Friday, January 14, 2022

The Matrix Resurrections (2021)

Streaming Service: HBO Max
Movie Name/Year: The Matrix Resurrections (2021)
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Length: 148 minutes
Rating: R
Production/Distribution: Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, Venus Castina Productions, Cinemundo, HKC Entertainment, Tanweer Alliances, Universal Pictures International (UPI), Warner Bros. Entertainment Australia, Warner Bros. Pictures Germany, Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Singapore, HBO Max
Director: Lana Wachowski
Writer: Lana Wachowski, David Mitchell, Aleksandar Hemon, Lilly Wachowski
Actors: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Cristina Ricci, Lambert Wilson, Andrew Lewis Caldwell, Toby Onwumere, Max Riemelt, Joshua Grothe, Brian J. Smith, Eréndira Ibarra, Michael X. Sommers
Blurb from IMDb: Return to a world of two realities: one, everyday life; the other, what lies behind it. To find out if his reality is a construct, to truly know himself, Mr. Anderson will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’ve been hearing a lot about The Matrix Resurrections, not all of it good. As usual, I prefer to make up my own mind.
One of the criticisms I’ve heard is that it relies quite a bit on nostalgia. I can’t really argue against that. There are a ton of callbacks to the other films – including straight-up clips. I thought the film could have used a little less of that. The parts that were new, however, really took me to places I didn’t expect.
It still felt like a part of the Matrix. It had all the mind-fuckery of the trilogy, along with the heavy sci-fi aspects. I don’t think that’s what it was written for, though.
I have a feeling this was going to be made with or without the Wachowskis.
So much of the film was written as if the original writers were a part of the story. There were whole scenes on how soul-sucking it could be to create a project for a company that’s sole purpose was money and not the creativity of it. I’ve spent some time writing in other people’s voices, you can easily lose yourself.

In The Matrix Resurrections I think Lana Wachowski (Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending, Sense8) used what power she had to give a scathing review of the industry, and us.
Sometimes we forget that while we’re watching the films and the creators, they’re looking back at audiences. What succeeds, what fails. They need to understand target demographics and how to push the line without going to far.
I thought this was a passion project for Lana Wachowski when I saw that writing this helped her find comfort after the passing of her parents. Now, I think maybe she wrote the movie so that others wouldn’t destroy her baby – that she brought back Neo and Trinity as an act of mourning and wrote the script as an act of rebellion. I love me a rebel.
She brought the real world into the Matrix. Even that uncanny feeling that we’ve somehow dimension jumped into a crazy existence in the past few years. It felt like what was happening in the movie could explain the world from 2016 until now.
There are also some great action sequences to keep general audiences in their seats while the more meta stuff is happening in the background.
I enjoyed The Matrix Resurrections. I do think it’s not for everyone, and if you go into it expecting something exactly like the original trinity, you’re going to be disappointed. If that how you feel, I also think the point of this movie was meant for you.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was practically chomping at the bit for The Matrix Resurrections to be released on HBO Max. Naturally, my family and I watched it together immediately.
If you’re really into these movies, as I am, you are almost required to watch them multiple times just so you can get the most out of the experience. Every watch-through yields new Easter eggs and perspectives on the story.
The masterful storytelling and cinematography, with Lana Wachowski at the writing and directing helm, were entertaining enough on the surface level to captivate even the casual movie-goer. For die-hard Matrix franchise fans, there was also a red pill’s worth of content. 
We can all agree that Keanu Reeves (Destination Wedding, Replicas, Toy Story 4) is a gift to the world, and it was a treat to have him back in this series. His screen chemistry with Carrie-Anne Moss (Pompeii, Brain on Fire, The Bye Bye Man) as Neo and Trinity hasn’t waned with the passage of time.

I was a little hesitant with the new incarnation of Morpheus, however. I didn’t see how there could be a ‘new’ one at all. That being said, the story ironed out those details and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Us, Watchmen, The Trial of the Chicago 7) did a fantastic job of following in the footsteps, and paying respect to the character, while still making this new version his own.
There were new characters in The Matrix Resurrections that elevated the story. Jessica Henwick (Underwater, Love and Monsters, Blood of Zeus) was one of my favorites. I have really been enjoying her voice work in Blade Runner: Black Lotus (2021-). Bugs was an amazing character full of a lot of symbolism. Another favorite of mine was Neil Patrick Harris (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Gone Girl, 8-Bit Christmas). I get giddy when I see him involved with projects. I don’t want to spoil his part here, but his performance gave me goosebumps.
If you have enjoyed this series over the years, don’t miss The Matrix Resurrections. If you haven’t experienced any of these movies before this might still be an entertaining flick for you, but you’ll really get more of it if you watch them in order. In fact, The Matrix Resurrections uses archival footage from the prior movies as a plot point. If you don’t want to be spoiled on some scenes, and miss all the references, the earlier Matrix movies are easy enough to find.
If you’re new to a cyberpunk concept and like the sci-fi genre – hop aboard and enjoy the mind-bending fun.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 63%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 63%
Metascore – 63%
Metacritic User Score – 3.8
IMDB Score – 5.7/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating 4.5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating5/5
P.S. There’s a short after-credits scene.
Movie Trailer:

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Encanto (2021)

Streaming Service: Disney+
Movie Name/Year: Encanto (2021)
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama, Musical
Length: 102 minutes
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Walt Disney Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures, Feelgood Entertainment, Forum Hungary, HKC Entertainment, NOS Audiovisuais, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Argentina, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Germany, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Disney+, The Walt Disney Company Iberia, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Directors: Byron Howard, Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush
Writers: Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Jason Hand, Nancy Kruse, Lin-Manuel Miranda
Actors: Adassa, Alan Tudyk, Angie Cepeda, Carolina Gaitan, Diane Guerrero, Hector Elias, Jessica Darrow, John Leguizamo, Juan Castano, María Cecilia Botero, Maluma, Mauro Castillo, Noemi Josefina Flores, Ravi Cabot-Conyers, Rhenzy Feliz, Rose Portillo, Sarah-Nicole Robles, Stephanie Beatriz, Wilmer Valderrama
RottenTomatoes Blurb: The Madrigals are an extraordinary family who live hidden in the mountains of Colombia in a charmed place called the Encanto. The magic of the Encanto has blessed every child in the family with a unique gift -- every child except Mirabel. However, she soon may be the Madrigals last hope when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is now in danger.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was predisposed to liking Encanto. I practically live on TikTok and the music has taken over my FYP. I couldn’t wait to set it for the schedule.
From the music alone, I thought I would relate to Luisa. I was waiting for it. Instead, I 100% related to Mirabel. Let me tell you, it is a hard movie to watch when that’s the case. By a half-hour in, I had already ugly cried once. Granted, where Disney/Pixar is concerned, they put out a lot of movies with sad beginnings. In this case, however, it’s not going to seem all that sad if you don’t relate to any of the characters.

Films that touch on main characters that feel ‘invisible’ tend to put it all on that character. By the end, the story almost always shows that the person in question only felt that way because of their own perceptions. In real life, that’s not always the case. In Encanto, Mirabel’s worries aren’t brushed off with an ‘it’s all in her head’ twist. The movie sees her and shows her in a way that most wouldn’t.
As satisfying as it is to feel SEEN, it also makes the movie very difficult to watch. Sometimes it’s easier to feel alone in the way you feel – especially when you don’t wish it on other people.

There’s also a moral in there, weighing the heart of family against the desire to keep up traditions. I can tell you, that I never want my daughter to relate to pretty much any of the characters in the Madrigal family. If she does, you can bet I’ll be examining my actions as well as those of her family members.
Everything else was as expected. The characters were interesting, and the music was crazy good. It’s the kind of film you turn on for your kids but wind up getting more enjoyment out of than they do.

Cat’s Point of View:
My family and I didn’t get a chance to see Encanto in theaters, as we’d originally hoped. In a way, it ended up working out for the best. We were able to watch it for the first time on Christmas Eve when it became available on Disney+. There was a bonus – aside from being able to maintain social distancing at home – we had my father-in-law visiting for the holiday. We were able to all watch together.
Let me tell you, it was an absolute blast to watch it again.
Encanto’s music is phenomenal. Though, that pretty much went without saying due to the composition efforts of Lin-Manuel Miranda (His Dark Materials, DuckTales, In the Heights). While he didn’t lend his actual voice to any of the songs within the movie, or any speaking parts for that matter, his spirit is clear in every note. It was glorious.

There have been times in the past where a wonderful cast is brought together with a phenomenal composer, and the film still failed to hit its mark. I am pleased to report that was not the case here. Encanto was firing on all cylinders and it was easy to get swept away with the catchy music and the inherent magic that surrounded the Madrigal family.
I haven’t been so giddy about a house since Beauty and the Beast (1991) introduced us to enchanted furniture. No animated objects start singing in Encanto, but the house - the Casita – is a character unto itself.

Encanto was Disney’s 60th full-length animated movie, and they broke new ground hitting that mark. I mentioned in November 2021’s Top 20 that Mirabel was the first Disney “princess” to wear glasses. She also sported a more realistic body frame than the usual cartoon heroine. I also applaud the House of Mouse for digging deep into the cultural roots of this production  - from the details within the story and animated setting to the casting of actors with roots in Latin America.
Aside from all the visual bells and whistles, the tale spun by Encanto was more than its enchanting namesake. It had all the feels, and then some. I could relate to Mirabel and even her mother – who is trying her best to support her daughter even though things just aren’t going quite right.

The moral of the story delved deep into the meaning of family, sibling relationships, feelings of self-worth, and how pride, good intentions, and sometimes denial can sometimes blind us to what is happening right before our eyes. I found the message here just as empowering as Elsa’s “Let it Go” in Frozen (2013).
Encanto is absolutely worth the watch, and I’ll likely be watching it again… and again.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 91%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 93%
Metascore –76%
Metacritic User Score – 6.9/10
IMDB Score – 7.3/10
Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 5/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5
Movie Trailer:

Monday, January 10, 2022

For the Sake of Vicious (2021)

Streaming Service: Shudder
Movie Name/Year: For the Sake of Vicious (2021)
Genre: Action, Horror, Mystery
Length:  80 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Production/Distribution: Federgreen Entertainment, Latefox Pictures, Raven Banner Entertainment, Epic Pictures, Falcon Films, Wild Duck Productions
Directors: Gabriel Carrer, Reese Eveneshen
Writers: Gabriel Carrer, Reese Eveneshen
Actors: Adam Ewings, Boris Milinkovich, Colin Paradine, Dorian Allen, Erin Stuart, James Fler, Lora Burke, Nick Smyth, Nick Spartan, T.J. Kennedy
IMDb Blurb: An overworked nurse returns home to find a maniac hiding out with a bruised and beaten hostage. When an unexpected wave of violent intruders descends upon her home, it becomes a fight for survival.

Cat’s Point of View:
I just had a kneejerk reaction when I saw the RottenTomatoes critic score given to For the Sake of Vicious. What? Seriously – did they watch the same movie I did? It just goes to show you can never tell what makes the critics happy. I was sure that they were going to rip this movie a new one. The joke’s on me, I guess. 

I digress…
As you can probably already tell, I wasn’t the biggest fan of For the Sake of Vicious. There was very little character development and only flashes of a real story. What it did have in spades was absolutely brutal hyperviolence. There were too many questions and not enough answers. This wasn’t really a mystery – it was more of a conundrum, and a vexing one at that.

I’m also a little perplexed why a Halloween movie was released in late spring. It makes me wonder if they didn’t have faith in the film standing up to other genre films related to the season. Personally, I don’t care what time of year I partake Halloween-y things in. When you add it in with everything else, it just gives me pause to consider the thought process there.
After reading the trivia available on IMDb, I’m a bit sad about some of the elements that landed on the cutting room floor, so to speak. I think some of those concepts might have rounded out the production a little better and allowed at least some things to make more sense. Alas, it is what it is.

I’m not one to completely rip something to shreds without giving some counterpoint of positive feedback, however. For the Sake of Vicious did deliver some really brutal fight sequences. I believed what they were selling and the practical effects were good overall. Kudos to the principal cast for doing their own stunts.
Unfortunately, I require a little more story to go with my violence. For the Sake of Vicious isn’t the worst movie out there, but it is not one I would likely recommend.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 83%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 57%
Metascore – None
Metacritic User Score – None
IMDB Score – 5.4/10

Trust the Dice: Parental Guidance Rating – R

Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 2.5/5
Movie Trailer: