Annual 10 Best Movies of 2007
It’s that time of the year once more where I churn out these fun little “Best… of the year” and “Worst… of the year” lists that sums up my reflections over the past year. To start of, this post will be on Movies and I’m gonna be doing my TOP 10 List, as well as handing out a few “awards” of my own. It’s all for my own amusement and for your enjoyment of course!
The American Film Institute have always released their annual Top 10 movies of the year, to check out their list, go here. And being the critic and film geek that I am, I agree with most of their selections, though I haven’t seen eight of those films listed there. Nevertheless, I’ve read and have seen trailers of those movies, and they certainly sound absolutely interesting. The cast of actors and directors represented in the AFI list are all powerhouses and extremely creative and visionary people, so I have absolutely no doubts that they are deserve to be listed as AFI’s 10 most outstanding movies of 2007.
My list, on the other hand, will comprise of movies that kept me entertained, excited and thrilled over the year. It’s a tough year, 2007, since there were so, so, so many films that I’ve seen that all deserved their place on my Top 10. My criteria is based on, as I have mentioned, movies that kept me entertained (that didn’t bore me or put me to sleep), movies with excellent and memorable screenwriting and dialogue, excellent acting by the cast, and of course, direction. The scale and the money they make does not make a difference to me at all. And do note that these films are films that were released in theaters in Malaysia THIS year.
So, going by these criteria, many of you would most likely disagree with me strongly of my Top 10 choices as I have kicked out several big-budget and big money makers from my list. You will not find the insufferable Spider-Man 3 on my list, nor does Johnny Depp’s scene-stealing performances on Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End helped to make it into my top spot. However, Pirates did win a couple of “awards” from me, though. Also, sadly, you will not find The Bourne Ultimatum, either, though many have hailed it to be THE best spy-action film ever made. Without further ado, let’s get to the list…
I enjoyed this super fun adult fantasy film based on my favourite author Neil Gaiman‘s novel of the same title. Stardust was the BEST fantasy film of the year, in my opinion, in a year where many fantasy films tried their best but failed miserably to entertain with their poor acting, poor scriptwriting and poor direction (The Seeker, The Golden Compass, among others). Thankfully, Gaiman’s story was left pretty much intact with minor changes and director Matthew Vaughn had done a great job bringing Gaiman’s vision to life. Backed by a strong script, the film was boosted by the infectious chemistry between the two leads, Charlie Cox and Claire Danes, and aptly supported by a wicked Michelle Pfeiffer, a slimy Mark Strong and a hilarious Robert De Niro. The effects are nothing to shout about but I was awed by the scene where Danes, as the star Yvaine, was knocked down from its place in the night sky down to the Earth. Great film, great DVD extras, great story… that’s why it deserves a spot of my Top 10.
Personal Ratings: 7.7/10
9. THE NAMESAKE
You must be surprised by this choice of mine, eh? The Namesake is one of those little films that you never expected much but after you left the cinema, the film ensures that it continues to resonate in your heart and in your thoughts. It did with me, and left me to ponder what it would be like if I were in Irfan Khan‘s situation or in Kal Penn‘s shoes as the son who tries hard to shake off his Indian identity to be assimilate well into the American/Western society. It’s a beautifully shot film, with great emotional performances from Khan (who won himself a nomination in the upcoming 2008 Independent Spirit Awards) and Tabu, the famous Bollywood actress who plays his wife in this film. Trust Mira Nair, the director of Monsoon Wedding, to continue making such insightful and affecting films that explore the Indian identity amidst Western settings and what it means to be an Indian in a Western setting. Also, this film is based on Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jhumpa Lahiri‘s novel of the same name.
Personal Ratings: 7.9/10
One of the best Jodie Foster performances ever, surpassing even both her Oscar-winning roles in 1989’s The Accused and her most famous one, 1992’s The Silence of the Lambs. She’s touted to be a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, backed up by her nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama) at the upcoming 2008 Golden Globes Awards. Seeing how she went from a typical New Yorker leading a normal life with her fiance only for her peaceful, everyday existence torn to shreds after being brutally attacked that also resulted in the death of her fiance clearly reinforces the fact that Foster is one of the greatest actress in the world today. As she tries to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the terrible attack, Foster’s Erica Bain slowly degenerate into an angry, vengeance-filled vigilante, ridding the city of it’s filth in cold-blood and ruthlessness. As she struggles with her inner demons and trying to elude capture from the authorities, she has only one question to ask – is she any better now compared to the scum she kills? Powerful, riveting and intense. This film definitely struck a chord in me and many Malaysians, especially when we lived in a time where brutal crimes against women and children continue to hog the headlines everyday. How we sometimes wish we can be like Erica Bain, hunting down the perpetrators and dispatch them from this world with such cold-blooded ruthlessness. But then again, does vigilantism really make the world a better place? By killing those that we think deserve to be killed, aren’t we doing the same vile thing that those we hate does? A great film that makes for a great conversation and debate after. Foster is ably supported by Terrence Howard and Mary Steenburgen in this Neil Jordan directed film.
Personal Ratings: 8.2/10
7. THE KINGDOM
The Kingdom is a film unlike any other terrorist-oriented action film that Hollywood has churned out in recent years. The action is more brutal and graphic. The story hits closer to home (the Americans’ one, in this case, as the story takes place in a Western housing compound in Saudi Arabia which is targeted by terrorists, similar to the Riyadh Compound Bombings in 2003), and it strangely (and refreshingly) takes a neutral standpoint by portraying both the viewpoints of the FBI squad sent to investigate and hunt down the terrorists and the terrorists themselves. In this film, both sides are portrayed with having the same sort of belief yet still different because of their objectives and the way they carry out their beliefs. The FBI, led by Jamie Foxx and comprised of Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman, wants to hunt down and kill all them terrorists and the terrorists want to kill them all foreign infidels. Adding to the volatile atmosphere is the local authorities who treat the arrival of the FBI team with much suspicion and tries their way to restrict their movements. But of course, the Americans will have none of it and they managed to get themselves a police colonel (played Israeli actor Ashraf Barhoum, who is a revelation in this film)by who sympathises with them. Gripping, intense and hard-hitting, The Kingdom shows that in this so-called “War On Terrorism,” there can be no clear winner… it’s a grey area which is subject to one’s interpretation. Who is really the terrorist, when both sides see the other as nothing but rubbish that needs to be rid from the face of the planet? Kudos to Peter Berg for directing one of the best action films this year, a film that will get your adrenaline pumping and keeping your nerves on end… especially the climatic battle between Foxx’s FBI team and virtually an entire neighbourhood filled with terrorists.
Personal Ratings: 8.5/10
My favourite musical of 2007, there’s absolutely no contest. Hairspray simply delivers – giving us an amazing performance from the ensemble cast, has a high entertainment factor, the infectiously catchy tunes that gets stuck in your head and have you unconsciously humming or singing along, the crazy dance moves and choreography that you wish you could perform and the great voices that you wish you could have. This film features a great ensemble, which I seriously hope snag the 2008 Screen Actors Guild Awards for Best Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture. Seriously, it’s near impossible to find fault in any area of the movie. Everyone really did superbly in their work and the movie really, really does justice to the original Broadway musical production it was based on as well as the first Hairspray film by John Waters. Standout performances… it’s near impossible to say but I think newcomer Nikki Blonsky really steals the show for her wide-eyed innocence and fiery oomph! And Michelle Pfeiffer vamping it up is really awesome, as well as John Travolta in drag, Elijah Kelley as the amazingly limber Seaweed and of course, James Marsden, who could really sing! Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah, Allison Janney, Zac Efron and Amanda Bynes were all really good in their roles as well. Well…except for maybe Brittany Snow, who succeeds in annoying the crap out of me. If you haven’t seen this yet, go catch it now on DVD! It’s well-worth it! Who knows, you may find yourself chuckling along to some of the tunes and even dance along. And get the special two-disc edition DVD that has a chockful of fun special features.
Personal Ratings: 9.0/10
5. HOT FUZZ
A wildly hilarious British spoof of many of the cop action films in Hollywood such as Die Hard, Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys, this comedy-action-thriller from the same team that brought us the zombie spoof Shaun of the Dead is this year’s top comedy. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost make a great comedy duo and with fellow collaborator Edgar Wright, who helms this film, they deliver one barrel of laughter after another whilst not cutting back on the action and drama – there’s even a minute amount of blood and gore too! They are probably the best British comedy team at the moment, and one could hardly wait to see what else they will come up next. I just absolutely love the British style of wry humour and comedy, it’s just so much refreshing compared to same dreary crap churned out by Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell. Another winning factor of this hilarious film is the great cameos and supporting roles from a bevy of veteran British stars such as Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, Timothy Dalton, Stuart Wilson, Julia Deakin and Jim Broadbent.
Personal Ratings: 9.1/10
My only Hong Kong film entry in the Top 10 this year. Not because Kidnap was the only Hong Kong film I’ve seen this year, but because the only one that I thought was more original and because it affected me quite a bit. I was drawn into the plot, which featured intelligent, moving writing and was blown away by both Rene Liu‘s and Karena Lam‘s performances. Add to the fact that my favourite TVB actor, Julian Cheung Chi Lam, is also in the cast and I’m completely sold! ^_^ Anyways, in my opinion the kidnapping of a child is more heinous than the abuse of a child, because one is robbing the child away from his/her parents while the other merely robs them of their innocence. Now, you tell me which is the greater evil? This film is engaging and intense from the get go, with the director Law Chi Leung taking us through the emotional turmoil of his two female leads, one whose brother was once kidnapped and killed and is now planning a kidnap of her own while the other is police inspector whose son ended up being the victim of the kidnap. The dialogue is great, the verbal sparring between the two is really intense and emotional, and it is hard not to empathise with both characters as more about them is revealed in the film. Truly one of the most unconventional films to come out from Hong Kong this year. Let’s hope there would be more greater films instead of the usual formulaic crime/mafia/gangster movies so popular in Hong Kong.
Personal Ratings: 9.3/10
I don’t think I’ve ever included an European film in my Top 10 list before, so hopefully, this will not be the first and last time. I’m a big admirer of many European films in the past, which I felt have better, stronger and more interesting stories, more earnest and convincing performances from actors and actresses who are rarely known outside their country of origin and of course, the gorgeous European landscapes that would make any cinematographer’s day. To me, the French romantic comedy Hors de prix, or Priceless in English is one such film. This little French gem was shown in Malaysia during the French Film Festival that was held in GSC cinemas for a week or two and I was fortunate to catch it and I loved every bit of it. It’s a simple rom-com starring French darling Audrey Tautou and the unassuming and bumbling Gad Elmaleh. The chemistry between the two is a real delight and it is easy to laugh when watching their antics onscreen as Tautou’s character, who is a female escort/gold-digger, teaches Elmaleh’s character to be a male version of herself soon after mistaking him for a rich man when in actuality, he is but a simple bellboy in the posh hotel that Tautou wa sstaying. This film is seriously so funny, and it made me wonder whether I should try to be a male escort for once, seeing how the rich old lady showers Elmaleh’s character with expensive goods to win his attention and company. Like the title says, this film is priceless!
Personal Ratings: 9.4/10
My pick for the best local film of the year, and one of my favourite local films ever. This film by local independent filmmaker Liew Seng Tat revolves around two young brothers who are carelessly neglected by their single father who is suffering from depression over the lost of their mother. Throwing himself into his work rather than going back home to be with his family, the boys’ father is rarely around to take care of them, much less support them. Left to their own devices after they return from school, the two boys would always get themselves caught up in some sort of mischief, causing the ire of some of their neighbours. But they have help and refuge though, in the home of a kind-hearted Malay family and boys quickly formed a close friendship with the tomboyish Malay girl. Liew has painted a simple, earnest portrayal of two boys growing up in a harsh world, where everyone views them with disdain and having to resort to escaping to their own world of fun-filled mischief and trouble. Bleak yet beautiful, endearing yet not sentimental, entertaining and uplifting at the same time, this film has to be seen to be appreciated. And despite knowing that the local version has been censored, Flower in The Pocket is a film with rich themes and honest performances from the superb cast (especially the two adorably cute boys and a stirring, emotional performance by James Lee, the Godfather of Malaysian Independent Films). It’s no wonder this film garnered great support in the international film circuit and won two major awards at the Pusan International Film Festival.
Personal Ratings: 9.6/10
And now… presenting to you MY No.1 film of 2007………………………………………………………………………………………
Absolutely NO contest! Transformers rocked and is no doubt THE biggest film of the year 2007. Who cares about the box-office intake? Who cares the screenplay is sucky to the max? Who in the world watches a Transformers movie for the sake of a good story, man? We watch a Transformers movie FOR the Tranformers themselves! The transformations! The detail of the robots! The voices! Optimus Prime! Bumblebee!! The trasnformation sound that totally rocks and is all sorts of awesome! Freaking awesome movie that I will never get tired of! Shia LaBeouf is one freaking hot and sexy stud! And Megan Fox is one fiery, babelicious chick! Yes, it’s a Michael Bay film, and I had my initial worries that he would effed up the movie like all true blue Transformers fans, but now, after watching it almost 10 times now, Bay had done many things right. He’s far from perfect, and I could think of a gazillion other better directors who could’ve made a stronger Transformers film, but Bay’s version is visually stunning enough and mind-blowing to the max. I can’t, seriously can’t, wait for the sequel, which I hope will boast even more robots and freaking awesome alien robot deathmatches!
Personal Ratings: 9.9/10
Yeah, so it’s the fanboy speaking. You got a problem with that? ^_^ That’s my Top 10 Movies of 2007 for you, folks! Now, without delay, let’s get on with the awards….
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE OF 2007….. MEET THE ROBINSONS
Special mentions: Ratatouille, Brave Story, The Simpsons Movie, Tales of Earthsea & Beowulf
MULTI-WATCHABLE FILM OF THE YEAR 2007….. TRANSFORMERS (seen it more than 10 times)
Special mentions: Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix (four times), Hairspray (four times), Beowulf (three times), Music & Lyrics (three times), Stardust (three times)
THE FILM THAT MADE ME CRY “WHAT THE HECK!?” IN FRUSTRATION MORE THAN FIVE TIMES….. I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE
Special Mentions: The Mad Detective, The Reaping, Spider-Man 3, Next, Blades of Glory, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry
THE “UGH!” FILM AWARD…..NORBIT (for brainless, mind-numbing, unfunny jokes)
Special Mentions: The Heartbreak Kid (for outrageous elements of bad behaviour by a female), I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (for an outrageous plot that centres on two straight firemen pretending to be gay to get state benefits, insensitive portrayal of gays at times), Primeval (for grotesque, stomach-churning, croc-chomping scenes)
THE SURPRISE HIT OF THE YEAR….. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS
Special Mentions: Knocked Up, Blades of Glory, Beowulf, Hot Fuzz, Enchanted
COOLEST, BRAINLESS ACTION FILM OF THE YEAR….. TRANSFORMERS
Special Mentions: Hitman, Die Hard 4.0, Hot Fuzz, Shooter, Shoot ‘Em Up
THE SCARIEST MONSTER/HORROR MOVIE OF THE YEAR….. 1408
Special Mentions: Primeval, 28 Weeks Later, Dead Silence, Whisper, 30 Days of Night
COOLEST MOVIE ENDING OF THE YEAR….. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END
Special Mentions: Shooter, Transformers, Beowulf, The Brave One,
MOST HEART-WRENCHING FILM OF THE YEAR….. ATONEMENT
Special Mentions: Lust, Caution; The Invisibles, I Am Legend, The Kingdom, Lions For Lambs, Provoked, The Brave One
MOST AWESOME MOVIE SOUNDTRACK OF THE YEAR….. BEOWULF & HAIRSPRAY (a tie)
Special Mentions: Music & Lyrics, Dreamgirls, Enchanted, Alvin & The Chipmunks, Pan’s Labyrinth,
FUNNIEST MOVIE OF THE YEAR….. HOT FUZZ
Special Mentions: Blades of Glory, Music & Lyrics, Wild Hogs, Enchanted, Mr Bean’s Holiday, The Simpsons Movie
MOST OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A LEAD ACTOR….. JOHNNY DEPP (as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End)
Special Mentions: John Travolta (as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray), Will Smith (as Robert Neville in I Am Legend), Leonardo DiCaprio (as Danny Archer in Blood Diamond), Shia LaBeouf (as Kale Brecht in Disturbia), Matt Damon (as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum)
MOST OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE BY A LEAD ACTRESS….. JODIE FOSTER (as Erica Bain in The Brave One)
Special Mentions: Keira Knightley (as Cecilia Tallis in Atonement), Claire Danes (as Yvaine in Stardust), Amy Adams (as Giselle in Enchanted), Nikki Blonsky (as Tracy Turnblad in Hairspray), Tang Wei (as Wang Jiazhi in Lust, Caution)
MOST OUTSTANDING VOICE PERFORMER IN A MOVIE….. PETER O’TOOLE (as Anton Ego in Ratatouille)
Special Mentions: Freddie Highmore (as Pantalaimon in The Golden Compass), Takako Matsu (as Wataru in Brave Story), Ray Winstone (as Beowulf in Beowulf), Janeane Garofalo (as Colette in Ratatouille), Angelina Jolie (as Grendel’s Mother in Beowulf)
Well, that’s about all I could think of really. This is probably the longest post ever written on this blog, but hope you’ve enjoyed it! I don’t think I need to put up a “Worst of…” list. You should be able to discern the movies that I hated most from the “awards” I handed out.
So then, with this, the Year 2007 at the movies have come to a close. Let’s cross our fingers and hope for a bigger, greater and more exciting Year 2008 at the movies (which looks to be really BIG, what with Iron Man, The Dark Knight, The Incredible Hulk, Hellboy 2, Narnia: Prince Caspian all scheduled for releases next year)! That’s if the WGA strike hasn’t crippled the Hollywood industry too much by then!