The Matrix — past, present, future.

So, The Matrix 4 (The Matrix Resurrections) is on its way (possibly before Christmas?!?) and it seemed like a good time to go back to the past and revisit 1-3.

The Matrix (1): Quite possibly the best movie ever made. I could watch this every day until the end of time and still enjoy it every time. (I watch it at least a few times a year, still.) Kysa and I saw it 18 times in the theater when it came out (a number of those at that old cheap theater on 51st or 52nd [NYC], where people brought like whole meals in with them). It still holds up. The story is fabulous, the filming is fabulous, the… EVERYTHING ABOUT IT IS FABULOUS. Also, Keanu is just such a stunning specimen of humanity. Trinity kicks so much ass in this flick. Cypher is such a perfect (AWFUL) idiot. Morpheus is just the right amount of mysterious and not downtrodden by the horrors of this world. I know the entire plot of this movie like the back of my hand and STILL: the fight scenes are fantastic, some of the drop dead moments (Trinity’s hand on the phone booth as she vanishes while a truck inches away; the moment she sees the homeless man turn on the platform) are still SO satisfying even though I know they’re coming. “YOUR OTHER LEFT!” How hilarious that they even use an old TV trope like that one. Neo’s glee at learning karate. When he HOLDS THE HELICOPTER UP. The gun reveal in the lobby. Tank and Dozer. Gaaahhhhh there’s so much about it I love, I could write an entire book about it.

Matrix 2 (The Matrix Reloaded): Wow, so bad. How is this even made by the same people? The scene where Neo fights like 400 agents = looked SO INCREDIBLY FAKE. It basically seems like suddenly the same people who made brilliant, unbelievably wild fight scenes in the first movie just can’t use technology anymore?!? The sex scene seemed basically gratuitous. The Neo worship and prophecy doesn’t really seem to make sense here. If he’s meant to change things, and he’s here, then… where’s the change? All the spooky illogicalness of the first movie is just sliding down a slippery slope here. I remembered bits and pieces of this movie, but it was so awful, I’m pretty sure I only saw it right when it came out and then never again.

Matrix 3 (The Matrix Revolutions): When you thought Matrix 2 couldn’t get any worse… The whole plot with the Merovingian seems ridiculous both because it makes no sense and because of the ridiculous acting. The ghost twins seem to only use their power sometimes–there’s a whole bunch of times in that highway scene, they could have materialized into another place and ended the entire situation. The explanations by the keymaker and the oracle and the architect and all the other bajillion random people explaining the Matrix to us did not make any sense whatsoever. A lot of the stuff in Zion also makes no sense. The grody bug machines seem to kill off at least 2/3rds of Zion, at least most of its army, and yet the dance sequence at the end could have (probably did!) used the same strip of film as the one at the very beginning–no visible decrease in Zion’s population whatsoever. I remembered almost nothing of this movie and I CAN SEE WHY. It sucked.

So…. fingers crossed for part 4?!?!?!?

Big Screen: No Time to Die

Not your typical James Bond movie. Far darker and insidious than those movies have been in the past–despite the evil, rule the world, kill everyone mentalities of the villains, which has always been there. This time it felt more like Bond had joined them in their vendettas, as well as other members of MI-6, and it was pretty unsettling.

Definitely felt like Daniel Craig said “I’m going out and Bond is going down.” I read an interview where he said he had always tried to portray Bond as someone who realized that he deserved consequences also, that he (as Bond) realized that he himself had done some pretty unscrupulous things in the pursuit of annihilating other unscrupulous people.

It felt a bit drawn out to me. I don’t think Bond movies are really known for their editing, and I think they could have lopped off a bit of this one.

I would recommend you watch the last (prior) installment before going to this–I really didn’t remember the girlfriend from that movie very much and she’s a huge part of the plot in this one.

My favorite part was Bond’s wall-less, somewhat modular (unattached rooms?) home in Jamaica. I know the presence of bugs would drive me INSANE to live in a place like that, but man it was really visually stunning.

Big Screen: French Dispatch

I did enjoy some things about this movie. There are some hilarious, very typical Wes Anderson, moments. The physical spaces, the way the sets were used, was really cool. There were lovely little performances by a bajlllion different actors.

But ultimately I felt like it was aimed at such a teeny tiny subset of the population: the overlap between 1) Wes Anderson fans and 2) fans of the New Yorker and other magazines of that ilk, (and writers such as E.B. White and others on the long list at the end of the flick) when they used to contain long meandering social interest articles. (Do they still? I feel like maybe the focus of that magazine, among others, has shifted a bit, but what do I know, I don’t read it!)

I did not feel as drawn in to its world as with other W.A. movies, such as The Royal Tenenbaums, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, or Moonrise Kingdom. In a sense, you could argue it’s not quite as twee as those. And it’s not as plot driven, all the set pieces are really their own things.

Big Screen: DUNE

Dune was a very pretty movie–I mean if you find deserts pretty, heh. The performances were great. It was fun to see Timothy Chalamet and Oscar Isaacs playing someone entirely different after just seeing them in other movies. Other actors did compelling jobs. The costumes were cool, if slightly unexplainable. It definitely had that “this is an epic story, hold your breath and strap in” feeling.

BUT

  1. I did feel like if you didn’t know a few things about the plot going in, it might have been hard to follow. The movie basically did no world building to start the viewer off–it just jumped right in. I went with someone who’s read the series and she felt this movie only got about halfway through the first book. Also she was able to explain some background stuff that I think the movie really just pretended viewers didn’t need to know. Sure, sure, keep it mysterious.
  2. The sound mix was a mess–the background music was crazy loud and the dialogue was so quiet, it was incredibly difficult to hear what people were saying. I don’t know if that was specific to the theater where I saw it, or if that was just generally true of how they put it together, but the mix was off.

Also, assuming sequels are made, this is going to be one of those series that just burns through actors as they already killed off a lot of the most recognizable ones in this first installment.

Big screen: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the 10 Rings

Things I liked about this movie in order of liking them the most:

  1. Katy.
  2. The soundtrack. (Mostly the rap.)
  3. Xialing.
  4. The floating lanterns scene.
  5. Auntie Nan, Mom, and eventually Shawn’s fighting style.
  6. The “animals” we’ll call them.
  7. The videotape dude on the bus.
  8. The grandma at the beginning.
  9. The almost complete lack of food scenes (they eat twice in the entire movie?).
  10. The archery instructor.

As you can see, this movie was very badly titled since that character is not even in the top 10 reasons to see it. It’s most definitely just as much Katy and Xialing’s movie / story / journey as it is his. So while Marvel is getting maybe a little less racist (I mean, a little, there’s miles yet to go), they’re really not getting any less sexist. (This really goes for all movies, right?)

ETA: I must also point you to this New York Times review and say while it was an enjoyable way to spend two hours with a headache on a Sunday afternoon, this movie did not greatly improve my general thoughts about Marvel movies, superhero movies, cultural appropriation in Hollywood movies, or anything else. Heh.

Favorite Movies of the Decade

Sadly, oh so sadly,my moviegoing has seriously declined in the past couple years. So exhausted from working at school all week AND then working Saturdays. Lost a couple of my main movie-going pals and yes, yes, I know, I DO and WILL go to the movies alone. But when you’re already doing EVERYTHING ELSE ALONE, sometimes also going to a movie alone is just too. much. OK?

2009:
2009 was the summer of Hurt Locker (here and here), a masterpiece, District 9 and Inglorious Bastards. I also really liked Whip It! and The Young Victoria, both have which I have rewatched a million times at this point. I also loved Up in the Air, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Crazy Heart.

2010:
Winter’s Bone = fabulous and heartbreaking. The Town = oh wow, I have watched this movie SO many times. Love it. Rare Exports = best xmas movie ever.

2011:
The Guard (!!), Tree of Life (surprisingly b/c usually I hate that kind of crap) and Red State. (Here is where I ranked all the stuff I saw that year.)

2012:
Dang, a lot of good movies that year! Scanning that list now, I’d say the ones I remember as the best were Silver Linings Playbook (and I detest Bradley Cooper!), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (masterfully cinematic), Anna Karenina (the staging was SO cool), and A Separation.

2013:
All the good movies this year were INtense: Zero Dark Thirty, Fruitvale Station, Dallas Buyers Club, but probably my very favorite was the Joss Whedon black & white Much Ado About Nothing. Utterly charming. Oh and of course I can’t forget to mention Fast & Furious 6. Duh.

2014:
Hands down, the best two movies of 2014 were Only Lovers Left Alive and Words & Pictures. There are images from those two still utterly imprinted on my mind. Stunning. (But here’s a long list of what I liked that year.) I’m still a sucker for Begin Again as well.

2015:
I saw The Danish Girl on the last night of the year and looooved it. I love both those actors so much. Spotlight was also fantastic movie making. Iris!! Clouds of Sil Maria was surprisingly lovely. And OF COURSE FURIOUS 7. RIP Paul Walker.

2016:
This is when my record keeping started to get really shady. The Arrival. Stunning.

2017:
OMG Atomic Blonde. FANTASTIC. The clothes, the sets, the FIGHTS. It was sooo good. Also Get Out. Wow.

2018:
BlacKKKlansman should have won the Oscar. Don’t even try to argue, no other movie from 2018, let alone many others years, can hold a candle to that masterpiece. I also loved Puzzle.

2019:
My favorite movie of 2019 was, hands down, Booksmart. Funniest, smartest movie possibly ever. I’ve got nothing but love for you, Booksmart. Also If Beale Street Could Talk was heartbreakingly fabulous.

Hoping to get my butt back into movie theaters in 2020 in a big way.

Big Screen: Mary Poppins Returns

If you like musicals, you will probably enjoy this. The songs were pretty, the sets / costumes / designery was lovely. Lin Manuel Miranda and Emily Blunt did a fine job, the kids were good actors, it was easy to watch. It was all just fine.

STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON’T WANT A SEMI-SPOILER AS I COMPLAIN.

SERIOUSLY. STOP.

OK, you were warned.

BUT, to me, this was basically a remake. Sure, sure, it’s Michael and Jane grown up, instead of as kids. It’s Jack the lamplighter instead of Bert the chimney sweep. Oh, OK. But ALL the big production numbers are basically following the same plot beats, and… they’re the same. One big production number that involves the park and carousel. One big production number that involves going to someone’s house that’s discombobulated. One big production number with the working men. One big scene at the bank… etc. It just really, really, REALLY follows basically the same plot line, the same beats, the same amount of space between things. Why not just call it a remake if that’s what it is?

So yes, I enjoyed it, to an extent. But it certainly wasn’t a better version of Mary Poppins, and it’s hard to say it was a different movie per se.

Summer at the Movies

Wonder Woman: I thought it was just as crappy as 90% of the other super hero movies out there. And the ending? Where she funnels her power from…LOVE? Yuck. The only part of that movie I really enjoyed was the Robin Wright fight scenes. Those were fierce.

Baby Driver: Quirky and weird and really sweet.

The Big Sick: Wow, this movie takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. It was just so full of real life. Fantastic.

A Ghost Story: Awful. Dumb. Painful to watch and sit through. A movie I would have happily left the room to go to the bathroom during. Yup, that bad. There were maybe 7 minutes of dialogue in the entire movie. It’s laughable to say that Casey Affleck starred in it — he’s got maybe 7 scenes? I read this interview where it said he didn’t want anyone else subbing for him under the sheet, that he felt it really needed to be him? HA. PRETENTIOUS. It could have been anyone under that sheet and it definitely felt like it was just anyone. The ONLY part I liked was at one point, he hands his wife headphones to listen to a song he’s composing. That song was pretty.

Atomic Blonde: 100% engaging, invigorating, amazing. My favorite flick of the year so far (although this may be my fewest movies seen year ever). The fight scenes were fantastic. The sets, the clothing, the soundtrack, the atmosphere. And Charlize, who was all anyone could ever want as THE NEXT JAMES BOND. The ONLY bit of the movie I didn’t love was the very last scene–I felt like it stripped away a little of her agency. I understand the reason for it–it provides justification for a whole bunch of things–but I still would rather have ended with her as an independent operator.

American Assassin: Technically I’m sure this is a decent action flick. But it seriously suffers in comparison to Atomic Blonde. The fight scenes weren’t as tight or serious, the noir wasn’t as deep or intriguing, it just…WASN’T what it could have been.

Big Screen: La La Land

This was OK – probably a 3 on a 5-star scale.

The downfalls for me were a) not enough music and b) doesn’t seem to quite live up to its premise.

Also depends on why you chose that movie that day (don’t all our reactions somewhat depend on our expectations): I wanted a feel-good, make me grin happily at the end, movie. And this isn’t a fairytale romance, or a sing-along. This, when it comes down to it, is a very realistic look at the ebbs and flows, ups and downs, of an adult relationship, where often what you might want isn’t going to work with everything else in your life that has its own timeframe.

That said, both stars were lovely in this. And the thing that happens in the girl’s head at the end of the movie…is really lovely also. 😉

Big Screen: The Arrival

Fabulous. So many neat (and unique) ideas about the power of language and our understanding of time. Just super cool.

Somewhat spoiler below….

Also they did a great job of coming up with a completely different idea of what an alien life form would look like, sound like, act like, etc. So many alien movies fall into tropes. Not here.