And you thought hearing Christmas music in stores around Thanksgiving time was overdoing it. I submit to you the Behemoth of the Week, maybe of the year: "The Ultimate Matrix Collection"...
And you thought hearing Christmas music in stores around Thanksgiving time was overdoing it.
I submit to you the Behemoth of the Week, maybe of the year: “The Ultimate Matrix Collection” (Warner, R). The 10-disc set includes “The Matrix” (1999), “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003), “The Matrix Revolutions” (2003), full-length documentaries about each one, “The Animatrix” (2003) and some more documentaries.
I shared my theory about why the first movie is a classic at the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame recently, likely assuring that I won’t be invited back: “The Matrix” taps into a fundamental nerd fantasy that the world where we sit at a computer all day and get Dorito residue on the keyboard is the unreal world. But there’s secretly a real world where we’re special, we wear stylish clothes, we have superpowers, and we get to have sex with another person.
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The two silly sequels and if you want to argue about whether they’re silly, let’s start with the two albino dreadlocked ghost assassins I call “Killi Vanilli” are like nudity. Think of seeing your attractive new girlfriend or boyfriend naked for the first time, and discovering a big, dumb tattoo. Some people are just hotter with their clothes on. And when you strip away the tantalizing mystery, what’s standing there in tighty-whities can be a laughable disappointment.
Having said that, the box for the DVDs looks really cool.
Like Neo in “The Matrix,” young Ben Hawkins is recognized as “the one” in HBO’s eerie show “Carnivale The Complete First Season” (Warner, unrated). It didn’t catch fire like “The Sopranos,” maybe because the plot takes its time and could lose you from one week to the next. But chain-watched on DVD, it’s like the best shaggy dog story Stephen King and David Lynch never made complete with Lynch’s dancing dwarf, Michael J. Anderson.
In the dustbowl ’30s, Hawkins (“T3’s” Nick Stahl) takes up with a traveling carny complete with freaks, psychics and naughty dancers after his mother dies. Hawkins’ supernatural powers and tormenting dreams gradually reveal themselves as he and the carnies move closer to the yin to his yang: a sinister preacher (Clancy Brown) with powers and an agenda of his own. A flawed beauty of a show, with one of the most creative non-FX shots I’ve seen: The camera slowly pushes in to the preacher sitting alone in a gymnasium, approaching and circling him to reveal a gym full of ghost people.
“Maria Full of Grace” (HBO, R): Actually, she’s full of pellets. A 17-year-old Colombian girl (Catalina Sandino Moreno in a career-igniting performance) discovers she’s pregnant just as she’s quit her humiliating job at a rose plantation. So she accepts an offer to make money as a drug mule, smuggling the contraband in her stomach. Strangely, this does not solve her problems. A real contender.
Another parallel: “24 Season 3” (Fox). After going undercover to bust a South American drug lord, agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) is a junkie! I’d wondered if the real-time series was sustainable without getting absurd, but the third tense, daylong thriller got even better as the drug plot dovetailed into bio-terrorism in L.A.
“The Bourne Supremacy” (Universal, PG-13): In the bang-up “Bourne Identity” sequel, amnesiac agent Matt Damon’s girlfriend gets killed and he gets framed. So he goes after the CIA spook responsible (Brian Cox) at the same time another one (Joan Allen) is leading the hunt for him. Skip the deleted scenes and just go back to the terrific car chase and the Bourne’s fight using a rolled-up magazine.
“Dodgeball A True Underdog Story” (Fox, PG-13): Vince Vaughn leads his team of losers against evil, porno-mustached fitness-club owner Ben Stiller’s team for the championship. Blatantly wacky but with plenty of laughs. The DVD includes an alternate ending (the first-time director walked out for a week when the studio changed it), bloopers and hilarious outtakes with perpetual ball victim Justin Long.
“Infernal Affairs” (Miramax, R): A solid Hong Kong crime thriller compared to “No Way Out.” A cop under cover with the mob is ordered to help find the mole in the gang; and the mob’s plant in the police force is ordered to find the mole in his office.
“Species III” (MGM, R): If the first two were entertaining “B” sci-fi thrillers, this straight-to-vid entry is way further down the alphabet. A mad professor nurtures original alien Natasha Henstridge’s frequently naked adult daughter, while murderous half-breeds are on the attack.
“Hell’s Angels” (Universal, 1930, unrated): In time for Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator,” Howard Hughes’ real war epic that cost $4 million and the lives of three pilots.
“Disney Treasures” (Disney, unrated): More of the two-disc sets with metal cases and a wealth of extras: “The Mickey Mouse Club” (1955), “Mickey Mouse in Black & White: Vol. 2” and “The Complete Pluto: Vol. 1.”
Warner celebrates a legendary director with a documentary and two of his classics: “George Stevens A Filmmaker’s Journey” (1985), “Gunga Din” (1939) and “I Remember Mama” (1948) which I can never think of now without thinking of the horror knockoff, “I Dismember Mama.”
Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or firstname.lastname@example.org