Category: movies

Revisiting The Matrix

The trailer for the fourth Matrix movie dropped yesterday, and it’s pretty impressive. (Love the use of White Rabbit, even though it’s the most obvious soundtrack choice for a Matrix movie ever.) Coincidentally, I just rewatched the original for the first time in well over a decade. There was much of it I still loved: the science fiction what-if elements, the twists and turns of the plot, and the climax where Neo faces Agent Smith is still incredible.

One of the most famous parts of the movie, however, now goes over like a brick with me.

When I first watched the movie, the lobby scene seemed fantastic. Excellent fight choreography, great special effects, and cool ninja moves? What wasn’t to like? In so many ways, that scene moved action scenes forward, influencing how we see fights ever since. However, in the 22 years since the movie came out, mass shootings have gotten more and more common place, and if there’s one thing that lobby scene does very very poorly, it’s establishing why all that violence was necessary in the first place.

Neo and Trinity need to break Morpheus free from the clutches of the Agents, and it’s true that in the Matrix, the Agents can take control of literally anyone. However, when the duo show up in the building lobby, they’re greeted not by agents, but by regular rent-a-cops. People who really aren’t that intimidating at all, despite the security measures in the lobby. And Neo and Trinity both just open up fire on all of them, killing them in cold blood.

Those cops are then supported by what seems to be an elite level of security. Tons of guns and body armor for Neo to fight against. But in the confines of the movie, we know these are just regular people who are convinced they’re doing the right thing by Agents. They aren’t villains. Those deaths all feel much more disturbing to me now than they did before.

Some of that is no doubt because I’ve changed. But some of it is also likely because when the movie came out in 1999 (months before Columbine), random shootings just didn’t seem like that big of a concern. That lobby scene was designed to be cool, not realistic. But when mass shootings are a regular occurrence, it’s impossible for any informed audience not to see similarities in the real.

Yes, we’ve had plenty of other violent movies. The John Wick series (another Keanu Reeves vehicle) is an obvious comparison. But I can’t think of any that don’t at least try to establish why the “bad guys” deserve what’s coming to them. And if there are innocents who are affected, then they’re side casualties. In the lobby scene, the heroes show up to shoot the bystanders, and there isn’t even a hint of concern of what they’re doing to those people.

It’ll be interesting to see how the fourth movie handles it. I’ve seen the second and third movies just once each, and I’ll probably watch them again, even though I remember not particularly loving them. I still like the original movie a lot. It’s influential both in action and science fiction genres, and I love the attention to detail that was given to each individual scene. The special effects have also stood up remarkably well. Crazy to think that a movie that’s still fairly recent (in my head), turns out to be more than twenty years old.

But even movies that are products of their time can’t help but be evaluated from a modern point of view, and that once scene is far less appealing now than it once was.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this PERFECT PLACE TO DIE Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

A Tribute to Richard Donner

Richard Donner passed away yesterday. I realize there are many who won’t recognize his name, but he did a whole lot for fantasy in film, and I wanted to take a minute to appreciate that. When the Christopher Reeve Superman came out in 1978, it was the first time a studio had really thrown money at a superhero film. As we all know (or should know, at any rate), simply throwing money at film isn’t a formula for guaranteed success. (Waterworld, anyone?) It would have been very easy to have this first superhero effort go seriously wrong.

Warner Bros. picked Richard Donner to helm the film. What had he done before that? He’d directed The Omen, a small budget ($3 million) horror movie that grossed $60 million. He’d also directed a whole slew of television episodes, ranging from Perry Mason to Get Smart to The Twilight Zone. Superman had a budget of $55 million, so much bigger expectations. Donner took the movie and made it a huge success. ($300 million. That might not seem too impressive, until you realize that would be $1.2 billion today.)

In many ways, Donner set the stage for the future superhero movies to come. The mixture of comedy and action. Special effects but retaining a focus on character as well. (Though of course, the biggest contribution was proving a superhero movie could make a whole lot of money. That’s the biggest thing a movie can do to ensure other movies like it will be made.) I loved that movie, and spent many hours pretending I was Superman, even though I’d never cracked open a page of the comics.

If Superman were the only movie Donner had done, he would have still been very influential on the genre. But he went on to direct a slew of great films: Ladyhawke (straight up fantasy with Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer), The Goonies(!), Lethal Weapon, Scrooged (one of the cooler (and more bizarre) Christmas Carol adaptations, with Bill Murray), and Maverick (comic Western with Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster).

The Goonies is flat out incredible, and I’d argue it played a role in the development of YA as a genre. Entirely kid-centric, with no parents barging in to solve the problems. Fast paced and snappy, but still recognizing the kids as real people with real wants and concerns. I’m not saying the whole genre stems from the movie (that’s clearly wrong), but rather that its acceptance and growth were helped along by the success of The Goonies. At least for yours truly, that movie defined in many ways what I want to get out of a YA adventure. (Plus, the movie gave us Sean Astin . . .)

These are all movies I grew up with, and which I’ve watched multiple times. To have them all come from the same director speaks to his ability to really make films that resonated with me. Were all his movies great? Well, no. Let’s not talk about The Toy or Timeline. But still, he had a great track record of success. If you haven’t seen some of these, I encourage you go and check them out. I just might have to fire up The Goonies tonight in his honor.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Funniest Movie Scene of All Time

The semester starts Monday! Have I mentioned that? So even though I haven’t done one of these for a while . . . I’m calling in sick for the blog. You’ll have to get by without my scintillating wit today. Instead, here’s my nomination for the funniest movie scene of all time:

You think it’s over, but it’s not. That by itself is already pretty funny, but what takes it to the next level is the next gag:

Every time I watch those, I end up crying with laughter. Maybe that says more about me than about the scenes . . .

Got a different nominee for the funniest movie scene of all time? Please share! I could use a few more laughs right now.

On Being “Well Watched”

We’re still working our way through the movie list I made for Daniela, but I just wanted to pause for a minute and say again how happy it’s making me. It took away all the stress of “which movie will we watch”, empowered everyone to be able to decide what they wanted to do on their own, and it’s gotten us watching a really wide array of films. Daniela’s been there for all of them, enthusiastically watching them and then discussing what she liked and didn’t like about them after they’re over.

What have we watched so far? Risking some judgement by admitting to how many, here we go:

  • WALL-E
  • Rear Window
  • His Girl Friday
  • Field of Dreams
  • Ghost
  • Interstellar
  • West Side Story
  • My Man Godfrey
  • 12 Angry Men
  • Roman Holiday

The best thing is that 4 of those movies are black and white. Almost all of them are quite very old by any modern standards. I don’t know why, but being “well watched” has always felt as important to me as being “well read.” In fact, it’s probably felt more important to me, ironically. Probably because I can knock out a classic film in under two hours, whereas getting through Les Miserables in print took me a good two weeks. (But it was totally worth it!)

The fact that my kids are taking interest in the same sort of thing? Tickles me pink. It’s not different from them watching my favorite movies. I mean, as much as I think UHF is a classic, I don’t necessarily think it makes you a better person to have seen it. (But it might help you understand me . . .) But watching movies that are recognized as important and noteworthy helps you evaluate and understand all the other movies you encounter in the future.

The movies we’ve been viewing right now have been heavily skewed to “Hollywood classics,” mainly because I’m limiting myself to films we own first, because money. But films like Spirited Away or Seven Samurai are coming. The list is light on international movies, however. (Probably because I drew heavily from AFI’s lists, which are all American, but also because Daniela’s only 12, and I didn’t want to overwhelm her all at once. I wasn’t sure how some of the older movies would go over with her. At this point, I’m pretty confident we’ll do a second list once we’re through with this one. Yay!)

Anyway. I know I’ve posted about this multiple times already, but these days I have to take my victories where I can get them. I think we might add on a few impromptu additions to tackle some of the racial issues that have been coming up in current events . . .

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Fighting Quarantine Doldrums: Making a Movie List

Here we are in June, and things have long since blended together into one everlasting day. We’ve all done things to try and break it all up a bit. I started the family sprint challenge. Daniela worked her way through all the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. MC has been reading anything in print in the house. But there comes a time when you have to keep pushing yourself to figure out a way to keep yourself occupied.

Daniela had been feeling kind of restless ever since her MCU binge was over. We just got KK Slider to join our Animal Crossing island yesterday, and it’s as if all the big “To Do” items were getting crossed off the list. I was feeling pretty blah in the evenings as well.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and I had a bolt of inspiration hit me out of the blue. Daniela had been really good to go when I gave her the list of MCU movies in order. She happily went down the list, checking them off one at a time. What if I came up with another list? A list of great movies she should watch?

I didn’t want to go through the trouble of making a list if I didn’t have buy-in, so I approached Daniela with the idea. She loved it. The two of us sat down with IMDB’s top 250 films, as well as many of AFI’s film list, and we ran through them. We wanted variety, and we wanted movies Daniela hadn’t seen before, and we wanted them to be age-appropriate. After about an hour, the list was done: 150 movies all told.

I printed it off and failed to save the file (because I’m a bonehead, I guess), so I can’t easily share the list here, but I actually think the act of creating the list was an essential part of the equation. Most of the movies on the list are ones I’ve already seen, though there are some on there that I have yet to come across. (I’m very weak in Miyazaki movies, for example.) Sitting there selecting the movies from a pool of films was a fun thing to do, and it makes the list seem more personable than one you just cut and pasted from online.

Why 150 movies? Why not. At least we’re pretty future-proof for the quarantine. If we finish all 150, then . . . I guess I’ll make another list. But so far, things have been going swimmingly. We watched WALL-E, His Girl Friday, Field of Dreams, and Rear Window. It’s a pretty broad list, which is good. We debated making it genre specific, but it’s more fun to mix things up. Tonight Ghost is on the slate. (Oh, and I alphabetized the list to remove any sort of preconceived ranking or genre grouping.)

The biggest problem so far has been deciding what movie on the list to watch next. Daniela solved that by having me mark down which of the movies we had access to for free right now (41), and then she had our Amazon Echo pick a random number between 1 and 41. Let me tell you: when you already have a list that’s agreed on, and you pick a random movie from that list, then all drama over what to watch next ceases. You announce to the family what’s on the slate for the evening, and they decide if they want to watch it or not.

Beautiful.

So if you’re trying to come up with something to do, might I suggest this as an option? I’m also having Daniela rate the movies as we go through. So far her favorite was Field of Dreams, followed closely by His Girl Friday. She’s going to be so well versed in film history by the time this is done! (Because of course I can’t help but give her a bit of an overview of the movie’s history and why it’s important before and after we watch each one. She’s learning about classic film stars and genres, directors, techniques. The works!)

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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