Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Matrix

The Wachowski's formally known as the Wachowski brothers, wrote and directed "The Matrix" back in 1999. Ten years ago now.

To say that "The Matrix" is a great movie is a significant understatement. Science fiction is one of the most difficult genres in which to establish innovation or advancement. Not only did the Wachowski's blow people's minds with creating bullet time , but they provided a sense of storytelling that was unseen and unmatched. Our movie opens with green code and eavesdropping on a conversation between Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) where a "click" in the phone leads Trinity to believe their conversation may be being tapped. Off sets into motion an attempted capture of Trinity by a group of police officers in The Matrix as it is known.

We realize that she is a master of the martial arts, running and jumping. Though when being chased by an Agent, this proves to do little help without sheer luck of having a phone nearby in order to escape via the system.

Aside from that, we enter upon Mr. Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves). Occupation: computer programmer for a decent computer company. At night however he is an avid computer hacker going by the hacker name: Neo. It is here that it starts under adamant advisory from the father like figure Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) leads a group of freedom fighters that he believes that Neo is the one (prophet-like unbeknownst hero, think Harry Potter) to save the entire human race from being taken over by the machines and farmed for their energy to fuel the race of machines. - Pretty intense stuff.

Through the movie, anytime they are plugged into the Matrix, there is a green tint symbolizing the cloud over their eyes. That they are are slaves in the their own life and not even knowing it. Machines/computers have designed the Matrix to keeps people at bay while they harvest them for survival. Of course Morpheus and the people he saved aren't having any of this! They have their own way of exiting the Matrix and living in the "real world" where they can jack into the Matix ironically with with machines and use computer programming to program themselves to look certain ways i.e. slick hair, leather clothes and sunglasses and be professionally trained in martial arts, use of artillery (lots and lots of iron!!!) even how to operate a helicopter or other vehicles of choice. The possibilities are absolutely endless. But learning to use them is not all candy and popcorn. There are brutal and exquisite training sessions that make you understand that they are preparing themselves inch by inch for war and cannot leave anything to chance.

There are Agents who are basically men in black who are very strong and sadistically dangerous. The leader of Agents featured here are led by Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving's big break) who absolutely terrorize our heroes in action. In fact, it is strong advised that if they ever run into an Agent, they are to "Run. Run your ass off." They will take you apart no matter what fighting skills you have, and they delve into this fantastically which is where the introduction of bullet time came into existence. Even by today's standards, "The Matrix" is still one of the best movies ever made. In any genre. But the fact that they actually touched upon something new and brilliant is a prize on its own.

Stellar storyline and storytelling. Excellent characterization. Top of the line action sequences. - Too bad the sequels did not measure up even nearly....

Regardless, a landmark film that evolutionized the science fiction/action genre and will even with repeat viewings, never loses its magic. Bravo Wachowski's.

Directed by the Wachowski's. Starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving and Joe Pantoliano.

Cine-a-meter rating: 5/5

***May contain spoilers or hints to the original Boondock Saints movie***

After a ten year hiatus, The Boondock Saints are back after being called out from the murder of priest in a church. The calling card comes from the execution style of the murder; arms crossed over the chest, two shots to the back of the head and coins laid upon the eyes.

The films opens with an opinionated monologue delivered from Rocco a character from the previous film. Getting the audience to understand that there are two types of people in the world. Talkers and doers. Its pretty self explanatory the characteristics of each type. Its also quite obvious that our heroes known as "The Saints" in the plot line of the movie are doers. Since they go out and execute mobsters left and right, making a difference in the world. - Ensuing them as doing something about crime in their city i.e world.

This chapter seems a little more commercialized than the last one, but not too much so. In fact, it keeps quite faithful the original's lay out of characters and work habits and even tempers.

Willem Dafoe is absent this time around as the lead F.B.I. investigator only to be replaced with the alpha female F.B.I. "Special" Agent Bloom brought in to distinguish if it was in fact "The Saints" who murdered the priest, or if it was a set up or something else. Luckily our new detective knows her shit when its comes to drafting a crime scene. Although this time around, particular attention to detail of crime scene investigating is toned down. I think this is good because although this is "Boondock Saints 2" we still do not want a remake of the first. What is thought to have happened and what REALLY happened are this time spliced together into the scene giving a less appealing effect as the first one did, but still innovative and fun to get caught up in all the same.

The main goal in the first act from the police force and F.B.I. "Special" Agent Eunice Bloom is to establish if in fact the "The Saints" will be coming back to exact vengeance on a brave but stupid souls that called them out. The Boondock Saints even get themselves a third musketeer if you will in this as well. A Spanish street fighter whose clumsy but reliable.

Without giving away too much of the story, The Duke retains his post here in much different fashion and we get into his back story more to understand what he ended up in prison for in the first place. While that story line is somewhat convoluted, it still rings up for a good story intertwined with the Saints. Since this directed by Troy Duffy again, and has most of the same cast as the first one, a lot of jokes are referenced and plot lines are touched upon as to keep the audience thats part of the cult following engaged.

This is a good sequel to the original. It was well worth the wait. Also, as a stand alone movie for those of you who are not familiar with the original Boondock Saints (shame on all of you! j/k) you can grasp the concept of what these men are and why they do what they do just the same. Only thing that is lacking is the "true magic" of the original that I don't believe is necessarily lost in this picture, but simply not as strong.

Directed by Troy Duffy. Starring Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Julie Benz, Clifton Collins, Jr and Billy Connolly.

Cine-a-meter rating: 4/5

The Boondock Saints

Connor McManus (Sean Patrick Flanery) and Murphy McManus (Norman Reedus) are two brothers residing in Boston, MS who are gun men who in the name of the Father are hell bent (pun intended) on ridding their city of evil i.e. the mob that's made the mistake stirring up trouble on their favorite Irish pub on St. Patty's Day no less.

They always say a prayer before executing their last and most important target. Usually the boss. This ensures that God knows this is done for good and not bad. Also to ensure the "soul" of the victim gets proper attention once they've done their deed. It doesn't end there however. Once assassinated, our heroes lay coins on the eyes of their prey to ensure that the ferry man can be paid to take their soul to the other side. Otherwise their soul would be left in purgatory. Leaving their death to be in vain.

F.B.I. Agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe) is called in investigate the first "incident" that involves the homicide of two Russian mob soldiers in an alley way with awkward conditions which have the Boston police for scrambling for answers and coming up with laughable conclusions.

Agent Smecker is sharp. He has what is known in the industry to be "soft eyes". He arrives at a crime scene, snaps on his rubber gloves, jacks on his headphones and engulfs himself in his classical music so he can concentrate on what he needs to find to crack the case. He's does so with such grace and finesse that he puts the rest of the officers on the scene to shame. He's even got some quirky chemistry with one of the more egotistical detectives working the "The Saints" cases. It makes for great laughs and accentuation of analyzing the investigation which simply makes the storytelling even more acute.

A scene will begin with an instigation i.e. near the beginning of the movie the Russian mob soldiers as mentioned previously exchange words between the Irish pub patrons and are asking for trouble. The scene cuts to those same men all bandaged up and left for dead. Enters our clever FBI detective to explain how he thinks this all went down. Then we see how it all REALLY went down afterwards which makes for stellar and innovative action sequences.

There is plenty of music playing over the action as to provide appeal to the use of visual spectacle that otherwise might have been lost without the groove of a guitar heavy solo strumming over a .50 caliber shot to the body. Slow motion is used pristinely here as well to build suspense and also to wallow in the "orchestration" of the violence. When bodies are hit with shells, every movement of the body is captured and intertwined with the music at hand as to provide a way of reiterating the story to the audience as this is being shown in the past and present tenses. You have the director and editor to thank for this. They do a wonderful job of explaining why each shot happens, each person is killed and even how and why the scene looks the way it does.

The McManus brothers run into one of their acquaintances Rocco (David Della Rocco) right after they've executed a room full of armed mobsters and accept him into their facade to serve their own brand of street justice. Apparently he's a package delivery boy/funny man with the Italian mob and is now fully ready to make moves back onto the mob he's from. Since he knows where they hang out, live, play cards they have a great time setting up hits and efficiently wiping out the Boston mob scene.

At the same time, Agent Smecker is running around without clues and begins to wonder if maybe "The Saints" might have something worthwhile going on which leads to a very amusing scene in a Church confessional which I will not dare spoil here.

I will not lie to you. This movie is extremely violent and intensely graphic but at the same time.....Fun! Troy Duffy finds ways to set up scenes very similar to the way Quentin Tarantino did in "Pulp Fiction" where all your emotions are being pulled every which way at once. Laughter, fear and adrenaline all come into play at the exact same time. Being the viewer you sometimes can't help but love/hate the Boondock Saints for their zany yet iconic behavior.

When this was released in in 1999, it was around the time of the Columbine high school massacre and the big wigs at Maple Productions did not want to step on any toes due to the violent nature of the movie. So unfortunately this did not get very good distribution. In fact, according to IMDB, this was only released in 5 theaters in the United States for 1 week. It was only when this was released on video and DVD did this find its cult following.

Directed by Troy Duffy, starring Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reemus and David Della Rocco.

***The long awaited sequel (ten years) has just been released and you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be posting a review of that one very soon.***

Cine-a-meter rating: 5/5

P.S. Watch for Willem Dafoe's facial expressions throughout the picture. You can tell he had a fuckin' blast making this. He completely absorbed his character right down the the fingertips.