As many people in critical circles have already mentioned, 2007 was a stellar year at the movies, and I could not agree more.

As I noted when I made my list of the Ten Best Films of 2006, I find myself saying, once again, that I saw more four-star entertainments this year than any other previous one since becoming a critic.  What does this mean exactly?  Have I gone critically soft and have become more easy-minded?  Or, have the quality of films released this year been noticeably higher than in previous years?

I think it leans a bit more to the latter.  Like every other year that I make these lists, for every grand movie that came out in the year their was at least one or two decidedly wretched films that arose in their wake.  I also saw more films in 2007 than I have in any other year (this was clearly my most prolific period as a critic).  This obviously meant that my exposure to films - both great and not-so-great - was more expansive.  This precludes the end result of having more glowing and, contrastingly, more scathing reviews.  With more exposure, the chances of me seeing films that were both inspiring and negligible seems fairly apparent.

As I do with all other Best Lists of the past, I try to avoid pleasing anyone else but yours truly.  The largest critical sin that any reviewer can make is being faithful to a reader base or to contemporary filmgoer tastes and prejudices.  That is the height of being disingenuous to your own opinions.  I despise when people label my picks as lacking objectivitySubjectivity is the name of the game here, folks.  These picks are deeply personal and, ultimately, are mine.  Certainly, you can question their validity being here, but you canít undermine that they are films that I personally responded to and thought were worthy of huge kudos.

A few more things about this list.  First, I keep finding it very challenging to par it down to a Top Ten as just about every film critic out there attempts, so I go against the grain by going further and instead compile a TOP 25 for the year.  Clearly, emphasis is placed on the Ten Best Films, but with so many other worthwhile and notable films that come out every year, I oftentimes feel that I overlook praising some truly wonderful films that didnít quite make the Ten Best, but were nevertheless among the yearís best.  Having a Top 25 also alleviates reader concerns that I have snubbed certain films that they may or may not feel I have forgotten.

Secondly, I go for variety in these lists.  Nothing is more teeth-grating to see than a Top Ten that is predominantly made up of one genre (I saw one the other day that was largely sci-fi and horror).  My list is designed to be as eclectic as possible.  I have selections from independent film scene, to major studio big budget blockbusters, to true-to-life police procedurals, to crime thrillers, and to the realms of watershed computer animation.  Furthermore, I pride myself on having a decent attention span.  Too often Academy voters are lambasted for not having one when issuing out Oscar ballots, so when I make these lists I sincerely attempt to place films that came out earlier in the year on them, that is if they deserve such merit, of course.  After all, this is a Best List of the entire year, not the last few months.

Academy: make a note of that, please.

Okay, enough arrogant grandstanding on my part. Here are my...

 

 
     
 

1.   JUNO

 
 

This film could have been a methodically predictable and routine TV movie of the week.  It concerns a teenage girl that becomes reluctantly pregnant and subsequently decides that she wishes to search for a couple that wants to adopt her child.  JUNO defies all odds and expectations by being one of the most perfectly executed dramadies in many a moon.  What it does - and does so efficiently - is to take its somewhat bare bones premise and embody it with heart, soul, and a considerable amount of funny banter (the script is credited to Diablo Cody, a former stripper, turned screenwriter) who is able to forge such a calculating and fresh manner for her characters to speak.  The dialogue here is fresh, vibrant, colorful, and acerbic and it allows all of the characters to shine.  

Perhaps the largest accolades should be the director, Jason Reitman (THANK-YOU FOR SMOKING) who keeps his direction low key and simple and allows the actors to flex their muscles with tricky and thankless performances.  Reitman and Cody manage to make all characters have weight (the teens are prominent, but the adults that populate their world have three dimensionality and weight, which most other genre films donít allow).  At the heart of it all is the wonderful Ellen Page - a shoe-in for a much deserved Oscar nomination - who demonstrates here (as she did with 2006's HARD CANDY, which made my TEN BEST OF 2006) is that she is able to give so much vitality, spunk, intelligence, naivetť, and vulnerability to 2007's most loveable and well realized characters.  People may hastily question JUNOís placement at the top of the heap; I see no need to question.  Mixing laughter and pathos is, in my opinion, among the hardest combinations for any filmmaker to pull off competently.  JUNO demonstrates this coalition with pitch-perfect fluency.  This is a work to be embraced.

 

2.   NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

 

It could be very rightfully said that the Coen Brothers - Ethan and Joel - peaked with their landmark 1996's Oscar-nominated film, FARGO.  That film kind of achieved the astounding in the way it managed to find comedy amidst all of its depravity and cynicism.  Like their early films, like BLOOD SIMPLE, FARGO had the brothers' esoteric fingerprints all over it.  Now comes their NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which emerges as a bridging work between the magnificence they achieved with BLOOD SIMPLE and FARGO.  

The last few years the Coens seem to focus more on light, screwball farces, which were nice diversions,  but NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN reassures fans of the strength of their quirky and stylistic trappings and a return to darker, more macabre territory for the duo.  This is a bleak, desolate, and epic western crime thriller that is creepy, atmospheric, and more tense than any other film from 2007.  The film also eclipses FARGO in the way it digs deeper for dark laughs, but its most impressive accomplishment is the way it mixes genres so intuitively into one unique whole.  It's also is a textbook exercise in generating Hitchcockian tension and intrigue, not to mention that is has the great Javier Bardem, who plays one of the most ruthless, quiet spoken and exhilarating screen villains since Anthony Hopkins first played Hannibal Lector.  With acerbic chuckles aplenty, suspense that only the Coens can envision, and a story thatís awash in moral ambiguity, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD men shows how to make a film that perfectly makes sharp transitions through a variety of diverse genres, and the Coens do it all in one concise and supremely confident stroke.  And as for the polarizing ending? Stark and far too jolting for some, but it categorically reinforces the filmís sense of ethical and moral chaos.  Having a clean cut ending that seamlessly concluded all story threads would have undermined the tone of the film.

 
 

3.   ZODIAC

 
 

ZODIAC is David Fincherís finest hour, which is high praise considering his stellar career that has seen such tense police crime thrillers like SEVEN and atmospheric works like the gritty and nihilistic FIGHT CLUB.  What ZODIAC does - and does so effortlessly - is showcase the director of one of vision and considerable skill.  The film is nearly three hours long, but the whole enterprise is so hypnotically intoxicating and fascinating that it never dwells on its running time.  This is a sprawling, lavishly produced, and brilliantly told narrative of the investigation into one of the greatest unsolved murder mysteries of the 20th century.  At the helm is Fincher, and only a filmmaker of tremendous abilities could have pulled off such a dominating work that mixes fantastic period design, intense and sharp characters, and an entrancing story that spans four decades into the painstaking and trouble investigation into the Zodiac killings.  What should also be noted is that the film does such a virtuoso job of creating an underlining sensation of dread and tension, which is difficult considering that we all know, up front, that the film will never spell out exactly who the killer really was, but it does drop some hints along the way.  

As with all films about investigative journalism, like ALL THE PRESIDENTíS MEN, ZODIAC is instantly gripping, ambitious, and intricately scripted.  This is a film that stays with you, and Fincher can now take top honors for dominating the crime thriller, just as Eastwood has dominated the Western, Scorsese the gangster film, and Lucas the Fantasy.

 
 

4.   BEOWULF

 
 

Audiences either loved or hated Robert Zemeckisí BEOWULF, but it's so incredibly difficult not to appreciate this film as an awesome force of audacious, astonishing, and tour-de-force CG animation.  Yes, there have been other films that have utilized the same sort of computer technology to realize their respective stories (FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN and Zemeckisí own watershed work, THE POLAR EXPRESS), but BEOWULF stands robustly and proudly ahead of these films for the way it takes a quantum leap in the arena of realistic CG animation that breathes with an astounding level of verisimilitude.  Of course, the human animation still does not look 100 per cent real, but the naysayers and nitpickers miss the point of the usage of this technology altogether: Zemeckis never makes any apologies for this filmís artifice.  It aims to tell a fantastical, centuries-old tale through fantastical means, and BEOWULF looks towards cutting edge and state of the art computer graphics and does not feebly use them, but rather commands and channels them.  The end result is something that does not profess to be real, per se, but works as an out-of-body spectacle and bombastic bit of escapism.  

While watching BEOWULF, I canít see how any filmgoer would not stare at the screen with equal parts astonishment, wonder, and excitement.  The film achieves a level of ethereal beauty and power with its imagery that deserves worthy praise alongside STAR WARS for the way it transports you.  This film is to be experienced, not passively watched.  And for that, BEOWULF is a miraculous and marvelously realized entertainment.

 
 

5.   MICHAEL CLAYTON

 
 

MICHAEL CLAYTON marks the incredible directorial debut of Tony Gilroy, who previously worked in the industry authoring scripts for films like the JASON BOURNE trilogy.  What he does with CLAYTON is a very difficult task for a novice: He crafts a neo-1970's political legal thriller right down to all of its subtle details.  We have conflicted characters, ethical uncertainty that permeates the storyline, and a level of paranoia and ambivalence that haunts its characters.  The central arc of the film is that it dives headfirst into a world unease and desperation, where the title character (played by George Clooney, in his least glamorous - and perhaps finest - performance) is a "janitor" for a major law firm that needs "messes" cleaned up under the radar.  The intrinsically alluring aspect of the film is how this somewhat amoral figure sees his entire world collapse around him and shows how unscrupulous people find it within themselves to defend the indefensible.  As a searing portrait of corporate malfeasance, legal wrongdoing and an uncommonly smart thriller, MICHAEL CLAYTON is a film that slowly and methodically simmers to reach dramatic climax that other lackluster efforts would not have the patience for.   And Clooney shows how underplaying a part is often more effective.

 
 

6.   AMERICAN GANGSTER

 
 

Ridley Scott has had a stellar and respected career, making films of such divergent subject matters spanning the likes of ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER, GLADIATOR, MATCHSTICK MEN, BLACK HAWK DOWN, and A GOOD YEAR.  Now Scott can take claim to effectively and confidently jumping into the genre of the gangster epic, and his bold and scrawling crime masterpiece, AMERICAN GANGSTER, is a 159 minute long homage to the best gangster films of yesteryear, and one that deserves legitimate comparisons to GOODFELLAS, SCARFACE, and THE GODFATHER.  

The one aspect that separates it from those other watershed works is in its remarkably unilateral and democratic focus on its characters.  We have the true life story of police officer (Russell Crowe, as assured as ever) rising up the ranks to stop the drug empire of Frank Lucas (played with intensity and vigor by Denzel Washington), but whatís so enticing about the material is how writer Steven Zaillian (completely redeeming himself for the debacle that was ALL THE KINGíS MEN) manages to paint both characters in equally commendable and scornful strokes.  Lucas was a drug Czar that destroyed lives with the product that he sold, but he was inspiring in the way he used a ruthless business sense and strong moral fiber to climb a crime ladder usually reserved for white mafiosos (not only that, but he single-handedly help funnel back his drug money into the destitute streets of Harlem).  Croweís cop is commendable for his unnerving efforts to stop this criminal - and his willingness to not "go on the take" - but he is also disreputable for the choices he makes in his personal life.  Itís this character dynamic that makes AMERICAN GANGSTER a strong and invigorating crime film, and itís the intelligence and seduction of the material that makes this film stand up.  No more is this evident in a climatic scene when both Washington and Crowe square off, which creates that same level of indescribable intrigue and tension that a similar scene between Pacino and De Niro had in Michael Mannís HEAT.

 
 

7.   BLACK SNAKE MOAN

 
 

BLACK SNAKE MOAN has one of the more peculiar and twisted premises of any film from 2007.  Craig Brewerís follow-up to his well received HUSTLE AND FLOW chronicles the budding relationship between an aging blues guitarist - who has recently found God (played by Sam Jackson, one of his best performances) - and a down-on-her-luck young girl (Christina Ricci, giving the most thankless and spirited performance of the year).  She was mercilessly beaten and left for dead and he saves her and treats her wounds, but when he discovers that she is a raging nymphomaniac that is morbidly obsessed with sex, he gets a forty pound chain, ties it around her waist, and ties the other end to a heat register in an effort to exorcise her demented proclivities...the hard way.  BLACK SNAKE MOAN could have easily degenerated into an unwholesome and remarkably sleazy B-grade exploitation film, but Brewer is able to balance the filmís shlock elements with a fairly touching and noble story about how one lonely and depressed man can redeem himself by redeeming another tragically flawed person.  

The film ultimately becomes a searing drama about how two marginalized and misunderstood individuals grow to mutually respect, understand, and love one another.  The film is shocking and jolting at first, and seems to initially throw political correctedness out the window, but the longer you stay with the film the easier it becomes to see it as a small, absurdist masterpiece that overcomes its luridness by being something soulful and oddly endearing.  And Jackson and Ricci - especially the latter - epitomize audacity, bravery, and a willingness to go anywhere with their characters.

 
 

8.   LARS AND THE REAL GIRL

 
 

Cynical ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY critics be damned!  They voted LARS AND THE REAL GIRL as one of their WORST FILMS of 2007.  For shame.  Maybe its weirdness perplexed them too much, but the film is a rousing success for how it undeniably demonstrates how to properly handle material that - if in weaker hands - could have developed into something unrelentingly stupid and puerile.  

It contains a premise that could have been appropriated for another monumentally dumb and childish Adam Sander slapstick fest.  Instead, director Craig Gillespie and writer Nancy Oliver achieve the seemingly impossible by making you invest and care about the characters and underlining story in the film.  LARS AND THE REAL GIRL deals with a painfully shy and socially stunted young man (played in a delicately underplayed performance of astonishing power and emotion by the great Ryan Gosling, taking claim to being one of the best actors working today) and how he purchases a life sized, vinyl sex doll off of the Internet (no...seriously), which becomes his new best friend.  Lars canít seem to disassociate the doll from fantasy; he sees and treats her like a real woman, and the surprising aspect about the film is how it avoids all easy pratfalls and sick jokes that could have been added to this premise.  Alternatively, in pure Capraesque fashion, the townspeople come to Larsí aid and also treat the doll as if a real person, urged on by the town doctor in hopes of not indirectly destroying Larsí chance of developing normal and meaningful relationships with real people in the process.  The film that results is emotionally strong and captivating and becomes a parable about the humility and kind-heartedness of community living, not to mention a intricate investigation into chronic loneliness and despair.  This film  impeccably shows how sharp writing, a towering lead performance, a the right comedic and dramatic tone can completely overcome the sheer ludicrousness of its premise.

 
 

9.   GONE BABY GONE

 
 

GONE BABY GONE is a major triumph and accomplishment for first time director Ben Affleck, who demonstrates a supreme assuredness and command over the material first presented by novelist Dennis Lehane (Affleck's self-anointed favourite writer, whom also penned the book for which MYSTIC RIVER was based on).  Much like Martin Scorsese has mastered the look and tone of New York street life, Affleck and co-writer Aaron Stockard have displayed how intuitively they know every nook and cranny of their Bostonian existence; they make Beantown a city that is harsh, gritty, and foreboding (right out of a film noir), but they also encapsulate it as a place that is rich with character and history.  Framed around the wonderfully realistic vistas of the city that are show in a pseudo- documentary style, they also capture the essence and heart of Lehaneís incredibly intoxicating and thematically complex story of a private eye (played in 2007's breakout performance by Casey Affleck, Benís younger sibling) that finds himself engaged in murder mystery that erupts into a morally troublesome parable about child endangerment and neglect.  

At its core, the film does contain the stylistic trappings of its genre, but it feels more enticing when it focuses on the always difficult line between whatís right and wrong.  As a unflinching character study, an absorbing who-dunnit, a parable of ethics gone amok, and an atmospheric film dripping with seedy details, Affleckís GONE BABY GONE can easily elevate him up there with the directorial elite, which is amazing considering that this is a rookie effort for him.

 
 

10. 300

 
 

300 is a blood soaked, adrenaline-induced, hallucinogenic action spectacle that parades around as a Herculean tribute to rugged masculinity and gutsy male bravado.  Based on the gorgeously illustrated graphic novels by Frank Miller, director Zach Snyder (DAWN OF THE DEAD and the upcoming WATCHMEN) manages to do an incredible job of adapting the flamboyant and stylized comic panels of the source material, utilizing many of the same visual effects techniques that were employed in another previous film adapting Millerís work, SIN CITY (which made my list of the TEN BEST from 2005).  

I remember reading the novels back in the late 1990's and was taken in by their forcefulness, vividness, and haunting - almost surrealistic - beauty.  Snyder, if anything, has perfectly captured the spirit and tone of the novels and, most crucially, he avoids the obvious trap of trying to engage in a historically faithful approximation of the real events that 300 depicts.  Instead, the film works more as a powerful out-of-body experience and an epic and violent bit of escapism.  This film is not about realism: its about a finding that hyper-stylized and expressionistic portal where comic books and the language and syntax of films intertwine.  Yes, 300 is 10 per cent story and 90 per cent wall-to-wall animalistic gore and wanton mayhem.  Yet, the film never professes to be anything more than a great, sweat-pouring, sword-swinging, testosterone charged homage to guts and perseverance (its hero is played by Gerald Butler in what has to be the yearís best performance of a scenery chewing, one man slaughterhouse).  The film leaves viewers exhausted by its sheer spectacle, but by the end you leave the theatre realizing how infectious the whole artifice and energy of the film is.  Brimming to the hilt with sound and fury, 300 is 2007's clear-cut standout in the action arena.

 
  ...and now to round off my BEST FILMS OF 2007 with my selections from 11-25:  
  11.  RATATOUILLE: Brad Bird continues his hot streak with this sublime Pixar animated feature that has a smart sophistication working within its cuteness.

12.  THE KING OF KONG: A FISTFUL OF QUARTERS: <  Unforgettably arresting and involving documentary about - among all things - two grown men that battle one another to be the World Record holder for most points in...Donkey Kong.  This one easily transcends it very peculiar premise and becomes something more substantial in the process.  [< added July 12, 2008]

13.  THE HOAX:  Richard Gere gives 2007's most under-appreciated performance in this fascinating true story of the enormously bogus Howard Hughes biographer, Clifford Irving.

14.  BREACH : Chris Cooper gives 2007's second most under-appreciated performance in this equally compelling true story about one of the biggest breaches of American security in its history.

15.  HAIRSPRAY: This remake of a remake (based on the hit Broadway musical that was, in turn, remade from the 1988 John Waters film) was the best, pure musical of the year; spirited, sassy, and a joy to sit through.

16.  KNOCKED UP Judd Apatow can now take top billing as the finest director working in American comedies, and 'KNOCKED UP' was one of 2007's finest, effortlessly mixing raunch and sentiment.

17.  BRIDGE TO TERABITHIANot at all as advertised, this was a wondrous family entertainment with surprising performances and and a heartfelt screenplay; never received the critical - or audience respect - it rightfully deserved.

18.  TALK TO MEDon Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofer arguably give the best tandem performance of the year in this incredible true story of the life of Washington radio jockey Petey Greene.

19.  THE KINGDOM: Peter Berg's woefully overlooked post-911 action film filled with fantastic action set pieces and topical and relevant themes.

20.  A MIGHTY HEART: Angelina Jolie gives one of the finest performances of her career in this tragic, yet uplifting, true story of Mariane Pearl, whose husband was a victim of a post-911 kidnapping.

21.  RESCUE DAWN: Christian Bale, Steve Zhan, and Jeremy Davis all deserve Oscar recognition for their remarkable performances in Werner Herzog's inspired and atmospheric Vietnam POW film.

22.  ATONEMENT: Mesmerizing and heart-breaking adaptation of Ian McEwan's universally celebrated novel; the four minute-plus tracking shot of the beaches of war-torn Dunkirk - all done without cuts - is one of the great moments of the cinema.

23.  CHARLIE WILSON'S WARAt 76-years-old, director Mike Nichols still has tricks up his sleeve and shows how to take command of this film's delicate mixture of being a political satire, a comedy, and a sobering, cautionary tale.

24.  THE LOOKOUT: An intriguing and tense screenplay and very strong performances by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels highlight Scott Frank's auspicious and impressive directorial debut.

25.  THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM: The best of the already fantastic JASON BOURNE Trilogy offers up fine performances, relentlessly placed action and suspense, and the more-than-competent directorial eye of Paul Greengrass.

 
  Beyond my TOP 25, here's a further selection of films that are definitely worth seeing, but just not quite great enough to make the final cut:  
 

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE: Julie Taymor's lavish, opulent, and stylish ode to the music catalogue of The Beatles.

ALPHA DOG:  Nick Cassavates forceful look at teen angst and unwholesomeness; watch for a brief cameo by Sharon Stone, who gives her strongest performance of her career in a short scene.

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORDOne of the most beautifully photographed westerns in years that demystifies the legend of Jesse James and the man who killed him; Casey Affleck - along with his work in GONE BABY GONE - solidifies him as 2007's break-out star.

BEE MOVIE: Jerry Seinfeld's first film role has him playing a bee, but this animated film has the comedian's sharp, acerbic wit all over it.

CATCH AND RELEASE: Sweet, good-natured, and well acted romantic dramady with a perfect tone that does not go out of its way for hearty laughs nor distressing sentimentality.

DAN IN REAL LIFE: Steve Carell is in fine form here in a very predicable and routine, but sincere and frequently touching dramady.

DISTURBIA: Avoid the loud, overbearing, and bombastic TRANSFORMERS and instead watch this Shia Labeuff starring thriller, which works as a nifty and spirited update of Hitchcock's REAR WINDOW.

EASTERN PROMISES: Viggo Mortensen is memorable - as is his infamous nude bath house brawl that highlights the film - in David Cronenberg's intoxicating and well crafted mob thriller.

THE EX: A bawdy and frequently politically incorrect comedy of manners that shows off Zac Braff's naturally smirky charisma and Jason Bateman's brilliant dead panned delivery.

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER: Better than the first entry, this super hero sequel is exciting, action packed, and never tries to be anything more than a mild comic book romp.

FRACTURETerrifically underrated legal thriller punctuated by great performances by Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling; not the SILENCE OF THE LAMBS clone with Hannibal Lector rip-off character that many inaccurately perceived.

GRINDHOUSE - PLANET TERROR: This was the first of the double feature that was a grand homage to the sleazy and low-grade exploitation, drive-in films of the past, and it got those films' sensibilities down the best of the two.

THE HEARTBREAK KIDFar from being their best effort, this Farrelly Brother remake of the 1972 comedy dependably shows off their penchant for matching sweetness with obscene guffaws.

HOT FUZZ:  Painfully funny and smart send up of really bad cop-buddy action films, from the makers and stars of the equally droll SHAUN OF THE DEAD.

 

HOT ROD: Underrated comedy featuring SNL's Andy Samberg that's peculiar, oddball, and goofy;  the film's send-up of a famous montage from FOOTLOOSE is an unmitigated  hoot.

 

I AM LEGEND: Surprisingly tense and atmospheric sci-fi post-apocalyptic thriller that is benefited by great visuals, patient direction, and a thanklessly strong lead performance by Will Smith.

 

INTO THE WILDSean Penn's wildly ambitious biopic of Chris MacCandless; it has a bit too much sermonizing and needless hero worship of the flawed main character, but the film is brilliantly acted and impeccably shot.

 

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAHPaul Haggis' post-911 police procedural hammers home its message with too much obviousness, but its crime mystery is intriguing and Tommy Lee Jones is masterful here.

 

THE INVASION:  Despite its problematic production history, this remake of one of the most remade sci-fi thrillers ever fosters genuine creepiness and works - as its predecessors did - as a parable of our time.

 

LIONS FOR LAMBSRobert Redford's seventh film as a director has smooth and slick performances, crafty dialogue, and raises and deals with hot button issues that matter.

 

LUCKY YOUHorribly overlooked Curtis Hanson family drama about Texas Hold 'Em hustlers in Las Vegas; solidly captivating and keenly observant.

 

MR. BEAN'S HOLIDAYNot a hysterical laugh riot, but this second big screen adventure of the UK's MR. BEAN made me smile a lot; Rowan Atkinson's timing and  comic talent is always inspired.

 

MUSIC AND LYRICSOne of the best romantic comedies of the year that gives Hugh Grant tons of breathing room to dish out that hilarious level of low key, self-deprecating humor that he does better than just about anyone.

 

PAYBACK: STRAIGHT UP - THE DIRECTOR'S CUTThe long awaited version of Brian Helgeland's urban action film, now much more gritty, lean and mean, and entertaining.

 

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S ENDThe finest of the three PIRATES films, with rousing swashbuckling action and astounding visual effects...and Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow remains a giddy treat to behold.

 

SHREK THE THIRD:  Somewhat sluggish, but still droll and engaging third film in the series about everyone's favourite green ogre; jovial, fun, and sarcastic as ever with its material.

 

SICKOOftentimes shocking and sad, but always thoroughly fascinating, Michael Moore documentary about the failures and peculiarities of the American health care system.

 

THE SIMPSONS MOVIE:  This long-in-development big screen version of the small screen animated family is a crafty and edgy laugh riot.

 

SUNSHINE: Very decent sci-fi space thriller with a scary premise, solid performances, and an eerie sense of tension.

 

SUPERBAD: Another home run for Judd Apatow (he produces here), which is  lewd, crude, and bawdy, and I McLoved every minute of it.

 

THERE WILL BE BLOOD: The limitlessly talented Paul Thomas Anderson's loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair's OIL! has impeccable cinematography, contains a raw and vigorous performance by Daniel-Day Lewis, and has fascinating themes, but the underlining story lacks focus.

 

WAITRESSKeri Russell is a beacon of unwavering adorability in this kind- hearted, funny, and sometimes moving romantic dramady.

 

WE OWN THE NIGHT:  Inconsistent, but well acted and directed, crime film that works best as a strong character drama.

 
 

 

 

 
     
 

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