Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chinese vs Japanese / Man vs Robot

OK, first the bad news. I re-watched The Matrix: Reloaded. When the original Matrix came out I was a sophomore in college and I went to the Newark shopping center to watch it with my bros. The ad campaign for the film had been a really good example of creating actual intrigue in regards to a blockbuster movie with the whole "What is the matrix" tagline. Anyway we were stoked to finally see it and the movie wrecked shop on our 19-year old brains and didn't disappoint at all.
Of course years later when the 'trilogy continued' I was only cautiously stoked (at best)...but paid up to see more slo-mo ass kicking and 360 bullet dodging. Everyone knows it sort of sucked...at least relative to the original film, and I hadn't forgotten this but the other day I was in a position to pick out a mindless movie to watch while I was completely immobilized for about 3.5 hours doing leukophoresis (white blood cell donation) and so I was thinking "why not? this movie had some cool fights in it and I like those". And to be fair, The Matrix: Reloaded held my complete attention while my entire blood volume was drained, filtered, and then put back into my bod on the other side.

The Matrix films are basically very high concept/high budget martial arts movies, so on to the kicking people in the face part. The coolest fight in the movie is probably the one where Neo fights like hundreds of Elronds all dressed up for the white house press correspondents' dinner.

I realize that Neo is supposed to be seeing everything in slow motion, but he also kind of kicks in slow motion, which isn't really so cool. Anyway--like lots of kung-fu movies of yore, this one employs lots of physically impossible wire trick stuff but also makes copious use of that patented (they wish) slow down and strafe camera work. Difference is, this isn't even trying to look particularly real, which works great for Keanu. When he gets the pole out and goes all tether ball it's pretty awesome regardless.

This movie makes very little sense, and when I saw it the first time I recall thinking: it's a windup for the next movie...hopefully 'Martix: Revolutions' will swing hard and hit it out of the park. We all know that didn't pan out (maybe I'll go ahead and rewatch that one soonish as well), so this movie just seems jumbled up unnecessarily. I think it would have worked better if they dropped a little of the over-reaching hero quest narrative and focused on what I'm seeing as the primary (read: most interesting) plot driver of the movie which is the following: given that this thing called the matrix exists, check out all the weird alt-programs that float around inside of it (including, as the climax indicates, Neo himself).

Perhaps the most misguided/mistakenly hilarious scene of all is the notorious "cave-rave" pictured above. The part that really tickled me was right before the Zion-techno-oontz starts bumping where Morpheus announces (triumphantly) 'let us shake this cave' in righteous defiance of the robot overlords that will soon consume and enslave us. Youtube wouldn't let me embed this one (the line is at about 1:30)


So amongst such original ideas as twin albino badasses, orgasm cakes, keymasters who unlock secret stuff (wait a sec...), and having Harold Perrineau being able to steer a ship straight and true despite being in a weird non/ultra reality, this movie is probably worth about:

.56 of the 1

sidenote for any science-types reading this: when Neo 'reaches inside' Trinity to kickstart her heart Mola Ram-style at the end, all I could think was "terrible sterile technique, dude."

1/24/11 topical update: Keanu, please don't make anymore of these.


I also watched a modern kung-fu film called Ip Man.  It's on Netflix streaming and you should watch it. It's much more of a "film" film than most martial arts movies, but the fighting in it is really really kickass. (see below)

This may be old news to some of you because I believe they already released a sequel to this bad boy...but in quick summary, Ip Man is a real guy who lived in southern China during the second Sino-Japanese war, and was the first to teach Wing Chun style kung fu. He had tons of students the most famous of whom is Bruce Lee.

The movie is set during a time of Japanese occupation, and Ip Man is the old standby peaceful man character who doesn't really want to fight, but holy crap look out when his blood gets angried up.

Though this scene below is only about half way through the movie...it's probably the coolest fight scene.  The setup: Japanese soldiers are challenging all the Chinese guys to come fight them, to prove that Japanese martial arts is better or whatever, and because they're an occupying army they're bullying them into it big time, and being dicks in general. Ip Man's all like "I choose not to fight" etc.. and that's part of how you know how unbelievably badass he is, because he's super calm about it and everything. But then...well, you know.

Were you digging all the multiple rapid punches and painful limb breaks like I was?
You should watch this movie for more of the same. Netflix streaming, like I mentioned. Do it.

9 out of 10 japanese guys with broken legs and multiple face bruises agree.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Year in Review

So what did I do this year? Let's recap in a slapdash way that romanticizes minor occurences while downplaying major ones and adds a sheen of coolness to basically everything.

I started 2010 watching fireworks on a couch in Kuala Lumpur, and ended it just now at a karaoke bar somewhere in the LA outskirts belting out "Alive" with two Japanese dudes I just met. Pretty solid on both counts.

I played the last show with an old band and the first show with a new one. I took two GREs. I got engaged. I soaked in a Japanese mountain hot spring and walked on the great wall. I turned 30.

I saw Arcade Fire in Berkeley, and a Broadway production of South Pacific. I went to the symphony a couple of times. I bought Guess Who and Dvorak records. I ate a fried Oreo.

I drank some wine from 1910 and made eggnog from scratch. I watched The Sound of Music for the first time, and ran into Tom Waits at the Hotel Utah in SF. I had a surprise birthday party and was completely surprised.

What comes next?