Greatest Films of the 2000s
Greatest Films of the 2000s

Greatest Films of the 2000s
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Academy Awards for 2007 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Across the Universe (2007), 128 minutes, D: Julie Taymor
Director Julie Taymor's countercultural, drug-laden 1960s-era musical romance was laced with almost three dozen iconic and thematic Beatles songs, as it followed the story of two lovers from widely-different backgrounds: Jude (Jim Sturgess) and high-school senior Lucy Carrigan (Evan Rachel Wood) - both had names (as did others) inspired by the song titles. Jude was a poor shipyard worker from Liverpool, who came to America (New Jersey), to locate his estranged father, by enlisting in the Merchant Navy. He found his American GI father Wesley "Wes" Hubert (Robert Clohessy) - working as a janitor at Princeton University, and also met Lucy's rebellious brother Max Carrigan (Joe Anderson), a student at the school. Through Max and his affluent, upper-class suburban family, Jude met Max's sister Lucy when he attended the family's Thanksgiving Dinner. They were attracted to each other although both had other relationships. Lucy's HS boyfriend Daniel (Spencer Liff) was serving in Vietnam. After Max announced he was dropping out of school, he and Jude moved to NYC and lived together for a short time in a Greenwich Village enclave, where Max worked as a taxi driver and Jude was a freelance visual artist. Jude and Lucy (after Daniel's death) fell in love after they spent time together, while Max was drafted into the Army and deployed to Vietnam. The pair befriended a small group of musicians, including guitarist Jo-Jo (Martin Luther McCoy) and Sadie (Dana Fuchs), and two other quirky characters while on a psychedelic cross-country bus trip: drug guru Dr. Robert (Bono) and Mr. Kite (Eddie Izzard) who ran a bizarre circus. Lucy became dedicated to the anti-war movement and the violent protest group Students for a Democratic Republic (SDR), causing a rift between Jude and Lucy that led to their breakup on the day of MLK's assassination in 1968. After being arrested when caught in an anti-war protest, Jude was deported back to Liverpool (due to his illegal entry into the US), but he was able to return legally to be reconciled with Lucy, when they came together in a dramatic and emotional scene set across two NYC rooftops.

The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford (2007), 160 minutes, D: Andrew Dominik
This highly-acclaimed, historically-accurate, epic-length psychological western retold the story of charismatic, frontier Missouri fugitive outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt), and his devoted older brother Frank James (Sam Shepard). The two brothers were joined in their gang by Charley Ford (Sam Rockwell), who eventually convinced the reluctant James' brothers to take on his younger brother, 19 year-old 'sidekick' Robert "Bob" Ford (Casey Affleck). At the time of 34 year-old Jesse's death, he and Frank were planning their gang's robbery of the Platte City, MO bank, while Jesse lived with his wife Zee (Mary-Louise Parker) and two children nearby in a small cottage in St. Joseph, MO. The legendary Jesse James was felled (shot in the back of the head after disarming himself) on the morning of April 3rd, 1882 in his family's home by Judas-like "Bob" Ford. Many motivations were suggested for the assassination - jealousy, a desire for fame or the bounty reward, disillusionment with his idol, resentment or fear, and the promise of a pardon from the Governor of Missouri Thomas Crittenden (James Carville). After the killing, the Ford brothers become notorious, exploitative celebrities with a Manhattan theater show that re-enacted the assassination. Bob played himself, while older brother Charley acted as the victim Jesse James. As Jesse's fame as a mythic folk hero increased, the two brothers were ultimately undone and reviled, and Bob was mockingly labeled a "coward." A terminally-ill case of TB caused Charley to commit suicide in May of 1884. Eight years later in 1892 in Colorado, the increasingly-regretful Bob was murdered by Edward O'Kelley (Michael Copeman) at his saloon - who was pardoned ten years later after serving part of his life imprisonment sentence.

Atonement (2007, US/UK), 123 minutes, D: Joe Wright
Director Joe Wright's epic war film of thwarted romance extended over a period of six decades. The film adaptation was based upon English author Ian McEwan's best-selling 2001 novel first set in pre-WWII England. Events early in the film had very long-lasting consequences that caused irrevocable and permanent damage. In 1935, 13 year-old, fantasy-prone aspiring writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) spied upon her lithe older sister Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley) cavorting with her 'secret' boyfriend at her rich family's estate - the servant/cook son Robbie Turner (James McAvoy) who was a recent Cambridge graduate. Briony (possibly willfully) misunderstood and thought there were sexual implications when Cecilia was at an outdoor fountain and dove underwater to retrieve a broken piece of a family heirloom vase - and emerged almost naked in front of Robbie with her soaked and transparent dress. She also came upon the two passionately making love against the stacks in the estate's library. And then she wrongly accused Robbie of 'raping' her 15 year-old visiting cousin Lola Quincey (Juno Temple), although she misidentified him - the real rapist was house-guest Paul Marshall (Benedict Cumberbatch). Robbie was charged and arrested for the 'rape,' and four years later had been pardoned and was serving in the British Army, where he was a participant in the Dunkirk evacuation, and had become seriously wounded. At the same time, Cecilia was a nurse during the war effort, while 18 year-old Briony (Romola Garai) was working in a London hospital. When Briony realized that she had testified falsely about Robbie's involvement with Lola, she went to apologize to them, but it appeared too late to have any effect. In the film's ending set in present-day England, older, terminally-ill (with vascular dementia) novelist Briony (Vanessa Redgrave) was interviewed about her latest and last book - an autobiographical work titled Atonement, when she confessed as an act of penance that much of the end portion of the novel (concerning her apology) was fabricated and imaginary about their reconciliation, since both Robbie and Cecilia died during the war. Robbie had died of a sepsis infection at Dunkirk before being evacuated, and Cecilia drowned as a result of a tube station bombing during the Blitz months later. The final idealized scene of the lovers cavorting on the beach near a beach house, was as Briony stated a fabricated 'happy ending': "So in the book, I wanted to give Robbie and Cecilia what they lost out on in life. I'd like to think this isn't weakness or evasion, but a final act of kindness. I gave them their happiness."

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (2007), 117 minutes, D: Sidney Lumet
This fatalistic crime melodrama-thriller by veteran director Sidney Lumet was a heist tale, told in non-linear flashback, about two brothers (a Cain and Abel story). The two male siblings were Andy Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a slobbish, bulky, smooth-talking and scheming but indebted New York real-estate broker-accountant, and Hank (Ethan Hawke), his deadbeat, divorced, weak and indecisive younger brother. In the opening scene, Andy made vigorous love with his beautiful, dark-haired trophy wife Gina Hanson (Marisa Tomei) while on vacation in an exotic Rio hotel room. The two brothers master-minded a crazy (and completely botched) hold-up of their parents' Westchester suburban strip-mall jewelry store on a Saturday morning because they needed cash for debts. Hank needed child-support funds for his vindictive ex-wife Martha (Amy Ryan) and for his daughter, while Andy required money for his string of white-collar criminal activities, including an expensive heroin drug habit and male prostitutes, and to escape embezzlement charges by his company and the IRS. As a result of the heist, there were two fatalities - the brothers' masked accomplice Bobby Lasorda (Brían F. O'Byrne) and Mrs. Nanette Hanson (Rosemary Harris), who happened to be filling in for the regular store clerk Doris. Andy and Hank's father Charles Hanson (Albert Finney), was determined to make the unidentified robbers pay for their crime for the murder of his wife. At the same time, restless, miserable and reckless Gina was having an affair with Andy's brother - she visited Hank on a weekly basis to have clandestine sex in his dumpy apartment. Hank wanted to run away with her and escape his debts and disastrous problems in his life, but she reminded him of his responsibilities (child support, his daughter, the rent, etc.). The bloody climax resulted in an effort to cover up the trail of evidence, or to silence the brothers' blackmailing creditors. Andy murdered his heroin dealer (along with an innocent client), and also lethally shot Bobby's blackmailing brother-in-law Dex (Michael Shannon). Subsequently Andy was severely injured by Bobby's widowed wife Chris (Aleksa Palladino) and hospitalized, where Charles (who had been doggedly following the two brothers) was able to suffocate Andy to death with a pillow for his role in killing Nanette.

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), 115 minutes, D: Paul Greengrass
This action-packed spy-thriller was the 3rd film in the long-running franchise-series of Bourne films. It was preceded by The Bourne Identity (2002) and The Bourne Supremacy (2004), and followed by The Bourne Legacy (2012) and Jason Bourne (2016). In this installment, super-spy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon in his final appearance as Bourne) raced to attempt to find answers regarding his own identity in his dark past as David Webb before he became Jason Bourne, and how he had been trained as a CIA assassin-killer. Suffering from amnesia and numerous flashbacks, he sought to find information about his life prior to joining Operation Treadstone, now that he had become a target of a new, upgraded assassin (black ops) program known as Operation Blackbriar. In the film's opening set at London's crowded Waterloo Station, Bourne met with London Guardian journalist-reporter Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) who revealed that he had stumbled onto the existence of Blackbriar. Both of them were pursued by Blackbriar sniper-assassin Paz (Édgar Ramírez), and Ross lost his life. While being hunted previously by CIA Deputy Director Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) and now by the new director Noah Vosen (David Strathairn), Bourne's search took him from London to Madrid and then to Tangier and ultimately to New York City, to the location of the CIA's deep-cover bureau. He was aided in his search for clues by Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), his former Treadstone contact in Paris who was forced into hiding. In the film's climax, after deciphering his coded birthday ("4-15-71") as a hospital address ("415 East 71st St"), he met face-to-face with Dr. Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney). Hirsch was Bourne's "maker" - the overseer of Treadstone's behavior modification program, when Bourne remembered that Hirsch had transformed him into a CIA tool to be used by the agency as an indiscriminate killer after he had volunteered for Treadstone. Three days later, the film concluded with Bourne's escape (via the East River), after Operation Blackbriar had been exposed, Hirsch and Vosen were arrested, and a criminal investigation was opened against CIA Director Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn).

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007, US/Fr.) (aka Le Scaphandre Et Le Papillon), 112 minutes, D: Julian Schnabel
This awe-inspiring, yet tearjerking sad docu-drama was based upon the main protagonist's published 1997 memoirs. The biographical dramatic film told about wealthy playboy and Elle French magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) who suffered a massive, debilitating stroke at the age of 43 in France that left him with a rare case of "locked-in" syndrome. His mind was intact but he was almost completely paralyzed and unable to speak. Jean-Do glimpsed at himself in a mirror through one eye, thinking: "God, who's that? Me?" and then commented internally about his shock: ("I look like I came out of a vat of formaldehyde. How awful!"). As he recovered but remained restricted, immobile and frustrated, he knew that the active imaginations of his mind were completely trapped inside. He compared himself to a diver in a bulky, imprisoning and restrictive deep-sea suit or outfit, his body shell, although he felt his spirit was like a "butterfly." He would often be wheeled/carried out (seen externally) to watch his children (unaffected by his slumped over torso and twisted face) playing on the French coastline beach. His son wiped the saliva-drool from his lip in one of the film's most affecting scenes. With his speech therapist Henriette Durand (Marie-Josée Croze), he learned to communicate (and spell words, letter by letter) through the laborious process of blinking his left eye. Jean-Do listened by speaker phone to his frail, forgetful, and estranged 92 year old father Mr. Bauby Sr. (Max von Sydow), both of whom were trapped in their lives in similar ways. His father (aka Papinou) described how four flights of stairs were totally imprisoning: ("It's impossible to talk like this. I forget everythng I want to say...I've had a thought about us. We're in the same boat. I'm stuck in this apartment, unable to use the stairs...You see, we're both locked in. You in your body, me in my apartment"). In the final scene, Jean-Do died (from pneumonia) just ten days after publishing his painstakingly-written book of autobiographical memoirs, the film's title, composed by dictation one letter at a time.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007, Romania) (aka 4 Luni, 3 Saptamâni Si 2 Zile), 113 minutes, D: Cristian Mungiu
Set in 1987 in Bucharest, Romania under brutal and dictatorial Communist rule (with serious food rationing), this grim slice-of-life drama won the Palme d'Or at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. It told about two loyal student roommates living together in their school's co-ed dormitory. Otilia Mihartescu (Anamaria Marinca) and Gabriela "Găbița" Dragut (Laura Vasiliu) soon faced almost insurmountable problems when Găbița realized she was pregnant (she kept it hidden that she was in her second trimester). Abortions at the time were illegal, outlawed by the repressive state and punishable by death. They were forced to procure a law-breaking termination procedure from male abortionist Bebe (Vlad Ivanov). According to his instructions, Găbița and Otilia made the arrangements, including booking a 3-day reservation at a hotel room at the Unitea, and providing all the needed supplies and bribes necessary, while Otilia borrowed money from her boyfriend Adi Radu (Alex Potocean). The situation intensified when the location of the procedure was changed to a more expensive hotel, the Tineretului, and Adi insisted that Otilia attend his mother's birthday party on the same night. More problematic was Bebe's insistence that in addition to money, he would be compensated with sexual favors from both roommates. After the illegal abortion was performed by injecting a probe and a saline solution into Găbița's uterus, Bebe departed with instructions on how to dispose of the fetus. After forced attendance by Otilia at Adi's family celebration, she returned to the hotel and disposed of the fetus (in a bag deposited in another building's trash chute) before joining a recovered Găbița in the hotel's restaurant, for a late-night dinner (ordering from a wedding party's menu). Otilia noted: "We're never going to talk about this, okay?" There were clues throughout the film that Otilia was pregnant, but not aware of the fact.

Gone Baby Gone (2007), 114 minutes, D: Ben Affleck
Director Ben Affleck's feature-film directorial debut was this mystery thriller-crime drama, based upon Dennis Lehane's 1998 novel of the same name. In the tough working-class neighborhood of Dorchester near Boston, MA, it was reported that the 4-year-old daughter Amanda (Madeline O'Brien) of ignorant, cocaine-addicted mother Helene McCready (Amy Ryan) had been abducted. A private investigator-detective from the neighborhood, who had unique criminal connections to the Boston underworld, 31 year-old Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck), explained in the opening that his job was to find people that had gone missing in his hometown. He was hired along with his business and personal partner-girlfriend Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan), to find the kidnapped girl (with her favorite doll Mirabelle - actually Annabelle). They were recruited by the girl's Aunt and Uncle, Beatrice "Bea" McCready (Amy Madigan) and Lionel McCready (Titus Welliver). Other police officers were assigned to the case, including shady veteran Det. Sgt. Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and his partner Nick Poole (John Ashton), while police Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) oversaw the investigation. Patrick and Angie entered into a seamy world involving drug smugglers, a Haitian drug dealer, a murderous child-molesting pedophile, cocaine addicts, career criminals and corrupt cops. As it turned out, Amanda's kidnapping (and her death) had been faked at a quarry during a botched exchange, and she was soon after found living happily with Captain Doyle and his wife. The couple had suffered the kidnapping and murder of their own child years before. Doyle was unable to convince Patrick to let the case go unsolved: "I did what I did for the sake of the child." The film ended on a sad note, with Amanda returning to her irresponsible and negligent mother, and the arrest of Doyle and Uncle Lionel for conspiring to stage a fake kidnapping. Due to a strong difference of opinion about Amanda's fate, Patrick and Angie broke up.

Hairspray (2007), 115 minutes, D: Adam Shankman
This fun and exhilarating comedic musical with an ensemble cast was based on two sources: the 2002 hit Broadway stage musical, and director John Waters' non-musical camp comedy Hairspray (1988). Set in 1962 in Baltimore, MD, the charming film followed the aspirations and dreams of plump, optimistic 16 year-old HS student Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky in her film debut), who wished to try out on the local, after-school WYZT-TV teen dance show, The Corny Collins Show (modeled after Dick Clark's American Bandstand). Although she was pro-integration, she loved to watch the mostly white dance show every afternoon, hosted by Corny (James Marsden). She had a crush on the show's lead dance star, Link Larkin (Zac Efron), who was featured with his pretty girlfriend and partner Amber von Tussle (Brittany Snow) - both teens attended Tracy's HS. Amber was the favored daughter of icy-cold ex-pageant queen Velma Von Tussle (Michelle Pfeiffer), the racist manager of the dance show who insisted it remain almost entirely segregated. The show was sponsored by Ultra-Clutch brand hairspray. Tracy's parents, obese and agorophobic Mrs. Turnblad (John Travolta in drag!), the owner of a laundry business, and her father Wilbur (Christopher Walken), the owner of a practical-joke shop known as "Hardy-Har Hut", weren't altogether supportive of their daughter. Tracy's best HS friend was Penny Lou Pingleton (Amanda Bynes), the daughter of highly-religious fundamentalist and racist Prudence "Prudy" Pingleton (Allison Janney). Tracy's favorite part of the show was the once-a-month "Negro Day" specials (on the last Tuesday of the month), when African-American dancers participated, and the show was hosted by R&B DJ Motormouth Maybelle (Queen Latifah), a record shop manager. While auditioning for an open spot on the show, Tracy became friends with Maybelle's son Seaweed J. Stubbs (Elijah Kelley), a great dancer who taught her some slick dance moves. Once Tracy was selected to be on the show, she caused conflict when she announced that she wished every show could be "Negro Day," but then the outspoken teen became extremely popular. She emerged as Amber's rival for the title of "Miss Teenage Hairspray," and also a contender for Link's attention. Tracy was also able to encourage her mother to leave the house and become her agent-manager. A protest developed when Velma dropped the "Negro Day" show, and members of the cast joined a march against the studio to promote the show's integration. In the meantime, romantic relationships developed between Tracy and Link, and Seaweed and Prudy. In the climax during Velma's rigged pageant competition for "Miss Teenage Hairspray," the outcast Tracy broke in and performed. She was joined onstage with Link dancing with Seaweed's teenaged younger sister Little Inez (Taylor Parks), who eventually was voted as the winner - and lead dancer. Tracy had succeeded in integrating the show, while Velma was fired.

Hannibal Rising (2007), 121 minutes, D: Peter Webber
This psychological horror-thriller was the 5th installment of the popular franchise-series of Hannibal films (1986-2007) about the sinister, cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter. It was based on Thomas Harris' prequel novel of the same name published in 2006. Set first in Lithuania during WWII, it followed the early life of young 8 year-old Hannibal (Aaran Thomas as boy, Gaspard Ulliel as adult) living in a medieval Lecter castle, when he witnessed his well-to-do parents Count Lecter and Simonetta Sforza-Lecter (Richard Leaf and Ingeborga Dapkunaite) and younger sister Mischa (Helena Lia Tachovska) die during conflict between Soviet and German soldiers. He became haunted by the memory of six starving Lithuanian militiamen who deserted and joined the German Waffen-SS, and then were responsible for cannibalizing his beloved Mischa. Traumatized and rendered mute, he was transferred to a Soviet-run orphanage (once his family's castle) for eight years, and then escaped to live in France with his widowed Aunt by marriage, Japanese wartime survivor Lady Murasaki Shikibu (Gong Li), the author of The Tale of Genji. To defend his Aunt's honor, he assaulted and then later brutally killed (with a katana) a crude and racist butcher Paul Momund (Charles Maquignon) who had slighted her. He developed his signature obsession - biting a victim's cheeks. Lady Murasaki helped to hide Hannibal's crime from Inspector Popil (Dominic West). She taught him martial arts, while he also entered medical school and became an academically-gifted medical student working with cadavers. For the rest of his time in Europe, the increasingly-psychotic Lecter plotted to seek vengeance on the murderous war criminals (the six German killers identified through their dogtags) who had animalistically eaten Mischa. He sought and viciously killed each of them in this order: Kazys Porvik (Lecter witnessed him crushed by falling debris), Enrikas Dortlich (decapitation), Zigmas Milko (drowning and incineration), Petras Kolnas (impalement - head stabbing), Vladis Grutas (lethal chest carving and explosion), and Bronys Grentz (beheaded in Canada). During his lethal confrontation with Grutas, Lecter was told that he had also consumed his sister in broth that was fed to him by the deserters, and that his excuse for retribution was to keep it a secret. After the 6th and final murder, Lecter moved to the US to continue his rampage. A number of years passed before events in the next film Manhunter (1986), based upon Thomas Harris' 1981 novel Red Dragon.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007), 139 minutes, D: David Yates
This feature-length episode was the 5th installment of the long-running 8-film Harry Potter franchise-series. The fantasy-adventure film, based upon J.K. Rowling's 2003 novel of the same name, was preceded by Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005), and followed by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009). In the story, Hogwarts wizard-in-training student Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) was about to begin his 5th year of studies. It was prophesied by the secret Order of the Phoenix, founded by Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) to oppose Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes), that the evil one had returned, but the corrupt Ministry of Magic and its head Cornelius Fudge (Robert Hardy) were denying the fact. Fudge believed that Dumbledore was using claims of The Dark Lord's return as a means to over-throw Fudge as Minister. 15 year-old Harry and his cousin Dudley Dursley (Harry Melling) were attacked by Dementors in 1995 in their SE England home-town of Little Whinging, contradicting the current prevailing rumors. Harry was also plagued by nightmares of Voldemort's menacing return. His new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, pink-costumed Professor Dolores Jane Umbridge (Imelda Staunton), under the influence of the Ministry, assumed cruel bureaucratic and authoritative control of Hogwarts, using dictatorial and fascist powers when appointed as the new Headmistress to quell dissent (after Dumbledore had fled following threats of arrest). Smear tactics were employed against those who believed in the ominous predictions of You Know Who's return by The Daily Prophet. To defend themselves, Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), and Harry recruited and formed a secretive defensive group of students known as "Dumbledore's Army" (DA), to teach combative magical spells. Counteracting the DA to expose them were students recruited by Umbridge to form an Inquisitorial Squad - composed of Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) and other Slytherin students. Meanwhile, Harry was forming a romantic relationship with Cho Chang (Katie Leung). Another development was the escape from Azkaban prison by Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), Sirius Black's (Gary Oldman) deranged Death Eater cousin, along with nine other Death Eaters. In the film's climactic battle, all forces met to confront each other in the Department of Mysteries: Death Eaters (Lucius Malfoy (Jason Isaacs) and Bellatrix Lestrange and others) vs. Dumbledore's Army joined by Sirius Black and members of the Order of the Phoenix. Tragically, Bellatrix killed Sirius (Harry's godfather), just before Dumbledore magically arrived to duel against Voldemort to save Harry. In the conclusion, Minister Fudge admitted his errors and resigned, followed by Umbridge's removal as Headmistress and Dumbledore's reinstatement.

Into the Wild (2007), 148 minutes, D: Sean Penn
Director/writer Sean Penn's documentary-styled, ill-fated odyssey and biopic adventure-drama was based upon Jon Krakauer's 1996 non-fiction book - about a quest for self-discovery. The film opened with a concluding sequence, titled 'Final Chapter: Getting of Wisdom.' Free-spirited, idealistic, arrogant college-grad adventurer Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) (who had renamed himself "Alexander Supertramp") arrived at a remote portion of Alaska in 1992 after forsaking his estranged family and many friends along his wanderlust journey. There, he set up a camp inside an abandoned city bus ("The Magic Bus"), where he began to live a life of isolation, diary-writing, and hunting for sustenance. A flashback returned to two years earlier, when he graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, GA. He was quickly disillusioned by modern and 'corrupt' civilization (after he learned he had been born out-of-wedlock). He began a cross-country drive that ended near Las Vegas where he abandoned his car and began hitchhiking. He wandered to N. California, then back to South Dakota, down to Mexico, and west to Los Angeles, taking odd jobs and having various misadventures. On the S. California border with Mexico in the Sonoran Desert, he had a brief encounter at an RV park with teenaged Tracy Tatro (Kristen Stewart), a guitar player who was introduced to him as "little Joni Mitchell" - and he spent an enjoyable but brief time with her. He also met up, a month later at the Salton Sea (California) with kindly, elderly widower and leather worker Ron Franz (Oscar-nominated Hal Holbrook). After climbing up to a rocky hilltop, they talked about where to find human happiness: ("From the bits and pieces I've put together, you know, from what you told me about your family, your mother and your dad, and I know you've got your problems with the church too, but there's some kind of bigger thing we can all appreciate, and it sounds like you don't mind calling it God. But when you forgive, you love, and when you love, God's light shines on you"). Two months later, in a tearful and heartfelt parting scene just before Ron dropped off hitchhiking 'Alex' at the start of his Alaskan adventure, he proposed paternalistically to adopt 'Alex' as his grandchild: ("You know, my, uh, my mother was an only child and so was my father, and, uh, I was their only child, so, uh, when I'm gone, I'm the end of the line. My family will be finished. What do you say you let me adopt you? I can be, say, your grandfather"). Unfortunately, 'Alex' demurred: "Ron, could we talk about this when I get back from Alaska? Would that be okay?" - they would never have another opportunity to speak. In the final scene in a flash-forward to four months later in Alaska, Chris suffered a prolonged, lonely, and painful death due to starvation and poisoning after eating inedible Wild Sweet Peas (mistaken for Wild Potato Alaska Carrot) . His final words were scrawled in block letters into his journal: "HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED." When he died, the camera pulled back from his face (as a single tear dropped from the corner of his right eye and then his left eye) as he gazed up at the light in the back of his abandoned 'magic bus' home (an IH 1946 abandoned bus). Two weeks later, his body was found by moose-hunters. The film ended with an actual self-portrait photograph of Chris sitting next to his bus.

Juno (2007), 96 minutes, D: Jason Reitman, Joe Drake
In this teen, coming-of-age romantic comedy-drama, each of the four sections of the film were divided by the seasons of the year. Starting in Autumn, the title character Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page), an offbeat, precocious, sarcastic, independent-minded, 16 year-old junior living in Minnesota was facing an unexpected pregnancy after having one-time sex (in a rocking chair) with her geeky but genuine best friend Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). A visit to an abortion clinic convinced Juno to carry the baby to term and then adopt the child out. The pragmatic Juno perused the PennySaver personal ads, and contacted a childless couple - two upscale yuppies (including a failed rock star) who were ideally suitable as potential parents for a closed adoption: commercial ad jingle-writer Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner). She met what she thought was the perfect couple in their luxury suburban home. She also notified her supportive parents: Mac (J. K. Simmons) and stepmother Bren MacGuff (Allison Janney) of her decision, and then continued on with her schooling. A number of complications and challenges arose through the months, including Paulie's ignored feelings about being a father and how he was casually neglected by Juno, and Juno's close association with Mark with whom she shared an interest in punk rock and horror films. Just before the baby was due, Mark confided in Juno the shocking revelation that he was planning to divorce and leave Vanessa, that he wasn't ready to be a father, and that he had emotional feelings for Juno. She was disturbed that her dream of the baby being raised in a loving family might not come to fruition. Juno came to the realization that she really loved Paulie and they both expressed their true and honest love for each other. Following the birth of a baby boy, Vanessa came to the hospital to happily claim the newborn as a single adoptive mother. Juno's note to Vanessa, displayed in the newborn's nursery, stated: "Vanessa: If you're still in, I'm still in. - Juno." Meanwhile, Juno and Paulie maintained their open and happy relationship at school.

Live Free or Die Hard (2007), 129 minutes, D: Len Wiseman
This action-thriller was the fourth film in the five-film Die Hard franchise series (1988-2013). On the 4th of July holiday weekend, NYC police detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) was called upon to stop cyber-terrorists who were hacking into various networked computers across the country, including the FBI's Cybercrime division. With the help of an apprehended young hacker named Matthew "Matt" Farrell (Justin Long) (who himself was targeted for assassination) and FBI agent Miguel Bowman (Cliff Curtis) in the Cybersecurity Division, McClane learned that the lead criminal mastermind (who was killing his own hackers to cover his tracks, including Farrell) was Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant). Gabriel was assisted by lover-girlfriend Mai Linh (Maggie Q) and Rand (Cyril Raffaelli). He had learned his cyber-skills when he worked as a top security expert for the U.S. Department of Defense, before being dismissed and going rogue. His objective was to instigate a high-tech attack on the US' infrastructure, to disable and cripple everything and threaten the US. His main targets were designed to be destroyed in stages, including the nation's transportation grids (the network of traffic signals, rail transport and air traffic control) and the nation's financial systems (i.e., the stock market), to create a "fire sale." He followed that with the sabotage of telecommunications networks (the nation's TV signals). Then, he assaulted the power grid at a main superstation power hub in West Virginia. After the death of Linh, Gabriel vengefully and explosively blew up the power station, causing a massive electricity blackout over DC and much of the East Coast. In order to increase the stakes and provide himself with bargainng power, Gabriel kidnapped McClane's estranged daughter, Lucy Gennero-McClane (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). He set out inside a semi-mobile 18-wheeler where his portable computer command center was operated, to begin hacking into the NSA building in Woodlawn, Maryland, where all of the nation's personal and financial records were backed up. At the last minute, Farrell was able to encrypt all of Gabriel's downloaded data with a secret code. McClane pursued Gabriel (with Farrell and Lucy seized as hostages) who fled in a van into a hangar. Just at the point where Farrell was forcibly compelled to divulge the encryption code, McClane arrived. He was shot in the right shoulder by Gabriel's last remaining henchman, but then shot himself through his own shoulder wound to kill Gabriel standing behind him, before the FBI rescue team arrived.

Michael Clayton (2007), 119 minutes, D: Tony Gilroy
In writer Tony Gilroy's directorial debut film, Michael Clayton (George Clooney) was a ruthless, high-powered former prosecutor turned troubled "fixer" corporate lawyer (or "special counsel") in New York for Kenner, Bach and Ledeen (headed by Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack)). His job was "janitor" - to clean up various problems and keep high-paying clients out of trouble, although he had problems of his own: a divorce, gambling addiction to poker, and a remaining debt of $75,000 (for a sour deal regarding a failed restaurant business) that he was struggling to pay off for his alcoholic brother Timmy Clayton (David Lansbury). The film opened with issues involving the law firm's involvement in a multi-billion-dollar class-action lawsuit (that was about to be settled pre-trial) against their client, an agro-chemical company named U/North. The company was accused of using a cancer-causing pesticide, and there were additional problems with the firm's top litigator -- unstable, guilt-ridden defense lawyer Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson). Edens had been working on the U/North case for 6 years and suffered a ranting/raving breakdown during a deposition in the case in Milwaukee when he stopped taking his medications. Also, Clayton found himself in a deadly predicament when there was a failed car-bombing designed to kill him. The key to the film was that Edens was planning to sabotage the pre-trial settlement of the lawsuit with U/North's ruthless chief in-house counsel Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), by distributing large numbers of red-bound copies of a confidential scientific report (Memorandum # 229). The report, from one of U-North's own internal research teams (and signed by CEO Don Jefferies (Ken Howard)), told about the hazardous effects of human exposure to the weed killer involved in the lawsuit. Edens had been persuaded to turn against U/North (and blow the case) by one of the young plaintiffs in the case - a farm-girl named Anna (Merritt Wever), with whom he had became infatuated. To stifle Edens, Crowder had hired henchmen to track and spy on Arthur's phone-calls and whereabouts - and then to kill him - by faking his suicidal death from an overdose (by injecting him between the toes). They also plotted to kill Michael with a car bomb, because he was suspicious that Arthur didn't leave a suicide note at the scene, and that Arthur was on his way to meet Anna at the airport on the same evening he died. In the film's final scene, U/North's Karen Crowder calmly assured her executives at a board meeting about the impending successful settlement of the lawsuit. Then outside in the hallway, she was surprised by a live confrontation by Michael Clayton - not dead from the car-bomb but quite alive. He blackmailed her, proposing that he could be bought off for $10 million to keep quiet ("$10 million dollars, bank of my choosing, offshore, immediately!"). She agreed ("You have a deal"), but didn't realize that he had secretly broadcast their conversation about her agreement to provide hush money. He then told her: "You're f--ked" - after which he snapped her picture with his cellphone's camera and then identified himself: "I'm Shiva, the God of Death." As she collapsed to the floor, she was arrested by Michael's police detective brother Raymond (Kevin Hagan), who had heard everything. The end credits played over Michael Clayton's $50 drive around town ("Just drive") in a taxi, viewed in a long-held shot.

No Country For Old Men (2007), 91 minutes, D: Joel and Ethan Coen
In this Coen Brothers' dark crime-thriller drama, the Best Picture-winner of the year, in June of 1980 in a border area of Texas and Mexico, local cowboy, welder and Vietnam vet Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) came upon the bloody aftermath of a bad heroin drug deal and shoot-out in the desert, and discovered $2 million in drug funds cash. A second enigmatic, psychotic, and notorious hitman-killer Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), whose signature weapon was a high pressure air pistol used to indiscriminatingly kill, escaped from being jailed after strangling the deputy sheriff (Zach Hopkins). Hired to retrieve the money, he was known to flip a coin to determine a victim's fate. Both were under the purview of wise, about-to-retire, disillusioned and laconic Terrell County Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), a third-generation law officer who was dismayed by the increasing violence and trail of carnage (it was truly "no country for old men"). Meanwhile, a Dallas businessman (Stephen Root), involved somehow in the drug deal, hired Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson), a bounty hunter, to control the "situation" with Chigurh and retrieve the money. Chigurh relentlessly tracked after Moss and engaged in a number of confrontations and gun firefights, killing Wells and eventually killing Moss at a motel in El Paso, TX. In the final shocking and chilling scene, the amoral Chigurh visited with Moss' recently-widowed Carla Jean (Kelly Macdonald) who refused to play his coin-flip game, knowing his intentions ("I ain't gonna call it.....The coin don't have no say. It's just you"). After remorselessly killing her and leaving her house, his car was broadsided at an intersection and he was severely injured. In the final scene, retired Sheriff Bell recalled two dreams he had of his sheriff-father, and wistfully related them to his wife Loretta (Tess Harper).

The Orphanage (2007, Mex./Sp.) (aka El Orfanato), 105 minutes, D: Juan Antonio Bayona
This chilling gothic supernatural thriller, by first-time director Juan Antonio Bayona, was about an abandoned Spanish seaside orphanage, now restored and set up for "special children." As a young orphaned child, now-married wife Laura (Belen Rueda) had been raised at the institution. 30 years later, she moved in with her doctor husband Carlos Sanchez (Fernando Cayo) to reopen the orphanage to help disabled children. They had one child: Simón (Roger Príncep), a lonely, 7 year-old adopted son who was diagnosed as ill and HIV positive (dying of AIDS). Strangely, he would often communicate and play hide-and-seek with six imaginary "invisible friends" (or 'ghosts') in the haunted building. One of his imaginary "ghost" friends was named Tomas. Through Tomas, Simon claimed that he knew that he was adopted (although he hadn't been told) and that he was going to soon die. During a children's welcoming party at the orphanage (during which some of the children wore masks, including Simon), Simon had an argument with his mother, and then inexplicably disappeared. That night, Laura heard unexplainable banging noises in the orphanage (noises coming from a blocked, closeted door under the stairs). Subsequently, Laura sought many ways to try and discover Simon's whereabouts, including a police psychologist. During her search, Laura came upon evidence, through her recently-deceased social worker Benigna Escobedo (Montserrat Carulla) who had worked at the orphanage when Laura was there as a child, that she had a deformed son named Tomas (hidden away and masked) who disappeared just like Simon. Shortly after Laura's adoption, Tomas was found dead (drowned) on the beach after some of the other orphans had played a trick on him. Nine months after Simon's disappearance, Laura sought out psychic medium Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin) for clues to Simon's whereabouts and evidence of anything else in the orphanage. She was led to discover some ominous clues to the orphanage's sordid past - there were sacks of human ashes and partial skeletal remains in the orphanage's coal shed. [Note: Laura deduced that Benigna vengefully poisoned and cremated the bodies of the five children responsible for Tomas' death: Martin, Rita, Alicia, Guillermo, and Victor, all friends of Laura's, who then became 'ghosts.' Their ashes and bones were placed in sacks in the coal shed.] Laura's spooked husband Carlos left, and for two days, Laura became crazed and imagined the spirits of the 'ghost' children in her presence from the past. Eventually, the ghosts led her to discover Simon in the secret cellar/basement room accessible through a closet door under the stairs. [She had accidentally blocked the door and he perished there.] She imagined that she found him alive and carried him in his arms (as the camera circled them), but he was really dead on the floor after being trapped there many months earlier. In the end, Laura took an overdose of pills to be close to her dead son, who came to life in her arms, as did all the other deceased children. When her husband Carlos returned, he walked up to the gravestone marker of his wife and son and the other children, to lay roses there.

Paranormal Activity (2007), 86 minutes, D: Oren Peli
This low-budget, breakout, independent supernatural-horror film (another 'found footage' example, similar to the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project (1999)) was director Oren Peli's highly-effective and successful feature debut. The chilling film came into wide release following a massive social-media viral marketing campaign. It was followed by many sequels: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010), Paranormal Activity 3 (2011), Paranormal Activity 4 (2012), Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014), and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015). The suspenseful 'bump in the night', minimalist thriller (completely bloodless) was set in the fall of 2006. A young 20-something couple: day-trading Micah (Micah Sloat) and his live-in teacher-girlfriend Katie (Katie Featherston), had just moved into a two-story suburban San Diego tract house. Over a three week period, inexplicable late-night incidents and malevolent or 'ghostly' hauntings occurred. Katie believed that a malevolent, demonic force had been tormenting her since her childhood. With typical male bravado, Micah set up a night-vision camcorder that was set on a tripod in their bedroom, to document on videotape the mysterious nocturnal entity. They consulted with a famous psychic named Dr. Fredrichs (Mark Fredrichs) who suggested that a demon was indeed targeting Katie, and that they might need professional help from demonologist Dr. Johann Averies. The clueless Micah, who wasn't helping to diminish the nightly visits, continued to film with a battery of video cameras at night and was determined to solve the problem on his own. He brought home a Ouija board and attempted to confront the menacing forces threatening the entire house, further exacerbating the problem with the spirits whose energy was becoming increasingly angry. Ultimately, Katie (who had suffered a bite mark and gripped a crucifix until her hand bled) seemed to become demonically possessed. In the shocking and alarming ending, Micah's body was hurled at the video-camera and then a bloodied Katie walked slowly into view. She smiled at the camera and then lunged at it - the screen cut to black. The epilogue's title card stated: "Micah's body was discovered by police on October 11, 2006. Katie's whereabouts remain unknown."

Persepolis (2007, Iran/Fr.), 95 minutes, D: Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud
Marjane Satrapi's dark, coming-of age, autobiographical animated film (nominated for Best Animated Feature Film) was based on her best-selling graphic novels. In the dramatic biopic film, 11 year-old Marjane (or Marji) Satrapi (voice of Chiara Mastroianni), a big Bruce Lee fan, grew up during the 1979 Islamic revolution (against the US-backed Shah of Iran). She was forced to survive an oppressive regime under Ayatollah Khomeini that imposed strict and fundamentalist Islamic law. She also suffered after the start of the Iran-Iraq war period (fought from 1980-1988) marked by rampant death and destruction. Her critically-ill uncle Taher who had a bad heart was unable to obtain a passport to leave the country for medical treatment, and died. As she grew older, she became more defiant and outspoken against the government and its abuses. She was sent to a school in Vienna, Austria in 1983, but then after a number of difficult experiences, she returned to Iran in 1993 after the conclusion of the war. One of her friends, Nima, fell to his death (from a rooftop) when he tried to escape a raid on a forbidden drinking party. She visited her imprisoned, soon-to-be executed Uncle Anouche (voice of François Jerosme/Iggy Pop), an Iranian political prisoner, when he gave her a second swan made of hardened bread crumbs, calling it "the uncle" of the first swan he gave her during his first nine-year prison sentence. As she laid in bed with the two swans, Marjane cursed God and imagined the two swans swimming out to sea. In a heartbreaking scene, Marjane, who had been transformed into becoming a major political dissident, left repressive Iran forever to live in Europe, and saw her Grandmother (voice of Danielle Darrieux/Gena Rowlands) for the last time, but she never forgot that her homeland was Iran. A final voice-over was of young Marjane's memories about when she was told how her Grandmother kept smelling fresh: ("Well, I'll tell you. Every morning, I pick fresh jasmine flowers, and when I get dressed I put them into my brassiere. That way, I smell nice all day"). The closing credits featured falling jasmine flowers (white flowers on a black background).

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007), 168 minutes, D: Gore Verbinski
This was the third swashbuckling film in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise series of adventure-fantasy films, preceded by Dead Man's Chest (2006), and followed by On Stranger Tides (2011). It began with pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) trapped in Captain Davy Jones' (Bill Nighy) Locker after confronting the Kraken, and in need of rescue. To help save Jack, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) and her fiancee Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) aligned themselves with resurrected and nefarious Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) of The Black Pearl and witch Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris) (aka Calypso, Jones' lover), to travel to the Singapore to join with the forces of infamous pirate lord Sao Feng (Chow Yun-Fat). He possessed a ship and an important map of the World's End, the gateway to Davy Jones' Locker where Sparrow was held. Their ultimate goal was to use The Nine Pirate Lords of the Brethren Court army, at all corners of the globe, to convene and then fight against the British. British naval forces were led by Lord Cutler Beckett (Tom Hollander), the chairman of the East India Trading Company, and the commander of the Endeavor. He had taken control and enslaved the malevolent, tentacle-faced pirate Captain Davy Jones (by taking possession of his disembodied heart) and his ghostly Flying Dutchman crew. In addition, Admiral James Norrington (Jack Davenport), the former fiancee of Elizabeth, was reluctantly allied with Beckett, and was on his own crusade to destroy every pirate ship on the high seas. In the film's conclusion during a decisive and wild sea battle between the many forces, Will Turner proposed and was married to long-time love Elizabeth on the deck of The Black Pearl. A few moments later, Will boarded the Flying Dutchman to retrieve the Dead Man's Chest, but was mortally stabbed in the heart by captain Davy Jones. Captain Jack was able to stab Jones' heart and kill him (using Will's hand). Legend had it that the person who stabbed Davy Jones' heart would become the next immortal captain of the Flying Dutchman - therefore, Will became his replacement (Will's heart was cut out of his body by his father "Bootstrap Bill" (Stellan Skarsgard) and placed in the chest). This allowed time for Elizabeth and Jack to escape the Dutchman, just as it went down into a whirlpool. Will was reborn and became the new captain of the resurrected Dutchman, destined to sail as its captain (with his father) for eternity, with the crew freed from the curse and in human form. The two pirate ships, the Pearl and the Dutchman, destroyed Beckett's ship the Endeavour with Beckett on board. After making love to Elizabeth (now Mrs. Turner) on his one day in 10 years allowed on land before saying a final goodbye and departure, Will sailed off on the Dutchman, leaving Elizabeth pregnant and with the chest containing his heart. They promised to see each other again in a decade. Elizabeth promised to keep Will's beating heart safe in the chest.

Ratatouille (2007), 110 minutes, D: Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava
This was the 8th computer-animated feature film from Disney/Pixar, the winner of the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar. The title character of the family-oriented film was a French chef country rat named Remy (voice of Patton Oswalt), who could smell food ingredients while his gluttonous, indiscriminate, red-colored older brother Emile (voice of Peter Sohn) could not. Watching TV, Remy idolized Paris' celebrated chef Auguste Gusteau and his restaurant. Gusteau was the author of a best-selling cookbook titled: "Anyone Can Cook." Remy sadly learned during one broadcast that Gusteau's restaurant, after the reknowned chef's death, was downgraded to 4-stars after a poor and "scathing" review from harsh Parisian food critic Anton Ego (voice of Peter O'Toole). After Remy and his family of rats were driven from their country home by a gun-toting grandma named Mabel, he found himself in Paris in front of Gusteau's, now downgraded and newly owned and managed by short-statured, dictatorial Chef Skinner (voice of Ian Holm). Remy teamed up (as an odd-couple) with non-culinary-skilled, shy Alfredo Linguini (voice of Lou Romano) (hired as a garbage boy) to create culinary dishes in the restaurant. In the arrangement, Remy hid in the young man's tall toque hat and pulled on Linguini's hair to direct his motions like a puppeteer, in order to recreate various dishes (under Skinner's orders) and to teach him how to cook. Linguini was also under the supervision of another formidable and bossy chef Colette Tatou (voice of Janeane Garofalo). Remy and Linguini both lived in fear that their secret would be discovered. Linguini inherited the restaurant as its rightful heir, because according to the letter from his deceased mother, he was the (illegitimate) son of Auguste Gusteau. Skinner was forced out, but went on to create a line of frozen food products. Once Linguini revealed that the real cooking talent came from Remy, his staff walked out, and Remy's rat family colony and Colette were forced to rally together to keep the restaurant open, and to serve critic Anton Ego who announced that he would be attending. When Anton was served a traditional "peasant dish" of ratatouille, it reminded him of eating his mother's cooking as a boy. He met chef Remy (after all the other customers left) to compliment him and to call him "nothing less than the finest chef in France," but did not reveal the secret chef in his glowing review. Although Gusteau's restaurant was shut down due to the presence of rats (after Skinner and a health inspector ratted on them), the discredited Ego (as a "small business investor") subsidized a new restaurant and became one of its regular customers - the final shot in the film was of Linguini's and Remy's new bistro named "Ratatouille" in the city of Paris.

Shrek the Third (2007), 92 minutes, D: Chris Miller
This childrens'/family-friendly fantasy-adventure comedy was the 3rd computer-animated feature film in the popular Shrek franchise-series. It was preceded by Shrek (2001) and Shrek 2 (2004), and followed by Shrek Forever After (2010). In the film's opening in the fantasy Far Far Away kingdom, the happily-married, newly-wed couple: awkward but lovable green ogre Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) and Princess Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) were about to succeed to the throne in the event of the death of King Harold (voice John Cleese). Before the ailing King died, he explained to them that his under-achieving, rebellious 16 year-old nephew Arthur "Artie" Pendragon (voice of Justin Timberlake), Fiona's cousin, was the true and rightful heir if he could be located. Competing to be King and plotting to overthrow Shrek was handsome Prince Charming (voice of Rupert Everett) who wished to avenge the death of his mother - the Fairy Godmother, and attain his own "happily ever after." Shrek and his sidekicks - Donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), set off to find "Artie," just after Fiona announced that she was pregnant. During the trek, Shrek suffered nightmares and expressed major fears of fatherhood. Simultaneously, Prince Charming attempted to invade the kingdom, stage a coup, overthrow and take over the government, and assume the throne. He had allied himself with many other fairy-tale villains, including Captain Hook (voice of Ian McShane). Loser, skinny, dorky slacker "Artie" was found as an underachieving student at Worcestershire Academy, an elite boarding school, and was very apprehensive about becoming the new King. On an island, the group met up with Artie's retired ex-wizard teacher, Merlin (voice of Eric Idle) before being transported back. Meanwhile, Fiona and Queen Lillian (voice of Julie Andrews) escaped from Charming's assault, but then many of them were captured, including Fiona's fairy-tale friends (Gingerbread Man, Pinocchio, The Big Bad Wolf, The Three Blind Mice and The Three Little Pigs, Dragon, and Donkey and Dragon's children), and four princesses: Cinderella (voice of Amy Sedaris), Sleeping Beauty (voice of Cheri Oteri), Rapunzel (voice of Maya Rudolph), and Snow White (voice of Amy Poehler). The princesses were imprisoned in Rapunzel's tower. After Shrek and his companions returned to Far Far Away, Charming was conspiring to kill Shrek, whose forces were mostly overwhelmed, but with Artie's ingenuity and clever ruses, he convinced the villains to stop and turn over a new leaf. He revealed his leadership qualities and was able to foil Charming. Charming's attempt to kill Shrek failed, and the usurper was covered by the bricks of the collapsing tower brought down by Dragon's tail. Artie agreed to become the kingdom's new monarch (King Arthur), and Fiona delivered ogre triplets to be cared for back in the swamp.

Spider-Man 3 (2007), 138 minutes, D: Sam Raimi
This 3rd installment of the comic-book series of Marvel superhero-fantasy films was also the last part of director Sam Raimi's trilogy in the Spider-Man franchise-series. Two films followed in the next decade with a new director Marc Webb: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014). In this story set a number of months after the events of the second film, Peter's steady girlfriend remained Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), now a struggling Broadway actress, although Peter's student lab partner, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard) also vied for his attention. Peter was a Columbia University student while working as a freelance photographer for The Daily Bugle, with rival co-worker Eddie Brock (Topher Grace). Peter's ex-best friend Harry Osborn (James Franco), son of Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), sought revenge for his father's death (blamed on Spider-Man), by resurrecting himself as the new Goblin. Meanwhile, escaped prisoner Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) (whom Peter later learned was allegedly responsible for the death of his Uncle Ben (Cliff Robertson)), was being sought by police. He fell into a particle accelerator and became a shape-shifting, humanoid sand creature later known as Sandman. In addition to these new foes, a mysterious, parasitic black goo (an alien symbiote) affixed itself to Peter's red-and-blue spider-suit - his costume turned jet black, and he assumed further powers. However, his personality was seriously altered, turning him hostile, aggressive and dark. He also became flirtatious toward Gwen, making MJ jealous and on the verge of breaking up (and hooking up with Harry). Meanwhile, Peter's rival Brock took over his job and was determined to defame and incriminate Spider-Man. After Peter was able to remove the symbiote, it attached itself to Brock who became the new host, transforming him into a fanged and clawed Venom. The new villain teamed up with Sandman to target Spider-Man. In the film's conclusion, the allied Sandman and Venom battled Spidey as he attempted to save an abducted MJ atop a skyscraper in front of the Manhattan skyline, while Harry-Goblin switched allegiances to help Peter. Harry was lethally impaled with is own glider, while Brock and the symbiote were vaporized by an explosion. Peter accepted Marko-Sandman's apology for the death of his uncle and let him escape. The film ended with Peter's reconciliation with MJ.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), 117 minutes, D: Tim Burton
Director Tim Burton's musical, and part melodramatic thriller-slasher film was an adaptation of the 1979 Tony Award-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler. The bloody and dark story, set in the Victorian era, was considered a semi-slasher film due to its themes of serial murders and cannibalism. In the plot, ex-convict Sweeny Todd / Benjamin Barker (Johnny Depp), who felt he had been wrongly-imprisoned in Australia for 15 years, returned to Fleet Street in his hometown of London. Formerly in the mid-1840s, his name was Benjamin Barker, when he was happily-married with a daughter named Johanna (Jayne Wisener as teenager). Adopting the name Sweeney Todd, he was highly bitter and sought vengeance against his accusers, in particular corrupt Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) who had seduced-raped his wife Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly) during his absence, prompting her to attempt to commit suicide by poisoning. The Judge then took custody of Johanna (Jayne Wisener) and adopted her as his ward. The demonic and psychopathic Todd opened up a barber shop, specializing in throat slashings with a straight razor blade. Due to his murderous rampage, he was labeled "The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." His lover and sinister accomplice, widowed Mrs. Nellie Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), the proprietor of a meat pie shop below the barber shop, served meat pies (composed of fresh cadaver meat). Todd had set up his barber chair above a trap-door so that his victims' bodies would drop below and be deposited in Lovett's bakehouse. He successfully sought vengeance by eventually slitting the throats of both the Judge and his accomplice Beadle Bamford (Timothy Spall). In the film's conclusion, mistaken identity caused Todd to kill his own wife Lucy (an insane beggar woman), when he also realized that Mrs. Lovett had been motivated to jealously misled him (about Lucy's suicide) to keep him all for herself. Enraged, he hurled her into her own opened bakehouse oven. Todd then allowed Mrs. Lovett's boy assistant Toby (Ed Sanders) to slit his throat, and he expired as he bled over Lucy's corpse.

There Will Be Blood (2007), 158 minutes, D: Paul Thomas Anderson
Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's visually-stunning and well-acted biographical epic-drama was based upon Upton Sinclair's 1927 novel Oil! about the mad scramble for profits in the oil business. The main character was ambitious, charismatic and pioneering oilman Daniel Plainview (Oscar-winning Daniel Day-Lewis). In his early days during the late 1800s, he had been a hard-working, silver miner prospecting for the valuable ore in a pit-mine in New Mexico. On a ruthless and driven quest to become wealthy, he then discovered oil (black gold) in Southern California (Los Angeles) at the start of an oil boom in the early 20th century. He informally adopted an orphaned boy named H.W. (Dillon Freasier), and made him his business partner to form a so-called 'family-run operation.' Then, in 1911 in the area of Little Boston, CA, Daniel purchased the land at the farm of Eli Sunday (Paul Dano), a self-proclaimed teenaged preacher and healer, and the twin brother of Paul Sunday (also Paul Dano). Eli's goal was to funnel his $10,000 (the full purchase price) to build a new parish, known as the Church of the Third Revelation. The soft-spoken Eli constantly feuded with and confronted the exploitative and cold-hearted Daniel, resenting the fact that he owned drilling rights and had governance over the surrounding land bought from his manipulated neighbors for bargain prices. The only holdout was William Bandy (Hans Howes), who refused to sell. In the process of amassing wealth and growing his oil empire, Plainview became increasingly misanthropic, lonely, greedy, despondent and paranoid. His relationship with H.W. (who had been deafened from an explosion) became more distant, and as his emotional life deteriorated, Daniel established another relationship with a man claiming to be his half-brother, Henry Brands (Kevin J. O'Connor). However, when Daniel later suspected that Henry was an imposter, he forced him to confess that he only knew Daniel's brother in Kansas, and had assumed his identity after his death. Plainview cold-bloodedly murdered Henry, and buried him on the Bandy property. The next day, Bandy offered to lease his land, in exchange for Daniel's baptism in Eli's Church (with a confession that he was a sinner and had abandoned his son). After the marriage of H.W. to Eli's younger sister Mary (Colleen Foy as adult) in 1927, and the announcement of their plans to move to Mexico and begin his own oil business, Daniel disowned H.W. as a "bastard" orphan. In the film's climactic conclusion set in Plainview's bowling alley in his mansion, radio preacher Eli was reluctantly forced to confess that he was seriously in debt and was a "false prophet and God is a superstition." The drunken Daniel then admitted that he had already stolen all the oil under Bandy's property, and proceeded to batter Eli to death in the head with a bowling pin. Daniel's final words to his butler were: "I'm finished."

La Vie En Rose (2007, Fr./UK/Czech.) (aka La Môme), 140 minutes, D: Olivier Dahan
This subtitled, biographical musical drama, an impressionistic and non-linear rags-to-riches film, told about the difficult, chaotic and tragic life of iconic French singer Édith Piaf (Oscar-winning Marion Cotillard). Born in 1915 in early 20th century Paris, Édith Gassion was a frail and sickly child (Manon Chevallier and Pauline Burlet). Abandoned and neglected by both parents, her alcoholic mother Anetta (Clotilde Courau) was a street singer in the Belleville district of Paris, while her father Louis Gassion (Jean-Paul Rouve) (who served in the Great War) was a circus acrobatics performer and street contortionist. She was raised by her paternal grandmother who was a madam in a Normandy brothel. She was discovered while singing for handouts on a Montmartre street corner (at age 19), with her best friend Mômone (Sylvie Testud), by nightclub-cabaret owner Louis Leplée (Gérard Depardieu). She acquired the nickname 'Little Sparrow" (or La Môme Piaf). (Édith had agreed to sing for money instead of working as a prostitute for her pimp boyfriend Albert (Dominique Bettenfeld)). She was hired and managed by Leplée, but then he was shot dead, and there were scandalous allegations that Édith was involved due to her connections to the mob through her pimp. She was given vocal lessons by strict coach and mentor Raymond Asso (Marc Barbé), and assisted by song-writer Marguerite Monnot (Marie-Armelle Deguy) to perfect her already-strong singing voice and stage presence. Édith became a singing sensation in the 1930s in concert halls throughout Europe and the US. During a performance tour in NYC, she met and found short-lived happiness during an affair with already-married, world middle-weight French boxer Marcel Cerdan (Jean-Pierre Martins), who was taken from her in a plane crash on a flight from Paris to NY. She married singer Jacques Pills (Laurent Olmedo), but then a serious car crash in California in 1951 contributed to her lifelong addictions to pain-killing morphine and alcohol, and to a debilitating case of arthritis. In the poignant ending, her premature death at age 47 in 1963 from liver cancer was juxtaposed with her on-stage, signature-song performance of "Non, je ne regrette rien" (I regret nothing).

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