5 movies that earned their 11 bucks in 2007

2007 was the first year in a while when I was able to see almost all of the movies that I wanted to see in the theaters (Netflix is a horrible enabler for those who enjoy sloth).  I enjoyed most, if not all, of them–Fantastic Four 2 was good until the last two minutes; Spider-man 3 was fun despite the scene where Peter Parker suddenly transforms into an emo, jazz-dancing lesbian; Live Free or Die Hard was awesome even though it was rated PG-13; and, although it might not have been the movie I would have made, I enjoyed Transformers.  But, none of these movies truly earned the 11 bucks that I had to shell out for a few hours of mindless entertainment.  What follows are five movies that, for various reasons, truly earned the money I spent to see them.

1. Zodiac

What could be better than a movie about a serial killer?  How about a movie about a real serial killer.  Add a cast that’s a delightful mix of Faces (Robert Downey, Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal, and Mark Ruffalo) and That Guys (Anthony Edwards, Elias Koteas, Charles Fleischer, Donal Logue, and Brian Cox) and put them all into the capable hands of the guy who directed Fight Club and Seven.

I’m a fan of procedurals…straight-forward narratives about men and women doing their jobs.  Zodiac is two and a half hours of men and women doing their jobs, frequently obsessively so.

2. Grindhouse

Who wouldn’t be willing to pay $11 to see two full-length features and a bunch of goofy fake trailers?  Apparently, a lot of people.  But, as a friend of mine pointed out: most people are just afraid of awesome. 

Just look at that.  It’s got it all.  Even fake trailers:

Now, it’s inevitable that anyone who saw Grindhouse prefers one of the features over the other.  Personally, I like the gore-soaked, zombie-fest Planet Terror over the more psychological thriller that is Death Proof (although Kurt Russell kicked seven kinds of ass in that one and Mary Elizabeth Winstead stands around in a cheerleader uniform).  But, you need to see them both, back-to-back, to get the real Grindhouse experience.  That’s why it’s really sad that Dimension released them on separate DVDs.  I’m holding out hope that we’ll get some kind of special edition collector’s something or other…so I can experience Grindhouse again, the way you’re supposed to.

3. Superbad

Possibly one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen (which I know is a very bold statement). 

Most people I know agree with me; those who don’t usually fall into one of two camps: those who thought it was too juvenile and those who didn’t think it was juvenile enough.  Is it juvenile?  Yeah, absolutely.  But, what it has that other dick-and-fart movies don’t have is heart.  I liked American Pie and the Trip series (y’know, Road and Euro), but I never got the feeling that the characters liked each other very much.  But Evan and Seth are friends.  They care about one another.  They might not show it unless they’re wasted, but it’s there.  And who doesn’t like McLovin?

4. 3:10 to Yuma

Maybe it’s just me, but I find westerns (real westerns, not the P.C., namby-pamby Dances with Wolves crap) highly satisfying.  Maybe I like them because there’s nothing more American than a western.  Maybe it’s because like the procedural, there’s very little room for debate in a western: you know what you have to do and you do it.  Or it could be that I just loved Russell Crowe and his hat:

Whatever the reason, I walked out of this movie extremely satisfied.  Christian Bale and Crowe were awesome, as always.  Ben Foster was fucking insane.  Alan Tudyk was goofy.  It was everything I could have hoped for.  Plus there were horses, trains, and shoot-outs.

5. The Simpsons

You run a huge risk when you try to transform a television show into a movie.  It doesn’t always work (I’m lookin’ at you, X-Files).  But, sometimes it does:

The folks behind The Simpsons gave fans exactly what they wanted: essentially three very good episodes of the TV show.  They didn’t try to reinvent the wheel.  They simply used what’s worked on the show for the last 47 years.  The feature film weaves the three usual television plots into one arc–you have the “Family Dynamic” plot, where one or more members of the Simpson family messes up and has to earn the forgiveness of their kin; there’s the “Simpsons on the Road” plot, where circumstances force the family out of Springfield to some other location (in this case, it’s Alaska); and there’s the “Townspeople Go Ape-shit” plot, which pretty much speaks for itself.

The only way this could have been a better movie is if Sideshow Bob, Kang and Kodos were in it.

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