldn't get into "Breach" as much as most people. I thought it was a fine film, but very similar to a lot of better ones. Still, it was kind of nice to have a throwback to the more complex thrillers of the late seventies; I thought "The Lookout" kind of served that purpose as well, and was much better.

Reel Fanatic said...

"Severance" is on my DVD-to-see list, Jonathan, but you're right that I just saw little value at all in "Black Snake Moan" .. I have so much love for "Hustle & Flow," however, that I eagerly await what Craig Brewer has up his sleeve for us next

ryan said...

And, now that you've seen Gone Baby, Gone, I bet you want to add a 22nd movie to the list.

You might as well go ahead and put Juno on the list, too. You know you want to. And I support that.

Reel Fanatic said...

You are right there, Ryan ... After seeing Gone Baby Gone this morning, it's been on my mind all day, and for all the right reasons

kbradsher said...

"Ratatouille" is a great flick. I think it has benefitted a lot from good old fashioned word-of-mouth marketing. I work at the sub-run house (commonly called the dollar theater) in Warner Robins and it has been consistent in high attendence for a month now. I believe it's actually getting more people in the seats in the sub-run theaters than it did in the first run. That's rare... and cool, because it's a great movie!

Nell Minow said...

A great list, but you left off my two favorite films of the year so far, "The Namesake" and "Into the Wild."

I interviewed Jeffrey Blitz, who is now working on another documentary, this time about lottery winners. Anything he does is going to be terrific.

Mercurie said...

There have been plenty of great movies out this year. I definitely have to agree with Zodiac, 300,Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and, of course, Ratatouille. And many of the movies on your list I plan to rent on DVD!

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm embarrassed to say, Nell, that as much as I love Mira Nair, which is a heck of a lot, I still have not seen "The Namesake" .. I'm gonna have to rectify that right away if it's out on DVD, which I assume it would have to be by now ... and I lobbied to go see "Into the Wild" when we were in Asheville, but I lost out ... It will hopefully get a wide enough circulation to play here soon

Fletch said...

Can't even get into the debate of what belongs or doesn't, but I loved thi:

My favorite moment of all, however, would still have to be the old-school intermission logo with Dangermouse/Doom/Talib Kweli's "Old School" playing behind it.

I was wondering how many other people caught that. That's my favorite song on The Mouse and the Mask.

Though methinks the sample is probably from the 70s - otherwise QT/RR probably wouldn't have used it (and cause the song is called "Old School").

Reel Fanatic said...

I had just been listening to that album three days or so before seeing the flick, Fletch, so I couldn't help but break out laughing as soon as I heard it

renee said...

Is the buzz that this is a down year in film? Because I think it's a really strong year. Much stronger than last year at this time. Films I'd add to yours: The Host, Once, Rescue Dawn, King of Kong, My Kid Could Paint That, 3:10 to Yuma, Into the Wild, Lars & The Real Girl and Gone Baby Gone. I can already tell I'm gonna have a hard time limiting my Top Ten List this year. The best male actor Oscar race this year is going to be insane, too.

Reel Fanatic said...

Rescue Dawn is one that almost made my top 20, Renee, cause it's a damn fine flick .. And "My Kid Could Paint That" has just been added to the saved file in my Netflix queue, so thanks for the good word

RC said...

good list...there are still a lot of films in limited release, or not quiet out that i want to see...

and while a lot of this years films certainly don't interest me, there has been a lot of great films i've you've listed (Ratatoille, Hot Fuzz, Zodiac, Michael Clayton).

I also have really enjoyed Hairspray and Gone Baby Gone. And I know there's more great films we'll see in the next couple months (especially looking forward to Antonement and teh Kite Runner)

Reel Fanatic said...

Those are two I'm definitely anticipating with interest, rc, but I have to confess that Hairspray was one I just couldn't bring myself to watch .. I just couldn't stomach that John Waters' great little movie needed to be remade for any reason, but maybe when i finally watch it on DVD I'll be proven wrong