Movie Junkey Glen Baity looks at 2007 movies from top to bottom

by Glen Baity

Another year, another Michael Bay movie, another crop of sad, broken down starlets crashing in slo-mo: Yes, 2007 is over, and like any year, it brought some great, not-so-great, and downright atrocious cinema. In the spirit of the season, I’ll tilt this list of favorites ever-so-slightly toward the positive.

The yearly disclaimer still applies: if your favorite film is absent from the list, rest assured that I just haven’t seen it yet.

All set? Away we go:

The Good

1. No Country for Old Men. The Coen Brothers return with one wrecking ball of a picture. Javier Bardem turns in what might be the decade’s best performance as a lunatic with an air gun and a ridiculous hairdo. More impressive is the fact that his co-stars (Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin) don’t get overshadowed. A pitch-perfect masterpiece, and my favorite film of the year.

2. Juno. Freshman screenwriter Diablo Cody invigorates Jason Reitman’s film with brains, laughs and heart to spare. Ellen Page is brilliant as the teen who gets pregnant out of sheer boredom, deftly leading what might be this year’s best ensemble cast.

3. Once. A simple story that elucidates the power of music better than a thousand Walk the Lines. A busker (Glen Hansard) and a flower vendor (Marketa Irglova), both beaten down by life, meet and write a few songs. That’s pretty much it for plot, but the weight here is in the music and the utter honesty of the performances, perfectly captured by director Jay Carney.

4. Hot Fuzz. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, fresh off a zombie-killing tear in Shaun of the Dead, deliver a spoof on action movies so intricate, you’ll still be picking up new jokes on the fifth or sixth viewing.

5. American Gangster. Denzel Washington is blistering in this biopic of black Godfather Frank Lucas, and Russell Crowe doesn’t disappoint (does he ever?) as the last honest man in New Jersey. The dialogue pops as this expansive film grabs you and doesn’t let go.

6. Superbad. Teenage virgins trying to get laid: is there a more shopworn premise for a comedy? It doesn’t matter. Michael Cera, Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are brilliant in this ridiculously vulgar love note to adolescent misery.

7. In the Valley of Elah. Forehead-slapping ending aside, Paul Haggis’ quiet, gripping movie about a soldier on the lam is terrific. Tommy Lee Jones is at his best as the soldier’s reticent, doggedly persistent father.

8. Breach. Chris Cooper delivers one of the year’s most criminally overlooked performances as CIA turncoat Robert Hanssen. A sturdy thriller through and through, Breach was an early surprise seen by far too small an audience.

9. Knocked Up. Maybe the central relationship is problematic, but Judd Apatow’s coming-of-age story for guys in their mid-20s is as sweet and funny as anything that came out this year.

10. Live Free or Die Hard. Laugh all you want – I had more fun watching John McClane’s glorious, jet-fighting return than I did at any other movie this year. It’s over-the-top to the point of silliness, but damned if it’s not exactly what summertime entertainment is supposed to be. Thank you, Bruce Willis, and welcome to your only Top 10 list of 2007.

The Bad

1. I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Is it the worst movie of the year? The worst movie of all time? I’ll leave that for future generations to parse. But this film, about beefcake firefighters forced to play prissy, is an embarrassment for all involved, especially Adam Sandler, who gave audiences another peak at his actually-pretty-impressive acting chops this year in Reign Over Me. With performances like that up his sleeve, why is he wasting his time – and ours – gay-baiting the King of Queens?

2. Balls of Fury. Proof positive that a certain strain of moviegoer demands its humor be as obvious as possible. Also damning evidence that there is indeed an outer limit to the inherent hilarity of testicles.

3. The Heartbreak Kid. Ben Stiller does that Ben Stiller thing he does, this time as a perpetual bachelor who falls in love with the perfect woman while on his honeymoon with a slightly-less-perfect woman. Carlos Mencia makes sure no comedy escapes alive. The Farrelly Brothers, after years of scraping, finally break through the bottom of the barrel with this useless Neil Simon remake.

4. Lions for Lambs. A haughty, irritating thinkpiece about the War on Terror that unwisely keeps its conscience in Meryl Streep’s rheumy eyes and Robert Redford’s self-satisfied shrug. Featuring all your favorite reductive archetypes: the liberal university professor, the craven Washington reporter, the disconnected 20-year-old and the empty suit conservative. It’s like a dramatized episode of Hannity and Colmes that robs you of eight dollars.

5. Good Luck Chuck. Dane Cook falling down a lot. Still funnier than Dane Cook talking, but not by much.

Bonus: Cheap Plastic Ugly

1. Transformers. Rejoice, children of the 80s: Michael Bay’s rendering of your beloved Autobots and Decepticons wasn’t completely awful! In fact, it’s the best movie Bay has ever made, which is kind of like calling an album “Celine Dion’s ‘Blood on the Tracks.'”

2. Spider-Man 3. Too many villains, heaps of contrived misery and a truly, truly bizarre dance number tanked what should’ve been a victory lap for Sam Raimi’s heretofore-masterful comic franchise. At least it wasn’t as bad as:

3. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. It’s only Jessica Alba’s second-worst movie of the year (her forced zaniness in Good Luck Chuck takes the prize), but it’s bad enough for plenty of other reasons. Silver Surfer could only be called a let-down if you had any expectations whatsoever. And if you saw the first Fantastic Four, how could you?