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The Top Five Films of 2007 (Alternate Reality 29 edition)

[Editor's note: in Alternate Reality 29 it is persistently December 15, 2007. Due to a flux in the space-time continuum, just after the clock strikes midnight, the world and everything in it starts over as if it were the 15th again. Not much is different from our own time, except for a few small facts.

It's like the movie Groundhog Day. And that episode of Star Trek TNG. And the short film 12:01PM, starring the guy from That 70's Show. He was in Robocop, too. Kurtwood Smith, that's him. I was trying to remember.]

5 M. Night Shymalan's Iran-Contra
M. Night Shymalan weaves a tale of intrigue, deception and war, told from the point of view of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North (Josh Hartnett). Following the loose outline of the Iran-Contra Affair, in which arms sales to Iran were used in an attempt to free American hostages as well as to fund the anti-Communist Contras of Nicaragua, Shymalan advances the story into a territory few would like to imagine possible.

It's somewhat common knowledge that the Contras were not only funded by the United States, but by cocaine trafficking into the US as well. It has been said that the CIA, who were aware of the trafficking and while not directly helping the Contras, did nothing to stop their efforts.

Shymalan presents this as the CIA allowing crack to be introduced into urban African-American centers, which would destabilize the local economy and cause massive unemployment and crime. Many blacks, unable to find jobs or security, would enlist in the military.

According to North's plan, this swelling of the ranks would make it possible to eventually invade Iran and install a new government, friendly to the US. But why would we invade a country to whom we had sold billions of dollars worth of arms?

Here's Shymalan's twist: the weapons we sent to Iran were all made of cardboard. And the Contras? They're aliens, international drug runners from the planet Bogota IX. And North? He's Reagan in disguise. In the mind of a child. On his deathbed. In hell!

4 Feel Estate
A surprisingly touching film about a blind real estate agent in Oslo. Jean-Claude VanDamme plays Claus Strauss, a man blind since age five after his mother dropped him on his head and then put his eyes out. The object of his affection, Hilde Bild (Cate Blanchett), has also been blind since age five, but only because she forgot how to open her eyes.

While being a formulaic love story, the chemistry between Claus and Hilde is worth the sometimes cheesy dialogue. As in the scene where Claus and Hilde first meet; she is home-shopping with her fiancee Derk (Jeff Speakman), who is suspicious of a blind real estate agent.

"Hey guy, how can you show us a house that you can't even see?"

Claus listens knowingly, and then turns in the general direction of Hilde.

"You cannot see my heart, dear lady, but can I not show it to you?"

This causes Hilde to fall immediately in love with Claus, who screams out "YES!!!" and then does a flying, slow-motion airplane kick through Derk, who explodes.

The cliched boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-does-splits-in-subway-tunnel-to-avoid-oncoming-train, boy-gets-girl-back structure is firmly in place here, but if you want to see a movie both you and the significant other can agree on, this is it.

3 American Pie 6: The Right Stifler
In the tradition of many well-loved film franchises - your Hellraisers, your Friday the 13ths, even your Leprechauns - American Pie has arrived at the ultimate plot device: Space.

In this next installment of the American Pie series, Jason Biggs returns as Jim Levenstein, now an astronaut about to be sent on the first mission to Mars. But before he takes off, he decides to party one last time with his old friends.

In the middle of their celebrations, Jim receives a call from NASA saying that all of the other astronauts on his mission have food poisoning and can't make lift-off. Not only that, but the mission is still on and it's his job to find replacements. Who might he choose???

Bored acting and many replacement characters (why is Stifler Chinese?) give this film none of the outrageous humor and naive charm which brought the first installment to life. Add to that a cringe-inducing "sex with dried food" scene, and you'll know why the tag line for this movie is "In space, no one can hear you laugh."

2 Biggie & the Stones
This concert film covers the first American tour by the post-Jagger Rolling Stones, now fronted by Biggie Smalls. After Jagger's untimely and sweaty death, it was thought that the Stones would call it quits. But as we all saw on the Grammy Awards, Biggie would not be denied his calling.

Basically a rap show with live samples, Biggie tears through his repertoire, now paired with the Stones hooks we all love. When asked in an interview whether he thought this was a fitting end to his career, Keith Richards answered:

"People come up to me now and say, 'How can you play the intro to Satisfaction forty-eight times in a row while Biggie talks about how rich he is and how many women he's had sex with? Doesn't that get to you?' And I say that no, it really don't. I mean, before he called us up I spent most of my days hangin' 'round the bathroom playing the intro to Satisfaction, talkin' about how rich I was, and how many women I'd had sex with. Only thing's changed is where I'm playin' and who's voice I hear." (scratches bandanna)

1 John Rambo
It's 2007 and the Mujahadeen of Afghanistan are threatening to destabilize and overthrow the legitimate, US-backed government. Enter the Army Special Forces, Spirit Guide Division. They've contacted the late Colonel Trautman with an eye towards bringing back into action their greatest weapon, to take down the enemy once and for all.

Through dreams and visions, Trautman urges Rambo, now a 60 year-old cattle rancher, to return to Afghanistan and destroy the people he once helped protect.

"Trautman, I ain't leaving my ranch for no wasteland. That's my past; I ain't goin' back there."

"John, First Cud will be waiting for you when you get back. America can't wait."

"But how will I even know who to kill? It was easy last time, just killing Russians. Now it's so confusing."

"Just kill everybody, John, no one will notice."

"I'll think about it."

"That's all I can ask you to do; but I hope you make the right choice."

"Oh hey Colonel, what's it like in the spirit world?"

"It's humid, John."

"Really? I thought it might be, you know, like breezy or something."

"No, it's mostly humid. Enjoy this life of yours, Rambo. Being dead is somewhat uncomfortable."

"I will, sir, I will."

"And kill all of those people."

"It's hard to think about that, especially knowing now that they'll be condemned to everlasting humidity."

"Well, they're probably used to it."

Obviously, Rambo decides to take up the mission and travel to Afghanistan. Once he arrives, there's 10 minutes of a "getting dressed and armed" montage (set to the song Moonshadow) followed by 65 minutes of utter decimation and then 5 minutes of resolution.

The carnage is fairly imaginative with some witty lines from Rambo along the way. As when he stuffs a grenade down a gunman's throat ("Don't blow your top.") or sneaks up behind a sniper and cuts his throat ("Herat's, don't it?").

But the big finale, a fight between Rambo and Osama bin Laden in a secret cave, has to be seen to be believed. Alternating between homages to Game of Death and Big Trouble in Little China, bin Laden is cast as a kung-fu mystic who constantly refers to himself as "The tallest Jedi Space-Imam".

They go back and forth, even trading standing punches at one point, until Osama seems to gain the upper hand after knocking Rambo to the ground and putting him into a camel clutch, which is slightly embarrassing to watch.

Within moments Rambo breaks the clutch, delivers a series of devastating hay-makers, and then performs a gut-wrenching backbreaker which is shown about six times from different angles. With his final breaths, bin Laden speaks to Rambo.

"John Rambo, you may have destroyed my body, but my spirit will live for eternity. I will exist only to torture you from the cold reaches of the infinite realm."

"Actually, I heard it's kind of humid there."

"Really? Damn."

And with that, Osama dies and we see Rambo walking towards the cave exit, a silhouette against the rising sun. Now it cuts to him in close-up tending to his cows again, wearing a shirt, and smiling happily. The camera pulls back slowly to reveal he's moved his entire ranch to Afghanistan. The spirit of Trautman calls to him from over the fence.

"John, good work! America thanks you."

"Your welcome, Colonel, but I didn't do it for America."

"Then why?"

Rambo looks around the landscape, and then to his cows.

"I needed more room for grazing!"

And they laugh and laugh as the theme song from The A-Team comes up strong and the picture fades.

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Copyright © 2005-2013 Graham Cranfield