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The Matrix Reloaded

Neo is back on the big screen in the second installment of the Matrix trilogy. Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving all return for the beginning of the Shyamalanization of the Wachowski Brothers. I had high hopes for this movie. I hate being disappointed.

So Neo is getting used to being the One. He spends his days chilling with Morpheus and Trinity in the Matrix, freeing people and acting like a holy man when he’s unplugged. Neo and his pals find out that the machines are going to launch an attack on Zion, the last remaining human city, where they like to have huge raves in underground caves. Not only do they have to deal with a massive machine invasion, but Agent Smith managed to escape death somehow, and now he’s wreaking havoc in the Matrix by making duplicates of himself. One of his copies manages to escape the Matrix and enter the real world.

Neo visits the Oracle and finds out that he needs to reach the Source of the Matrix. To do that he needs to find the Keymaker, who is being held prisoner by the Merovingian. Neo, Morpheus and Trinity manage to break the Keymaker out of the Merovingian’s grasp.

They come up with some complex plan to get Neo into the Source. The plan doesn’t work like it should, and the Keymaker dies and Trinity gets shot up by an agent. Neo reaches the Source meets the Architect and they have a conversation about how smart the Wachowskis are and how stupid you are because you don’t understand what they are talking about. And the Architect gives Neo a choice between saving mankind or saving Trinity. And Neo is selfish so he saves Trinity.

Neo discovers that he can disable the machines even without being plugged into the Matrix. But it’s too much for him to take and he collapses into a coma, and the movie ends in a cliffhanger.

There was a lot of potential for the Matrix sequels to be awesome. Instead the Wachowski Brothers decided ruining the franchise would be easier. You know that the movie was going to suck as soon as you realized that Tank is dead, even though he didn’t die in the first movie. There was no reason so replace a minor crewmember who didn’t die with another minor crewmember. It makes no sense. Link’s only redeeming feature is that he’s played by Harold Perrineau, and anyone from Lost is cool.

There are some cool action scenes, and even though they are more elaborate and complex, they are hollow, they don’t impact the story as much as the fights in the first movie. In the original the fights mean something. Morpheus fights Neo so he can learn what he is capable of for example. In Reloaded, there are fights just to fill screen time.

The fight between Neo and the Agent Smith clones could have been epic. It should have been. It starts out with a lot of promise. And about halfway through it becomes a cartoon. They get lazy with the fight choreography, with the animation, even with the sound effects. They actually use the sound of bowling pins falling over when Neo throws a Smith into other Smiths.

The best scene in the movie is the freeway chase. It might even be the best scene in the trilogy. A high speed chase with car crashes and albino twins and agents, Trinity and the Keymaker speeding the wrong way against traffic on the freeway, Morpheus fighting an agent on a semi truck… the whole sequence is exhilarating and you are almost relieved when Neo flies in and saves the day.

The Matrix Reloaded has its moments. But it’s a step in the wrong direction. It’s still worth seeing, but if you like the sequels more than the original you have issues.

Critically Rated at 11/17

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Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again

Frank Miller’s sequel to his brilliant Dark Knight Returns takes everything he did in the first one and destroys it admirably. I can’t tell if Miller is parodying himself or if he just went crazy. It is an interesting read, even if it bastardizes the original. There’s something about train wreck sequels that is appealing.

DKR was set in the ‘80s. DKSA takes place just a few years later, but Gotham and the rest of America aren’t even recognizable. Lex Luthor and Brainiac have taken over the country and left in in a police state. The President of the United States is a computer program. A lot of heroes are forced into working for the government. It is not a good time to be a citizen in the DC universe.

Dark Knight Returns only had a few other heroes besides Superman and the Green Arrow. Dark Knight Strikes Again has a lot more. Wonder Woman, Lara (Superman and Wonder Woman’s love child), Captain Marvel, the Atom, the Flash, Plastic Man, Elongated Man, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter all make appearances… is this Batman or the Justice League? The Cold War setting in the first book made Gotham real and the story relatable. DKSA has the Cold War, but it is amped up to the max. It is extremely jarring and isolating. This world is not recognizable, it could never happen. It is too out there. You can tell Miller is trying to outdo himself, but he forgot what he was doing.

Carrie Kelly is a few years older, and is Batman’s Second-in-command. She no longer uses the Robin mantle; now she goes by Catgirl. Batman has a mini army of vigilantes. They all go on raids and try to overthrow Luthor’s dictatorship. The media is a big part of the story too.

The two main villains in the story are Lex Luthor and Brainiac… is this Batman or a Superman comic? Batman is the world’s greatest detective, so seeing him match wits with Luthor is pretty interesting. There is another villain as well, a crazy psycho who models himself after the Joker. It was a nice little twist to find out his real identity. It’s one of the few redeeming parts of the comic.

It is entertaining and worth reading, especially if you read and enjoyed the Dark Knight Returns. This is a shoddy sequel, but not the worst thing to happen to mankind. It is sad to see a genius like Miller losing his touch.

Critically Rated at 11/17

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City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold

I’m not much of a Hollywood insider, but I have noticed that if a film does well financially it sometimes warrants a sequel. Some sequels are actually better than the original. And some sequels are totally unnecessary and cheapen the first film. If you are unsure which of those two categories City Slickers II falls under, just look at the second part of the title: “The Legend of Curly’s Gold.” Still not sure? It is an unnecessary sequel.

The premise is that (Mitch) Billy Crystal finds a treasure map in Curly’s old hat. Mitch, Phil (Daniel Stern), and Glen (Mitch’s brother, played by Jon Lovitz) decide to go in search of Curly’s gold. Oh yeah, and Curly had an identical twin brother named Duke, and Duke is just as tough as Curly. The only real difference between the two is that Curly was a cowboy and Duke was a Merchant Marine, and Duke’s name is Duke and not Curly.

So the four of them go on a treasure hunt, following the map and shit happens along the way. Eventually they find a cave, and in the cave they find a treasure chest. And in the treasure chest is gold! But then it turns out it was only fake gold, and they are sad for a minute, before they realized that even though the blatantly failed, they still succeeded in a way (even though they really failed). And then they all go home.

Just when you think that it’s the end to a shitty movie, Duke comes back to visit Mitch one more time. It turns out that Duke found the real gold, and he wants to share it now. Because he had a change of heart for some reason, because why not?

It is a tolerable movie, but it definitely cheapens the original. There are a few funny moments, but the first one had more laughs, more heart, and was much better. Lame sequels are a Hollywood tradition.

Critically Rated at 8/17

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