The Matrix Resurrections

Neo and Trinity amid smoking rubble

Dull rather than dim,The Matrix Resurrections reanimates the corpse of the original and best of the previous three Matrix movies and sets off in the right direction before bogging down in the sort of world-building, lore-laden plotting that hobbled numbers two and three.

Some years have passed and Thomas Anderson (aka Neo aka The One but really Keanu Reeves) is now the world-famous designer of The Matrix, a trio of games that once took the world by storm. The games are still out there, though these days more in a legacy rock band kind of way. Resting on his laurels, Mr Anderson lives the gilded life of the successful and feted game designer. But he is troubled by hallucinations so vivid they seem to be flashbacks to a life he once lived, one involving slo-mo fights and long black coats. In fact these are, his analyst tells him, the disturbed fabrications of an unsound mind. We know otherwise. Especially as, in proper Matrix style, the analyst goes by the name of The Analyst (and is played with slick Bond villain unctuousness by Neil Patrick Harris).

Things kick up yet another level of meta-referencing when the company Anderson works for is commissioned by its parent company, Warner Bros, to produce a fourth Matrix game. Cue bright young gamers brainstorming their way into the world of The Matrix – handy bit of explication for those late to the party – and wondering if they’ll ever come up with anything to top “bullet time… we need a new bullet time”. Inert genius Anderson, meanwhile, looks on glumly.

The Matrix Resurrections teases. The tension is of the “when is Clint going to strap the guns back on” sort. And eventually, Neo/Anderson/Keanu does re-enter the “real world”, and for the noblest of reasons. He’s on a mission to save Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), now bumped up to full-bore love interest of a tortured sort. Why is Trinity going by the name of Tiffany? Does she know who she is? Is her loving husband (played, in a knowing bit of casting by Chad Stahelski, who was Keanu’s stunt double in the original films) really her husband? In fact is the real world really the real world at all, or in red pill/blue pill conspiracy style is humanity still being farmed in those giant hivelike structures while the rebel army darts about in what looks like a futile war of liberation? We know the answer to all those questions too.

Morpheus/Agent Smith with the red pill
Red pill? Morpheus, or is it Agent Smith?

Coat on, fray rejoined, fights incoming, this is a film relying on familiarity for a lot of its appeal. But there are noticeable absences. Laurence Fishburne most obviously, though there are enough callbacks to the first films to remind us how pivotal Fishburne’s Morpheus was in numbers one to three. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II makes a decent replacement as a character who appears to be both Morpheus and Agent Smith but the more he imitates Fishburne, the more Fishburne’s absence is felt.

Carrie-Anne Moss looks lithe, Keanu whisper-growls his way through a screenplay written to suit his almost Shatner-esque style of delivery, and lunges into action in a way that would be remarkable in a world without John Wick. “I still know kung fu,” he muses to himself at one point. And he does.

The first Matrix was a great action movie in a cool wrapper. Bullet time. That slo-mo helicopter crash. “Guns. Lots of guns.” The transcendent ammo-dispensing, concrete-shredding finale and all that. The second and third films had a commercial function – make money – but no artistic one. The story had been told, beginning, middle and end, Neo to the One, and did not need telling again. Or adding to with a smokescreen of pseudo-philosophical musing. Yap, yap, yap. Many extended scenes of excruciating tedium. Many over-enunciating characters with names like The Oracle or The Architect. Enter God, exit credibility.

There’s a bit of that going on here too. At one point The Merovingian (Lambert Wilson) re-appears, for instance, babbles something incoherent and disappears again, his presence little more than chum for the lorehounds. On the upside there are fresh, action-style characters, like Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and Seq (Toby Onwumere) who fill the holes left by Switch (Belinda McClory) and Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) from the first film and who give the film its forward drive and much of its claim to relevance – they do new stuff.

In short, Matrix 4 never does come up with anything to outdo bullet time but it does at least have a go. It’s cool, fun and fascinating, some of the old magic still works and it’s the best Matrix movie since the first one. But then two and three were crap.

The Matrix Resurrections – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2022

Bill & Ted Face the Music

Bill and Ted in the teleporter

Quick show of hands, did anyone actually ask for Bill & Ted Face the Music? Thought not, though here it is, around 30 years on from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and their Bogus Journey, back with its original stars, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, a good comedy director at the helm (Dean Parisot of Galaxy Quest fame), and with two talented draftees in there to provide new blood.

In fact Reeves expressed an interest in a new instalment as long ago as 2005. Original writers Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon climbed back on board soon after, and the project was ready to go for about ten years – the studio wasn’t convinced a “cult” movie would put the requisite bums on seats – but it took until 2019 for shooting to get underway.

As near as makes no difference it follows the journey structure of the other films, with the two now-middle-aged members of Wild Stallyns off on a quest to write a song that will save the world. And, realising they haven’t a hope of actually doing that, Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) journey into the future where, they’ve been told, they have already written that song. All they have to do is find the even older versions of themselves, get the song and bingo.

Thea and Billie
Thea and Billie

Into the teleporting telephone kiosk they go, pursued by a murderous robot sent by The Great Leader (Holland Taylor), with their daughters close behind, who are on their own quest to assemble the perfect rock band, which will involve recruiting Jimi Hendrix, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Louis Armstrong, among others.

And following them, in an obvious last place, come the wives (Jayma Mays, Erin Hayes). Hey, this movie’s from a different era, everybody.

What an incredibly hit and miss film this is, long on enthusiasm short on actual big laughs, though the song early on at the latest wedding of Missy (Amy Stoch) – who has previously been married to both Bill and Ted’s fathers – is a blindingly funny car crash of mixed sources. Theremin, bagpipes, overtone singing and a trumpet being just part of it.

The dudes look good for their years, Keanu in particular looking about as limber as any 55-year-old is ever going to look – the John Wick 3 training standing him in good stead here – while “the wives” function exactly like the wives of Laurel and Hardy. They’re a pair of eyerolling harpies with a low opinion of their oafish husbands.

The daughters are a different thing altogether, Brigette Lundy-Paine and Samara Weaving as Thea (Bill’s daughter) and Billie (Ted’s) delivering exactly the jolt of electricity that they’ve been hired for. They are, in essence, Bill and Ted Mark II – their love of music, their use of dudespeak, the over-elaborate speech patterns, the relentless nodding while the other is speaking, the turning of the whole body when a simple twist of the head would have sufficed. Chips off the old block.

And as the film progresses, the dudesses, Billie and Thea, come to the fore as it becomes increasingly obvious that Bill and Ted’s encounters with their future selves are not what this film needs. What’s necessary is encounters with their past selves, when they were striplings. Still, Billie and Thea help plug that gap. They are the film’s killer app.

The Grim Reaper, in the shape of William Sadler, makes a return appearance as Bill and Ted journey through realms high and low – can you say Death also looks good for his age? – and Reeves and Winter have a bit of fun dressing up as alternative future versions of themselves.

It’s a lively film though not a particularly fresh one, best seen as the filmic version of one of those dad-rock bands doing a greatest hits tour. Some of it now looks quaint – a telephone box as a teleporter? Rock music saving the world? Rock music even as a thing? But it’s fitfully funny, relentlessly good natured and at 91 minutes doesn’t outstay its welcome. It doesn’t dare.

Bill & Ted Face the Music – Watch it/buy it at Amazon

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© Steve Morrissey 2021

Point Break

Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze in Point Break


A movie for every day of the year – a good one



22 October



World’s first parachute jump, 1797

On this day in 1797, André-Jacque Garnerin made the first descent by frameless parachute. Ascending from the Parc Monceau in a basket attached to what looked like a large furled umbrella, itself attached to a balloon, Garnerin got to around 900 metres (3,000 feet) before unpacking the chute and severing a cord attaching him to the balloon. His descent was ungainly and his basket fell rapidly and swung wildly. He arrived back on the ground with a thump but unhurt. Garnerin was not the first person to dabble with the parachute however. There are pictures from the mid 15th century in the Codex Atlanticus of Leonardo Da Vinci which show what has since been proved to be a workable design for a parachute, and one from 1470 by an unknown person of a man suspended below what looks like a a cone-shaped contraption which looks like a parachute but which wouldn’t have broken his fall very well (the “chute” in the word parachute being the fall, and the “para” meaning protection). However Garnerin is the first recorded instance of it having been done with what we would today recognise as a parachute and so wins the prize. His daring feat caused a sensation and made his name. Garnerin was later named Official Aeronaut of France and toured England, making one ascent from Lord’s Cricket Ground and arriving, reportedly, in Chingford 15 minutes later. Considering it’s 17 miles away (27.4km) there must have been one hell of a side wind that day, or someone has embellished the facts.



Point Break (1991, dir: Kathryn Bigelow)

Here we are in 1991, when Keanu Reeves was Lovely Keanu, young, surferish, just a bit Bill & Ted still, waiting for the next phase (which came with Speed) of his dance with fame. Point Break is a key film in his career, as it was in the career of Patrick Swayze, who went from Dirty Dancing to Road House to this, and then…
It’s also a major film for Kathryn Bigelow, transitioning between the pop-smart vampire flick Near Dark, the girl-in-jeopardy cop flick Blue Steel and into limbo until The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty reminded the world how good she was. So, Point Break, a kinda dumb, kinda mad film about an FBI rookie inflitrating an LA surfer gang who pull off bank jobs in their spare time, disguised in American presidents’ masks. Heading the gang is Swayze, as Bodhi, a Zen surf master, bank robber and sky diver. Swayze is always good for some easy laughs, but he is actually a lot better than that ridiculous surf/rob/jump precis suggests. The film is best known for its shots of surfer guys riding waves, and sky divers freefalling to earth, but it’s noticeable at this distance how much energy Bigelow puts into even the most basic sequences, while Reeves and Swayze both do their best with a script that’s a full wheel of cheese. With Point Break it’s full marks to the hairstylists, the body doubles (though Swayze did a lot if not all of his own skydiving) and California for being California, dude.



Why Watch?


  • Keanu and Swayze in their prime
  • Who says women can’t direct action?
  • Gary Busey and John McGinley adding flavoursome support
  • A soundtrack of old-school rock including Jimi Hendrix, Love, Deep Purple


© Steve Morrissey 2013



Point Break – at Amazon





The Gift

Redneck Keanu Reeves in The Gift



Director Sam Raimi is an expert in genre-twisting. Back when he was making The Evil Dead he so overloaded his gore epic that it eventually became funny. With The Gift he takes on a genre even more arcane: the British whodunit. Then he does weird shit with it. First he transports the whole shebang to the Deep South to remove all traces of afternoon tea or warm beer. Then he gives us Cate Blanchett as a clairvoyant detective who can’t quite make out the identity of the murderer – well, it wouldn’t be much of film if she could, would it? And then, as a masterstroke, he takes a raft of famous faces and casts most of them against type: the normally pale-and-interesting Keanu Reeves as a redneck; Hilary Swank – who had just won an Oscar for playing a transgender teenager in Boys Don’t Cry – as the most glamorous puss in town; Greg Kinnear, best known in 2000 for playing a gay role in As Good As It Gets, he’s the red-blooded lead. And Raimi got Katie Holmes to take her clothes off in a scene recently voted “Hottest Sex Scene in  a Movie” by GQ. No one saw that coming. Otherwise it’s whodunit business as usual, with red herrings, blind avenues, bumbling policemen, epiphanies at midnight and, of course, a completely now-why-didn’t-I-see-that ending. Enjoyable as hot buttered toast.

© Steve Morrissey 2013


The Gift – at Amazon