Man & Machine

The Animatrix also came out in 2003, in between The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. The Wachowskis drew heavy inspiration from anime works when making The Matrix series. That’s how they were able to make The Animatrix in Japan. By partnering with several distinctive anime studios. The Animatrix is a direct-to-video anthology film that tells 9 different stories centering on the Matrix. Stories that I can only talk about separately.

“Final Flight of the Osiris” – The first short is a direct prequel to The Matrix Reloaded focusing on resistance fighters. It’s the only short done in a computer animated video game style. This short starts with a hot and steamy sword fight and ends with a devastating sentinel attack on Zion. It’s the most unique short and it sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

“The Second Renaissance Part I” – The second short is done in a simple anime style. It explores all the events that lead up to the eventual creation of the Matrix. This short explains that machines were workers and servants that became self aware. So they fought for their rights, but faced oppression from humans. So they formed their own city in order to live in peace.

“The Second Renaissance Part II” – The third short continues the previous story. By depicting the war between man and machine. As well as how humans scorched the sky and were eventually converted into living batteries for the Matrix. These two shorts are very fascinating. They’re probably the best explanation for how everything in the series came to pass.

“Kid Story” – The fourth short follows the kid from The Matrix Reloaded who was obsessed with Neo. It uses a sketchy anime style. This short is all about how someone is extracted from the Matrix. Feeling like you’re in a dream, receiving phone calls, and being pursued by agents. It gives much needed insight into the seemingly out of place kid character.

“Program” – The fifth short is easily the most anime inspired. With a colorful anime style. It features a warrior woman fighting a samurai in feudal Japan. Without context you wouldn’t know it was related to the Matrix. It’s actually set in a training program. Where it deals with the question of whether they should have taken the blue pill instead of the red pill.

“World Record” – The sixth short has the most bizarre anime style. Anime characters have jerky movements and a tall structure. This short explains how people in the Matrix discover the truth about their existence. By using a track runner who reaches almost superhuman speed through the Matrix. This short is weird to look at, but it gives good psychological insight.

“Beyond” – The seventh short centers on a haunted house. The anime style is mostly simplistic. A girl looks for her cat and ends up coming across the aforementioned house along with a group of kids. The house can make things levitate in an otherworldly way. I realized it had to be a glitch in the Matrix. Which brings up a new set of questions for how well designed is the Matrix really.

“A Detective Story” – The eighth short is a hard boiled detective story. So it’s done with a black & white noir anime style. A detective is tasked by agents, to track down Trinity, and bring her to them. So he uses his detective skills to find her by following a metaphorical white rabbit of clues. This short could very much work on its own, because it captures the noir style perfectly.

“Matriculated” – The ninth and final short is done in an Æon Flux inspired anime style. It starts in the real world and ends with a machine being reprogrammed by survivors. They enter its mind and try to convince it to side with them. This short has the most trippy visuals and psychedelic colors. It’s also the short that best sums up the movies man and machine theme.

In conclusion, The Animatrix is a surprisingly good anime inspired film. Some of there anime styles are a bit bizarre for my taste, but they don’t go on for too long. Each segment lasts for about 5 to 9 minutes. While the second and third film may leave a lot to be desired, The Animatrix manages to maintain what made The Matrix so good in the first place. By sticking to simple themes and characters that we actually care about.

Captain Thadeus fights Jue

Deus Ex Machina

The Matrix Revolutions completes the Wachowskis Matrix trilogy with a dull thud. The Matrix is a hit, The Matrix Reloaded is hit or miss, and The Matrix Revolutions is a complete misfire. It came out in 2003, the same year as The Matrix Reloaded, because it ended on a cliffhanger. Unlike that movie though, I didn’t see The Matrix Revolutions in theaters. There was no way my dad would have done it. So we checked it out at Blockbuster and watched it the year after. It was a good thing we didn’t go see it, because The Matrix Revolutions sucks. It’s all about the war on Zion that leaves no room for anything else. The Matrix is barely in the movie. It’s sort of used at the beginning and used at the end during the climax. That’s literally it, and Neo and Trinity are barely in the movie too. Just about the entire movie is devoted to characters we don’t care about (except for Morpheus) fighting a swarm of CGI sentinels. The Oracle is also replaced by a different actress, because the previous actress passed away. While characters you love are killed off in the most unceremonious way possible. The final fight between Neo and Agent Smith is just too over blown and full of overly dramatic slow motion shots. It’s also clearly a Dragon Ball Z clone. Plus Hugo Weaving chews the scenery. The ending can only be described as anticlimactic. I only saw The Matrix Revolutions once as a kid and seeing it again as an adult, I’m only reminded of the lost potential these lousy sequels have.

Neo fights Agent Smith one last time

Preceded by: The Matrix Reloaded

Me Me Me

The Matrix Reloaded is a mixed bag of ideas. Some that work and some that are flat out ridiculous. As I’ve said in my review for The Matrix, I consider the first movie to be my all time favorite action movie. The same can’t be said for its sequels that just about everyone can agree are far more inferior compared to the beloved original. Although it was probably hard for the Wachowskis to live up to such high expectations. The Matrix Reloaded came out in 2003 (along with a video game, animated movie, and sequel). Since I was 7 years old at the time, I actually saw the movie in theaters. My dad took me and my brother to see it and he continues to regret that decision to this day. Not so much for the movie itself, but because of the content in it. Like the first movie, The Matrix Reloaded has a very tame R rating, but it includes some questionable scenes that my dad wasn’t completely comfortable with. It’s one of the only two R rated movies my dad took us to when I was a child. While it’s not in anyway comparable to The Matrix, I didn’t close myself off from the movie completely. There are a select number of scenes I still enjoy watching, but sitting through the entire movie is too much of a chore. The Matrix Reloaded is just one of those movies…

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Neo catches bullets

The Matrix Reloaded has a cool title, action that’s just as exciting as the original, and moments that are just as iconic. After Neo became “the one,” he’s had a hard time embracing his destiny. Especially if it means losing the woman he loves. The underground city of Zion is seen for the first time after being mentioned a few times in the first movie. It’s a large city full of survivors, ships, and mech suits. The main directive in the movie is to find a key maker and attempt to end the war by understanding the Matrix better or something to that effect. The biggest problem with The Matrix Reloaded is how talk heavy it is. There’s just as much fighting, but they really drop the ball here. Don’t even get me started on the Architect. Where they try to make sense of the Matrix. This is the scene that undoubtedly kills the franchise. Let’s just say the scene speaks for itself. It didn’t make any sense when I was a kid and it still doesn’t make any sense now. Other scenes that ruin the movie include the sweaty cave rave scene (don’t ask). Any scene involving Monica Bellucci’s character and her husband. And its occasionally cartoony special effects. They also add too many new characters and subplots that are completely unnecessary. There’s nothing wrong with world building, but why should I care about a Morpheus love triangle? Like I said, there are things about The Matrix Reloaded that I like. Neo being able to fly makes him feel even more like a superhero. Action scenes like Trinity jumping out a building, the freeway chase with the wraith-like twins, and even the burly brawl. Some people don’t like how off the wall and CGI heavy the fight is, but I love it. Agent Smith having the ability to make copies of himself is one of the most memorable parts of this franchise. It’s also unintentionally funny to see that many Agent Smiths fighting Neo. This was also sadly Gloria Foster’s last performance as the Oracle. As she passed away before the film’s release. The Matrix Reloaded is a needlessly complex sequel, but it still offers enough action to satisfy fans of the original.

Neo flies

Preceded by: The Matrix & Followed by: The Matrix Revolutions

There is No Spoon ⭐

The Matrix is my all time favorite action movie. My inclusion of it in my “Top 10 Favorite Movies” list as number eight was a no brainer. Although, one look at my list and you can tell action is a big part of my favorite movies. I’m always in the mood for an exhilarating action movie. I’ve seen The Matrix more times then I can count, but I’m not entirely sure how I got into it in the first place. I asked my parents and brother and even they aren’t sure how. All I know is that I saw the movie at a very young age. The Matrix came out in 1999. I was 3 years old when it first came out. So I at least know it wasn’t a theater going experience. My parents say that they first saw The Matrix on HBO and that they didn’t watch the movie with us the first time we watched it. So I’m fairly certain the first time me and my brother watched it was on VHS. It’s very possible we stumbled across the movie, thought it looked cool, and asked to watch it. Whatever the case, we ended up with 2 copies of the movie. One for our parents and one for us. We ended up watching The Matrix so much that I knew the whole movie word for word, punch for punch. It was also my (and likely everyone else’s) introduction to the directing duo the Wachowskis…

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Neo dodges bullets

What is The Matrix? “Unfortunately, no one can be…told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.” The Matrix begins with a man named Thomas A. Anderson. Computer programer by day, hacker by night. As a hacker he goes by the alias “Neo.” It’s online where he discovers “the Matrix” and a white rabbit to follow. Since he feels as though he’s living a dream he can’t get out of. It leads him to Trinity. A mystery leather clad woman who helps Neo find the answers he’s searching for. That’s how Neo meets Morpheus. An even more mysterious man who helps Neo learn the truth. By giving Neo the choice of taking a red pill (to learn the truth) or a blue pill (to remain unaware). The Matrix would best be described as a computer simulation designed to keep humans from learning the truth about their own existence. What I never realized before was that the Matrix is directly caused by Y2K. Near the end of the 20th century, mankind created A.I. (artificial intelligence). A.I. that seized control of mankind and decided to use humans as an energy source (living batteries). The Matrix is designed to feel real, but it’s all an illusion. When Neo is pulled out of the Matrix, it’s like being born for the first time. He’s bald and naked with plugs all around his body. Neo joins Morpheus, Trinity, and other resistance fighters aboard the Nebuchadnezzar. It’s there Neo discovers the limitless possibilities of the Matrix. They can load weapons, learn kung fu, jump across buildings (whoa), and even dodge bullets. The Matrix is also a “Chosen One” story, or “The One” to be exact. As Neo deals with the possibility of being the one who saves all of humanity. That’s where the Oracle comes in. An unlikely figure who gives Neo his destiny. The biggest threat in the Matrix is Agent Smith. A man in black programed to secretly maintain order in the Matrix. As well as Sentinels, squid-like killing machines designed to hunt humans in the real world. Now that you know the story, this is why it’s my all time favorite action movie…

Trinity leaps into the air

The Matrix is simply a modern science fiction icon. It revolutionized movies at the time with its complex themes, slick presentation, and state of the art special effects. Specifically its use of “bullet time.” An entirely unheard of method of slow motion action mixed with 360° camera spins. With iconic moments such as, Trinity leaping into the air in a crane position, Agent Smith and Neo firing their guns at each other mid air, and of course Neo dodging bullets by bending over backwards. In fact, it made such an impact that you couldn’t watch a single movie from the early 2000’s without seeing a parody of it. One of the only times a movie became its own cliche. One of the main reasons I consider The Matrix to be my favorite action movie is the fighting style. Everyone knows kung fu. The Matrix is one of very few movies where I know every single fight move. Every punch, kick, jab, flip, dodge, and leap. Some people learn dance choreography, I learn fight choreography. I get exhausted every time I watch The Matrix. Not that The Matrix doesn’t also make use of “guns… lots of guns.” It helps that Keanu Reeves dominated action movies in the 90’s. Along with Laurence Fishburne in his most iconic role and Carrie-Anne Moss in the only role she’ll ever be associated with. As well as Hugo Weaving playing his first of many great pop culture characters. The Matrix is also known for its unique outfit choices. Just about everyone dresses in black leather, trench coats, and sunglasses. It’s another thing about the movie that was copied a bunch of times. What makes The Matrix really stand out is how much it makes you think. Sure it’s filled with dazzling action sequences, but it also asks some truly thought provoking questions. Like would you take the red pill or the blue pill? That’s a tough question since I’m not sure I’d want to wake up from what seems like a normal world. Even though I’d be living a lie. Which pill would you take? I’ve talked about every other Wachowski movie on my blog and everytime I mention them I mention The Matrix. That’s because the Wachowskis really knew what they were doing when they made this movie. You can tell they drew inspiration from superhero comics and anime. Yet they still managed to give The Matrix an identity all its own. That’s why The Matrix is one of the most beloved sci-fi action movies ever made.

Neo sees the Matrix

Followed by: The Matrix Reloaded

Sex and Violence

ParaNorman is a bit too mature for my taste. Not that I found it scary, I just don’t understand how movies like this continue to get made. ParaNorman is the second movie from stop-motion company Laika, after the particularly disturbing Coraline. ParaNorman is a bit more comedic, but the overall story is still pretty mature. Norman is a creepy kid who sees ghosts and is treated like an outcast. Now I know that sounds like The Sixth Sense, but trust me, it’s different. The story is really about the dead being raised as a result of a witches curse. A lot of their choices in my opinion, felt like too much for a children’s movie. ParaNorman is filled with innuendos and dark moments. Like one involving a dead body. I do get what they were going for, but it just didn’t click with me. ParaNorman is about being different. Which is a fine moral, but I think they should have marketed it to adults. I’m also not crazy about the character designs. I do understand why people like ParaNorman, but I wouldn’t consider it one of my favorite creepy stop-motion animated movies.

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Norman returns a book

Rasberries

Xanadu ozzies 80’s cheesiness, and the decade had barely even started yet. Still if you wanted to see all the worst parts of this decade, Xanadu is your movie. Just like Can’t Stop the Music (which it also double featured with), Xanadu was also responsible for the creation of the Razzie awards. Which earned it the first ever Worst Director award. Xanadu is like a drug trip mixed with every kind of music trend you can think of. Fresh off the success of Grease, Olivia Newton-John stars a Kira. A greek alien muse with the sole purpose of helping a painter start a nightclub. It’s every bit as ridiculous as it sounds. They even managed to rope dance legend Gene Kelly into it. Xanadu is a complete assault on the senses. With nothing but bright shiny colors and cheesy effects. Kind of like a music video. Meaning the music is the only good thing about it. Olivia Newton-John is a good singer and it helped the soundtrack become successful. Though it’s not the only time a lousy movie has had a good soundtrack. The only song I knew and sung along to was its title song “Xanadu.” Xanadu is one of the dumbest musicals ever made.

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“In Xanadu”

Y.M.C.A.

Can’t Stop the Music is the first movie to win a Razzie award for Worst Picture. What better place to start an award show for the worst in film then the 80’s. Back in the late 70’s jukebox musicals were a big deal and disco was still popular. However, the same can’t be said for the 80’s. The start of a decade usually means the death of a trend and Can’t Stop the Music was the final straw. They had the bright idea of making an entire movie about the musical group Village People. Even though they can’t act to save their lives. The same can be said for Steve Guttenberg (this did not make him a star) and manly man Bruce Jenner. Can’t Stop the Music is also over 2 hours long and filled with pointless stuff. They actually spend nearly an hour just looking for group members. It’s like watching a series of music videos strung together with a paper thin plot. I do like Village People music. I don’t think there’s a single person who doesn’t know the Y.M.C.A. dance, but did they really need a movie. Can’t Stop the music is just one big glittery mess.

Village People

Look Closer ⭐

American Beauty took me completely by surprise when I first watched it. I wouldn’t have guessed that it would end up being on my “Top 10 Favorite Movies” list. With me labeling it my number nine favorite movie. My history with American Beauty is actually filled with more curiosity and shock then any other movie I consider to be my favorite. When I was really young my parents had a collection of VHS tapes. Each movie they had peaked my curiosity, but American Beauty caught my attention the most. American Beauty has a very famous poster of a woman’s bare abdomen holding a single rose. It was so simple, yet so effective. I knew one day I had to find out what this movie was all about. It was R rated, so I knew I couldn’t get away with seeing it at a young age. I’m not even sure I ever caught my parents watching the movie either. As I got older the only thing I really noticed about the movie was its use of rose petals. Nothing about the story or even who was in it. So one day I got the movie on Netflix and after years of guessing I finally found out what American Beauty was all about. Needless to say, it wasn’t at all what I was expecting, but it didn’t take me long to realize how special the movie really was…

American-Beauty

Angela surrounded by petals

American Beauty is set in a suburban neighborhood. With a middle-class family at the forefront. A father, mother, and their daughter that you might assume are perfectly happy. Look closer. Everybody in American Beauty is dealing with their own personal problems. Nobody is 100% happy and everyone is looking for a way out. Lester Burnham is a husband and father who feels he doesn’t matter. His wife doesn’t satisfy him, his daughter hates him, and he’s underappreciated at his job. Everything changes for him when he attends his daughter’s cheer routine. That’s where he sees her for the first time. Angela, his daughter’s best friend who he develops an attraction to (and fantasizes about). With the help of his new neighbor, Lester experiences a midlife crisis that leads him on a path of self improvement, but also self destruction. He quits his job, starts working a fast food job, buys his dream car, works out, and smokes pot. Carolyn is Lester’s wife who feels like a failure as a real estate agent. So she projects an image of success in order to mask her pain. Everything changes for her when she meets someone who can satisfy her own personal needs. Jane is their daughter who has low self-esteem due to her friend Angela being more experienced than she is. Ricky and his family are the new neighbors who move in across the street. Ricky is a confident drug dealer who records everything he sees, because he thinks life is beautiful. He feels trapped by his father the Colonel. A strict, old fashioned, homophobic man who wants what’s best for his son. Ricky and Jane find happiness in one another when they realize how different they both are. American Beauty is all about life and the expectations we have. How we perceive people and how they hide who they really are on the inside. American Beauty is a drama, but it does have many hilarious moments. Along with some romance and a little mystery. Now that you know the story, this is why it’s the most surprising movie I’ve ever seen…

Angela opens her shirt to reveal petals

American Beauty is many things to many people, but for me it’s a character study. I’ve seen a lot of movies in my life and I always feel like the characters can make or break the movie. It’s important that whoever is living the story fits. American Beauty came out in the late 90’s. During this time, a lot of movies were being made that questioned modern day monotony. With themes of materialism, lifestyle choices, and relationships being a main focus. Every character in American Beauty fits these themes perfectly. It’s not hard to imagine there being people like this in real life. People who feel like they’re trapped in their own sense of normality. What really surprised me about the movie is how everyone’s story ends. I won’t give it away, but let’s just say nobody is who they appear to be. It does help that American Beauty has an amazing cast. Admittedly, the idea of a middle aged man falling in love with a teenage girl is creepy, but Lester is portrayed in a way that makes you at least understand his reason for doing this. Regardless of what happened in his personal life, Kevin Spacey is still a great actor who more than earned his Oscar. Annette Bening also gives a spot on performance. She plays Carolyn in such a complex way where she feels like a phony and very real at the same time. It’s the best performance of her career and she definitely should have won an Oscar too. Other notable actors include Thora Birch, Wes Bentley, Chris Cooper, and Allison Janney. As well as All-American actress Mena Suvari. I say All-American because this is strangely one of many movies/shows she’s appeared in with “American” in the title (American Pie for example). But this is the role that made her an icon. American Beauty is filled with iconic shots, symbolism, and careful camera work. The scene with a naked Angela surrounded by petals is definitely the biggest stand out. Or any scene with petals really. As well as what first time director Sam Mendes does with rain and windows. He originally wrote the movie as a play and it certainly shows in how much attention he gives to the environment. American Beauty is definitely different, but it’s more than deserving of all its Oscar wins. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor Kevin Spacey, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography. Although that might not have happened if the movie went with its original script. Which painted the movie more as a courtroom drama. Instead of what it needed to be. American Beauty is a brilliant movie about how we should look closer at the beauty in the world, even where we least expect it. Even a plastic bag floating in the wind.

Angela bathes in petals

Purple Power

Ultraviolet is the loudest movie I’ve ever seen. In the way that it’s not called Ultraviolet for nothing. It’s extremely bright with every fluorescent color on display. Ultraviolet is about a skilled woman in a skin tight outfit who fights in a dystopian future run by an evil corporation fighting a disease. If that sounds exactly like the plot of Æon Flux you’d be right to assume that. But that’s not the only thing Ultraviolet rips off. Violet is also a vampire (Underworld) who uses a series of digital weapons to fight with (The Matrix), including a katana (Kill Bill). Plus Milla Jovovich is the lead (Resident Evil). The jarring cuts coupled with the awful CGI make it really hard to watch. Not to mention how badly acted it is. Ultraviolet feels like it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Half the time I felt like I was either watching an anime, a video game, or a moving comic book. Ultraviolet is a lousy movie, but I think it could work better in any of those other mediums I mentioned.

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Violet on a motorcycle

Sharp Grass

Æon Flux is based on an animated 90’s series from MTV. A series I haven’t watched, but I get the general idea of it. It was an avant garde series that used different methods of storytelling. I’m not sure I can get passed the bizarre animation though I may see it at some point. The movie Æon Flux doesn’t seem to utilize any of what made that show popular. Other then recreating a shot with a fly in an eyeball. It’s more of a meh sci-fi thriller that makes very little sense. I hate when futuristic movies never explain things. It does start to make sense by the end, but by that point it was too late to care. The style and action is OK (when it isn’t cutting a hundred times). Charlize Theron is sexy in the role of Æon Flux. Even though she isn’t wearing the super revealing outfit in the series. Not that I think a Hollywood movie would allow it. In the end, Æon Flux feels like it might have worked better as an independent film. I don’t think a major studio knows how to pull off a story this bizarre.

Æon Flux does a split