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The Matrix (1999)
Matrix, a complex and well developed metaphor
The Matrix is probably the most important film made in the last 20 years. There are several reasons for this, the biggest of which has nothing to do with metaphysics and "what is real?"; a question which is quite literally asked throughout most of this film.
The Matrix is a story about Neo, a computer hacker living the double life of Mr. Anderson, a person with a "job at a respectable software company" and "helps his landlady take out her garbage". Yet as No, the protagonist is looking for something just a tad out of reach and in so doing falls into the Alice in Wonderland world of the Matrix.
Neo is portrayed as sort of a savior, a single being whose promise is to win a war against a vastly superior force of super-smart and super powerful machines. And on his way to that level, Neo discovers that the world is nothing like he thought.
The Matrix is a movie brilliant on many levels, the most base of which is special effects. Some people are willing to dismiss this as nothing more then a good story, a good action film. But hold on now, I say this movie is deep. This movie has a level of subtlety that not many have caught on to.
Here's a question worth asking: why is the dream world of the Matrix set in the 20th century? What purpose did the brothers who made this film have in using this time period ad the period represented in the Matrix? In a very conscious effort on the parts of this movie's creators, the Matrix is, in a sense, a dream world which reflects our current world. This then is the metaphor that the brothers have tried to set up.
We are living a dream. Every aspect of our lives is designed to pull wool over our eyes. We understand Neo, because Neo's initial plight is relateable. In a way, this time period was chosen because it was the hight of capitalism. In my opinion, the Matrix is a movie which creates a complex metaphor where humans literally become cogs in a great machine. The literalness of being into a battery must be translated into real life. Like those living in the matrix, we in real life, are serving a system which ruthlessly and unapologetically exploits us.
Quite literally, the Matrix is the capitalist machine, dehumanizing and exploiting individual humans. That at least is the message I get from the Matrix: a harsh criticism of the capitalist machine that makes up our "real life"
The Mummy (1999)
Original? Originality is overrated
Well, I won't say this is in even my top 100 films of all time. Still, the movie is fun, and the visuals are fantastic. The villain is charismatic and not all together serious, which is how it must be done to make a good action movie.
Yes, the script is not genius, and yes it's plot devices are contrived. But the one-liners and opportunity for self mockery is something that makes the script out of the ordinary imo.
Brendan Fraser as the dashing young adventurer is believable and fun. The actress playing the librarian comes off as a headstrong, liberated woman. Perhaps a bit inaccurate for the times, but as far as Egypt is concerned, accuracy is not horribly important.
The cast has a good sense of chemistry, which is something I enjoy. O'Connel's scenes with Benny are hilarious and overstated. There are a few moments where this movie tries to take itself too seriously, but that's a minor annoying flaw.
Overall, I give this movie a 6/10. Enjoyable, but not a work of art.
A Christmas Carol (1999)
Faithful to Dickens, Stewart perfect
The sad thing about this adaptation is simply that audiences have expected less reserved acting and brighter and cheerier moods. However, I've read the book many times, and although I like all versions, I think this is probably the 2nd best I've seen. (I love the musical Scrooge with Albert Finney. It's delightful, if not entirely British in tone.) Scrooge was a Victorian man, which means the definition of his character would be one of reservation and stiffness. Patrick Stewart is quite believable as a Victorian British gentleman miser.
I enjoyed immensely the understated end, where Scrooge changes much for the better, yet at the same time maintains the appearance of a Victorian gentleman. The scene in which Scrooge haltingly enters his nephews house is very powerful and poignant imo.
Admittedly, the supporting cast is forgettable, but that's to be expected. This is Scrooge's story and belongs to no one else. What I think turns people off for this version is the stiffness portrayed by Scrooge and the general "oppressive" atmosphere of the movie. But it is quite good, and Stewart's portrayal of the Victorian Scrooge is perfect.
Although, I think that from our own perspective, Alastair Sim's portrayal will remain the one that stays forever. This movie suffers most from a low TV budget which often limits the camera work along with special effects. But overall, this is one of the best versions out there.