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Top 10 best (and worst) movies of 2007

Charlie Owen
Vail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
ALL |

For all that Hollywood does wrong, it periodically atones for its sins by releasing films that don’t contain mediocre plots and special effects.

2007 was a real doozy for the good and the bad. Not only were audiences treated to giant fighting robots, there were still enough thinking-man’s movies to keep the critics and know-it-alls happy, too.

Some gems deserve scrutiny this year, and some flicks deserve an early burial. So grab some popcorn and enjoy a refreshing review of what Hollywood gave us in 2007.



No Country For Old Men

Texas redneck Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) stumbles across a bloody crime scene in the desert plains of West Texas and takes a case full of money (two million dollars to be exact) and some guns from the deceased. Soon he is being stalked by multiple parties who want the money back, most notably Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), a creepy-as-they-come killer who won’t rest until he has disposed of Moss and returned the money to its rightful owner. Then of course there’s ancient sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) who just can’t seem to move fast enough or think far enough ahead to stop any of the brutal murders that have started popping up all over his usually quiet town.



The Cohen brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski) have made a completely awesome movie, and even if you don’t like the subject matter, long periods of silence, and gruesome violence, you still have to respect the fact that they brought to life a classic story of good versus evil, and evil wins.

Knocked Up

Not only does Judd Apatow make consistently hilarious movies, he also tackles adult themes that most of us would rather pretend don’t exist.



“Knocked Up” is the story of a successful entertainment reporter named Alison (Katherine Heigl) and a pot-smoking, beer-guzzling slacker named Ben (Seth Rogen) whose only job is getting a nude celebrity website up and running.

After a drunken night at a bar, Ben and Alison hook up; he is thrilled, she is embarrassed, life returns to normal. Until one day when Alison discovers she’s pregnant.

That doesn’t sound very funny at all, but Knocked Up is as funny as they come. The dialogue is clever, and there is enough substance in the plot to keep you from forgetting it five minutes after the credits roll. Watching Alison and Ben work out the mess that they have created for themselves is both fun and frustrating, partly because what they are going through could happen to anyone.

Transformers

“More than meets the eye,” the Transformers are a race of machines from the planet Cybertron that can “transform” from common objects such as cars and trucks, into intricate, thinking, 20-foot-tall robots. They have come to Earth in search of the All Spark ” a cube-shaped object that gives life to mechanical objects. The Decepticons (bad guys) want to use the All Spark to enslave humanity and reign over the universe; the Autobots (good guys) want to use it to make sure peace and stability are brought to the world.

Overall, “Transformers” is a vehicle for Michael Bay (Armageddon) to do what he does best: make big-budget special effects movies with cheesy story-lines. But Transformers provides nostalgia as well as a secret weapon ” giant fighting robots.

The special effects are so stunning and detailed that you can actually see every moving part when a vehicle transforms. And fans will appreciate the return of Peter Cullen who voiced Optimus Prime in the original cartoon series. Transformers is a true geek’s delight.

The Bourne Ultimatum

You don’t want to get on Jason Bourne’s bad side. He can kill you six different ways before you even have a chance to blink, so why do people keep pissing him off?

The James Bond for our generation (only he’s far less subtle and stylish), Bourne (Matt Damon) has been on the run from various government agencies since we first saw him in “The Bourne Identity.” This third and (supposedly) final installment of the Bourne trilogy brings him closer to his origins, revealing a few things about himself that he isn’t too thrilled to find out. Along the way he must dodge assassins and speeding cars, trying to stay alive long enough to get to the people that are after him first, and find out just why he can’t seem to get a peaceful nights sleep without someone trying to kill him.

Paul Greengrass’s directing is flawless, and he turns the brutal fight scenes into more than just standard punch-and-kick drudgery. The violence is carefully choreographed yet comes across as an impromptu street brawl, and it will literally have you on the edge of your seat.

3:10 to Yuma

That’s right, “3:10 to Yuma” was a remake of the 1957 black-and-white western of the same name.

Modern westerns have become known for their bleak outlook on human character and moral ambiguity, and “3:10 to Yuma” is no different.

When notorious outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is finally captured after ambushing an armored stagecoach, he is to be escorted by authorities to the town of Contention, where he will board the 3:10 train to Yuma, Arizona for his trial.

Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a down-on-his-luck, one-legged rancher who agrees to help escort Wade for a fee of $200. Along the way Wade ends up killing half of his captors, but he begins to bond with Evans and his son who has snuck along for the ride. By the time they arrive at their destination, Wade has become enamored with Evans’ seemingly unwavering morality, while Evans has started to compromise his morals in order to get the reward.

The end of the film contains one of the most tense shoot-outs in western history, as well as some pretty cool plot twists that will make you wonder to the very end who will live and who will die.

Spider-Man 3

It’s sad to think how good Spider-Man 3 should have been, and how bad it really sucked.

Not only did this movie include three villains (one of which turns out to be a good guy), some pretty unremarkable special effects, and the corniest dance scene in movie history, but it failed to capture the essence of the previous two Spider-Man movies. That essence was the human frailty of Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) even as he fights evil with amazing super-powers. Unfortunately, with so many new players to keep track of and the expectation to “wrap it all up,” director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) balks on character development and plot.

Evan Almighty

Stale use of Biblical imagery aside, “Evan Almighty” was staunchly unfunny and sadly over-budgeted, making it mostly enjoyable to little kids who think animals pooping on people’s heads is funny.

It’s basically “Bruce Almighty” with more special effects and a worse plot. After praying to God (Morgan Freeman) one night, Evan Baxter (Steve Carrel) wakes up to find his beard growing at an alarming rate, pairs of animals are inexplicably attracted to him, and God instructs him to build an ark in preparation for a coming disaster.

All this would be great if the movie ever explained why Evan has to save the animals (since the reason Noah had to save them was to repopulate the Earth after its destruction by flood) and why he has to build a massive ark to save the towns population from a flood (when all he had to do was pack up his car and drive away).

Something tells me that even God would be disappointed.

Lions For Lambs

You would think that any movie starring Robert Redford, Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep has to be great. Think again.

If “Lions For Lambs” doesn’t put you to sleep with it’s complete lack of action or set pieces, it’s sure to make you hate movies that try to persuade you with political propaganda but can’t seem to figure out which line they toe themselves.

Jasper Irving (Cruise) is a Washington D.C. senator who has a devised a “can’t lose” strategy to defeat rebel fighters in Afghanistan, tossing haggard reporter Janine Roth (Streep) a bone by giving her the scoop first. Dr. Malley (Redford) is a college professor who lectures one of his star pupils for 90 minutes. Then there are two soldiers who used to be Dr. Malley’s students caught in an ambush in Afghanistan, fallout from Irving’s new plan.

That’s it. Nothing gets solved, nothing gets fixed, and aside from a few minutes of on-screen action in Afghanistan, nothing much happens. It’s obvious that director Redford wants to take the moral high ground on American politics, but it just comes off as tired rhetoric.

At least it’s a short movie.

Shoot ‘Em Up

The most pro/anti gun movie of the year is “Shoot ‘Em Up,” which didn’t get much attention at the box-office but is almost guaranteed to become a cult classic in the near future.

Clive Owen plays a former military man turned bum who witnesses a pregnant woman being accosted by men with guns. Owen steps in, kills all of the antagonists, delivers the baby, then tries to get it to safety. The bad guys (led by Paul Giamatti) just keep coming though, forcing Owen to keep finding new and inventive ways to kill them off. Some of his methods involve carrots as weapons, and of course, lots of guns. Owen discovers a political conspiracy involving a baby factory and corrupt politicians, none of which matters much to the plot.

“Shoot ‘Em Up” is a live-action cartoon, crammed with over-the-top violence and mayhem, shoddy acting by most of the supporting cast, and a very thin gun-control message. Visually, it’s a stunning opera of carnage, but substance wise it’s a mess.

Premonition

This Sandra Bullock vehicle isn’t really that bad, it just serves no purpose. It’s bland and wishy-washy, unable to decide if it’s a horror, suspense, thriller or drama.

Bullock is apparently having dreams (which might be visions of the future) about her husband’s (Julian McMahon) death that are so real she swears he’s really dead and moves on with her life. But then he reappears in her life as if nothing has changed, forcing Bullock to believe she is either going crazy or someone is playing a nasty trick on her.

It all starts to make sense by the end of the movie, but then a curveball is thrown and you’re left feeling very unsatisfied. Did she time travel, is she a prophet, does anyone care?

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 7487-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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