Okay, having just seen The Matrix Reloaded for the second time, I can now say with authority that the movie was quite a let-down from the promise of the original. Sure it had great special effects and some killer action sequences, but the story itself was fairly boring and repetitive. To explain why I feel that way, it's necessary to discuss some details of the film, so stop reading if you haven't seen it yet.
And, before I get e-mails from people telling me that I didn't like Reloaded because I didn't understand it, please spare me your wrath, because I understand the film all too well... I've studied Nietzsche, and have a firmer grasp on the philosophical concepts of "free will" and "choice" than most people do, so everybody claiming to like Reloaded simply because you think it makes you look smart, can just skip the rest of this post but, for the rest of you, here it goes:
The reason I didn't like this movie is that it failed to engage me for the duration. There were always "stoppers" in the way of the story's flow that made it impossible to really get absorbed into the world that the Wachowski Brothers have created. Inane strips of boredom that repeat the same theme over and over again until you find yourself slipping into a coma until the next cool action sequence arrives. How many times do we need to hear about machines and humans needing each other to survive and the consequences of making choices? We get to hear both themes repeated so often that I find myself amazed that there are people that don't understand the film's concept... first that ridiculously dull walk that Neo takes with the head council guy, then again from the Oracle, once more from the Merovingian, and yet again from the Architect. Holy crap... we get it already! And let me add to my complete frustration with the incredibly stupid Zion rave dance sequence, which has been dissed to death on every review I've read. What was the point? I'm sure it was intended to show a celebration of humanity that is worth fighting and dying for, but all it did was grind the movie to a screeching halt. Too many moments like this made me long for a good editor to step in and tighten the story to a watchable pace (and fix the gawd-awful time shifting that destroys the final action sequences as the three teams attempt to break into "The Source").
Enough with the bad, anything good? Well, I was pretty entertained by the action... the freeway chase sequence is astounding to a degree that I would gladly pay another $7 just to see those 15 minutes again. The fights are a bit repetitive, but fun to watch. Monica Bellucci (as Persephone) is breathtaking. And Morpheus' line to Agent Smith: "Does that include a bullet from this gun?" is easily the best line from a movie since Trinity's "Dodge this" in the original. I also like the fact that the film has a decent puzzle in it... is the "real world" that people think is real actually just another level of the Matrix for further control? Did Neo and Agent Smith (in his Zion-acquired body) escape the "Matrix within a Matrix" altogether and make it to the real real world, which is why they ended up in comas at the end? I guess we'll find out in six months.
Ack! First I was disappointed by The Matrix Reloaded, and now another summer blockbuster has underwhelmed me... X2: X-Men United. Boring, boring stuff. The most powerful mutants on earth aren't battling other powerful mutants like "The Hellfire Club," cool aliens like "The Brood," giant robots like "The Sentinels," or even an intergalactic threat like "The Shi'ar." Oh no, this time they are battling boring humans in boring situations with boring action that that makes me wonder why in the heck people are liking this movie.
Even worse, the "big bad" at the end of the film isn't even a boring human, but water. Yes, water. The X-Men battle water in the boring climax to this damn boring film.
The only thing that even remotely salvaged any entertainment value for me was the addition of Nightcrawler, who actually uses his mutant powers in a cool and exciting way throughout the film. But the others? Cyclops gets out maybe two optic blasts. Storm has seemingly lost the ability to fly, Rogue consciously uses her power once in the entire film (and to lame effect)... it goes on and on. About the only action sequence outside of Nightcrawler's attack on the White House that was worth watching was the fight between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike, but even that was pretty lame, because Wolverine wins by using his brains instead of the brute-force method that would have made it so much more satisfying. Magneto and Mystique are back from the first film, thankfully, because they are the only remotely interesting characters in X2 again.
When are we going to get an X-Men movie that has bad-ass battles that are even half as exciting as the comic book? Where are the all-powerful villains that will make the X-Men struggle? Sure, in X3 we're set up for having Phoenix arrive, but if things go as they have been, she won't be the all-powerful goddess that can destroy a planet, she'll be a bland imitation of Pyro that can burst into flame once or twice. Brian Singer, please prove me wrong and give us a third X-Men film worth watching.
Holy crap! I bypassed Star Trek Nemesis in the theaters because it looked lame, and I still had visions of the awful Star Trek Insurrection trapped in my head. Well, somehow the idiots in charge of Star Trek have managed to sink to a new low... Nemesis sucks total ass. I don't even know what I can say about it except that it is a boring boring boring film with nothing interesting to say or nothing new to show us. I can only pray that the bad box office, horrid reviews by critics and fans alike, and diminished interest in Star Trek in general will kill off this "Next Generation" franchise for good.
I had huge reservations about seeing Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, because it would not be helmed by original writer/creator/director James Cameron. A pleasant surprise, it actually turned out much better than expected. Where Matrix Reloaded disappointed, T3 delivers in spades. In two areas, it actually manages to surpass even T2 (but not the original... no sequel ever could!): 1) The new Terminatrix (played by Kristanna Loken) was even more ruthless (and far more beautiful!) than Robert Patrick's T-1000, and 2) Nick Stahl adds new depth to the John Connor character thanks to a haunting performance that makes me cringe when thinking of the whiny portrayal we had from Edward Furlong in T2. In fact, Stahl's Connor echos nicely the masterful performance by Michael Beihn as his father (Kyle Reece) in the original, which was the part that was so woefully lacking in the first sequel. Yes, it does have a few logical flaws (the Terminatrix should have been able to much more easily dispatch the leads given her vast superiority over Ah-nold's T-100 model) but hey — the action, special effects, performances... just about everything... were high entertainment value, and well worth the $6, which is rare for an action flick now-a-days.
Let's see... Vampires vs. Werewolves? Cool. An ancient blood feud that comes to a head in modern times? Very cool. Kate Beckinsale in skin-tight latex beating the crap out of people and shooting everything in sight with automatic weapons? Off-the-hook cool. The movie Underworld, which features all three? Laughably bad.
What in the hell happened that such an amazing concept could be ruined so resoundingly? Well, with the exception of Kate, who looks amazing and plays the brooding bad girl perfectly... the acting is just over-the-top bad. Every character tries to be kind of an intense psycho-goth, but ends up funny instead. On top of that, it appears that budgetary constraints must have not allowed for decent special effects, because everything kind of has a retro-1970's look that is also funny. And now I read they are working on a sequel... so I hope they get the money to do it right, because a great vampire vs. werewolf film is something that has been missing in my life (I get women in skin-tight latex beating the crap out of me all the time).
I just got back from watching Uma Thurman kick major ass and have to say that Quentin's Tarantino's done it again! While Kill Bill is not a film geared towards deep thinking, and isn't quite up to par with Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown, it is one hell of an entertaining flick!
Sure the violence is over-the-top and dripping with more blood than all of his previous films combined, but Tarantino knows exactly what makes a great action movie: hot woman-on-woman cat-fight action! You would think that Uma having a knife fight with hottie Vivica A. Fox would be enough to sell a movie, but oh no... we also get Uma mixing it up with cutie Chiaki Kuriyama and her flying mace ball... and Uma battling it out with bad-ass Lucy Liu with samurai swords! But even that's not enough... Uma kicks plenty of other asses along the way, and also manages to meet up with Japanese acting legend Sony Chiba!
For the movie-going public who doesn't understand that film can be a medium for pure entertainment that doesn't really have to say anything... well, Kill Bill Volume 1 probably isn't for you. But for any film geek that ever wanted to see Quentin's particular brand of beautiful, stylized violence applied to a classic revenge flick, this is your movie. I can't wait to see "Volume 2" in February (it doesn't hurt that we'll get Uma hacking it out with Michael Madsen and Darryl Hannah!).
Usually, I do not respond to how others review a film because I just don't care what random people think. Granted, I do like taking a peek at the "Tomatometer" (over at Rotten Tomatoes), because it pulls from dozens of film critics to give a general consensus as to how good a film might be... but even then, I don't really let it dictate whether or not I'm going to see a film.
Anyway, I happened across a review from James Berardinelli at his "ReelViews" site where he makes so many ridiculous jibes at Kill Bill that I was pissed off enough to be compelled to respond to his major criticisms (not to him personally, I doubt he would care, but to anybody who may be thinking of taking his "reviews" seriously)...
"...Kill Bill, which was constructed as a single motion picture before being sundered at the eleventh hour. The result is messy and frustrating - a movie that feels incomplete in every aspect." This is such a stupid comment as to be laughable. The entire story of Kill Bill is told in chapters... and not just "implied" chapters... but actual frickin' chapters that are displayed in the movie! It's not as if the film was butchered mid-scene, it actually occurs at a natural breaking point in the film between chapters. I mean, seriously, is Kill Bill really any different than Lord of The Rings or Matrix Reloaded in that respect? I actually feel that both of those films were worse, because story elements truly were incomplete in every aspect... Matrix Reloaded is particularly bad: Neo's in a coma and Zion is under attack? NOTHING is resolved, and you have more questions than answers... and are more confused than entertained! If I never saw Kill Bill: Volume 2, I would at least be able to picture an ending to the story. While I agree the editing could have been tighter, the massive amount of cuts required to make this a single film would not be worth it.
"One aspect of Kill Bill that doesn't disappoint are the action sequences. Although no better than those in The Matrix Reloaded , they are fun to watch, as The Bride slices and dices her way through dozens of enemies..." Bitch, please. No better than Reloaded?? Get off the pipe! While undoubtedly enhanced with some nifty wire work (wholly appropriate to the genre this film is in), the action in Kill Bill is REAL. These fights are not some computer-created crapfest... they are real people bashing it out with real emotion. And the carnage! Heck... compared to Kill Bill, Reloaded is just a video game with good special effects! Compare The Bride's fight against the "Crazy 88" to Neo's fight against 200 Agent Smiths and tell me that they are in any way comparable. Not even close.
"One could argue that the best thing about Pulp Fiction was the delicious dialogue, and that's something almost completely absent here. The number of quotable lines and memorable non-action sequences is small." Uhhh... dude... Pulp Fiction was a character piece. This is an action-revenge flick. They are entirely different films, with entirely different focus points... would you be happier if an action movie was more notable for the dialogue than the action? I saw Kill Bill because I wanted to see Uma kick ass. I was not disappointed. If you want to see Uma spouting cool Tarantino dialogue, then go watch Pulp Fiction again.
"Why show revenge #2 before revenge #1? There doesn't seem to be a reason. Maybe it will all become clear in Volume 2 , although I somehow doubt it."Well, as a professional movie critic, you should understand about a concept called STRUCTURE... and perhaps a rudimentary understanding of "pacing" and "balance" would also be in order. It was necessary to show "Revenge #2" before "Revenge #1" because it started the movie out with a bang and instantly draws the viewer into the story. The first revenge on O-Ren Ishii required way too much foreshadowing and back-story to make for a good opening into this type of film (and would have meant cramming two heavy fight scenes right on top of each other at the end). The way Tarantino has structured it now, there is perfect timing between the action and a balance to how the story of The Bride is revealed. The non-linear structure that Quentin uses is not so much a "signature device," but a method he uses very effectively to keep pacing and mystery through his films. When I saw Uma cross off "Revenge #2" from her list and noticed that "Revenge #1" was already marked... it really got me curious as to what happened there, thus providing a perfect window to dive into that story. The only reason Tarantino needs to mix up the chronology is because it makes for good storytelling.
"This is a problem with a revenge flick, where we're supposed to root for the hero and despise the enemy. Neither is the case here, especially since we never see Bill." Uh... gee... isn't the fact that Bill massacred The Bride's husband-to-be (along with every other person at the wedding) and shot her in the head reason enough to root for her revenge? Bill's actions alone make him an enemy worth despising.
"Everyone else would do better to stay away and avoid the bitter disappointment of seeing how the greed of a distributor can degrade the movie-going experience... Miramax claims that money plays no part in the decision to release Kill Bill in two parts. This is, in their words, a determination based solely upon a desire to respect Tarantino's "artistic vision." If that's the case, then Miramax should offer a free coupon to see Volume 2 with every ticket sold to Volume 1. I bet they won't be doing that." Excuse me, but isn't the alternative to force Tarantino to butcher the story down to a 90 minute film that's nothing but fight scenes? I can't imagine how bitchy your review of that film would be! The fact that Berardinelli cannot seem to fathom the idea that Miramax is taking one hell of a risk in dicing up the film in two parts speaks volumes as to his ignorance of the movie industry. Holy crap... what if Volume 1 tanks? They would still be obligated to release Volume 2 at a huge loss! Do you think that distributing a film and advertising it is free? Do you think that movie theaters can keep their doors open by showing free films? While I don't doubt that Miramax is hopeful that they will make huge bank from having two films... it doesn't make any sense at all to think that this was an easy decision to make. Miramax owes a huge debt to Tarantino for getting their studio on the map with Pulp Fiction. To think that this is anything other than a gift to Quentin so that he can keep his vision for Kill Bill in tact is just stupid. It would be far, far safer for Miramax to take the low road and force a more easily-sellable, butchered version of the movie.
Throughout Kill Bill , I got the sense that Tarantino thinks he is being more clever than he actually is. But, in reality, he's just more clever than James Berardinelli (who, interestingly enough, gives the film 2-1/2 out of 4 stars). I find it astounding that, as a so-called professional film critic, your review consists entirely of petty bitching on how this film is a marketing gimmick by Miramax that's not as good as Pulp Fiction. If you were not so obsessed with the things this film is not and actually concentrated you review on what it actually is, you would see that this is hands-down the most stylish action-revenge flick ever put to film. Berardinelli claims that this is "half-a-movie that runs too long." When a critic's reason for disliking a film isn't about the actual material in the half he saw, but instead is whining because he has to pay to see the ending... it's pretty difficult to take his "review" seriously when other films that are told in parts don't get the same treatment.
UPDATE: After getting a deliciously scathing comment on May 2nd, 2010 berating me for daring to voice my opinion on Berardinelli's opinion (DELETE!), I Googled around and found a genius deconstruction of the guy's reviewing "style" at Your Stupid Minds. Far be it for me to crap all over somebody's passion for film, but now I feel fully justified questioning exactly how this Berardinelli guy got to be a "Top Critic" at Rotten Tomatoes when his reviews are so pedestrian and lacking any kind of real insight or imagination.
Just got back from The Matrix: Revolutions and can't imagine that there's any way I could have been more disappointed. What began as a miraculous story with vision and originality in The Matrix disintegrated into a horrid mess of cliches and mundane dialogue interspersed with just enough eye candy to keep me from falling asleep.
Sure the final battle between Zion and the machines has the best special effects ever put to film and are any sci-fi geek's wet dream. Yes the last fight between Smith and Neo above The City was exactly what every super-hero comic fan's been dying to see. But that's just something to look at. What in the hell happened to the story? I didn't mind the fact that Revolutions completely negated or disregarded most everything from Reloaded because, let's face it, there wasn't much worth salvaging (hell, now I'm trying to figure out what the point of Reloaded even was). But what did we get instead? Something even worse.
Neo, who became all-powerful while in The Matrix has somehow inexplicably become super-powered outside the computer world as well, able to shut down sentinels and blow up machine bombs at will. And what explanation do we get? "The power of The One extends beyond The Matrix." Yeah, whatever. In the beginning of the Matrix trilogy, there was a plan... a prophecy to guide the logic of the story and provide a reality where super-powered kung-fu fighting could happen. By the time we get to Revolutions there is no logic, just a pathetic Christ analogy story with nifty visuals, a conversation with the "Big Giant Head," and more of the Oracle's rambling nonsense at the very end. That's a revolution in film-making I don't want. Oh well, we've always got Lord of the Rings: Return of the King coming up (at least that one's got an actual story to it).
From the name of this film, you might think that Master and Commander is some kind of dominatrix-fetish, S&M fantasy flick. You would be wrong. Instead, this is a film loosely adapted from Patrick O'Brian's series of novels chronicling the fictional adventures of Captain Jack "Lucky Jack" Aubrey and his doctor-friend Stephen Maturin during the Napoleonic Wars.
Having never read the books, I didn't know what to expect, and ended up being pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed very much the give-and-take friendship of Aubrey and Maturin, and was glad that fully-realized characters were on-screen as opposed to one-dimensional cut-outs standing in front of the action. Even the lesser players in the film are given a nice level of characterization... including an officer the crew believes is a "Jonah," cursed to bring the ship misfortune, and a young boy who loses an arm but not his spirit in battle.
The action in Master and Commnder is all at once breathtaking and horribly confusing. The broadside battles are really cool to watch, and the brutality of such warfare is captured in detail. But, when it comes to the massive hand-to-hand conflict at the end, it's nearly impossible to tell who is fighting who, and everything degrades into a bunch of anonymous fight scenes that really detach the viewer from the story. If directory Peter Weir had bended historical accuracy a bit, and tried to find a way to better differentiate the opposing forces, I think it would have made for a stronger ending.
Overall, a good historical action film that doesn't suffer from lack of characterization, and is worth a look despite some confusion near the end (and the fact that "Pippin" from the Lord of the Rings films is the ship's helmsman didn't help matters... "Where's Frodo, Sam and Merry?" I kept wondering). I will probably give the Patrick O'Brian's source material a read to see if it holds up as well.
On the wall staring at me every morning when I wake up is my framed movie poster for Pulp Fiction... you know the one where Uma is laying on a bed smoking a cigarette, having just put down her trashy pulp novel next to her pistol... which means the first thing I think about every single day is "How much longer do I have to wait before Kill Bill Volume 2 is released?" The answer, as it turns out, is 95 days until the February 20th premier.
According to Time And Date, that's 8,208,000 seconds... or 136,800 minutes... or 2280 hours left to go until Uma once again kicks ass with a righteous fury. That's too damn long. If I can't ride my motorcycle and can't watch Uma kill dozens of people, that makes for a pretty boring three months for me. Winter sucks ass.
One of my long-time favorite comic books, Mike Mignola's Hellboy, is finally getting a movie treatment by none-other than Guillermo del Toro (who crafted the amazing film The Devil's Backbone). Hellboy is the story of a demon who gets drawn to earth at the height of World War II and grows up to be the world's foremost paranormal investigator. The Hellboy comics are filled with all the things that makes comics worth reading, and are a real treat to look at thanks to Mignola's gothic art stylings.
It's going to be interesting to see how del Toro manages to translate such a visually distinctive work to the big screen, but then I see promotional images from the Hellboy movie site, and it looks encouraging:
There's Abe Sapien, Hellboy, and Liz Sherman... right out of the comics and come to life! How cool is that? For even more Hellboy coolness, you can also track down the movie trailer. I can hardly wait until April 2nd!
When I travel, I take along my faithful iBook because it's small, rugged, and has great wireless range. When I get back home, I immediately switch back to my PowerBook G4 because it's easier to work on the bigger screen and the faster processor comes in handy for graphics work. Anyway, I was transferring some files off my iBook this morning and ran across an entry I made about The Last Samurai that didn't get posted...
I wasn't planning on seeing The Last Samurai because I am just not a big Tom Cruise fan. He never seems to stop being Tom Cruise and get lost in the part he's playing, which kind of destroys the immersive experience of watching a movie for me. But when I was in Japan last week I kept seeing these beautiful posters for the film that didn't feature Tom Cruise at all. Then I started seeing these stunning commercials on beautiful high-definition Japanese television that got me thinking that this film might transcend Tom Cruise and actually be worth watching. So when I got back to the States, I managed to catch it in Minneapolis and was really glad I did.
The Last Samurai is one of my favorite films of 2003.
I am rarely emotionally affected by a film... I can count on one hand the films that have moved me to the verge of tears (sappy love stories and hokey dramas just don't do it for me). Given that, you can imagine my complete shock that this would become one of them. And I am still trying to figure out just how that happened. Yes, the film is beautiful... the cinematography is breathtaking and I would gladly sit through 3 hours of it with not a single actor in the frame. Yes, the score is a wonder... the music in the film is a presence that will haunt you long after you leave the theater. Yes, the story is captivating... the samurai's efforts to preserve a way of life that had existed for centuries is good material. Yes, the acting is top-notch... if Ken Watanabe isn't nominated for an Oscar for his brilliant performance, then the award is as irrelevant as I had thought. And yes... Tom Cruise gives one of the best performances of his career (unlike many, I thought his work in Born on the 4th of July was self-indulgent and overly-acted). I can only guess that it is all these factors in concert that makes the movie so compelling.
So do yourself a favor and see Tha Last Samurai in a really good theater. It will not be the same experience if you wait for the DVD.
In a wonderful stroke of luck, I managed to catch an earlier flight and arrive home a full three hours ahead of schedule. A pity that there's no new episode of Veronica Mars running tonight (Save Veronica!), but at least we have a return appearance of Heather Graham on Scrubs.
In more disturbing news, along with the twenty new pornographic TrackBacks I had to de-spam, I also got a scary piece of email which accused me of "stealing" the idea for a graphic which I drew up for my "review" of the movie Sideways. Since the return address was bogus, I'll go ahead and make my reply public here:
I hate to tell you this dumbass, but the only thing I did was parody the official movie poster...
I don't even know who you are or what picture you are talking about. Sooo... perhaps instead of threatening to "expose" me, you should attack Fox/Searchlight Pictures for coming up with the idea in the first place.
Stupid people suck ass.