Best movie soundtracks of 2007
Into the Wild—Eddie Vedder captures the devastating beauty of this tragic spiritual journey on a stripped-down album that sounds like it was recorded inside the abandoned Fairbanks City Transit bus where Chris McCandless died.Juno—Just might do for The Moldy Peaches' Kimya Dawson what Garden State did for The Shins, with Belle & Sebastian, Sonic Youth and Velvet Underground thrown in for good measure.
There Will Be Blood—There will be a powerfully haunting soundtrack, thanks to Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood's compositions being executed, so to speak, by the BBC Orchestra and London Sinfonietta.
I'm Not There—It's fitting that a film with six actors playing Bob Dylan would have a soundtrack with more than 20 musicians, um, playing Bob Dylan. 'Course, nobody does Dylan quite like Dylan, but renditions from Stephen Malkmus, Sufjan Stevens, Karen O and Iron & Wine are a close second.—Nathan Dinsdale
The Red Balloon/White Mane: A terrific double-feature of classic children's movies from Janus Films. Hey, if you're of the age where you have children, you might have seen them in elementary school. Our favorite is The Red Balloon, which follows young Pascal and his new friend, a balloon, through the streets of Paris. White Mane, about a boy and his horse, is lovely, too. Opens Dec. 28.
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem: The first Aliens vs. Predator movie was the suckiest suck that ever sucked. But the sequel, which brings the intergalactic battle to determine the deadliest species to a small town in Colorado, ups the violence all the way to 11. Which is exactly what you're hoping for, if you're the sort to go see the sequel to Aliens vs. Predator.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: So, acclaimed American painter Julian Schnabel makes a movie in French about Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor of the French edition of Elle who, following a stroke, can only communicate by blinking his left eyelid. And it's really, really good. Gorgeous to look at and heartbreaking to experience, The Diving Bell gets deep into the psyche of Bauby, who ended up writing his memoirs one letter at a time. The film features an extraordinary performance from Mathieu Amalric as Bauby and earned Schnabel Best Director honors at Cannes.
The Great Debaters: Denzel Washington sits back in the director's chair for a movie that looks like an Oprah episode—and for good reason: the Queen of All Media is on board as a producer. Loosely based on true events, Washington also stars in the picture, playing Melvin Tolson, a Depression-era professor at Texas' black Wiley College who created a debate team that challenged the country's reigning champions. Also starring Forrest Whitaker, The Great Debaters is formulaic and predictable, sure, but also more inspiring than you might expect.
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep: Young Angus (Alex Etel) finds a mysterious egg that hatches into a mysterious creature he names Crusoe. Unable to care for the growing reptile, Angus deposits him in the nearest body of water—Loch Ness. You get the rest.
Charlie Wilson's War: What lazy filmmaking. There's no sign of the Mike Nichols we know and love, Aaron Sorkin's usually crisp dialogue is inane, Julia Roberts sucks and everyone's trying to skate on Tom Hanks' trademark charm. Sure, he's fun as the party-go-lucky congressman who spearheaded funding the Afghani resistance back in the '80s, but Charlie's only saving grace is Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who runs the entire picture from behind the scenes as a veteran covert operator.
The Kite Runner: This is the picture that forced the studio to relocate its two child stars and their families. It's a terrific story, dealing with the childhood friendship of two Afghani boys, Amir and Hassan, and the terrible traumas that tear them apart. Based on the best-selling novel by UCSD grad Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner follows Amir's return to his homeland after the Russians have left and the Taliban have taken over. Serious weeper, sure, but director Marc Forster makes it far more sentimental than it needs to be. National Treasure: Book of Secrets: Nicolas Cage and his band of merry men and hot chicks sort out who's buried in Grant's tomb.
P.S. I Love You: Gerard “This is Sparta!” Butler sheds his abs to leave his widow, Holly (Hillary Swank), a series of posthumous messages that just might help her get on with her life. With Kathy Bates and Lisa Kudrow. Bring a hankie.
The Savages: A terrific movie about being forced to finally grow up. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney are Jon and Wendy Savage, siblings forced to put their nasty, aging father (Phillip Bosco) in a nursing home and come to terms with each other. Superb acting, a fine script and direction from Tamara Jenkins, and an ending that will leave some cool and others inspired.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: Tim Burton teams up once again with Johnny Depp and longtime girlfriend Helena Bonham-Carter to goth up Sondheim's classic musical. Depp is the barber himself, slashing throats left and right and working with his landlady to grind the remains into meat pies, all in the hopes of eventually getting revenge against Alan Rickman. Woe be to anyone who stands in his way, including Sacha Baron Cohen. None of the principals have great singing voices, but the movie looks so good that you might not care.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story: John C. Reilly is dumb-ass country musician Dewey Cox in this parody of music biopics that hits nearly all the right notes. Kristen Wiig and Jenna Fischer are solid choices for his love interests, and the rest of the cast provides decent laughs throughout. From comedy king Judd Apatow and director Jake Kasdan, Dewey Cox contains inspired writing, more than a dozen memorable cameos and, best of all, seriously good music.Youth Without Youth: In his first film in a decade, Francis Ford Coppola has assembled a jumbled, inaccessible take on Mircea Eliade's novella about a lonely, aging academic (Tim Roth) who is struck by lightning in pre-war Romania, emerging from his bandages a middle-aged man with a new lease on life.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Jason Lee is Dave Seville, the man attempting to keep computer-animated Alvin, Simon and Theodore from engaging in their typical wacky chipmunk antics. The bad news: If you have kids, chances are they'll whine until you take 'em to see it. The good news: It's only 90 minutes long.
I Am Legend: The latest take on Richard Matheson's novel turns Will Smith into Robert Neville, a brilliant military scientist who is also the last man in New York City, not counting the untold hordes of vampire-like people who were infected by an errant cure for cancer. Some of the scenes of an empty Big Apple are amazing, but the movie chops out Matheson's dark, nihilistic vision and turns Neville, always an Everyman dealing with extraordinary circumstances, into a superdude with serious pecs. Still, if you've got to spend an hour watching one guy on screen, it might as well be Smith, who's terrific until he finally has company.
Juno: Fizzy and enjoyable, the year's best feel-good film centers, surprisingly, on an unwed pregnant teen. That'd be Juno (Ellen Page), who decides to give her baby to a yuppie couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) and toy with her good friend and the father of her child, Paulie Bleeker (an excellent Michael Cera). With sharp dialogue from stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody and solid direction from Jason Reitman, Juno is a solid, if inoffensive, triumph.
The Perfect Holiday: A romantic comedy with Gabrielle Union, Queen Latifah and Terrence Howard centered on a divorced mom (Union) and her kids' Christmas hopes that she will find a man to make her happy. Former hip-hop video director Lance Rivera takes the reins, but there's no ass-shaking or Cristal-drinking in this one. Starting Out in the Evening: Frank Langella gets the role of his career as Leonard Schiller, an obsolete writer who has toiled on his latest book for a decade. Lauren Ambrose is the grad student determined to reintroduce him to the public, and Lili Taylor is his daughter confronting her own midlife crisis. But the movie is all about Langella and his subtle, heartbreaking performance.
Atonement: Though they've gone out of their way to make Atonement look like a generic period romance, Joe Wright's adaptation of Ian McEwan's shatteringly good novel is crisply directed, gorgeous to look at and terribly well-acted by James McAvoy and Keira Knightley as a star-crossed couple whose future is taken from them when Knightley's younger sister misinterprets something she sees and later turns McAvoy's Robbie in for a crime he did not commit. The buzz has been about the six-minute tracking shot on the war-strewn beaches of Dunkirk, but the real heat is between the two leads.
The Golden Compass: Chris Weitz, one of the dudes behind the American Pie franchise, takes on the first installment of Phillip Pullman's celebrated His Dark Materials trilogy, which has bible-thumpers the world over thumping madly and hoping to prevent Pullman's anti-church leanings from getting out to the public. The source material is terrific, but Weitz's take on this alt.world, in which everyone has their own personal daemon animal, is fairly tepid, even with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig as the adult leads. The movie looks gorgeous, but it's poorly structured and will seem awkward to those unfamiliar with the complex storyline. Still, those armored polar bears are awesome.
Margot at the Wedding: The tenderness found in Noah Baumbach's last film, The Squid and the Whale, just isn't present in Margot. Here, Margot (Nicole Kidman) is attending her sister's (Jennifer Jason Leigh) wedding. Kidman and Jason Leigh are top-notch, but there's so much acid in this family that it's hard to like any of them, even Margot's future bro-in-law, slacker rock dude Malcolm (Jack Black).
Awake: The force must still be strong in Hayden Christensen, because he regains consciousness during brain surgery and overhears his doctors plotting to kill him. Jessica Alba plays Padme in this one—insert your own Darth Vader joke here.
August Rush: Irish guitarist Louis Connelly (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) and American cellist Lyla Novacek (Keri Russell) share an intimate night in New York, spawning a lovechild (Freddy Highmore) who grows up sans parents, becoming a musical prodigy under the tutelage of Max “Wizard” Wallace (soul-patch wearing Robin Williams). He hopes that his songs will reconnect him with his mom and dad, and we hope that Robin Williams is funny this time around.
Enchanted: A deconstructed Disney cartoon, Enchanted, which stars Amy Adams as an animated princess turned to real life on the streets of New York, is far more enchanting than its premise. Grey's Anatomy's McDreamy co-stars, along with Prince Charming James Marsden of X-Men fame.
Hitman: Taken from the successful video game franchise, Hitman manages to be a slow-moving, ponderous film about an genetically modified assassin. It should probably just be rubbed out. I'm Not There: This strange look at the life and times of Bob Dylan might strike you as insane, a masterpiece or both. Todd Haynes directs six different actors, including Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere and Heath Ledger, who all play different sides of The Artist Formerly Known as Robert Zimmerman. Fascinating and non-linear, this is the sort of picture that puts the “art” in art-house. But is it any good? The answer is blowin' in the wind.
This Christmas: Delroy Lindo, Mekhi Phifer, Idris Elba and Regina King star in this romantic comedy about a successful family that gathers to celebrate the holidays only to discover all sorts of dysfunction and tension bubbling beneath the surface. Lovable and light-hearted, or clichéd and corny? You make the call.Beowulf: Here you go—this is what will keep movie theaters going in the future. Not Beowulf, but high-end 3-D affairs that are so visually spectacular that you might be willing to overlook a thin story. In five years, Beowulf won't impress. Right now, in 3-D, it's bleeding-edge cool.
No Country for Old Men: Their first decent film since Fargo, No Country is a Coen Brothers masterpiece and perhaps the best picture of '07. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, the story centers on a good ol' boy (Josh Brolin), an aging county sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones), a unstoppable psychopathic killer (Javier Bardem) and a valise thick with drug money. Tight, taut, challenging and brutal, it just gets better with repeated viewings.
Fred Claus: Paul Giamatti is the fat man in the red suit, and Vince Vaughn is Fred, his misfit older brother whose exploits land him behind bars. St. Nick bails out his bro on the condition that Fred helps out during the Christmas rush. Annoying hilarity, complete with elves, ensues.
Before the Devil Knows You're Dead: The latest crime film from octogenarian Sidney Lumet stars Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke as brothers trying to pull an ill-advised small-time score. Intricately plotted and full of secrets and unlikable characters, Devil also stars Marisa Tomei as Hoffman's unhappy wife who gets naked all over the place and Albert Finney and Rosemary Harris as the boys' parents.
American Gangster: Denzel Washington is Frank Lucas, the real-life drug kingpin who beat the mafia at its own game, running the New York drug trade back in the 1970s. Russell Crowe is the cop trying to take him down, and Ridley Scott directs them both. The movie looks terrific, but even with all that talent on display, it's hard not to feel like we haven't seen this before.
Bee Movie: Jerry Seinfeld gets back in the game as the voice of the bee, Barry B. Benson, in this animated flick. Barry befriends New York florist Vanessa (Renee Zellweger) and discovers that people really dig that stuff bees churn out. Better than it sounds, Bee Movie is ultimately as sweet as, well, honey.
Into the Wild: Sean Penn takes on John Krakauer's book with Emile Hirsch as Alexander Supertramp, the young man formerly known as Chris McCandless, who left his suburban family behind in the early '90s and took to the road, eventually making his way to an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness. Penn makes Hirsch a little too much of a Christ figure, but the supporting cast is great, especially Hal Holbrook in the best role of his career.