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The Best Movies of 2007 (and the Worst as well)

So anyway, it’s that time of the year again to put together a Top 10 list of what I thought was the best movies that I saw all year. 2007 was a pretty darn good year and I know I certainly saw a lot of films that I had in consideration. Anyway, I’ve got a Top 10, and I’ve also got my list of runners-up… so first off, here’s the runners-up in no particular order:

Children of Men
Black Snake Moan
The Simpsons Movie
Michael Clayton
Bee Movie
The Mist
Sweeney Todd

I thought all of those were absolutely terrific and most of them would get a hearty recommendation from me to most movie viewers (Bug is the one movie on that list that I’d be hesitant to recommend to a lot of folks, but I know I had a hell of a good time with it) and Children of Men is one that I enjoyed much, much more on my second go with it. One of the other films that I’ve seen this year was Pan’s Labyrinth which is technically a 2006 movie, so I’ve disqualified it from this list, though it’s certainly well worth your time to see it. Just recently too, another movie that I’ve seen this year,that opened in theatres this year, but that I didn’t see until it came out on DVD was Lasse Hallstrom’s The Hoax which starred Richard Gere and was about writer Clifford Irving’s attempt to keep his name and writing in the spotlight by contriving an autobiography (dictated to him) by the reclusive billionaire, Howard Hughes. Had I seen that in theatres, I would’ve had to consider that as well- but just the same, it’s a terrific film and highly recommended if you get the chance. And there’s still at least one 2007 movie that hasn’t opened here that I really want to see that I think in advance could be a contender for this list, and that’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. I’m hoping that plays here soon. So without further ado, here’s the top 10 starting with number 10:

10. Inland Empire – I am a huge David Lynch fan, and even when it’s at it’s most taxing to put together the real ideas around his films, he always delivers a tremendous experience to go through. Inland Empire was a bold experiment for him, shooting entirely on Sony consumer digital video cameras, this three-hour epic seems almost like it’s a good companion piece for Mulholland Dr. in a lot of ways. It’s tagline is “A Woman In Trouble” and as usual, Lynch leaves it in the hands of the viewer to put it altogether. This features a terrific performance from Laura Dern, putting her through the gamut of emotions. Not for everybody by any means, but those who like David Lynch movies will probably find something to like here.

9. The Host – This Korean movie is one of the best monster movies that I’ve seen in years. It details the story of a mutated sea creature running amok amongst a huge populated city and the city’s steps to keep it at bay, but with a huge focus on one particular family whose youngest member is snatched up by the beast, and their attempts to get her back. Thrilling stuff with terrific visual effects and a great emotional center.

8. American Gangster – Ridley Scott steps back into 70s style of filmmaking telling this story of drug kingpin Frank Lucas and police officer Richie Roberts, as Roberts attempts to take down the big drug targets in the midst of a New York City already heavily corrupted by cops on the take. Great performances from Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe are at the center of the film, and it’s just a terrific ride in a good old fashioned French Connection-type of film.

7. Ratatouille – The second teaming of Brad Bird and Pixar Studios gives us a story of a rat with a taste for the finer things, and how that rat gets to realize his dreams by helping the inept heir of a great restaurant take charge of that restaurant. Just incredibly beautiful work from Pixar, again showing why they’re the absolute best at Computer animated films. Very funny stuff and a great mix of comedy and something a little different, that being a movie that focuses on food and cooking.

6. I Am Legend – It’s the third time out for Richard Matheson’s classic story on-screen and in my opinion, it’s the best yet and a genuinely thrilling film experience. A deadly virus has taken it’s toll on the population and in a deserted New York City, one man has remained immune and dedicates himself to find a cure while surviving from the new terrors that the virus has created. Really well made film from director Frances Laurence who previously gave us Constantine, this realizes the premise well and features one terrific performance from Will Smith, I think it’s his best yet.

5. No Country For Old Men – The latest film from the Coen Brothers is a brutal cat and mouse story about one man who finds a large amount of drug money and how he’s on the run from a sadistic killer, and haw both are being tracked down by one long-in-the-tooth sheriff who thinks this case just might be beyond him. Gripping stuff right from the start with an ending that’s not the clean ending that most filmgoers like, but very true to the ideas of the film. Terrific performances from Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones and most especially Javier Bardem add to the intensity.

4. 300 – Zach Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel raises the bar considerably for virtual studio films. This is the story of how 300 Spartans held off the immense Persian army for as long as they could from invading their soil. Snyder and his crew have taken great pains to make this true to Miller’s work with any alterations meeting the approval of Miller himself. Visually brilliant, fun as hell to watch and with a great, bravura performance from Gerard Butler.

3. The Lookout – Right from a blockbuster to an extremely small film in comparison, Scott Frank’s The Lookout tells the story of a young man with a promising life ahead of him having it seriously hampered by an accident that gives him memory issues. This is a tightly woven tale that’s beautifully shot and extremely well acted, with terrific performances from Jeff Daniels, Matthew Goode and especially Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role. I just watched this again on DVD recently and found it just as compelling then as I did in the theatres (to which there was hardly anyone in them to see this gem).

2. The Kingdom – Director Peter Berg tells us a story about a fictional terrorist attack on an American oil community in the Saudi city of Riyadh and gets more to the emotional points rather than pontificating over the political points, delivering a movie that’s compelling to get involved with rather than delivering Hollywood preachiness. This is incredibly well made, very fast paced, and features godd “lived in” performances from Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman. And on top of that, this delivers one of the best and most chilling endings I’ve seen in a movie all year. Terrific stuff and I can’t wait to see what Peter Berg does next.

And now, here’s the number one movie for me all year and this should come as little surprise to anyone who knows my tastes in movies…

1. Grindhouse – Directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino love those old exploitation films of the 60s, 70s and early 80s and I do too, and what they delivered with the original theatrical version of Grindhouse was a genuine film experience that hasn’t been seen in a long time, a double feature that’s filled out with trailers for other movies made in the same vein, all produced with that sort of old theatre/drive-in presentation. Grindhouse for me was just pure fun from start to finish and it was just an incredible shame that this failed so miserably at the box office, because I could’ve stood to see Rodriguez and Tarantino deliver this type of experience for many years to come. Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is a science fiction/horror story made in the vein of some classic Fred Olen Ray movies that at times seems more of a parody than the actual thing, but is still fun as hell to watch nonetheless. Tarantino’s Death Proof is more like the real thing, about a sadistic killer in Stuntman Mike, who’s out to kill young women with his special car which he’s deemed as death proof. There’s actual continuity between both movies (and further continuity with Tarantino’s own Kill Bill and a load of great over-the-top performances that’s truly in the style of the films that they’re homaging. And the trailers themselves, crafted by Rodriguez, Edgar Wright, Eli Roth and Rod Zombie are just as entertaining with Zombie delivering for me the single best couple of minutes I’ve seen in a movie all year with his trailer Werewolf Women of the SS. Hopefully one day, this will be released as it should be on DVD, an all-in-one package, but still even with both movies out there as individual DVDs, they’re still great fun to watch.

And just to round this out, I’ll go ahead and list what I thought were the worst that I saw in 2007 as well. Amongst those in consideration for that were:

Arthur and The Invisibles
The Number 23
Shrek The Third

But the absolute worst for me had to The Golden Compass a fantasy book adaptation that just did all of the things that I think are most wrong with the genre. This one had me making fun of it almost from the start with it’s convoluted back story and it’s readiness to have events happen that you’re just supposed to take as “of course that’s the way it should work.”

But still, it was a great year out there this past year, and out of the 63 movies that I saw theatrically this year, there’s certainly plenty of good stuff to choose from…

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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