[Movie Review] The Matrix

The MatrixStarring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving
Directors: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski
Genre: Sci-Fi
Cert: 18
Released: 1999

When it comes to Sci-Fi block busters, they don’t come much bigger than “The Matrix”. A budget of 63m dollars, a cast of familiar names and a storyline as ambitious as any that have gone before.

Keanu Reeves is office employee Thomas Anderson by day and computer hacker ‘Neo’ at night. He always suspected that something was not quite right about the world around him but he never knew what it was until he comes in contact with fellow hacker, Trinity. She subsequently introduces him to Morpheus (Fishburne) whom Neo has always wanted to meet.

Morpheus explains to Neo that the world he knows, in the year 1999, does not exist. It is actually a computer generated program called ‘The Matrix’ which is controlled by machines from the future – the year is actually closer to 2199. Morpheus tells Neo that he believes Neo is actually ‘The One’, the only person who can help defeat the machines and reclaim the Earth from the Matrix.

That’s a simplified version of what is a fairly intricate storyline. Unfortunately a good intricate storyline does not always provide the basis for a strong, in-depth plot. Okay, so we get all the science fiction jiggery-pokery that is hard to question but the ludicrousness of it begins to just get a bit too much. I would love to know where the Matrix originated, what it actually is. Who are the machines? How does the matrix really work? The directors decide to concentrate on the aftermath of the ‘event’, the horrific repercussion of what has gone before. Bad mistake, in my opinion. We do get a look at ‘agents’, machines that enter the matrix in human form in order to ensure that the resistance are kept under wraps, but it is not enough.

So where is the plot then? It’s nowhere and that’s the problem. Basically we get Neo and the other members of the resistance battling to bring down the matrix in a series of stunning special-effect laden scenes. There was a lot of potential to address the issues I’ve mentioned above but this has been sacrificed for the more straight-forward slap-bang-wallop effect. There are moments of startling philosophy – why are we all here, do we control our own fate, are humans like a virus – but all this is lost in an orgy of violence, special effects and general science fiction nonsense.

The performances are as decent as they can be. Reeves is bearable, (which makes this his best performance ever I guess), Fishburne and Moss are alright, Moss looking great in her cat-suit … meow! Sorry, that was sexist, but it really was the best thing I can say about the movie.

It’s not a dead loss, but it is a huge disappointment. Parts 2 and 3 are already slated and perhaps we will see a bit more plot development in them. It’s be nice to have a more charasmatic lead man than Reeves and I’m sure our sci-fi friendly writers/directors, Andy and Larry Wachowski, can dream something up. Please…

2star

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[Movie Review] Final Destination

Final DestinationStarring: Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Kristen Cloke, Daniel Roebuck, Roger Guenveur Smith, Tony Todd
Director: James Wong
Genre: Horror
Cert: 15
Released: 2000

It’s a bunch of teenagers, a horror premise and a set of elaborately mapped out deaths – oh joy!

When Alex (Sawa – “Casper”, “Now And Then”) experiences pre-flights nerves before a senior school trip to Paris, he puts it down to his own natural fear of flying. But a premonition of a huge explosion on board the plane prior to take off, freak him out and the subsequent scene he causes sees him thrown off the plane along with some of his friends – Tod (Chad Donella), Carter (Smith), Clear (Larter), Valerie Lewton (Cloke), Billy (Seann William Scott) and Terry (Amanda Detmer).

As they sit in the departure lounge, the plane does indeed explode in front of their eyes. Instantly, Alex becomes a suspect in the eyes of the FBI (Roebuck, Guenveur Smith) and his nightmare is only beginning. After effectively cheating death, death does not intend to give up. The Grim Reaper begins to come for the souls he missed out on and Alex is in a race against time to save his life and the lives of his friends.

With an interesting storyline like that, it seems the perfect opportunity for the writers to explore the psychological affect on the main characters of waiting for the imminent arrival of death. Sadly, they miss the opportunity with a capital M.

It’s real C or D-list stuff here. There are no familiar faces and the mediocre performances are not helped by the cliche-ridden and cringe-worthy script. Admittedly the opening scenes aboard the plane are pretty exciting and sets the movie up nicely. From there, things go downhill pretty fast. The characters are remarkably unremarkable. Sawa does his best, but he is hamstrung by some unbelievably embarrasing lines. On the other end of the scale, Larter deserves to be strung up – an annoying 21st century version of Molly Ringwald if you like.

Wong directs pretty well, and produces some fairly interesting moments including one marvellous “holy shit” death scene. The problem lies with the under-developed subject matter. We could have had a lot more insight into what it was like to sit there and wait for death knowing there is nothing you can do about it, but that is not the direction that the script took.

Also look out for a cool appearance from Tony Todd, the Candyman himself!

But this is one desination that you should avoid.

1star

[Movie Reviews] Rock Star

Rock StarStarring: Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Anniston, Timothy Spall, Dominic West
Director: Stephen Herek
Genre: Comedy
Cert: 15
Released: 2001

Every young man’s dream becomes Mark Wahlberg’s reality in Stephen Herek’s “Rock Star”. Get out the hairspray and spandex, we’re set back in the mid-eighties, when hard-rock meant bands like Motley Crue, AC/DC, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard.

Chris Cole (Wahlberg – “Three Kings”, “Planet of the Apes”, “Perfect Storm”, “The Big Hit”, “Fear”), die hard fan of rock Wahlberg as Chris "Izzy" Colelegends Steel Dragon, also performs as the lead singer of the top Dragon tribute band, Blood Pollution. Popular on the local circuit and acknowledged as a performer with genuine talent, Cole is axed from the group after his bandmates grow tired of his obsession with Steel Dragon and his reluctance to write and play his own material.

His life takes a dramatic about turn when Steel Dragon lead singer Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng – “Snatch”, “Deep Rising”) is kicked out of the band and Cole is invited to replace him. Cole manages to live out his fantasy as he integrates himself successfully into the band and is accepted by the fans as an able replacement for their hero, Bobby.

But the trappings of rock and roll stardom start to take their toll on Cole and his long-term girlfriend, Emily (Anniston – TVs “Friends”). The fairly clean-living Cole gets dragged into the much-talked about ?sex, drugs & rock and roll’ lifestyle that is almost mythological to those on the outside looking in. A life of uncontrollable decadence starts to consume the pair, and it drives them apart before long. That’s when Cole realises that despite having the only thing he ever wanted, it’s not enough.

Director Herek (“Holy Man”, “Mr Hollands Opus”, Bill & Teds Excellent Adventure”, “Three Musketeers”) does not pursue any groundbreaking avenues to gain results in “Rock Star”. The story is as straight-forward as you can get – young man has a dream; young man handed dream; young man realises that dream was not all it was cracked up to be. His journey from zero to hero helps him to find his own identity and discover all the things that really were important to him, but his blind obsession with Steel Dragon did not allow him to see.

Anniston in 'good performance' shock!Wahlberg pulls off another fine performance (check out “The Big Hit”, “Boogie Nights”). With his rock-star wig, he manages to look like a young Ozzy Osbourne. No doubt his Marky Mark past has helped him hone the rockstar traits (a sort of cross between Axl Rose and Osbourne is how he plays out) and although Herek does overdose on the heavy-metal performances (which do become tedious eventually), Wahlberg keeps it as fresh as possible with his charismatic stage antics. Jennifer Anniston puts in a career best performance as childhood sweetheart Emily, and Timothy Spall (“Vanilla Sky”, “Secrets and Lies”, “Hamlet”, “Life is Sweet”) is strangely likable as the bad-boy, but good-guy, road manager Mats.

The soundtrack might not be to a lot of peoples liking. Steel Dragon actually comprised of veterans like Jason Bonham (son of Led Zep stickman, John), Zakk Wylde and Jeff Scott Soto (former Yngwie Malmsteen lead singer). The originals they perform in the movie were written especially – they’re not great. Elsewhere, we get INXS, Bon Jovi, AC/DC, Def Leppard (the very cool ?Lets Get Rocked’), Ted Nugent, Motley Crue and Kiss. if you’re into rock music, it’s a killer soundtrack.

“Rock Star” doesn’t break any moulds, but it won’t disappoint too much either. .

2halfstar

[Movie Review] The Hurricane

The HurricaneStarring: Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber, John Hannah, David Paymer, Vicellous Reon Shannon, Dan Hedaya, Deborah Unger
Director: Norman Jewison
Genre: Drama
Cert: 15
Released: 1999

It’s almost fifteen years since Denzel Washington’s big breakthrough as Steve Biko in 1987 smash-hit, “Cry Freedom”. Since then he has become recognised as one of the finest actors of this generation with acclaimed performances in movies like ‘Glory’, ‘Malcolm X’ and ‘Philadelphia’. He notches up another tick in the success column with a remarkable performance in the title role of “The Hurricane”. Norman Jewison (“Moonstruck”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Fiddler on the Roof”) directs the story of boxing prodigy, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter (Washington) whose life is turned upside down by his wrongful conviction for murder.

There's a hurricane a blowin...Having spent half of his first 20 years in juvenile prison thanks to the close attentions of a racist police officer (Hedaya – “The Usual Suspects”, “Shaft”, “Maverick”), Carter focuses his anger and aggression to become one of the world’s leading middle-weight boxing contenders. The fame and fortune it brings him helps fuel racist fires in the local police department and when the opportunity arises, Sgt Della Pesca uses a heinous multiple-murder to frame and jail Carter. A subsequent re-trial fails to free him, appeals are rejected and Carter uses the time in jail to write his autobiography. Young student, Lesra Martin (Shannon – “Deep Cover”, “D2 – the Mighty Ducks”), comes across the book and becomes engrossed by Carter’s story. Fully believing in his innocence, Lesra begins to write to and visit Carter in jail. His tutors (played by Schreiber, Hannah and Unger) also believe in Carter’s innocence and they plough their efforts into disecting the evidence at his trial and trying to prove his innocence.

There is no doubt that the outstanding aspect of this movie is another ‘tour-de-force’ performance from Washington. The three musketeers of justice.His touching portrait of a wrongly-convicted man evolves brilliantly as the movie progresses. The aggressive boxer soon becomes the focused writer whose only goals are freedom and justice. His support cast also receive kudos. Shannon is superb as Carter’s guardian angel and mental strength during the hardest periods of his struggle, while Hedaya is the perfectly evil racist cop.

Jewison is not the most prolific movie maker but if he rolls out classics like this once a decade I’ll certainly always look forward to them. My only regret is that this is marketed as the true story of Rubin Carter when in reality a lot of the facts have been changed to make the movie more dramatic. I guess that happens all the time but it seems a bit tasteless where the lives of innocent people are concerned. But beyond that, this is an absorbing and thoroughly deserving movie experience.

4star