Matrix Reloaded; Dark Waters; Anger Management

 (Peter is the London-based president of SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication)

Matrix Reloaded

It is difficult to remember a time when there was no Matrix. The 1999 release of the original film not only pleased fans of science fantasy but drew academics and philosophers into discussion about its issues as well.

A world where human beings were under threat from machines, especially the sophisticated machines created by humans. The story of rebels who were trying to break through the tyranny, especially its black-suited and dark glasses agents, were the new heroes. And, of course, the principal figure was Neo, the One, who was destined to be the Saviour. Loved back into life by Trinity, his destiny is clear.

And so we arrive at The Matrix Reloaded with Matrix Revolution to be released in November 2003, completing the trilogy. The financial success of Reloaded has meant that millions around the world wanted to continue the experience of the menaced futuristic society and think about the issues raised. It has also meant that many critics who like to lop successful films have now praised the action sequences (even more spectacular with Neo being able to fly and Agent Smith able to replicate himself at will to do battle with Neo) and the decor and special effects (even more elaborate than before). However, many have ridiculed the discussion sequences, some dismissing it as gobbledygook. One of the troubles with this kind of dismissal is that when a serious issue like human freedom and choice is discussed, it makes demands on the minds of the audience which some critics resent, declaring it holds up the action.

Those who valued the reflections on the dimensions of existence, human freedom and the purposiveness in choice will not be disappointed.

Neo has matured since The Matrix with Keanu Reeves very comfortable in the role. Carrie Ann Moss is more serious and more loving as Trinity. Laurence Fishburne has more gravity as Morpheus. A number of new characters are introduced, including Lambert Wilson as a kind of Turette's sufferer who compulsively swears and is vulgar in French, some light moments which precede one of the more important philosophical discussions.

Just as this film relies on knowledge of the original, so it relies on the third part. It is an interim film in terms of plot. Neo and the rebels have staved off attack, but the respite is only temporary.

Dark Waters

With the great success of the two Ring films, with their eerie mood where a Japanese journalist tries to solve the mystery of a video that people watch and then receive a phone call telling them they will die within a week - what next for director, Hideo Nakata? Here comes another atmospheric thriller, less overtly horror than the Ring films, but creepy and suspenseful nonetheless.

Once again we have a woman coping with a mysterious situation. In the process of divorce, she wants to protect her six year old daughter and takes an apartment. Ignoring the water stain in the roof of a bedroom (a fatal mistake), she finds herself more and more involved - in deeper waters, one might say.

The water in the building is dirty, the roof stain gets larger, footsteps can be heard above. And, to top it all, a young girl ho lived in the upper apartment went missing four years earlier. Is she haunting mother and daughter? Does she want to destroy them? Step by step, the movie, rather patiently, takes us through the mother's terror for her daughter, the pressure from her husband in the divorce, the discovery of floods and the water tank on the roof. It depends on how you enjoy ghost stories. (No doubt there'll be an American remake of this soon.)

Anger Management

After Jack Nicholson's two previous films, The Pledge and About Schmidt, Anger Management seems rather frivolous. The theme is serious enough, the anger and rage that lurk beneath the surface of so many 'ordinary' people, people who feel put down and have a low self-esteem, and can erupt at the most unexpected times. However, while the general setting is portrayed as realistic, the treatment is more like farce, situations for a sitcom. And, when the final twist is revealed at the end, it makes it all seem too unbelievably contrived.

Perhaps Nicholson had his eye on the popular success of Robert de Niro's two 'Analyze' films - even to singing songs from West Side Story where Nicholson has it all over de Niro! The formula is somewhat the same except that the psychiatrist is now the seemingly crazy extrovert and the client is the meek and submissive type. Jack Nicholson looks as if he has been overdosing on his performances in The Shining and The Witches of Eastwick to create his Buddy, the anger management therapist. It is left to Adam Sandler to bring the quiet and reflective atmosphere until Buddy challenges him to self-assertion and he is able to propose in front of thousands at the Yankee Stadium, urged on by Rudoph Giuliani and the fans.

In the meantime, poor Dave (Sandler's character who designs clothes for outsize pets) is caught up in assaults in a plane and in a bar which are not really of his doing. As a favour to Buddy, David is sentenced to a month's anger management with Buddy moving in and controlling David's life - and, it seems, stealing the affection of his girlfriend, Marisa Tomei. There are therapy groups with John Turturro and Luis Guzman leading the rage group. David has to persuade a girl in a bar (Heather Graham) to date him; he has to confront his childhood bully who is now a Buddhist monk (John C.Reilley); he has to challenge his boss who has overlooked him for promotion.

Many of these sequences are quite funny, especially with Sandler capitalising on his hangdog style rather than just being stupid as he has tended to do in many films. But, overall, cast expectations would lead audiences to expect something better.

LONDON - 13 June 2003 - 1009 words

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