@ The Movies: Top 10 In 2007
Category: 300 News | Posted by: maryp
Article Date: December 31, 2007 | Publication: WMTW.com | Author: Tim Lammers, Web Staff Editor
Reflecting on this year's top 10 list, I guess it's pretty safe to say that my picks were all over the board. But there was a certain genre that hit all the right notes with me this year, which will become increasing evident as the list winds to a close.
So love 'em or hate 'em, here are this year's picks. Some of you are bound to disagree, if not strongly. But as I've said before, I'm a movie fan first, and a film critic second.
I'll see you again -- @ The Movies -- in 2008.
10. "Knocked Up" -- Writer-director Judd Apatow's follow-up to "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" proves that the comedy genius has only one thing on his mind -- and nobody does it better.
More uproarious than the hilarious "Virgin," "Knocked Up" stars Seth Rogen as Ben, an oafish but likable slacker who stumbles into a one-night stand with Alison ("Grey's Anatomy" star Katherine Heigl), and together, they decide to go through the pregnancy together. Like "Virgin," the film is loaded with profanities and gross-out humor, but a very smart and funny script keeps it from becoming a one-joke movie.
But what knocks "Knocked Up" out of the park are hilarious and heartwarming performances by the everyman-appealing Rogen and a glowing Heigl, who make the unlikely relationship totally believable.
9. "There Will Be Blood" -- While this turn-of-the-century oil boom drama from director Paul Thomas Anderson ("Boogie Nights," "Magnolia") is too long and a bit too smart for its own good at times, at least it has a satisfying ending -- unlike the Coen brothers' rambling, highfalutin conclusion that ruined an otherwise riveting "No Country For Old Men."
Daniel Day-Lewis has given, hands-down, the best performance of the year in this epic that finds a Texas prospector who will go to extreme lengths to secure his future in the business. It easily rivals, if not bests, his Oscar-winning performance in "My Left Foot" and Oscar-robbed turn in "Gangs of New York."
But as powerful as Day-Lewis' performance is, he allows ample room for Paul Dano (the rebellious teen from "Little Miss Sunshine") to shine. Dano is frightening as a self-proclaimed minister who's bent on saving the oil baron's soul.
8. "Michael Clayton" -- George Clooney sticks it hard to corporate behemoths and the lawyers who represent them in this taut legal thriller about a "fixer" (Clooney) who cleans up messes for the high-powered law firm -- despite his inability to clean up the shards of the personal and financial dealings that have shattered around him.
While Clooney turns in a great performance, Tilda Swinton nearly steals the show in her complex turn as the conflicted chief legal counsel of an agrochemical corporation that's on the verge of a multimillion civil settlement -- a small sum considering the billions the plaintiffs initially sought in a class-action suit. Tom Wilkinson is also mesmerizing as the firm's lead counsel defending the corporation, whose sudden guilt-ridden meltdown causes Clooney's Clayton to question the sort of person he's become.
What elevates "Michael Clayton" is the effective balance that enables it to inform and entertain its audience at the same time. Masterfully constructed by writer-director Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton" effectively calls out the white-collar scum that plagues society, but not in a dull and preachy sort of way.
7. "Transformers" -- True, it's big and loud, but this monster-sized movie based on the Hasbro toy line is also enormously entertaining.
Director Michael Bay delivers some awe-inspiring visual effects, as two species of robots descend upon the Earth -- one to protect its inhabitants (the heroic Autobots, led by the semi-transforming Optimus Prime) and the other (the evil Decepticons, led by the jet-transforming Megatron) to destroy the planet's inhabitants. While the film is driven by its visuals, it hardly comes off as two-dimensional.
There's an interesting back story that explains why the Transformers are coming to Earth in the first place, and the human cast -- including star-on-the-rise Shia LaBeouf, stunning newcomer Megan Fox -- make the most out of the film's serious, and surprisingly, oftentimes funny, scenes and dialogue. And all of these observations are coming from a Transformers newbie who was more concerned about rock 'n' roll music when these bad boys debuted on toy shelves. That's what makes "Transformers" great -- it's accessible to everyone.
6. "300" -- "Dawn of the Dead" director Zack Snyder awakens the sword and sandals genre with this hyperkinetic, visually stunning interpretation of author Frank Miller and artist Lynn Varley's acclaimed graphic novel about the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C.
Gerard Butler turns in a ferocious performance as King Leonidas, the fearless leader of Sparta who leads 300 of his warriors into battle to head off head off an invasion by Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive Persian army -- and inspire Greece to rise up because of their valor and sacrifice.
What makes "300" impressive is that it's a virtual pane-by-pane adaptation of the graphic novel, muted colors and all. Filmed almost entirely in front of a blue screen, Snyder stunningly recreates sprawling vistas, kingdoms, environments and weaponry of the ancient world with an impressive arsenal of computer-generated effects. It's an amazing technical achievement that's manages to mesh beautifully with the film's powerful storyline.
5. "Dan In Real Life" -- Boasting a wonderfully understated performance by comedy actor Steve Carell in the title role, "Dan in Real Life" delivers as its title promises -- a story that feels like real life.
Carell stars a widowed newspaper columnist and single father of three spirited girls who, on a trip home for an annual family gathering, meets the free-spirited Marie (Juliette Binoche) in a local bookstore that just may pull him out of his doldrums. The two soon meet again, but this time Marie is introduced as Dan's brother's (Dane Cook) girlfriend, leading to an uncomfortable situation at best.
While the chemistry between Carell and Binoche makes them one of the best screen couples this year, the key to "Real Life's" success is the impressive ensemble cast that makes up Dan's family (Diane Wiest, John Mahoney and Brittany Robertson -- who is a scream as Dan's lovelorn 15-year-old daughter), who can be caring of Dan one minute and mocking him the next, just like any loving family member would do. Director/co-writer Peter Hedges has an incredible handle on the material, making "Dan" one of, if not the sweetest, romantic comedies of the year.
4. "Grindhouse" -- While there have no doubt been better stories told on the big screen this year, there's no question that this B-movie extravaganza from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez was the best theatrical event of 2007.
A full-blown double feature in a glorious ode to the grindhouse movie houses of the 1970s (with fake movie trailers sandwiched in-between), "Grindhouse" presents, scratched prints, missing reels and all, the intentionally so-bad-that-it's-good zombie flick "Planet Terror" from Rodriguez, and the laborious but clever car-chase thriller "Death Proof" from Tarantino.
Audiences apparently didn't buy the concept and the movie bombed in theaters, and the movies were both eventually released separately on DVD. Don't hold your breath, though; a special-edition disc featuring both with the trailers has to be in the works. Otherwise, Tarantino and Rodriguez's daring experiment will be all for naught.
3. "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" -- Sure, another notable film this year claims that "there will be blood," but it has nothing on "Sweeney Todd" -- the best-directed movie of the year by genius filmmaker Tim Burton that features an eclectic cast, Burton's trademark dark atmosphere and his sense of visual wonder.
Adapted from famed composer Stephen Sondheim's classic Broadway musical, "Sweeney Todd" tells the wicked tale of a barber (Johnny Depp) who seeks revenge on a London judge (Alan Rickman) after the corrupt official unjustly sends him to prison for 15 years and destroys his family in the process.
There's no doubt "Sweeney Todd" is an acquired taste -- but if you can stomach the gallons of bloodshed and Todd's victims' fates as the main ingredients of meat pies by a equally-sinister pie maker (Helena Bonham Carter), then you're bound to enjoy what is undoubtedly the most original film of the year. Topping the film off is a spate of spectacular singing performances -- which is amplified by the fact that Depp, Bonham Carter and Rickman had scant singing experience before the film.
All told, "Sweeney Todd" is bloody brilliant.
2. "Hairspray" -- Newcomer Nikki Blonsky is a revelation as Tracy Turnblad in this adaptation of the Broadway version of "Hairspray," which itself was adapted from John Waters' 1981 film about the changing race-relations climate of 1962 Baltimore.
From the opening beats of the film in the Ronettes-inspired "Good Morning Baltimore" to the closing credits tune "Come So Far (So Far to Go)," "Hairspray" is a hair-raising good time, as the short, stocky and spunky Tracy changes attitudes about blacks and overweight people as a member on the locally-broadcast Corny Collins (James Marsden) teen TV dance show.
What makes "Hairspray" shine is how an issue as critical as racism can be weaved so smoothly and effectively into an effervescent musical, and driving the point home like never before. The cast is stellar from top to bottom, including a fat-suited John Travolta as Tracy's mother, Edna Turnblad, and Amanda Bynes as Tracy's gloriously geeky best friend. "High School Musical" star Zac Efron also shows that he'll have some legs in the movie business as the show's star Link Larkin.
1. "Enchanted" -- This wonderful princess tale that melds Walt Disney's classic animation sensibilities and live-action life in New York City is, without question, the biggest -- and most pleasant -- movie surprise this year.
It's extremely refreshing to see that Disney has a sense of humor about itself, as a wide-eyed maiden (a wide-eyed fish-out-of-water role played to perfection by Amy Adams) finds herself banished from the animated land of Andalasia to the not-so-welcome world of New York City. Once she finds solace in a divorced bachelor (Patrick Dempsey) and confidence that her prince (James Marsden) from Andalasia will come to rescue her, Giselle (along with the brilliant direction of Kevin Lima) turns the Big Apple into the sort of musical setting that hearkens the classic Disney days of old.
In the end, "Enchanted" inspires such of sense of optimism and faith in true love, in fact, that you begin to realize that maybe the film isn't so tongue-in-cheek after all -- and maybe we really have grown too cynical. Clearly this Disney guy was onto something all those years ago.