Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Best and Worst Movies of Summer 2007

I saw "The Bourne Ultimatum" last night at our new local AMC here in Marietta, and as I walked out of the theater it occurred to me that the summer movie season of 2007 is basically over. Yeah, "Rush Hour 3" comes out this weekend, and though it seems a lot like a summer tentpole release, it's really just an opportunity for Chris Tucker to come out of retirement and collect a quick $20 million and for Ratner to continue to pretend he's a film director. So, it's over. As I saw most of the big movies this summer, and because I've been pretty lazy about posting up movie reviews on the blog, I thought I'd do a quick roll through the summer movies. Here we go.

1.) Spider Man 3. Yeah I did a review of this way back in early May, but reading back over it, I think I was too kind. This was a straight up bad movie. I think I may have been too shocked to believe it, considering how good the first two were. At least that's what I'm going with. Probably one of the worst studio films of the summer.

2.) 28 Weeks Later. Perfectly serviceable urban zombie movie. Not as good as "28 Days Later", but then again, it's perhaps unfair to expect the sequel to a movie that redefined the zombie movie to exceed the original. One funny quirk of the summer though: both this movie and "Grindhouse" featured helicopters used to chop up zombies. Weird.

3.) Oceans 13. Much more fun than the fairly awful "Oceans 12", and featured some really interesting film acting from Al Pacino, who's been too long in his Histrionic Al phase. He quiets down in this movie, plays it straight, and walks away with his scenes. Good stuff. The ultra-hip, self-aware schtick the "Ocean's" movies have been wallowing in has run its course I think, but probably only did so just as the end credits on this film went up. Good timing.

4.) Shrek 3. Same characters, same sense of humor -- but so middling and forgettable it actually made me look back at the previous two and wonder what there was exactly in those films that I enjoyed so much. I think I can remember two scenes from this film if I really try hard. But wait, I don't want to expend the energy.

5.) Pirates of the Carribean: World's End. So far, (and this is pretty easy), worst film of the year. I felt my tenuous hold on this life slipping while ships circled a giant bathtub drain. I nearly died watching this film.

6.) 1408. Frickin' great. Straight up horror from a crew of filmmakers who understand how important build is, and how excruciating suspense can be. Cusack shows everyone he can still act after disappointments like "Must Love Dogs" and whatever that one with him and BBT and Randy Quaid was. "1408" got into my head pretty good, and even though I can see where it could have been stronger, its minor imperfections couldn't put a dent in how much fun I had watching this movie.

7.) Live Free or Die Hard. Nah. The first one is still genius, but they've gotten worse with each subsequent film. This sequel launches the franchise many miles further into Worseville. The director, Les Wiseman, was not up to the task of resurrecting El Franchiso de Yippee Ki-Ay as it turns out, and though Bruce is both game and believable as a still-potent McClain, the script is too balls-out ridiculous to do much more than elicit a knowing smirk here and there. Too bad.

8.) Ratatouille. Read Craig's post for a great, short and sweet review of this film. I was worried about Pixar after the less-than-great "Cars", but this film, which is as good as any in the Pixar canon, restores my faith in the studio that doesn't seem capable of making a bad movie.

9.) Sicko. Good, moving but most importantly, entertaining, which is why we plunk down the money in the first place, nevermind the generally un-entertaining subject. I wish Moore had been a little more willing to show the other side of the argument (or at all willing), but I guess I'd be pretty dumb to go into a Michael Moore documentary expecting anything but a one-sided argument strenuously presented.

10.) Transformers. This was kind of an odd moviegoing experience. During this movie,I had to persuade myself more than once that I was actually enjoying myself. "But none of the jokes are working, and all Bay seems to want to do is tell jokes!" I exclaimed. But then I came back with: "Why is it so important that jokes have to be funny? Hmm?" So true. "They went to all the trouble to bring back Peter Cullen to voice Optimus Prime, and all they have him say are these ridiculous lines that sound like something Hasbro might have recorded for their pull-string Optimus Prime doll!" To this I retorted: "Shut up, Brian. It's a Michael Bay movie. It's supposed to be a piece of shit." I had a good point. Now that the weird imperative to enjoy myself at the movies is no longer in effect, I see that "Transformers" is a steaming pile. Not much at all to recommend it. A reviewer on Aintitcool had an excellent line in his beyond-scathing review of the film in which he criticizes what a lot of fans thought was the best thing about the movie: the robot fight scenes. They actually sucked. "Imagine you took apart a whole bunch of cars," reviewer Vern wrote, "mixed the parts up and welded them all together into a giant ball maybe 15 or 20 feet in diameter, then rolled it down a hill. Shoot that in closeup and you got every fight scene in this movie." He's exactly right. Whenever there was a shot of a Transformer in slow-mo, the movie had me. Unfortunately, there were about 4 shots like that, and they lasted a sum total of 30 seconds. That's not a good ratio. Anyway, a real disappointment, but silly me for expecting much more from a movie based on the toys I grew up with. My own self-written adventures featuring Starscream, Cobra Commander and Man-at-Arms were way better than this crap.

11.) Knocked Up. Very good. Not as tight or as funny as "40-Year Old Virgin", but what is? Though I laughed a lot, I kind of had a problem with how quickly the hot blonde chick whom the funny Jewish guy knocks up decides to settle for the funny self-described "ugly as fuck" Jewish guy and have his child. I thought it would have been more believable if she'd agreed Seth Rogan should "be a part of the child's life" and then slowly agree to have a real relationship, but for her to agree to give him a full, good-faith audition for the part of baby's father and mommy's hubby seemed too convenient and not at all realistic. Aside from that and being a little flabby in places, good times.

12.) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Best of the series so far. "Azkaban" was the most successful from an artistic point of view (and also a damn good movie), but this one, for me, succeeded in being the most exciting an engrossing of the series to date. Everyone's under duress, everyone's experiencing life-changing conflict, and the stage is set for what ought to be an amazing "Half-Blood Prince" (which "Phoenix" director Yates is also helming.)

13.) The Simpsons Movie. A hell of a lot of fun and well worth the wait. If you ever enjoyed an episode of "The Simpsons", you'll enjoy this film.

14.) The Bourne Ultimatum. I liked this film quite a bit, and part of the reason is because the production team behind the Bourne films were so committed to the idea of making the three films into an organic, continuous story. Same characters, same sensibility, hell even the same score (which is great). To some extent, this third film in the franchise has the feel of a prolonged third act, with all the heightened suspense but without feeling exhausting; Greengrass knows very well how to pace his action sequences by letting the audience take a breather. But if you thought the CIA was a nefarious organization in the first two movies, it essentially morphs into an office-chair death squad in this film. Some pretty gripping scenes happen in a non-descript office filled with computers and CIA techies. Though some of what Bourne manages in this film strains credulity much more than in the prior two films (there are a couple moments that might have been more at home in something like "T4"), I'd much rather an action movie raise a skeptical eyebrow than be boring, and "Ultimatum" is never that.

Anyway, those are the movies I saw this summer, or at least during Hollywood's definition of summer. All of August and a bit of September have to roll through before the studios start putting out the so-called "prestige pictures", and a handful of those are always good every year. Right now the only thing I'm hyped for (or the only thing I can think of that I'm hyped for) is "No Country for Old Men". I fully expect that film to herald the return of the Coen Brothers.

All right, folks. I'm out.


Craig Moorhead said...

Yes! Lists! Awesome! This summer I put a new plan into effect: if the movie looked bad, I wouldn't see it. I saved a lot of money this summer that normally I wouldn't have. Not seeing "Spider-Man 3" or "Live Free or Die Hard" took feats of Herculean strength, so susceptible am I to hype (when the Harry Potter book came out, I really really wanted one, even though I'd only ever read the first one and didn't like it at all).

So no "Spider-Man" or "Pirates" or "Transformers" for me. And I find that I don't much miss not seeing them. What I've seen this summer:

Fantasic Four 2 - Good. Workman-like. Cheesy, but also Jessica Alba.
1408 - 3/4s great!
Ratatouille - Great!
Knocked Up - Great!
28 Weeks Later - Great!
Fay Grim - Interesting, at least! Not entirely unwatchable! Compulsively weird and engaging. Like 'John from Cincinnati'.
Eagle vs. Shark - Worst movie of the summer, possibly the new century.

And that's pretty much it, I guess. Plenty of good things in there I wanted to see but haven't yet, like 'Sicko' and 'Rescue Dawn'.

Can't wait for "Superbad" next Friday, finally.

Anonymous said...

has anyone seen dannys movie?

blankfist said...

Um, did you say this was the best Harry Potter movie to date? Yeah, um... about that. I don't think I can agree. I'm not sure the rest of the world can either. Sounds like another adebt movie opinion dripping with credibility from our resident Waterworld fan. I mean, yeah, it was good, but to say it "succeeded in being the most exciting and engrossing of the series to date" is just, well, it's kind of like listening to Bush commend Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony before the Senate. Yeah, I guess I'm saying Gonzales is to Bush what Order of the Pheonix is to you. Yeah, you're Bush. Bushie.

And, did you just write that the Prisoner of Azkaban was the most successful move from an artistic point of view? I'm not even sure what that means. An artistic point of view? Really? Are you the vue d'artiste lauréat of wizard movies, Crane? "Look everyone, I'm a blogger, so I have an opinion. I used to be a self-invovled fan of the Harry Potter books, but now look at me! I blog about stuff, because the internet makes me an authority on stuff."

No, that's great. I like to hear from people who like to talk about stuff. That's wonderful. Especially when they say things like 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was a great artistic acheivement'. Yes, monumental, Crane. Monumental. ;)

blankfist said...

Okay, so I finally got through your posts. I've been backlogged with work and reading. And the last post was just to be mean. So, Spider-man 3 was a let down overall, I agree. I don't think it was the worst film of the summer, but then again, I'm a big fan, so any appearance of the webhead on screen is great for me. I agree with your take on 28 Weeks Later. Was a good movie. Ocean's 13 was the weakest of the three. I thought Ocean's 12 was a better film, though Pacino was awewsome. Still, he couldn't save it.

Shrek 3. Yeah. Totally. At least you got to see the finished movie. I had to watch it when it wasn't finished. Imagine how unimpressed I was. Haven't seen 1408, but now that I've heard you and Craigers rave about it, I'm all over it. Netflix baby!

Haven't seen Live Free or Die Hard, Ratatouille, Sicko, Transformers, Knocked Up, Simpsons or Bourne Ultimatum. I did see Harry Potter, though. I thought it was good, but to me it was the weaker of the movies. Prisoner of Azzkickan was by far the best. That one really set the bar high. Good stuff.

harwell said...

Azkaban definitely took the series to a new height, but I've enjoyed the last two films as much if not more. I think a lot of that has to do with the young actors just simply getting better at what they do. For a moment in Order of the Phoenix, I remember thinking to myself "Dear God - this thing has an amazing cast." As the story grows to involve more and more adults, I think the quality of the films grows as a result. I think the young actors are feeding off the elders and the elders are feeding off each other. How good was Imelda Staunton as Dumbridge? And even Helena Bonham Carter in that small role? And, really, how absolutely perfect are Alan Rickman and Ralph Fiennes in their respective roles? When you stop and think it's really quite impressive casting across the board.

I wonder how kids are reacting to Order of the Phoenix though. My wife pointed out that there was no quidditch in this film, which I'm fine with, but I can see some kids being disappointed by its exclusion. In fact, there was very little typical Hogwarts business in this film altogether - classes were barely mentioned and the OWLs (which were a huge part of the novel and relatable to kids who have SATs and the likes) were made to be a very minor thing in the film.

I'll be curious to see how the next one turns out and if Yates will be given the reigns to make the Deathly Hallows, too.

blankfist said...

Well, the movies have been released over a 6 year period, so I think the idea was to have Harry transition with the audience in age and darkness of plot. We age slow now that we're so old (me especially), but kids grow up so damn fast. God, that makes me feel old just saying it. So, 6 years passing is a lifetime. But, 6 year olds that started watching it in 2001 are now 12, so they probably enjoy it a lot better, to be honest.

blankfist said...

Bourne Ultimatum. Good.

blankfist said...

Crane! Dude! What are you doing on the Colbert Report?