Reel to Real

The Good, the Better, and ‘The Matrix’

“The Matrix Resurrections” (US Rated R)

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Neil Patrick Harris

Genre: Sci-fi/Action

Where to watch: In theaters/ HBO Max

Dwight’s Rating:

Um… “The Matrix” is back.

Because we all wanted more of that, right? No?

You didn’t? I know I didn’t. So, who did? Because three was two more than what was needed!

The original, back in 1999, was an innovative, groundbreaking, highly-influential, game-changing mindbender. And its impact was felt on science-fiction and action films and thrillers for years to come.

The follow-ups, “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions” – both released in 2003 – were nowhere near as good as the original, and although this was not exactly a popular opinion at the time, I felt these were collectively a waste of four-plus hours in which I could have been doing many more important things at the time.

So, imagine the shock at hearing we were all getting a fourth serving of “The Matrix” again! Thankfully, the setup is interesting – at least initially.

To find out if his reality is a physical or mental construct, Mr. Anderson, aka Neo, will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. If he’s learned anything, it’s that choice, while an illusion, is still the only way out of – or into – the Matrix. Neo already knows what he has to do, but what he doesn’t yet know is that the Matrix is stronger, more secure and far more dangerous than ever before.

Oh boy! And oh joy!

Well, Neo is once again portrayed by Keanu Reeves. Portrayed is the right word. Reeves is there, and gets plenty screen time, but he’s mainly reacting to what’s happening around him. He seems to have fewer lines than almost every actor with a speaking part.

Carrie-Anne Moss is also back as Trinity, along with a few others from the original films. But this is a largely new cast.

If you’ve never watched “The Matrix” or any of the other films, I doubt you’ll understand what’s going on.

Also, even if you have watched “The Matrix” or any of the other films, I doubt you’ll understand what’s going on.

I mean you won’t necessarily be lost. You may have a vague understanding of the specifics of the plot, but I bet you can’t really explain it to someone who’s confused.

It’s like that other Keanu Reeves flick – the one with the out-of-control bus. You’re on this speeding vehicle and you’re seeing everything fly past you in warp speed. It ain’t dull, but you’ve got no idea why anyone would make this happen!

“Being the Ricardos” (US Rated R)

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, J.K. Simmons, Nina Arianda

Genre: Biography, Drama

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Dwight’s Rating:

Great performances abound in “Being the Ricardos”, a biopic about the stars of one of the most famous, most beloved and influential television programs of all time.

The Ricardos – Lucy and Ricky – were the characters real-life married couple Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz played on “I Love Lucy”, the top-rated sitcom (and often the top-rated program of any kind) throughout the 1950s – garnering on average about four to five times the audience of what the current top-rated television shows capture in today’s severely fragmented audience.

“I Love Lucy” was a big, big deal. And Lucy and Desi were a Hollywood power couple. But in 1952, they faced several personal and professional obstacles that threatened their careers, their relationship, and their hit show.

Oscar-winning writer Aaron Sorkin (“The Social Network”), who has penned the memorable screenplays for “The Trial of the Chicago 7”, “Moneyball” and “Molly’s Game”, also directs “Being the Ricardos”.

It’s certainly interesting, but the story progresses in an unusual manner: we get the usual flashbacks – you apparently can’t have a biopic without flashbacks! But we also get a pseudo-documentary, with actors playing the based-on-real-people individuals who occasionally come in to explain and move the story along. Occasionally! And we get to a point where after not seeing them for a while, you’re like, “What the … oh yes, those people!”, when they appear again out of nowhere.

Never mind all that! It’s the performances that are the big draw here.

Nicole Kidman wouldn’t be the first name that comes to mind as someone to play the legendary Lucille Ball. But the Oscar winner is, as always, spectacular, in a multilayered performance, demonstrating a full gamut of emotion.

Oscar winner Javier Bardem embodies Desi Arnaz, and it feels like we’re watching William Frawley (aka Fred Mertz) every single time Oscar winner J.K. Simmons opens his mouth. And Tony winner Nina Arianda successfully delivers a side of Vivian Vance (aka Ethel Mertz) few probably knew existed.

One gets the sense that “Being the Ricardos” will be more special to those who are “I Love Lucy” fans, or big television history buffs. Hopefully the star power here – of the actors, and of Sorkin – will be enough to draw others in to what is overall an enjoyable picture.

“Don’t Look Up” (US Rated R)

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Mark Rylance, Meryl Streep

Genre: Comedy

Where to watch: Netflix

Dwight’s Rating:

Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!

“Don’t Look Up” is dumb!

And impressively brilliant!

Do you remember how when the COVID pandemic hit, people were mentioning the names of movies released years ago that seemed to have accurately predicted what we were seeing back then at the start of 2020?

Well, this is likely going to be one of those films in the not-too-distant future – sadly. And its true awesomeness probably won’t be appreciated for some time to come.

Now, plenty people are not going to like “Don’t Look Up”. This is extreme satire. And it steps on a lot of toes. Plus, a comedy about the end of the world won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, especially when almost every character is a buffoon.

It’s about two low-level astronomers who go on a giant media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy Earth.

But this could very well be about COVID. Or climate change. Or a potential nuclear conflict. Or any dreaded end of world calamity – man-made or otherwise.

The silly responses from the media; the brainless celebrities; the outlandish reactions from the members of the public – on the surface, it all seems outrageous, but deep down you know this movie is a reflection of our present realities.

All of these idiotic characters are recognizable as some well-known personalities, or at least an amalgamation of several globally famous individuals.

Playing those characters are some of the crème de la crème of Hollywood. Screenwriter and Director Adam McKay (“The Big Short” and “Anchorman”) has assembled the most impressive cast in years. It’s overflowing with Oscar winners – Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett and Meryl Streep – and big box office draws – Jonah Hill, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, Rob Morgan, Ron Perlman and a cameo by Chris Evans. Plus, music stars Ariana Grande and Scott Mescudi, better known as Kid Cudi. And many more.

To see Blanchett and Streep being goofy is always a delight, and should alone makes this worth seeing.

But if you’ve already lost hope in humanity, and want to be assured that things on this planet couldn’t get any crazier than they are right now, then “Don’t Look Up” is just the film for you.

If not, then you’ll think it’s just dumb!

• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email and follow him on twitter.

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Dwight Strachan

Dwight is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff.

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