FlixChatter Review: The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

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The Matrix was first released in Spring 1999, a year where Y2K aka the Millennium Bug, was quite a frenzy with all kinds of doomsday theories. Some thought it was the apocalypse because of a widespread computer flaw wrecking havoc as the year changed from 1999 to 2000. In many ways it was the perfect time to release a movie dealing with evil cyber-intelligence.

I remember going to the movies to see The Matrix and like many people was in awe of the action stunts and imaginative visual style that made me go ‘whoa.’ It was fresh and new at the time… the frozen, 360-degree camera angle as Trinity is kicking through the air, lobby shootout, gravity-defying Kung Fu, the bullet-time scene, etc., there were a bunch of innovative special effects that have now been copied countless times over.

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Grossing nearly half a billion dollars, the movie spanned two sequels: The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions released in 2003, which were shot back-to-back, along with video game Enter the Matrix. Confession: I had not seen any of the Matrix sequels. No particular reason, I just was never that interested in them and quickly forgot all about this franchise altogether. I didn’t even pay that much attention about this fourth movie, that is until the trailer was released which got me somewhat intrigued. Intrigued enough in fact that I posted an extensive trailer spotlight on it. The trailer spun ton of questions for me, well, I can’t say all of it were answered by the film itself.

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Twenty two years after the original movie, Keanu Reeves is back reprising his role as Thomas Anderson, aka Neo. He’s now a game developer who’s famous for a particular sci-fi video game called… yep, you guessed it, The Matrix, with characters who look and behave like those in the movie version. It’s all pretty meta which starts out pretty amusing. Thomas is a restless soul plagued with visions (or are they dreams or memories?)… whenever he visits the local cafe with his colleague, he keeps seeing a woman named Tiffany who reminds him of Trinity he sees in his dreams. Clearly he has trouble distinguishing between dreams vs reality and the movie makes us question it too, as Tiffany reveals Thomas that she’s aware that a female heroine in his game looks like her.

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The video game plot line somewhat reminds me of FREE GUY, the Ryan-Reynolds action comedy released this past Summer. Obviously it’s got a completely different style and tone, but both have that self-referential and self-awareness vibe that toys with our perception. While Free Guy gleefully pokes fun at itself, this movie tends to take itself a bit too seriously.

’Tis seems to be the year where directing siblings are venturing solo. While the previous three Matrix films were directed by the then Wachoskis brothers, this time it’s only Lana Wachowski returning to direct. She also co-wrote the script with David Mitchell and Aleksandar Hemon. I read that the plot for this one was born out of loss of Lana’s parents, apparently the idea of Neo and Trinity reuniting helped her cope. Thus the story feels personal and even intimate but that also explains the morose, even gloomy tone at times.

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With popular franchises like this one, fan service is to be expected… but while some are done well (such as the latest Spidey movie), some can feel overindulgent or worse, stale. Unfortunate that’s how I feel about this movie. While the idea was initially trailblazing, its novelty is wearing thin… my mind wandered as to what it was that made me love the first Matrix. Perhaps the fact that I hadn’t seen the two sequels might have dampened my enjoyment, as the movie kept referencing things that happened in previous movies. In fact, 10-15% of its 2.5 hour running time was made up by existing footage in the form of dreams or flashbacks. Even its opening scene was a shot-for-shot of the original movie but with new actors.

As much as I love Keanu Reeves, he just looks lethargic here as he spends most of the movie looking either confused or concerned… with his long stringy hair he looks like John Wick. Now, that franchise is still quite exciting to me as he seems to be having a lot more fun playing the character.

SPOILER: It’s also quite meta to see Chad Stahelski who directed all the John Wick movies in a cameo as Tiffany’s husband… it’s even more amusing as Chad has been Keanu’s longtime stunt double for this franchise.

It’s cool to see Carrie Ann Moss as well back as Trinity. She still looks amazing after 2 decades and her character’s arc is just as intriguing as Keanu’s. That meet-cute at the cafe looks like something out of a rom-com, perhaps someone’s already done a trailer this one recut as a Christmas rom-com, ahah.

As for the supporting cast, well I’m not as impressed with them compared to those in the original. Yahya Abdul Mateen is a good actor and I like his casting as young Morpheus but sorry, he ain’t no Laurence Fishburne with his icy glare and iconic deep voice. Jonathan Groff with his cute face is no Hugo Weaving either as Agent Smith, even the fight scenes with him feel uninspired. Don’t even get me started with Neil Patrick  Harris as Neo’s shrink… it’s as if I were watching a TV movie every time he shows up.

But the most distracting casting was Jessica Henwick whom I’ve only seen in The Defenders series. Somehow her look and mannerism reminds me so much of Henry Golding it’s uncanny! That said, she has a pretty big role as Bugs and looks pretty cool doing all the stunts. I hope to see more of her in future projects.

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Visually speaking, I can’t really point out some imaginative scenes that blew my mind from this one. With more money and better computer technology, I expected to see some new avant-garde scenes to marvel at. The underworld labyrinth where the actual matrix itself exist have some striking imagery, but I feel like we’ve seen those before in better, more exciting sci-fi movies.

One thing for sure, I spent a great deal of time being discombobulated or bored, there were barely any uplifting moments that got me engaged or made me want to cheer. I knew that it’d be tough for this one to recapture the magic of the original movie, but still, it should’ve been much better than this. If I had known what a dull ride this would be, I might as well had taken the blue pill. The title might say ‘resurrections’ but some things ought to just stay buried.

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Have you seen The Matrix Resurrections? Well, what did YOU think?

Oscars 2015 – Recap, Reflections on Best & Worst Moments

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Quick confession: I’m not a huge fan of Oscars red carpet, or red carpet in general. So I only tuned in a half hour before the show. It’s funny but the second I turned on the TV, Michael Keaton was standing next to the chirpy blond presenter. He seems effortlessly at ease, LOVE that guy and I’m so rooting for him to the end! As I did last year, I went to Zumba, had dinner, then went down to my basement.

Well, first things first…

How did I do on my predictions?

  1. Best picture: Boyhood  Birdman
  2. Best director: Richard Linklater (Boyhood) Alexandro G. Iñárritu (Birdman)
  3. Best lead actor: Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything
  4. Best lead actress: Julianne Moore – Still Alice
  5. Best supporting actor: J.K. Simmons –Whiplash
  6. Best supporting actress: Patricia Arquette –Boyhood
  7. Best animated feature: Song of the Sea Big Hero 6
  8. Best feature documentary: Citizenfour
  9. Best adapted screenplay: The Theory of Everything The Imitation Game
  10. Best original screenplay: Birdman
  11. Best original score: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  12. Best cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki – Birdman
  13. Best original song: “Glory” from Selma
  14. Best Make Up and Hair Styling: Foxcatcher The Grand Budapest Hotel
  15. Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel
  16. Best Visual Effects: Interstellar
  17. Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Well, I got 12 out of 17 predictions right. I’m actually surprised to be surprised by the winners, if that make sense at all. I mean, I honestly thought Boyhood would sweep the awards, well at least in Best Director and Best Picture. I haven’t seen the film yet so I’ve been #TeamBirdman from the start. I literally screamed at the top of my lungs [sorry neighbors!] when I heard Iñárritu‘s name called out… I was ecstatic still, I did NOT see Birdman‘s Best Picture win coming …

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Red Carpet Stuff

Firstly, can someone explain what the heck is going on here?? John Travolta is feelin’ frisky tonight eh? Scarlett Johansson‘s post-baby figure is PHENOMENAL! Dayum girl, and that haircut is bad ass!!

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These two dresses are my two favorites of the night:

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Lupita Nyong’O was my red carpet fave last year too. Wow she’s still the reigning queen of the red carpet with this amazing custom-made pearl gown. YOWZA!! Can’t beat her pearl dress, but it’s her elegant swagger that makes her so dazzling.

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Yet another gorgeous new mom,Rosamund Pike just had a baby back in December!! She’s wearing the color of blood for her first Oscar nomination, how appropriate! She looks absolutely stunning and I LOVE the rose textures all over her gown.

A few other favorites …

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Dapper men on the red carpet!

Look at the three dapper Chris-es in the center (Evans, Pratt & Pine), hmmm where’s Hemsworth??

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Forget best-dressed peoples…  these two ladies WON the red carpet with their unabashed display of affection. LOVE the spontaneity of this shot, I didn’t know Emma StoneJennifer Aniston are best buds, VERY cool!

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Favorite Speeches:

“We made a film, black and white, about the need for silence and withdrawal from the world and contemplation, and here we are at this epicenter of noise and all the tension… Life is full of surprises” — Pawel Pawlikowski, director of IDA

By far the funniest speech of the night, can’t blame him for his exuberance. I kind of feel guilty for not having seen IDA yet.

The disclosures that Edward Snowden reveals don’t only expose a threat to our privacy but to our democracy itself,” – Citizenfour’s Lauren Poitras

.@johnlegend moves the crowd to tears with his powerful Oscars speech. pic.twitter.com/UhmNezO1zN

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Now, I wasn’t rooting for him but I have to admit I was moved by Eddie Redmayne’s ecstatic and his can’t-believe-I-actually-won reaction when he gripped his Oscar tightly in his hand. I predicted he’d win and I knew that no matter how much I wanted Michael Keaton to win, it just wouldn’t be in the cards. But hey, the dude seems cool about it. I think Eddie wanted to win more badly than anyone else.

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Hilarious nod to his pal Alfonso Cuarón who deservedly won last year for Gravity, in case some of you forgot.

What a great come back to Sean Penn’s uncalled for ‘green card’ comment [see below under WORST moments]. Seriously, I thought I couldn’t dislike a guy more, but Penn is relentless in being so unlikable.

Fave Moments

The LEGO Movie‘s Everything is Awesome musical number is so exuberantly fun and joyful! Some of the dancers came out carrying the LEGO version of the Oscar statuettes in response to their egregious snub. Take THAT the Academy!

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Common and John Legend‘s performance of GLORY… it was a glorious performance. Common_Legend_Oscar2015I know people are mocking the standing ovation and people tearing up over that song, but it’s uncalled for. The song is genuinely moving rendition of an important and VERY timely film. It’s a well-deserved win and followed by a defiant speech.

LadyGaga_Oscar15WHOA!! I didn’t see THIS coming …

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I can’t say I’m a big fan of Lady Gaga so I had no idea she could sing so beautifully! What’s even more beautiful is the Dame herself Julie Andrews coming on stage looking genuinely verklempt over Gaga’s performance and hugged her. LOVE it!

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Glom Gazingo! Idina Menzel, aka Adele Dazeem got her revenge on John Travolta. But this hilarious moment is also one of the creepiest. What’s w/ all the face-touching John??

Hands down my favorite moment ever from last night:

 

So how did NPH do as host?

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 Can’t say I’m impressed with Neil Patrick Harris. I think I only laughed a couple of times as he seemed so self-aware all night that the joke just seemed off. Even when he showed up in his tighty whities as a spoof to Birdman, it didn’t feel all that spontaneous compared to last year’s pizza delivery thing. I definitely like Ellen more as host, I just think she is funny without trying too hard. Oh and I didn’t care for his subtle-not-so-subtle ‘treason’ jab against Ed Snowden after Citizenfour won Best Documentary.

I did enjoy his ‘Oscar prediction’ bit but I think that’s due to the Oscar writers kind of summarizing the most amusing moments of the night.

Oh and THIS moment with David Oyelowo is pretty cute.

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Worst Moments:

Sean Penn making us wait for the final award of the night, Best Picture, only to be followed by a distasteful *joke* about green card, sheesh! Yes I know he worked with Iñárritu on 21 Grams so the two are likely friends, but still, it’s just inappropriate and offensive.

Seeing this pic of Robin Williams… still can’t believe he’s gone 😦

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So did you watch the Oscars last night? Thoughts on the winners and what’s your pick of best/worst moments?

FlixChatter Review: GONE GIRL (2014)

GoneGirlBnrFew films this year got as much feverish anticipation as this one. To be honest, I got a bit worried this film wasn’t going to live up to the hype, but I’m glad to report that I wasn’t disappointed. I’m also glad that since I haven’t read the book, I managed to avoid any spoilers about the plot so it was nice to be surprised by the twist and turns as I’m watching the film.

The opening is quite provocative, as it opens with a shot of a beautiful blond woman, along with a male speaking voice saying how it would be nice to crack open her skull to see just what’s inside her head, to see what she is thinking. There’s an air of mystery around her which sets the tone of the entire film. Now, on a different film, we might chalk that narration up as a figure of speech. But in this case, given the title of the film, it definitely makes you think the worst. Well, Gone Girl definitely keeps toying with our perceptions throughout, and that’s part of the fun.

GoneGirl_Still1In case you don’t know anything about the basic plot, here’s the gist: On his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) left his home in the morning to a bar he co-owned with his twin sister. When he came back, he couldn’t find his wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) anywhere in his sprawling house, and there’s obvious signs of a break in. So he reports his wife missing and before he knows it, there’s a growing media frenzy on his case that puts extra pressure on him on top of the also-growing suspicion from the police that he’s killed her.

Instead of a straight who-dun-it type of thriller, this film deals more about the psychological aspect of the crumbling of a seemingly-blissful union and how Nick & Amy deal with their mounting problems. The issue behind the marriage dissolution itself isn’t at all uncommon, lots of us can relate to the issue of layoffs and growing apart when expectations no longer aligns with reality. But of course, this story takes a sinister turn that leaves you wondering just what the heck happens. The beauty of the film is that, it doesn’t rely on the twist [a la M. Night Shyamalan’s films] to shock or entertain you. Instead, it’s more of a character study of a married couple – who probably shouldn’t be married in the first place – as well as a commentary of the worst side of media frenzy that toys with the public’s perception about a given story.

GoneGirl_Still3Despite the dark subject matter, this film isn’t overly bleak or depressing. Thanks to the taut screenplay by first-time screenwriter Gillian Flynn, who happens to be the author of the best-selling author novel it’s based on. I’m glad David Fincher agreed to work with her instead of hiring a more experienced screenwriter. I think having been ‘living’ with these characters on her head for so long definitely help make them more fleshed-out. Apparently Flynn actually studied his films as she’s writing the script which explains the synergy going on here. Fincher’s direction is solid all around, the story is clearly tailor-made for him. I like the timeline marking of how many days Amy has been gone, and the use of flashbacks are seamless and effective. The journal entries from Amy’s diary gives us a bit of insight into Amy’s side of the story, yet it wasn’t overdone that it’d actually grind the film to a halt. Fincher’s almost surgical precision is apparent in how he sets up every scene. Just like any real-life crime investigation, painstaking eye for details is absolutely critical.

Fincher’s longtime collaborator Trent Reznor provides a cool and eerie score to go with that somber color-scheme. At first I felt like his score was a bit intrusive in the first scenes when Nick & Amy met, but I think it might’ve been intentional. In some key moments, the vigorous & ominous score definitely gets your heart pounding! Another longtime Fincher collaborator is cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, whose visual sensibility works with Fincher’s style and therefore helps set the mood. The naturalistic style used here fits the tone of the film and the Midwest setting nicely.

GoneGirl_Still2Bringing the story to life are Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, two beautiful people forming a marriage from hell. For once, Affleck just might get some accolades for his acting instead of directing. I do think he was excellent in Hollywoodland, and in a way there’s some similarities between Nick and George Reeves as he was also at his lowest point professionally. The film however, belongs to the girl in the title role. Pike was nothing short of well, amazing. I’ve seen her in about five films so far, but mostly in supporting roles, and I’ve never seen the kind of range she displayed here. She was perfect as ‘Amazing Amy’, a brilliant ice princess type, the embodiment of her parents perfect image in the book series named after their daughter. At times she reminds me of Nicole Kidman’s character in To Die For, but there’s still a vulnerability about her that keeps you from truly despising her. I knew the British beauty could handle the sinister aspect of her character, but still I was floored by how good she was and her American accent is pretty convincing as well. I so hope she’d get some nominations come award-season, she’s definitely the breakout female performer of the year for me.

The supporting cast includes some rather off-the-wall choices playing against type. Tyler Perry is quite amusing as Nick’s top-notch lawyer, and Neil Patrick Harris as Amy’s creepy ex-boyfriend. The latter threw me off a bit as I somehow didn’t know he was part of the cast. Given Harris’ personal life, it took me a while to see him as a straight guy being obsessed over a girl, but I think he pulled it off. I also have to mention Carrie Coon and Kim Dickens as Nick’s sister and the detective, respectively. Both were excellent playing key roles in the story. Interesting casting of Sela Ward as a TV reporter here given that she played the murdered wife in The Fugitive where the husband was accused of killing her.

GoneGirl_Stills4Spoiler alert [highlight text below if you want to read it]
I feel that Amy might’ve gotten away w/ murder too easily. There’s a moment at the police station when Nick immediately knew she had deliberately killed Desi. “How did she manage to find a box cutter when she’s tied up all the time?” He quipped, but the male cop who’s always disliked him brushed him off. But also there’s the issue about all the blood that was mopped up in the kitchen. If she said she had been hit by her abductor, wouldn’t the cops at the very least try to corroborate her story and find some kind of proof that her story checks out? It’s not a huge quibble but it did bother me after I saw the movie.

So what’s the verdict? Well, Gone Girl definitely lives up to the hype. It’s more entertaining than I thought it would be. This will likely end up in my top 5 favorite Fincher films, perhaps between Fight Club and The Social Network which also have some humorous moments sprinkled throughout. I love it when a movie sparks a lot of discussions and makes you ponder about your own life situation. As I haven’t read the book, I can’t comment if the film is better than that or not, but I think it works in the big screen format. Props to Fincher and Flynn for making a story that might not translate well to film into something cinematic, gripping and wildly entertaining.

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So what do you think of Gone Girl? Did it live up to YOUR expectations?