THE POPCORN REEL EDITOR'S DESK - a not-so weekly word about the movies                      

Sunday, July 1, 2007


nbelievably, the first six months of 2007 have passed! 

And there are six more to go.  And what have the movies shown us thus far?  Not a whole lot.  It has been a rather unremarkable first six months of 2007 where movies are concerned, with only a few standout films to note.  And summer has been less than impressive in the early going.

The three biggest sequels of the summer will all make over $300 million each in North America, and will become the first films ever released in a month of May to each end up making that much money in the U.S. and Canada alone.  But between the disastrous "Spider-Man 3", the funny and nostalgic "Shrek The Third" and the adventurous and sprawling "Pirates" you'd be hard pressed to find one among them that will recoup its budget in the U.S. and Canada when factoring in publicity and advertising costs.  These films, especially "Spider-Man 3" (which is the worldwide leader in box-office so far this year) are bailed out by their overseas successes.

And what is also noteworthy: none of these sequels should be made into a fourth film.  "Live Free Or Die Hard" (the fourth film in the "Die Hard" empire) bucked that trend (albeit after a 12-year absence) and became a success after just five days.  (The interesting double standard: how come a film about action and violence and a 50-something man is able to succeed, while a sequel film about sex and violence and a late-40-something woman -- Sharon Stone -- after a 14-year absence -- fails so miserably?  Is the answer to this question so obvious?) 

No matter what, the first half of 2007 was highlighted by the smaller films, which ultimately made a bigger impact than the larger ones.  A case in point is "Disturbia", the runaway surprise success of the spring.  Released in April in the U.S. and Canada, the film starred Shia LaBoeuf (a ubiquitous presence these days, what with a vocal appearance in the terrific and underrated "Surf's Up", a visual appearance in "Transformers" this month, and in "Indiana Jones 4" next year), David Morse, Sarah Roemer and Carrie-Anne Moss, and is a thriller in the tradition of Hitchcock's "Rear Window" -- about living next door -- or across the street from a neighbor who may or may not be your worst nightmare.

Also on a small scale, "Knocked Up" has become the summer's biggest surprise.  The R-rated comedy starring Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl has already shattered the $100 million mark in North America.  The film, with an initial promise to be one of the more doggedly disaster films that its pre-release ads signaled, instead turned out to be an admirable, wild and sexy fun time at the movies and has so far outpaced "Ocean's Thirteen" at the North American box office.

On the serious side, "The Lives Of Others" was amazing, and though it was released in New York and L.A. at the end of last year (re-released in both cities this year) and won an Oscar for best foreign language film last February, most of the U.S. hadn't heard of it -- and it is a film that people are still talking about.  And "Once", a romantic drama by John Carney, is as pure and unpretentious as any film around, and it is a small bare-bones film grounded in authenticity and a less-is-much-much-more starkness.  "Bamako" was also a film with indescribable impact that kept viewers glued to the screen.

Finally, "SiCKO" is a little film that was compelling in its substance and significance.  Few can argue with its director's advocacy for universal health care in America.  But to many viewers, it was Mr. Moore's global perspective and skill at letting you, the everyday person, have your story told.  Michael Moore used the Internet to get people to tell their stories about their healthcare horrors and he and his film have actually helped save a few lives and livelihoods.  "SiCKO" may be the only film that was not "made" by Mr. Moore himself in the truest sense, but made instead by the very people whose stories drive such a powerful and moving documentary.  And with a staggering estimated $4.5 million in its opening weekend from just 440 screens across North America, Mr. Moore's film has been the success that it was expected to be in the early going.

Other than these titles and a few others not mentioned here, the first six months of the year were almost forgettable.  Now rub your hands together.  There's light at the end of this movie tunnel.  The real flicks are just getting warmed up.


Omar P.L. Moore
The Popcorn Reel

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