Tuesday, January 08, 2008

HOLY 07!!! A glance back and a frikkin' list, too.

Happy New Ye-oh whatever.

Yup, 2008, here we are. Banzai got new treats, all is well with the world.

Sorry for the delay, but I think I've been putting off doing anything to wrap up 2007...cause i just didnt want to believe it was over.

See....2007 was one of the best years of my entire life.

First off, I FINALLY became an "honest man" and married the love of my life, my muse, my partner-in-crime, culminating in the coolest wedding this side of Santa Carla. Too long coming, but in all honesty, I would not have wanted it to happen any other way, it really was PERFECT in every way. I mean come on, what fugly dork doesnt yearn to marry a beautiful, funny, smart and creative woman who is also a Geek of immense proportions? And in a movie theater no less? Here is a glimpse of the (longish) video we made & played before "Hank" did the deed...

...and oh yeah, WRONG TURN 2 (in case you didnt know) was released in October after months and months of grassroots marketing, convention appearances and even film festivals (huh?!?) to get the good word out there, and boy did we ever.

Im so thankful and blessed to everyone that supported the movie and me over the last year, and blown away that the movie did very well both critically and financially. Not that it mattered, since I was always bracing for a public flogging, but it was nice to know people dug our wares. Thanks again everyone for making WRONG TURN 2 a boner-fied Horror hit!

...oh, and Banzai got new treats. All is well with the world.

But...how to measure up 07? God, so much happened, so many amazing people met, that I dont think I'd do justice to any singular event unless I already covered it in previous posts. That's what I love about this blog; my memory of it all is a blur that passes by my eyes like Slayer on Expert in GUITAR HERO 3. So really, I think I'd be wasting your time trying to cull all those memories to lament in this post when you have all those wonderful back posts to enjoy...or not. Just getting married and seeing the birth of the mutant baby that is WRONG TURN 2 was more than enough to solidify this as 2007: The Year Not To Fuck With.

What I will do, however, is FINALLY put up my Top movies in 2007, which I've been toiling with for weeks, having many an internal debate with my crack team of "experts" (all the voices in my head) and I THINK I've come up with a list Im happy with. Now, I will say that I havent seen as much as i had hoped this year and thankfully, the last 2 weeks of holiday has been spent catching up with a LOT of flicks, but there are a few like JUNO & THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY that just slipped through the cracks that I will end up seeing in the next few days, but Im sick of waiting around on this fucking list.

So here is the plan: Each day, Im going to be updating this list with my explanations (and some apologies) for each title as I go along, starting at the bottom and working my way up the list till I finally get to the Nmber #1 sometime around May. So stop by again to see if I did my part by giving a decent reason for each. I could spend hours on each one, but the water is boiling and I got shits to shat, so this way I can enjoy thinking about each one more (hell I might even change the order here and there, it's been tough).

So, without further adieu..



8. SWEENEY TODD: Tim Burton is back bitches, and it's been too long baby. Honestly, I can't remember being so entranced in a Burton world since ED WOOD, and this somewhat faithful adaptation of the musical worked for me on all fronts. From Depp's singing (great) Helena Bonham Carter's Clevage (awesome) and all that tempura blood! Dark and evil yet with a beating heart of sorrow, this is a true return to form for Tim Burton where you can tell he could actually be smiling behind the monitor...doubtful, but I wouldnt be surprised with what he's put together. Like Ridley Scott, you now expect to be thrown into a new world, or at least a fully realized one that thumps with life (like in EDWARD SISORHANDS, BATMAN, hell even BEETLEJUICE) and Burton seems to have a great grasp on the vision while staying true to the source material (especially NOT bringing in his partner-in-crime, Danny Elfman). A great night at the movies and a film I can't wait to spend time with again at home.

9. THERE WILL BE BLOOD: This is one strange bird. I couldn't have seen the film in a worse situation (2nd row front with the music blasting so loud it actually did hurt) and when I walked out, ears still ringing and my head spinning from that sledgehammer of a climax, I wasn't sure what to think really. Then again, PT Anderson's movies have always done that to me. When i saw BOOGIE NIGHTS on the opening day show in NYC in 97 (on a sunday, no less!) and while I loved the spirit, the energy and the performances, I couldn't get around that it was really just another "Rise, Fall & Redemption" flick in the same vein as GOODFELLAS...I mean, it practically WAS GOODFELLAS...in the Valley. Yet, I couldn't deny the raw talent behind the camera (at 27, fucker) and when I saw it again in the theater, I fucking loved it. Same with MAGNOLIA...terrible conditions (opening night in NYC's upper west side, where people actually got dressed up for it and the theater was so hot you could see heat ripples) and yet the more I see it the more I fall in love with it. PUNCHDRUNK LOVE I actually liked when we walked out of the Chinese when it opened...and I've only seen it twice since and feel indifferent to it, aside from it being merely a really sweet movie. But BLOOD was something I was anticipating, and when I walked out that night from the screening, I was being very nit-picky on certain things, but I did like it. It took 2-3 commutes to work with me thinking about it all for me to put it on this list, and Im sure many feel the same way, almost like a good book. Many times an engrossing and effective tome wont elicit that "instant gratification" you get from a movie unfolding in real time, usually affecting you after you close the book. THERE WILL BE BLOOD is still with me, Daniel Plainview and his quest to be #1 haunting me, the rich cinematography by Elswit like crude oil spurting, Paul Dano as the sinister preacher with ulterior motives, and of course...the milkshake. I need to see it again, and again...and not sit so close. But a masterpiece of KANE proportions that will only get better every time.

10. THE ORPHANAGE: Del Toro's POLTERGIEST (and as a fan of that "modern ghost story", I mean it in the highest regard, even though he only produced it...think about the claim). Nuff said.

11. BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOUR DEAD I read Sidney Lumet's inspiring book MAKING MOVIES almost 10 years ago when I was interning at Nancy "Closure!" Tennenbaum's office (bitch) and it was that book that propelled me to rent and/or buy almost every one of his films, from his early masterpieces like 12 ANGRY MEN to later works like NIGHT FALLS ON MANHATTAN, which was just released. Yet, after that and some smaller films, Lumet seemed to fall off my radar a bit until Aleska from WRONG TURN 2, who was in his last film with Vinny Diesel, FIND ME GUILTY (now that is one hell of a hairpiece!) told me while she was dangling from a log during the "rapids" scene that she was cast again in a Lumet film, some little crime thriller...oh yeah, with Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Ethan hawke and Albert Finney. HUH? She's fucking around with me in Vancouver playing action star and all and then gets to work with Lumet?? Lucky girl. But I always was intrigued with this movie, especially the long-winded title, and when it came and went int he fall I almost forgot it was that film that Aleska did. But after being told time and time again to check it out from other reliable sources, I did, and fuck me jesus was I blown away. This film didn't feel like a hum-drum flick by a once Cinematic master, nor did it feel like it was made by someone who is 82 (!)...this plastic explosive of a twisty NY thriller felt like the first film by some "enfant terrible" who had something to prove. DEVIL is a great, multi-layered story of a family in crisis, and the lengths each member will go to survive on the modern mean streets. The performances are stellar (Aleska KILLS, BTW) the camerawork and visual design fresh and at the same time, classic, and the filmmaker deftly weaves in and out of plotlines with ease, always keeping us two steps ahead. Oh, and it has the most awkwardly erotic doggie style scene in film history...with Marisa Tomei. Oh, NOW I have your attention. Well, not only is she naked in half the film (Thank you sir Lumet) but she's also stellar in the film, as is everyone else. This film might not win anything come awards time (and of this writing, it didnt really) but its one of those movies you'll see, be kicked in the nuts by, and then want to tell everyone else how great your beanbag is swelling right now.
Sidney Lumet is back, and yet...was never gone. Keep 'em coming Sid!!
Check out the trailer HERE.

12. KNOCKED UP/SUPERBAD: Judd Apatow has been a friend of my funny bone since THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW and the poorly under appreciated THE CABLE GUY, and NOW everyone is finally realizing that he truly is the John Hughes of our generation, with these two films proving that he can write, direct and produce with the same "voice" and still create some of the most hilarious and even heartfelt comedies this side of SIXTEEN CANDLES. See you at the backlash!!!

13. BLACK BOOK: IIt's been a while since we've seen anything noteworthy from the Agent Provocateur himself, Paul Verhoeven (sorry HOLLOW MAN fans, I'm not of your kind). I've loved his work for years, but since STARSHIP TROOPERS (one of the most amazing Sci-Fi Satires of the 20th century...if not maybe THE Sci-Fi Satire) it's been a little rocky for the daring director. Well, worry no longer...BLACK BOOK is a total return to form for Verhoeven, back to his Pre-ROBOCOP days like FLESH + BLOOD & THE FOURTH MAN, where you never knew how far he'd take a story, yet always finds a human touch to make the sometimes perverted medicine go down easier. This sprawling WWII epic depicts one woman's amazing struggle to survive admist the horrors of the Holocaust, and how her sexuality serves as a clever ruse...and a powerful weapon. Plus, it's got the stunning Carice van Houten shaving her pubes...top 20 material in my book. God bless Verhoeven.
Velcome back Paul, Ve mizzed you!
Check out the trailer HERE.

14. RESCUE DAWN I wont lie and say Im a die-hard Herzog fan (That's more Henry's taste than mine), only because I'm only familiar with the man more than the movies. Hell, the guy in one year alone saved Joaquin Phoenix AND continued an interview after being shot with friendly fire, so he's just the consummate badass in my book. But RESCUE DAWN floored me, emotionally and visually. One of the more realistic and grounded (no pun) of the "Triumph of the Human Spirit" films, this journey into the heart of Vietnam darkness is harrowing without being excessive and allows actors like Jeremy Davies to impersonate a skeleton, Steve Zahn to grow a killer beard, and for Christian Bale to continue to solidify his place as one of this world's finest and most compelling actors today who can balance art films like this and studio product like THE DARK KNIGHT with ease. If there was to be the requisite "feel good" dark horse film for the Oscars this year, RESCUE DAWN should be up for the mission.

15. BOURNE ULTIMATUM: Paul Greengrass is my fucking hero. Not only has he cornered the market in the art of "Visual Verite", the acclaimed director (and auteur behind my #2 movie last year, UNITED 93) actually refined his craft with this the final BOURNE installment (or is it?). I don't mind hiring Shakes the Epileptic Camera guy to handle action shots, but Im not the majority,and this time, Greengrass wove a complex tapestry of intrigue and double-crosses that, when I think back on it, hurts my brain and yet it all seems to fit like OJ's glove. What's funny is that I don't even think of the huge New York car chase everyone blows as the centerpiece...it's the quiet moments with Albert Finney and Matt Damon...or the cat-and-mouse in the UK...or the moment Bourne reveals his location to his witless persuers (one of the best crowd reactions I heard all year when we went "Ha ha! Sucker!' when David Strathairn realizes Bourne is calling from HIS office). This is the best of the BOURNE's...and Greengrass can shoot blades of grass and still make it heart-pounding.

16.  300: How is it, this Green screened powder keg of a popcorn flick was the talk of the WORLD in March, impressing critics, breaking out as a bonerfied hit, wowing (and pissing off a few of) the masses, and then dissapears from people's minds when it comes to "Lists" time? No matter, Zack Snyder proved he's no one-trick-dick with this faithful and fantasticly visceral adaptation of the Frank Miller Graphic Novel, a breath of cinematic dragonfire that took SIN CITY up to the cockpit and answered "Yes Peter Graves, I DO like Gladiator movies!". Sure, there's plenty of glistening muscles and homoeroticism for all to behold, and Gerard Butler can scream and browbeat with the best of 'em, but it was just the sheer visual scope and daring that Snyder brought to the epic battle film that got everyone in a tizzy, and only allowed the collective online geek community a HUGE sigh of relief that he's tackling the beast that is WATCHMEN. Watching 300 again, it just reminded me of the good ole days of having a great time at the movies with your jaw on your lap, blown away by the visual mastery of his images and the ambition behind the frame. To me, Zack Snyder is the heir apparent to the Ridley Scott throne, with 300 being his ALIEN...hopefully WATCHMEN is his BLADE RUNNER (in a good, "director's cut" way, not the whole B.O. bombing, "takes 10 years to appreciate" way).

17. PERSEPOLIS: One of the best "adult" animated features since WATERSHIP DOWN (and just as stark at times) this political-cum-socialist-slash-autobiographic-novel-turned-Animated film is really a sight to behold. I might not have even seen this if it wasn't for Tim League's amazing FantasticFest; the film was one of the "secret screenings" and while I had no clue what to expect, by the end, I was practically in tears. A wonderfully vivid and sometimes harrowing coming of age portrait of a young woman's life amidst the milieu of a war torn Islamic nation in the 80's, exposing the events and the people who shaped her as as the strong, insightful and world weary woman the narrator is as she sits in an airport. Funny, gripping, sad, exciting...and it has Iron Maiden in it. Score.
Check out the trailer HERE

18. THE DEVIL DARED ME TO: Ok....as much as I dig the Lonely Island guys and look forward to their SNL Digital Shorts with bated breath each week (well, when there were new episodes of SNL...sigh)....FUCK HOT ROD. Boring and just painfully unfunny. The REAL winner of the "Stuntman" comedy will be cemented once this whacked-out import from New Zeleand explodes onto our shores. Madmen filmmakers/co-stars Chris Stapp and Matt Heath, who also had a popular JACKASS-type show back home, created a feature debut with such a wild, fucked-up style and BAD TASTE-esque sense of humor, you can't believe your eyes...or that they actually were able to tug at your heart strings. Total gonzo filmmaking at it's finest, and you'll never soon forget the legend of Randy Cambell (gleefully played by Stapp) and his wildly fucked up adventures in the quest to become the great stuntman his old man never was. Movie's fucking awesome.
Check out the trailer HERE.

19.  ANGEL-A: What can I say, I'm a sucker for Luc Besson flicks. Even when they are just products of his progeny (like THE TRANSPORTER, KISS OF THE DRAGON & WASABI to name a few), they all bear that unique high energy impact of a Luc besson project. With ANGEL-A, his first film since the dreadful MESSENGER flick, he's gone back to his roots and made a quaint, WINGS OF DESIRE-esque fable that charmed me from first shot to last line. The widescreen cinematography from Thierry Arboghast (one of my favorite DPs) is breathtaking, the performances by Jamel Debbouze (who was magical in AMELIE) and the stunning, statuesque Rie Rasmussen (who fits the "Besson Girl" archetype to a T) are engrossing, and even though the CG at the end was off-putting, the film was equivalent of a fresh baguette: Hot, fresh, crispy and delicious. The perfect date movie to win over that Sophmore art chick.
Check out the trailer HERE

20. TAXIDERMIA: What the hell is this, you're asking? Im a sucker for a film that sets out to deliberately affect an audience, and here, director Gyorgy Palfi has crafted a work of art ABOUT grossing you out, and does it with such a beautiful eye it makes the medicine go down real nice. Set in three different times in a particular (and peculiar) family tree, the film starts out with a guy who pisses fire gleefully in the air, works in a pig-fucking scene (a requisite for good Euro art cinema for me), a display of "Barf Olympics", babies with tails, self-taxidemy...and just when you've cleaned the puke off your shirt, then the film pulls a fast one on you similar to FUNNY GAMES. I watched the film eating a Steak Sandwich and even though I finished that fucker, it was an ordeal. Kudos to that. Brave, gutsy art filmmaking and NOT for the squeamish.
Check out the trailer HERE


ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE: Never expected this one to be as good as it was, but from the opening scene, the "throwback" (boy, is that just becoming the new buzz word people will hate hearing in 6 months?) slasher film actually felt more at home in the 90's era of horror films than the 80's which i've heard it constantly compared to. Truth be told, as much as the acting is really effective (especially the lovely and unassuming Amber Heard as the titular object of desire), the direction by Johnathan Levine crisp and filled with genuine style without resorting to too many visual hiccups, the REAL shining star of the movie is the script by Jacob Foreman, which not only subitly satirizes the slasher genre...it trandscends it. It knows the genre well enough, yet Foreman also can paint some really compelling characters and still make the requisite "who done it" twists feel new and fresh...because we care about the characters, and there is a great build of tension courtesy of Levine. A real surprise of a shocker, and def look out for it when it's released later this year.
Check out the trailer HERE.

30 DAYS OF NIGHT: Been a while since i got the heebie-jeebies over a vampire flick, and damn if my skin didn't crawl a few times during NIGHT. Like the graphic novel that spawned the flick, it's an example of style over substance; the story is simple but the execution is where it counts, and David Slade made one of the more disturbing and scary snow-based horror films since THE THING... Wow, Josh Hartnet can act! Wow, Ben Foster does it again!! WOW, DANNY HUSTON IS FUCKING CREEPY!!! "No god". N'uff said.

310 TO YUMA: After UNFORGIVEN, I had kinda given up on the revisionist Western, thinking there wasn't much left to say. Well, there still isn't, but that isnt to say that a great story or two can't still be told! Never saw the original, but this incarnation of YUMA was a blast to watch, and reminded me of the in your face energy of that train car blast in BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID spread out over an entire movie. Can Christian Bale do no wrong?

THE LOOKOUT: Something about Scott Frank's directorial debut just worked for me, I can't really pin it down. Im a huge Joseph Gordon Levitt fan, and love me some Jeff Daniels, so their paring and some great plot twists and pacing kept me rivetted to the final moments. That silent guy with the glasses must be related to Anton Sighur.

SPIRAL: OK OK Im bias, but i fucking LOVED this mix of BARTON FINK & Polanski's REPULSION, and think Green and Moore hit it out of the park. HATCHET naysayers will either fall in love with this jazzy little psychological thriller, or hate Adam's guts MORE.

KILTRO:: Now THIS is a fucking martial arts flick! Brazillian, ferocious, hilarious, warm-hearted. Best use of a Bowie song in SO long. The fights? NEED TO BE SEEN TO BE BELIEVED. Watch these guys VERY closely.
Screw a trailer...check out this kick ass CLIP!

THE SIGNAL: Saw this at FrightFest after much hoopla, and I instantly fell into the idea that at once was well worn as a concept (re: 28 DAYS/WEEKS LATER, King's THE CELL) but i loved the ambition behind the 3 directors tackling 3 different stories inter-woven into each other, and even though the tone of each segment is contrasting almost to the point of distraction, you can't take your eyes off of it. Really great work by a true indie mindset.

THE GIRL NEXT DOOR: What a fucking punch the nuts. Gregory Wilson's adaptation of Jack Ketchum's novel is structured as if you were home watching STAND BY ME for 40 minutes, relishing in nostalgia, and then your big brother throws on IRREVERSIBLE. Powerful performances all around, especially the children and Blanche Baker as the subtily terrifying mother/ringleader, and one hell of a use of a blowtorch.

VACANCY: Im shocked this made other lists, just because it seemed that noone gave a shit when it came out in April. Hell it came out the same week as my wedding so we had to catch on DVD and surprisingly, I thought it was really gripping at times, and the "snuff film" concept worked in keeping the squirm-factor high, even though it seemed way too short and while I liked the fractured relationship, didnt really believe in Wilson and Beckensdale as a couple. Frank Whaley is officially a creep, and shines here as the bell clerk.

AMERICAN GANGSTER: Ridley Scott can be on auto-pilot like A GOOD YEAR and still make compelling cinema, but here he's relishing in story over style, and it worked for me. Great old fashioned DP work by Harris Savades and the usual amazing performances by Crowe and Washington (with the Brolin 'Stache for support) make it for a great yarn.


AvP:R: Such a waste of one more chance for the fans to embrace this long-worn concept. Great FX work, but unfortunately bore the WORST script of the year, maybe of the past 5. Bah Humbug.

THE HITCHER: Sorry, didn't need ya pal...we were already good with the original thanks....and the action set-piece with NIN playing was one of the most hilarious scenes of the year. Sarcastic, thy name is I.


Blogger BC said...

If I knew you'd put Hitcher as one of only TWO movies on your worst list I woulda punched you at the FC screening! That movie's incredible!!! Shame on you, though I guess I sort of envy you since you've clearly forgotten about the dozen or so other movies that were far worse (Primeval, Messengers, Hannibal Rising, HALLOWEEN (!), etc)

3:12 PM  

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