Hey remember 2007 sure why not

by

Hey, just in time for the Oscars.

The best movies of 2007. It was a swell year for genre and artsy flicks alike.

The worst movies. Some of them aren’t all that bad, just dumb fun.

The best video games, or rather, the few games I managed to play out of the million or so that were released last year.

weee

12. Ratatouille/Live Free or Die Hard/Spider-Man 3 – Solid movies all, I figure I’ll clump the best of last summer together and I said a lot about them already anyway. Ratatouille’s fun and cute, Die Hard 4’s a good action movie and goofy, goofy Spider-Man 3 needs more love.

Wotcher 'Arry!

11. Eastern Promises – I prefer A History of Violence for the sex and the campy family melodrama but Cronenberg’s new wave continues in this suspenseful Russian mob tale. The accents are thick and the borscht and vodka is there just to remind you, yes, these characters are indeed Russian, but Naomi is hot, Viggo is frightening and Vincent is bonkers. And gay. So are the old men who gather only to gander at Viggo’s naked bod, covered in tattoos that tell his life story. Mobsters may put on airs of fucking the most whores in a single vodka-fueled night but like most caught in a homosocial thug life, under the womanizing facade lies a, well, a vicious Broadway enthusiast.

hairspray was FAB

10. Sweeney Todd – The bloodiest movie of the year is also a musical. Odd, sometimes, how things work out that way. The cast gets by mostly on charisma and Sondheim’s macabre material, though Johnny Depp’s raspy singing voice is pretty cool and Alan Rickman singing is a novelty that shouldn’t get old. The real stand-out, besides Sacha Baron Cohen’s short-lived Italian fraud, is Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett, the human meat pie maker. She belts out the toughest acts while banging away with a rolling pin in the tightest Victorian get-up since Kate Beckinsale’s bodice in Van Helsing. Yeah, I know, remember that?!
Anyway, Carter carries the movie on her pale shoulders quite well, right up to the malicious ending, where maybe a few shots of immolation could have been left on the, er, cutting room floor. I mean, jeez, it took a little while to cope with that imagery. I’m usually hard on Tim Burton’s hokey over styling but the musical genre suits him really well in this case. How can he hope to top this?

Nice knives, luv

9. Paprika – Satoshi Kon’s latest is a colorful love note to filmmaking, detectives, cute girls, strange men, fat men, the imagination, and the dreams we wish we could fulfill in our waking lives. Oh yeah, and SCIENCE!! It wouldn’t be an anime without SCIENCE!! itself going under the microscope, for its offerings can bode ill or well for society, always unfit to eat its fruit. In this case, I say leave the science in the labs because as fun as all the chaos and chicanery in Paprika looks, I don’t know if I can handle dreams and reality in a blender. I wouldn’t mind mingling with Paprika though. Rowr.

Get ready to JUMP!

8. Zodiac – This one disappeared from theaters without a trace, much like the titular killer, and it inexplicably got snubbed by the Oscars as well, much like the defeated and disappointed investigators on Zodiac’s tail. They try and try and, since it’s based on a real life unsolved serial killer case, you probably know how it ends but that doesn’t make David Fincher’s disturbing procedural any less entertaining. The Se7en and Fight Club auteur clips his music video fingertips and delivers a focused blow-by-blow account of the search for answers, cyphers, signs and suspects. It’s dizzying and delirious and, like many others in 2007’s oeuvre, completely hopeless. For the Korean take on a similar case, please seek Memories of Murder, directed by Joon-ho Bong, the guy who did The Host. It’s just as good.

sigh

7. 3:10 to Yuma – If there’s one thing to learn from Sweeney Todd, There Will be Blood, No Country or any number of cynics in the world today, is that good guys finish last. That’s absolutely the case with Christian Bale’s character in 2007’s true-grit Western revival. Life has been cruel to him: his family disrespects him, his leg is missing, his farm is blown up and his life threatened unless he high-tails it on out of there so the government can build on his property.

So when Russell Crowe – a total outlaw, a cad, a charmer, a bad guy – shows up, of course Bale is gonna take the chance to drag this guy in and mete out some karmic justice, and some farm-saving money on the side. The plan’s ruined by Crowe’s posse, led by the scene-stealing killer Ben Foster (friggin’ Angel from X3: The Last Stand). If Crowe’s bad, these guys are infinitely worse, tracking Bale and his team the whole movie, killing everyone in their way, to get Crowe back.

Jyea

It’s a simple premise but it’s surprising how much this movie wrings out of it. The action is explosive, the gun battles quick and katana-like in their precision – just how they should be. And the climactic chase at the end has got to be one of the better staged set pieces of the year. Who knew this tired old genre had this much life left?

I went into the movie for Batman Bale, and he’s great, but Crowe is the keeper. The badass killer cowboy with a moral code has been a cliche for decades but Crowe resurrects it, twists it around and keeps you guessing just what is going on in his cowboy mind the whole time. 3:10 is the best samurai movie of the year.

6. Hot Fuzz – The best action movie of the year is also the best comedy. Perfect timing, perfect casting, perfect writing – everything’s perfect!! – it does for action movies what Shaun of the Dead did for zombie movies. It’s a simultaneous send-up and parody and it works flawlessly. I never thought I’d want to see Point Break and Bad Boys II but, well, now I need to. Smart, affectionate and weird – who knew Timothy Dalton is so funny? – I eagerly await this creative team’s next flick.

HONK HONK

5. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time – I caught this moving surprise at the New York International Children’s Film Festival early in 2007. The first thing that attracted me were the visuals by Evangelion illustrator Yoshiyuki Sadamoto. His characters are elegant, immediate icons and they’re animated wonderfully. Suburban Japan, full of cross-hatching electrical wires, street cars and school girls on speeding bicycles, is rendered beautifully, and the music is stirring. Melancholy, nostalgic and deceptively clever, it’s a little girly – this is the most anime-y film on the list – but it’s a time travel romance and some frustration and tears are expected. But The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is not all tied up in a bow in the end and its bittersweetness – how else to describe doomed first love? – is what makes it magical.

sigh

4. The Bourne Ultimatum – I’ll never understand Mora’s aversion to this. Doesn’t he realize a live-action Ghost in the Shell would probably resemble this? More beguiling, I’m astounded critics and audiences have agreed this is a more-than-solid piece of action-thriller entertainment. The music, the kinetic camerawork, the connections to past Bourne flicks … and that relentless pace that builds up to a satisfying, full-circle finale. Producers, please: Spare us Jason Bourne 4: The Bourne Redundancy.

Dead Man's Shoestore

3. No Country for Old Men – What’s left to say? Deeper, perhaps, than the book it’s based on, this bleak and bloody psuedo-Western shocked me out of my summer movie complacency and reminded me how rare movies like this come around. Supremely confident, clean – the visuals are perfect, the soundtrack is simply ambiance – No Country glides along, explaining nothing, allowing the events to unfold in all their violent, metaphorical splendor. It’s set in 1980 but could just as well be any year, in any place. It scares me senseless that I could one day be in Tommy Lee Jones’ place, watching helplessly as the world goes by, senseless, ultraviolent. Will my father leave a fire for me?

GET READY TO DIE

2. There Will be Blood – When I first saw this I didn’t know what to think. I compare it to last year’s Inland Empire, not in the sense that it was a confusing mess, but that the movie went by and left me behind, cold and frightened. After much discussion, research and soul-searching I’ve decided: that kind of reaction is okay. I just got slapped, clubbed and beaten by one of the most outrageous, pathetic, hilarious, electrifying character portrayals this year – fuck! – this decade. Daniel Plainview is an animal, a sick and lonely beast, but I wouldn’t even call him a villain, or evil. I understand his motivations, his mistakes and his desires. He’s really not all that bad of a guy! It’s unfortunate he’s nuts.

Mmmmmm. HATE.

Is it the next Citizen Kane, like some critics suggest? A long-lost Kubrick film? An overrated pile of political hamfisted dreck? Well, I think time will tell most of that. Maybe it’s a combination. The composition is astounding, that’s one sure thing. The bleak landscapes? Beautiful. The soundtrack from Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood? Spellbinding. Was it invasive? Of course it was! Every part of this movie drilled into my brain and stayed there and fed until it was full. Those first 15 minutes with no dialogue? Get outta here – what a perfect introduction to a character! The way the story slowly burned through each defeat and victory and humiliation after humiliation to that inevitable, outrageous, hilarious ending? Of course I didn’t know what to think. This movie blindsided me.

HATREEEED

I can understand why anyone would dislike this movie – it’s a slow, mean terrible world depicted here, with an intangible female presence at best. Not because director P.T. Anderson is a misogynist, he wants to keep any encouraging spirit away from the greed and dementia. It’s misanthropic as hell and the title delivers on its promise. But I can’t understand why There Will be Blood can’t be admired or respected. Especially its captivating performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano, and even friggin’ Beni from The Mummy. And the dialogue? The terrific, madcap dialogue?

It certainly rekindled my thirst for a good milkshake.

1. Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society – I got to see this in a theater, so it counts even more! Director and writer Kenji Kamiyama had a lot of fanboy hype to contend with but his final product exceeds expectations. The animation is marvelous (and consistent!), the music transcendent, the story is a tight, smart mystery as well as socially resonant. It’s everything a fan could want in a Ghost in the Shell movie. What is really surprising about SSS, besides the fluid marriage of action and soundtrack, and the revelatory ending, is the delicate way it dealt with the characters and their rocky relationships.

Oh, batou

At this point the Major has been away from Section 9 for two years, leaving Batou distraught and alone. Togusa is too busy leading the now-greatly expanded organization and Aramaki, older and wearier, distances himself from his own creation to give Togusa room to grow as his eventual replacement, a job Batou could’ve had. Many parallels can be drawn to Oshii’s own Ghost in the Shell sequel, Innocence – both movies share a similar set-up; the Major is gone and Batou is sad – but SSS has a larger scope than Innocence‘s isolated cyber-romance. This is a family drama about legacies and reunions.

w00t

It also happens to be about a powerful hacker called the Puppeteer (a clear nod to the antagonist of Oshii’s first movie in the series), crazed militants, a nanomachine virus, child abduction, a vengeful aging population and mass suicide … but it’s really a family drama about welcoming the Major back into the fold. How Kamiyama ties all these threads together – oh, Saito even returns for a blood-pumping encore sniper duel – and still keeps the characters at the center of a break-neck 100-minute action thriller is a Herculean feat of storytelling, animated or otherwise.

0. Blade Runner: Final Cut – The cyberpunk science fiction classic remastered to look almost 3D. I’ve never seen it in a movie theater before so viewing it in the Ziegfeld – a one-screen movie palace in New York City – with a huge crowd of like-minded fans and a sound system so encompassing it was like hearing the stirring Vangelis music for the first time … well, it was religious. The only thing keeping me from nailing this in the top spot it deserves is because I watch this fairly regularly and I know it’s the best movie ever, no matter the year.

Quite an experience

And now…

DRRRR DEE DUHH

D-War – Circumstances had me watch this stupid, stale Korean action/adventure romp immediately after Resident Evil 3’s screening, and with only 4 hours of sleep under my hat, so my enjoyment of it is only because of the hallucinatory euphoria I achieved watching mythical dragons shoot down military choppers, and by predicting the end of the movie – where TWO giant myth dragons do battle in the fiery skies – in such a way that I ended up dictating the events before they happened onscreen. As such, this movie is Korea’s stupid answer to Transformers: replace the Decepticons with wraiths and wyverns and you get the same damn thing. It’s even set in L.A. and has the same slanted romance angle that bogs down Bay’s movie, too.

What D-War has over Transformers though is its even younger target audience – this movie really IS for kids, not depressing, nostalgic 20-somethings. There are no masturbation jokes but there are superior actors. Yeah, I have no clue who’s who in D-War but they’re far better than Shia and Megan, and there are no Army, Xbox or Mountain Dew ads. D-War‘s main guy is amazing because he looks, acts and talks exactly like Tom Cruise in any movie he’s been in. He doesn’t overact, no Jerry Maguire insane laughter for example, but his vocal emulation and his perfect hair is so uncanny I doubt anyone could tell this and Mission: Impossible II apart if they played next to each other in Wal-Mart’s electronics department.

300 – Gay, dumb, overblown, overstylized. And kinda fun. As long as you have a DS to play while watching.

I Am Legend – Will Smith’s latest sci-fi masquerade tries hard to be serious. It has a solemn feel, a few interesting bits of psychosis and horror and it even kills off the fluffy companion. But then there’s the out-of-left-field pop culture references because a Will Smith movie can’t be a Will Smith movie without at least a few dozen of those. Why did anyone think those are a good idea? Then there’s the weak third act where a cure is found lickety-split and the Catholic Church swoops in rescue to everyone. Rushed, resolved endings like this are phony and unsatisfying. Awful special effects don’t help either unless they really were going for the rubbery skinhead look with the monsters, in which case, uh, neat, I guess, in a race studies sort of way.

Shoot ‘Em Up – So dumb. So, so, so dumb. It’s a harmless live-action Warner Bros. cartoon with an awful script, nonsensical plot and ridiculous, sorta-creative action. The highlight scenes: a combo shoot-out/sex scene and the most ridiculous set piece of the year: a free-fall chase with guys shooting guns at each other in the sky … as they’re falling. It’s insanely idiotic, but sorta fun and Clive Owen is cool to watch. At a less-than-90-minutes runtime this movie knows exactly what it is: idiotic.

Transformers – OK, I was awfully forgiving of this back when it came out. The nostalgia. The giant robots. The hot babe. Look, people can change. Me, and the Miami Vice movie, we’re okay now. Me and Transformers … well, it doesn’t really hold up does it?

Shooter – Boring, boring politicized bunk. Mark Wahlberg’s a badass but he doesn’t prove it here. Snipers are cool. They’re right up there with dinosaurs, spaceships and samurai. So you’d think a movie called Shooter about a sniper would have some, I dunno, actual shooting and sniping.

Death Proof – The stunts are fantastic. And Kurt Russell should get more work. A LOT more work. But why is most of the movie devoted to ghoulish yammering from uninteresting bar floozies? Tarantino is known for memorable, witty dialogue right? Why then can’t I remember a single fucking line from this movie? I struggle to even think of a one-liner from Kurt Russell or anybody. “Welcome to my car! My car is death proof! I’m Stuntman Stan and I’m the man!” I dunno. And that 30-minute conversation about … I don’t even remember. Someone in a ditch. Whatever it was it was intolerable. The tension was palpable in the theater, not because of how fascinating and revealing this information was because someone desperately needed to press the fast-forward button. And someone needs to introduce Quentin to the cutting tool in Final Cut. Unless he manipulates a dusty old editing rig. With his feet. Because he’s wacky and retro like that!

Beowulf – One-part 300, one-part FF7 cutscene, one-part English class, all parts boring, Beowulf is a hopeful tug on the reins of 3D animation and where it can go. Beyond ogres, donkeys and penguins maybe. But its plastic look and meandering script keep it from being anything but an odd curiosity, a short-stop experiment in what digital filmmaking can accomplish. The guys at Pixar have nothing to worry about – they have things like story structure and attractive style down pat – but it would be nice if someone else was up to the challenge. Beowulf is from the guy who gave us Back to the Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, so he’s no slouch, but in 20 years do you think you’re going to meet anyone who loooooves Beowulf like people loooove Back to the Future today? C’mon, Richard, I’m rooting for you. Cast Crispin Glover in something other than a horrible thing with an oozing cochlea.

War – A war crime. Jason Statham vs. Jet Li and NOTHING happens. Uhhh, what can I remember. Let’s see. Statham speaks lousy Japanese, Devon Aoki speaks lousy Japanese and the subtitles try to be stylistic but end up annoying and stupid. Boring and insulting. Shut it off after an hour.

Disturbia Cloverfield is a monster movie for the “YouTube Generation?” I disagree. The seeds of Cloverfield were planted long ago and just because it has a shaky camera and obscure actors doesn’t automatically make it “for the YouTube Generation.” And not just anyone can make a Cloverfield, like anyone can make a cooking show or an ass of themselves on YouTube. Or be a critic. Ahem.

Anyone can make a Disturbia though and it seems like some executive did just find a hastily written update for Rear Window, threw in some jerk kids and called it a day. Shia LeBeouf is Harrison Ford’s son in the next Indiana Jones? Really? Does he really reflect the young men of today? Then I better get fixed.

Pathfinder – Direct-to-video bullshit.

Resident Evil: Extinction – The first Resident Evil, despite having nearly nothing to do with the games it’s based on beyond a few references, is passable if only for the … okay, I can’t think of any reasons. I can’t really remember anything at all about the movie except it stars Milla Jovovich as a red-clad dog-kicking amnesiac – convenient for Milla’s tree bark acting style – and there’s a scene with a laser grid net hallway thing that slices people into little beef cubes. It would be an impressive special effect if it wasn’t already done with regular wires and crafty camerawork in the Canadian indie masterpiece Cube. Director Paul W.S. Anderson never met a movie he didn’t want to ape and ape poorly. Motherfucker loves Cube.

The second movie, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, is considered a worse entry by many but I thought it was a grand step up. Apocalypse is a VERY stupid movie but at least it hewed closer to the original games than the the first movie ever did by introducing Jill Valentine, who actually slinks around in the dark, gun and flashlight drawn, carefully checking rooms for zombies – hey, just like in the games. Throw in a quiet, orchestrated soundtrack for these scenes and you almost got a genuine film adaptation of a video game. Instead, the movie, already chained to Milla’s retarded Alice character, brings her crashing through a stained glass window, on a motorcycle, only to flip off the motorcycle and shoot its gastank in mid-air, complete with Matrix slowdown. Sayonara, serious game adaptation.

So why not run with it? The movie is so dumb, so over-the-top (Milla and a monster engage in face-kicking wire-fu at the end, and there’s a Token Black Guy) it’s a classic case of action movie excess that’s far more entertaining than its predecessor and ultimately, its successor, Resident Evil: Extinction, which suffers from what film scholars call “stupid boring bullshit.” Now the writers really have nowhere to go at this point but scrape the bottom of the zombie/horror barrel and they end up retreading everything from Mad Max to Day of the Dead to any generic psychic kid movie on the Sci-Fi Channel. Which, actually, sums this movie up exceptionally well – Extinction, from its lazy premise to its cheap execution – the entire world is a desert now, so let’s film in the place that’s a desert already! – reeks of something that would follow Mansquito or Alligator vs. Shark on Sci-Fi’s Saturday night slot.

This would all be okay if any of it was fun or even slightly entertaining. Not so. Most of the movie is dedicated to long, drawn-out shots of humvees and jeeps careening across the Nevada sand while, I’m not kidding, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” blares on the soundtrack. We’re treated to board meetings with the surviving members of the Umbrella Corporation, the bastards behind the zombie breakout, which could be interesting or revealing if anything interesting or revealing was … revealed. Instead, alumni of the games are introduced to a doughy, stupider version of the games’ chief protagonist, Albert Wesker, sitting around like he’s waiting for the nurse to call him in. At least they got the sunglasses right, other than that, admittedly, there’s not a whole lot to work with. Wesker’s character is without a doubt the dumbest aspect of the whole Resident Evil mythos – guy’s supposed to be fucking dead anyway.

Then there’s Milla sleeping, yeah, that’s interesting, hovering rocks, and Milla narrating, awfully, like she’s Ron Burgundy reading a teleprompter. There are very few action scenes, none of which make a lick of sense, but it’s all blurry CGI and boring and who cares at this point aaauuggghhh – and they even retread the first movie with its laser grid trap at least a dozen times, as if they found that thing in the prop box and decided they could squeeze more blood out of that stone.

By the end there’s a fight with the tyrant from the first game, which somehow apes Dark City‘s final battle, except it looks even worse than that and that’s from 1998. Why a Tyrant would lift floorboards with its voice or psychic powers or whatever is is is is – oh god, nothing worth worrying about. What is alarming is the chance that a fourth movie could come out of this if the series’ third cliffhanger rings true. Who knows, if it’s really set in Tokyo and stars a million sleepy Millas, maybe it will reach the grand excesses of the second movie. Also, who cares?

Ghost Rider – Not sure what more can be said. At least Marvel is getting back on track with Iron Man, maybe?

2007 VIDEO GAMES!!

Contra 4As oldschool as it gets. Big fat 2D sprites, impossible difficulty.

Phoenix Wright 2 & 3 – I’m including these together since they’re basically the exact same thing gameplay-wise but 3 is far better with its superior storylines and characters. Godot definitely wins the Coolest New Character of the Year award and the rest of the cast – Ron and Desiree Delite, Detective Gumshoe, Mia Fey – round out an exceptionally charming entourage. The writing is not as good as the first game’s but back-to-back references to 300 and Ghost in the Shell provide some nice novelty. I think the exasperating new Psyche-Lock system serves only to lengthen the games but otherwise, this is a fine series of point-and-click reading games.

Hotel Dusk – Digital book with noir-inspired story and attractive black and white visuals. It’s not exactly Billy Wilder but the plot meshes well with the simple memory-based gameplay and should be a quick, nice playthrough if you’re not a bumbling dope with no memory.

Final Fantasy VI Advance – The best Final Fantasy went portable on GBA and despite the hits the sound and graphics took it’s nice to see this game still holds up. The characters and their various plights may not be as Shakespearean as they were when I was in 5th grade (Cyan’s vengeance-fueled attack on the Imperial camp doesn’t affect as much as it used to) but the cute 2D graphics, fast battles and simple plot make me yearn for days past, when Mystery Science Theater 3000 was still on Saturday evenings and math homework was due the following Monday. Now when can we get a portable Chrono Trigger?

Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions – Arguably, this is the best Final Fantasy even though it’s a non-number spin-off. I missed this game the first time due to its horrendous script and impenetrable gameplay. It was too hard and I had no idea what was going on in the story, so thank Grodd for this PSP port/remake/update. Born from mastermind Yasumi “Vagrant Story” Matsuno, his mature story finally shines through with an expert script more verbose and intelligent than most games (or movies) and the gameplay is finally beginning to make sense to me. I’m not a fan of “grinding”, leveling up excessively in RPGs, like I had to do in the game’s early stages to progess, but the turn-based chess-like style is addicting anyway and grinding, it turns out, is just playing – as long as it’s fun. Which it is, and with the attractive 2D-on-3D wrapping and gorgeous cel-shaded cutscenes this is, by far, the best game the PSP has seen so far.

Final Fantasy 12 – Another contender for best Final Fantasy, I’m including it since I just beat it not too long ago. John says it best in his review of the game, but here’s my two cents: It’s gorgeous, it’s complicated, it’s a shame we’ll never see anything like it from Square again. I didn’t think the auto-pilot gameplay was annoying or boring, I thought it was a godsend. Not since Chrono Cross asked me if I wanted to heal my party after every battle has a RPG been this convenient. It’s unfortunate Yasumi Matsuno was kicked off the development team – no doubt he had bigger plans for true main character Basch – but FF12 is the Vagrant Story sequel we’ll never get.

Super Mario Galaxy – The only major Nintendo release I could play on the Wii for long tracts of time last year, Mario Galaxy is everything a next-gen Mario should be but weirdo design choices keep it from orgasmic exultation. I’m still playing it but I’m disappointed in the lack of power-ups there are, and how useless/lame they turn out to be. What happened to Mario’s cape? Now he puts on a bee costume? The game’s good – it’s really good – especially the boss battles, and shooting Lumas with Star Bits to fill them up into hovering, jiggling gluttons is a joy all its own, but in no galaxy does this game dethrone Super Mario 3 or World.

Halo 3 – The best Halo by far. The single-player Campaign is finally fun and online co-op is worth the price of admission alone. A blast to play with friends far and near. The multiplayer is the most balanced it’s even been but you still have to contend with the guttertrash of humanity on Xbox Live. And for some reason I still can’t land a melee punch for the life of me. The other guy’s faster or I lag or something. Goddammit, that sucks, but there are moments in campaign mode I felt like I was part of an epic sci-fi adventure, particularly the Empire Strikes Back-inspired parts with the walkers and stuff.

Bioshock – Too bad the ending is rushed and sloppy with an escort mission that made the game fall apart at the seams. The Little Sisters and their accompanied moral choices are not as great as critics would have you believe – they’re damn annoying, spouting the same “Look Mr. Bubbles” and “angel whatever” shit ad nauseum. Soundbytes from enemies are repeated endlessly. That would ruin the experience in a lesser game but everything else is so polished in Bioshock, it’s ultimately a very satisfying package I foresee myself replaying. Eventually. The atmosphere is pitch perfect, right down to including Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” and Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” as part of the music. Solid shooting play design and a unique story revealed in audio recordings and hallucinations would not let me put the controller down.

Portal – The Little Miss Sunshine of games is all it’s cracked up to be as long as you don’t mind the quick playtime (only 3 hours or so) but it’s perfect, pure game design with a dollop of simple and clean style that elevates this above the overblown blockbusters.

Pokemon Pearl – Digital crack. Pure electronic self-medication. The folks at Nintendo are good at what they do, very good, and this series is one of the best reasons why. This game, and its prequel Emerald, sucked up more time this year than human interaction, hygiene or eating. Who needs relationships or sustenance when you have Chimchar and Mudkip to train?

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15 Responses to “Hey remember 2007 sure why not”

  1. Mr. Awesome_Fantastico III Says:

    Good work.

    Good bye 2007.

  2. Brian B Says:

    Lumping Ratatouille with crap like Spider-Man 3 and Die Hard 4?! >:

  3. Loki Says:

    “in such a way that I ended up dictating the events before they happened onscreen”

    I did the same thing when I saw Speed for the first time. The friend I told you about who loved 300 so much, Magus, kept accusing me of having lied about not seeing it before.

  4. riotsword Says:

    Makes me wish I had watched more movies this year… last flick I actually sat in a theater to watch was Silent Hill. Yeah. So now you know why I stayed away.

    On FFXII: ” It’s gorgeous, it’s complicated, it’s a shame we’ll never see anything like it from Square again.”

    Truer words have never been spoken, sad to say.

  5. GeorgeK Says:

    Now that took you a while. I am preparing psychologically to read this masterpiece in one fell swoop.

  6. Vanilla Iced Tea Says:

    I hate you. I hate you and everyone else who got to see Blade Runner: Final Cut in theaters. I hope you all choke.

  7. Rick Says:

    This is the good stuff here.

    I agree with you on all the movies that I’ve seen on that list. Except, of course, for Extinction. And I just like it to piss you off, apparently. =3

  8. Joe Says:

    Final Fantasy XII:
    Responding because I feel like this entry was partly directed towards me :).

    I now think that console RPGs are horrendously boring 70% of the time. 80% of the battles do involve going to “attack” and selecting a target, over and over again. 10% of the remaining battles add 1 restoration spell to the mix.

    So yes, in a way, it’s simply more convenient for the game to navigate the menus for me, since it’s usually right. But to me, that makes it even more boring, not less. Mindless gameplay where most of my actions are automated is not better gameplay.

    The real benefit of the automation is that it allows me to concentrate on the higher level (read: strategic) challenges. The Gambits allowed me to be the general instead of the soldier.

    But the rest of the gameplay didn’t adapt to present me with appropriate challenges. My playtime was something in the vicinity of 50 hours, and I think I found an optimal gambit configuration that carried me through the rest of the game by hour #2. As a general, I didn’t need to do anything but watch my soldiers execute the same plan over and over again for 40-something hours.

    As a soldier, executing the plan CAN be fun. I need to figure out when to heal and I need to make sure I’m able to heal at the right time. I need to pick the right target to optimize damage. I need to wait for the right character’s turn so she could do her attack first because I’m not sure how much health the Sewer Rat has and I don’t want to risk letting the Green Snake getting another attack in… Granted, the moment-to-moment low level gameplay tends to be pretty weak in RPGs, but they at least provide some excitement.

    If nothing else, having to select “Attack” and “Heal” also gives me more opportunities to modify the strategy on the fly. It forces my current strategy to be “opt in”, not “opt out”. Meaning, with every button press, I am confirming that I want to execute my strategy. The different is extremely subtle, but I would argue that you’re more likely to mix up your strategy (and create your own fun) in an “opt in” situation. If your strategy’s working in an opt out situation, why go through the effort of changing it?

    The RPG gameplay of selecting menu items and selecting targets IS usually boring, but for me, in the absence of more interesting high level challenges to replace it, it is preferable to automation.

    All that said, the spirit of the general vs soldier paradigm shift definitely works for the game. As you mentioned, in a lot of ways, the primary avatar was NOT the main character. More than most other Final Fantasies, the game’s narrative was told in the third person. That theme works great with the battle system. You’re directing the battle, but the real heroes are the soldiers that execute your orders. The player doesn’t feel like he IS Basch, he feels like he’s directing him. Cool!

    It’s the execution I quibble with. I could get through most dungeons by leaning my foot on the analog stick. When I played, I got to make a tactical decision every 15 minutes if I was lucky. I would call that a broken battle system. As I’m playing, I’m acutely aware of how much my time is being wasted.

    I want a high density of fun decisions. I don’t want to have to browse the net while playing. When I turn on a video game, it gets the benefit of my full, undivided attention, and I want the game to deserve it.

  9. Joe Says:

    To be clear, I think adding the automation hurts the gameplay overall, but really, I think the traditional RPG “10000 battles against sewer rats” paradigm is the real culprit here. Fix that first, then automation may help.

    I can’t believe I needed a clarifying statement after a response that long :(.

  10. sirtmagus Says:

    No, no, I understand completely and it wasn’t aimed squarely at you, Joe. I’ve come across many who derided the game as boring and lame but without so much of a thought or a comment to back their statements up. So I appreciate all you’ve said!

    I guess my response would be I had a completely different experience with the game. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention or my gaming skills are going (not that you should need much skill for a JRPG anyway) but I had a more difficult time augmenting my Gambits and the bosses often did give me a tough time. At first. Of course, I’d reboot my save, switch my strategy around and trounce the Bone Dragon. Then I’d go on to the next dungeon.

    But the final dungeons were really difficult! I liked that the casual enemies were actually dealing damage and I had to actually investigate what items and armor would best fend them off. I’m referring specifically to the Marlboros in that big crystal place. I dunno, I guess I just wasn’t that tuned into the mechanics of the game. Talking with Mora while playing it it sounded like I was several levels too low most of the time.

    Though, of course, as with nearly every Final Fantasy, the endgame was very easy. But that final boss? Did that not remind you of Vagrant Story? I was overjoyed.

    I also really liked the characters, setting, music, gorgeous graphics and I adore Ivalice. I think I got the whole package with this game. So while the gameplay was on auto-pilot most of the time I had so much more to soak in – especially that script. That the plot was more than “fall in love, kill bad guy” is a triumph itself.

    But this is all stuff you read in countless positive reviews. Mora did a great write-up here but I also point at Jeremy Parish’s over at Gamespite.net for clarification of how I feel about it, in case I’m just gushing and not … well, clarifying.

    AS FOR RATATOUILLE/DIE HARD 4/SPIDER-MAN 3

    I wrote enough about how Spidey 3 is a flawed madcap masterpiece. And Die Hard 4 is an entertaining actioner worthy of its 80s brethren. Ratatouille… yeah, probably doesn’t belong with those two since it stands head and shoulders above in all aspects but, in the end, I felt the other movies I listed were better. I still wanted to include those three somewhere, because they’re great and there were more than ten movies I loved this year, so I stuck them in that arbitrary spot. Hey, it’s not like I forgot them! It’s my list anyway!

    But yeah, it really was a great year for flicks. I still gotta catch up! I saw Gone Baby Gone, and that was a good detective story, and I still gotta see Michael Clayton and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I’m sure I’m forgetting many others… 2008 looks like it will be even better. Well… hopefully. It’s a little rocky so far. Cloverfield and Rambo were fun conversation pieces. Vantage “STOP – rewind that!” Point would be fun to review… as would Diary of the Dead, and The Bank Job has a gorgeous poster that reminds me of 70s films. But what else is there until Iron Man? It’s upsetting we’re not going to get another No Country or There Will be Blood for a long, long time, but for genre pictures – SUPERHERO pictures – 2008 looks like it’s going to be a (bruce) banner year. For video games too!

    What’re y’all lookin’ forward to?

  11. John Mora Says:

    FUNNY GAMES. HOW COULD YOU FORGET THAT

    And Joe, I disagree. If you fought Esper battles or the high level marks, you HAD to adjust strategy on the fly. I hope you read my extensive piece on it to see where a FFXII fanatic comes from on this.

  12. Joe Says:

    There are battles in FFXII where I had to change my strategy too. But not any more than other RPGs that don’t use the Gambit system. And when I did have to change my strategy, I still thought the automated system detracted from the experience.

    I found setting Gambits less exciting than when I have to furiously change tactics during an active time battle (like a WEAPON fight, where I’m constantly on edge) or when I have full control over every strategic move (like in FFX or any tactical RPG).

    With FFXII, my most exciting fights involved me setting a Gambit configuration, waiting and watching to see how the tactic is or isn’t working, then going into a menu to adjust some Gambits or manually casting a few spells, then waiting and watching again. It really didn’t do it for me.

    It didn’t have the frantic fun of trying to execute the adjusted plan or the cranial satisfaction of feeling like I won a chess match.

    For me, it failed to accomplish the latter because setting strategies through Gambits felt too sloppy. I often felt cheated because the automation failed to behave the way I wanted it to. There were just too many “oh shit, Vaan already casted that spell while I was making Basch cast a different spell” and “oops, I didn’t realize that gambit would fire in that specific situation because that monster’s HP just barely dropped below a certain threshold” moments. Too often, I felt like I lost because the Gambit system didn’t do what I thought I told it to do, not because my strategy was unsound.

    Obviously, this is very much the how _I_ happened to experience the game. I can understand the appeal of FFXII’s battle system, it just didn’t do it for me.

  13. Caciss Says:

    RATATOUILLIE NUMBER ONE

    THERE WILL BE BLOOD NUMBER TWO

    I don’t think I saw any other movies last year that I liked.

  14. John Mora Says:

    AN

    ULTRA GRUMP!?!??!

  15. Gregory Says:

    I’m sorry, but I have to disagree with you on the Bourne series. If they make a movie out of the books, Bourne Legacy and Bourne Betrayal, many will pay good money to see and own them. The Bourne series are some of the best movies out there. Period. Matt Damon’s call in life was to play Jason Bourne/David Webb and all of the other names he had in the series.

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