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The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Furthering the story
The Wachowskis don't have a lot of explaining to do, they have a story to tell and they are telling it. That it may have some "pseudophilosophical" content is not the point. They are telling an existential story and this piece was a necessary transition furthering that story. Animatrix was to the same purpose, plus adding some flesh to the bones of that story.
We stand at the turn of a man-made milepost-- the millenium-- witnessing the death, finally, of some very old man-made explanations of Why We Are Here. Can anyone doubt that the time for religion as a model of the universe is past (save the diehards who seek either the control or the succor that religion provides) Can anyone doubt that a new future is before us and we don't *really* understand where it is taking us? Can anyone doubt that we humans are *still* asking the same questions: Why... What *purpose*? Even hardcore athiests and pure reductionists are uncertain. (Witness, even Carl Sagan, who never saw a God he much cared for, laid more questions than answers at our feet.) No scientist worthy of the appellation can ever claim that mankind, at least in our current state, can understand What Is Going On.
We now have six billion people on this planet. We are doing Very Bad Things to one another. Old systems are beginning to fail. We, as humans, need to evolve a bit if we expect this all not to end VERY badly. Maybe the Wachowskis are just trying to tell a story about that uncertainty and fear and need to understand that many humans are feeling very deeply just about now.
And, to my mind, they are doing a pretty damned good job of marrying good story telling with amazing movie technology to do that. I'm looking forward to their conclusion.
Excess Baggage (1997)
Pleasant, fun comedy, nothing more or less
Lots of dissing for both Alicia and Benicio but it seems disingenuous. This is not a profound film but it IS a fun one. Nice photography, a plot that has a good rhythm and tempo, engaging characters that are well acted and clever film devices (for one, the conflict regarding her smoking that set up the plot complication in the first place). Walken is great as usual as a character both scary AND endearing. Spark a blunt, open a beer and enjoy this silly but fun little flick.
Phone Booth (2002)
Clever idea, cleverly executed.
You just KNEW it wasn't gonna be a tidy ending after such an involved
story-telling. Never mind the lingering questions (How DID the sniper get all that information on him? Just by bugging the phone booth?) the film was a great ride. Sutherland, like his father, has such a wonderful and menacing voice and
appearance. He was perfect. I didn't know he was in the film and throughout the thing I was wondering where they got the great voice talent... I didn't recognize him. Colin Farrell did a great job of taking his character from a thoroughly unlikable lout to a truly sympathetic character. I'm still thinking about the use of the last phone booth in a world of cell phone ubiquity as a vehicle to force the confessions of a man who exemplifies the duplicity and mendacity that the
modern world takes for granted.
The Smokers (2000)
What an excellent example of overall, complete, unabashed bad film making.
I was so amazed at the awfulness of the film I HAD to keep watching. (Although, the girls were cute, gun or not, and the movie was almost FUN in it's badness.) If I were the writer/director Christina Peters and the editor, Elias Chalhub, (first time in their respective top spot for each) I'd do anything I could to bury this freak. That is, if I wanted to work in ShoBiz again. The best part of the movie was trying to read the graffiti in the girls' rooms.
It's DEFINITELY not "horrible"
If you have read the story, perhaps 2 or 3 or 4 times, you knew, going in, that it could NOT be a fully faithful retelling of the book itself. Nope. Can't doit. Nuh-uh. Hell, even if you haven't actually read the books you've seen those ubiquitous 6-inch-thick gift-paks and you know it.
So then the problem is how do you keep that feel and that familiarity and that pull of the story in the 2.5 - 3 hours you got to tell it. And feel like you wouldn't have p***ed off Professor Tolkien.
Well, you do it like like this. Jackson has left in the same feel that the book gives although it is a decidedly 21st century telling. At the end of the movie I still felt I had been through one surprise, struggle, dismay, hope, disappointment after another until finally, at the end, I was left hanging with uncertainty and a ravenous need for the next book.
When' s Two Towers coming out? Can ya buy your tickets yet?
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Actually it's pretty GOOD history
I know it's fashionable to trash successful movies but at least be honest about the trashing... Pvt. Ryan was fiction but it was pretty good HISTORICAL fiction. The details were well thought out and based on reality.
There was nothing stupid about the portrayal of the German army... Rommel DID blunder in his placement of force, The high command DID think Calais was going to be the invasion spot, not Normandy. Hitler didn't wake up until noon on that day and his aides were afraid to wake him. The Rangers did come in right behind the first wave and did take a beach exit by sheer will to get the hell off the beach. The bluffs were the scene of heavy close fighting. The german defenders were mostly Eastern European conscripts from defeated areas. (note that the 2 men that tried to surrender were NOT speaking German). There WAS a young man rescued from interior Normandy after his brothers were all killed. He WAS an airborne trooper (the difference was that he was found by a chaplain and was removed from the front.)
The battles inside Normandy were small actions town to town, street to street, house to house. Small actions like taking the radar station happened. Small actions like a handful of men defending a river bridge against odds happened. Small squads of men, formed out of the misdrops banded together ad hoc to fight. There were all enlisted groups and all officer groups. A General did die in the glider assault. FUBAR aptly described much of what happened that day.
And there were only Americans in the movie because the Brits and Canadians were many klicks away in a different area... this was Omaha beach. The story was an American one. And Monty DID bog down the advance and everyone knew it. And as for "American Stereotypes"... well those pretty much define America: my college roomie was a wise-ass New York Jew. My best friend was a second generation east coast Sicilian. My college girlfriend was a third generation German. My first wife was French and English. I'm Irish, my boss is Norwegian and I work with a Navaho... you get the point?
So much for it being bad history. It was in fact an excellent way to let a jaded and somewhat ignorant-of-their-past generation *feel* something of what their grandparents (LIVING grandparents) went through. It is perhaps less important that the details be exact as the feel be right. Even now the details are not fully known or knowable about that campaign... it was too big, too complex and too chaotic to be knowable. There is not even an accurate casualty count of D-Day itself.
Now as to the depth of characters. What I saw there was the extraordinary circumstances into which ordinary people were thrown and what happened to them. I saw the things that would mark a generation (I have heard in my elderly male patients sentiments similar to what Cpt. Miller was expressing when he announced his ordinariness) I saw the dehumanization that occurs with war and its mitigation moment to moment, man to man... Cpt. Miller didn't know anything about Ryan and he didn't care... until Ryan revealed his humanity to him with his story of his brothers. Pvt. Reiban was ready to walk out of the situation until he discoverd his captains ordinariness and his humanity. Then he began to look to him almost as a father. Pvt. Mellish rightfully delights in his revenge for all the times he's had to take it because he was Jewish by telling German captives he's "Juden!" Nerdish Cpl. Upham can stand alongside his bigger, stronger, braver Ranger compatriots and describe the poetry and melancholy of Edith Piaf's song... then face his cowardice, turn around and stand up in the face of danger and finally demonstrate the dehumanization of the enterprise he was enmeshed in by executing Steamboat Willie... even though Willie had no more choice about being there than Upham did and in other circumstances would have made a friend.
I could go on and on with this but enough already. OK, perhaps it is not The Best Movie Ever Made but it is still a good movie. And if one will take the blinders of fashionable negativism off they will see it. Finally, this is not a patriotic story... if anything it is an acknowledgement and thank you to all those old men still out there that did so much for us. To them I say a deep and sincere thank you.
It's a JOKE...
And a very funny one, too! I agree with the PoliSci prof... Lighten up, this is FUNNY.
I do agree that it is probably better for those of us that lived through it and for whom it was all VERY serious at the time. And if you wanna lionize Dick Nixon, go ahead... but this is great for everyone that remembers that time, remembers the importance of the events, and STILL has a sense of humor about it all. Rent it. Relax. Eat some Hello Dollys. Laugh.
Blade Runner (1982)
The Consequences of Being God
The dark, nightmarish L.A. of 2019 is the perfect context for this story about the nature of life and the consequences of presuming to create. Being, as we are, on the threshold of Petit God-ness - able to create life yet with out the wisdom to protect life that already exists - the film could be considered a warning against the conceit inherent in that pursuit. Rutger Hauer's Roy was no villain in returning to "meet one's maker" he merely came to get an answer to his plea: "I want more life!" His only crime was wanting not to die and to be freed from a life which he had no say in becoming, was doomed to a designer's termination program because his makers feared him and in which he was fully aware of his creation, his capabilities,his status and his fate. He just wanted more life.
It's been a hallmark of the technological age that humans have given little thought to consequences with often tragic results. We should be well warned that in aspiring to "godliness" we may face the most tragic consequenses yet.