Tag Archives: Bound

What in the name of ‘Jupiter’ is going on with the Wachowskis?

The duo who created "The Matrix" thought elf ears and rocket boots were a good idea.

The duo who created “The Matrix” thought elf ears and rocket boots were a good idea.

My thoughts on Jupiter Ascending can be summed up in the three words: What the fuck?

Channing Tatum with elf ears and rocket boots, then wings to replace his boots. Spaceships that physically reconfigure as they fly, acting like Transformers that can’t quite transform. A cast of aliens that look like they were kicked out of the Mos Eisley cantina because they couldn’t hold their own with true ruffians. Eddie Redmayne acting like a constipated Darth Vader who is seeking revenge against the universe for that one time that one kid broke the kung-fu grip on one of his G.I. Joes. A movie that has no suspense, uninteresting action sequences and a wicked sense of humor that far too rarely shows its face. A film that acts like it wants to confront corporate greed and the moral failings of the universe’s 1%, but only skates the surface, refusing to make the leap and sink into the perversity. And so on.

Sex, gangsters, money, the corruption of a patriarchal society and more make "Bound" one of the Wachowskis most interesting flicks.

Sex, gangsters, money, the corruption of a patriarchal society and more make “Bound” one of the Wachowskis’ most interesting flicks.

I remember watching Bound, the first film from Lana (then Larry) and Andy Wachowski. The noir crime flick is taut and suspenseful, a swirl of uncertain loyalties and sexual intensity. It’s the only low-budget flick the duo have ever created, and it might be their finest. They made the most of the limitations of their budget, leaning heavily on story, a moody atmosphere and fine performances by Gina Gershon, Jennifer Tilly and Joe Pantoliano.

Then, of course, came The Matrix, the movie that took sci-fi and action cinema and ripped it to shreds. I think now, in part because of the problematic¬†Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions, the original gets taken for granted. And when The Matrix does get props, it’s too often for the technological aspects. The Wachowskis managed to mix futuristic technology, kung fu flicks, LGBT+ subculture, noir cinema and some deep philosophical thought into a movie that could be enjoyed as a straight shoot-em-up flick as well as high art.

But since then … Matrix Reloaded was just awful. After the initial time I saw it in the theater, I’ve never been able to get through it again. Revolutions really did a nice job of getting the whole Matrix mess back on track, but it was still unsatisfying. Speed Racer is dour and dull, a movie that wants to be serious and important thematically while visually being little more than a somewhat intense and significantly less-fun version of Mario Kart. V for Vendetta wasn’t bad, but the Wachowskis didn’t direct that one, and if you’ve read the graphic novel the movie was based on like I have, you’re probably less impressed with the film than the average viewer. I haven’t seen Cloud Atlas, mostly because I loved the book and find it hard to believe that author David Mitchell’s sprawling tome could be done justice in a few hours of screen time, although I might get around to it at some point.

Which brings us back to Jupiter Ascending. When it was announced, I thought this might be it, the Wachowskis getting back on track, making movies that are must-see. The first trailer popped that balloon, and what we got was a final product that was a bloated, boring, tonally uneven mess that wasted the talents of actors like Tatum, Mila Kunis and Sean Bean.

Am I done with the Wachowskis? That might be overstating it. But the writer-directing duo’s next project, whatever that may be, won’t be must-see as far as I’m concerned. And it makes me a little sad to write that.

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Why ‘Elysium’ falls short

Matt Damon is good in 'Elysium' ... but then again, when isn't he?

Matt Damon is good in ‘Elysium’ … but then again, when isn’t he?

In the fall of 2009, a buddy and I went to see District 9. I’m a big movie fan who pretty much refuses to read reviews or watch trailers much beyond the basic info for fear of dreaded spoilers, and my friend was and is an occasional movie watcher who had read about District 9 and was intrigued.

When we left the theater, I commented that seeing District 9 was like watching The Matrix for the first time. You had these interesting, layered works of art dominated by theme – in The Matrix it’s the influence of technology and lack of distinction between the real and virtual worlds, in District 9 apartheid and racism in general – and taking place in unique visual worlds.

My friend laughed. He responded that he was thinking the same thing, only about the original Star Wars. He felt like he’d just been blown away, completely unprepared for what he had witnessed on screen. For him, there was even a child-like joy to the discovery.

That, ladies and gentleman, is a badass movie. When you rock two educated filmgoers who have seen it all before, you’ve more than done your job.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is also why Elysium was such a disappointment. Because it does nothing of the sort.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll watch anything writer/director Neill Blomkamp throws up on screen. Visually, Elysium is stimulating, and, at times, gorgeous. Matt Damon’s the lead, and you can rarely go wrong with him, while Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley deliver riveting supporting performances.

But it all comes back to the story. And the story of Elysium is the story of many, many sci-fi books, shows and movies. The powerful people have the good stuff, they aren’t allowing the masses anywhere near it and there’s tension. Whereas District 9 is drenched in apartheid, with no way to separate or distinguish the plot, theme, visuals and characterizations outside of the rigorous caste system the movie establishes, Elysium is really an action movie where the battle between the powerful and the powerless is just the set-up.

Does that make Elysium a bad movie? No, not at all. It’s a perfect serviceable sci-fi/action flick with some nice moments. And it would have made a great first movie for Blomkamp, with District 9 as his powerful, career-making follow-up (not to get too Wachowski-heavy, but their career path started with the intense, completely non-techy indy flick Bound before they Matrix-ed the planet).

Elysium just feels like a let-down, a “what could have been” in the wake of the “holy f*&%ing s&*%” that District 9 was. A missed opportunity.

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