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Non-Stop
Action Thriller / English / 2014

WHY'D I WATCH IT?
I saw the DVD cover a long time ago and added it to my To-Watch List.

WHAT'D I THINK? *SPOILERS*
"Am I in your way?"

Basic premise is Liam Neeson is an air marshall, boards a plane, and becomes entangled in a hijack attempt set up to frame him.

At first I thought "Non-Stop" was going to be a movie in the style of Speed, but it's more of a mystery thriller. The problem with that is that while it misses the opportunity to be a high-octane constant-instensity typo action movie, it simultaneously misses the opportunity to be a whodunnit.

A handful of clues lead Neeson's character to suspect multiple people on the plane, and there are obvious attempts to subvert audience expectations by emphasizing a conspicuous token Muslim character, but past all the twists all conspiring to condemn Neeson as the apparent hijacker to all observers beyond the audience, there really aren't any solid clues to lead the audience to figure out who the real perpetrator is. It's kind of a "Psych! It was me the whole time!" twist ending that you can't see coming and could just as easily be any other possible character.

It makes the story feel a lot more shallow when the secret bad guys just end up being random characters.

Beyond that, Fridge Logic kicks in when you realize that the antagonists go out of their way to help Neeson multiple times in his pursuit of them for literally no beneficial reason. They could have simply denied being able to do or refused to do various things which enable Neeson to defeat them. It makes sense if you're trying to subvert an audience's expectations, but as a terrorist attempting to remain anonymous, it doesn't.

Further, the entire justification for a hijack attempt is flimsy as hell. The 150 million dollar ransom would have been just fine as a reason to turn hijacker, but the whole "I'm protecting my country by exposing the frailty of airline security" bit is ****ing stupid.



The Big Bad even explains how public bloodshed and martyrdom is the only way to create change and the movie repeatedly references 9/11, apparently failing to realize not even an event like that apparently managed to beef up security enough to make a difference to this movie's villains. So major nationally recognized and memorialized security incidents didn't make a difference, what makes you think killing yourself on a smaller scale will? As though the fact that you're framing an Air Marshall would make any sort of difference in the grand scheme of things.

I'd also like to point out that the movie skims through TSA security and never mentions how someone manages to get a suitcase containing cocaine and a bomb onto the airplane.

The movie also concludes in a terribly rushed resolution wherein people are still being lead off the plane on stretchers while Neeson is alone, receiving a phone call from a federal agent saying he's off the hook with no apparent confirmation that he ISN'T the hijacker in question. Dude should be cuffed, swarmed by cops, and in the middle of an interrogation by federal agents, but the most you see at the eventual crash site is a few cop cars. Neeson saves the day, gets the girl, the end.

Also also also why on earth does everyone instantly believe him when he tells his sob story about his life when everyone on the plane has been turned against him by fake news?

Also also also also why on earth does everyone instantly shut up when he promises free international air travel year-round for every passenger? What kind of idiot would believe that? That's 150 passengers given 365 days to take any flight for free. That could easily usurp the 150 million dollar ransom the hijackers were asking for.

Also also also also also "We do not negotiate with terrorists, but the 150 million dollars is in your account, Liam Neeson, who we do not believe."

Overall, it's a thoughtless action flik. Didn't irritate me, but wasn't anything remarkable either.


Final Verdict:
[Okay]

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__________________
"Well, at least your intentions behind the UTTERLY DEVASTATING FAULTS IN YOUR LOGIC are good." - Captain Steel
Movies / Anime / Ultimate Showdown / Veg*nism / Action 2015



Enemy of the State
Action Thriller / English / 1998

WHY'D I WATCH IT?
Was lent to me by a co-worker.

WHAT'D I THINK? *SPOILERS*
It's been a while since I've done a review, and in all honesty this isn't the first movie I've seen that I've failed to stop by and review, nor is it the first movie lent to me by this co-worker that I could have reviewed. However it is the first movie in a while that's reminded me exactly why I love movies.

Nowadays people can film themselves vertically performing some detestably acted farce about cooking hacks or pranks or contacting the dead or some other nauseating **** that leaves no surprises that the political scene is as ****ed as it is nowadays and they get 48 million views worth of ad revenue to line their pockets with. Meanwhile I struggle to think of the last real movie-going experience since Inception that really erased any doubts that filmmaking is a craft worthy of appreciation. I didn't think there was any reason to doubt, but I haven't felt much motivation to check out the latest Disney cash-grab to pollute the marketing space. Oh what's that? Disney+ shows aren't getting physical releases? And Disney is more or less the final boss of copyright totalitarianism? Certainly internet pirates have their work cut out for them.

What I mean to say is that sometimes I look at my shelf full of my favorite movies and question whether they were disposable experiences, just this increasingly stale waft of cinema captured in a jar that I keep trying to inhale with diminishing returns, and I get to the point where I don't even watch them. Even today I had these movies on my desk and I was tempted to watch old Youtube videos instead.

Thankfully I watched Enemy of the State and I had... a completely serviceable experience. Unlike the disgustingly low standards of videography that permeates places like Youtube, Enemy of the State has 3 simple goals and it accomplishes them well:

1. Be a fast-paced action thriller.
2. Have the premise be a social commentary on state surveillance.
3. Give us the turn-around, have the bad guy invade and ruin everything in our protagonist's life and then when he's driven into a corner, give him a taste of his own medicine.

Right out of the gate we establish our villain as the stereotypical deep-state politician with the resources to assassinate his opposition leaving only circumstantial evidence for the libertarian conspiracy theorists.



Next we have Will Smith, playing Will Smith, being the guy in the wrong place in the wrong time, ending up with the only known evidence of one of Big Bad's hits. Queue endless Seth-Green-at-a-computer-saying-addresses-superimposed-by-fake-software.

Not just Seth Green either, but Jack Black, and even Jason Lee get in on the action. It's cool to see recognizable faces. I don't really have an issue with the acting from any of them, although the writing, while unsubtle in it's political message, is most annoying when it gives Will Smith dumb lines, like his correction about being called a "scheister". Oh man, you really showed that mobster by correcting his casual usage of the word "scheister".

I can appreciate new-future technology and fortunately most of what's shown for surveillance in the movie is at least plausible from a 90s perspective. The government's definitely not so capable that is can tap literally everything, like the movie would like you to believe, but the real bull**** moment is when they're reviewing some restaurant's external cameras and rotate the camera 90 degrees around it's subject in pre-recorded video.

That got a laugh outta me, but fortunately they backpedalled almost immediately and said that what was shown was only what the software "hypothesized" may be seen in a 3-dimensional space. Nice save.

The 3D mapping of the bag in that scene, to determine that something was slipped inside of it, is only barely plausible now considering it takes days for machine learning programs to memorize a face with far more than a few seconds of footage to build a 3D profile from.

Overall there's not much to say, while not a classic itself, it is an example of now-classic 90s action thriller sensibilities. Constant tension, a very focused plot development, easy to like smart-alleck protagonists with love-to-hate big bads bound for their karmic comeuppance. I miss it. I wanna watch more movies.


Final Verdict:
[Pretty Good]

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Mercury Rising
Action / English / 1998

WHY'D I WATCH IT?
Was lent to me by a co-worker.

WHAT'D I THINK? *SPOILERS*
Mercury Rising is noteworthy for about one reason:

It's evidence that Bruce Willis used to have an acting career.

He's not bad in it and he can definitely emote a lot more than his grizzled post-Die Hard persona. Alec Baldwin is instantly personable too, although his villainous motivations are sterile and boring.

"I am a patriot. Do you know that this uncrackable code is protecting undercover agents in Saddam's inner circle? Lives are on the line, that's why we need to slaughter anyone and everyone even tangentially related this barely coherent autistic 9-year-old American boy who cracked a cipher in a puzzle book. It's the American way."

Queue NSA-are-the-bad-guys trope.

And that's more or less the whole movie in a nutshell. Parents of McGuffin Child die, McGuffin Child is revealed to be the target of a failed assassination, escape-from-the-hospital sequence, return-home-to-reveal-answers-to-the-mystery sequence, inadvertently trigger oops-bad-guys-expected-that sequence. It's all very predictable.

The subplot of exploiting the good intentions of the random woman Bruce Willis coerces into protecting "Simon" (which reminds me of Simon Birch and I Am Sam) is one kiss scene shy of the worst Overnight Romance I've seen a while. There wasn't a payoff to the "I'll make this up to you" line, despite being a stalker wanted by the FBI and showing up to your apartment at night wanting to enter your home. Does he ever even give her his name? I remember her giving him her name, but he doesn't reciprocate, unless I missed it.



There's really not a lot to say about this movie. The kid is hard to like. He's directed to be difficult and screamy and the "autism" is overacted well beyond anything I'd ever recognize as autism.

I know autism used to actually mean something when it wasn't DSM'd into the special snowflake spectrum it is today, but that something never, to my recollection, involved constantly staring up and to the left away from everything you're focusing on. I think they're confusing the habit of kids who easily get distracted by staring off into space and maybe mumbling to themselves, just constantly busy with a pre-existing thought, as the movie even suggests, but the acting is just this kid silently staring fixed into the upper left corner of his vision for no apparent reason and seriously slurring his speech at times. Also he will bee-line for the nearest oncoming vehicle if given the chance.

I think your kid has way worse issues than autism at that point.


Final Verdict:
[Meh...]

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The Andromeda Strain
Sci-Fi Thriller / English / 1971

WHY'D I WATCH IT?
Been meaning to watch it and it's on a lot of MoFo lists.

WHAT'D I THINK? *SPOILERS*
Surprisingly boring.

The Andromeda Strain is one of the oldest fictional outbreak movies before zombies took off and it makes me wonder whether the term "Operation Wildfire" is inspired by anything before it because that seems to be the go-to nickname for any fictional spec intended to combat a viral infection.

I'd also like to credit this movie with the amount of thought it put into it's multi-tiered sterilization procedure, from blasting the characters with radiation, killing their outer layer of skin, burning their clothes, and even putting them on a diet before giving them robot arms to play with.

There's some interesting editing choices with respect to showing shots alongside other shots, such as when the two characters are searching the town and we're given an image of the scene they're witnessing without actually following them through the windows or doorways.



All that, however noteworthy, did little to invest me in this movie. Dr. Forehead is strangely forgetful of important concepts regarding the self-destruct sequence, Mr. Exposition is bizarrely dissonant between his adamant defense of a hypothetical bio-weapons project and otherwise cheerful and over-informative demeanor, and finally Ms. Secret Epileptic's behavior and comments are confusing up until the epilepsy reveal but even then it's such an underwhelming payoff. There's definitely not a 4th even less memorable character of the main cast I'm forgetting.

Also big shock that A NUCLEAR DEVICE WILL ONLY GIVE THE VIRUS MORE POWER!

It's like this movie is trying to go for a slow burn, but it really only occasionally manages it and even then only briefly.

The ending is less impactful than your average Stargate episode and I'm inclined to recall even WarGames, as disposable a movie as that was, did a better job of emphasizing that a worldwide crisis was averted.

Overall it was too long for too little. Watch Sunshine or something instead.


Final Verdict:
[Meh...]

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The Wolf of Wall Street
Drama / English / 2013

WHY'D I WATCH IT?
I recently dipped my toes experimentally into stocks and have been binging content about stock fraud and scammers. This movie comes up a lot and I've even seen people post memes unironically idolizing the main character who's supposed to be psycho.

WHAT'D I THINK? *SPOILERS*
I've seen very few Martin Scorsese movies and despite those few being considered some of the greatest movies of their time, none of them have managed to impress me.

The Wolf of Wall Street is no exception.

Wolf of Wall Street may even be the worst of those movies if we're judging in terms of what it manages to do with it's runtime, cause this movie is way too long and spends what seems like 80% of it annoyingly dragging out conversations into dull irrelevant banter. The characters will be talking about a plot development and the conversation skews off into hiring midgets. And it's not even a funny conversation. Deadpan comedy is already a challenge to get right and this movie seems to think that inserting low-brow vulgarity into white collar crime is a multi-million dollar opportunity.

If you would pardon me to stoop to it's level, this AIDs-riddled whore of a movie blows it's load in the first few minutes by introducing us to Leonardo DiCaprio's first job and the stockbrokers he meets are swearing up and down more than I do (which is somewhat impressive). Suddenly he's sitting down to a very public lunch setting surrounded by people at other tables in suits and Stockbroker McConaughey is very visible just snorting cocaine.

And talking about snorting cocaine.

And recommending Leonardo DiCaprio snort cocaine.

And then he starts beating his chest like a gorilla and grumbling like he's trying to summon rain.

And nobody reacts.

And Leo's just like, "I see that I've joined the right company". And boom, just like that, we've entirely nuked a potential character arc.

Already we've established that Leo's character is a twisted ******* and we've pushed the envelope of absurdity so far that the later scenes of midgets, orgies, and rampant drug abuse just aren't surprising. In fact the movie spoils all of this right away with Leo winking and nodding to the camera.

At this point I look at the progress bar and I'm like ****, there are 3 hours of this??



It really doesn't improve past that, it's just scene after scene of swearing, taking drugs, having sex, and the whole time it struggles to seem in any way believable. This movie is about a stock fraudster getting caught and ratting on his associates, but that's just the packaging for a degenerate ****show. I would LIKE to have seen more about how close he came to getting caught, or what all the things he did that tipped authorities off, but all of that is glossed over and multiple times throughout the movie Leo is monologuing to the audience about what exactly he's doing to scam people...

...but then he cuts himself off and goes all "NAH, you're too stupid to understand all that stock mumbo jumbo. Point is I'm filthy rich."

Why would you do that? I wanted to know this stuff, I wanted this world to be grounded in reality a little bit, but no, the audience just wants to see more ****.

The entire experience was just these people ****ing around and acting like psychos until the anticlimactic ending where the morally bankrupt main character goes back to the hustle. This movie is basically Lord of War... but worse. A Leonardo DiCaprio movie did a Nicolas Cage movie worse.

I can't help but think back to Catch Me If You Can, which was another movie in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays a conman, and that movie was so much more enjoyable.

Another thing that bothered me was the music choices, so often they seemed totally inappropriate for the scene. Sure, Everlong by Foo Fighters was released around the same time as when these events took place, but are you trying to evoke the 90s rock scene with Leonardo DiCaprio on a ****ing yacht?

At least Sir Mixalot's Baby Got Back was more appropriate, but that should really tell you how seriously this movie takes itself.

I got one or two amused grunts out of this. Leo's done much better elsewhere.


Final Verdict:
[Just... Bad]

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