Tag Archive: The Matrix


It’s time for fun in the sun!  And not just in the sun, but also in the cavernous over-air-conditioned confines of local theaters. The “Season of Blockbusters” has begun. I hope you all have seen my list of most-anticipated films on Cinefessions. I will try to see as many as I can, and I will review them here. Without further ado, here are my initial entries.

oblivion-posterOblivion

Another post-apocalyptic adventure, which become so popular whenever the public is afraid of what’s going on in real life. And like the atomic bomb scare and all the alien-attack films that were produced then, or the epidemic and zombie films that proliferate as we find new strains of diseases, now is a really scary time in the world.

The production value, effects, and pacing of Oblivion are spot-on. Overall it’s a fun movie to watch. The acting is decent, though a bit stilted at times. But I’ll bet it’s most entertaining for people who have never seen another movie like this in their lives. For those of us who have, it’s a kind of a hotchpotch of every other sci-fi/dystopia/conspiracy story ever made. I didn’t read the graphic novel on which the story is based (maybe because it was never published), so I can’t speak for the original plot and how it “borrows” from existing stories.  But the film certainly does.

I saw scenes and vignettes in this film from many iconic and obscure movies alike. If you haven’t seen this film but plan to, you might want to avoid the following possible spoilers.

li-oblivion-freeman-waldau-cp-04293048Apparent to movie and/or TV mavens are events and themes from Silent Running (1972 – rarity of plant life); the Matrix series (1999-2003 – secret underground survivors who know “the truth”); Independence Day (1996) and V (1984-85 – alien overlords); Gattaca (1986) and Code 46 (2003 – cloning); Moon (2009 – an isolated space-traveler’s struggle); Logan’s Run (1976) and many others (forbidden zones); Blade Runner (1982), Total Recall (1990), and others (implanted memories and identity in general) … the list goes on and on. There is just nothing, and I mean nothing, original about this film.

So, let’s be nice and call this movie an homage to all the sci-fi we know and love. Yeah, that’s it.

C

 

Iron Man 3

As a big fan of Marvel movie adaptations, I enjoy all of these films about our favorite heroes and villains. MV5BMjIzMzAzMjQyM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzM2NjcyOQ@@._V1_SX214_Admittedly, though, some are not the gems that the majority turn out to be (I’ll bet The Hulk popped into many minds just now). Most of the time, sequels run that risk more than original projects, so I think we all view them a bit more cautiously.

After an auspiciously marvelous beginning with the first Iron Man (2008), which invigorated the strained career of Robert Downey Jr., this franchise had a tiny blip with its sequel, Iron Man 2 (2010). It was a terrific film – successful at the box office and pretty well critically received – but it didn’t quite have the spark of the first film. It was a bit jolting that Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard as Tony Stark’s friend and eventual sidekick, and with Stark “near death” and considering stepping away from his life throughout the movie, it wasn’t quite as much fun. To be fair, that is the case with the vast majority of sequels that follow fantastically powerful debuts, which Iron Man certainly had been.

That fun and power are back in Iron Man 3. The film features Stark back on top of his game (with the exception of some PTSD, thanks to his adventure with the Avengers) and facing a mercurial and deadly villain.  Performances by all involved are excellent, the action is exciting and well paced, and the interplay with the storyline of The Avengers (2012) is well done.

iron_man_3_tyOn top of that, there is a relationship and subplot in this movie that was the highpoint for me: Tony Stark meeting Harley Keener (Ty Simpkins). The boy is adorable and fresh and wise-assed beyond his years. They say that cute kids and cuddly animals can upstage anyone, but in this case it brings out the best and worst (in a very good way) in Stark and, well, produces magic.

Iron Man 3 is sure to remain one of the highlights of this summer movie season.

A

 

leonardo dicaprio the great gatsbyThe Great Gatsby

This was one of my most-anticipated films of summer, so I hoped it would indeed be great. I am a fan of both Leonardo DiCaprio and director Baz Luhrmann, but I knew from Luhrmann’s body of work (Romeo + Juliet, 1996; Moulin Rouge!, 2001; Australia, 2008) that he plays fast and loose with material he’s adapting and favors lavish spectacle. I wondered just how far his vision of Gatsby would veer from the classic novel.

I was pleasantly surprised by the loving care taken to tell the story of Nick, Jay, Daisy, and all of their companions. Yet there was not much sacrifice of the Luhrmann over-the-top style and panache. However, it seems to take a backseat and defer to the storytelling with careful control.

The narration by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) moved more slowly than did Christian’s relating of his woeful tale in Moulin Rouge!, but it fits and sets a more melancholy tone. The atmosphere of the movie is absolutely stunning: It conveys the opulent decadence of the era which thinly veils the precarious despair under the surface.

Upon first hearing about this project, I thought from the beginning that DiCaprio was a brilliant choice to play Gatsby; his performance supports that judgment. The-Great-Gatsby_06He flawlessly captures the self-deluded air of our antihero from determination through devastation. Daisy (Carey Mulligan) also is perfectly cast, and all of the performances are superb. At first, Maguire’s half-goofy, half-stiff portrayal of Carraway threw me a bit, but it worked in the end, since he was unobtrusive within the drama playing itself out, as the narrator of this story should be.

Finally, I will be quite surprised if this film doesn’t win Oscars in such categories as costuming and art direction. It is truly a treat for all the senses.

A

A while back, when Blockbuster was closing some of its brick-and-mortar stores, I bought a bunch of marked-down DVDs at one of these disappearing outlets. A few replaced VHS films I had at home, some were movies I’d seen but didn’t own yet, and about half a dozen were titles I’d never seen—or never even heard of.  I haven’t had much time to watch these, but I finally popped one in the player last night.

That film is Ink (2009), a kaleidoscopic, dark, yet poignant modern fairy tale from Indie filmmaker Jamin Winans (11:59, 2006). It’s been compared to The Matrix, Brazil, and Dark City, and that’s probably why I bought it.  In my mind, the closest comparison that the film description mentions might be to Pan’s Labyrinth, the 2006 Guillermo del Toro film about a little girl growing up in fascist Spain in 1944 and escaping to a creepy fantasy world.  But in Ink, Emma (played by adorable and talented Quinn Hunchar) does not create her alter-setting:  her consciousness is kidnapped and dragged through it as a sacrifice while her living body lies in a hospital in a coma.

Well, I can see bits and pieces of the aforementioned films, but what Ink presents is a unique landscape in which two opposing forces emerge each night—the storytellers, who provide lovely dreams to humans, and the succubi, who give them horrific and humiliating nightmares. In the midst of this, another kind of creature appears: Ink, who looks like the baba yaga of lore and steals little Emma out of her bed. The storytellers try to stop him, but he escapes when he plays a few notes on a tiny drum, a kind of key that these entities use to move between worlds. At this point, we barely know what the heck is going on. But in snippets that move back and forth in time, we see the piecemeal story of Emma’s father, John (Christopher Soren Kelly), his deterioration from loving husband and father to slave of the corporate ladder, and his eventual loss of his daughter—a loss that might be able to be reversed. And that’s the quest.

Ink, our eponymous hero ... er, villain ... ?

To me, Ink is The Wizard of Oz meets MirrorMask … wait, that’s a bit redundant, since MirrorMask itself is a version of The Wizard of Oz!  Anyway, if you have seen these compared films, you can guess a bit about Ink’s story and the way it is woven.  What you cannot see from these comparisons is the amazing camera work, lighting, color manipulation, special effects, and editing that makes Ink as much a work of cinematic art as a worthwhile adaptation of a well-known cautionary tale.

Though most people who have seen Ink are quite impressed, I’ve read several viewer comments that it moves slowly and its ending is predictable. I too thought the movie moved slowly at first. But I was soon caught up in the beauty of the cinematography and photo-effects that help to set the scenario of the interlocking realities in this film. None of the scenes are superfluous—they all play a role in the atmosphere and in the story to come. Second, these folks are absolutely correct in saying that the tale is a well-known one, like a filmed version of “Cat’s Cradle” (only with a daughter instead of a son).  I saw the big revelation coming a mile away too.  I think we are supposed to.  I think we’re meant to ponder long and hard, as Ink does, about the decision to be made.  And I believe the plot had to be familiar and predictable to allow for the tale to be told in such an imaginative way.

Blind and snarky Jacob (Jeremy Make), the Pathfinder, uses the rhythm of the world to alter the course of events. Behind him, Allel (Jennifer Batter), Emma's protector, watches and waits.

I saw it coming too, but that didn’t stop me from tearing up as Ink has his moment of realization and Emma forgives him.  Most of the machinations around the central characters are never explained; there’s no neat wrap-up of what happened or why these dream-state creatures exist.  So, at least we have the grounding of a familiar plot and conflict—it’s the eternal struggle between light and dark, between reason and chaos, between redemption and the fall from grace, or—most apropos for Ink—between embracing shame and assuming false pride.

And, no, darn it all, I don’t know why he’s called Ink.  With my penchant for all things inky, I’d love to know!

A

Movie Update: Adventures Galore

Happy August 1!

*_*  Is it really and truly AUGUST?!

Life has been a bit overwhelming lately as I try to finish everything before leaving the country for most of September.  Yeah, I know … fool’s errand trying to finish it all, and shame on me for using what should be a wonderful trip as a big old excuse. 😛

Anyway, I apologize for the lapse in posting, and I thought I’d take this opportunity to review a few of the adventure-filled films I’ve viewed over the past few weeks.

  • Inception (2010)
  • The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010)
  • A Perfect Getaway (2009)
  • Last House on the Left (2009)

Inception Takes Mission: Impossible behind Closed Eyelids

Inception is an exquisitely crafted film. Its effects are stunning yet don’t overshadow the underlying story.  It boasts excellent performances and a compelling plot that moves at a good pace. It deals with levels of reality in a complex enough way to satisfy those who want that intricacy, yet is not so difficult to follow that the average action-movie fan can’t enjoy it.

So, why isn’t it an A in my book?  Here, in my humble opinion, is why:

Continue reading

I hereby declare that I am able to admit when I was mistaken and just being stubborn.

Having developed a healthy distaste for mega-hyped movies, I waited this long before seeing Avatar … and I only broke down and went to the theater because I plan to see all the Oscar-nominated Best-Picture candidates (six down, four to go).

Well, if you are like me and have not yet seen it (and you don’t have a general aversion to exciting, partially-CGI blockbusters), I’m here to say, “Go now; you’re in for a treat.”

There have been a gazillion reviews, so I won’t belabor the point – just a few comments.

To me, it’s basically a twenty-first century version of Dances with Wolves, with a touch of The Matrix, The Mission, and Lord of the Rings.  Though the story is nothing new, the packaging is gorgeous.

For an action sci-fi flick, the characters are fairly well developed.  The notable exception is Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who is a pretty one-dimensional ass throughout.  Presumably, in a good-vs.-evil story, you must have someone to despise unequivocally.

Naturally, the acting talent in this movie helps its success tremendously.  All the principal actors are excellent in their roles.  Special recognition should go to Giovanni Ribisi, who makes an unlikeable character complex – even though the lines weren’t written for his character (Parker Selfridge) to eventually show that there’s a human being hidden somewhere inside his corporate soul, the masterful actor manages to convey it through his eyes and expressions.

After hearing several stories about people getting physically dizzy after 162 minutes of 3D thrill-riding through the primordial forests of Pandora, it’s something I was wary about.  However, I personally found the pacing and the juxtaposition of the human and Na’vi worlds in fine balance.

My only real gripe?  The cheese factor of calling the ore the humans are mining unobtanium.  Really, people?  Really?

It almost hurts me to say it, but James Cameron has redeemed himself in my eyes (Ouch!), and Avatar gets a big two thumbs-up.

Mood:  humbled and euphoric

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