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The Matrix Resurrections | A Mind-Bending Sci-fi Romance

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The Matrix Resurrections is such a self-aware, meta-driven, awe-exhilarating, mind-bending sci-fi romance that features stunning visuals and absolutely insane action sequences. It’s innovative and engaging and after twenty years we finally get plugged back into The Matrix in a sequel that honours the legacy of the iconic Trilogy. 

From visionary filmmaker Lana Wachowski comes the long-awaited next chapter in the groundbreaking franchise that truly redefined a genre. The new film reunites original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in the iconic roles they made famous, Neo and Trinity. 

In “The Matrix Resurrections”, we return to a world of two realities: one, everyday life; the other, what lies behind it. To find out if his reality is a physical or mental construct, to truly know himself, Mr. Anderson will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. And if Thomas…Neo… has learned anything, it’s that choice, while an illusion, is still the only way out of-or into-the Matrix. Of course, Neo already knows what he has to do. But what he doesn’t know yet is the Matrix is stronger, more secure and more dangerous than ever before. Déjà vu.

©Warner Brothers

The Matrix has truly evolved since Revolutions as it’s now difficult to spot reality from fiction, especially with code. The Matrix code is treated like a story and Jonathan Groff’s Smith quotes to Thomas “That’s the thing about stories. They never really end, do they? we’re still telling the same stories we’ve always told, just with different names, different faces. Reeves reprises the dual roles of Thomas Anderson/Neo, the man once saved from the Matrix to become the saviour of humankind, will once have to choose which path to follow. 

Moss portrays the iconic warrior Trinity, well not anymore, she’s Tiffany. A suburban wife and mother of three with a penchant for superpowered motorcycles. Things aren’t certainly the way they were before.

Every studio is after a profitable IP and as sequels come and go franchises evolve. The Matrix Trilogy has always remained in our conscience as a pop culture impact that changed the sci-fi game in 1999 with the first instalment about Thomas “Neo” Anderson a computer programmer by day and hacker at night whose life is forever changed when he swallows the red pill that disconnects him from a carefully simulated world of enslaved humans. The premise of machines rebelling against their makers was a unique concept and the utilising of people as an electrical system to fuel a dystopian world truly put an interesting twist on the potential fate of humanity. 

However their freedom came at a cost as Neo becomes “The One” a mythical figure of power and enlightenment prophecies to bring about the end of affairs and establish peace with the machines, allowing them to live in co-exisitence with the humans in the city of Zion. 

He did so, thanks to his and Trinity’s sacrifice at the end of The Matrix Revolutions, in which he was able to defat a self-replicating virus known as Smith (Hugo Weaving). Neo’s transformation from a curious worker to an actualised human being capable of changing the world felt like it holds significant relevance to Wachowski’s own life story. The Matrix was all about the desire for transformation all coming from a closeted point of view according Lilly Wachowski. 

If you talk about transformation in the world of science fiction, its about imagination and world-building and the ultimate idea of the seemingly impossible becoming the possible. 

Helming Resurrections as a solo effort makes you feel Lana’s vision. Along with her co-writers, the novelist David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas) and screenwriter Aleksandar Hemon embrace the heavy self-referential themes that exist in this day and age, specifically the opening as it takes a nostalgic approach as the writers being to poke fun at sequels, prequels and reboots. The film also begins with a satire on corporate greed and conniving marketers as the company revs up for a new sequel that doesn’t want to be made. 

The Matrix Resurrections, more so than any other instalment in the franchise is to me a film of love and about finding the ONE you believe in. It’s a story centred on the relationship between Neo and Trinity, the leather-coated, mirror shades-wearing resistance fighters introduced in the original Matrix Trilogy. Nearly two decades have passed since the release of The Matrix Revoutions and that sixty years have elapsed between the events at the end of that film and the beginning of Resurrections. Their relationship gets the films plot moving and the payoff is spectacular. Lana’s approach guides us through the reveals as there is tons to unpack when it comes to the lore of the Matrix and its implications. 

©Warner Brothers

Resurrections gives such awe-inspiring additions to the Matrix world and Mega City. It’s more modernised and showcases the nature of past and present simulations and programs especially how they reign over themselves this is particularly seen in The Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) and Smith (Jonathan Groff). The film also updates some of the ideology and technology as phone booths and mobile phones see an absence and is now replaced with mirrors that work as doors to the physical word. 

The unbreakable Bond as mentioned above between Neo and Trinity, is an iconic romance that transcends dimensions and time, it’s the human element that propels this dystopian/futuristic vehicle. Wachowski creates great epic filmmaking that feels human and in this entry despite what the Oracle told Neo in Revolutions, every beginning does not have an end. Love never dies. It’s about the power of self-love and what’s happening in the world with regard to gender identity and relations. 

Trinity was a character in the original trilogy and a woman with such power, agency and ability. The matrix set a standard for female action heroes and Resurrections certainly lives up to that whilst also taking into account the passage of time. Trinity’s arc in The Matrix Resurrections is a reaction to the past 20 years of cultural evolution. 

©Warner Brothers

Keeping Neo on the path is a group of incredible hackers who have come to see Neo as a legend. They have studied the past and keep archives of data dedicated to his exploits which certainly come in handy utilising footage from the trilogy to help jog his memory. Bugs (Jessica Henwick) is the proverbial white rabbit on a mission to discover the one who sacrificed himself for humankind and she’s willing to take any risk necessary in search of the legend she idolises. Henwick truly pops off the screen with an infectious attitude, she’s smart and suave and has Incredible style especially her sunglasses which were designed by British eyewear designer Tom Davies. 

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays a new version of the wise and worldly Morpheus who, as always, serves as a guide to Neo whilst also fulfilling his own greater purpose on a very singular journey of self-discovery. 

The return of Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) the fierce general who once fought for the survival of Zion now sees to the welfare of her people with a familiar fire on her eyes, despite a sense of disbelief and suspicion upon Neo’s return. 

wrapping up the cast are Jonathan Groff who plays Thomas Anderson’s business partner Smith, a slick, confident corporate type with insouciant charm, a disarming smile and an eye on the bottom line. Neil Patrick Harris plays the Analyst, Thomas’ therapist who works closely with his patient to understand the meaning behind his dreams and to distinguish them from reality. 

And Priyanka Chopra Jonas plays Sati, a young woman with a wisdom that belies her years and ability to see the truth, no matter how murky the waters. 

©Warner Brothers

What follows is a journey with twists and swarms of explosive action but with the glowing sunset. The film also features a comedic tone which was surprisingly meta and hilarious. It stems from what the film utterly renders is love’s true power, showcasing Neo and Trinity’s powerful romance with sincerity. The Matrix Resurrections is about becoming whole with yourself and belief as Neo puts it “I never believed I was the one. But she believed. It’s my turn to believe in her. 

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Film Festivals

Living | Sundance Film Festival 2022 Review

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Remakes seem like such a frequent occurrence these days that there’s often very little reason to make them beyond people liking the original so the filmmakers hope the remake will be just as successful. And with Living being a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1952 classic Ikiru it was always going to have big shoes to fill. Whilst Living never fully justifies its own existence, nor does it get anywhere close to the heights of Kurosawa’s classic, it’s still a powerful watch nonetheless.

Living switches up the setting and takes place in 1950s post-World War II Britain where we meet Mr. Williams (Bill Nighy) a veteran civil servant and bureaucrat working in a government office. Much like in the original film, upon discovering he has a terminal illness his outlook on life completely changes and he looks for the meaning of life. He realizes that he’s spent his whole life passively going about his day and he hasn’t truly lived. And it’s only now that his days are numbered that he wants to experience life to the fullest.

He keeps the news of his condition from his son and daughter in law and uncharacteristically starts avoiding the office in search of meaning in his remaining days. He’s determined to get a children’s playground built that the local mothers have been campaigning for despite the fact that him and his colleagues have failed to do so yet.

Oliver Hermanus directs this reimagining with poignancy and to some level he captures the essence of Kurosawa’s film. The film’s London setting works well for the story and 1950s London is lovingly recreated with such great detail and the film displays an incredible look to it that right from the opening really makes you feel like you’re there in post-war Britain. Nighy excels as Mr. Williams with a graceful performance that in tandem with the film’s charming score and elegant writing makes for a stunning film about what it means to live.

However Living never fully hits anywhere nearly as hard as Ikiru does. After finishing Ikiru the film leaves you completely floored and contemplating your entire existence as a human being on planet Earth. After watching Living you don’t come out with that same feeling. Granted, it is a very difficult feeling to capture and to reproduce and Living does get some part of the way there, it’s representation of life’s purpose never quite feels as strong as it does in Kurosawa’s film. And as a result, Living’s own purpose as a film is never fully expressed. It’s an excellent film that does really touch you at times, it’s just a very pale shadow of Ikiru.

Living is one of those films that on its own merits is a very good film, anchored by a remarkably moving performance from Nighy, it’s just that Ikiru in all its glory looms over the film and it just can’t escape that and it never reaches anywhere close to the greatness of Kurosawa. It was always going to be a difficult task and Living does take a pretty good stab at it, but it still didn’t really need to be made.

Living premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Comedy

Sex Appeal Review | An Interesting Enough Premise Gets Squandered in Predictable Platitudes

A quasi-R-rated version of “The Kissing Booth” surprisingly works? Color me shocked.

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In a world filled with horrible teen coming-of-age comedies which re-tread John Hughes and other popular 80s comedies, Hulu’s Sex Appeal probably wouldn’t have worked. As it stands, the movie is interesting enough to make a distracting impression upon ourselves, but it’s nowhere near as sharply written as any of the mid-1980s/late-1990s coming-of-age comedies it keeps referencing. 

In any case, the best comparison I can give you is that its plot feels eerily (though not completely) similar to Netflix’s The Kissing Booth trilogy, though without any of the cringe and a legitimately compelling “best-friends” relationship. The “best friends” in question are Avery (Mika Abdalla) and Larson (Jake Short), who have had a close-knit relationship since childhood…until Larson decided to “make a move” at the age of 14, immediately rejected by Avery. Our female protagonist narrates the entire story like Joey King’s Elle Evans in The Kissing Booth and has a pretty narrow-minded view of everyone and everything. Basically, she only cares about herself. Avery will register for STEMCON, an annual youth scientist (?) convention, to which attendees will have to build an app that responds to their personal problems. 

Sex Appeal (2022) - IMDb

Avery’s “problem” is that she can’t have fulfilling sex with anyone and forcefully takes Larson as her Guinea Pig to experiment with diverse types of sex on him and her, to which we metaphorically see what happens inside IMAX-like dream sequences. A plot as preposterous as this shouldn’t work, but it kinda does. Of course, it’s a story we’ve all seen before, with the egotistical female character going on a journey of self-discovery and finally realizing that life doesn’t solely revolve around her, and that humans have feelings. By developing the app, she fails to realize the most important human element of all, love, because Avery is incapable of feeling love…until her experiment gets her to realize what love is and how it feels. 

Yes, director Talia Osteen and co-writer Tate Hanyok use sex as the driving force for Avery’s realization that her app should be all about love, and not all about sex. And she’ll learn this by having sex with someone she genuinely cares about but doesn’t want to admit that she has feelings for. Why? Because she had to focus on her studies? That feels like such a BS excuse, but the plot warrants it anyways. So yeah, once you get a gist of Avery and Larson’s “friendship that morphs into a quasi-relationship”, you can tell exactly where this movie is going, without fail. She has a non-existent relationship with her boyfriend (Mason Versaw), and can’t even feel love even if she also uses the app with him as they do it. Doesn’t she know what love is, or is she incapable of feeling it because she doesn’t want to? This is the central question Sex Appeal asks, and it surprisingly works twofold. 

Sex Appeal (2022) - IMDb

Firstly, the chemistry between Abdalla and Short is insanely palpable. In The Kissing Booth, the movie already doesn’t work because the chemistry between Joey King/Jacob Elordi/Joel Courtney feels unbelievable like they all belong in different movies (the writing is also a problem, but whatever). You can relate to Avery and Larson because their relationship feels real. And so it’s easier to get on board with an insanely predictable story if the acting holds the fort, to which it does greatly. Even the smallest supporting roles can bring surprising laughs to the mix, and genuine heart, which this movie has tons of. Its heart is in the right place, and the acting is decent enough for you to care about the characters’ plight, even if we’ve seen it all before. 

Secondly, the film’s aesthetic is original enough for the movie to rise above the platitudes it presents in its script for metaphorical sex sequences that are way more interesting than, say, if Avery and Larson solely had sex. Osteen prefers to open up the 2.39:1 frame to 1.90:1 during these dreamlike sequences to represent how Avery feels during the time she “experiments” on Larson, which ultimately makes her realize all the love she has for him, especially when she tries to do the same thing with Casper (Versaw) and, lo and behold, it doesn’t work. I appreciate the work of filmmakers who try different things than the usual paint-by-numbers coming-of-age sex comedy, without an ounce of creativity in its filmic representation of a protagonist’s state of mind, especially when it works, even if it may be on the nose for some. Sure it is, but it works nonetheless. 

So it’s surprising to see how engaging the movie is when the acting and the aesthetic work together and actually deliver a pretty good time at the movies, even if it’s a movie that we’ve seen before, done better. Where Sex Appeal fails in its story, it more than makes up for it through its creative aesthetics and terrific performances from Mika Abdalla and Jake Short, which in turn makes it a rather transfixing watch. It’s not the greatest movie in the world, sure, but it does its job right and the film’s heart is in the right place. What more can you ask for?

FILM RATING

Sex Appeal is now streaming on Hulu.

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Film Festivals

892 | Sundance Film Festival 2022 Review

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Despite having to go entirely virtual for a second year running, the annual Sundance Film Festival is back and it’s back with a bang. If 892 is anything to go by, it promises to be an excellent festival yet again with plenty of great films to get stuck into.

892 tells the true story of former US Marine veteran Brian Easley (played remarkably by John Boyega) who in his hour of desperation is led to walk into a Wells Fargo bank with a bomb. After not receiving his disability check for $892 he’s now living in a cheap motel in Atlanta on the brink of homelessness and separated from his wife and daughter, meaning that the soft-spoken and kind Brian is driven to desperation and decides to rob a bank and hold hostages with a bomb. After the police and the media descend on the bank it becomes clear that Brian isn’t doing this for the money, he just wants to tell his story and to get what’s rightfully his, whatever it costs him.

Part of the reason why Abi Damaris Corbin’s debut feature is so impactful is because of Boyega’s pitch-perfect performance and the way in which he just completely sinks into the role. He plays the role with such sensitivity and sincerity, drawing us into Easley’s character so well. He doesn’t want to rob the bank, nor does he want to hurt anyone, but this is the only way he can get what’s his and to tell the whole world how he’s been denied the disability check that he needs to survive. As well as Boyega, the late Michael K. Williams shines in his last screen role playing the negotiator talking to Easley on the phone. The conversations between the two hit hard as they’re supposed to and only engross us in the film even further.

892 is incredibly tense right from the get-go and it manages to hold this tension all the way through until the very end. And the tension is the driving force behind it all, but it’s remarkably balanced with the intimate emotions coming from Boyega’s Easley. We really get a true feel for why he has to do this and what it means for him. To have been let down by his country, the country he served, and it only gets more shocking as the film draws towards its conclusion. 892 is an edge of your seat thriller that will have your heart racing the entire time and is continuously heightened by the truth behind it all. This being a true story makes it all the more staggering.

The film takes place almost entirely in the bank, but it never lets up and it never drags. Boyega carries the entire film along with it hooking you right away and never letting go. It’s nail-biting stuff that claws right at your heart. 892 is a film that reminds us of the responsibilities that we have to the people in the world, whether they’re soldiers or someone we’ve only just met before, we’re all people.

892 premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

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