The Matrix Resurrections review

For F*** Magazine

Director: Lana Wachowski
Cast : Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jessica Henwick, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Christina Ricci
Genre: Sci-fi/Action/Adventure
Run Time : 148 min
Opens : 22 December 2021
Rating : PG13

In 1999, already a watershed year for Hollywood cinema, The Matrix changed the game. The film’s directors, the Wachowskis, vastly expanded the world of the Matrix with two theatrically released sequels in 2003, alongside an anthology of anime short films, a video game and various other media. While the two sequels received a far less enthusiastic reception than the first film, it was clear that the appetite for more Matrix was there. 18 years after Neo and Trinity were last seen on the big screen, we’re plugging back in.

Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) is a video game designer living in San Francisco. Coping with mental health issues, he sees a therapist known as the Analyst (Neil Patrick Harris), who prescribes him pills. At a coffee shop called Simulatte, Thomas sees a woman named Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss), whom he finds oddly familiar. It turns out that the world Thomas and Tiffany live in is a simulation called the Matrix, and that Thomas’ true identity is that of Neo. Bugs (Jessica Henwick), who bears a tattoo of a white rabbit, attempts to break Thomas out of the Matrix. At the end of The Matrix Revolutions, both Neo and Trinity – the true form of Tiffany – apparently died, but it seems like they are still alive. Now travelling with a new crew captained by Bugs, Neo must make sense of his reality as he seeks to rescue Trinity, as powerful forces stand in the way.

For anyone who feared The Matrix Resurrections would be a by-the-numbers retread or just a lazy nostalgia-fest (we’ve gotten several of those to varying degrees of laziness this past year), fear not: it’s weird. It’s the kind of weird which another film without the brand name association wouldn’t be able to pull off. While Lilly Wachowski opted not to co-direct this film because of personal issues and general exhaustion, Lana takes audiences back into the labyrinthian mythology of the series. It’s a joy to see Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss return, and to parse why some things remain the same and why others are different. There are several entertaining action sequences, even if nothing quite matches the inventiveness of the first film, and there was obviously a lot of thought put into how the franchise would continue, even if it doesn’t come together cohesively. It is ultimately rewarding especially for audiences who re-evaluated the Matrix sequels and came around on them.

When we say it doesn’t come together cohesively, we mean it. It’s fun to rewatch the original Matrix and realise how quaint, straightforward and easy to follow the narrative is compared to in the sequels. The Matrix Resurrections is confusing in such a way that some audiences will be intrigued and invested, and others will opt to tap out. At 148 minutes long, the movie is relatively light on action. There still is action, but there’s just much more exposition and world-building than there are set-pieces. The action is also shot and edited poorly and is often difficult to follow. Most of the movie unfolds in close-ups, so there aren’t quite enough opportunities to take a step back and take everything in. The new characters, apart from the possible exception of Bugs, receive little characterisation and mostly function to ferry Neo from place to place. Both the Smith and Morpheus characters return in some fashion, but are portrayed by different actors, thus sacrificing some of what made those characters so iconic. There’s probably a version of this that makes perfect sense, but it is not the version that made it to the screen.

One thing that’s fun is that this is a movie about the nature of franchise continuations. Thomas Anderson is forced to develop a new game in a series, after he thought that he had finished telling the story he had wanted to tell. Perhaps this reflects how Lilly referred to a potential Matrix sequel as “a particularly repelling idea in these times” during a 2015 interview. The Wachowskis’ work has always been marked by a certain earnestness and dorkiness, which Resurrections still has plenty of. However, there is at least a twinge of cynicism here. One line about the game studio’s parent company elicited especially raucous laughter. There is a post-credits scene, but a completely inconsequential one that almost feels like commentary on the trend of post-credits scenes. Resurrections is the most fun when it gets meta, but audiences will differ on whether this feels like astute commentary or if it takes one out of it.

Summary: The cultural footprint of the Matrix means that there’s a lot to play with, and there are far worse ways to revisit the franchise than The Matrix Resurrections. The movie’s relationship with its predecessors is fascinating, coming from both a place of deep affection for the series and a profound frustration with the state of Hollywood franchise filmmaking. This is far from wholly satisfying, but it’s weird and wild enough to justify its existence.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Angel Has Fallen review

For inSing

ANGEL HAS FALLEN

Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Cast : Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Danny Huston, Michael Landes, Tim Blake Nelson, Nick Nolte, Piper Perabo, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick
Genre : Action/Thriller
Run Time : 2 h 1 mins
Opens : 22 August 2019
Rating : NC16

He saved the White House, he saved London, and now, Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) must save himself.

An assassination attempt on President Alan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) leaves his entire Secret Service detail dead – except Banning. Banning is framed for the attack and goes on the run, leaving his wife Leah (Piper Perabo) and their baby daughter in danger. Pursued by Secret Service director David Gentry (Lance Reddick) and FBI Special Agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith), Banning turns to an unlikely source for help: his estranged father Clay (Nick Nolte). Banning must clear his name and uncover the conspiracy, before the attacker can finish what they’ve started.

Part of the charm of the Fallen film series is its throwback nature. These are resolutely 90s action movies of the ‘seen it all before’ variety, but perhaps offer a change of pace from the typical mega-blockbuster. Angel Has Fallen is more serious and subdued than the bloated, preposterous and jingoistic London Has Fallen, but that’s not to say it’s anywhere in the realm of plausibility. There are still far-fetched elements to the plot and bombastic action sequences, but there’s a bit more character stuff stuck in between this time. Early information about the film’s plot suggested it would be about a terrorist attack on Air Force One, which was the plot of, uh, Air Force One. Thankfully, while Angel Has Fallen is far from original, it isn’t a rip-off of Air Force One.

True to form as a 90s throwback, Angel Has Fallen is reminiscent of The Fugitive and its spinoff U.S. Marshals. It’s easy to imagine Harrison Ford in the Mike Banning role at some point. Under the direction of former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh, Angel Has Fallen is unsophisticated but muscular. There are lots of old-fashioned action set-pieces, including a jack-knifing semi-truck that flips over. There are also countless explosions that toss hapless henchmen in the air. The action is largely tactile, and Angel Has Fallen largely avoids the clumsy and obvious CGI of its predecessors.

Gerard Butler was certainly overselling the movie when he compared it to Logan in an interview, but to a certain extent, the comparison makes sense. In this film, we see Banning struggle with the physical trauma he has weathered being in the line of fire, having developed an addiction to painkillers. This by no means compromises his ability to be a nigh-superhuman badass in combat, but it’s good to see the film acknowledging its protagonist’s pain.

Morgan Freeman gets more to do than in the previous two movies, during which he was largely confined to the situation room. Here, he is largely confined to a hospital room, but brings the authority and warmth expected of him. 21 years after Deep Impact, he’s presidential as ever.

This is one of those movies in which it’s incredibly obvious who the bad guys are the moment they first appear onscreen. It seems obvious to the point where one would think they must be red herrings, but no, those characters you suspected are indeed the villains.

Nick Nolte adds a great deal of personality as Mike’s dad, giving this movie shades of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Nolte can play crusty and cantankerous in his sleep, but also mines some tragedy from the character and provides the movie with its few authentic beats.

The Leah Banning character gets little to do, but then again, she’s always gotten little to do, to the point where one would be forgiven for not noticing that Radha Mitchell has been replaced by Piper Perabo.

Jada Pinkett Smith’s FBI Agent character is unremarkable, and she seems to over-act to compensate for how purely functional the character is in the plot.

Angel Has Fallen is not an especially smart film, but it offers modest thrills in a relatively entertaining package. Butler gets the job done even though he looks tired and out of it, and the story offers a reason for why he looks tired and out of it. There’s still a place for movies like Angel Has Fallen, with its gunfights, explosions and easily solved plots against the president.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Bad Moms

F*** Magazine

BAD MOMS

Director : Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
Cast : Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith, Annie Mumulo, Jay Hernandez, Emjay Anthony, Oona Laurence
Genre : Comedy
Run Time : 1 hr 41 mins
Opens : 28 July 2016
Rating : M18 (Some Nudity & Sexual References)

Bad Moms posterOne would think if anyone knew a thing or two about letting one’s hair down, it would be the screenwriters of The Hangover. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore have turned their attention to the demographic of women who feel the pressure to be perfect mothers; juggling careers, caring for their children and obligations as part of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Amy Mitchell (Kunis) is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In between working at a coffee co-op and ferrying her kids Jane (Laurence) and Dylan (Anthony) to and from school and various co-curricular activities, she’s just about had enough of being taken for granted. Amy befriends brash single mum Carla (Hahn) and the mousy, awkward Kiki (Bell), and together they make a pact to rebel against established standards and be ‘bad moms’ for once. This earns the ire of Gwendolyn (Applegate), the PTA president who rules over the other parents with an iron fist. Always accompanied by her lackeys Stacy (Smith) and Vicky (Mumulo), Gwendolyn becomes vindictive towards Amy and her newfound friends when Gwendolyn finds her authority threatened.

Bad Moms Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn in the bar

Teaming up actresses as funny and entertaining as Kunis, Bell and Hahn and setting them loose should’ve yielded far less disappointment than Bad Moms delivers. Above anything else, this feels lazy and insincere. Clichés and stereotypes flood the film, which begins with Kunis’ Amy addressing the audience in voiceover. “He’s a successful mortgage broker, but sometimes he feels like my third child,” Amy says of her schlubby husband Mike (David Walton). Many of the jokes sink like a stone, and the cast gets to improvise a little, but the results are mostly leaden.

Bad Moms Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn in the supermarket

The R-rated comedy subgenre of “ladies who can be as lewd and callous as the guys” is already growing tired. It’s difficult to shake the sense that the many, many jokes about genitalia both male and female are a futile attempt to make a mostly safe comedy shocking. The one scene of full-frontal nudity, built around a pubic hair visual gag, is wholly gratuitous. There’s also a miscalculated attempt at diversity, with Muslim women wearing headscarves depicted attending a party with free-flowing booze and weed.

Bad Moms Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn in the movie theatre

Kunis is reasonably convincing as a woman who had her first child at 20 and whose entire life has been consumed by work and kids since then, and she’s well able to convey the character’s understandable frustrations. Bell plays the maladroit, square oddball and it registers as a severe case of miscasting, since she doesn’t get to display her usual effervescence. Most of the film’s dirty jokes come courtesy of Hahn’s Carla – the actress is considerably funnier when she’s more nuanced, and the confident, aggressive and overtly sexual character is gratingly one-note. Applegate bites into the part of the control freak queen bee with entertaining aplomb, but Gwendolyn is yet another example of how the exaggerated characterisation is more annoying than it is actually funny. While Anthony doesn’t get too much to do as Amy’s son Dylan, Laurence manages to be amusing as Amy’s high-strung daughter Jane. 12-year-old Jane’s preoccupation with getting into an Ivy League college does hit a little close to home. And naturally, there’s a requisite attractive guy in the form of Jay Hernandez’s Jessie, who is bluntly referred to as the “Hot Widower” amongst the mums. Classy.

Bad Moms Jay Hernandez and Mila Kunis

There’s supposed to be a heart at the centre of the bawdy gags and copious swearing, but Bad Moms is unable to blend aww shucks sentimentality with its production line crudeness. The main-on-end titles, which feature several surprise guest appearances, are obviously meant to tug at the heartstrings, but this saccharine glop at the end is blatantly manipulative. Lucas and Moore toss in a vertigo-afflicted dog – the device of a pet with a medical condition that is played for laughs is such a hack move. There’s certainly a statement to be made about the societal expectations foisted on mothers and children, and the relatable premise will resonate with any number of overworked mums. It’s too bad then that any sliver of poignancy is buried deep beneath sludgy layers of filth.Bad Moms Christina Applegate, Jada Pinkett Smith and Annie Mumulo

Summary: Funny actresses are left floundering in this pointlessly crass comedy, which misses the “rude but sweet” mark by a fair bit.

RATING: 2 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

WarnerTV’s ‘Gotham’ launches villain hunt in Singapore

For F*** Magazine

WARNERTV’S GOTHAM LAUNCHES VILLAIN HUNT IN SINGAPORE

Gotham. It’s the city where legends are born and villains will rise. The highly-anticipated new TV show which is named after Batman’s hometown will arrive on our screens on September 25 via WarnerTV.
Set immediately after the parents of young Bruce Wayne (David Mazouz) are brutally murdered, Gotham follows future-police Commissioner James Gordon (Ben McKenzie), a rookie new in town, and explores the genesis of the heroes and rogues comic book fans know and love. In the series, a teenage Selina Kyle (Camren Bicondova), destined to become Catwoman, scampers about the streets of Gotham. Edward Nygma (Cory Michael Smith), soon to be known as the criminal genius The Riddler, is a brilliant forensic scientist at the Gotham Police Department with something of a mischievous streak. Oswald Cobblepot (Robin Lord Taylor), aka The Penguin, is the right-hand man of slinky mob boss Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith), biding his time to take a hold of the Gotham criminal underbelly for himself.

To promote the series in Singapore, WarnerTV is staging an island-wide scavenger hunt that focuses on The Penguin. The “Gotham Villain Hunt” will send fans on a quest in search of limited-edition Gotham-branded penguin statues, each measuring about a foot tall. Those who come into possession of these penguin statues can enter into a lucky draw to win a series of prizes ranging from exclusive branded premiums to high-end electronics. Fans will need to keep their eyes peeled and their minds sharp to track down these penguins, but they will have the assistance of hints (riddles, maybe?) provided via WarnerTV Asia’s and Starhub’s Facebook pages as well as on the Hot 91.3FM radio station. On social media platforms, the campaign will use the hashtag: #GothamOnWTV.

WarnerTV is bringing Gotham direct to Asia and the series debuts on Thursday, September 25 at 9pm, just two calendar days after it premieres in the US. Warner TV is available in Singapore only on channel 515 on StarHub.
Good luck, and as Cobblepot himself would put it, “squawk squawk squawk!”
– Jedd Jong