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Posts Tagged ‘Keanu Reeves’

The Gift (2000)

Tuesday, January 25th, 2022

The year was 2000. For the the third year in a row, Sam Raimi released a “this is the more serious Sam Raimi” type of movie. Though it combines a thriller story with southern gothic atmosphere and some supernatural elements, it’s his only movie to date that seems in a similar mode to A SIMPLE PLAN. And the script is by that film’s co-star Billy Bob Thornton, along with his long time writing partner Tom Epperson. The two had broken through as writers with ONE FALSE MOVE (starring Bill Paxton), followed by the lesser known A FAMILY THING and DON’T LOOK BACK. On the DVD extras for THE GIFT, star Cate Blanchett says that Thornton told her about the script while they were filming PUSHING TIN together. If it was his idea to cast her in the lead, good idea, Billy Bob.

Blanchett (not long after her first Oscar nomination for ELIZABETH) plays Annie Wilson, a widow raising three boys in a small town in Georgia. The titular gift is her clairvoyance, inherited from her grandmother (Rosemary Harris, UNCLE VANYA), which she uses to make a living, seeing clients in her home. She’s very helpful and beloved by most of the town, though treated with suspicion and superstition by a few assholes. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Matrix Revolutions

Thursday, December 16th, 2021

When the second half of the 2-part MATRIX sequel begins, our hero Neo and antagonist Agent Smith are both displaced from their regular realities. Smith has somehow transferred his computer-program-consciousness into the organic human body of Bane, only survivor of the destroyed Nebuchadnezzar, now in the sick bay of the Hammer next to comatose Neo, whose mind is trapped in a purgatorial subway station in a virtual world separate from The Matrix.

Yeah, the sequels get complicated. We learn that programs inside The Matrix are regularly deleted, but some try to escape that fate. The subway is a black market means of smuggling exile programs in and out of the Matrix or the Machine City (01?) mainframe. This is all overseen by the Merovingian, with the subway itself operated by his employee The Trainman, a scary dude played by Bruce Spence, a.k.a. the Gyro Captain in THE ROAD WARRIOR and Jedediah in MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Matrix Reloaded

Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

THE MATRIX RELOADED may have been the most highly anticipated but immediately rejected sequel of my lifetime. I’m not just excluding PHANTOM MENACE for being a prequel – whatever happened in the rest of the world, I honestly didn’t experience many people hating it until months later, at least. With RELOADED it was pretty instant.

It was the only MATRIX movie I reviewed upon release, so you can click here to see my kinda dumb, mostly still applicable 2003 thoughts on the matter. I seemed to be fielding a backlash against the original MATRIX movie as well as people hating RELOADED, but it was only the latter I found myself feeling I had to defend over the years.

I do think I partly understand why people were disappointed. THE MATRIX ends on a perfect note of letting us imagine what’s next in the “world where anything is possible.” Any definitive answer of what happens next has a hard time competing with the electric feeling of not knowing. Especially when part 1 was a carefully constructed machine of concept, explanation and payoff, while part 2 kind of wanders through a labyrinth of tangential notions and questions before it gets to the battle it’s been promising. And it cuts off in a cliffhanger well before said battle. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Animatrix

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

A widely circulated anecdote about THE MATRIX (I believe coming from an interview on the DVD extras) says that when the Wachowskis pitched the movie to producer Joel Silver they showed him Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 anime film GHOST IN THE SHELL on video and said, “We wanna do that for real.”

The internet being the internet, that story evolved into the usual exaggerations – THE MATRIX is nearly a scene-for-scene remake, so close they had to ask permission, bullshit like that. There’s a cool video on Youtube showing images from THE MATRIX that seem inspired by or lifted from GHOST – lines of green code, plugs in the back of necks, a cool way that Neo lands – but it runs 1:16. There are quite a few other parts in THE MATRIX, in my opinion.

Still, the influence is undeniable, and the Wachowskis have been open about it. You can see what they were interested in there: the intersections between man and machine, super-powered battles in the midst of or above a large city, badasses in sunglasses taking on a bunch of armored cops, or being clawed at by inhuman machines. They did all that for real. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Matrix

Monday, December 13th, 2021

THE MATRIX is, I continue to believe, one of The Great Movies. It absolutely holds up today, and also it reminds me so much of then. I will always remember what it felt like when this was a new movie, and our entire understanding of the MATRIX story. When we all imagined where it would go next, and then we we had a couple years enjoying or rolling our eyes at all the movies obviously influenced by it, whether that means corny outfits and techno music or that brief, glorious window when Hollywood actors could be convinced to spend months preparing for action scenes with the great Hong Kong choreographers. But mostly I like to remember what it felt like to be surprised by it. Going in wondering if it would be good and then coming out knowing it was this.

I did have hopes. I had come to respect Keanu Reeves’ taste in movies after SPEED and, say what you will, JOHNNY MNEMONIC. I liked BOUND and it was exciting to see directors like that doing a sci-fi movie. And then a day or two before it came out I heard something about there being kung fu in it? So it wasn’t completely out of the blue that it was good. But I don’t think I was expecting something that a couple decades later would still be thought as highly of as the fucking MATRIX is. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Wednesday, November 10th, 2021

Francis Ford Coppola’s BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA is an incredible fucking movie that I previously mistook for a pretty good one. I saw it first on opening night in 1992, when I thought it was cool and weird, if flawed. (If you would like to imagine my wild teen years, I remember it was a foggy Friday the 13th and I was bummed that I hadn’t done anything good on Halloween, so I drove a carload of friends to an evening show, blasting the score from NIGHTBREED in the tape deck.)

The second time was in 2000 after reading the book (Dracula by Bram Stoker, not Bram Stoker’s Dracula: The novel of the film by Fred Saberhagen and James V. Hart Based on the Screenplay by James V. Hart from the Bram Stoker novel, which I have not read and can’t afford). At that time I wrote about it along with a bunch of other Dracula movies, and you can see I was pretty hard on the “ridiculous origin story” and “trying to make him into a more sympathetic Dracula,” among other things.

But it felt overdue for a revisit and on this viewing all that stuff finally clicked for me. Though I always thought it was a stylish looking movie, I feel like I didn’t fully appreciate just how much, or how special that made it. And everything else worked better this time too. (read the rest of this shit…)

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure / Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE (1989) is one of those beloved comedies you take for granted. I hadn’t seen it in 20+ years, so I was kinda afraid it might not hold up. It’s kind of hard to put your finger on why it works so well, and it would be hard to explain why it’s funny if somebody asked. I’m not sure if you had to be there or not.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s a pretty straight forward comical premise: what if a couple of dumb guys got a hold of a time machine and recruited actual historical figures to help with their history test? But for the most part that’s not really what’s funny about it. It’s the particular personalities of the dumb guys, and the reasons they have access to time travel.

Bill S. Preston Esquire (Alex Winter, DEATH WISH 3) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves, THE NIGHT BEFORE) are a Californian version of what we used to call “rockers” and some regions called “heshers” – guys whose lives center around heavy metal and/or hard rock. In the wild you’d expect them to have longer hair and leather jackets, smoke lots of pot and drink lots of beer, but Bill and Ted mostly just idolize Van Halen, talk about “babes,” and laugh at the number 69. They have a band called Wyld Stallyns, which features only the two of them on guitar, an instrument neither of them knows how to play. Still, their worst fear os for the band to be broken up if Ted fails his history test, in which case his dad (Hal Landon Jr., ERASERHEAD), who is a police captain and wears an NRA jacket while off duty, will ship him off to Oats Military Academy in Alaska. (read the rest of this shit…)

Point Break (30th anniversary revisit)

Monday, July 12th, 2021

July 12, 1991

Hot on the heels of James Cameron’s TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY came the other most important action movie of summer ’91, Kathryn Bigelow’s POINT BREAK. Cameron was famously married to Bigelow at the time, and is credited as executive producer, and the film has parallels to his in its technical perfection and intensity of action. The pair had reworked an original script called JOHNNY UTAH by W. Peter Iliff (PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS), co-story credit to Rick King (director of PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS), with Cameron doing a last minute pass to improve the action scenes before immediately shifting to T2. “She basically is 100% responsible for the final film from that point on,” Cameron reportedly said at a convention in ’91. And clearly it’s Bigelow’s combination of impeccable craft and counterintuitive artistic choices that made POINT BREAK a hit, then a cult favorite, then an enduring classic.

The choice that seemed crazy at the time, and prophetic now, was her insistence on casting Keanu Reeves as the college football legend turned overachieving FBI rookie Johnny Utah. By all accounts Bigelow had to fight for Reeves, because producers wanted someone else. That’s understandable – he’d been in the dark indie thriller RIVER’S EDGE and the period piece DANGEROUS LIAISONS, but was best known to the world as Ted from BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, with whom he inescapably shared a lovable stoner airhead sounding voice. On the other hand, when the movie was almost made by Ridley Scott a few years earlier he’d had Matthew Broderick in the role. You’re telling me that made more sense!? (read the rest of this shit…)

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

Friday, May 17th, 2019

I don’t want to raise anyone’s expectations too high. I know some are saying JOHN WICK CHAPTER 3: PARABELLUM is fun but lesser, and that could very well end up being the conventional wisdom. In my mind, though, it’s more than that. It’s an outstanding achievement, a new action classic that outdoes the excellent CHAPTER 2 in both garish spectacle and elaboration on the strange mythology of this secret world of elite assassins.

Like all JOHN WICK movies, it’s full of things you never knew you needed to see, things that are ludicrous, but treated with knowing seriousness, increasing their level of awesomeness. For example, you know that cliche where a character you like gets shot and drops to the ground and you have to wait and hope for the reveal that they were saved by a bullet proof vest? That happens with a dog.

And what about John Wick walking through a desert, but dressed like John Wick? If James Bond goes out into the desert – hell, even if Batman does – he wears different gear. But there is no Desert Action John Wick. When he treks through Moroccan sand dunes he wears the same suit and tie we just saw him wearing in a New York downpour. I suppose maybe he cancelled his debit card when he came back and doesn’t know how to buy new clothes without access to his usual services. But I think it’s more because he’s an icon. That’s his uniform. That’s John Wick. And because director Chad Stahelski knows it’s surreal to see this guy in drastically different settings across the world without changing his blood-stained clothes. (read the rest of this shit…)

John Wick Chapter 2

Monday, February 13th, 2017

JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 is the solid sequel we always hoped (in fact assumed) it would be. The first film – already a certified modern action classic – had a perfect combination of elegant high concept (legendary assassin comes out of retirement to avenge some dipshits who killed his dog) and interesting world (a society of killers with their own rules, services and even currency). Rehashing the former would make for diminishing returns, so returning screenwriter Derek Kolstad (ONE IN THE CHAMBER, THE PACKAGE) digs deeper into the latter, showing us more about the operations and codes of the Continental Hotel and its affiliates as Wick is forced to repay a debt, getting himself into more and more trouble and testing the limits of his unkillableness.

He’s still trying to retire. The movie has a sense of humor about it without undermining his sincerity. Moments after he finishes cementing his weapons back into the basement floor the doorbell rings and you think “Jesus, what now?” Well, it’s Italian gangster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio, THE BEST OF YOUTH), who helped him escape the business and now is cashing in his favor to drag him back in. Wick would have to get into the Vatican to assassinate Santino’s sister Gianna (Claudia Gerini, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST). Throughout the movie Wick finds himself backed into corners and all he can do is keep killing his way out of them. And the more killing the more corners. (read the rest of this shit…)