Eternal Summer [盛夏光年] (2006)

The love triangle is a time-honored plot device, but in the lyrical film Eternal Summer, it takes a different turn.

The story follows three friends, Jonathan (Jui-Chia Chang), Shane (Joseph Chang) and Kate (Hui-Chia). Jonathan and Shane meet as children when their teacher pairs them together in class. Shane has behavior problems, so Jonathan is tasked with making sure he doesn’t fall behind. The contrived pairing eventually turns into a true life-long friendship.

In high school, Jonathan meets up with Kate, another seeming misfit. A failed attempt at seduction makes Jonathan realize he’s not into women. Jonathan is dealt another blow when he fails to get into a good college.

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The Bubble [Ha Buah] (2006)

How else would a love story between a gay Arab man and a gay Israeli man end? It’s like the story of the Titanic — optimistic in concept but a tragedy in the end.

No, I’m not really spoiling the film’s story by describing that much because The Bubble, for the most part, is uplifting.

The story is set in Tel Aviv, the gay-friendly Israeli city with a thriving bohemian scene. While performing his required Israeli military service, Noam (Ohad Knoller) encounters Ashraf (Yusef Sweid) at border checkpoint. A pregnant Arab woman goes into labor, and Noam treats the woman while Ashraf serves as translator. Ashraf later tracks Noam down in Tel Aviv to give him back his lost ID card, and one magical night later, Ashraf decides to stay with Noam.

Noam and Ashraf spend a number of weeks taking in the liberal atmosphere of Tel Aviv, organizing a rave to promote peace. Ashraf’s sister, however, is getting married, and he returns to his hometown to participate in the ceremonies. A car bomb detonated in Tel Aviv, however, thrusts Noam’s friends and Ashraf’s family into the strife, and the bubble of Tel Aviv’s care-free life bursts under the weight of a bigger struggle.

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The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

The Bourne Identity is one of those movies that I’ll watch on basic cable if there’s nothing else on, which is often. Even with repeated viewings, the twists and turns of The Bourne Identity don’t lose their exhilaration.

Its follow-up, The Bourne Supremacy, sank under the weight of a convoluted plot and exaggerated action scenes. It was difficult to fathom Jason Bourne’s super agent resilience while piecing together what the hell was going on.

Thankfully, the third installment of the Bourne series, The Bourne Ultimatum, brings the story back to Bourne’s quest to uncover his past identity. That’s a far juicier story to follow than his getting payback.

Paul Greengrass returns to the director’s chair, and this time, he keys into the success of previous director Doug Liman with the The Bourne Identity. Matt Damon also returns as Jason Bourne, playing him with the cool urgency that fueled the previous movies.

The story picks up almost immediately after the last movie left off, with a train station chase in Moscow. Bourne escapes but not without experiencing a hint of a flashback to his first day on the job.

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Stardust (2007)

I read the original illustrated serial novel of Stardust published by DC Vertigo. Charles Vess, who penciled the Edgar Award-winning Sandman issue "A Midsummer’s Night Dream", provided the pictures to accompany Neil Gaiman’s prose.

I can’t say I really liked it. Gaiman’s fairytale style didn’t possess the nuance or depth of The Sandman, and the storyline felt really predictable. A maligned child grows to be someone really important? Where have we heard that before?

When I learned Stardust would be turned into a movie, I actually thought it would be a great fit. The story wasn’t really that impressive, and Hollywood effects magic could go a long way into giving the plot some flesh. I didn’t expect the film to gut the source material and actually make it better.

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The Simpsons Movie (2007)

I haven’t watched a new episode of The Simpsons in more than 10 years. The last time I regularly watched the show was around 1997 and 1998, when it started to show signs of wear. So The Simpsons Movie was essentially the first episode of The Simpsons I’ve seen in long, long time.

Other people have told me the movie reminded them of how the show was right around the time I stopped watching, which confirmed my perception that the movie seemed in keeping with what I remembered.

The Simpsons has always managed to be heart-warming in the face of ridiculousness. For the movie, that heart-tugging was magnified. Heck, I even managed to say "Awwww" toward the end.

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Sicko (2007)

I’m a neophyte where Michael Moore is concerned. I never watched Roger and Me, nor Bowling for Columbine. I did watch Fahrenheit 911. I’m not a fan of Moore’s, nor am I detractor. Friends invited me to watch Sicko with them, and I said yes just because I was craving a Godfather pizza from the Alamo Drafthouse.

That’s my paragraph-long disclaimer to say I don’t care about his politics, nor the politics of said fans and detractors.

That said, Moore’s reputation does precede him. After the film, one of my friends commented he wasn’t a documentairan — he was polemicist. Another doesn’t really like how Moore inserts himself in the story. If I didn’t consider Moore’s work to be partly entertainment, I’d be more bothered by that as well.

Moore doesn’t hide his agenda, and as such, I’ve turned a skeptical eye to the two films of his I have watched, despite being part of the choir to which he’s probably preaching. Still, watching Sicko was chilling and not surprising.

I’ve so far had the fortune of being covered by medical insurance, even during economically tough times. The closest I’ve come to a health care nightmare was shelling a few hundred bucks for an emergency visit, one which revealed I had to get my gall bladder removed. That procedure, thankfully, was covered 100 percent.

I hate to imagine what would have happened if it weren’t.

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Once (2007)

Most of the press covering Once calls the film a movie musical. Writers are quick to disclaim that characters don’t burst into song the way the old movie musicals did, but important emotional points of the story are expressed in music.

It’s not an inaccurate description, but it doesn’t paint the entire picture either. Once reminded me more of the early Duran Duran videos directed by Russell Mulcahy, where the songs became miniature movies themselves. As far as my 13-year-old self was concerned, who needed Raiders of the Lost Ark when I had "Hungry Like the Wolf"?

Music video hasn’t really tapped into that kind of cinematic sense since, not after Michael Jackson turned the form into some kind of Cecil B. DeMille canvas. Once manages to integrate that early-era music video storytelling into a larger form. Like an opera or a musical, the film’s scenes build to a point where music comes in, but instead of an aria, it’s a music video.

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Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)

I can pretty much sum my thoughts about Borat in three letters: WTF?

No, I don’t have HBO, so no, I’ve never seen Da Ali G Show. The most exposure I’ve had to Sacha Baron Cohen was his appearance in Madonna’s video for "Music", and my reaction back then was, "Who the fuck is that clown?"

So, no, I don’t know what I was expecting when I went to see Borat. It’s the first non-horror movie I watched where I was ready to cover my eyes at a moment’s notice.

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Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Lost in Translation is becoming my personal litmus test for indie comedies.

It’s not a movie you can like right away, and a first viewing may not actually entertain you at all. But if you think about Lost in Translation after you watch it, then it’s charms start peeking through.

Little Miss Sunshine is rather like Lost in Translation that way.

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Superman Returns (2006)

The first words out of my mouth when I left the theater were "Wow. Did that drag."

There really isn’t any excuse for Superman Returns to last 154 minutes. It would have been a far better movie if it was kept at or under 2 hours.

As stunning as Superman’s powers are, a lot of the mayhem and destruction happening in Metropolis could have picked up the pace quite a bit.

I like big falling objects in my summer action films as the next guy, but there were times I wanted the big bangs to hurry up.

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