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This is the fifth in a series of movie lists I've been making charting my favourite movies of each year (working steadily backwards).

My top films of 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 were the following:

Click here to see the full list for 2008
Click here to see the full list for 2009
Click here to see the full list for 2010
Click here to see the full list for 2011

5. Molière (2007)
UK release: 13 July 2007

"Molière" is an absolutely hilarious French film with an invented story to explain the rise of the eponymous French playwright. Certainly the idea is somewhat inspired by "Shakespeare In Love", but I found this film far superior. Romain Duris gives an electrifying central performance which holds together the farce-comedy storyline and the quirky characters. I loved every second of this.

Director Laurent Tirard's last film was "Astérix and Obélix: God Save Britannia". He does not appear to have made anything up to same standard as "Molière". However, the main star Romain Duris' next film is "The New Girlfriend" from director François Ozon. Ludivine Sagnier was recently in "Love Crime" alongside Kristin Scott Thomas and her next two upcoming movies are "Lou" and "Tristesse Club".

4. The Fountain (2006)
UK release: 26 January 2007

Though many seem to need to watch this one twice in order to fully appreciate it (which I know doesn't sound like a promising proviso), it helps to have an idea when watching this of what is going on with the different relatively unrelated narratives. On the one hand there's the central story of a doctor and scientist (played by Hugh Jackman) who is desperately trying to find a cure for his wife's illness, even while his wife (played by Rachel Weisz) is coming to terms with her imminent demise. In the meanwhile, we keep seeing segments of a fantasy story written by Weisz's character exploring themes of the human quest for immortality and the struggle for survival. Bridging these two narratives is a symbolic story of a meditating figure (also played by Hugh Jackman) floating in a bubble transporting a tree into a star. This third, mostly symbolic, storyline can be especially jarring on first watch, but by the end the film comes together. This is why it is helpful to watch the movie through a second time recognising how the different themes will eventually come together.

Another wonderful element to this film is the soundtrack, which I think represents Clint Mansell's best work. The beautiful and overwhelming musical score ensures that the emotional beats towards the end of the film really pack a punch. It's the powerful ending of the film which really drew me to give the film a second chance and now it's in my top 5 of this particular year.

(music video link)

My review here

Darren Aronofsky's next film is "Noah" starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson.

3. Hot Fuzz (2007)
UK release: 14 February 2007

Edgar Wright's follow-up to "Shaun Of The Dead" finds Wright beginning to properly leave behind the style he used in the tv show "Spaced" and to provide something rather more cinematic. There are references to films like "The Omen" and "The Wicker Man" underlying the more obvious references to police crime dramas and action films, but the film has plenty of gags in its own right.

There are two major themes for the comedy here. One is the contrast between actual real-life efficient policing and the kind of crime dramas often seen in films where people jump around with guns and blow stuff up. The other, however, is the potential sinisterness of small isolated and close-knit communities that might seem on the surface like ideal utopias and/or retirement spots.

Basically, Edgar Wright is a comic genius and gets a fantastic performance out of the comedy duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Until the release of "The World's End", this was my favourite of his films.

Edgar Wright is working on the "Ant-Man" superhero movie for Marvel Studios.

2. Eastern Promises (2007)
UK release: 26 October 2007

David cronenberg seemed to get a second wind in his career at this stage, releasing three films in a row with Viggo Mortensen. The first was "A History of Violence", a graphic novel adaptation starring Mortensen as a pacifist character who turns out to have been running away from a very different identity than that people had previously seen from him. The third was "A Dangerous Method" where Mortensen gives a strong performance as Sigmund Freud in a story about his professional relationship with Carl Jung. This third film was clearly tackling a topic which meant an awful lot to David Cronenberg, but personally I thought it was a little weak.

Bang in the middle of these two is "Eastern Promises", a film actually starring Naomi Watts where Mortensen's role seems pretty small to begin with. Eastern Promises centres around Russian gangsters in London involved in, amongst other things, sex trafficking. Watts plays a midwife who takes it upon herself to identify the family of a child whose mother dies in childbirth using her diary. She unwittingly contacts a misleadingly charming local mafia boss, not realising what secrets the diary holds and why the mafia boss might have a vested interest.

Eastern Promises contains violence characteristic of a Cronenberg film, but here the violence is visceral because it feels realistic rather than because it representing the fantastical body horror that made audiences' skins crawl during his early movies. Eastern Promises is a powerful drama with a strong cast.

David Cronenberg's next film is "Maps To The Stars" starring Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson and Carrie Fisher

1. This Is England (2006)
UK release: 27 April 2007

Shane Meadows is an odd sort of director. Setting pretty much all of his films in the most depressing midlands setting he can find, the first film I saw of his was the revenge thriller "Dead Man's Shoes" starring Paddy Considine. The interesting thing about that film was the way the villains felt like typical real people and the mistakes they made were what you'd expect actual real life scumbags who are out of their depth to make. Point being, the characters felt like real people. Not ones you'd want to get to know well, but real nonetheless.

"This Is England" is more personal to Meadows than most, seeing as it is semi-autobiographical. Particularly notable actors in the film include Stephen Graham (now perhaps most well known for his role as Al Capone in "Boardwalk Empire") and Joe Gilgun (who took over from Robert Sheehan in series three of "Misfits", but is probably most well-known for his role as the impulsive and crazy convict in the movie "Lockout" starring Guy Pearce). Another actor well worth mentioning is Thomas Turgoose, who is the child actor in this film and I'm sure we will see great things from in the future.

"This Is England" looks into the origins of skinheads from the perspective of ordinary people, making the interesting point that early skinheads were part of a scene strongly connected with Jamaican Ska and Rocksteady. So while our current historical viewpoint makes it very easy to see the skinheads as a ridiculously bad influence right from the start, it isn't until the figure of Combo comes out of prison that we see how the influence of Nationalism and the accompanying racist sentiment is creeping into the movement.

The saying is "write what you know" and you can clearly tell here that Meadows understands the world he is portraying and has a lot of affection for the characters he portrays. Even the particularly unbalanced character, Combo, is very much a real person not a stereotype. "This is England" is a wonderful film by itself and I'm not sure we needed three tv mini-series to follow this up. (I have seen "This Is England '86" and didn't really feel much drive to check out '88 or '90 as a result).

Shane Meadows' latest film was "Made Of Stone", a documentary film about the Stone Roses (of whom Shane Meadows is personally a big fan).

Another 7 good movies from 2007

Black Book (2006)
UK release: 19 January 2007

Paul Verhoeven stops making cheesy Hollywood movies and goes back to make a wartime drama is his native Dutch. Sebastian Koch (who also starred in "The Lives Of Others" in the same year, see below) and Carice van Houten (whose most notable roles these days all seem to be witch-themed, playing a necromancer in Christopher Smith's movie "Black Death" and Melisandre in the tv series "Game of Thrones"). Black Book is a fantastic wartime storyline (getting the Jewish revenge storyline in well before Tarantino had any plans to make "Inglourious Basterds"), but a rather dodgy understanding of how insulin works causes problems in the third act.

Black Sheep (2006)
UK release: 12 October 2007

A New Zealand horror comedy which tries to make us scared of sheep and just about succeeds. Following in the footsteps of Peter Jackson's "Braindead" this is a very silly yet highly entertaining film. The limitations of the movie's effects become particularly obvious in the final act, but the charm and humour never lets up.

Cold Prey 2006
UK release: 22 October 2007

Pretty much representing the perfect slasher movie. Most slasher movies have all sorts of problems, perhaps the biggest of which is relateable interesting characters. All the characters here are wonderful, the kills are well-shot, well-portrayed, engaging and impactful. The storyline moves forward in a sensible logical order with a good pace. This first Cold Prey movie is essentially Friday the 13th at a skiing resort (though not as cheesy as that sounds) and the sequel would go on to be essentially "Halloween II" only at a hospital next to a skiing resort.

The Lives of Others (2006)
UK release: 13 April 2007

A wonderful heart-warming story about a Stasi official in East Germany tasked with monitoring a playwright who is a strong believer in communism. It is made very clear, very early on, just how heartless and inhuman the tactics of the Stasi were. There's also some pretty harsh plot points. Still, this story about an unflinchingly loyal member of the Stasi dealing with a conflict between ideology and duty takes the story in unexpected directions.

Planet Terror (2007)
UK release: 9 November 2007

I've never seen the full Grindhouse movie because it has never been released in the UK. All I've seen is the extended cuts of the two movies "Death Proof" and "Planet Terror" which were released here separately. I don't know how well the shorter version of "Planet Terror" worked, but here as a separate piece it doesn't feel like a second is wasted. A rather cool little side-story related to this film is that Rodriguez filmed a whole load of extra scenes so that his son wouldn't realise that he was killed off part way through the movie. Awwww! Anyway, Planet Terror is definitely up there as one of my favourite zombie movies as well as one of my favourite horror comedies.

Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle (2007)
UK release: 5 October 2007

This film caused controversy when it was placed in the "Foreign Language Film" slot at the BAFTAs. Sure it's not in English, but to claim that Scottish Gaelic is a language foreign to Britain is definitely a mistake. "Seachd" was a great celebration of traditional Scottish storytelling and a heartfelt tale about old traditions, the language being a part of that. I don't know that it's one of the best films you'll ever see, but it is a high quality feature and utterly unique.

Stardust (2007)
UK release: 19 October 2007

Another one from Matthew Vaughn, director of "Layer Cake" and "Kick-Ass". It's based on a story written by Neil Gaiman so it has all the dark fairytale elements that come with that. It also has a pretty awesome cast with Peter O'Toole playing a small but significant role and with some rather awesome performances from Mark Strong and Michelle Pfeiffer. A great fantasy story which is pretty much entirely awesome asides from possibly a slightly mushy part towards the end.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 18th, 2013 05:07 am (UTC)
Yes, I love This is England! I've wanted to see the follow ups, but sadly I don't think they've ever gotten a release here in the US.
Dec. 18th, 2013 06:42 am (UTC)
Do you mean that the follow-ups didn't get a release on DVD in the US? Are you aware that they are tv mini-series rather than movies?

I think there's been three of these mini-series so far, but personally I didn't think the first of them really lived up to the quality of the movie. (Though that's not to say it was bad. The ending was actually pretty well done and I thought it helped to explain how they'd ever become friends with Combo prior to his prison days in the first place.)
Dec. 19th, 2013 08:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, they never got a DVD release. I'm aware of what they are, but as far as I know, they were never released on DVD, which is how I found the original, randomly on my library's DVD shelf, nor were they ever broadcast on TV.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )



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