The Matrix Resurrections

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Street Date 3/8/22;
Warner;
Sci-Fi;
Box Office $37.69 million;
$19.99 DVD, $24.99 Blu-ray, $29.99 UHD DVD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence and some language.
Stars Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Jonathan Groff, Jessica Henwick, Neil Patrick Harris, Jada Pinkett Smith, Priyanka Chopra Jonas.

The fourth “Matrix” movie has a lot of fun with the idea of serving as a meta-commentary on the original trilogy. When it actually has to zero in on being a “Matrix” movie, it kind of hits a wall, but at least it opens the door for more movies.

At the end of the third movie in 2003, Neo and Trinity (Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Annie Moss) seemingly sacrificed themselves to bring peace between the remnants of humanity and the machines that sought to enslave them. Resurrections opens with the idea that the original story might have been a video game created by Thomas Anderson  Reeves). Then word comes down that his gaming studios’ parent company, Warner Bros., wants a fourth “Matrix,” and will do one with or without the original creative team. This is pretty much what happened in real life when the studio starting planning for a reboot of the franchise before director Lana Wachowski and Reeves signed on. So Resurrections is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek title referencing both the return of the characters thought killed off, and the long-dormant franchise itself.

Anderson is getting therapy to deal with thoughts of his life just being a computer simulation like his games, before events similar to the opening of the “Matrix” start to unfold to once more lead him back to reality (while using flashbacks to clips from the original trilogy to hammer home the point that it’s all connected).

This leads to some lengthy exposition and a healthy dose of philosophical ruminations about the nature of consciousness and free will, since it wouldn’t be a “Matrix” movie without it. Then the second half of the film is essentially an extended sci-fi action scene to hit the reset button on the premise so that Neo and Trinity can lead a new crop of characters in the fight against the machines. However, the lack of popular legacy characters such as Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus is likely to leave a lot of fans cold.

Matrix Resurrections is entertaining in parts and has some intriguing ideas, but if there are future sequels they will have a lot of heavy lifting to do to prove there’s still life left in the franchise beyond running in circles.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The Blu-ray includes several behind-the-scenes featurettes, including a nine-minute video of various cast members awkwardly recapping the story of the original trilogy. In act many of the featurettes are somewhat introspective about examining the film within the context of the franchise.

The primary behind-the-scenes featurette is the 31-minute “Resurrecting the Matrix,” which delves into revisiting the franchise after 18 years and crafting the new installment to expand the mythology (described at one point as not another box in a series of boxes, but a box that encases the previous ones).

The eight-minute “Neo & Trinity: Return to the Matrix” gives Reeves and Moss a chance to reflect on their characters’ journeys and their own personal friendship. The eight-and-a-half-minute “Allies & Adversaries: The Matrix Remixed” features supporting cast members reflecting on the expansion of the franchise, while the six-minute “Matrix for Life” features more reflections on the franchise from the cast and filmmakers. The five-minute “I Still Know Kung-Fu” explores the making of some of the action scenes.

Rounding out the bonus materials are “The Matrix Reactions,” a series of nine videos totaling nearly 49 minutes in which members of the cast and production team discuss individual scenes.

Overall, the extras, with almost two hours of combined footage, present a pretty thorough examination of the making of the film.

Originally published as a streaming review Dec. 27, 2021.

Hamilton

STREAMING REVIEW:

Disney+;
Musical;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for language and some suggestive material.
Stars Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, Phillipa Soo, Christopher Jackson, Jonathan Groff, Okieriete Onaodowan, Anthony Ramos, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones.

Disney’s decision to release a recording of Hamilton through its streaming service has undoubtedly clued in millions of viewers about why the popular stage musical has become such a massive hit with the audiences who had a chance to see it live. Writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda has crafted a mesmerizing ode to one of America’s most notable founding fathers.

Famously described as “America then, as told by America now,” Miranda treats the production like a re-imagining of the founding of the United States, with minority actors playing the key roles of the American icons. The casting also fits Miranda’s musical sensibilities, with performers well-suited for the infectious, hip-hop infused soundtrack that relates the story of Hamilton’s rise and fall in American politics.

Follow us on Instagram!

The story is structured as a series of intertwining rivalries, centered on the dual narrative of the lives of Hamilton (Miranda) and Aaron Burr (Leslie Odom Jr.), who eventually kills him in a duel.

The fresh-faced idealist Hamilton arrives in colonial America with hopes of joining the budding revolution, while Burr is painted as a power-hungry opportunist who advises the young upstart not to make his beliefs too well known lest they get him into trouble. Hamilton eventually becomes a confidante of George Washington, establishing a centralized U.S. treasury and clashing with Thomas Jefferson, who prefers to give more deference to the individual states.

A second aspect to the play focuses on the love story between Hamilton and his wife, Eliza (Phillipa Soo), and her futile efforts to convince Alexander to make his family the priority of his life rather than his role in forming a new nation.

Pieced together from several 2016 performances at the end of the run of the original cast, the filmed version of the production is impeccably shot, showcasing complexly choreographed musical numbers and the ingeniously designed stage with spinning floors and detachable staircases that can be reconfigured as needed. Particularly interesting is the way the ensemble uses dance and music to simulate modern filmmaking techniques such as slow motion and replay.

Ironically, Miranda’s soft-spoken portrayal of the title character is often overshadowed by some of the play’s more colorful characters, particularly Daveed Diggs, pulling double duty as both Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette.

Miranda’s depiction of Hamilton as a scrappy upstart is a compelling one, despite his dubious and repeated proclamation of Hamilton as an immigrant, given that he was a British subject relocating from one British territory (the Caribbean island of Nevis) to another (New York), making him as much of an immigrant as someone moving from Nebraska to Hollywood. Still, Hamilton’s Caribbean roots resonated with Miranda’s consideration of his own Puerto Rican heritage, providing the genesis to explore how this man could rise from such obscurity to get his face on the $10 bill.

The songs have been meticulously constructed to resonate throughout the story, with Hamilton’s early anthem of “not throwing away my shot” taking on the double meaning of figuratively seizing the opportunities before him, as well as the literal action in a duel of missing on purpose. The concept of the duel is also central to the play’s layout, as three are featured, allowing the audience to fully understand what is taking place in the climax.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Hopefully the play will inspire viewers to look into the real story of Hamilton and the origins of the United States, rather than accept the historical assertions in the play at face value. (Among other conflations, the play offers a very messy summary of the election of 1800, presenting Jefferson and Burr as rivals for the presidency when they were, in fact, running mates, and also omits key details as to what motivated Burr to challenge Hamilton to a duel to begin with). Then again, this is a piece of artistic performance, not a college course, lest anyone believe George Washington’s cabinet meetings were actually conducted via a series of highly entertaining rap battles.

Fortunately, the play does a nice job shining a light on some of Hamilton’s lesser-known contemporaries, such as John Laurens and the spy Hercules Mulligan.

The Disney+ presentation also includes access to a 33-minute featurette of interviews with the cast conducted by The Undefeated, an ESPN-owned website that deals with the intersection of race, sports and popular culture.