Written by: Ron Bricker
A challenging romantic epic occupies the same list as a high-concept spoof and a few big-budget blockbusters in Alaka Prodhan's top 10 movies of 2007, but to be totally accurate, this is only her top seven movies of the past year. She's reserved the final three slots for the three movies that most disappointed her, which include two franchises that bungled their third chapters and a prestige children's lit adaptation that found no truth.
Not even (a) my irrational hatred of Keira Knightley and That Bloody Pout and (b) my having never picked up an Ian McEwan novel could stop me from actually enjoying this film. My curious and confused feelings throughout the film, which at times seemed almost to verge on boredom, were dispelled by the last ten minutes, with the unforeseen ending that caused me to mentally rewrite the last two hrs (in a process neatly mirroring that of the main character). A fascinating insight into memory, adolescence, guilt, and the power of writing – kept me thinking for days afterwards.
9. Die Hard 4.0: Live Free or Die Hard
Bruce Willis returned to form as John McClane, the analogue man in the digital world, kicking a whole lot of ass and giving Jack Bauer a run for his money as the world's most indestructible man. Big, loud, and piles of fun, this film did everything it said on the tin, with its cool, though unsettling, central concept executed with huge dollops of panache and some impressive stunts/FX.
Michael Bay showed that even in spite of previous misdemeanours (Pearl Harbour / The Island WHY) he knows how to bust those blocks (quite literally) in this blockbusting… blockbuster. A great score and a whole manner of geekgasming at all the cars-turn-into-robots-BEAT-SHIT-UP CARNAGE EEH – verily, my inner-boy rejoiced. The story was also handled with a surprisingly light touch, with the tongue-in-cheek humour saving it from what could have been an uncomfortable, cringe-worthy experience (see above). But the main draw was of course the rapidly ensuing, blood-pumping Bayhem. Some of the best SFX I've seen in a long time made this film my not-so-guilty pleasure of 2007.
7. Beowulf in 3D at IMAX
Another despite-the-odds one, this one – my initial reaction to the trailers was one of suspicion bordering on disgust: “why is Beowulf Cockney,” cried I, “and why is Grendel's mother now a seductive, vampy temptress in the form of Angelina Jolie?” Not that I have any aversion to Mrs Pitt, just that this was certainly not the Beowulf I had read at university. Nevertheless, although my medieval literature roots caused me to bristle with indignation, I went into the cinema with an open mind and came out pleasantly surprised. Entertaining, exhilarating, and even with the various changes it managed to stay true to the ambivalent spirit of the original. I also squeed at the bits of proper, real Old English. Thank you, Neil Gaiman. Though this surely has to be one of the most violent PG 13’s in recent memory.
6. I Am Legend
I saw this today and I can’t say it made for an enjoyable experience – I don’t really like scary films and this one sent my blood pressure soaring through the roof. But, it makes my list for the memorable and eerie images of a deserted, overgrown New York (complete with leaping CG antelope, although I'm not entirely sure where they came from) and one of the cutest/best performances by a dog. Will Smith wasn’t bad either. And hey, what can I say, I'm a sucker for post-apocolayptica.
5. 2 Days In Paris
By all accounts I should hate Julie Delpy for she is everything I want to be: multi-talented, beautiful, intelligent, she wrote, starred in, directed and scored this sweet and funny take on an cross-cultural relationship. The done-to-death meet-the-parents scenario is injected with fresh and sharply observed humour that manages to simultaneously (and gently) rip into both the French and the Americans. Wry, realistic (Julie Delpy had previously gone out with co-star Adam Goldberg in real life) and touching: a little gem of a film.
4. Hot Fuzz
After the success of rom-zom-com Shaun of the Dead, the Simon Pegg/Nick Frost/Edgar Wright Dream Team struck gold again with this film. A lot of pant-wettingly hilarious moments, including the epic battle of Somerfield, grannies getting drop-kicked in the face and Timothy Dalton being skewered by a model church spire. But my personal favourite consists of a single word: …narb?
And because my well runneth dry at this point, I’ll end my ten with the year’s three biggest disappointments:
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
2. Spiderman 3
Both these films demonstrated that too many cooks do indeed spoil the broth. Too many villains + too many plotlines = incoherent mess, a triumph of mindless money-grabbing and style over substance. Oh, I was entertained all right, but for none of the right reasons. I mean come on – Venom turns Spiderman into a complete emo, complete with floppy fringe and embarrassing dance moves? Where is the badass “darkness within” in that? I half expected him to start posting whiny acoustic ballads and ‘arty’ pouty photographs of himself to his Myspace. And don’t even get me started on Calypso and her crabs (snort) or her OD of growth hormones. As her GIANT THIGHS enveloped the screen I sank lower and lower into my seat and took refuge in my friend’s popcorn. Dearie me. What were the filmmakers on when they made these films?
1. The Golden Compass
First of all, it’s not a compass, it’s an alethiometer. And now that I’ve got that off my chest… Let’s just say no other film this year caused me as much frustration post-cinema as this one. Heralded by New Line Cinema as the Next Best Thing Since Sliced Bread i.e. Lord of the Rings, it only suffered hugely by comparison. Paying mere lip service to Pullman’s most interesting themes; reducing its by-and-large A list cast into mere cameos; ending more-than-several pages too short of the book’s gut-wrenching, provocative climax in favour of a sanitised Hollywood-friendly denouement… well, the list of crimes against Pullman/cinema only goes on. And what was going on with the score?? All in all, this film had about as much magic and charm as an old sock. A real wasted opportunity and easily the year’s biggest, fattest disappointment.
Films That May Have Made This List Had I Actually Got Round To Seeing Them:
Part 1: The Lives of Others, Stardust, Ratatouille, Once, The Bourne Supremacy, Superbad, Sunshine
Part 2: The Simpsons Movie, American Gangster
Part 3: 300 doesn’t make an appearance because I went to see it at IMAX but arrived too late, so I had to sit on the second row from the front all the way over to the left. The whiplash I suffered somewhat detracted from my enjoyment of the film so I think I’d have to see it again before making any proper judgments.
But despite my sore neck, 300 still boasts the best four lines of dialogue of 2007: "This! Is! Spar! Ta!" Classic!