Of the hundreds of movies released in 2007, I saw a total of 25 films in the theater (one of which I saw twice). In addition to those, I rented 14 more 2007 movies, downloaded 7 others from the internet, and bought one new direct to DVD release this year. Overall that means that in 2007 I saw 47 of this year's numerous and varied films. While I have yet to see every movie that I wanted to this year and I've come nowhere close to seeing them all, it is customary among both film critics and the blogosphere in general to compile a list of the best and worst movies of the year, so that's just what I've done.
Without further ado, I give you the official What I've Been Watching's Best & Worst Films of 2007:
THE BEST OF 2007
10. Futurama: Bender's Big Score
This was not a theatrical release, which would probably count it out of the running for most peoples' "Best Of" list, but when you get right down to it, Bender's Big Score was simply better than most of the movies that actually played in theaters this year. I've been a fan of Futurama from it's days on syndicated television and ever since the show was cancelled after it's fourth year I have pined for more. Bender's Big Score not only brings back all of the characters that I loved from the show, but it continues Futurama's history of combining, beautiful visuals, hilarious laughs, and interesting concepts. It's like the show never went away.
9. 3:10 To Yuma
The western genre largely died out in the seventies, giving way to an insurgence of science fiction and action movies in the wake of films like Star Wars and Dirty Harry. With as little interest in cowboys as there seems to be in today's high tech world, when a western comes along these days that is as well-made, well-acted, and exciting as 3:10 To Yuma, the world tends to take notice. If you've heard a lot of people talking about how great 3:10 To Yuma is, there's a reason for it: because it's true.
David Fincher has been my favorite director for several years now, and there's a reason for that. Every time he directs a movie it is both thought-provoking, beautiful, and enthralling to watch. Even after a five year wait, Zodiac is no exception to this rule. Some movie-goers point their fingers readily at Zodiac's running time when asked why they didn't like the film, but my feeling is that if a story needs more than two hours to be told, who's to stop a movie from telling it properly? After all, it's not about how long a movie is, it's about the quality, and I'd be hard-pressed to name a Fincher film that didn't serve up plenty of it.
7. The Host
Simultaneously a heart wrenching drama, a bellow inducing comedy, and a fear inducing horror film, The Host quite literally has something for everyone. There are so many things to praise this film for that I hardly know where to begin. The design of the movie's monster is amazing, and while the special effects aren't always perfect, the intricacies of it's character will win you over immediately. The story is told magnificently, the visual style is nothing short of amazing, and the way it juggles so many different genres while remaining a solid piece of filmmaking are proof positive that The Host belongs on anyone's list of the best movies of 2007.
Even the most generic and dull titles in Pixar's library of computer animated movies are still some of the best examples of the CG corner of the film industry, so when the story matches the incredible quality of the studio's patented amazing visuals, the recipe is one of success. Perhaps the best of all of Pixar's movies, and most definitely the best looking, Ratatouille is yet another triumph for not only the animation company, but writer/director Brad Bird. Full of laughs, drama, and suspense, Ratatouille is quite literally fun for the whole family.
5. Spiderman 3
Verbally pummeled by the masses and proclaimed an embarrassment to the franchise by millions of former fans, Spiderman 3 has been the subject of more debates in 2007 than perhaps any other single film. While I would agree that Spiderman 3 is a weaker film than both of the previous installments of the series, that by no means should suggest that it is a bad film. With just as much (if not more) action and laughs as Spiderman and Spiderman 2, the third episode of the current Spiderman trilogy is not a perfect film, but despite the few holes in it's plot it manages to far surpass the majority of the other films released this year...at least in my eyes.
The reason that I loved Superbad so much has nothing to do with Judd Apatow or any of his previous successes and everything to do with it's story and it's stars. The script captures perfectly what a large percentage of high school males are like, right down to the filthy, degrading language that so many viewers were apparently turned off by. Translating the script into onscreen gold are two of the film industry's most promising up-and-coming comedic talents and a cavalcade of hilarious supporting characters. All of the specifics aside though, the reason that Superbad is among my favorite films of 2007 is that it made me laugh harder and more frequently than any movie has in a long, long time.
3. The Mist
Put simply, The Mist is a textbook example of what a horror and/or monster movie should be. Too many films in these genres these days rely on shock value, violence, and gore to get their audiences' attention, when they should be taking a page out of Stephen King's book (literally). Balancing the gore with suspense and the horror with drama, The Mist creates an atmosphere so unforgiving that one can easily forget that they're watching a movie. As a huge fan of monster movies, the sheer joy that I got out of watching the events of The Mist unfold cemented it's place in my list of the best films of 2007.
2. No Country For Old Men
The moment I heard that the writing and directing team behind Fargo and Blood Simple were producing a new crime drama, No Country For Old Men had already taken a few steps toward my best of 2007 list. Not only is this film excellently paced, superbly acted, masterfully directed, and flat-out gorgeous; it's also smart. There is something so rewarding about watching an intelligent film, especially in the crime genre, and No Country For Old Men delivers on this claim in spades. Movies like No Country For Old Men are what the feature film medium was invented for.
1. Grind House
I would have been sold after hearing Quentin Tarantino's name. Add all of the other names attached to this project and it's kind of hard to ignore it. I'm sure that I'll get flak from people for naming this the best film of 2007, considering that in reality it is actually two movies instead of one, but to those people I say, "I paid for one movie when I went to the theater to see Grind House." I've been asked numerous times by numerous people whether I preferred Death Proof or Planet Terror, but I say this as honestly and straight forward as I can: I liked them both equally. They are very different from one another and each have their own strengths and weaknesses, but all taken into account, they're just two halves of one incredible whole called Grind House and that's the way I will always think of this movie. For this reason, Grind House was my favorite film released in 2007.
Runners-Up (in alphabetical order)
I Am Legend
THE WORST OF 2007
10. Mr. Brooks
What I had hoped would be a thought-provoking look at the modern day serial killer instead turned into a stereotypical, overdone, flashy piece of crap. Demi Moore stunk up the screen and neither Dane Cook, Kevin Costner, nor William Hurt could do anything to save Mr. Brooks, nor did they particularly seem to want to.
9. The Number 23
Had this film not followed the "How To Pull Off A Twist Ending The Fight Club Way" handbook like every other suspense thriller these days seems to, The Number 23 could have been a great, intriguing film. Jim Carrey is great up until the ending, as is everything else about The Number 23, including the story. Unfortunately somewhere along the way a crucial decision involving the plot was apparently left in the hands of a moron with no ideas of his/her own.
Strike one: Nicolas Cage is the star of this film. Strike two: Lee Tamahori directed it. Strike three: someone tried to adapt Philip K. Dick's short story The Golden Man into an action movie. There really isn't a single part of Next that could come close to redeeming it other than Jessica Biel's ass. It's kind of hard to focus on it when Nic Cage is in the room mumbling his way through a script as bad as this one, though.
7. Blades of Glory
Take two genuinely funny actors, get them together in a room with silly outfits on, and then bend over and literally shit the most generic script possible out of your ass for them to act out. What really makes a film worth watching is when it tries to achieve something new and interesting. With that in mind it's really no surprise that Blades of Glory was so terrible.
As is the case with literally every single one of the titles in my list of the worst films of 2007, Vacancy suffers most from the fact that it is nothing more than a cheap attempt at capitalizing on something similar that was popular once. There are at least twenty or thirty films about people being chased by murderers that are better than this one.
5. The Hills Have Eyes II
Who should we get to play the hardcore military personnel in our action/horror movie? The most unrealistically beautiful people we can find regardless of their ability to deliver an even remotely believable line of dialogue? Great idea! There's just nothing new here. I'm running out of things to say about these piece of shit movies. They're all the same, and THAT's the problem!
4. The Reaping
If you want to know why this movie is so bad, just watch it and count the stereotypes. If I knew you could make money selling unoriginal scripts like this to movie studios, I would just write one movie about a demonic child and print out fifty different copies with the characters' names changed on each one and make millions.
Unlike several of the movies in my worst films of 2007 list, Pathfinder actually looked like it could have been a good film. Native Americans versus vikings in the dark ages? That could be good. Considering the quality of films like Braveheart and Apocalypto, there's no reason why I shouldn't have suspected prior to it's release that Pathfinder could have been a good movie. Of course, I didn't know who Karl Urban was at the time.
2. Ghost Rider
Nicolas Cage turns into a skeleton, catches on fire, and rides a motorcycle up the sides of skyscrapers brandishing a chain and a leather jacket to battle demons. Need I say more? Well, if you insist: it's directed by the guy responsible for Daredevil.
1. Shoot 'Em Up
I went into the screening of Shoot 'Em Up that I saw with really high expectations, and really, why shouldn't I have? We're talking about a movie starring Clive Owen as a guy who shoots tons of bad guys while protecting an infant from the evil Paul Giamatti. Really the only thing this movie needed to please me were good special effects and a passable story. Could the filmmakers be bothered to provide me with either of those things? Not a chance. The action looks terrible and the story is complete bullshit. I'd rather watch a movie with no plot than sit through that of Shoot 'Em Up again. With such a simple set of parameters to provide me, the consumer, with an enjoyable movie-going experience, the extraordinary cinematic failure of Shoot 'Em Up is simply insulting. Worst movie I saw in 2007, hands down.
Runners-Up (in alphabetical order)
The Simpsons Movie
So there you have it. Everyone's list is bound to be different, so I'd love to hear how some other people would rank the movies they saw in 2007. Feel free to leave me a comment on this post to list off a few of your own personal best or worst films of the year or just to discuss some of my choices. Before you go berating me for leaving something crucial off of my lineup though, check out the following list which includes all of the films released in 2007 that I saw this year, but which didn't make it into either of my top tens.
Other 2007 Films that weren't the Best or Worst:
28 Weeks Later, 30 Days of Night, 300, 1408, Bee Movie, Black Sheep, Breach, Bug, The Condemned, Death Sentence, Fracture, Good Luck Chuck, Jackass 2.5, Knocked Up, Live Free or Die Hard, The Lookout, Sicko
***All of the information in this post is only accurate through December 31, 2007, after which time my opinions may change due to subsequent viewings.