2007 movies: FAIL.

I haven't been posting movie reviews in 2007 as I have in previous years, and this is why. I think my new year's resolution may have to be, "I am never going to a movie theatre again, and this time I really mean it." Next year, I should just wait for cable for everything. That way I can fast-forward. And the popcorn will be better, too.

As best I can recall, here are the movies I saw in theatres in 2007, and the shortest possible reviews I can muster, which in two thirds of the cases, is the longest review that they deserve:

Children of Men Great. Interesting story, believable characters, amazing cinematography and future-building. Saw it twice.
The Man From Earth Great. Saw it twice.
Zodiac Great. Historical SF reconstructions were neat.
Black Snake Moan Great.
Ratatouille Great.
Knocked Up Great.
Waitress Great.

No Country for Old Men Pretty good. Somewhat unsatisfying.
Bourne Ultimatum Fun. Would have enjoyed it more if I remembered what happened in the first two.
Live Free or Die Hard Fun fluff.
Balls of Fury Fun fluff.
Bridge to Terabithia Pretty good, but I've forgotten it already.
Resident Evil: Extinction Milla Jovavitch shoots things. Better than the last one.

28 Weeks Later Weak.
Pan's Labyrinth Sucked. The dream sequences were good, but I just didn't care in the slightest about the horrible lives the real-world characters lived.
The Number 23 Looked good, stupid lame-assed "twist" ending.
Pirates 3 Pretty much sucked.
Stardust Mediocre, too long.
Sunshine 60% great, 40% utter crap.
1408 Terrible.
The Mist Fuck Stephen King, seriously. What a hack. Didn't I already swear I'd never see another movie that had his stink on it? Dammit.
Shoot 'Em Up Fun for 30 minutes. The joke is over after that.
300 Very pretty. But crap.
The Golden Compass Intensely boring. Crap CG animals. At least an hour of superfluous exposition.
Southland Tales Sucked. How does self-indulgent bullshit like this get made without anyone involved having the sense to say STOP THAT?
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66 Responses:

  1. I have been waiting for someone else to join my club of "boycott the movie theater". The last thing I saw in the theater was "Return of the King". Wait, I lied, it was "Sky Captain". The thing is, even other theater-type events have the elements that I hate most: cell phones are annoying enough, but it's the constant coughing that pisses me off most, and it's everywhere--literary lectures, operas, symphony, etc. Or in the case of last night's opera, a hippie woman next to us who reeked of cigarettes, farted a lot, kept opening her sparkling water that she must have shook up every time "phhsshhhtt!" and the crinkling of some type of cough drop or candy wrapper.

    • jwz says:

      I only go to movies on non-holiday weekdays at 2pm, so I usually have the room to myself. But lately, even that hardly seems worth it. The screens are better than what I have at home, but that fails to polish these turds.

    • taffer says:

      For some reason, The Movie Industry can't fathom why people don't go to movie theatres as much anymore.

      Even with my shitty SD TV and complete lack of 5.1 anything, I'd rather sit on my couch and watch a movie than put up with the idiots/price/etc. in the theatre.

      My kid's going to drag us to Alvin and the Chipmunks. Might bring my iPod and listen to books while quietly weeping to myself.

  2. I had missed The Man From Earth and Waitress. Will correct.

    • jesus_x says:

      "The Man From Earth" is an amazing movie. It's all talk, and riveting. Truly an awesome film. Watch it with the commentaries too, it's like seeing it for the first time again and the two hours seems like 20 minutes.

  3. harryh says:

    I am moderately surprised at the Yayness of Waitress. I really don't know anything about the movie other than what I saw in a preview, but I never would have guessed it was good.

  4. gwillen says:

    Children of Men

    An amazing movie, which I never would have seen (had never even heard of), except that I was on a long, boring plane ride with a little interactive screen, and I hadn't heard of any of the _other_ movies, either.

  5. thargol says:

    I haven't yet seen "Children of men", but I've heard it's good. A friend of mine bought a Land Rover that was used in the film. It's all spiky, and looks like it's come straight from Mad Max II, which is cool (and generally suits her, too).

    I tend to agree that 2007 has sucked for movies, much like 2006 and 2005 before it. I've avoided seeing "The golden compass", on the grounds that the books were great, and the trailers make the CG animals look crap. Seems I'm not the only one to feel that way.

    On the other hand, I loved "Stardust", which is odd, given that I'm generally not a big fan of Gaiman's work.

    • I just read the first "His Dark Materials" book, and thought it was just average fantasy crap. Poor writing, unbelievable characters you don't give a damn about, and the plot just isn't interesting enough for me to want to read the next two, or see the movie.

      So thanks to JWZ for the review on that, it just confirms what I already thought.

    • ilcylic says:

      Any chance I could convince you to take lots and lots of pictures of that?

  6. matt_od says:

    yays from me include:

    children of men
    knocked up
    black snake moan
    there will be blood
    american gangster

  7. bitwise says:

    Shoot 'Em Up was the only time I've ever thought to myself during a movie, "I bet this would make a really good video game."

  8. bramcohen says:

    I cross-referenced your reviews with the sum-total-of-all-reviewers reviews on rottentomatoes, and it comes out like this:

    Yay: 92, n/a, 89, 66, 97, 90, 89
    Ehhh: 95, 93, 80, 25, 84, 22
    Grrr: 71, 96, 8, 45, 75, 75, 78, 69, 67, 60, 44, 35

    If you had checked rottentomatoes before any of your movie outings and set a threshold of 79, it would have knocked out only two in your 'yay' category and only two in your 'ehhh' category, but all but one in your 'grrr' category. Maybe you should use that as a first pass filter in the upcoming year.

    (A threshold of 85 would knock out more in your ehhh category and leave everything else alone, you could use that if your ehhh category is more dislike than like.)

    • variable_z says:

      ...do you really not have anything better to do?

    • jwz says:

      I do look at Rotten Tomatoes occasionally, and in fact, I remember that the day I saw The Mist, I chose that over Hitman because The Mist had 89% and Hitman had 11%. This was at least five days after they came out. Today they are 69% and 14%, which suggests that those numbers bounce around.

      • bramcohen says:

        I think rotten tomatoes reviews follow fairly predictable patterns of statistical significance as the number of reviews increases, so they get decent at a couple hundred and quite accurate (or at least consistent) at a couple thousand, but are mostly noise at a few dozen.

        A comparison of 89 vs. 11 shows a huge difference with even a small sample size though.

    • bramcohen says:

      To clarify, I assume that the n/a (the man from earth, because it hardly has any professional reviews) was a knock-out, because it's consistent and to give the handicap to this method, because I'm guessing you think I'm a giant dork for thinking of having rottentomatoes threshold as a movie filter, and wish to demonstrate that the method has some merit.

  9. ichicolco says:

    Children of Men. Saw this because everyone says it's awesome. Painfully bad movie. Thank god I didn't pay for it. Grrr.

    Bourne Ultimatum. Prior two flicks didn't matter. It's all about Jason beating up people. Not many American movies know how to film a fight scene these days. I rate it in the yay group.

    Stardust. Best movie I've seen in a long long time. On par with Princess Bride. Double-Yay.


  10. ydna says:

    "superfluous exposition" might be redundant.

  11. jhf says:

    Your reviews continue to be appreciated here in Ohio, where anything other than the latest threequel is likely to show only in theatres whose only criteria for showing a thing is "no one much watches it here". That sort of thing seems to go either way, with no middle ground.

  12. dr_memory says:

    Ah, Children of Men. If only they'd put as much effort into the script as they did the steadicam shots.

  13. cattycritic says:

    You at least somewhat liked over half of the movies you listed. Did the sucky ones more than make up for these?

    Also I've started going to the first Sunday morning showing which is usually between 10am and 11am (nearer to 11am); Still plenty of time to sleep late & get breakfast. It's only $6.25, the theatre is nearly empty, and so my annoyance at paying for crap and dealing with rude idiots (chair kickers, screaming kids, drink slurpers, wrapper rustlers, phone yakkers) is far less likely.

    Re: Southland Tales - movies like this are what feed my conviction that because there are over 300 million suckers in the US to choose from, studios can make any piece of crap they want and they will likely at least recover their expenses from ticket sales.

  14. fa_jing says:

    How do you do popcorn better than theaters?

  15. mark242 says:

    I watched a tivo'd Return of the Jedi in HD tonight. Say what you want about the Ewoks, after seeing the Death Star in 1080i, and rewinding to see Harrison Ford shoot a storm trooper in the eye, what's the point of going to the theater anymore?

    Transformers: Yay. Simpsons: Ehh. Ratatouille: 200% Yay (people look at me funny when I say that's the bext Pixar film since Toy Story). Children of Men: 99% Yay.

    • deeptape says:

      Ratatouille: 200% Yay

      Agreed. It's amazing. Just watched it again on iTunes, easily worth the $12 to download on demand and watch repeatedly.

  16. fayanora says:

    *Stabs you with a butter-knife for your poor movie taste*

  17. taiganaut says:

    I was disappointed by The Mist, and for the record, that ending WAS NOT in the short story. Ugh.

  18. jkow says:

    300 is one of the movies you have to see a second time to catch it in the right mood. Tiger & Dragon was like that for me, too. I hated it the first time because I expected something else and complained about the unrealistic anti-gravity tree jumping, house walking and flying. I loved it after watching it twice. Same with 300. To enjoy it you have to activate your who-cares-about-plot watching mode. With that on you'll have fun with it. Also I'd suggest watching it in HD.

  19. There's a category of movie that's designed to appeal to movie critics who are frustrated English majors-- Pan's Labyrinth, Sideways, and now, Atonement are all in that category. They range, for me, from eh, to not bad.

    • 205guy says:

      I didn't see that jwz had it in the nays. I have a somewhat fascination with the Spanish civil war, so I did care about (and dare I say understand) the characters. Tying the cognitive dissonance of war to the surreality of an occult dream world was enough to interest me. Sure there was lots of stereotyping, but way less than a US flick, and it fed the story I cared about without distracting too much.

      I think this just shows how hard it is to please everyone. As others have pointed out, even your mood on a certain day can affect your approach to any movie. My cultural background is European, so I tend to hang out at the indie theatres. That doesn't mean I like all indie and foreign films, but when I don't like them, they don't irritate me the way US films do.

  20. defenestr8r says:

    i feel like you and i saw more movies in the last calendar year than i see on here, but clearly they weren't memorable enough for me to come up with their titles.

    there must have been at least one that was so bad we drank in the theater.... wait! what about the dragon thing. wasn't that in 2007?

    • ultranurd says:

      Eragon? The 100% generic fantasy coming-of-age story (orphan boy discovers he has great power and destiny, falls in love with the princess, all while defeating the armies of a tyrant thanks to the noble sacrifice of his aged mentor)? That was fall 2006.

  21. stu_hacking says:

    I mostly agree... however, I do love the Dark Materials books so I'm a little disappointed to see GC in the bad section. It's only out here and I believe I'm going to see it on the 22nd.

    300 had too much politics, not enough fighting; Pan's Labyrinth had too much politics not enough fantasy; I didn't quite know what to make of Stardust other than I generally didn't like it.

  22. neontotem says:

    Beowulf did not appeal to me during the advertising onslaught. A friend recommended the IMAX 3D experience, saying it was the only way to see it. He was right. Very well executed 3D eye candy.

    • jwz says:

      I'm pretty sure there's not enough alcohol in the world to make me sit through two hours of CGI that bad.

      • arakyd says:

        I found it cool enough to sit through twice (just for the dragon scene, which is fucking awesome). It also helps that the story doesn't suck too badly (and that I hadn't seen a movie in 3D before).

  23. susannag says:

    I don't think I've been to a movie theater this year. When I consider most of the movies that have been released this year, I don't think I've been missing much.

  24. echomrg says:

    Man, it's not like you can go to see a movie with Dwayne "the rock" Johnson and Sarah Michelle "Buffy" Gellar in the cast and then complain for the money! ;)


  25. spendocrat says:

    Some great lines, visuals, acting there. I think I get what they were going for with the ending, but unsatisfying as you noted.

    I might see it a second time.

  26. zapevaj says:

    Because we're all getting paid. Yes, there were several hundred people involved in the production, and many of them probably did say, "Wow, this script sucks!" But seriously, what kind of idiot is going to stand up and say, "HOLD THE WORK! Everyone, turn your union-rate paychecks back in! Forgo a month of steady work! This film won't be any good!"

    I mean, I'm not defending the film or anything. Just sayin'.

    • jwz says:

      You know, shocking as this may seem, when I said "anyone", I didn't mean... like... cable-monkeys. I meant... like... investors. I'm guessing you weren't invited to the dailies.

      • zapevaj says:

        Yeah, but all it really takes is that the few people at the very top care how much money a film will make. Everyone else- sometimes even the director- could just be working for the weekend.

        • jwz says:

          It didn't feel like a "paycheck" movie, though. It felt like some number of people with money thought it would be a good idea to let the writer/director jerk off directly on to thousands of feet of film and put all of them on the screen.

          It seems like dozens, possibly hundreds, of nominally responsible people needed to be seriously high for months in order to let things go as wrong as they did.

          • zapevaj says:

            dozens, possibly hundreds, of nominally responsible people needed to be seriously high for months

            That image is hilarious, and I desperately want it to be true.

            And, see, writer/director. That eliminates one more person who could have thrown bricks about all the bad ideas happening. Movies are like genocides: all you need are a couple of delusional power-brokers, and enough regular people with incentive to work for them.

            • jwz says:

              Generally writer/director is a good sign, though...

              Maybe I'm just a fascist at heart.

              • zapevaj says:

                You do? I tend to view it as a bad sign. I think that, in general, people need people to tell them "no". I am very much over auteurism- not auteurs themselves, just it as a concept and method of filmmaking.

                I think you are a fascist at heart. A small business owner is possibly the closest legally allowable vocation to "fascist head of state".

                • jwz says:

                  Well, there's a happy medium somewhere between "auteur" and "driven by test audiences", and I tend to think it's closer to the former. None of us is as dumb as all of us." My card does say "benevolent dictator", but I do like to think that the emphasis is on the former word.

                  • zapevaj says:

                    I agree with you, on the proper half of the continuum to inhabit. However, popular consciousness glorifies auteurs the same way people glorify 80's music: by remembering the good and forgetting the bad. Yes, Jarmusch, Lynch, Truffaut, Fellini, etc are all great filmmakers. But for every idiosyncratic genius, there's a hundred overconfident hacks who think that "if you don't like it, you don't get it".

                    This is why Tarantino's films have been not worth watching in the last ten years: he's a golden child, so people will give him money to do whatever he wants, because no matter what he does, it's just so essentially Tarantino. Even if, you know, it's awful.