Category Archives: The Matrix

The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

 

Do we really have to do this?
-Contractual obligation.
Oh. I guess there is no severance pay.

Zero stars out of 4. Abysmal garbage.
It’s like a huge budget video game cinematic. Overlong, overcomplicated, overproduced and boring as hell.

After all of the hype, Reloaded failed to deliver on most every level. It confused, angered, and generally wore out everyone in the theater and we all left thinking: “just what are they going to do to end this thing?”

Essentially, this third Matrix film is nothing more than a feeble attempt to tie up some loose ends. The two major questions asked by the audience are: “Why?” and “What?” quickly followed by a defeated “Who even cares?”.   In a Return of the Jedi style conclusion, Revolutions gives us both the final battle and final confrontation between the hero and villain. Except ROTJ is both well made and pretty well plotted. This isn’t.

Filming back to back with Reloaded didn’t help matters. We pick up after the beyond cheesy cliffhanger from the previous film. Neo finds himself stuck in some abandoned train station inside the Matrix with some programs looking to get out. How he got there is unexplained, and we quickly realize that we couldn’t have cared less if they did. he is not allowed to leave because the controller is an agent of the Merovingian. Thus Morpheus and Trinity go in to convince the Frenchman to release Neo. This is basically a repeat of the same scene in Reloaded, but with a different goal.  After a brief dialogue, he gives in and Neo is rescued. Woo.

Neo then visits the Oracle (now played by a different actress due to the untimely death of Gloria Foster) who engages in yet another overlong conversation of sheer mumbo jumbo. Essentially Neo and Smith are a yin and yang, and the war will soon end. After Neo leaves, Smith appears and takes over both the Oracle and her protector.

Back in the real world, Neo requests he be given a ship to travel to the Machine City. He takes Niobe’s ship and goes off to his unknown destiny with Trinity. Niobe, Morpheus and the other crew members attempt to make it back to Zion despite the machine attack. They quickly realize that the other crew member who had been unconscious had killed a crew member and must be stowing aboard Neo’s  ship. He attacks and disarms Trinity. It takes Neo ages to realize this is actually Smith despite the man using all of Smith’s dialogue and mannerisms for several minutes. Finally he is killed after blinding Neo with a power cable. But don’t worry, he can still see. Magic! So they continue on with trinity at the helm. Wait, can’t Neo still see? Oh well.

The defense is being mounted inside Zion to ward off the oncoming hordes of machines. This consists of lots of guns, and giant cumbersome human-operated walkers to also shoot machines. This begins a stupidly contrived “battle” that consists of little more than CGI fakery. The first film showed that the human’s only weapon was an EMP to destroy all circuitry. Where did all the guns come from then? And if they already have beam and energy weaponry, why are they using projectile weapons?!?! This strategy of this effort is even more stupid as the humans are hopelessly outnumbered. But for some reason the machines never pour in more infantry and these idiots in suits are able to last far longer than they actually should. This mindless conflict goes on for far too long, eventually culminating in the arrival of the sip containing Morpheus and Niobe. They make it inside the gates and trigger an EMP to render the army useless. WHY DIDN’T THEY DO THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE??? In fact, why not ATTACK THE MACHINES BEFORE THEY ATTACK YOU WITH A GIANT EMP??? Then again we are talking about the people who face impending doom with techno raves…

This has knocked out all of Zion’s equipment and the humans retreat to further levels and wait for the final assault. Neo and Trinity reach the Machine City are are eventually attacked by numerous defenses. Neo is unable to hold all of them off and has Trinity fly upwards and through the clouds into the atmosphere. And here is perhaps the only genuinely emotional moment in the entire film, where Trinity sees actual sunlight for the first and only time. Here in a Matrix sequel is a genuine moment of humanity against the philosophical whimsy and badly overdone action gimmickry. And then it is suddenly over, with the ship crashing and Trinity dying.  This scene is glossed over, so that any shred of empathy we might have remaining for these increasingly inhuman characters doesn’t even have the chance to surface.

Neo makes his way inside the city until confronted by a floating thing that we are meant to take as the Machine leader. For some reason it forms a face and talks to Neo. In exchange for “peace”, Neo will go inside the Matrix and defeat Smith in one final battle. If he loses, he will be killed. So he enters once more, and finds Smith everywhere.

The final battle is on a rainy city street, with thousands of Smith copies just looking on. The battle itself is overdone and completely a non-entity. Both are equally matched and is becomes readily apparent that there will be no clear winner. Neo cannot defeat the odds against him, and it would take Smith a very long time to kill Neo. SO THEY KEEP ON FIGHTING. You could easily go to the bathrooom at this moment, check the phone, do the dishes, or simply fast forward because this entire end conflict has no tension or impact in any conceivable way. Finally, Neo realizes he cannot defeat Smith. He allows himself to die, and thus the Machine leader kills him. But because Neo is now Smith, Smith dies too. This makes sense, but yet doesn’t. Why would this actually work? Was Neo still present in some shape or form? Why would this kill all the Smiths? Why didn’t the leader kill Smith in the first place?

The machines pull back and stop attacking Zion. Peace has been made due to Neo’s sacrifice. The Oracle and Architect meet and agree to free all humans who want to be freed. Peace is declared to “last as long as it can”. The Oracle admits that they might see Neo again and that she didn’t know this would happen but that she believed.

And at this point no one really gives a damn. If you really look at it closely, none of this outcome makes any sense. Why would the Machine leader agree to any of this preposterous conclusion? Machines don’t want peace! They’re machines for Pete’s sake! How do humans already plugged into the Matrix decide if they want to be freed? They’re inside a fake world already! And is this ending supposed to mean that there will be an eventual breach of the peace and that war will break out again anew? Weren’t the machines ready to eliminate the human race if necessary? Why declare peace and give up their power supply of jacked-in humans? It. Doesn’t. Make. Any. Sense.

By the time you’ve made it through this second sequel, you almost deserve a medal. There is no reason for any of this to exist, as the story is mindless. The action is thrown at you and your sense s are so overwhelmed by CGI that it becomes cartoonish in every sense. Never is Revolutions engaging to any part of the audience, and you spend the entire two hours and nine minutes wishing for the big lumbering giant to end it’s reign of monotony.

There is supposedly a sequel in the works, with Keanu Reeves attached. I don’t know how it would work with the ending of this film, but revisiting this piece of junk makes it obvious that they left it open for a sequel. (Even though the character is supposedly dead) In all actuality, after the total abomination that is the Wachowski’s Speed Racer, I really don’t want to know.

There is no reason for this film to have been made, and it takes a supreme effort of will to even have a positive thought about The Matrix afterwards. I stayed away from the entire franchise for many years afterwards, trying to block the whole thing out of my mind. Reloaded was bad, but this was just mindlessly bad. The theater where Revolutions was screened was dead quiet. By the end credits the entire auditorium was in stunned silence. Or maybe they were just all asleep.

EDITIONS: Revolutions was released just like Reloaded. Great DVD with 2.35:1 16:9 anamorphic image, Dolby 5.1 and a second disc of extras. The Blu-ray is ported from the inferior HD-DVD format, with a Dolby True-HD 5.1 mix. Other than getting a great deal on one of the trilogy boxsets, there is no reason to own this garbage.

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Filed under Film, Film Review, The Matrix, Zero stars

The Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Whoa, I know how to write a screenplay now.

1.5 stars out of 4. Extremely Disappointing Godawful Mess That In Effect Gives Us The Finger.

Here is an sci-fi action film for the senses and not the mind. Unfortunately it isn’t really for the senses either. The Matrix pulled a Die Hard-like feat in making a smaller action film with no real fanfare become a worldwide phenomenon. This eagerly awaited sequel was filmed back to back with the third sequel, which was released six months later. What occurred over the four year gap between films is that the drive of the story evaporated.

I’ve found that the only way to accurately get across some of my extreme issues with this sequel is to go through the film chronologically, so that some of the frustration, confusion and sheer rising anger encountered can be adequately expressed. It shouldn’t be a bad film. The production value is high, and enough of a story is present in order to keep some semblance of a coherent narrative. However it is the indifference to this bare minimum necessary to maintain an audience’s attention span and other elements that makes Reloaded fail completely as both a movie to be enjoyed  and as a sequel to the first film. Instead of being along for the ride and a part of the action, we are left on the sidelines and told that we humans are just to stupid to understand the great events going on before our very mortal eyes.

Reloaded opens with the human resistance in deeper struggle with the machines. a secret meeting is held between crews inside the Matrix where it is revealed that a machine army is digging towards Zion, the last human city. The machines mean to end the war in one fell swoop and will reach the city in 72 hours. The crews must return to Zion, but Morpheus asks for one crew to stay behind so that they may have news of the Oracle. Neo, “The One” who was supposed to end the war and save humanity, still has no idea of what he is supposed to do. (How would anyone know?) One crew remains and the meeting is broken up by agents. Curiously this is preceded by Agent Smith giving Neo his earpiece and thanking him for setting Smith free. Wait, didn’t Smith get destroyed last time round?

The others return to Zion (giving no thought to the reappearance of Smith), giving us our first glimpse of the last human city in existence. A place that was only referred to briefly in the original film, the Zion that was built up in our imaginations of course does not exist. What we are presented is essentially just a giant cave with rooms connected to other caves. Oh, and there are some people around wearing rags and robes. At their home, everybody tries to get a little R&R, especially Neo & Trinity who seem to never be able to have their umm..conjugal visitations. This is because Neo is seen as a Christ-like figure who is besieged with request to bless and aid others in need.

Everyone continues talking about the impending machine attack and what the people should be told. This goes on for several scenes and no agreement is reached on whether to lie, water down the truth, or admit that an army is coming. We then focus on the secondary character of the new computer operator, Link, and his wife who is angry with him serving in the ship that killed her brothers and being in danger. Ooookay, was that really necessary to explore?

That night, a meeting is held to explain what is going to happen to Zion. Neo and Trinity sneak off to have that visit. Without any hesitation, Morpheus stands before everyone and brazenly shouts that the machines are coming to kill them all (in a highly but unintentionally funny over the top performance), and that things look bleak, but that they will make a lot of noise. Oh, I mean something more like: “WE ARE ALL GOING TO PROBABLY DIE, SO INSTEAD OF PREPARING OR GETTING READY FOR THE FINAL BATTLE OF OUR LIVES, LET’S HAVE A MASSIVE SLOW-MOTION RAVE AND GROPE EACH OTHER TO TECHNO!!!” This terrible and completely stupid scene lasts for a good four minutes and is inter-cut with Neo and Trinity’s lovemaking. After you’ve winced for this entire sequence, as we all did in the theater, the movie decides to finally continue with those still in the Matrix trying to get word back to Morpheus that the Oracle wants to meet. Unfortunately the last man is captured by Smith who uses his new-found power to copy himself so that Smith is then extracted into the real world via the telephone. Wait, how does that work?

Neo finds and has to fight the Oracle’s bodyguard, Seraph. Then he is led to his meeting with the Oracle, who engages in a completely nonsensical dialogue with Neo for about five minutes before finally relaying Neo’s new objective. He must retrieve the Keymaker from the Merovingian in order to reach the Source where the path of the One ends. (“Are you the keymaster?“) And of course this makes little to no sense, but at least it’s something for us to go on. The Oracle then leaves and Smith appears. He explains that when Neo destroyed him that he was supposed to go off to be destroyed like other dead programs. But he simply didn’t want to. Okay, if that’s true then why isn’t there a fail-safe in the Matrix to prevent this, and how does this make Smith seemingly invulnerable and able to copy himself? Smith essentially says has no purpose and tries to copy Neo. This does not work, and a fight ensues. It starts well, and continues. Starting to get a bit stale, more Smith clones appear. Getting more stale, more clones appear. Finally a small army of Smith clones appear, and Neo flies away. Throughout this fight, things turn into complete computer animation which absolutely destroys any and all sense of this being a real conflict. The addition of a computer animated Neo simply does not work and undoes the fight entirely. Not that it wasn’t getting stale anyway. (Oh, and isn’t it funny how some of the Smith clones have a different face in the longer shots?)

Two crews volunteer to aid Morpheus’s crew in the hopes of proving the prophecy of the One while the rest prepare for the machines’ assault. Morpheus, trinity and Neo then enter into the film’s only truly interesting scene where they meet with the Merovingian. The Frenchman is a dealer in information, an older program who lords over his power and underlings like a classic-era Warner Bros. villain. Here is a fully realized character who draws out every last syllable as if it were a fine wine. His actions are all meticulously plotted, even a tryst with an attractive woman is wonderfully overdone with a cleverly disguised dessert that triggers an overpowering orgasm.

He of course refuses to give them the Keymaker, and adds that they have nothing to give him in return. They are then led to the Keymaker by his frustrated wife who does this service in exchange for a kiss from Neo-a kiss that must be performed as if he were kissing Trinity. Ah, actual interest and development in a scene arises! She gives them the Keymaker, which royally pisses off her husband. (Hey look, Brides of Dracula! A much better movie!) He sends his goons to retrieve the Keymaker and Neo fends them off. He stops them after a fight that goes on far too long with an obvious conclusion, and the Merovingian escapes to sadly never again appear in this series, save for a essentially pointless cameo.

Trinity and Morpheus are pursued by the Merovingian’s twin ghost boys who are seemingly invulnerable. They are forced to take the only available exit. It happens to be located on the freeway. This is built up as a very bad idea, and thus we have an example of that almost obligatory part of an action film: the car chase.

This is the one section of the film people point to to explain away the film’s problems. As long as there’s a big long action sequence, it must be good right? The slow motion bullet time is used frequently which immediately ruins any and all of the tension that has been built up in the chase thus far. Agents join in the chase to further complicate matters. But for some odd reason “the exile is our primary target“. What? Why do they care about an old program? Shouldn’t they be going after the human resistance? Why does this make sense? Why do I keep asking all of these rhetorical questions? I’m never going to be answered by the movie.

This scene progresses as if the filmmakers had gone to the John Woo school of directing, but Woo’s deep connection to the emotional subtext and character is sorely lacking. You continually come to realization that this entire sequence is designed around a single idea: “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” Cool. Cool is not a word with which one should design a film or storyline. Cool can be used in coming up with a situation or snake pit for action films. Cool should be used in conjunction with imagination in order to further enhance the impact of the story. The car chase fails miserably in maintaining story and tension. It becomes a lifeless video game level instead of a hair raising car chase where we are worried about these characters or what happens to the Keymaker. At this point, we still don’t even know who this little guy is!

Neo flies in to grab everyone and they adjourn to find out just what they need to do. The Keymaker tells them of a secret floor in a building that will give them access to Source entrance. They will need to shut down the power at two different locations in order to start a five minute window to get through the door to the Source. Neo must go alone into the unknown. One team goes in and completes their objective, with the other team’s ship destroyed by machines before their station can be destroyed. Thus, Trinity unbeknownst to Neo (who asked her to stay out of the Matrix because he has continual nightmares of her death) goes into destroy the station so that Neo can complete his mission. An Agent appears and they do battle.

Neo, Morpheus and the Keymaker are confronted by Smith in front of the door to the Source. (How did he get there?) he attacks with his clones and Neo manages to get the others into the doorway, but the Keymaker is fatally shot. He tells Neo which door to go through and tells Morpheus which door will lead him out of the Matrix. (So Morpheus was here for no reason. Good.) Neo goes through the doorway and gets to the point in the film and franchise where it all started to go completely downhill…

Neo meets a man sitting in an office chair in an empty room amidst dozens of TV screens plastered with his face. This is the Architect. The designer of the Matrix begins to spill the beans to Neo as to what is going on and what The One’s true objective is. There is much too much mumbo jumbo surrounding the few nuggets of truth, so the audience must again spend this time trying to slough through the crap to get to the meaning of what is being discussed. And the Architect begins by saying that Neo (and in reference, us as well) will only understand some of what is being said. That’s a great way to get us all off your backs, just say that we won’t understand what is going on!!!

Finally the Architect relays to Neo that the path of the One is really just another machine setup. It was found a necessary evil in order to keep all of the humans peaceable inside the Matrix and in subservience.  The One must put his special code inside the machine source and reset things. Zion will be destroyed along with all of its inhabitants, and the One will start a new Zion with a selected small group of humans. (Dr. Strangelove’s mine shaft anyone?) Neo is the sixth “One” thus far and Zion has already been destroyed five times. Neo is now presented with a “choice”. If he returns to the Matrix, then all those plugged into he Matrix will be killed and Zion destroyed.  If he goes to the source as directed, humanity will be saved from complete annihilation. Not much of a choice there is it?

The One is programmed with a deep connection to other humans and thus is supposed to be inclined towards performing his tasked duty. But Neo is primarily connected to Trinity, who is being killed by an Agent just as in his nightmares. So, Neo goes after her and dooms all humanity to destruction. A climax is quickly forced, where Trinity dies, Neo revives her, Neo only partially reveals the plot to the others, the ship is attacked and destroyed by Sentinels, they barely get away, and Neo suddenly realizes he has become awesome outside of the Matrix. He stops several Sentinels with his mind and promptly falls unconscious. The crew is picked up by another ship who has a crewman in the sickbay in a coma like Neo. Of course the crewman is the same one who was infected by Smith.

TO BE CONTINUED

Seriously, who ends a film with a silly “to be continued” card? This is not a TV episode or a cliffhanger of a serial. It’s a silly cliffhanger simply meant to bring people back in six months later. And the sequel is really the same film going on for 129 minutes longer. But with all of the really bad parts.

The ending of Reloaded makes little to no real sense. Neo has killed everyone already, so what is the use of Trinity surviving? Oh wait, the killing of everyone connected to the Matrix is never mentioned again, and absolutely no one is ever informed of what the Architect told Neo. So basically this has all become just a setup for the final assault on Zion. So much for leverage.

They had to bring things to a quick climax so how would you write the crew getting away on foot from the Sentinels? Oh yeah, Neo now has his magic powers in the real world! Wait, that makes ABSOLUTELY NO FREAKING SENSE IN ANY CONTEXT! (Sighs.) I still cannot tell if this is just lazy writing or if we were meant to take this seriously. Why would Neo be powerful outside the Matrix? The entire premise of this series was that the humans only could gain a partial semi-advantage via hacking into the system of the Matrix. To have him just as powerful outside ruins any dramatic context previously established and guts the film of any tension or interest that could possibly be left.

And then to have Neo in the same ship as the Smith-man, who just happens to also be in a coma is beyond coincidence. He’s not going to do something bad now is he?

The problem I have with this film, and its much inferior sequel is that all of the spunk present in the first film is completely gone. With the increased budget and success came a lifelessness to the Matrix universe. That spark that said, “screw it, let’s end the movie with Rage Against the Machine and Neo flying into the camera” is nowhere to be found. In addition the characters become one dimensional and over the course of Reloaded we cease to care a damn bit about them. Some fans of Star Wars have claimed that as soon as the sequels arrived the magic of a vast unknown universe was somewhat dissipated. That may be debatable, but it is absolutely true as far as the Matrix franchise is concerned. With each proceeding minute of this 4 1/2  hour snoozefest (both sequels put together) you feel all of the enjoyment and love you had for the first film get put through the wringer. If you have any love left for the franchise after sitting through both sequels, then hats off to you. I thought I didn’t and stayed away ever since the theatrical release.

This isn’t even going into the fact that the plot has no tension or definite meaning. Heck, there isn’t even a point to the mess. Reloadedis big, sprawling and unsteady. It’s as if this is a big lumbering ship lost at sea with no one at the helm to control the madness. For all those who claim this to be a decent movie, I challenge you: When was the last time you actually sat down and watched this mess? Especially right  after the first film, which is a first class operatic masterwork in every way compared to this junk. The first film has passion, energy, characters with definite motivations, a fully realized opposing force with impressive agents in its service, pacing, and an actual screenplay that combines all of these elements into a highly entertaining and more simply put it: a great movie.

I found myself becoming increasingly angry at Reloaded while reviewing the DVD after all this time. It must be constructed in a way as to provide the maximum amount of confusion and frustration to the viewer. Not only does the film contradict itself numerous times, but it does so in such a mindbogglingly uninteresting way that you cease to really care at all.

EDITIONS: The DVD issue was and still is quite impressive. 16:9 anamorphic 2.35:1 image that looks spotless for the format and age, involving 5.1 Dolby mix that resembles the theatrical presentation, and a bevy of extras on a second disc. This was pretty much reissued untouched for the Ultimate boxset, and a the HD master struck for that DVD box was rolled over to  HD-DVD with a Dolby True-HD 5.1 soundmix. This was simply ported over to Blu-ray. (All of this much like Warner’s practices, akin to their treatment of the Batman series on video.)

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Filed under 1.5 stars, Film Review, The Matrix, Uncategorized

The Matrix (1999)

Hiya fellas.

4 stars out of 4. Immortal film.

“There is no spoon…”

The degrees to which The Matrix changed our cinematic landscape are inescapable. This is one of those rare cultural landmarks that overcame it’s cult status and truly became a part of our shared existence. It helps that The Matrix is a bit of a whole bunch of sci-fi, cyberpunk and dystopic fiction blended together with classic Hong Kong action film elements. Not bad for a film that stole much of Dark City‘s thunder.

You can argue about it’s value and worth all day, but in the end the first film in the franchise is simply put, a giddy fun ride for both young and old. There’s enough for the mind to chew on to keep us interested in this world, and things have not yet fallen into near-parody. This way, we can jokingly say “I know kung-fu…” with a sense of endearment instead of revulsion.

The film focuses on a lowlife computer hacker named Neo (Keanu Reeves) who tries unsuccessful to balance his criminal activities with a mundane 9-5 daily grind as a software programmer. He feels lost, dejected and confronted by something which he cannot grasp. (All the elements necessary for the great Keanu performance 😉 What he cannot grasp is the secret behind the world he lives in. By now everyone knows the real purpose of the Matrix, so the reveal lacks the initial impact. Neo is shown the truth by a band of escaped humans led by the enigmatic Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne, who has the time of his life in this role).

Neo is let out of the Matrix to live in the real world along with the rest of the surviving humans not under machine control. He is believed by some to be “the One” who was prophesied to end the war between man and machine and finally bring freedom to all humanity. “Whoa” indeed.

The film thrives on style and never does this dissipate. The scope is actually quite limited, and this is the real key in maintaining the quality of the story. As the sequels proved, when the scope of the Matrix is expanded the story suffers in relation. Here the characters seem like the scared renegade humans they are supposed to be, and their actions take on greater significance because of this. We even feel a greater connection in the  almost obligatory love relationship, not because it is expected but because it feels relatively natural.

This perception goes for the action as well which has a greater impact than all of the flashiness of the sequels. As soon as they came back for the second go-round, it was clear that no one knew what they were doing. There is more energy and focus in a single scene from this film than in the entirety of Reloaded or Revolutions. Here is one of the sad franchises where the sequels must be ignored so that the initial film’s enjoyment isn’t tainted by their stupidity.

Yes this is a sci-fi action film that was embraced rather unexpectedly by the masses. It isn’t that deep, and it isn’t as good as Dark City. It’s rare to be able to go back and enjoy a film that spawned a franchise, especially one such as this that is composed of many recycled elements from other sources. But I did, and The Matrix still holds up all these years later. It’s a great mix of films that I love, and works to such an extent on every level that it deserved its cult audience.

It may not be the greatest thing but dammit, it’s impossible not to crack a smile when Rage Against the Machine is cranked up on the soundtrack for the ending!

EDITIONS:The Matrix was originally issued on DVD and Laserdisc in 1999. The DVD was reference quality for quite a while with a 16:9 anamorphic image, Dual-layer transfer and shattering Dolby 5.1 surround mix. The LD was based off the same master but some have said that the LD 5.1 mix was more robust and the DVD mix was a bit toned back. They’re both at the same 384 kbp/s bitrate however.

In 2004, the films were revisited and reissued together in the Ultimate Matrix Collection boxset. New HD masters were struck for all three films, and the original film was improved in contrast and had grain toned down. But the decision was made to color correct the film to match the distinct color scheme of the two sequels. The original film is much more robust and lifelike, with a definite yellow and brown look amongst the green inside the Matrix. This same master was re-used for the HD-DVD and then the Blu-ray set, leaving the original theatrical version only available on the original DVD. I miss the color and grain on the new versions, and have stuck with my original disc. (Thank heavens for upscaling!!) The new Blu-ray Dolby True-HD 5.1 mix is quite good, but seems to be a bit different than the original.

What I’d like to see is the original film be rescanned at 4K and a new master struck that fully represented the original film with the different color scheme and grain structure. Then a lossless presentation of the theatrical 5.1 mix, which could show off the innovative mix that would resemble the theatrical DTS experience. (That would have been amazing!)

And talk about a cult movie that should be screened in arthouses at midnight…

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Filed under 4 stars, Film Review, Immortal Films, The Matrix