Thursday, November 20, 2003


My daughter asked me why she couldn't watch the movie I had just rented: The Matrix Reloaded.

I said, "because it's very violent and it would give you nightmares."

"Will it give you nightmares?" she asked.

At the time I chuckled and told her it wouldn't. Since then I've reconsidered.

My lovely wife and I went to see the final movie, The Matrix Revolutions. Hmmmm. It's not a bad movie, but it isn't necessarily a good one either. Though my opinion might be a function of my age - I dunno. (These days, I'm often wondering if my impressions regarding some music and movies are based on their actual artistic merit, or my possibly shifting tastes.)

We emerged from the theatre with dual headaches, kinda shrugged at each other, then went and got some McDonald's fries to get rid of the sour taste leftover in our mouths. (Dollar menus, good idea!)

Just to say something positive, the women definitely have the best lines in the flick. Jada Pinkett (Will) Smith has two of the best. It must have been a blast to have the best catch-phrases all to herself, especially as a minor character.

But the rest is dark, noisy, and sad. The original one had some fun gee-whiz, freshman dorm stoner philosophy and that great, mid-show smack upside the head. The last two have been rather grim marches through swat-fu and chase sequences. They're spectacular in each, but even really top-notch beer is still just beer after all (to make a really clumsy comparison). The story has been rote since the first one gave all the goodies away, so even blowing past the road signs of plot points is just like enduring one of those grueling family vacations that center around a long car trip, where dad eventually freaks out and screams at everyone that we're not there yet so stop freakin asking already (you've all been there, I know you have).

The primary thing that did finally get to me was how fantastically dark the story is. Since life has thrown a few curves at my family and me this year, we don't have much tolerance for dark these days, so that part of it was an endurance test. The first one had some nice light moments and some humor. This one has some humor, but it's about four laugh-out-loud lines in the midst of the big swirl down the drain to the sewage treatment plants. I imagine teens and young adults who still have nothing but a future so bright they gotta ... continue the cliche on their own ... they will like it.

Me, I might have nightmares.

Oh, and every single preview was for an upcoming war movie. We have Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe, Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thorton and on and on in war movies on the sea, in Japan, in Texas, in ancient Greece, blah-de-blah. Hasn't even one of these movie executives who green-light films ever studied the history of how well war films do during an actual war when real soldiers are dying?


I'm becoming increasingly convinced, even though I've held some form of this opinion since my late teens, that well-done children/family films are really some of the best entertainment there is. Yeah yeah, I love some great adult movies and wouldn't want to have missed them, such as the "Godfathers", Apocalypse Now, Body Heat, Alien, Fight Club and such. But a glance at my DVD rack reveals a lot more all-audience classics than not. The best "National Lampoon's Family Vacation" is the sole one in which Beverly D'Angelo does not do a topless scene (hint: "Christmas Vacation"). I say this because the movies I've enjoyed the most lately are family films.

Elf has been the family favorite so far this season. It's just sweet and innocent, which is such a relief anymore. After all the crippled fish of Finding Nemo and the "lifetime partners" couple (though I like the phrase one of my friends uses: "the friends of Dorothy") in Good Boy (which was terrible in many other ways as well), a clean and light-hearted kids film with no agenda and no politics was like an ice-cold Coca-Cola with ice and a bag of chips on the hottest day of summer. We laughed and laughed and had nothing icky to try and explain away after the movie on the way home. ("Honey, some fish and people are just born with small limbs and stuff." "Yes, it probably did hurt to land on those dental instruments." "'Two daddies' just means they both owned that dog, honey." Etc.)

We liked Disney's Brother Bear, too, but it did not evoke the "can we buy the DVD when it comes out" sure sign of a good film from the MPC. The best thing about the whole flick was Bob and Doug McKenzie from the old SCTV skits reincarnated as moose, which is kinda sad and funny all at once. I chortled to myself about the way imaginary Eskimo life was portrayed. Most children's films anymore make "native" life seem like some sort of utopia where everyone lives a comfortable, happy middle class American life where everyone is cherished and all the children are above average, doo dah doo dah. The grandma of the tribe assigns everyone's "spirit animal" in a ceremony similar in tone to the huggy, warm ritual they had for my daughter's kindergarten graduation. It's no wonder bored suburban kids become suffused with bullshit weltschmerz about such things when they aren't shown what a truly hardscrabble life a hunter-gatherer's is. Yet, this is a Disney film after all; we wouldn't want the quasi-verisimilitude of Quest for Fire, would we? That would be harder to explain than gay doggy owners. Oh, and supposedly this is the last Disney film that will be "hand drawn" as all the new ones will be animated by computer via Pixar; it's too bad that the film wasn't any better since it's supposedly the last of its kind.

And, finally, we saw Holes on DVD today. It was a pretty rough film for anyone under 10. It is essentially a prison film for the Capn' Crunch demographic. Even though critics and friends said it rocked, we only kinda liked it and have decided to stick with Elf as our fave so far.

And there you have it.

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