Tag Archives: Lana Wachowski

The Matrix Reloaded (2003) Review

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The Matrix Reloaded

Time: 138 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] contains violence & sex scenes
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Neo
Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity
Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith
Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe
Harold Perrineau as Link
Randall Duk Kim as Keymaker
Gloria Foster as The Oracle
Director: Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

At the Oracle’s (Gloria Foster) behest, Neo (Keanu Reeves) attempts to rescue the Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim) and realises that to save Zion within 72 hours, he must confront the Architect (Helmut Bakaitis). Meanwhile, Zion prepares for war against the machines.

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The Matrix sequels aren’t the most beloved of movies, but I remember being one of the people who enjoyed them. I was familiar enough with the first Matrix movie, however I hadn’t watched the sequels more than once each. So I thought I should check them out again, especially as the fourth film would be coming in 2021. Overall, I do like The Matrix Reloaded even though it definitely has a lot of very visible issues.

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The Matrix Reloaded really does feel like The Wachowskis letting loose and in some ways it was nice to see them go all out on everything. However, it also resulted in the movie being quite overindulgent and bloated, and in some ways it made the movie work against itself. The script at many points was a bit unfocused, not helped by the weird pacing. While there were some interesting parts, I found much of the movie to be boring and bland at points. Reloaded couldn’t find the balance between exposition and action like the first one did, doing away with the careful structure, and replacing it with a fairly complex but messy and convoluted plot with nonsensical philosophical overtones. The film throws so much information at you, and a lot of the time, I was not able to follow what was going on. Even thinking back on it after a more recent viewing, it’s hard to remember the key plot points. The first Matrix movie had a lot of people talking and having very serious conversations about high concepts. In Reloaded, it takes things to a ridiculous extent with even more preachy philosophical stuff, and it comes across as rather forced. The dialogue driven elements of the film felt overly complex and bloated, and it really bogged down the movie when it got to these moments. The heavy handed dialogue does mostly tone down in the second half of the movie, with the exception of the infamous ‘Architect scene’. Without getting into that too much, while I understand the context of the scene and why the dialogue is written like that, it just borders on self-parody. It’s really no surprise why this scene has been parodied so much. Reloaded also has a rather unsatisfying cliffhanger ending, and although it’s the second part of a trilogy, it really feels like part 1 of 2 of a Matrix sequel (with part 2 being Matrix Revolutions). Despite everything, there were some interesting aspects. Some story aspects and interactions were interesting and I liked some of the ideas presented. I wouldn’t even say that I disliked the story. However, even as someone who doesn’t exactly love the first Matrix, that movie handles things a lot better than Reloaded.

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The acting generally remains the same as in the previous movie, pretty generic and not all that great. Some actors are better than others, for example I enjoyed Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus (like in the first movie). However I still don’t think Keanu Reeves and Carrie Anne Moss are that good in their roles of Neo and Trinity. Their performances are rather bland and stiff and while I feel like that was part of their given direction, it hinders the performance greatly. It only feels worse given that it’s the sequels and they are still acting the same. Something I didn’t buy in the first movie at all was the sudden mention of Neo and Trinity being in love with each other despite nothing prior in the movie indicating that at all. Well it’s certainly not sudden in Reloaded as the film constantly pushes this relationship and it feels really forced. There’s still no chemistry between the two leads and it’s not made any more believable here. Even the new additions to the cast don’t really bring much new to talk about. I will say that Hugo Weaving made such a big impression in the first movie as Agent Smith, that despite his fate at the end of the last movie, they found a way to bring him back and he’s entertaining whenever he’s on screen as always.

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Once again, the Wachowski Sisters direct this, and props to them for pushing the boundaries even though the technology wasn’t quite there yet. The first Matrix seemed to embrace looking cool over functionality, I kind of respect that and it adds something to their aesthetic. The second movie is no exception. This movie has so many goofy moments which somehow adds to the movie’s entertainment. Neo flying for Superman for example is silly but fun. The cinematography is gorgeous, and the action scenes are generally quite good. In fact, Reloaded has some of the most memorable action scenes of the whole trilogy. It goes for more over the top action, more so than the first movie, and that is actually quite welcome. The choreography ranges from ridiculous to kind of awesome. There is a fight scene between Neo and many Agent Smiths, it was absolutely insane and only gets sillier as it progresses along, but it’s quite entertaining. There’s also a long extensive action sequence taking place on a freeway, and it’s one of my favourite scenes in the whole film, being both thrilling and entertaining. One flaw in the action scenes of the Matrix sequels however is that now that Neo is basically a superhero, it removes any tension from any action scene he’s in. Not to say that his action scenes aren’t good though, they are still fun. The CGI is impressive at times but overall, it is a bit dated for today. The 3D models can be good in one moment, and then extremely fake in another (the Neo vs Smiths fight being a strong example of this). Finally, there’s the amazing score from Don Davis, and the score is even better than the score in the first movie.

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The Matrix Reloaded is a very frustrating movie. To a degree I respect the ambition and scope of it, as well as the refusal to just repeat the first movie again. This does also lead to some of its worse aspects though, with the overindulgence (especially with the writing), heavy exposition, an overly complicated plot and script and more. By the end I didn’t have a clear idea of what I watched, and not in a good way. With that said, I do enjoy the movie. Some moments and ideas were well done, and the movie is worth watching for the action alone, even if some of the effects haven’t held up well. I’ll need to rewatch The Matrix Revolutions to see if it’s that much better than Reloaded, but I’m not expecting much.

Bound (1996) Review

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Bound

Time: 108 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] 
Cast:
Gina Gershon as Corky
Jennifer Tilly as Violet
Joe Pantoliano as Caesar
John Ryan as Mickey Malnato
Director: Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski

Violet (Jennifer Tilly), the mistress of the gangster Caesar (Joe Pantoliano), is in a torrid love affair with Corky (Gina Gershon). For Violet to dump Caesar, they formulate a plan to rob millions of dollars of stashed mob cash, blaming him for it.

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I had watched all of the films from directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski except for their first film, Bound, which I heard was really good. I really didn’t know much about this movie going in. However it was great, and I think it might actually be their best film yet.

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Bound’s plot is relatively simple, yet quite effective and handled very well. It is essentially a modern noir, but with aspects that make it stand out. Its script is meticulously refined, the characters are more than just mere caricatures, and the relationship between the lead characters is well realised. Bound does seem to have a selling point with the lead character being lesbians, but it’s not the only thing that the film is about, while making that storyline feel very human and believable. The movie actually has a creative take on a whole lot of stale genre tropes, playing with gender and femme fatal cliches and subverting them. At the same time there are a lot of enjoyable noir elements on display, there’s a good balance of satisfying and subverting tropes. The pacing is electric, and the plot and characters are always in motion. The film has a lot of energy, and between the snappy dialogue, the scenes of tensions and suspense, there is so much going on. The first act’s slow build of tension is done to really sell Corky and Violet’s relationship and motivation into doing what they do for the rest of the movie. Then the second and third acts deliver a lot of suspenseful moments that are unpredictable, which are made even more tense given that most of them take place in a claustrophobic setting. The film does have some very cheesy dialogue, especially in the first act, but so does a lot of classic noirs. That’s also not to mention that there is a general self awareness throughout, so the cheesiness doesn’t seem out of place. The humour actually plays nicely together with the building of tension, and they have a satisfying payoff. Something that is impressive, especially given that its their first movie, is that the Wachowskis don’t compromise with any of its aspects, whether it’s the illustration of a lesbian affair, or the surprisingly brutal violence which the movie shows unflinchingly. It’s bold for a debut, and they definitely showed themselves as bold filmmakers with this one movie.

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This movie is also perfectly cast and well-acted. Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly are perfect in the lead roles of Corky and Violet respectively, they give amazing performances and have great chemistry as we watch their romance grow throughout the movie. They are believable as two lovers trying to make their ways out, especially with Violet trying to escape from her gangster boyfriend played by Joe Pantoliano. Speaking of which, Pantoliano could almost be seen as a third lead in this movie and this might be the best I’ve seen him in a movie. He kind of steals the show as a paranoid mob thug who’s at times entertaining and hilarious and other times threatening.

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As said earlier, Bound is the debut film from the Wachowskis, and this has to be one of the most confident debut movies I’ve seen from first time directors. It’s directed incredibly well and in such a stylish way, you can pick up on some iconic stylistic choices and see how it would influence their later movies. It is great seeing the Wachowskis work with a smaller scope instead of the big and grandiose action and sci-fi genres and stories that they are known for. It is small in scope but is so polished at the same time. It has a low budget of $6 million but every technical aspect is perfect. Bill Pope shoots this movie incredibly well, and the camera work with the high angle shots and close up shots felt very professional for a debut film. The editing is great and adds tension when needed, especially in the last two third of the movie. It is very well scored by Don Davis (who would also compose the scores for the Matrix movies), and the sound design fits well for this simplistic story.

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Bound is a bold and confident debut from Lana and Lilly Wachowski, and a great movie in itself. The acting particularly from Tilly, Gershon and Pantoliano is great, the story is tight and captivating, and it’s directed very well. As much as the Wachowskis are known for their big budget movies, I would love to see them work with smaller scale material again. At this point, I’m pretty sure Bound is my favourite movie from them so far.

The Matrix (1999) Retrospective Review

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The Matrix

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Neo
Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity
Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith
Joe Pantoliano as Cypher
Director: Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

Thomas A. Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a man living two lives. By day he is an average computer programmer and by night a hacker known as Neo. Neo has always questioned his reality, but the truth is far beyond his imagination. Nero finds himself targeted by the police when he is contacted by Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), a legendary computer hacker branded a terrorist by the government. As a rebel against the machines, Neo must confront the agents: super powerful computer programs devoted to stopping Neo and the entire human rebellion.

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The Matrix is one of the most iconic movies of all time. Its impact is absolutely massive to say the least, influencing so many other films, it just came out of nowhere at the time. I remember that I liked it when I first watched it, however with every viewing I liked it less. I know that the fourth Matrix is in the process of made, so I knew I had to come back to re-watching the original trilogy. Having rewatched The Matrix more recently, I can say that it’s still pretty good, even if I’m not exactly a big fan of it.

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I’m writing this review with the assumption that you’ve actually seen The Matrix. If you haven’t seen it, basically just go and watch it as soon as possible. It’s not just influential on a filmmaking level, but also on a story level. 1999 was especially a big year for films about identity, with the likes of Fight Club, American Beauty and Being John Malkovich, and that certainly extended to The Matrix. There are many philosophical ideas and themes and it has been analysed to death, so I won’t get into it here. There are some parts of it which I find a bit silly (like some of the overt religious metaphors which are just a little too obvious) but they don’t take me out of the experience too much. The first half is introducing to the real world, with lead character Thomas Anderson AKA Neo being our eyes as he learns about everything. I can’t say this with certainty, but I’m pretty sure that it did the best job possible at introducing these things to the audience, however there’s no doubt that not everyone will understand the concepts of the movie. I will say that watching it again, it does sort of drag, especially knowing where the story is leading (on top of Neo just not being a particularly interesting character and we are stuck with him for the entirety of the movie). The second half and particularly the third act is where it ramps up the action and it becomes entertaining. There are some really dumb moments in that second half, but I was fine with most of it.

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Keanu Reeves before 1999 been known as an actor for roles in movies like Speed, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Point Break. However, it was his role of Neo that launched his career even further. I’m a big fan of Keanu Reeves, but to put it bluntly, his here performance is bland, and even people who like the movie usually agree on that. Now some have made the argument that it was done so that the audience can picture themselves in his role. I can get that idea, but it doesn’t change him being a particularly uninteresting character to watch. Carrie Anne Moss as her character of Trinity was also sort of bland, mainly with her line deliveries. I know that she can act better from other things that she’s been in, but here she’s almost as bland as Keanu was, and I’m not exactly sure why. Even the other characters in the movie came across as more human than those two. The romance between the two is absolutely laughable. I don’t recall it being much better in the sequels, but at least they interacted with each other more. There are hints throughout the first movie that Trinity likes Neo and he sort of likes her back (I think at least, I didn’t pick that up from Keanu’s performance), but aside from the scene where they first meet up, they don’t interact all that much until the third act. At the end, basically after Neo dies after being shot multiple times by Agent Smith, Trinity in a way saves him basically with “the power of love”. It’s a silly scene in itself, but the lack of an actual believable romance makes it all the more worse. Laurence Fishburne is great as Morpheus, he does have a lot of moments where it gives a lot of philosophical word dumps, but he delivers them quite well. Hugo Weaving is iconic as Agent Smith, and it’s all to do with his performance. There’s nothing really much to say about the rest of the cast. Joe Pantaliano is the obvious betrayer, and the other members of the crew on the ship aren’t memorable and disposable, and you don’t really get to know them at all.

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The Wachowski Sisters did a really good job directing this. There are some truly revolutionary sequences that inspired so many other films and imitators, its immense level of influence cannot be overstated. People have made fun of the green tint when it comes to the scenes that take place The Matrix, but it does add some uniqueness to them. Not all the effects hold up, but it doesn’t affect the viewing experience too much, most of it is fine, and no doubt was fantastic for its time. You can tell often that it was the 90s with the use of the slow mo, and some of the music choices. The action is fantastic, endlessly entertaining, and the stuntwork is great.

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The Matrix has its issues, not all of the story and characters worked for me, and I had some problems throughout. However, it is entertaining at many points, well made and directed despite some dated elements, and I appreciate it quite a bit, especially the impact it had made. It’s not a movie that I’m exactly wanting to return back to often, but it is absolutely essential viewing.

Speed Racer (2008) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Emile Hirsch as Speed Racer
Christina Ricci as Trixie
John Goodman as Pops Racer
Susan Sarandon as Mom Racer
Matthew Fox as Racer X
Benno Fürmann as Inspector Detector
Hiroyuki Sanada as Mr. Musha
Rain as Taejo Togokahn
Richard Roundtree as Ben Burns
Director: The Wachowskis

Born into a family business of race cars, Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) is one of the track’s hot stars. Sitting at the wheel of his Mach 5, he consistently deflates the competition. When Speed turns down an offer from the head of Royalton Industries, he uncovers a secret. Powerful moguls fix the races to boost profits. Hoping to beat the executive, Speed enters the same arduous cross-country race that killed his brother.

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The Wachowskis haven’t always been making the best movies in recent years. For every Cloud Atlas they make there’s a Jupiter Ascending. Even though Jupiter Ascending was a really terrible movie (hilariously bad) I don’t actually think it’s their worst movie. That dishonour has to go to Speed Racer, a movie that oddly enough seemed to have been gaining a cult following recently. With its conflicting tone, obnoxious style it was honestly a real pain to sit through. I’m not sure how this movie could end up being this bad with the amount of talented people involved.

I never really found this story interesting at all, not once did it really grab my attention. This film really doesn’t know what it wants to be. On one hand it goes all out crazy with it’s fast and in-your-face style and it’s obnoxious and childish comic relief (which I’ll get to later) but at other times it tries to be serious. I haven’t watched the cartoon it was based on but I have a feeling that it never should have been turned into a live action movie, certain shows don’t translate well to the big screen. This movie is way longer than it needed to be, over 2 hours long, after a while it somehow became boring. The dialogue was most of the time cheesy, the comedy was really bad, but it mostly comes from the comedic relief, which I will go into more later on. So overall the story was uninteresting, the dialogue was cheesy and often terrible, and the comedy was awful.

Most of the actors are fine here, but I have no idea what many of them are actually doing in this movie. Like, what is John Goodman, Christina Ricci and Susan Sarandon doing here? They are way too talented to be in this movie. The acting for the most part is tolerable, so in a sense its really the best part of the movie. With that said, it also has one of the worst parts of the movie, the comic relief, which consists of a kid and a monkey, which are some of the worst comic relief I’ve seen in a movie, they are worse than Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Jar Jar Binks from Phantom Menace. That’s saying a lot. They offer absolutely nothing to the movie. They aren’t likable, they aren’t funny, they are obnoxious, there’s absolutely nothing to like about them, yet the film constantly forces them into scenes and dedicates entire scenes to their antics and ‘comedic moments’. I hated them.

I didn’t think the movie would be very good going in but I thought that there would at least good action scenes as the Wachowskis are involved. However that’s not the case, every car action scene looks like a McDonalds toy commercial, not a big budget movie. The way they filmed action wasn’t very entertaining. There were 2 fight scenes, the first was fine but the second was absolutely obnoxious. Even the editing is horrible, during driving (or whatever) there are heads that scroll in front of the screen for no reason. If there’s one thing that really annoyed me about the movie, it’s the style and direction. It was so obnoxious.

I’m of the opinion that Speed Racer is the Wachowski’s worst movie (yes, worse than Jupiter Ascending). The style and editing was obnoxious, the comic relief was irritating, the action scenes were poorly filmed and the film somehow becomes tiring in the worst possible way. The only aspect which didn’t flat out suck was the acting from most of the actors. Aside from that, I have to say that Speed Racer is one of the most painful movies I’ve watched, and that is saying a lot.

Jupiter Ascending (2015) Review

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Jupiter Ascending

Time: 127 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones
Channing Tatum as Caine Wise
Sean Bean as Stinger Apini
Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax
Douglas Booth as Titus Abrasax
Tuppence Middleton as Kalique Abrasax
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Famulus
Director: The Wachowskis

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) was born under signs that predicted future greatness, but her reality as a woman consists of cleaning other people’s houses and endless bad breaks. Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered hunter, arrives on Earth to locate her, making Jupiter finally aware of the great destiny that awaits her: Jupiter’s genetic signature marks her as the next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

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As directors, the Wachowskis haven’t found much success in big budget films since The Matrix and Jupiter Ascending goes down as one of their (debatably) biggest failures. Although the technical side with the special effects and soundtrack might be nice, its dialogue is bad, its story is predictable and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s times like this when I think that The Matrix was a fluke.

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The writing for this movie is all over the place and I didn’t really care about what was going on. A lot of the time it felt like the film was padding out the scenes more than it had to as there are lots of exposition scenes full of unnecessary and drawn out dialogue and it does nothing to drive the plot forward. Because of this I felt overall bored with what was going on. The film also has some weird concepts, for example Jupiter can control bees because they are genetically modified to recognise royalty. There is also a romance between Mila and Channing which was really forced, I never really bought the relationship, it comes straight out of nowhere and the film doesn’t seem to have a reason to have it. It doesn’t help that the romantic dialogue is very cheesy and terrible. There are also lots of unresolved plot holes and inconsistencies which really don’t work at all.

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Mila Kunis doesn’t seem that well suited in her role, however to be fair she doesn’t have much to work with. Jupiter isn’t given any character depth and doesn’t have an interesting personality. On top of that she doesn’t do much of anything and has to be saved so many times. She doesn’t need to shoot guns or anything but she should at least show leadership or develop by the end of the film. Channing Tatum is decent and does his best to act through his terrible make up. Sean Bean does as much as he can in this movie despite appearing for only 10 minutes. Eddie Redmayne plays the main villain and his performance is basically if you crossed an asthmatic Voldemort with Zod from Man of Steel. He whispers most of his dialogue but sometimes out of nowhere he starts screaming. He was one of the few entertaining aspects of the film for how crazy he was, however it is still a pretty bad performance from a great (and academy award winning) actor.

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Some of the designs of the aliens are fine but at times they are really distracting. It’s like the Wachowskis made these designs because they looked similar to other sci-fi designs that other better films used. The visual effects for the most part are nice to watch, even though you can tell that there’s a blue/green screens being used. The action scenes are also well filmed and they were the most entertaining parts of the film. The soundtrack is also quite good, I just wished it was used in a much better Sci-Fi movie.

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The best way to describe this film is that it’s like The Phantom Menace with better special effects. There’s a lot of exposition that they try to put in to make the film seem more epic than it really is and the action scenes are the best part of the movie. After many attempts at having a large blockbuster it’s clear that the Wachowskis should take a break from blockbusters.

The Matrix (1999) Review

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The Matrix

Time: 136 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Keanu Reeves as Neo
Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity
Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith
Joe Pantoliano as Cypher
Director: Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

In the year of 1999, Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is living two lives; by day a computer programmer and by night a computer hacker under the alias of Neo. He is contacted by Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), a legendary computer hacker who gives Neo the truth of the real world. The real world is a wasteland where most of humanity is imprisoned within an artificial reality known as the Matrix. Neo joins Morpheus in the struggle to overthrow the Matrix.

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The Matrix is a film that was absolutely revolutionary when it came out. The world created by the Wachowskis is nothing like anyone has seen before and of course the action scenes are some of the best ever created. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, I won’t spoil too much of it but you really need to check it out as soon as possible. The Matrix is a classic that hasn’t grown old in 15 years, and it looks like it never will.

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First of all the world and philosophy of the Matrix is well crafted. Learning about the Matrix can get a bit complicated and may take more than one viewing to get it all because of how complex it is and how many concepts it has. The idea of the world not being quite what it seems has been made many times before but not in this way. The first time I watched it, I didn’t pick up on the metaphors the movie had because I didn’t think it would have any, I just thought it was an action science fiction movie. I watched an video analysis of Fight Club and it had comparisons to the Matrix, particularly the society aspect. With a new perspective I re-watched The Matrix it and I noticed the hidden metaphors that I didn’t see before. This film has many different types of moments, those explaining the world and its philosophy and those being action scenes and both are done really well. One problem I have with this movie is the ending; it was a bit abrupt and could’ve been a bit longer. It wasn’t bad, but I felt that after all the events prior to the ending, the film could’ve afforded to slow down a bit its in concluding.

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The roles were played well by Keanu Reeves, Carrie Anne Moss, Lawrence Fishburne and the rest of the cast. Hugo Weaving is a stand out performance as Agent Smith, a programme who guards the Matrix. Weaving really plays him as a force to be reckoned with and he is a joy to watch. One of the only flaws I have with this movie is that despite the fact that I can remember them in many scenes, by the end I still don’t feel like I really got to know them that well, however that can be forgiven as the universe of this movie isn’t like most other sci-fi movies.

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One thing that is in all of the Matrix movies is the green tint look. There are a lot of times where the movie has quite a green filter in it, mostly when characters are in the Matrix. The film also uses slow-mo very well and it really adds to the action scenes. It wouldn’t be right to talk about the Matrix without talking about the special effects. It is really cool seeing people doing things that they wouldn’t do normally like jump long distances and perhaps most famously – bullet dodging. The camera tricks used for shooting the bullet dodging scenes is also one of the revolutionary things about this movie. The soundtrack composed by Don Davis really adds something to the scenes.

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One of the most original and well executed science fiction films of all time, The Matrix deserves to be seen at least once in your lifetime. A complex and interesting world, combined with well filmed action scenes makes it an all time classic that will be remembered for all the years to come.