Saturday, January 19, 2008

Film 2007: Underrated


These are "certain regard"-type pictures that failed to get a fair shake with reviewers. You may find them less defensible. But somehow they stayed with me. And it's my blog and I'll tout them if I want to.

Beowulf. More pensive than the holiday popcorn crowd was expecting, even if the 3D presentation rocked. I appreciated the deeper thinking, appropriate for the ur-epic of all time, even as it went against the grain of simpler sword and sorcery-level expectations.

Death at a Funeral. The adult comedy of the year. Stuffy Brits and unstrung Yanks bring the funny as they haven't since A Fish Called Wanda.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age. I adore these kinds of pictures, and even if this one didn't live up to its predecessor there was enough to enjoy as Cate Blanchett fearlessly flouted camp in the lead.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (pictured). A comic book adaptation that, like its predecessor, was crucified for daring to be fun, rather than morose and heavy with dubious insight into the human condition as experienced under a cape and cowl. Galactus was a dud but the Silver Surfer ruled, and the cheerfully ridiculous sight gags are amusing. Sue me.

The Golden Compass. Thanks to U.S. audience indifference, we'll never see ow it all worked out. Still, I liked all the eye and mind candy along the way; it's a more soulful picture than its pious detractors will admit.

The Hoax. Seventies style and content was as much a drag on films in 2007 as an enhancement, but this buoyant bio-portrait of the fraudulent Clifford Irving (Richard Gere as his most rapscallionish) should have risen past the fray. Check it out.

Lake of Fire. Tony Kaye's lengthy abortion documentary is less than the sum of its parts, but the parts merit attention. And they got very little, as critics tiptoed away from it. I was one of them, figuring someone else would do the heavy lifting through its decade-long examination of the subject. No one came forward. Perhaps the right to choose what to consider is best left to the individual viewer to ponder?

The Mist. What was going on in the heads of their distributors to think that audiences would go for this malicious horror picture, one that suggests there is nothing underpinning civilization once politics and religion are stripped away, and Beowulf at Thanksgiving? Holly jolly they're not.

Mr. Brooks. I threw on the DVD as accompaniment for another task, and two hours later hadn't even gotten started. I'm so over serial killers and hit men as movie antiheroes but this one drew me, thanks to the inspired teamwork of Kevin Costner and William Hurt as two heads of the same sinister coin. And the oft-challenged Dane Cook and Demi Moore hold their own, too, in a taut and amusing suspense picture.

Music and Lyrics. A theatrical release that debuts on cable in the same calendar year is usually tone-deaf. This one isn't, mainly because Hugh Grant, who directors keep finding uses for, is note-perfect as a Wham!-ish 80s pop star finding renewed purpose against his own inclinations in the 00s. Spot-on casting that uplifts agreeable fluff for a cozy night in.

Resurrecting the Champ. I KO'ed the film, but can't knock writer-director Rod Lurie, who found this blog via Cineaste and sent me some encouraging words though I took him to the mat in print. I hereby return that gracious gesture, and can endorse Josh Hartnett's surprisingly warm performance as a fraying family man and journalist in the film.

Shrek the Third. How much love does this boxoffice champion need? Aren't these spoofy, wink-wink kind of family pictures tired? Yes, they are...but what can I say, I laughed all the way through this, much more than I did though the second picture, which more rightly merited the brickbats this one got. Banishing Jennifer Saunders was a good start. It must have something to do with being a cat owner; Antonio Banderas simply slays me as the gallant Puss 'n' Boots, and if he gets his own movie I'm there on opening day.

Wristcutters: A Love Story. Ripe for DVD discovery, a droll indie fantasy about suicide that deserves an abundant second life.

Year of the Dog. Molly Shannon's breakthrough...or, more accurately, breakdown...performance as an animal lover in emotional freefall was a nicely sustained high-wire act from a performer with more strings in her bow than I may have realized. Some nice character bits, too, from John C. Reilly, Laura Dern, and Peter Sarsgaard in a movie less easy to embrace than man's best friend.

1 comment:

love_4books said...

I cannot but agree with you about Wristcutters, what a nice film and what a story!
A great example of adaptation of story to film. I have loved Edgar Keret from the moment he started writing stories and can recommend his collection of short stories "The Busdriver Who Wanted to Be God" (Toby Press $12.95)to anyone. The last story in this volume "Kneller's Happy Campers" is the story that Wristcutters was based upon. If you like readingeven half as much as you like watching movies: Enjoy!