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Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

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Hullabaloo


Saturday, December 08, 2007

 
Saturday Night At The Movies

You put THAT one on your list? No. Really?

By Dennis Hartley

It’s that time of year- for the obligatory Top Ten lists. Last week, I took a look at what I thought were some of the best “back catalog” DVD reissues of 2007. Tonight, I don my Kevlar vest once again, this time to humbly offer up my picks for the best new films of 2007. I should qualify that. These would be the “top ten” movies out of the 35 or so first-run features I have selected to review on Hullabaloo since January. Since I am (literally) a “weekend movie critic”, I obviously don’t have the time (or the bucks, frankly, with admission prices these days) to screen every new release (especially with that pesky 9 to 5 gig that takes up my weekdays-y’know, the one that pays the rent and junk).

A gentle reminder, dear reader, that I’m just one of the ordinary motion pitcher watchin’ folk, ploppin’ down my hard-earned kopeks at the box office like everyone else, and not a high-falootin’ critic who gets comped into advance screenings and feted at Cannes. So, with no asses to kiss and no promises to keep, may I present The List- in no particular ranking order, as per usual. (Click on the film title for my original full-length review…)

Pan’s Labyrinth-Guillermo del Toro’s dark fable personalizes the tragedy and human toll of Spain’s tumultuous civil war era through the eyes of a troubled young girl. Compelling, visually rich, and beautifully acted. Not recommended for children, though!


Zodiac-A top-notch thriller based on the unsolved case of the press-hungry serial killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay area in the 1970s. Director David Fincher has assembled a film that will please true crime buffs and noir fans. Completely absorbing.


The Hoax-Richard Gere leads a dynamite cast in this dramatization of the hubbub surrounding author Clifford Irving’s infamous fake “autobiography” of Howard Huges. Director Lasse Hallstrom brilliantly captures the insidious paranoia of the Nixon era.


Kurt Cobain: About a Son-This unconventional, impressionistic documentary gives an intimate portrait of the artist without the usual talking heads or performance clips. Eerily, Cobain himself provides the narration (via a previously unreleased audio-only interview).


My Best Friend-French director Patrice Leconte has a knack for compelling character studies that are wistful, brooding, darkly humorous yet also somehow uplifting and life-affirming. A bit lightweight (by his usual high standards), but still well worth your time.


Paprika-“Mind blowing” doesn’t even begin to describe this Disney-on-acid/murder mystery/psychological sci-fi horror story. Anime director Satoshi Kon delivers his most visually ambitious work to date…this one has “future midnight cult movie” writ large!


In The Shadow of the Moon-In this outstanding doc about the Apollo moon flights, director David Sington takes a somewhat tired, oft-told tale and infuses it with a sense of joyous rediscovery that just might make you (wait for it) proud to be an American again.


Eastern Promises-David Cronenberg brings on the blood and the balalaikas in this crackerjack neo-noir, set in London’s Russian criminal underworld. At once a brooding character study and atmospheric thriller, the film sports a lean, almost poetic style.


Michael Clayton-George Clooney leads a fine cast in this intelligent and gripping legal thriller, which takes place in a shadowy noir world of boardroom conspiracies. Written and directed by Tony Gilroy, who also penned the screenplays for the “Bourne” trilogy.


No Country For Old Men-A true return to classic form for the Coen brothers. A twist of Texas noir, rich in characterization and thankfully devoid of the self-consciously “quirky” tics that have left some of their efforts in recent years teetering on self-parody.


OK, so 2007 isn’t officially “over” yet, and we all know that the movie studios like to save their big guns (read: Oscar hopefuls) for December. Here’s a few possibilities:

I Am Legend (December 14)-Since I’m a such a sucker for the post-apocalyptic genre, I’ll probably see this umpteenth film version (“The Last Man on Earth”, “The Omega Man”, “Night of the Living Dead”, etc.) of Richard Matheson’s classic novel. I’ll just have to ignore that nagging voice in my head reminding me that Will Smith + Science Fiction = Red Flag (do “Independence Day” and “I, Robot” ring any warning bells? )

Youth Without Youth (December 14)-This is Francis Ford Coppola’s first feature in 10 years, a mystery/romance set in eastern Europe just prior to WW2-featuring Tim Roth and Bruno Ganz. Sounds like it has potential, although it’s been a couple decades since Coppola has delivered anything of note (I’m sad to say). Ah, but hope springs eternal…

Charlie Wilson’s War (December 25)-The wooly hi-jinx of a Texas congressman who finagles money for the Mujahedin defense fund during the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (this is supposed to be lighthearted holiday fare?!) BTW I generally don’t trip over myself rushing out to see the latest Tom Hanks vehicle (the last thing I “liked” him in was “Big”), but I know all you political junkies are counting on me to take the bullet for you and then give you my report! (I’m still reeling from “Lions for Lambs”).

The Bucket List (December 25)-Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman are two geriatrics with terminal illnesses, checking off their “things to do before we kick the bucket” list. With Rob Reiner at the helm, and a potentially classic “salt and pepper” pairing (think Pryor and Wilder, Glover and Gibson, Culp and Cosby, Lawford and Davis)-we could strike comedy gold here (or not…).

There Will Be Blood (December 26)-This is the one I am the most excited about. The mercurial and provocative Paul Thomas Anderson directs the ever-amazing Daniel Day-Lewis in an adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s novel “Oil!” From the previews, I vibe a sort of grand, sprawling, soaper in the tradition of “Giant” or “Oklahoma Crude”; with perhaps a nod toward Nick Roeg’s “Eureka”. Will this one be a gusher, or a dry hole? We’ll see. Stay tuned…


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