Ten Anticipated Films for 2007

by JAMES BRIGHAM

Zodiac (March 2)

I’m anticipating this film to be a semi-fictionalized ensemble drama revolving around the bizarre, unsolved serial killings from California in the 1960’s/70’s. Director David Fincher is a visionary, to be sure, but I’m slightly worried about him going back to the well of gritty, murder story after Se7en. I’m also a little wary of a film being made about a mysterious murderer who is neither in prison (David Berkowitz had been in jail for years by the time Spike Lee’s Summer of Sam was released) nor dead (as Jack the Ripper and the Black Dahlia killer(s) most certainly are by now). There’s something unsettling about knowing the Zodiac killer could be watching this movie with you in the same theatre. Brrr….

300 (March 9)

Zach Snyder delivered something a few years back that I thought would be impossible. He directed an enjoyable remake to one of my favorite movies of all time: George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, a social commentary / zombie mayhem masterpiece. Now he’s set his eyes on bringing one of comic creator Frank Miller’s works to the big screen with 300: an insanely over-the-top retelling of the small cadre of Spartans who stood against hundreds of thousands of soldiers from the Persian Empire.

Heavily reliant on digital backdrops and CGI, I suspect 300 will deliver a bevy of artistic visuals, both historically based and otherworldly inspired. If the movie contains half the energy seen in the teaser, I’ll be happily screaming along with King Leonidas, as the power of Sparta is declared onscreen.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (March 23)

Say what you will about American pop culture in the 1980’s: the questionable fashion, the lackluster mainstream radio hits, and the vapid mall culture. To be a kid growing up in that decade meant having access to some of the coolest toys imaginable. In my grandiose opinion, the TMNT stood at the top of the heap. Transformers, Hot Wheels, and He-Man were mere scavengers on the toy savannah. The ninja turtles line scoured the land in a mode of fearless bravado, knowing it was truly king of the wilderness.

As I grew up, my awareness expanded and I learned of the turtles’ origin as a small-press, black and white, edgy comic book whose creators just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Knowing that Peter Laird (co-creator and current creative director of the characters) green lit this computer-animated work fills me with glee. I suspect audiences will find a lot to like with this movie as it will seemingly have something for every kind of viewer: the nostalgia driven twenty-something, the bored parent looking to occupy a kid, the hardcore comic collector fan, and the furry lifestylers.

Grind House (April 6)

In a lot of ways, I’m a man out of time. I dig the ridiculously over-the-top action movies with the cheesy music. To see a film plot broken up by a completely unnecessary scene of sexual titillation never really bothers me. And don’t get me started on my love affair with lowbrow, blood drenched, comedic-horror movies. All of this stuff was prevalent in the hey-day of the drive-in in the late 60’s / early 70’s. I missed that era by a wide margin. Too bad, so sad.

Luckily, there are filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez helping to bring back such stories in all their booty shaking, gun toting, car flipping gritty glory. Grind House promises to deliver two feature length movies along with a cornucopia of fictional trailers. Death Proof, Tarantino’s segment, looks to be a slasher movie about a vengeance seeking stunt driver. Rodriguez’s Planet Terror is rife with zombies and unusual weaponry (Rose McGowan has a machine gun leg, for instance). Joe Bob Briggs would be proud.

The Simpsons Movie (July 27)

The arrival of the long promised Simpsons movie is imminent, so why am I not more excited? It’s not like I’m one of those people who rants and raves about how bad the show has become. On the contrary, on those rare occasions I do watch, I find it to be nearly as funny as I remember. Maybe it’s just complacency setting in. It’s a fixture now that people expect to always be around and never go anywhere. A movie just seems to be another day in “Simpsons World,” as opposed to a groundbreaking event (like it might have been say, oh, 10 years ago).

That doesn’t mean I’m not anticipating it. I just don’t know how to categorize my interest. I’ll be there on opening day, but I don’t currently foresee being giddy with enthusiasm – at least until Homer does something. Literally. Homer Simpson equals hilarity whether he’s raising a lobster or driving a plow truck.

Next (September 28)

Next has a lot going for it. It’s a sci-fi story based on a work by Philip K. Dick, whose previous stories were adapted into one of my favorite movies of all time (Blade Runner: Director’s Cut) and one of my most beloved movies from 2006 (A Scanner Darkly). Toss in the acting fury of Nic Cage and Jessica Biel as eye-candy and you’ve got a formula that even Dick’s drug using, paranoid mind would have accepted without question. (Or would he?)

Fred Claus (November 9)

This movie’s from the team that brought us Wedding Crashers, a funny flick that managed to crack me up even though I was watching it while drunk at the drive-in. Some would argue that those factors likely contributed to the comedy and traditionally wouldn’t detract from it. To those people I simply say, “Witch! Get out of my mind!”

Vince Vaughn plays the titular role as the overlooked brother of Santa Claus, played by Paul Giamatti. I can already imagine the repartee between these two, and I salivate in readiness. Soon your quotes will become mine, Fred Claus. I will use them endlessly at bars and on road trips to amuse men and women alike. And you can’t stop me.

Beowulf (November 16)

High school English students will no longer have to worry about battling the complexity of ye olde English now that Hollywood has set its sights on a film adaptation of Beowulf. The makers of Cliff Notes must be quaking in their boots. Still, with photo-realistic CGI, direction by Robert Zemeckis, and a screenplay adapted by Neil Gaiman, it sounds like a worthwhile project with great respect for the source material. Unlike that straight-to-video futuristic setting that the Christopher Lambert version reportedly had.

I Am Legend (November 21)

I Am Legend has a long and rich history. Richard Matheson’s novel has been adapted into film twice before. Once as Vincent Price’s helmed The Last Man on Earth in 1964 and then in 1971’s The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston. It’s often cited as a staple of horror and post-apocalyptic fiction.

This modern version has gone through numerous iterations. The most famous of which I remember reading about on Ain’t It Cool News in the late 90’s that was written by Mark Protosevich with Ridley Scott attached to direct with Arnold Schwarzenegger to star. This version apparently never reached development due to spiraling budget predictions. Can Will Smith and the director of Constantine succeed where so many have tried and/or fallen before?

The Golden Compass (December 27)

I just started reading Philip Pullman’s novel (book 1 in His Dark Materials saga) and I’m getting a big kick out of it. The story reminds me more of the tone found in fantasy books like A Wrinkle in Time and less like the high-fantasy seen in works derived from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings saga. It makes me wonder if the studio knew what type of story it was acquiring the rights to, what with the portrayal of a sinister organization in the vein of the Catholic Church appearing.

15 responses to “Ten Anticipated Films for 2007

  1. I think it’s interesting that you avoided all the huge blockbusters coming out this year: Spider-Man 3, Pirates 3, Shrek 3 and Harry Potter 5. In fact, there’s nothing in here that can properly be characterized as a sequel.

    So, for those of us who crave familiarity, what are we supposed to do?

  2. Try something new. Who doesn’t want to be on the ground floor of a phenomenon when it initially hits? Those who ventured out to theatres due to the evocative and mysterious ad campaign of “The Matrix” were treated to one of the most stylish and original action movies in years. Sometimes moviegoers have to take the plunge into the unfamiliar in order to win big.

  3. And, to be really critical, one could argue that my list isn’t entirely adventurous. Almost all of my choices are familiar in one way or another to the public. “Zodiac” is based on a real incident. “TMNT” is an established property and pseudo-sequel in the vein of “Superman Returns.” Many of the others are adaptations of books: “The Golden Compass,” “300,” “I Am Legend,” etc.

    Entirely new scripts are a rare thing in Hollywood nowadays.

  4. Good post James. Fred Claus sounds very interesting. I really like Paul Giamatti, and the combo of him and Vince Vaughn could be hilarious.

  5. “Fred Claus” is going to be off the chain. I can already imagine Vince Vaughn shooting his mouth off at an increasingly irritated Paul Giamatti. I wonder if it will be rated “R?” “Bad Santa” set a precedent for “R” rated Christmas comedy. Perhaps this film will follow suit.

  6. Bush league once again Rishi, besides Indiana Jones, the 3 rd movie always sucks and if you haven’t got on in the first 4 Harry Potters or Firday the 13ths, or Rocky Movies,,,,well…

  7. Third movie always sucks? Wasn’t Return of the King pretty good? In fact, it was probably the best of the three Lord of the Rings movies. But maybe that’s the other exception besides Indiana Jones.

  8. They could have cut a few minutes out of RoTK, but OK

  9. Jason Greenwood

    Looking forward to Golden Compass, Read all 3 books some time ago. The books are the anti-Narnia, Phillip Pullman has said serveral places his utter dislike of the Narnia books and the unrealistic way they portray children. He is also an Atheist and His Dark Materials trilogy really shows that especially with the third book. Throughout His Dark Materials shows basically the Catholic Church as an evil organization.

    I just hope they are able to pull off the armored polar bears well and that they don’t change the story especially the ending of the climatic battle and who the battle is against in the third book.

  10. I knew I shouldn’t have trusted those damn studios; they bolted out of left field and changed the release date of “Next.” The sad part is, none of us batted an eye. A dark day indeed, my filmgoing flock. No wonder Substance D is sweeping the nation.

    Also of note, “TMNT” is the only film on my list that I’ve yet to see. I’m going to scour the discount movie houses here in Indy, but I’m guessing that DVD will now have to be the medium I derive my turtle power from. Cowabunga?

  11. James – I haven’t heard what you thought of Zodiac?

  12. um- Not to be argumentitive but since something is based on a book meant to be a serial ( Harry Potter, LOTR.. ).It isn’t really a sequel…

  13. Helen, “Zodiac” might possibly be my top film of the year so far. Obviously I’ll know my feelings better by the time December gets here, but I’m hard pressed to think of a better constructed and better acted 2007 film than this beautifully written period piece.

    As has often been said on other forums, it resembles “All the President’s Men” more than “Se7en.” If you’ll recall from this article, that was one of my primary concerns: That Fincher would simply be retreading old themes and rehashing imagery from that serial killer film.

    “Zodiac” is a textbook example of how to take an extremely complicated plot overflowing with pivotal information and condense it down into something the audience can glean. I suspect that in ten years, screenwriting professors will be talking about the script for “Zodiac” in the same glowing terms they use for “Chinatown” today.

    Bearing in mind that I’ve yet to see “Alien 3” in its uncut entirety, I don’t think David Fincher has directed a bad film yet. Kudos must also be given to the first rate cast that was assembled for this picture: Gyllenhal continues to impress, Downey never disappoints, and Ruffalo and Edwards played off each other incredibly as the primary investigating officers.

  14. I’m going to disagree with you there, James. Fincher has directed a bad film. I think Panic Room is a fairly predictable and standard thriller and much worse than Fincher’s other films.

  15. “Panic Room” didn’t reinvent the wheel, true, but I still hold it up there with the best of modern thrillers. Personally, I was hooked from the get-go and thought Fincher did an excellent job of increasing the tension. Plus, any movie that can cause me to shout out a fearful expletive while watching it by myself in the privacy of my own home has to garner a few extra points.

    So not by any stretch of the imagination is it in league with “Se7en,” “The Game,” and “Fight Club,” but it’s still refined filmmaking. Believe me, I’ve seen enough medicore psychological thrillers to know how precious and few the good are. Did you ever see “The Rich Man’s Wife,” for instance?

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