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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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Unfinished Business Review | NY Liberty Documentary Highlights America’s Most Underrated Sport | Tribeca

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Just admit it; we’re all guilty of belittling the WNBA in some way or another. Heck, I remember asking a girl to a basketball at my school (I transferred due to this and some other circumstances ). It was a go upon this girl discovering it was the women’s basketball team. She said something to the effect of, “I don’t watch women’s basketball; it’s boring.” Now, up until watching this documentary, I likely would’ve agreed, but that proves the effectiveness of this documentary. Unlike a certain documentary that is also premiering at Tribeca, Unfinished Business isn’t afraid of ruffling feathers with its message. It may not instantly turn you into an avid WNBA fan — neither Rome nor the WNBA itself was built in a day — but it gives you a great understanding of the sport.

A still from Unfinished Business. Photo courtesy of Motto Pictures.

Unfinished Business is a pretty straightforward documentary that is highlighting the story of the WNBA and specifically, the New York Liberty whilst speaking with a variety of former and current Liberty stars including Teresa Witherspoon, Rebecca Lobo, Sue Wicks, Betnijah Laney, and Sabrina Ionescu among others.

This documentary is a scary reality check that the bare minimum has barely been done for women’s sports and the WNBA in particular. Did you know that some WNBA players go overseas to supplement their income so that it’s comfortable? Others may even end up working at a fast food chain. It’s slightly sickening to learn this in the same month that Lebron James was officially named a billionaire by Forbes. And yes, obviously Lebron and the NBA as a whole generate a lot more income, but it doesn’t make that pill any easier to swallow. I mean, have you ever heard of an NBA player working at a fast food restaurant, at least while being an active player? Whatever the case is, it’s great to see that the CBA was changed and a forward step was taken.

A still from Unfinished Business. Photo courtesy of Motto Pictures.

Smartly premiering during the NBA Finals at the Tribeca Film Festival, Unfinished Business will put any belittling of the sport to rest. It’s a concise documentary and doesn’t waste time getting to its point but it also provides a swift, educational history lesson of the WNBA as a whole while not losing focus on the New York Liberty. Credit also has to be given for the authentic emotion in the documentary. A lot of the interviewees feel very passionate about gender issues, and it doesn’t feel contrived. And maybe watching this documentary won’t result in you instantly shelling out money to go to a game or buying a jersey, maybe you’ll consider flipping on a game; I know I will.

Unfinished Business will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 13.

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Halftime Review | Jennifer Lopez Documentary Only Reveals What She Wants You to See | Tribeca

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As an old soul, I miss the days when legends like Paul McCartney and U2 took the stage during the biggest night in American sports. But admittedly, the J Lo-Shakira halftime show was one of the more memorable ones in recent memory (up there with the Weeknd). Likely due to the pandemic, a documentary showcasing J Lo’s journey to the Super Bowl is coming out nearly two-and-a-half years after that performance. It’s interesting to hear J Lo say in her documentary, Halftime, that she wants to provide substance and not to merely go out there and “shake her ass” — her words, not mine — in a documentary that doesn’t provide much substance at all. As entertaining as it might be, Halftime is a lightweight documentary that only reveals what J Lo wants you to see, and that’s perfect for fans of the megastar. For anyone else, however, your enjoyment of the documentary is contingent on how much you can tolerate J Lo or how interested you are in the behind-the-scenes looks at an extravaganza such as the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Beginning with her 50th birthday celebration on what appears to be a tour bus, Halftime chronicles J Lo’s journey from her that birthday to the 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show. “I feel like my life is just beginning,” says J Lo amidst her birthday celebration. She may be right, as she is one of the only celebrities who has barely aged.

You can’t blame a celebrity — especially when they have a hand in the production of their own documentary — to want to portray themselves in the best light possible. After all, Halftime is supposed to show the newly-turned 50-year-old (at the time most of the footage takes place) in her wiser, more mature years. This isn’t to say that J Lo is hiding anything, but Halftime veers away from anything relatively controversial. To be fair, J Lo does advocate for something to help make a statement during the show, but that’s ultimately one pass play in a long game.

The only thing that really makes Halftime appealing on its own is the peek behind the curtain of the celebrity lifestyle. The best, and likely most honest parts of Halftime are watching J Lo go through a day of press during awards season and figuring out the very tight logistics of the Halftime Show. A standard NFL game is already a tightly-run ship, just imagine the Super Bowl. There are so many roadblocks from the time J Lo and Shakira are given, to the NFL denying J Lo’s most contentious idea for her show, and there is probably even more to the story than what is put on screen. Perhaps the moral of the story is that we need more documentaries about various Super Bowl Halftime Shows.

Going back to J Lo’s awards season, it was fascinating to see her go through her day, doing interviews and the circus that is awards season while in hopes of getting an Oscar nomination for Hustlers. Any journalist could tell you one side of the junket coin, but it’s rare to see the celebrity’s side of it as they go from interview to interview and give the same canned responses. Not that Halftime goes knee-deep into this, but the snippets it does show were the MVP of the documentary.

Halftime is a 96-minute documentary that drives down the field to the ultimate endzone: The Super Bowl Halftime Show and the way it is shown in the documentary is far more epic than what appeared on TV that Super Bowl Sunday. Combining some of the actual broadcast and footage from the field, it’s an epic conclusion that fits right like the Live Aid sequence in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Halftime is an enjoyable documentary, even as someone who would not call himself a J Lo fan, this is likely due to her undeniable presence that makes her captivating to watch. It’s a pretty by-the-numbers and safe documentary that is neither pretentious nor contentious and is very similar to the Queen documentary, The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story, that Netflix also released a few years back. J Lo is a powerful figure in pop culture and is attempting to use her platform for the greater good, so hats off to her for that, but the message in her documentary leaves you with the same marks you’d get from a Whack-A-Mole mallet. Come for the peek behind the curtain, stay for the captivating look at the halftime performance, but don’t expect an awe-inspiring, chill-inducing message.

Halftime had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on June 9 and will be available to stream on Netflix on June 14.

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Jurassic World: Dominion Review | An Extinction Event?

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Let me preface by saying that I did not grow up on the Jurassic Park franchise as a kid nor was I dying to see the legacy sequel/reboot, Jurassic World back in 2014. Yeah, dinosaurs are cool and all, but the most exposure I had to them was at the Museum of Natural History growing up. But even still, the Jurassic World trilogy has a good hook between MCU leading man Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, who is one of the best directors to helm a Mandalorian episode, and upgraded visual effects that should make the dinosaurs truly come to life. Unfortunately, Dominion fails to end the trilogy on a high note, or even end the trilogy at all and is a lifeless sequel that should put this franchise on the verge of extinction.

Dominion picks up four years after Fallen Kingdom; dinosaurs are co-existing with humans, and while the fate of humanity is in question, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) are here to save the day. The pair spend their days rescuing the dinosaurs they can, all while attempting to raise Maisie (Isabella Sermon) but also protect her from outside threats. Meanwhile, a new organization, Biosyn, is up to no good in a plot that crosses the paths of the new trilogy crew of Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Isabella Sermon, with the original trilogy trio of Sam Neil, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum.

A Mosasaurus in Jurassic World Dominion, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow.

Before I vent my frustrations, I want to say that the opening of Dominion is exactly what I loved about Fallen Kingdom; it opens with a gigantic dinosaur completely annihilating a boat at sea. The opening of Fallen Kingdom did something similar, and better, which is one of the only things I remember about that film. And Dominion brings the franchise back to its roots a bit with the integration of some practical effects with the dinosaurs. Obviously, you’re not able to recreate a T-Rex for budgetary and logical reasons, but some of the smaller dinosaurs have that animatronic charm that can be traced back to the original films. Perhaps Fallen Kingdom did this as well, but let’s not act like that film was memorable.

(from left) Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), and Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) in Jurassic World Dominion, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow.

I may have called Chris Pratt an MCU leading man, and while he has always been good in his appearances as Star-Lord, where is that charisma in Dominion? When Owen Grady first appears on screen, it’s almost as if Pratt is doing his audition to take the fedora in the Indiana Jones franchise in a scene that is reminiscent of the opening of The Last Crusade. From his first real line of dialogue, Pratt is void of all of the energy and aura that he brings to his other franchise roles. In that particular scene, Pratt plays the role of the father who doesn’t know how to handle his daughter, but the delivery of his lines such as, “That kid” — or something to that effect mixed — or his moments of trying to be a stern parent, are cringe-inducing. And believe me, it brings me no joy to say this as I like Pratt. Luckily, Thor: Love and Thunder releases in less than a month, and perhaps some of that charisma will be rediscovered. If not, I guess we’ll just have to wait for him to voice Mario.

Perhaps even worse was Campbell Scott who plays the main antagonist of the film, Dr. Lewis Dodgson, CEO of Biosyn Genetics. His character spends about 90% of his screentime eating and Scott spends the other 10% delivering his lines as dry as the desert whilst likely wondering what he’ll do with the blank check he’ll get when he’s brought back for the (inevitable) third Andrew Garfield-Spider-Man film.

(from left) Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise) in Jurassic World Dominion, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow.

As for the returning legacy characters, returning are Sam Neil as Dr. Alan Grant, Laura Dern as Dr. Ellie Sattler, and Jeff Goldblum as Dr. Ian Malcom, who I believe was relegated to a monologue at the end that was so out of place, it felt like it belonged in a Rolland Emmerich film. Goldblum is the only of the three that showed up and didn’t drag his feet. Meanwhile, Neil and Dern both seem like they’re being mouthed to smile in the grocery store by their parents even despite how good the two are capable of being.

But to be fair to the actors, some of those struggles can be traced back to the script. Dominion gives its actors very little to work with which is made evidently clear with exchanges such as: “Can you do it?”; “Not for free”; “…Then do it.”

(from left) A Giganotosaurus, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), Maisie Lockwood (Isabella Sermon), Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), Kayla Watts (DeWanda Wise), Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) in Jurassic World Dominion, co-written and directed by Colin Trevorrow.

Dominion is at its best when it lets its dinosaurs go at it (go figure). So why is the film more focused on its locust subplot? Beats me! The same could be said about the character of Maisie Lockwood. Remember all of the mystique surrounding this character (who ends up being a clone)? Apparently, there was nothing more to add to that story aside from transitioning her into her teenage rebellious phase with her way of acting out being biking across the bridge from A Quiet Place despite being told not to by her very “stern” guardian figures. Yes, Maisie is still important to both of the plots at hand, but her being kidnapped is a mere means to an end, which is getting all of the original trio and the sequel trio to Biosyn in this case.

Ironically, at some point in Dominion, the question of whether or not a replica can top the original. As The Force Awakens and now the Jurassic World trilogy have shown, it’s damn-near impossible to accomplish that feat. The fact of the matter is, Dominion is not a great sequel, much less a great legacy sequel. Its sloppy pacing and lack of closure make this feel like yet another sequel in a larger sequel when it’s supposed to serve as a bookend to the story of this sequel trilogy, at least to my knowledge. And the thing that everyone comes to these films for, dinosaurs, are etched into the plot far too little. Perhaps this IP needs an age of extinction for a bit before trying to revitalize it.

Universal Pictures will release Jurassic World: Dominion on June 10.

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