When the second half of the 2-part MATRIX sequel begins, our hero Neo and antagonist Agent Smith are both displaced from their regular realities. Smith has somehow transferred his computer-program-consciousness into the organic human body of Bane, only survivor of the destroyed Nebuchadnezzar, now in the sick bay of the Hammer next to comatose Neo, whose mind is trapped in a purgatorial subway station in a virtual world separate from The Matrix.
Yeah, the sequels get complicated. We learn that programs inside The Matrix are regularly deleted, but some try to escape that fate. The subway is a black market means of smuggling exile programs in and out of the Matrix or the Machine City (01?) mainframe. This is all overseen by the Merovingian, with the subway itself operated by his employee The Trainman, a scary dude played by Bruce Spence, a.k.a. the Gyro Captain in THE ROAD WARRIOR and Jedediah in MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME. (read the rest of this shit…)
THE MATRIX RELOADED may have been the most highly anticipated but immediately rejected sequel of my lifetime. I’m not just excluding PHANTOM MENACE for being a prequel – whatever happened in the rest of the world, I honestly didn’t experience many people hating it until months later, at least. With RELOADED it was pretty instant.
It was the only MATRIX movie I reviewed upon release, so you can click here to see my kinda dumb, mostly still applicable 2003 thoughts on the matter. I seemed to be fielding a backlash against the original MATRIX movie as well as people hating RELOADED, but it was only the latter I found myself feeling I had to defend over the years.
I do think I partly understand why people were disappointed. THE MATRIX ends on a perfect note of letting us imagine what’s next in the “world where anything is possible.” Any definitive answer of what happens next has a hard time competing with the electric feeling of not knowing. Especially when part 1 was a carefully constructed machine of concept, explanation and payoff, while part 2 kind of wanders through a labyrinth of tangential notions and questions before it gets to the battle it’s been promising. And it cuts off in a cliffhanger well before said battle. (read the rest of this shit…)
You might’ve figured a new sci-fi/fantasy produced and written by Peter Jackson and his fellowship (Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens), and directed by his storyboard artist/effects guy since DEAD ALIVE Christian Rivers, would be a pretty big deal. I had hoped to see it in 3D, but it came out the same week as THE MULE and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE and then the next week I wanted to see AQUAMAN, MARY POPPINS RETURNS and BUMBLEBEE and since the movie flopped the showtimes dropped precipitously and it was gone before I got to it. Plus, everybody said it sucked.
Wrong! I am happy to report that MORTAL ENGINES is pretty fuckin cool! It’s based on a young adult book, and there are some costumes and characters that follow a sort of steampunk or HUNGER GAMES city dweller style that I’m not into it, but it’s an adventure in an interesting world with cool characters and the spectacular effects of Weta at their best.
The movie centers around futuristic London, which is a “predator city,” meaning the whole fucking thing drives around the wastelands like a giant tank looking for resources, which they get by “ingesting” smaller cities to steal their machines and citizens. In the opening scene they chase down a small mining town and swallow it up. When I saw the Londoners on the fancy top deck watching the chase and cheering I fell in love with the movie. (read the rest of this shit…)
HACKSAW RIDGE is a twisted, uninhabitable mass of rock with a steep edge and riddled with secret caves, one of which is home to 2×4-carrying WWF legend “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. But there is no movie about that so until then we’ll have to make do with director Mel Gibson (APOCALYPTO)’s identically titled HACKSAW RIDGE, the best-picture-nominated movie based on the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN), the only WWII Medal of Honor recipient who was a conscientious objector. See, he wanted to do his part to fight Hitler, but he didn’t believe in killing or even touching a gun, so he went as a medic and was really fucking good at saving people’s lives. A reverse AMERICAN SNIPER.
I wonder if he traveled through time if he would kill Baby Hitler, or just try to give first aid to other babies fighting against Baby Hitler? It really makes you think.
The first half or so is before he goes to war. We see him as a little shit, constantly running and climbing and getting in violent scraps with his brother Hal, with no intervention from his drunk asshole dad (Hugo Weaving, BABE), a WWI veteran. Desmond could easily turn into the town bully, but maybe it’s his intense devotion to the family’s Ten Commandments poster that ensures he’s a big dork by the time he grows into Garfield. On one INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE style conveniently fateful day he discovers the two other loves of his life, because he 1) rushes to heroic action in administering a tourniquet and getting an injured person to a hospital where 2) he spots a beautiful nurse (Teresa Palmer, POINT BREAK remake) and decides he will marry her.
But not until his first furlough, because shortly after successfully wooing her he announces that he has to enlist. (read the rest of this shit…)
Looking back at these movies from the summer of 1995 is really interesting to me, but it doesn’t seem like a very good summer for movies. I mean, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE was really good. That was at the very beginning.
Now all the sudden it’s August and this G-rated Australian talking animal movie comes out. There were signs that it might be interesting for that sort of thing: It had a nice storybook look to it, and a new idea of digitally animating mouth movements and expressions on animals instead of just feeding them peanut butter.
But you guys, BABE is more than just better than expected, and ended up being a phenomenon. Even though it’s seen as a kid’s movie, it’s one of such precise, economical storytelling, such unique vision and such sweet sincerity that it ended up with 7 well deserved Oscar noms (short for nominations): Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (James Cromwell supporting a bunch of farm animals!), Best Art Direction, Best Editing and Best Visual Effects (which it won – take that, only other nominee APOLLO 13).
And that was not just Oscar silliness, or the world getting swept up in some crazy 1995 shit. I just watched it again and 20 years later BABE is still a perfect movie.
I saw BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES about 5 weeks after it came out and finished this review a couple weeks later, so you can see I had higher movie-going-and-discussing priorities than the thrilling conclusion to the prequel to the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. But honestly I did go to it of my own accord. After somewhat enjoying part 2 as a dumb spectacle with some good sequences I was kind of in the mood for that again and wanted to be sure to catch it before it left 3D.
(technical notes: I avoided high frame rate so it wouldn’t look like somebody’s home wedding video. I ended up with digital 3D “Imax,” which is on the giant screen but noticeably lower resolution than standard digital projection. So it’s got pluses and minuses)
If you’re like me you have almost no memory of what happened in the other two installments or what the names of any of the characters are, but you do remember the setup for part 3: Smowg, the greedy capitalistic dragon of Desolation Mountain, was awoken from his treasure-slumber and raging toward the man-village, puking deadly flame breath every which way, getting ready to roast some fuckin humans and Godzilla some buildings. Just step on some guys and bite off their heads and all that kind of dragon shit. This is the big screen dragon attack we’ve been waiting for ever since Guillermo Del Toro signed onto THE HOBBIT six years ago, and especially since the cliffhanger ending of part 2 one year ago.
I mean I am shitting myself you guys because THIS IS GONNA BE FUCKIN CRAZY! The Baggin’ and Toe-taggin’ of the Dragon. The Shakedown in Laketown. The motherfuckin climax of the greatest most epicest trilogy of all time, “THE END OF AN ERA” according to the ads and posters.
What if there were like a book of maps, only it was made out of the sky? That would be weird.
Well, anyway. At a climactic point in CLOUD ATLAS a character talks righteously about freedom, and about refusing to accept boundaries. And that’s what Lana and Andy Wachowski (who directed this along with Tom Tykwer) have done with their lives, their careers and this movie in particular. If you haven’t heard what CLOUD ATLAS is, it’s a nearly 3-hour epic based on a supposedly unadaptable book. It takes place in a bunch of different time periods ranging from the age of slavery to a dystopian future to even a post-apocalyptic future after that. But not in order – it jumps around from story to story, like a bunch of unrelated movies edited together as a weird joke on Youtube. (read the rest of this shit…)
CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER is the last of the Marvel Comics soda can labels before next year when all the separate labels will be united into one all-star label called THE AVENGERS (the comics one, not the one with Sean Connery in the teddy bear costume). The IRON MANs, THOR and INCREDIBLE HULK were all on Dr. Pepper I believe, though, and this one’s on 7-UP. So it’s a whole new ball game. I think it dips a bit into the cheesy side visually and filmatism-wise, but it’s an enjoyable story that’s a little different from the other super hero guys and stands on its own better than THOR. In fact the way it leads up to this AVENGERS movie allows it to end on an odd emotional note that it wouldn’t have otherwise. (read the rest of this shit…)
V FOR VENDETTA is a big exciting futuristic comic book movie, produced and written by the Wachowskis, starring Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman, playing in Imax in some towns, but not here. It’s a movie nerds are pretty excited for, but the talk is less about is he wearing the right cape, are his powers depicted in exactly the way I personally imagined them, etc., and more about the politics. Because although it features a guy in a cape and mask who fights bad guys in dark alleys, the story is more of a 1984 type deal than a spiderman. Apparently the comic strip book was written in England in the 1980s in response to the Margaret Thatcher administration.
I saw a review in Entertainment Weekly that talked about references to Bush and Bill O’Reilly and Abu Ghraib and what not, but I figure this is more like STAR WARS prequels: it’s about all the assholes throughout history, and the leaders we have now just so happen to be members. It’s like I always say, if your government is strikingly similar to the dystopian sci-fi stories of the past then you got a problem there, in my opinion. (read the rest of this shit…)
This might bother some of you but I just want to say it up front: put me in the camp of people who say the original MATRIX really is “the shit” as the kids say when they mean that it is not shit but actually the opposite of shit, which is I guess in this case THE MATRIX. Because what these boys the Wachowski Brothers did was an extremely well executed twilight zone concept for the post William Gibson days which also happened to be the perfect vehicle to combine over the top Hong Kong martial arts traditions with american actors and computer effects AND an appropriate metaphor for our times.
I love the idea that somebody like Jackie Chan or Michael Jordan who has extraordinary physical skills could actually just be a smart dude who figured out loopholes in the laws of reality. If you can understand the program well enough you can cheat and do things that a person isn’t supposed to be able to do. In the old shaw brothers movies it was just magic or shaolin wisdom but here we put those same spectacular moves in a sci-fi context and we get a whole different spin where even some jackass like Keanu Reeves can fly through the air and be so convincing that most of American can watch him as the iconic badass Neo and not even think of him as Keanu anymore. (read the rest of this shit…)
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