New In Review: The Matrix Resurrections

Once upon a time, The Matrix blew audiences away with its cerebral story, crisp action and masterful special effects. Rapidly becoming the jewel of the Wachowskis, it carved itself into the minds of the public and became a touchstone of early 2000’s cinema. But as time went on and with each entry into the trilogy, the flaws became more and more apparent. The story and action felt more at home in a videogame, the special effects drowned out near everything else about the films and Keanu Reeves’ wooden acting dropped his career opportunities like a rock, only recently coming back with his John Wick series. By the end of the trilogy, The Matrix was parodied and ridiculed into oblivion. And now it’s back.

Written and directed by Lana Wachowski, The Matric Resurrections stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathon Groff, Christina Ricci, Toby Onwumere, Max Riemelt, Eréndira Ibarra, Priyanka Chopra, Andrew Caldwell, Brian J. Smith, with Neil Patrick Harris and Jada Pinkett.

Warning: Spoilers for both the movie and the previous trilogy are to follow.

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New in Review: Dune

Dune is the latest adaptation of the Frank Herbert space opera and was directed by Denis Villeneuve. The story is about the futuristic, political intrigue as the house Atreides is granted control of the desert planet Arrakis, nicknamed “Dune”, where Spice is mined, the substance that allows for space travel to be possible. But there, house Atreides find themselves the targets of both the Empire and their sworn enemy house Harkonnen, the previous controllers of Dune. And the young scion of Atreides, Paul, now finds himself in the middle assassination attempts, the machinations of a mysterious sisterhood connected to his mother and an ancient prophecy from the inhabitants of Dune. It stars Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides, Oscar Isaac as Duke Leto Atreides, Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica,  Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho,  Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck and Stephen McKinley Henderson as Thufir Hawat. Rounding up the cast,  Stellan Skarsgård as the villanous Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Dave Bautista as “The Beast” Rabban Harkonnen, Charlotte Rampling as Reverend Mother Mohiam, Chang Chen as Dr. Yueh,  David Dastmalchian as Piter De Vries,  Javier Bardem as Stilgar, Sharon Duncan-Brewster as a gender-swapped Dr. Liet-Kynes and Zendaya as Chani.

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New In Review: The Suicide Squad

Way back in 2016 when the first Suicide Squad movie came out, some little issues were noticed. The incomprehensible editing that made scenes look out of order, the rather obvious reshoots and new scenes added in after test audiences weren’t impressed, little to no characterization for several cast members and what characterization there there was for some turned out to be pretty nonsensical. Combine that with a huge amount of meddling from the executives, subpar acting and a unnecessary amount of licensed music and the movie looks like someone at DC saw Guardians of the Galaxy said, “We can do that.” and then decided to do that while drunk.

Thank God this movie was done with actual competence.

The Suicide Squad was written and directed by James Gunn and is the latest entry in DC’s Extended Universe and acts as a sequel/soft reboot of the franchise. Viola Davis, Margot Robbie, Jai Courtney and Joel Kinnaman reprise their roles of Amanda Waller, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang and Rick Flagg. It also stars Idris Elba, John Cena, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Peter Capaldi, Alice Braga, Juan Diego Botto, Juan Cosio, Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, Flula Borg, Pete Davidson, Mayling Ng with Sean Gunn and Sylvester Stallone as the voice of King Shark.

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New In Review: Space Jam: A New Legacy

Space Jam: A New Legacy is the sequel/reboot of the original 1996 film and stars LeBron James as himself and Cedric Joe as his fictional son Dom. It also stars Don Cheadle, Sonequa Martin-Green and features the voices of Jeff Bergman, Eric Bauza, Bob Bergen, Candi Milo, Fred Tatasciore, Gabriel Iglesias and Zendaya as the Looney Tunes.

I’d like to discuss the topic of “designed by committee”, which is when a project is overseen by so many different people each with their own wants and agendas that the finished result just looks like a messy hodgepodge. Because this movie feels like one of the clearest examples of exactly that; an over-stuffed mess without any vision and crammed with what looks like corporate mandated advertisements and decisions.

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New In Review: Batman The Long Halloween Part 1

Batman The Long Halloween Part 1 is the latest direct-to-video animated film from Warner Bros. and is adapted from the graphic novel of the same name by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Directed by Chris Palmer it stars Jensen Ackles as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Josh Duhamel as Harvey Dent, Billy Burke as Jim Gordon, Titus Welliver as Carmine Falcone, Julie Nathanson as Gilda Dent, Jack Quaid as Alberto Falcone, David Dastmalchian as the Calendar Man and the late Naya Rivera as Selina Kyle/Catwoman. The film also features a few reprisals with Alastair Duncan as Alfred, Fred Tatasciore as Solomon Grundy and Troy Baker as the Joker.

DC’s animated films are something of a mixed bag, on the one hand, their attempts at being more “mature” than the average cartoon can swing too heavily into the darker end of things and leave the film so bleak that there’s little chance of rewatching. Then there’s the attempts at drawing in viewers through star power, usually by casting television stars or veteran film actors in the lead roles, even if they have little to no voice-over experience and the performance sounds rough and amateurish because of it. And that’s not even getting into the fact these films have almost exclusively focused on Batman and thus other characters and their stories are shoved aside.

But on the other hand, when done right the animated films can stand out in ways their live-action counterparts can’t and highlight the characters in their own unique way. Thankfully, this film is an example of the latter.

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New In Review: In the Heights

In the Heights was directed by John M. Chu and is the film adaptation of the Broadway musical by Quiara Alegría Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda who also produced and adapted it for the screen. It stars Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Daphne Ruin-Vega, Gregory Diaz IV, Olga Merediz and Jimmy Smitts. Like the play it follows the lives and dreams of the community of the barrio in Washington Heights as they struggle through financial problems, racial insecurity, relationship tensions and a sweltering heat wave.

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New In Review: Mortal Kombat

So I mentioned back in my Sonic the Hedgehog review that there’s a long-held belief that movies based on video games generally suck, and there is credence to this as seen in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, the sequel to the surprise 1995 hit Mortal Kombat. Since then adaptations of the violent, yet popular fighting game series have had a huge hill to climb up. And not just battling the preconceptions on video game movies but from all the controversies in the game’s franchise itself. Whether it be the long history the series has with gore and violence, the inconsistencies in the last few games’ storytelling and lore or NetherRealm Studio’s harsh work schedule and drive to make the game’s violence even more hardcore which led to developers being diagnosed with PTSD.

But how does this movie compare? Well….Spoilers are to follow.

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New In Review: Zach Snyder’s Justice League

Zach Snyder’s Justice League is retelling of the 2017 film of the same name and as the title implies is fully directed by Zach Snyder. It stars the cast from theatrical release alongside Ray Porter, Peter Guinness, Karen Bryson, Zheng Kai, Kiersey Clemmons, Harry Lennix, Willem Dafoe and Jared Leto.

Long story short, due to personal reasons Zach Snyder had to step away and the original film was completed by Joss Whedon. The film then went through massive rewrites and reshoots to try and brighten the film, which consequently led to many saying that released film has a massive tone problem. A fan campaign put the pressure on Warner Bros. to release the film as originally envisioned by Zach Snyder, thus leading to this.

But just having scenes that were cut from the theatrical release, a consistent tone, and original vision doesn’t make the film, you know, good.

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New In Review: Judas And The Black Messiah

Judas and the Black Messiah is a biographical drama directed by Shaka King and stars Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Black Panther Party and founder of the Rainbow Coalition. It costars Lakeith Stanfield as Bill O’Neal, a criminal recruited by the FBI to act as an informant within the Black Panther Party. It also stars Jesse Plemmons as FBI agent Roy Mitchell, Dominique Fishback as Deborah Johnson, Ashton Sanders as Jimmy Palmer, Darrell Britt-Gibson as Bobby Rush, Algee Smith as Jake Winters, Jermaine Fowler as Mark Clark and Martin Sheen as J. Edgar Hoover. Fair Warning, the following review will list actual, historical events so if you don’t to be spoiled you might not want to continue reading.

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