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No Country for Old Men (2007)
Meandering and somewhat derivative, but still interesting
The first half of 'No Country for Old Men' comes off something like 'The Terminator goes to West Texas'. All the elements are there: an unstoppable, determined, and soulless killing machine set against a hopelessly outmatched protagonist who is simply trying to stay alive another day. Derivativeness aside, this part of the movie is still quite gripping, though, which is more than I can say for the second half of the film. As things dragged on, I couldn't help feeling a little bored as Tommy Lee Jones' pseudo-philosophical and somewhat redundant sheriff increasingly wandered in and out of the story. Near the end of the movie, the story seems completely lost. The abrupt ending especially feels like the filmmakers ran out of gas and tried to pass it off as authenticness and artistry. It's too bad, because this movie could have easily been a 9 or a 10 based on the first hour or so.
Derivative and illogical
I borrowed this movie from the local library with fairly high expectations, considering it was 7.7 here on IMDb. Unfortunately those expectations were let down.
The first problem I had with this movie was the absurd premise: In the future, it is illegal to feel, because feeling causes war (apparently), so people take a special drug which suppresses feeling. One small problem: it doesn't make any sense. Obviously the characters feel. There's situations throughout the movie where supposedly 'unfeeling' characters grin, express surprise, anger, etc. Not to mention the fact that, if people were truly without feeling, then they presumably would not care whether or not someone else died in order to achieve some mundane goal. So right off the bat, the movie makes no sense. Perhaps it would have made more sense if, instead of eliminating ALL feeling, the goal of the government was simply to eliminate STRONG feelings. That I could have bought into...but unfortunately the movie makes it clear that ANY feeling is a 'sense crime'.
The second problem I had with this movie was how blatantly derivative it is. From the opening gun battle, it's pretty obvious that the filmmakers are trying to emulate The Matrix, from the way the 'clerics' are dressed, to the scripted gun and sword battles, to the ragtag underground of rebels, to the overall theme of the movie of one man trying to overthrow a repressive authoritarian regime. It's really somewhat nauseating how much this movie wants so desperately to be The Matrix.
If you want to watch a good sci-fi film about a future where emotion is repressed, rent THX-1138. If you want to watch the Matrix, then rent the Matrix. If you want to watch an illogical, second-rate, derivative movie inspired by those movies, then by all means go out and rent this movie...
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Apart from the internet buzz this movie had over the ridiculous premise and name, it doesn't have much going for it. If this is the best Hollywood has to offer then we are in sad shape indeed creatively. I have a hard time believing that, among the thousands upon thousands (maybe millions) of books sitting on the shelves of the Library of Congress there wasn't something more interesting to make a movie about then poisonous snakes being let loose on an airliner. This movie was not "so bad it's good"...rather it was just "so bad". The entire premise is just so ridiculously stupid and unbelievable that there really isn't anything more to say beyond that - in fact, debating the finer points of the movie would be an insult to your and my intelligence...
Dirty Love (2005)
This movie is ridiculously over-panned and over criticized. The reason, judging by the reviews I've read on here is quite simple: people don't like Jenny McCarthy or Carmen Electra. It really boils down to that. It wouldn't matter if they delivered Oscar winning performances in an epic movie directed by a resurrected Stanley Kubrick - people would still pan it because it's Jenny and Carmen, and they are, and always will be, the hosts of the 90s MTV's show Singled Out. I suppose there's nothing that can be done about those sort of preconceptions, unconscious as they may even be. That's too bad, though, because this movie is actually considerably better than a lot of comedies I've seen lately. Certainly it's no worse than most movies that Hollywood passes off to us these days as comedies. There are some very funny and even edgy moments in this movie - the whole supermarket scene comes to mind. I dare say that someone who watched this film not knowing who Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra were would undoubtedly have a better opinion of it than most of the people who have posted such scathing reviews of it on here...
Paradise Now (2005)
It's hard, I think, for most people to begin to understand why it is that someone would kill themselves and others for seemingly no reason. We live our lives and go to work everyday, and it just doesn't register why someone would do something so seemingly violent and random. It's easy just to dismiss terrorism as the product of brainwashed crazies, but ultimately everyone has some kind of thought process behind their actions - whether it's logical or not.
That's not to say that this movie is a terrorism apologist film, though. On the contrary; if anything it's message is that terrorism is morally wrong and counterproductive. Yet at the same time, I think it illustrates that when you have very little to live for, you also have very little to lose by acting out violently. Nowhere is this expressed more clearly than near end of the movie: One minute we are inside the militarized crumbling ghetto that is the West Bank; in the next scene, we are in a car with the bombers gliding through the shimmering Western metropolis of Tel Aviv. Like another poster said, it's hard not to see the symbolism in that that the bombers have already reached their paradise of sorts, and are, for all intents and purposes, already dead...
United 93 (2006)
Words can't express
There's nothing romantic or patriotic or uplifting about this movie. It's just tragic. Tragic because the people in the movie fought so hard, and yet it was all in vain.
They didn't fight for their country, they didn't fight for America or you or me or the Capitol building - they fought for one thing and one thing only: to save themselves. This movie hammers that point home with frightening clarity and reality. I would suggest that you don't see it unless you are really prepared to see what happens to people when they are faced with the ultimate choice of killing or dying.
The worst part is, you can't just tell yourself that it's "just a movie" after the final sequence rolls and the screen goes black...
Subpar Terminator 2 Rehash
The thing that struck me most about Terminator 3 was how liberally it borrows from T2. Once again, we're trying to stave off judgment day. Once again, a shape-shifting robot who is sent back in time to kill John Connor, and another Arnold is sent back in time to protect him. There's another vehicle scene, the initial confrontation between the terminators, etc. The problem is, the plot just isn't all that interesting because we've already seen it all done and done better in T2, with better actors too. It's too bad Edward Furlong was dropped from this project because I have a feeling it would have been much better with him onboard reprising his role as John Connor. Having Linda Hamilton and maybe even Robert Patrick would've been nice too. As it was, though, Claire Danes and Nick Stahl just didn't really cut it, in terms of likability or chemistry. Kristianna Loken was not a convincing villain as the T-X either. In a nutshell, I think T3 was a so-so rehash that attempted to one-up it's predecessor and fell flat. You might as well just watch T2 again instead...
Don't believe the hype
I can't begin to fathom how this movie has an 8.6 out of 10 as of this writing.
Firstly, the plot of Serenity is tenuous at best. Most of the cast basically just serves as screen fodder for the first half of the movie, plodding along to different and seemingly random locales delivering poorly acted and sometimes incomprehensible dialog (subtitles maybe?), while the main story slowly takes shape in the background. After about an hour you'll find yourself saying: where is this going? Thankfully, it does eventually go somewhere, and the movie does improve somewhat in the second half, but even when the plot does pick up, the movie still can't overcome the other main hurdle: very bad acting and questionable dialog. Not once did I find any of the characters convincing enough to suspend my disbelief that I was watching a low-rent sci-fi movie. In a nutshell, the movie basically just comes off exactly as it is (or should have been): a made-for-TV movie that inexplicably made it's way to your local movie theater.
As I left the theater after seeing this movie, I couldn't help but think of some of the stalwarts of the science fiction movie genre - Star Wars, Alien, Terminator, 2001, Blade Runner, and how utterly superior those movies are to this film, in terms of plot, acting, pacing, and dialog. There's just no comparison. I also couldn't help but think of all the brilliant science fiction novels that are waiting to be adapted into movies that would probably be superior to this one even in the hands of an average director.
In conclusion, don't believe the hype of fanboys - this movie is average at best. After seeing it, I think there's a reason the TV series it was based on was cancelled after 11 episodes...
Starship Troopers (1997)
* Minor spoilers * A lot of people didn't 'get' Starship Troopers when it first came out 8 years ago. I, for one, dismissed it as a silly gore-fest when I saw it in the theaters, but now, watching it again, I see that it's much more than that: it's a very subtle satire. Maybe it's the effect of the times we live in now, but it seems so obvious to me now, I can't imagine how I missed it to begin with. Starship Troopers is, and always was, a jab at jingoistic flag-waving militarism, and more of a rebuttal than an adaptation of the original Heinlein work on which it's based.
In the future word that Verhoven creates, people aren't citizens until they've served in the military, and perfect-looking soldiers are sent into hopeless battles to fight an enemy whom they don't even understand. Throughout the movie, we follow three different youths as they take divergent, but similar paths in service of the earth military fighting in the War against the Bugs. And at the end of the movie, when the space marines finally capture the 'brain bug', Neil Patrick Harris' character exclaims that "it's scared" to whooping shouts of joy from the assembled marines. It's this scene which best illustrates the dichotomy between the magnitude of their struggle and the meaninglessness of it all that gives the movie it's very subtle sense of irony amidst the over-the-top presentation. And it's this subtle jab which drives home the message of the movie that was missed by most of us the first time around - that, at the end, nothing has really changed, and the earthlings have basically become the same as the bugs whom they've fought so hard against.
Der Untergang (2004)
One of the most important movies ever made?
Through the decades since the end of World War 2, we've come to regard Hitler and the Third Reich as somewhat of a confusing question mark in history: how could this have happened? This movie, perhaps more than any other, tries to answer that question by presenting a unique view of the last days of the Third Reich. It explores the question of why people can be led so easily into hell and the madness of self-destruction by one man, and one idea. The bunker simply serves as a convenient setting to examine this question: after all, it's only at the end, with death imminent, with time for self-reflection, that we can get a really convincing picture of the motives and thinking of those who were involved. "Why?": I think that's the central question of this movie. No more, no less. And because of that I think it's one of the most important movies that have been made in a long time, maybe ever.