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Saturday, January 12, 2008


At the Meh-vies 2007

Towards the end of December it seemed like every blog and print publication in the country ran a Best Movies of 2007 list. Some of them even tossed in a Worst Movies of 2007 list but what about the films that fell in the middle? The ones that received mediocre reviews and earned themselves "meh"s from audiences and critics alike?

Someone had to come up with a Most Mediocre Movies of 2007 list and I've decided to accept this challenge. Here are the top ten most run-of-the-mill films I saw last year:

10. 3:10 to Yuma – The western genre has been on life support for decades now. Every once in a while a film like Unforgiven or HBO's late-great Deadwood will come along to give it a much needed shot in the arm. 3:10 is more like a gentle nudge. It doesn't aspire to be anything more than a solid, generic western with A-list actors, which is fine. What really drags it down to the level of mediocre is a ludicrous ending that left everyone in the audience I saw it with muttering "what the hell?"

9. Spiderman 3 - On one hand the movie has some great action sequences and a landmark CGI scene depicting Sandman's attempts to pull himself together after falling into a particle accelerator...or whatever that was. On the other there's no less than two scenes featuring Kirsten Dunst's attempts to pull herself through a series of misguided musical numbers. Much like the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, it's overstuffed with characters and subplots but there just isn't enough time for them all. One villain, Venom, gets shafted with a grand total of around five minutes of screen time. All in all, Spiderman 3 is like watching a pretty great four hour superhero half-heartedly edited into a 139-minute mess.

8. Ocean's 13 – I saw this movie last summer and forgot almost everything about it two days later. Everyone else I know who has seen Ocean’s 13 has reported the same thing. We all vaguely recall enjoying the movie but it's almost as if it induces temporary amnesia. The only thing I can tell you about Ocean's 13 several months later is that Al Pacino looked like he was covered in bacon grease and Matt Damon ran around with a prosthetic nose glued to his face. Diamonds and Las Vegas may have also been somehow involved.

7. Knocked Up – If it weren't for Juno, this would be everyone's favorite pro-life comedy of 2007. The one-liners are great but in real life if an ambitious career woman similar to the one played by Katerine Heigl found herself impregnated by a shiftless stoner she'd get an abortion and soon after scrub her lady bits with a combination of Pine Sol and spermicide. In Knocked Up, she decides to marry him and carry the child to term. Her choice to go this route doesn't make much sense and the movie doesn't take the time to explain her actions. Character motivations don't get much more inexplicable. Even Dennis Quaid's decision to hike across 200-miles of frozen tundra in The Day After Tomorrow made more sense.

6. Ghost Rider - There's a line from the similarly-titled Ghost World that goes something like "[this movie] is so bad it's gone past good and back to bad again." I don't think Ghost Rider makes it all the way back to bad but by the credits it lands somewhere south of good. The first half is so unbelievably cheesy and unintentionally hilarious that I had to suppress fits of laughter to avoid getting pummeled by an audience of comic book fans. Unfortunately, the second half loses momentum and turns into a CGI snoozefest preventing Ghost Rider from becoming a crap movie classic.

5. Zodiac - There's a great movie somewhere in Zodiac but it's marred by too many procedural scenes of characters leafing through dusty files and paperwork as their families fall apart around them. The premise: the Zodiac killer didn't just destroy the lives of his victims, he also destroyed the lives of his pursuers. It's grim material and the movie is glamor-free, making it more realistic than your average Hollywood crime drama but ultimately tedious and a bit unbearable. Zodiac is the kind of movie you see once and respect more than you actually enjoy it.

4. The Host - The highest-grossing movie of all time in South Korea but I guess you have to be from there to fully appreciate its dramatic shifts in tone. One minute it's a screwball satire, the next it's a bleak science-fiction metaphor for international politics and the breakdown of family values. Or something like that. The monster sure looks cool though.

3. 28 Weeks Later - Its predecessor was one of the best horror movies released in the last ten years. The sequel starts out strong but quickly falls apart under the weight of a completely contrived premise and huge plot holes involving the world's most clever mindless zombie. Still, there's some great scenes including an eerie bit that follows the main characters on a train ride through a ravaged London filled with corpses and workers in clean suits. And the opening chase scene is fantastic. And that last shot is cool enough to make me hope we'll see a 28 Months Later at some point.

2. The Bourne Ultimatum - I can't think of an action hero in recent cinema history more dull and bland than Jason Bourne. Sure, the character has amnesia but that doesn't excuse his complete lack of charisma. Say what you will about James Bond but at least you know that super spy has some sort of a personality and interests beyond a ruthless pursuit of his adversaries. Maybe the blank-slate Bourne could use a few dry martinis and a BMW. That said, the third installment in the series was completely predictable but the action scenes are neat and the ending kicks ass.

1. Southland Tales - A frantic, coked-up mishmash of politics, War on Terror paranoia, science fiction, drama, satire, Saturday Night Live skits, the Strokes and random '80 sitcoms. The movie is incredibly ambitious and its reach is so far beyond its grasp that the two may as well be sitting on different continents. Southland Tales should be studied in film schools around the world as an example of how a writer-director can get so many things right in a movie and so much else completely wrong. Southland Tales was written off by critics and audiences that didn't have any patience for it but I think it's too damn weird and ballsy to be ignored forever. Here's hoping it becomes some sort of cult classic.


The worst movie I watched in a theater in 2007 - Transformers

The best movie I watched in a theater in 2007 - No Country for Old Men

The dumbest movie I watched in a theater in 2007 - 300

My favorite movie of 2007 even if it isn't the best one I watched in a theater - Sweeny Todd


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