BOP 25 of the Holidays 2007: 5-1

By BOP Staff

November 2, 2007

You know, that dog can stake a claim to every treat left in existence. 5) I Am Legend

It's one of the most time-honoured premises in all of science-fiction – The Last Man on Earth. And one of the best versions of this story is I Am Legend, by legendary (sorry) author Richard Matheson.

Will Smith stars as the sole human survivor of a worldwide plague, at least that he knows of, living in New York City. As he lives out his remaining existence, hoping not to be the last witness to the human race, he discovers that there are still... things... out there – infected victims that still live on in some form and are just waiting for him to slip up. Smith's character believes his blood, which may have made him immune to the plague, could be the key to the resurrection of humanity, as long as what's left of it doesn't kill him first.

One of the big action films of the holiday season, I Am Legend has the potential to be that rarest of beasts – the intelligent action thriller. We also thought that about I, Robot which we're going to count as half right (hey, I liked it. Sue me) and we like our odds of at least a repeat of that.

If we don't get that, at the very least we're going to get Will Smith versus zombies, which has the potential to be awesome all on its own. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
You can understand why she'd be more interested in hanging out with women now. 4) Juno

The subject of teen pregnancy has been done to death by now. Whether the subject matter is dramatic, humorous or cautionary in tone, the average movie fan feels like they have seen it all by now. As a collective group, we have seen exponentially more films than the ordinary consumer, so we have this much more of an issue with saturation. So, why do we consider Juno to be one of the best looking titles of the holiday season? Believe it or not, we feel this movie looks fresh.

Juno has already become an awards season sensation, dominating at Telluride. It also just missed winning the crowd favorite award at the prestigious Toronto Film Festival, the festival BOP prioritizes above all others (save Atlanta, which is run by one of our own). After such accomplishments in a short time frame, the film had our attention.

The explanation for why Juno has created so much buzz in a short period is remarkably straightforward. The trailer sells the premise, which simultaneously sells the bit. A teen girl gets pregnant by a boy she knows, one who is not exactly the local lothario. She appears to hold him in little to no esteem, making her situation all the more enticing. This is a girl who had sex with a safe boy she could control, allowing her to find out what the fuss was about. Sadly for her, the worst case scenario occurred, and she found herself gaining weight and throwing up a lot.

None of that is what impresses us, however. What garners our interest is the way that Juno handles her nightmare situation. She calmly calculates a plan of action then (far too) maturely finds the methodology through which she may implement said plan. Deciding to give the child up for adoption, she selects a candidate couple to become the new parents for the child she will before. Upon meeting them, she quietly judges their worthiness then, almost as if testing the boy, she lets the paternal sperm donor know her intentions. All of this is tidily laid out in a two minute trailer that could almost work as an Academy Award winning short film. The trailer is that memorable.

BOP cannot shake the notion that the premise for Juno came from a fan of Gilmore Girls who one day wondered, "What if Lorelai went a different way with her choice?" We don't know the answer to that question yet, but the idea of it is tantalizing to us. (David Mumpower/BOP)

That's more than you charged Richard Gere. 3) Charlie Wilson's War

Long time readers of this site are well aware how much our staff worships at the altar of Aaron Sorkin. For those of you unaware of who he is, A) Welcome to BOP. Clearly, you have never visited us before. B) He is the creator of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, West Wing, and our beloved Sports Night. So much do we love him that our end-of-year movie awards, The Calvins, are named after one of his characters. Frankly, it is a miracle he does not have a restraining order out against the lot of
us. Given this knowledge, the only real surprise in all of this is that Charlie Wilson's War finishes not in first place but in third in this vote. Truth be told, only a voting anomaly stood in its way as this movie earned the most first place votes and was tied for the most ballot appearances. We're pretty excited about this one.

For most movie goers, the reason for going to see Charlie Wilson's War is the fact that it stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. For us, that news is simply the gravy on our biscuit. What has us sold is the fact that this movie promises to be the story Aaron Sorkin never got to tell on The West Wing. For all of his educating and occasional preaching on the political show, the reality is that Isaac and Ishmael is the only one where he got to explore in detail the delicate situation in the Middle East.

After being removed from the show he created, Sorkin re-booted by making a screenplay about Afghanistan. In this philosophical exercise, he explored the causality of how the situation with Al Qaeda came to be such a perilous one for the United States. Rather than work backwards from the present, Sorkin set out to show how an act of well-intended diplomacy turned into a reckless act of ill-conceived military arms build-up. And he figured out a way to do all of this by disguising it in a nice, shiny package of star power and folksy storytelling. He is just that talented.

Charlie Wilson's War will focus upon the titular lead as portrayed by the modern day Jimmy Stewart, Tom Hanks. Make no mistake on the point that this is not Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, though. Wilson was a 20th century congressman who took time out from defending himself against drug and prostitution allegations to aid a foreign country. The people he aided were in Afghanistan and the reason he helped them was not solely for the purpose of good will.

The country had been invaded by the Soviet Union, and we were fighting a Cold War against them at the time. Wilson was instrumental in financially crippling the enemy without our country ever being forced to tip its hand about intentions. The end result was that their country went broke, and we have had peace (mostly) ever since. Charlie Wilson's War examines how this happened as well as the way that one man may alter the course of history simply by having the gumption to try. What makes
it another masterstroke by Sorkin is that it also shows that any act of kindness may have unintentional, far reaching ramifications.

We expect Charlie Wilson's War to play out like the best script of The West Wing ever written. And this particular episode has special guest stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. It is not hyperbole to say this writer would go see three showings of it tomorrow if only that were possible. (David Mumpower/BOP)
No, Al Gore's Nobel Prize is not better than my Oscar! 2) No Country for Old Men

There are three simple words that explain our excitement for this film: The Coen Brothers.

A few more: Tommy Lee Jones and Javier Bardem, but really it's the Coens, who have put up a collective body of work that rivals just about any other directors in the history of Hollywood (I'm convinced that they were kidnapped and replaced by doppelgangers for the filming of Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers). In No Country, they return to their roots with a Texas-set noir, a la Blood Simple.

Jones stars as a hunter that comes across the remains of a botched hit, including a pile of dead bodies, a pile of drugs and a pile of cash, each troubling in its own way. The man responsible for all these is a hitman who is philosophical about chance and favors a compressed-air gun as a weapon, and he wants his drugs and money back (he probably would be fine without the bodies). Woe be to those who would get in his way.

The story itself is based on a book by Cormac McCarthy, who himself has been the beneficiary of a great deal of attention in the past year and a half thanks to his Pulitzer Prize winning, post-apocalyptic novel The Road. McCarthy's dark tales have long seemed naturally suited to directors of the Coens' ilk, which truly does make this a match made in heaven. Although the book No Country for Old Men is both sparse and terse, it is also filled with memorable characters, with Chigurh standing out as one of the scariest, cruelest villains ever. Watching the trailer, Bardem appears to have this role down cold.

It looks like the Coens are back in their Oscar-caliber form with this film, which if past Coen films are anything to go by, could be one of the best thrillers of the year in a year already filled with excellent suspense films. (Reagen Sulewski/BOP)
So you're telling me to ask for Jo at Supercuts and I can get that style? 1) American Gangster

Our number one selection for the BOP 25 of the Holidays for 2007 is American Gangster, and the reasons why are pretty simple. First and foremost is the presence of Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the two starring roles. Both men are performers who consistently perform at the highest of their abilities, and it shows in the quality of the films they select. Sure, there are some missteps from time to time, but usually we can count on nothing but the best from these two acclaimed Academy Award winners.

As if the movie's stars aren't enough to peak our interest, the director is also someone who chooses outstanding projects, as is evidenced by his resume. Ridley Scott is the man behind such insta-classics as Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. When we heard that he was taking over the troubled American Gangster project, there was much rejoicing. After all, this is now a movie seven years in the making. Originally, Brian De Palma was scheduled to direct back when it was called Tru Blu, but after he departed Universal switched off to Antoine Fuqua, who would reunite with his Training Day star Antoine Fuqua. Benicio Del Toro was slated to take the other lead role. However, Fuqua abruptly left the project in 2004 due to creative differences, leaving the studio in quite a lurch. Universal halted production on the film.

In 2005, the project started seeing some new life as Hotel Rwanda director Terry George was brought on to doctor Steve Zaillian's script and helm. Don Cheadle would replace Washington. Eventually, producer Brian Grazer decided to return to Zaillian's vision, bringing back Washington and hiring Scott. Whew. To say that this was a production fraught with peril is an understatement.

American Gangster's trailer is white hot, showing Washington embracing the role of Frank Lucas, a real-life heroin kingpin who brought his product into the country via planes returning from the Vietnam War. Crowe plays Richie Roberts, the detective who brings down Lucas's empire and eventually enlists him as an informant. The dichotomy between the two characters promises to be a fascinating one, with plenty of shades of gray to muddy the waters. BOP likes those kinds of stories, and we're throwing all our support behind this one. (Kim Hollis/BOP)

Read selections 25-16
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