2007 in Movies

Movie reviews I wrote for movies released theatrically in 2007.

1. Grindhouse, directed by Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth et al. (10/10)

For those of us who missed the actual grindhouse era, this is as close as we will ever get. An absolutely incredible experience, but the whole thing must be watched together – both films, and all the trailers – preferably in a rundown theatre.

1. No Country for Old Men, directed by Joel Coen (10/10)

Lost my review. If you ever want to know how to edit, watch this movie 25 times.

1. Zodiac, directed by David Fincher (10/10)

A textbook police procedural. Just a phenomenal film.

4. Terror’s Advocate, directed by Barbet Schroeder (10/10)

This is one of those films that forces you to ask tough questions about the choices people make which allow evil in the world but that doesn’t really help you find the answers.

Though the director is clearly not on his subject’s side, he tries extraordinarily hard to make the film as balanced as possible, allowing Verges to basically impeach himself…maybe. Though there is plenty of guilt by association on Schroeder’s part – that is only to be expected of a man associated with so many notorious people, and with such a shady history – Schroeder lets people speak fondly of Verges and doesn’t take their quotes out of context and he doesn’t arrange their comments to convey something different than their intention. The story of a man who might have started out with good intentions but has seemingly become either a criminal or very close to a criminal – though he may or may not realize it himself – is portrayed as it should be: the road to hell is paved with good intentions after all. We are left wondering things like:

  • When are freedom fighters terrorists, and vice versa?
  • Where is the line between everyone getting a fair trial and terrorists and dictators getting away with (sometimes) mass murder?
  • When does defending a person who has committed acts of terrorism go from performing a public duty to aiding and abetting crime?

Schroeder wisely does not attempt to answer any of these questions, leaving the viewer to figure out what Verges’ intentions may be, and whether they are ethical or not. One of the best documentaries I have ever seen.

5. My Winnipeg, directed by Guy Maddin (10/10)

This is an endlessly fascinating, provocative and entertaining film, that I could probably watch over and over again, even with only having been to Winnipeg twice in my life. It is at times slightly too pretentious, but I have never seen Maddin so funny. And, personally, I can relate, having had a similar experience in Toronto where, until recently, the city has cared little about preserving old landmarks. Not perfect, but I enjoyed it so much I sort of forgot about the sometimes clunky attempts at poetry.

6. There Will be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (9/10)

Lost my review. About that ending: as Ebert says, could you have ended it better?

7. No End in Sight, directed by Charles Ferguson (9/10)

Lost review.

8. Shotgun Stories, directed by Jeff Nichols (9/10)

This is a tense and fascinatingly unconventional revenge film. The situation builds slowly and is, perhaps, the more believable for it. The tension is often ridiculous, because of the pacing. There are a few too many montages, but that’s not really a big deal since the soundtrack is pleasant (if innocuous). There are a number of things (shots, the title) that throw you for a loop if you’re looking for a traditional Hollywood revenge movie, which makes it more effective.

9. The Visitor, directed by Thomas McCarthy (9/10)

This is the kind of movie that a hell of a lot of people should watch but won’t. It humanizes something terrible that is happening that most accept without worrying about. While doing so it avoids cliches that most American movies about this subject would resort to. We expect certain stories and moments to emerge in a movie like this and they don’t, which is a very welcome surprise.

10. REC, directed by Jaume Balaguero, Paco Plaza (9/10)

This is pretty much Blair Witch with zombies, only instead of multiple cameras, this film contends there is one. On the whole it is very effective (for those of us who can put up with the shaky camera thing). But it’s real triumph is making zombies scary again. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a scary zombie movie before REC, honestly. It goes on slightly too long: it would have been near-perfect had it ended say two minutes earlier; and occasionally the single-camera concept becomes tenuous (i.e. you or I would have put the camera down already and helped) but it is mostly great and one of the best horror movies of recent years.

11. Margot at the Wedding, directed by Noah Baumbach (8/10)

I love Baumbach’s movies. And this one is pretty much as good as his classics, The Squid and the Whale and Kicking and Screaming. The only thing I can say about this is that it seems a little less significant. As a child of divorce, TSATW seems like a (the?) definitive divorce movie, and KAS is definitely a definitive what-the-hell-do-I-do-now-that-I’ve-graduated movie. But this isn’t Altman’s A Wedding; it isn’t a definitive wedding movie. And I guess that’s not much of a criticism. It just feels less significant than his other work, even if I still really enjoyed it.

12. Hot Fuzz, directed by Edgar Wright (8/10)

Forget it Nicholas, it’s Sandford.

13. My Kid Could Paint That, directed by Amir Bar-Lev (8/10)

This is a good film. It doesn’t go everywhere I would like it to (I would really like to know if the parents are actually going to give this girl her money) but it’s got great ambiguity to it. The question I want to ask is, if this man did indeed help his child to paint these paintings, is it really fraud? People ostensibly bought these paintings because they were good. Does it matter how old the artist is / was or if it was more than one person who painted them? If it is fraud, as some suggest, then it is fraud because the buyers were buying these paintings because they were done by a four year old, which I’m sure they would have downright denied earlier. Nobody will ever know, unless Marla or her father admit it. I agree, the filmed ones look worse than the earliest ones, but we are measuring these against standards Marla isn’t even aware of. If Marla did indeed paint all of these paintings with little help, there’s no way of ascertaining the why of the apparent change in style, as she was a little girl. We may just see adult things in these paintings because we want to. Who knows? That’s why it’s a good movie.

14. Dai-Nihonjin aka Big Man Japan, directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto (8/10)

Read the review.

15. Michael Clayton, directed by Tony Gilroy (8/10)

This has the makings of greatness. The cast, the plot – I really don’t understand how people can claim that “nothing happens” – the moral issues, and so on. The kind of film that was more common in the ’70s. There are some problems. The style seems overly showy. I don’t know why it’s necessary to repeat scenes for supposed dramatic effect. We know what’s going to happen. The other thing is that the tone of the ending doesn’t quite suit the rest of the movie. I’m not sure I believe Clayton’s final act as much as I should have. It definitely could have been better, but it’s still pretty good.

16. Manda Bala, directed by Jason Kohn (8/10)

This could have been one of the great documentaries of the decade. It is still pretty incredible, as the subject matter alone is amazing. There are a few problems: The editing is not always great. It is unnecessarily stylish. The soundtrack works and doesn’t work, at different times. Sometimes the music adds irony, sometimes it feels totally inappropriate. It is not long enough (going back to the editing again). All the deleted scenes should have been included in the movie. One of them explains what he did better, and I can’t figure out why it was left out because…they don’t explain in enough detail what the scam was. We have to take some politicians’/bureaucrats’ words that a fellow one is corrupt, which doesn’t fly. At the end it is too heavy handed. They make a great comparison; then, worried that the audience hasn’t guessed it, they make it obvious; they hit you over the head with it. Despite all these problems, you should see this movie. It is pretty incredible.

17. In the Shadow of the Moon, directed by David Sington (8/10)

This is interesting, which isn’t surprising. But it’s kind of exciting too, which is surprising given that we know what happens. The interviewees manage to convey their own sense of excitement and that’s palpable. Credit must also go to the director for managing to combine old footage with the interviews in a mostly seamless and exciting way. It’s a little funny to hear astronauts talk about saving the planet while they ignore how much pollution has been created by the space program, but whatever.

18. Amal, directed by Richie Mehta (8/10)

I have read or seen this plot many times, though the source of it is escaping me currently. This is a surprising take on it, not just because of how it plays with our emotions and our expectations regarding a somewhat familiar story, but because of its setting, India – even though it is a Canadian film, I fully expected full-on Bollywood nonsense and that’s not what we get.

And I think the familiarity of the story is part of its appeal – at bottom the idea that the poorest are the richest in spirit is a common theme among many cultures; whether or not it is bullshit, it at least appeals to our idea that money cannot buy happiness.

And though the device that brings about the resolution of this is absolutely contrived – though I seem to remember it from earlier versions of the story – the movie is really effective at making us care about the characters to the point where we really don’t care about the contrivance driving the plot.

And the ending definitely helps too.

19. Gone Baby Gone, directed by Ben Affleck (8/10)

Read the review here.

20. Snow Angels, directed by David Gordon Green (8/10)

This is a pretty good drama that builds very slowly, making the final events all the more affecting. The one thing I would criticize is the relationship between Annie and Barb, which doesn’t seem to be much of anything, certainly not enough to sustain what it does. I think that this was probably explained or explicated in some way in the novel but Green didn’t think he had the time, or something. That’s too bad. It bugged me. However, I generally forgave it because of the ending, which is about as good a mixture of two utterly contrasting emotions as I have seen in a film.

21. Murder Party, directed by Jeremy Saulnier (8/10)

This is a great low-budget dark / horror comedy. Whatever budget limitations that are visible are overcome both by the script and by the performances. Everyone is pretty much totally believable, which is kind of rare for this kind of movie, and especially one with such an obviously low budget. Clearly, the makers don’t like art snobs. But with people killing cats a few years back for an “art project,” this isn’t altogether out there. Well worth seeing.

22. Persepolis, directed by Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi (8/10)

This is a mostly great film: it manages to combine a compelling story with interesting visuals (yes it’s animation, but it’s still effective and it’s actually refreshing given how much CGI we’re hit with these days). There are a few missteps (the intentionally awful but still somehow awful “Eye of the Tiger” part, for example) but on the whole this is how a coming of age story should be done.

23. Stardust, directed by Matthew Vaughn (8/10)

I can’t say I was looking forward to this: yet another fantasy with oodles of CGI. But this is something altogether different. It has many of the qualities that made the Princess Bride such a classic: it is aware of its genre’s conventions and regularly subverts / mocks them and it has its tongue firmly planted in cheek. The biggest issue is the pacing. At times it feels rushed (especially the opening and the montages). If the Lord of the Rings trilogy has shown us anything, it’s that audiences will sit through really long fantasy movies which are well done. I think this could have been 2 1/2 or 3 hours and even better, though I must say I have never read the source and so don’t know how much was skipped.

24. Superbad, directed by Greg Mottola (8/10)

Lost my review.

25. Towelhead, directed by Alan Ball (8/10)

This is pretty great film, for the most part. It is provocative and funny and it certainly makes me empathize with growing up female, Muslim and horny in America. The problem, for me, is the third act. The climax feels very contrived (it’s like a play, in a way) and the denouement is far too upbeat for the film. Otherwise, this is well worth watching, and it is good, albeit not great, despite the end.

26. Import / Export, directed by Ulrich Seidl (8/10)

This is a quite bleak but frank look at the problems facing young people in post-communist “eastern” Europe and nearby countries. As with many European films it is unflinchingly honest and hard to watch. It’s a little overlong but aside from that it is really worth watching, even though it is very depressing.

27. The Orphanage, directed by J.A. Bayona (8/10)

This is mostly an awesome film. It is genuinely creepy and rarely resorts to the stupid “loud noise = scary” nonsense of most Hollywood horror films. The biggest issue is the end. The film could have ended twice and been near-perfect. Instead it keeps going, the first time to little detriment but the second time they ruin the film. The ending makes sense if you follow the Peter Pan thing, but it is still way too out of tone with the rest of the film. Happiness and contentment are not scary.

28. Lovable, directed by Alan Zweig (8/10)

Though it threatens to be way too self-involved throughout its course, this is actually quite an interesting documentary on singledom. Though the director spends too much time on himself (as he know doubt would, given his problem), I found many of his insights and comments to be universalizable, despite our differences. When single, I have had similar thoughts.

Moreover, it was interesting to see so many women with so many theories on the subject, as I sort of figured that was only the domain of lonely, over-educated man.

29. Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg (8/10)

Lost my review. Don’t now why it’s so far down this list.

30. American Gangster, directed by Ridley Scott (8/10)

This review is of the extended version, not the theatrical version.

This movie tries to balance a number of competing crime genre tropes: the true crime story, the drug dealer biography, the police procedural; it often feels like a couple separate films put together. It’s ambitious but I’m not sure it’s entirely successful.

However, how Scott handles the climax is so adept – it manages to combine moments of extreme tension with a nearly Godfather-esque handling of the arrests – that I want to forgive him for the minor missteps over the rest of the film.

Personally, I don’t care that this film distorts the truth. That’s the filmmaker’s right. This isn’t a documentary.

31. You, the Living, directed by Roy Andersson (8/10)

The structure of this film vaguely reminds me of Slacker (even though this has more – and a different – structure). And I feel like there’s a somewhat similar tone, only this is more biting. I think the comparison probably isn’t really worth anything, but I don’t exactly know how else to describe this. It is unlike anything else I have ever seen, really. It’s certainly not for all tastes. But it’s funny. And it’s certainly thought provoking. What more could you want?

32. Lust, Caution, directed by Ang Lee (8/10)

I’m not as blown away as some by this film, but this is a competent period drama. It does not feel overlong, despite the significant running time, the performances are uniformly good, and there are some surprising moments. But it’s hardly a knockout. It’s one of those films that has a lot going for it but feels like it’s one or two steps away from being truly remarkable.

33. Boy A, directed by Crowley (7/10)

Almost a classic. Read the review.

34. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, directed by Andrew Dominik (7/10)

This is a fascinating film, one that attempts to take a novel that tells a tale as if it was written at the time and translate that to the screen.

The cast is incredible and the movie is well shot. But the pacing is not great even though the film appears to take up well into the novel’s storyline – I base that on something I read about the novel online. It’s a long film and that becomes problematic when the pacing isn’t great.

I feel like it’s a near miss – some better pacing and we might have a masterpiece on our hands. But frankly I just wanted the thing to end a good 15 minutes before it did.

35. Atonement, directed by Joe Wright (7/10)

This is an ambitious adaptation of a novel that I have not read, so how it works as an adaptation, I can only guess.

The film it itself is, as I have said, extremely ambitious. It jumps around in time – as, I assume, the novel does – it let’s us know fairly early on that maybe the narrator isn’t so reliable, but it does this perhaps a little too subtly, it contains a fascinating score that waivers from utterly conventional to downright provocative – using a typewriter as percussion, or percussion that sounds like a typewriter – it’s got an incredible extended take right in the middle of it, etc.

But the story itself is entirely too meta, or perhaps its metaness is not made apparent enough early enough to make the later full dose of meta – I don’t want to explain that, as it’s a major spoiler – more palatable.

I’ve always admired noble failures. And though I don’t see this film as a failure in any way, I do feel as though something doesn’t work. I’m not 100% sure whether it’s a story problem or a direction (or editing) problem, but something failed to convince me.

36. Beaufort, directed by Joseph Cedar

Read the review.

37. The Walker, directed by Paul Schrader (7/10)

There is a lot to like about this: the characters are all fantastic (so is the acting, particularly Harrelson), the pace is unbelievably deliberate, and it is unconventional (and thereby realistic). However, something doesn’t sit right in the execution. I think that perhaps Schrader over-edited and maybe one or two scenes could have been left in for clarity. The score is a little off as well, and there’s just a certain ‘I don’t know what’ that keeps me from absolutely loving it.

38. Cassandra’s Dream, directed by Woody Allen (7/10)

Lost my review.

39. L’Age des Tenebres, directed by Denys Arcand (7/10)

Regrettably, this entire review contains a rather major spoiler. So if you have any interest in seeing this Denys Arcand black comedy about your dreams not matching your reality, read no further.

Read the spoilerific review.

40. Redacted, directed by Brian De Palma (7/10)

For the first two-thirds to three-quarters this is one of the best (if not the best) fictional films about the Iraq War. Yes, it is pretentious but the concept works. The only thing worth criticizing is the script, which occasionally doesn’t sound entirely believable. But then Flake tells his story about his brother. Now, supposedly De Palma is trying to show us how there are no bad apples, but Flake’s story portrays his family as bad apples. Unfortunately, this is not a good explanation (as we have seen with the Abhu Graib thing). The other major weakness in the “third act” is the final scene in the bar, which doesn’t ring true. If Flake were less of a career criminal, this might have been a classic.

41. The Savages, directed by Tamara Jenkins (7/10)

There are a lot of American movies like this right now. This one is good because of the acting and because the script manages to avoid most of the usual pitfalls of these “indie” family dramas. It is a little hard to see the cathartic moment, but I guess that’s the idea. In life it is rarely a moment. All in all, worth watching and a pretty decent film.

42. The King of Kong, directed by Seth Gordon (7/10)

This is a fascinating, if somewhat oddly paced and assembled, documentary. It’s kind of amazing that there are so many people dedicated to this stuff, and it is also more than a little amazing that video games can bring out the worst in people (though I guess it should be expected). Though the film eventually has a bit of a narrative drive to it, at the beginning it is a little over-edited and scattershot. But it is entertaining and like any good documentary it puts you in awe of what people get up to when they aren’t trying to provide for themselves and their families.

43. Brick Lane, directed by Sarah Gavron (7/10)

Decent film about Bangladeshi immigrants in London. Read the review.

44. Zoo, directed by Robinson Devor (7/10)

First off, I really don’t think people should fault this movie for its subject matter: these people exist and one of the reasons we have documentaries is that they can cover topics that traditional media might not cover.

The film is significantly hampered by the fact that its subjects do not want to fully participate. The solution is inventive but doesn’t work well enough. There is way too much slow-mo, for example: though you’re disturbed by the subject matter, and though the subjects are humanized by their very familiar musings on life and their issues, the slo-mo almost lulls you to sleep. I think that the solution could have worked with different editing or perhaps a willingness to include a few more talking heads, even if those heads were completely blacked out.

45. Angel, directed by Francois Ozon (7/10)

This is a well-executed period melodrama that doubles both as a morality tale that money, indeed, cannot buy happiness nor can superficial fame, and as a parody of oh so many British period melodramas. It’s such a subtle parody that one can easily forget it’s a parody – and, judging by the reviews, a lot of people missed it – and there are really only a couple moments in the film where it’s nature as parody is fully revealed: on their honeymoon – seriously folks, how can any of you take that honeymoon seriously? – and when Angel yells out some terrible romance novel dialogue only to have Esme pause to let the audience recognize the terribleness of said dialogue. Frankly, I kind of like that. (Though I suspect I would have been the only one in the theatre laughing out loud…)

Everything about it is well done and so I guess I can forgive the confusion between parody and morality tale. I figure it should have been one or the other, but I’m guessing that in adapting the novel, Ozon figured he could combine the parody into the morality tale.

Anyway, way more interesting than most period pieces.

46. La vie en rose aka La mome, directed by Olivier Dahan (7/10)

So this is a pretty interesting and compelling biopic except for one thing. It is well-shot (there are some really great shots) and well-acted (the lead is fantastic) but it jumps around in time for no apparent reason.

Now, if I’m not mistaken, Piaf’s life unfolded linearly like any other person’s, so if we are getting her story in non-linear fashion, there must be some reason, no? But I don’t know what it is, and that’s to the movie’s detriment.

47. The Hunting Party, directed by Richard Shepard (7/10)

This isn’t the best directed or written movie ever. The pacing is quite strange, and some parts are skimmed over while others are detailed unnecessarily. Add to that the narrator couldn’t possibly know the whole story he tells. That’s kind of annoying. However, this is a comedy about war criminals, and it’s a really funny one. That works for me.

48. Mr. Brooks, directed by Bruce A. Evans (7/10)

This is a neat and fairly unique approach to the serial killer genre which may or may not have been lifted from Season 2 of Dexter.

The alternate conception of the whole issue is great, but it is marred a good deal by two things:

  • An opening title slide, which tells us what we are in for, as if a producer or distributor decided we were too dumb to figure out the conceit ourselves.
  • And, second, the denouement, which feels completely out of character with the rest of the film.

But otherwise, this is certainly an interesting take on an overdone genre.

49. Charlie Wilson’s War, directed by Mike Nichols (7/10)

Too short. Seriously, this movie needs to be at least two hours long. There’s a whole chunk of time they just jump right over. Though the movie skirts the difficult issues involved it is still fascinating and entertaining. Though I wanted to condemn it, I couldn’t help liking it, if that makes any sense.

50. Stuck, directed by Stuart Gordon (7/10)

R9ad the review.

51. Sweeney Todd, directed by Tim Burton (7/10)

Lost my review.

52. The Union: the Business Behind Getting High, directed by Brett Harvey (7/10)

It generally exposes the real reasons why marijuana (and hemp in the US) is criminalized. The problem is they can’t decide whether they are focusing on BC or the US.

53. The Lookout, directed by Scott Frank (7/10)

Overall, this is pretty interesting and enjoyable. There are way too many flashbacks that suggest that the filmmaker was unsure whether or not the audience could follow the movie. I’ve never liked that. It bugs me a lot. The flashbacks to before the time of the movie are fine, but those to earlier moments in the movie are totally unnecessary. Everything else about it is pretty good, and the whole thing is generally more interesting than your average bank heist movie, pretty much because of the premise.

54. Starting Out in the Evening, directed by Andrew Wagner (7/10)

The performances are pretty great, I must say. Either compelling or at least believable. I feel like this is a bit of a tired theme, on the other hand, and though some of the execution is interesting, too much of the movie felt preordained. Leonard and Heather had to have their blowout, and their had to be some kind of climatic event to bring on change. I haven’t read the novel, so I don’t know if it is handled better there.

55. Jimmy Carter: Man form Plains, directed by Jonathan Demme (7/10)

This is an interesting film but I feel like it could have been done better. It feels somewhat incidental for some reason that I can’t really place at the moment. It is nice to see a portrayal of someone who is a force for good, or at least a decent human being (despite what many Americans think of him). Is this what Obama is going to be doing in a few decades?

56. Year of the Dog, directed by Mike White (7/10)

First off, I guess I should say this is a dark comedy. I don’t know why another reviewer did not find it funny, as it is. But it’s darkly funny. It’s sort of an odd approach to the subject in that it certainly borders on alienating some people from its theme by the actions of the main character. I guess the hope is that we have enough empathy for her by that point. I think it worked (for me anyway) and the only thing I really have to say in criticism is that this contains one of those typical indie scores. I feel like this type of score has almost replaced the traditional Hollywood one in its ubiquity. It is distracting and it is way too much of a signpost for “quirky”. It is not necessary.

57. The Signal, directed by David Bruckner, Dan Bush (7/10)

Lost my review.

58. Beowful, directed by Robert Zemeckis (7/10)

Read the review.

59. Caramel, directed by Nadine Labaki (7/10)

Not for me. Read the review of Caramel.

60. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie for Theaters, directed by Matt Maiellaro, Dave Willis (7/10)

Well, like so many other TV shows that go Movie, this is too long. The good jokes become sporadic when you take a not-even-standard-length TV show like this and stretch it out over 75 minutes. It’s still funny, it’s just not as funny as an episode (rather: it’s funnier than an episode only because there’s five times as much content). It’s certainly worthwhile for fans, but I really doubt it’s going to convert anyone who has no interest in the show to begin with. Basically, if you don’t enjoy absurdity, you should not watch this movie.

61. The Nines, directed by John August (7/10)

This starts out with a lot of promise, and it is thoroughly entertaining, which helps a movie like this from getting too serious. The problem appears to be in the execution. Normally, this kind of ambiguity really appeals to me but here something is not quite right. Certainly, the repetition of so many scenes is not necessary. The bigger issue is about the nature of the 9. If it is merely the most obvious thing, that is all well and good. But it’s kind of insane to suggest that Ryan Reynolds’ character is a borderline deity, and I think the film could have been clearer about that issue. With a different ending, too.

62. Son of Rambo, directed by Garth Jennings (7/10)

This is, on the whole, an entertaining and fun coming of age story. The biggest issue with the film is the cheesiness which sort of takes over in the third act. There’s too much morale and not enough fun for this kind of film. It’s positively cute, the climax, which is not an endorsement (at least as far as I’m concerned). But for the most part, it’s a good time.

63. Steep, directed by Mark Obenhaus (7/10)

This is an interesting film and beautiful to look at. My biggest issue is that it never fully probes the “why.” We get personal reasons and these are often phrased in some vague mysticism. There is no attempt at explaining the phenomenon of extreme skiing (and extreme sports) as a whole. I think that would have made this film better. As a brief overview of its history and major figures though, it’s not bad.

64. Silk, directed by Francois Girard (7/10)

This is very nice to look at. I don’t know anything about the novel so I can’t speak to the quality of the adaptation. I don’t know that it is slow, I think it’s deliberate, rather. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It makes sense, given the time period. People can’t jump in planes and travel around the world. In order to convey that to us moderns, the director is wise in slowing things down, as a device for showing us the effects of time in the past, when we couldn’t go anywhere or talk to anyone instantly. That being said, the movie isn’t in anyway a standout. I don’t really know that there’s much wrong with it but there isn’t a whole lot that’s amazing either.

65. Control, directed by Anton Corbjin (7/10)

The lead performance is quite good. Not that I know anything about Curtis, but he is quite believable (particularly on stage). And I like how the soundtrack is pretty much exclusively Bowie until the band forms. On the other hand, the film is a bit pretentious – why the black and white photography? Because Joy Division is soooooooo heavy – and the whole thing is a little oblique, which ends up romanticizing his death just a wee bit. Also, it would have been wonderful to avoid the “Love Will Tear Us Apart” cliché scene that they felt like they had to create.

66. Mongol: the Rise of Genghis Khan, directed by Sergey Bodrov (7/10)

This is a pretty good mythic action flick. It’s not really all that historical, as much of his success is attributed to the Mongol god, and less of that, and less spurting, graphic blood, might make it a little more believable. But it’s entertaining (I really don’t understand how someone found it slow) and the CG is better than average. On the whole a fairly decent film, though hardly where you’d go for the actual history.

67. Shake Hands with the Devil, directed by Roger Spottiswoode (7/10)

This could have been a great movie, as the story alone is obviously captivating. Unfortunately, it falls into the lower tier of Rwanda movies. First, it is way too short. The movie assumes a familiarity with the events which it just plain shouldn’t. Second, the direction is curious and ineffectual. The flashback device may have worked well in Dallaire’s book (I wouldn’t know), but here it is pointless (and more time could have been spent developing Dallaire or the backstory for the whole country, or some of the major players). We know he’ll be distressed afterward. Who wouldn’t? One scene alone is necessary to tell us this: when he is passed out drunk on the bench in Canada. The movie doesn’t need the other scenes. Instead, they might have shone Dallaire’s life before Rwanda (to give us a sense of his notion of duty) and contrasted that with some history of pre-Genocide Rwanda. Despite these faults, there are definitely some powerful moments, though.

68. Alexandra, directed by Aleksandr Sokurov (6/10)

The director of the infamous Russian Ark returns with a far less audacious film, this one about a grandmother visiting her grandson during a war in Chechnya. It’s a simple film, with a very simple story. I have heard this film called both “beautiful” and “difficult” and frankly I find it neither.

I can’t really understand the acclaim. Sure, it’s a very different approach to a film about war, but that in and of itself doesn’t make it great. Some people just love simple stories I guess. the grandmother visits, makes everyone happy and leaves. That’s enough for some people I guess. Not me.

On the other hand, if you can’t sit through something like this, I feel bad for you. Compared to some films which lack much of a narrative, this positively zings along – there’s constant dialogue and interaction and even one moment when, well, we sort of think something rather nefarious might go down.

It’s a competently made, moderately affecting film. Nothing more really. I don’t get the hype, but this wouldn’t be the first time.

69. 3:10 to Yuma, directed by James Mangold (6/10)

This is a very solid western, perhaps even a great one, for most of its runtime. It’s got lots of classic western themes and the acting is top notch. The problem, the only one I noticed, is the ridiculous ending. I don’t want to reveal it but it is so implausible in about three different ways. I haven’t seen the original movie [Note: hadn’t at the time] or read the story, so I don’t know if this is the fault of the source material, but it ruins an otherwise great movie.

70. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, directed by Yves Simoneau (6/10)

A mess which is unfortunate. Read the review.

71. Body of War, directed by Phil Donahue, Ellen Spiro (6/10)

Powerful moments but not a great movie. Read the review.

72. The Band’s Visit, directed by Eran Kolirin (6/10)

This is a moderately amusing and moderately affecting film. It’s a simple story of a band getting the wrong directions and ending up in the wrong place. The movie plays off familiar lines – Arabic vs. Israeli, etc. – which have been mined many times before. It’s certainly much less obnoxious than many of these types of movies, in part because of the simple story and because of the understated performance.

Maybe I was in the wrong mood but it didn’t grab me. I chuckled a bunch of times and felt the poignancy a few times, but if this is a fable about how they can all get along (I presume it is), I just feel like it could have had a little more heft to it.

Anyway, it’s certainly better than many of these culture clash movies.

73. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, directed by Sidney Lumet (6/10)

Lost my review. I was disappointed.

74. Amazing Journey: The Story of the Who, directed by Paul Crowder, Murray Lerner, Paris Patton (6/10)

Too many cooks (too many cooks), Too many cooks (too many cooks). Read the review.

75. Rendition, directed by Galvin Hood (6/10)

This is well made in the sense that it is well-directed and the acting is fine. However, the writer completely misses the point. Completely. The filmmakers should have watched Ken Loach’s Hidden Agenda or Costa-Gavras’ Missing to see how to properly tell a story like this. This is the sanitized Hollywood version. In it, the abductee’s wife is white, pretty and pregnant. In it a CIA analyst gets to play hero. In it, the torturers are still virtually completely the “other”; in this case Arabs. There is a clear bad “guy,” and a clear eventual hero. This is not the way this works in real life, as we well know in Canada, where our citizens have also been subject to such US practices. The way to really make this movie is to make rendition a mystery. Most people wouldn’t have known what it referred to at the time. The torturers need to be de-otherized, i.e., they need to be like regular people, because in real life they are regular people. The attempt to humanize the Egyptian only half-succeeds partly because it introduces a story-arc that isn’t necessary (except to provide a coincidence to make the heroic act possible). This film could have been much, much better.

76. Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle (6/10)

This is a very good science fiction film for about one hour. Then things start going a little haywire. There are two things that are preposterous even given the science fiction nature of the film and they turn the film from hard sci-fi to soft. This is a disappointment which is only topped by the near-Hollywood Blockbuster style ending, which is a bigger let down. Yet there are enough good moments to as least recommend it as an interesting near-miss.

77. Into the Wild, directed by Sean Penn (6/10)

Gave me the travel bug so bad. That part really affected me. I really, really, really (I can’t stress enough) wanted to go out and travel while and after watching this. The acting was strong too. But the direction was just terrible. I’m tempted to put Penn on my hack list. The editing was totally inconsistent. The use of effects, particularly slow motion and text on the screen, was so overdone, and so pointless. Some of the shots were very nice to look at but that doesn’t excuse the way they were put together. If it didn’t affect me so much, I’d give it a much lower rating.

78. In The Valley of Elah, directed by Paul Haggis (6/10)

This is one of the best performances of Jones’ career. And, for the first hour of this movie, it is way better than Crash. That was the good. However, Haggis soon reveals he is still not a director. He doesn’t handle the twists properly. After the long denouement, I still couldn’t believe the final story. It made no sense. Sure, it is conceivable, it could happen. But how Haggis structures the movie, we’re led to believe that it isn’t possible. Then it is suddenly. Incidentally, Theron’s jurisdictional wrangling is straight out of the second season of the Wire.

79. The Bourne Ultimatum, directed by Paul Greengrass (6/10)

This is definitely the least effective for the series to date. It has a strong sense of “we’ve seen this before” and the excessive use of flashbacks (including both new and old footage) doesn’t help that at all.

There is an absolutely awesome car chase in the middle, but much of the rest of it feels rehashed from the first two. Some of this is undoubtedly the fault of the source material (once you’ve read one Ludlum you’ve probably read them all) but I feel like a little more could have been done to make some kind of new step forward.

For example, the text noise has been in so many films it is beyond cliche.

Also, the ending is handled with less ambiguity than would have befitted it.

80. Normal, directed by Carl Bessai (6/10)

Although I understand money doesn’t buy happiness, I have a hard time feeling compassion for rich people with problems. Rich people can at least seek professional help, whereas poor/starving people cannot. They don’t even have the time to worry about mental problems. So it’s hard to sympathize too much with characters like these, only one of whom sees a shrink, and only once as far as the audience is concerned. The film is well made and the acting is generally good (despite the who’s-who of Canadian TV in the cast) but why do I care that these people won’t help themselves? If I were this rich, I would definitely seek out someone to get me through this tragedy already.

81. Teeth, directed by Mitchell Liechtenstein (6/10)

This is quite entertaining if a bit disturbing. I think they might have done a little more with the premise but it works for the most part. There are a few little plot holes that sort of gnaw at you if you pay too much attention, but the general combination of unease (if you’re a guy) and humour is usually enough to keep you from worrying too much about consistency.

82. The Man from Earth, directed by Richard Schenkman (6/10)

Mild spoiler alert: Read the review.

83. All in this Tea, directed by Les Blank, Gina Leibrecht (6/10)

Lost my review.

84. The Simpsons Movie, directed by David Silverman (6/10)

Lost my review.

85. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, directed by David Yates (6/10)

If anything, the conceit of this entry in the series is even worse than the last time out: an anti-fun headmistress takes over the school and ruins it for everyone. Wow, never heard that one before. (Oh right, there’s magic, so it’s different than half the high school and college movies ever made.)

But despite the weakness of the dominant narrative thread, this film is a marked improvement on Goblet of Fire. I don’t know if it’s the new director – who apparently was doing TV movies before he came to Potter – or the new screenwriter – a playwright – or something else. But the pacing is much improved, the dream sequences are done better and, against my own will-power, I found myself successfully baited into hating the headmistress.

But that conclusion: Holy Luke Skywalker Batman.

86. Ratatouille, directed by Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava (6/10)

This is a mildly entertaining but very well-made (from a technical standpoint) kid’s film.

It’s tough for me as an adult to suspend my disbelief enough to fully enjoy something like this, and the humour was more often than not clearly intended for younger viewers (refreshing given the sheer number kids films these days that try to appeal to both adults and children) but it certainly looks nice, and I laughed a few times, even if the story and its moral is more than a little transparent and telegraphed.

87. The Kingdom, directed by Peter Berg (6/10)

This is enjoyable. But I want more from a film like this. There are too many paint-by-numbers moments for it to be anything more than a decent “political” (for lack of a better term) action movie. The plot certainly could have been utilized to make something better. Still, I’d rather watch this than a lot of other Hollywood action movies. It’s definitely competent and watchable.

88. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, directed by Jake Kasdan (6/10)

This is a very silly movie, which I must say I laughed at a ton. It’s a little too dependent on Walk the Line (I mean, if you haven’t seen Walk the Line, you won’t get at least 1/3rd of the jokes). The songs aren’t quite as good as I was hoping, and the jokes are often one note, but there is a certain appeal in dumb humour done completely straight. It’s certainly entertaining if it isn’t exactly amongst the great music mockumentaries.

89. The Lost Tomb of Jesus, directed by Simcha Jacobovici (6/10*)

I was interested in this but I soon learned that a lot of the “evidence” was manufactured.

90. The Mist, directed by Frank Darabont (5/10)

Darrabont has made, by my count, one great movie. Otherwise, he has made mediocre ones. And they all seem to follow the same MO: based on a Stephen King source. I can’t say that I have read this one, but I can say that if this is loyal to that source, then a less loyal King lover would have been better for the movie.

We see the creatures far too early for the film to build up any kind of suspense. If the allegory is going to work at all, the characters on which the audience focuses shouldn’t know what’s out there. But they do, or at least the important ones, way too early.

I disagree with people who hate the ending. It’s a hell of a twist…it’s a horrific twist, appropriate for a horror movie, but the reveal is bungled to the point where it doesn’t feel likely or plausible, and so it elicits groans and doesn’t feel like the quality twist that it could have been.

Those are just two of the many major mistakes made by the director. Maybe he was too loyal to the source material. Maybe he just isn’t that great a director. Either way, he blue an opportunity, because the idea is sound (it’s certainly a far better one than the idea behind The Fog).

91. Paranoid Park, directed by Gus Van Sant (5/10)

There is a film somewhere here that could have worked very well. There are bits and pieces that are quite effective. The lead actor is extremely convincing and his narration is so much like that of an actual teen reading that it’s almost shocking – none of the confidence that would be in any other American teen film. The fractured narrative makes sense and is generally effective. What isn’t effective is the over use of montage, the often bizarre soundtrack (French speaking and glitchy digital stuff over pictures of skateboards???) and the dialogue, which is in real time but regularly paired with slo-mo images (there is an abundance of slo-mo as well). Given the short running time, the huge amount of montage slo-mo is even more glaring. It is so obviously artsy that one focuses on the artsiness and not on the characters and story. It could have been good possibly even great but there’s much too much style here. See Elephant for a much better blending of the two by Van Sant.

92. We Own the Night, directed by James Gray (5/10)

So, though this film contains some very good (and interesting) attempts at realism – particularly one scene – but it also features a ridiculous contrivance that makes the whole thing absolutely unbelievable and undermines anything else about the movie that would be good (that contrivance is, of course, the family relationship, which results in behaviours by various members of the NYPD that would have never stood up under any kind of scrutiny in real life). And additional unbelievable elements on top of that make the whole thing a little silly at a remove.

93. Young People Fucking, directed by Martin Gero (5/10)

Well, this is sort of what I expected: the name is the most “controversial” part. (Why can’t we live in a world where “fuck” isn’t a big deal?) This is occasionally amusing and has some moments that seemed like genuine insight into relationships, but for the most part it is tame, it isn’t that funny, and it isn’t that compelling. Honestly, the most interesting thing about this movie is the interviews the director gave during its initial release (he is an eloquent defender of freedom of speech).

94. Bender’s Big Score, directed by Dwayne Carey-Hill (5/10)

This is alright. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the show but it has its moments. This also has its moments. It also has moments of “plot plot plot” where they lose sight of the idea that this is supposed to be funny. But there are a couple really great lines and a lot more mildly amusing moments. It was certainly reasonably entertaining. The only problem is that it doesn’t make me want to watch more of the movies, which, you know, it should.

95. The Mars Underground, directed by Scott J. Gill (5/10*)

Lost my review.

96. The Pagan Christ, directed by Cynthia Banks (5/10*)

Not reliable enough.

97. Rocket Science, directed by Jeffrey Blitz (5/10)

This is a pretty typical “indie” coming of age dramedy. We get all the quirky characters that don’t really exist. We get lots of off-beat humour (much of which works). The film feels way too much like a novel. So much so that I had to check online to confirm it wasn’t adapted from one. The scenario is pretty predictable. The ending manages to side-step the biggest cliché, but then ends up being not much better by having an obvious life lesson. Very meh.

98. The Tracey Fragments, directed by Bruce McDonald (5/10)

I really don’t know what is with the violent reactions of the other reviewers. It’s as if they have never seen anything remotely avant garde before. Well, this isn’t particularly. There is a story (sort of Canadian indie-artsy Don’t Look Now but without the horror). It’s hard to know why they decided to use bits of digital video. Probably because the concept came before the story, which is why it doesn’t work. If the story had come first, things might have turned out better. But that being said, I hardly think it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen and can’t really understand the vitriol of the other reviewers. It is a failed experiment but at least it’s interesting.

99. Fracture, directed by Gregory Hoblit (5/10)

Lost my review.

100. 28 Weeks Later, directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (5/10*)

This seems charitable.

101. The Invasion, directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel (4/10)

Lost my review. A good idea for the remake is spoiled by terrible direction.

102. Battle in Seattle, directed by Stuart Townsend (4/10)

Read my review.

103. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, directed by Gore Verbinski (4/10)

I’ve generally enjoyed these movies way more than I ever thought I would, but this one is so ridiculous, so convoluted, so unbelievable that whatever goofiness really doesn’t make up for the mess. (Though, I can’t help but think that the second one was maybe more of a mess than I remember.)

It shouldn’t be this hard to figure out what is going on in what is, essentially, a kid’s movie. The character motivations are entirely – and I mean entirely – at the service of the plot. And it’s sooo long.

Oh, and the weird Once Upon a Time in the West homage is so out of place.

104. Walk All Over Me, directed by Robert Cuffley (4/10)

This movie positions itself as a risque comedy possibly about the perils of being a dominatrix.

It’s not funny: whether it’s the script, the timing or the editing (I think all three), the jokes fall flat. You sit there and observe “oh, that was another joke that didn’t work.”

It’s hardly risque and it can’t make up its mind. It starts out as a coming of age thing mixed in with exploring BDSM and soon its just a poorly written crime comedy.

105. Weirdsville, directed by Allan Moyle (4/10)

This is basically a Canadian version of Pineapple Express.

But it is so unbelievably over-directed that it is funny maybe 5 times. There are flashbacks every few minutes, there are camera tricks almost constantly (it might have been an interesting idea to use camera tricks to simulate drug use the first few times it was done, but now it has been done thousands of times) and there are constant attempts to make things seems more significant than they are (eg. the thing with the rat). All of that adds up to way too much attention paid to style and not enough to comedy.

So most of the jokes fall flat because the viewer is distracted by the endless technical crap, or the viewer is insulted because the filmmakers are flashing back to 10 minutes earlier in the movie – again.

Maybe the characters’ brains are drug-addled but mine isn’t. Don’t treat me like I can’t pay attention to your boring mess of a movie.

106. Mister Lonely, directed by Harmony Korine (4/10)

Wat can be said about this mess of a movie? It has oodles of quirkiness to no purpose that I can discern. There are impersonators in a castle in Scotland. There are flying nuns. Werner Herzog shows up, because he loves Korine. But this film is hardly provocative in its weirdness. Rather its cliched and its, above all, boring. The sing-a-long near the end is exactly the kind of crap you’d expect in something like this, even shot the most obvious way. Boo.

107. Sex and Death 101, directed by Daniel Waters (4/10)

This is a ‘comedy’ with no laughs. Okay, maybe four. And they were chuckles. I have no problem accepting the ridiculous concept of fate / destiny for 90 or so minutes if it will make me laugh. But when I’m not laughing, my mind is busy ripping these types of movies to shreds and the experience becomes trying. The timing is so off most of the time I can’t even describe it. And what should be played as absurd isn’t played that way at all. It is clear to me intelligent people made this film: there are references and ‘jokes’ around all sorts of things intelligent people might be interested in, the only problem is that these people aren’t funny.

108. Shoot’em Up, directed by Michael Davis (3/10)

Lost my review.

109. Vexille, directed by Fumihiko Sori (3/10)

Just because it’s animated, doesn’t mean it’s not an incoherent action flick

Read the rest of the review.

110. Balls of Fury, directed by Robert Ben Garant (3/10)

This is a pretty unfunny comedy that seems to exist solely because the writers thought that Christopher Walken not even attempting to play a Chinese man would be funny. I generally enjoy Reno 911 – though not as much as some people – but I feel like it’s borderline impossible to tell this was made by the same people. The gags here are mostly easy and obvious, and the script doesn’t always fully commit. Most of the humour – beyond the ostensibly humourous premise of an Enter the Dragon ping pong tournament – could have been in any movie. In fact, many of the jokes feel like I’ve seen them before. The few ping pong related gags don’t feel particularly clever. And, to be honest, I think I laughed 3-4 times throughout the entire movie. (In the film’s defense, I attended a Christmas party last night and feel mostly awful. That could also explain why I was not loving the slapstick.)

The only reason I am rating it this high is because I wasn’t able to detect too much incompetence (there’s a little, for sure). It’s more just not funny than awful.

110. Live Free and Die Hard, directed by (3/10)

Everyone who liked this say this aloud to yourself: “An SUV gets stuck in an elevator shaft.” And it’s PG. It’s P fucking G.

111. I Think I Love My Wife, directed by Chris Rock (3/10)

Bad.

112. P2, directed by Franck Khalfoun (3/10)

What an incredibly plausible scenario. All the workaholics of the world are certainly going to take note.

The problem with a movie like this is that it forgets common sense all for the attempt to create a realistic scenario to scare you. Obviously that doesn’t make sense, which is why movies like this rarely succeed.

I know that people panic in extreme situations, but would someone panic enough to forget to pull the fire alarm for 70 minutes? Really? Aren’t women told to yell “fire” instead of “rape” nowadays? That’s only the most annoying of the ridiculous plot devices: a lowly parking security guard apparently has access to all the security tapes in the entire building, watertight elevators have been installed, etc.

113. Anna’s Storm, directed by Kristoffer Tabori (3/10)

Lost my review.

114. Aliens vs. Predator – Requiem, directed by Colin Strause, Greg Strause (2/10)

This is actually significantly better than the original AVP in that a lot of effort is put into character development and sense of place.

But that being said, too much time is put into that stuff. At the end of this day, this is a movie about one set of monsters vs. another, and that’s what the audience wants to see. We don’t care about these people, we just want to see them die.

Here are a couple hilarious problems:

  • This small town has the sewer system of a major city;
  • People show up and say things like “Hello” and the others react as if it’s the alien or the predator, when the people are speaking to them.

There were many more, but I didn’t write them down.

One great opportunity to actually be clever is totally avoided for the typical ending of a film such as this.

Note: I have since seen this film a second time. Why? Who knows?

115. Resident Evil: Extinction, directed by Russel Mulcahy (2/10)

Lost my review.

116. National Treasure: Book of Secrets, directed by John Turteltaub (2/10)

So fucking ridiculous.

117. The Haunting of Sorority Row, directed by Bert Kish (2/10)

Lost my review.

118. How I Married My High School Crush, directed by David Winkler (2/10*)

Probably didn’t watch more than 10 minutes of this garbage.

119. Bigfoot’s Reflection, directed by Evan Beloff (2/10)

This is a weird, brief film about Sasquatch that tries both to convince us that Sasquatch exists but, at the same time, attempts to be the objective about it, by including interviews with (a couple) skeptics. The film utterly fails to address the biggest problems with the Sasquatch theory: no fossil record and no corpses. Whether or not the film of Sasquatch shown in the film is real – and though I suspect it is not, I cannot prove that – doesn’t really matter, as the other evidence is the worst kind of evidence: eye-witness accounts and foot print casts. That’s it.

The film fails to call out at least one (seemingly legitimate, albeit crazy) scientist who makes a complete fraudulent claim – he claims monkeys migrated through the Bering land bridge from Eurasia-Africa to North America; they absolutely did not as monkeys in the Americas come from South America, back when it was connected to Africa – and probably fails to call out a bunch of other false claims I missed.

Just really dumb.

Shorts:

“Madame Tutli-Putli”, directed by Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski (10/10)

This a truly incredible and unique little film. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. The combination of puppetry with animation actually makes it more “immersive” (I guess that would be the right word) than Svanmajer’s puppetry features, where the audience was well aware the characters were puppets. Here, it’s sort of hard to tell. They also pack a few twists in that you wouldn’t expect in such a short film. Definitely one of the best short films I’ve ever seen.