This set contains some of the best films of 2007: The Queen, The Devil Wears Prada, The Last King Of Scotland and Little Miss Sunshine.
The Queen - Helen Mirren reigns supreme in The Queen, a witty and ingenious look at a moment that rocked the house of Windsor: the week that followed the sudden death of Princess Diana in 1997. Diana's death came at just the same time that Prime Minister Tony Blair (played by the bright Michael Sheen) was settling into his new government--and trying to figure out the delicate relationship between 10 Downing Street and Queen Elizabeth II (Mirren). A large portion of the British population was trying to figure out the Windsors that week, as Elizabeth remained stiff-upper-lip and largely mum about the death of the beloved princess. In Peter Morgan's skillful script, we watch as Blair grows increasingly impatient with the Royals, who are sequestered in their Scottish estate while the public demands some show of grief. Prince Philip (James Cromwell, in good form) clumsily decides to take Diana's sons hunting, while a sympathetically-treated Prince Charles (Alex Jennings) displays some frustration with his mother's eerie calm.
None of this conveys how funny the film is, or how deftly it flows from one scene to the next. Director Stephen Frears (Dirty Pretty Things) deserves great credit for that, and for the performances, and for the movie's marvellous sense of well-roundedness; you could see this movie and groan at the cluelessness of the Royals and their outmoded existence, or you might just sympathise with showing reserve in a world that values gross public displays of emotion. But either way, you'll marvel at Mirren, who makes the Queen far more alert and human than one might ever have imagined.
The Devil Wears Prada - This clever, funny big-screen adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's best-seller takes some of the snarky bite out of the chick lit book, but smoothes out the characters' boxy edges to make a more satisfying movie. There's no doubt The Devil Wears Prada belongs to Meryl Streep, who turns in an Oscar-worthy (seriously!) strut as the monster editor-in-chief of Runway, an elite fashion magazine full of size-0, impossibly well-dressed plebes. This makes new second-assistant Andrea (Anne Hathaway), who's smart but an unacceptable size 6, stick out like a sore thumb. Streep has a ball sending her new slave on any whimsical errand, whether it's finding the seventh (unpublished) Harry Potter book or knowing what type she means when she wants "skirts." Though Andrea thumbs her nose at the shallow world of fashion (she's only doing the job to open doors to a position at The New Yorker someday), she finds herself dually disgusted yet seduced by the perks of the fast life. The film sends a basic message: Make work your priority, and you'll be rich and powerful... and lonely. Any other actress would have turned Miranda into a scenery-chewing Cruella, but Streep's underplayed, brilliant comic timing make her a fascinating, unapologetic character. Adding frills to the movie's fun are Stanley Tucci as Streep's second-in-command, Emily Blunt (My Summer of Love) as the overworked first assistant, Simon Baker as a sexy writer, and breathtaking couture designs any reader of Vogue would salivate over.
The Last King Of Scotland - As the evil Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, Forest Whitaker gives an unforgettable performance. Powerfully illustrating the terrible truth that absolute power corrupts absolutely, this fictionalised chronicle of Amin's rise and fall is based on the acclaimed novel by Giles Foden, in which Amin's despotic reign of terror is viewed through the eyes of Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy), a Scottish doctor who arrives in Uganda in the early 1970s to serve as Amin's personal physician. His outsider's perspective causes him to be initially impressed by Amin's calculated rise to power, but as the story progresses--and as Whitaker's award-worthy performance grows increasingly monstrous--The Last King of Scotland turns into a pointed examination of how independent Uganda (a British colony until 1962) became a breeding ground for Amin's genocidal tyranny. As Whitaker plays him, Amin is both seductive and horribly destructive--sometimes in the same breath--and McAvoy effectively conveys the tragic cost of his character's naivet?which grows increasingly prone to exploitation. As directed by Kevin Macdonald (who made the riveting semi-documentary Touching the Void), this potent cautionary tale my prompt some viewers to check out Barbet Schroeder's equally revealing documentary General Idi Amin Dada, an essential source for much of this film's authentic detail.
Little Miss Sunshine - Pile together a blue-ribbon cast, a screenplay high in quirkiness, and the Sundance stamp of approval, and you've got yourself a crossover indie hit. That formula worked for Little Miss Sunshine, a frequently hilarious study of family dysfunction. Meet the Hoovers, an Albuquerque clan riddled with depression, hostility, and the tattered remnants of the American Dream; despite their flakiness, they manage to pile into a VW van for a weekend trek to L.A. in order to get moppet daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) into the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant. Much of the pleasure of this journey comes from watching some skillful comic actors doing their thing: Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette as the parents (he's hoping to become a self-help authority), Alan Arkin as a grandfather all too willing to give uproariously inappropriate advice to a sullen teenage grandson (Paul Dano), and a subdued Steve Carell as a jilted gay professor on the verge of suicide. The film is a crowd-pleaser, and if anything is a little too eager to bend itself in the direction of quirk-loving Sundance audiences; it can feel forced. But the breezy momentum and the ingenious actors help push the material over any bumps in the road.