Cary Grant Is Dead

On the bus, a woman is sitting in the frontmost seat chatting with the driver:

Woman: When they make a movie about your life, who is going to play you?

Driver: Well, the man who would have played me just died today.

Woman: Oh, Gregory Peck!

Driver: Yep.

Woman: You know that other guy just died, too. David Brinkley. I wonder who’s going to be next.

Driver: I dunno.

Woman: Because these things always happen in threes, you know.

Driver: I know.

Woman: What about Cary Grant? Is Cary Grant still alive?

Driver: I don’t think so

Woman: Hmm. It’ll probably be somebody else, then. Maybe Bob Hope.

Driver: Bob Hope would be good.

Movies: Matrix Reloaded

Matrix Reloaded is so-so. As “middle chapters” go it’s sure no Empire Strikes Back, and it ain’t no Two Towers either. And that’s understandable, I guess. But what’s really disappointing is that, when you get right down to it, Reloaded isn’t even on par with The Matrix itself.

What The Matrix did so well was to reveal just enough of its secrets to be interesting, but not so much as to give everything away. It’s clear, for example, that Keanu Reeves can act about as well as I can kickbox, but they disguised this by giving him almost no dialog whatsoever. Furthermore, the philosophical mumbo-jumbo that permeates the script doesn’t hold up to any intellectual scrutiny, but every time you thought “hey wait a minute, that doesn’t make any …” they would cut to an action scene and leave you admiring the gunplay. And then, just when it dawned on you that the fight scene doesn’t make any sense either, they switched back to the Buddhist hoohaw.

Matrix Reloaded, unfortunately, blithely exposes what The Matrix so craftily concealed. Reeves is given entirely too much to say. The philosophical monologues go on well past the point where your bullshit detector has kicked into overdrive. The fight scenes go on and on and on until you become so bored that you start thinking about the them (never a good thing), and you realize that there is no logical reason for the combat to be occurring in the first place.

Worst of all, Reloaded cavalierly reveals the biggest secret of all, the thing that the Wachowski Brothers worked so hard to obscure in the script to the first movie. It’s the answer to question at the very heart of the series. It’s the question that drives us. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did: “What is the Matrix?”

What is the Matrix? Ladies and Gentlemen, the Matrix is Tron.

This didn’t even occur to me in the first movie, but here it is painfully obvious. Characters walk around describing themselves as “programs” that fear “deletion.” Agent Smith might as well be named Agent Sark. Neo seeks out the heart of the computer world in an attempt to take down the Master Control Program (or whatever it’s called here). And the CEO of ENCOM shows up under the pseudonym “The Architect”. It got to the point where I kept expecting a “bit” to show up.

Okay, so I’m joking around a little bit, here, but surely you see my point. The Matrix seemed startlingly original at the time, but much of that was smoke and mirrors: the “life in a computer” thing had been done (Tron), the “war between machines and man” thing had been done (Terminator), the “wire-fu” had been done (Iron Monkey), the whole “he’s The One” thing had been done before (Bible, New Testament), and so on. But a tight script and crafty direction kept things moving at such a fast pace that you never really caught wise to this fact. Reloaded, unfortunately, lacks such subtly. In fact, everything about this movie seems half-again too much: the fight scenes are half again too long, the speeches are half again too lengthy … indeed, the whole movie could have been trimmed by a third.

This excess not only makes for a movie that’s slightly dull, but also a chapter in the Matrix Trilogy that feels like a stall for time. Despite all the sound and fury in Reloaded, not a whole lot has really happened by the time the end credits roll (and much of what does happen takes place in the last 30 minutes). Like the kind of video game this movie emulates, much of the story revolves around the characters receiving and completing self-contained Quests (“Now you must locate … The Keymaker!”) which don’t really get them any closer to their objective. Matrix Reloaded fulfills its primary duty (i.e., gets us from part 1 to part 3) but doesn’t do a whole lot else.

By the way, The Queen wins Quote Of The Week with this comment about the Zion scene: “Apparently life in the future is going to be one endless rave. No wonder the machines want us dead.”

End Of Line.

The comments of this review are not spoiler-free, so caveat emptor.


Washington Post correction:

A June 8 profile of actress Jane Alexander incorrectly identified a senator she described in her memoir. It was Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) whom she described as “a taut, leathery gnome of a man with hair a color not found in nature.” It was also Thurmond who asked her, “Aren’t you a moral woman?”

Found in The Note.

Baron Harkonnen Says WMDs Will Be Found

Baron Vladimir Harkonnen today reiterated his insistence that Arrakis possesses worms of mass destruction, despite growing skepticism that proof of WMDs will ever be found. "We know for a fact that they have worms," Vladimir said in a statement to the Emperor, "but it will take time to uncover them, as they are likely hidden deep underground." Rival houses, however, have stepped up their criticism of Harkonnen, accusing the House of exaggerating the threat of WMDs to justify "Operation Arrakis Freedom," the March 20 Harkonnen-led invasion of the desert planet. "We were told that an attack on the Empire by worm-riding Fremen was imminent," said Duke Yoshihide of House Radding. "If that was the case, Baron Harkonnen, then I ask: where are the WMDs?" Others have been more blunt in their criticism. "I think it's clear now that this was all about the spice," said Duchess Asplund, who has also called for an investigation into lucrative contracts Harkonnen awarded the Spacing Guild following the war. In addition to the question of WMDs, the Harkonnen administration has also been under fire because of continued attacks on Imperial forces by the Bene Gesserit, and because Paul "Maud'dib" Atreides -- the Fremen leader and "Ace of Spades" in the "Arrakis Most Wanted" playing-card deck -- remains at large.

Cold Comfort

A man stands on a corner in downtown Seattle. He is loudly sobbing, with one hand over his eyes and the other dangling at his side clutching a cell phone. A woman stands at his side, consoling him with one arm half draped over his shoulders. As I pass I hear her say, “I don’t know why you are so upset. She’s nothing but a ho.”

Clap For Victory

Alan Graham
of Trial & Error
provides proof of concept

Remember a few years back when the big fad was those keychains that loudly beeped when you clapped your hands, thereby allowing you to find them when misplaced?

You know, if the CIA had been smart they would have snuck into Iraq before the war and put one of those suckers on the WMDs. Then we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in today. I mean, c’mon guys — they only cost, like, three bucks.

Bad Review Revue: All “2 Fast” Edition

The title and subject matter of 2 Fast 2 Furious lends itself well to scathing reviews:

Chicago Reader: “Without Diesel’s brooding lunkhead presence it’s more like 1/2 Fast 1/2 Furious.” — J. R. Jones

New York Times: “All of these supremely expressive vehicles come equipped with drivers, principally a pair of crash-test dummies played by Paul Walker and Tyrese, whose low-gear dialogue makes the whine of engines sound like the highest poetry.” — A. O. Scott

Washington Post: “Miami Vice with many more carz and numberz where all the adjectives used 2 go.” — Stephen Hunter

Los Angeles Times: “My hand trembles slightly as I type these words, but the truth is that while watching 2 Fast 2 Furious, the follow-up to the pleasurably cheap-thrills sleeper The Fast and the Furious, I realized just how much I miss Vin Diesel.” — Manohla Dargis

Christian Science Monitor: “2 foolish + 2 flashy = 4 get it!” — David Sterrit

Austin Chronicle: “As exciting as a Yugo in quicksand.” — Marc Savlov

Update: Slate totally Rick Bragg’d me.