Sunday, March 31, 2013

Every Film Ive seen in 2007 II: Films 23-44

This is a continuation of a lengthy exercise in which I ranked every single film I saw in 2007 from best to worst. Here's Part I.

23. National Treasure 2-If you buy the ridiculous premise that another archaeological gold mine that would fall into Ben Gates's lap, then this is a reasonably entertaining film with some top rate action scenes and lots more fun with history. Otherwise, it's the kind of film that makes plot hole enthusiasts' heads explode with possibilities. The president can easily be kidnapped, Buckingham Palace has laxer security than your local library, and you can break as many laws as you want as long as you want as long as it's in the name of a dead relative who passed away 150 years ago. Helen Mirren joins the cast which is always fun and Ty Burrell (before "Modern Family") can be spotted here like Where's Waldo,

24. Transformers - While there certainly wasn't enough creative juice to merit a good sequel to this film and the film was highly Michael Bayish in its love of explosions, superficial human interaction, hot girls, and general coolness, there was a Spielbergian element in the middle of all of it too (common themes: boy needs a friend, boy needs a daddy figure, girl and boy unite over lack of respective daddy figures) that made the film charming at times. 
25. My Brother -A small independent film screened at a film festival I attended, this film tells the story of an African-American kid who watches over his disabled brother as a grown-up. It's highlighted by a great performance by Vanessa Williams and Tatum O'Neal who slum it in the indie world but get some good results.

26. Music and Lyrics-Hugh Grant straddles a thin line between charming and boring and has failed to carry many a film, but he succeeds here because, like Blades of Glory, this is a film that doesn't aim particularly high and delivered on lower ambitions. One caveat: The whole film does rely on you buying the premise that a reasonably intelligent professional songwriter can't string basic rhymes out of words and has never heard of a thesaurus.

27. Ocean's 13-Ocean's 12 was such a self-indulgent mess that in press conferences preceding the film, cast members (Matt Damon on Inside the Actor's Studio comes to mind) were saying that while the cast was enjoying each other's company and the exotic locations, they were being professional and working. And the funny thing is they weren't even being asked: They just volunteered this information as if anyone would doubt that actors would do anything but act on a film set. With the disaster behind them, the Ocean's 13 crew had a respectable third outing in that it had a coherent plot but trying to lower the yelp rating (oops, excuse me, diamond rating) of a casino is not as exciting as a classic heist and I found the franchise's choice to reduce the stakes rather then up the level of excitement baffling. On the upside: Ellen Barkin, David Paymer and Al Pacino were all inspired casting choices.

28. The Hoax-For such a grand premise (a guy fooling the world into thinking he's a biographer of Howard Hughes), The Hoax was moderately uneventful which made the film feel a little pretentious. On the positive, it had some nice character moments here and there.

29. Lucky You-Curtis Hanson is a great director (LA Confidential, Wonderboys, In Her Shoes, 8 Mile) and this film has his trademarks of quiet moments, self-reflexive characters, immersion in a subculture, but this film felt a little dreary and the plot lacked forward movement. Wasn't necessarily a bad film but not Hanson's best work

30. Evan Almighty-If you're wondering why this ridiculously tenously connected sequel exists the answer is twofold: 1) Bruce Almighty grossed north of $200 million. For a comedy, that's pretty damn good, and even if it came with a neatly packaged ending, Hollywood economics supercede story: A sequel had to be made 2) Jim Carrey didn't want to do it and, fortunately, Steve Carell had became a star in the interim. Because they built an elaborate ark (fun fact: the ark was constructed and shot in Virginia, a casting call went out to my college and a couple friends were extras) , this was technically the most expensive comedy to date. Some critics ripped on the film for unwisely spending all that money for a superfluous ark but I think they missed the point: plus or minus an ark, the entire film was a grand piece of superfluousness. Evan was a one-note villain who only merited a film of his own unless you sweep it all under the rug and retcon him as a deeper character. If you can get past all that, then it's an, at times, moderately decent comedy.

31. Walk Hard-The best parodies tend to be more subtle. Walk Hard tended to hit you over the head with a grand announcement that it was a parody.

32. Charlie Barrett-I find it interesting that Iron Man was touted as Rob Downey Jr's comeback when here he was in a film the year before. Not one that anyone saw, but still. This film is a high school dramedy about a new transfer (Anton Yelchin) who goes from selling his adderroll to becoming the unofficial school psychologist and sports star. It's kind of a thin plot but has its moments.

33. Fantastic Four Part II-I can't tell whether Fantastic Four came along at an earlier point in the development of comic books or it was the movie's fault but this quartet of superheroes seems oddly one-dimensional: You have the womanizer who won't settle down, the big lug of a tough guy, the dweeby scientist and Jessica Alba's invisible heroines who is, surprisingly, the only character who feels like more than one-and-a-half dimensions. The best I can come up with for a compliment to this film is not awful.

34. Shrek 3-I have literally no memory of this film. How often does that happen five years later that you can't recall a single detail of a film? I clearly remember the Shrek universe and distinctly remember the plots of the first and second installments but this must have been a very unremarkable film. On the other hand, a truly awful film gets burnt on my memory which is why this doesn't have lower placement.

35. Invasion-A remake of the 1950's sci-fi classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" or possibly a remake of the 1976 Donald Sutherland-Brooke Adams remake, who can really keep track of this unorigiality anymore? The film felt uninspired (because it was) but made for a halfway decent action film.

36. Mr Magoriums Wonder Emporium-After so many remakes and sequels, I'm glad to finally get to an entry on the list that's original. Zach Helm, who wrote the screenplay to the highly inventive "Stranger than Fiction", approaches this film with the same sense of whimsy but it still feels like a second rate version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with an admirably odd turn by Dustin Hoffman as a Wonkaesque stand-in.

37. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry-Adam Sandler's usual mixture of heartfelt emotion and juvenile humor barely worked in its favor in this slightly misguided but ultimately tolerable take on the gay marriage debate. The film was met with some criticism for being outwardly homophobic. Like all Adam Sandler films, the film treats its subjects with underlying warmth but tackles human complexities (in this case, a delicate subject such as sexual orientation) with the emotional maturity of an eight year old, which is what Adam Sandler essentially is. It's not his fault: When he first broke out his guitar and started singing as a prepubsecent boy on SNL, we encouraged it, and enabled him to never grow up emotionally or comically.

38. No Country for Old Men-Cinematography was top-notch but was there a point to this film? I'm sure someone out there could watch this film and read some thematically coherent message from it, but I'm guessing most of the film's fans (including the Oscar voters for some odd reason) just liked it because it included a cool weapon, a villain with a weird haircut and dialogue so vague he became interesting, and a couple cool action scenes. I love some of the films by the Coen brothers but when they don't resonate with you, they feel like you're presented with a series of superficial objects and tricks with nothing beneath the surface.

39. Golden Compass-Rule #1 when delving into heavily complex mythological tale: Make it interesting. Otherwise, it feels like you're just reading the rule book to some complicated board game.

40. Pirates of the Caribbean III-Once upon a time, Disney brilliantly revived the pirate genre with a film that was a little bit long-winded but ultimately a lot of fun. Then, in attempting to stretch the series into a trilogy, some terrible decisions were made: Rather than simplify the mythology (this is, after all, a film based on a ride) they added entirely new plots on top of unresolved ones. If you remember, the first film ends with Depp an outlaw and Bloom trying to clear his name. That would be a good movie in itself, but they decided to add some entirely new mythic octopus on top of everything that kind of nullified the first film (Why would Jack care about fighting for control of the Black Pearl if both the souls of he and Barbosa were owned by a giant octopus anyway?). The second film ends with no resolution to the first film and Johnny Depp being taken prisoner by the octopus. The third film bloated things into a gigantic mess by conveniently introducing the fact that the tertiary character played by Tia Dalma happends to be enormously powerful and brings some dangerous spell of her own. Oh and Chow Yung-Fat is some Asian sea captain who imprisons Elizabeth and Keith Richards shows up because, why not at this point?

41. Nancy Drew-I saw this film with a couple younger cousins and while I get that the film appeals primarily to kids, there's no harm in making it presentable to an older demographic. This film suffered because there was a clear need to dumb down and simplify basic plot elements to be digestible. On the bright side, this film is responsible for keeping former Mango/Antonio Banderas SNL stalwart Chris Kattan employed for the year of 2007.

42. License to Wed-Imagine a romantic comedy starring Jim from The Office in full smugness mode without the endearing romantic backstory that made the Jim-Pam relationship work and you're only at the start of the list of problems with this poorly thought-out disaster. See, faux-Jim is engaged to an annoyingly cheery woman (Mandy Moore) and must get permission from pastor Robin Williams to proceed with marraige. Only, Robin Williams is a troublesome creep who seeks to sabatoge him. Or maybe he isn't and faux-Jim's overly suspicious. It doesn't really matter because by the third act, both these plots are bafflingly forgotten and everyone celebrates matrimony on the beach. It's one of the most abrupt endings I've ever seen. If that's not bad enough, the movie features Brian Bumgartener playing an even dumber guy than Kevin Malone and easily the most cringeworthy line of dialogue of 2007: When Mandy Moore suggests they abstain before the wedding, faux-Jim responds "but I want to play tickle my pickle with my girlfriend." Oh the horror.

43. Superbad-Yes, I got the memo that this film became somewhat of a classic. Still, the general populance gets things wrong sometimes. This film is crass, sophomoric, and worst of all, uneventful. I don't mind a film being low-brow if it goes somewhere but it appears that they set the record for number of f-words in a film for no other reason than it sounded cool. Yes, two high school senior boys on an average Saturday night are gonna be thinking about sex a lot and they're going to stumble their way through a party or two in search of it, but that doesn't mean it's an interesting thing to put on film.

44. 1408-I probably made a mistake by watching this one as horror really isn't my genre. Not getting the appeal of the film before I begin the viewing experience isn't a good place to start. 1408 felt like an ameteurish b-movie.

No comments: