5 Bits of Wisdom from The Matrix Movies

5.) Wisdom: Choice is not as it seems.

Quote: No, you’ve already made the choice. Now you have to understand it.
Said by the Oracle to Neo in “The Matrix Reloaded” as they discuss a dream in which he sees Trinity falling.

Interpretation: Studies in neuroscience have repeatedly validated the notion that by the time we think we’re making a decision at a conscious level, we’ve already made it on a subconscious level. While many suggest this means that the verdict is in and free will is completely illusory, another way of looking at it is that one must understand one’s decisions in order to begin to regain the rudder on one’s life.



4.) Wisdom: Courage elevates: or, if you don’t run, he won’t chase you.

Quote: He’s beginning to believe.
Said by Morpheus to Trinity in explanation of why Neo isn’t running from Agent Smith in the subway.

Interpretation: My mother used to say, “If you don’t run, he won’t chase you” with respect to being chased by my older brother. It seemed like insane advice at the time; the alternative to being chased being beaten down. However, now I can see that even taking a butt-whooping elevates one’s spirit over engaging in prey behavior.



3.) Wisdom: Rationality is a thin veneer.

Quotes: Beneath our poised appearance we are completely out of control. & It is remarkable how similar the pattern of love is to the pattern of insanity.
Said by the Merovingian to Morpheus, Trinity, and Neo.

Interpretation: While one might like to dismiss the Merovingian’s comments as the cynicism of a hedonist, the undeniable fact is that we have animal biology and it influences us more than we pretend.



2.) Wisdom: The world contains more Cyphers than not.

Quote: Ignorance is bliss.
Said by Cypher to Agent Smith as he plots his subversion in order to be put back into the Matrix.

Interpretation: Most people are happy with their illusions, rely on them as coping mechanisms, and will respond unfavorably to attempts to strip them way. The illusion in question may not be so much that the world is completely fake as much as biases such as the self-serving bias (i.e. people attribute successes to their inherent awesomeness but blame failures on external sources.)




1.) Wisdom: There are limits to being cerebral.

Quotes: Don’t think you are, know you are. & There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.
Both are said by Morpheus to Neo. The former quote is delivered in the sparring program when Neo isn’t performing up to his potential. The latter is said after Neo & Trinity rescue Morpheus and Neo tries to tell Morpheus what the Oracle revealed, but Morpheus quiets him with said words.

Interpretation: I hope I haven’t muddled this bit of wisdom by choosing quotes in which Morpheus uses the word “know” in two different ways. In the first quote, Morpheus contrasts knowing with thinking, and he means that Neo must not treat it as an intellectual exercise, but rather feel its inherent truth deep down. In the second quote, he contrasts knowing with doing, and in this case “knowing” is the cerebral / thinking activity in comparison to doing (i.e. “walking the path.”) However, the gist is the same, you must approach some things–to use the Oracle’s words–balls to bones.

2015 Martial Arts Movies

NOTE: I’ve revised this post with up-to-date information. Please see that post here.

My third annual preview of martial arts movies will be presented in two installments. Many of the movies in the latter half of the year do not yet have release dates or trailers by January. Ergo, I’m posting the first part now, and will do a revision in mid-summer.

“Martial arts movie” is a bit ambiguous. Almost every action movie features martial arts. The leaked teaser for Ant-Man was pretty much a sequence of Scott Lang (Ant-Man) fighting his way through a corridor to access an elevator. So, does such a movie get included? I’ve opted against putting every action film with a kick in it into this post. Yet, I don’t want to stick to films that feature martial arts cliches (e.g. they killed my master, an evil billionaire is hosting a death match tournament, they killed me and left me for dead, etc.)  I, therefore, use the admittedly subjective litmus test of whether there would be a movie if one took away the martial arts and replaced it with brawling–not just whether it would be a less slick movie with a diminished “woo” factor.

I’ve tried to go as international as possible this year, including Bollywood (using the term colloquially if not precisely) and SE Asian releases in addition to the usual Hong Kong & Hollywood fare.

 

Underdog Kids (January 16): Described on IMDb as: “Inner city kids from a poor neighborhood go up against the undefeated Beverly Hills Junior National Karate Team.” I’ve seen no trailer for this, just a poster:
underdogs_2

Wild Card (January 30): This may be a cheat given what I said above. However, it’s a Jason Statham film, and like the “Transporter” films it probably doesn’t amount to much without the ass-kickery. Let’s face it, you’re not going to see Jason Statham for his extensive acting range.

Dragon Blade (February 19): Featuring Jackie Chan, John Cusack, and Adrien Brody. This is a period piece, and–as you can tell from the casting–is big budget as martial arts flicks go.

Wolf Warrior (March 1) [China]: This looks like more of a shoot-em-up action film than a martial arts film, but some have listed it as a martial arts film and the close quarters action is definitely reminiscent of a martial arts film.

Skin Trade (April): This film stars Tony Jaa and Dolph Lundgren as the good guys and Ron Perlman as the villain. As the title suggests, it’s set around a theme of human trafficking.

Bollywood Dragon  (May 15) [India]: The blurb for this one is: “An English martial arts instructor travels to Mumbai to identify her twin sister’s body, discovering she lived a mysterious life among the criminal underworld and decides to investigate by being her.”
There is no trailer up for this movie as of yet.

The Kickboxer: City of Blood: (May 15): This is a different project than the Bautista / Van Damme / Carano film that was originally titled “Kickboxer” and is now going by “Kickboxer: Vengence,” but there’s no graphic publicity out on it yet. It may not come out as scheduled.

The Transporter Legacy (June 19): Another “Transporter” film, but Ed Skrein plays the role of Frank Martin in this one. As with “Wild Card” it may be a cheat to include it as a martial arts film, but car chases don’t get these movies all the way to watchability.
I haven’t seen a trailer, but there are still photos.
TransporterLegacy

The Boy and the Beast (July 11) [Japan]: This also may be a cheat because it’s an animated film, but martial arts does seem to be a prominent feature of the work. (I believe I included one of the Kung fu Panda movies in one of my past posts, so I think this is fair game.)

Brothers (July 31) [India, in Hindi]: An Indian remake of the American film Warriors. In the American movie, two estranged brothers must fight each other in an MMA bout. (Hence the name of the Indian version, Brothers.) There’s not a proper trailer out, but there is this:

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend (August 28): Interestingly, this sequel to an immensely popular film will be released on Netflix and IMAX simultaneously. If this were some risky, low-budget film, going straight to Netflix wouldn’t be at all surprising, but this is the sequel to a movie that was (maybe still is) the highest grossing foreign language film playing in America. If this bold move pays off, it could be the beginning of a new paradigm of movie releases. [Also with The Interview going with an unconventional release owing to North Korean threats and intervention, there maybe a great deal learned about alternatives to a traditional film release.]
CTHD2

The Bodyguard (undesignated Summer release) [China]: Featuring and directed by Sammo Hung.
sammo-hung-740x400

Movies with unspecified release dates:

SPL (Sha Po Lang) II / A Time for Consequences / SPL2: Rise of Wong Po [China]: This Hong Kong film will feature Thai superstar Tony Jaa. (Is he in everything? Have they cloned him, or does he not need to sleep, eat, and poop like the rest of us.)
SPL_II_Teaser_Poster,_Apr_2014

The Chemist: A grain of salt on the 2015 release, please. This is an “assasin-who-can’t-bear-to-kill-his-victim-and-ends-up-protecting-her-instead” film.

Pound of Flesh: Jean-Claude Van Damme. The blurb says: “A man’s heroic attempt to help a woman in distress ends up with him waking up the next day without a kidney and plotting his revenge.”
PoundofFleshMovie

Kickboxer: Vengence: Featuring Dave Bautista, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Gina Carano.

The Martial Arts Kid: As the unimaginative title (generic knock-off of the alliterative “Karate Kid”?) suggests, this is low budget. It features past martial arts competitors like Don Wilson and Cynthia Rothrock.
MartialArtsKid

Ultimate Justice [Germany]: The blurb on IMDb reads: “A team of former elite soldiers are drawn back into action when the family of one of their own is attacked.”
I haven’t seen any publicity for this movie yet.

The Monk (Summer) [China]:This movie is based on a popular Chinese novel entitled Dao Shi Xia Shan (A Monk Comes Down the Mountain.)
I’ve seen no graphic publicity on this one, and the novel has apparently not been translated to English, so I don’t have much to tell you.

Unlikely 2015 Releases:

Stan Lee’s Annihilator: IMDb has it listed for an unspecified 2015 release. If so, those involved are better at keeping secrets than anyone else in Hollywood.

Showdown in Manila: Featuring Mark Dacascos. It’s supposed to begin filming early in February, so a release this year is unlikely. It’s said to be like “The Expendables.” I assume that means that it’s a big cast of past super-stars, but it might just mean that it sucks badly.

2014 Science Fiction Movies

Here’s the 2014 slate of sci-fi films. I didn’t include superhero films (because I did a post on them yesterday) nor did I include those that might be best classified in other speculative fiction genres (e.g. horror, supernatural, or fantasy.)

WELCOME TO YESTERDAY; February 21st

If you don’t think teenagers are safe to drive cars, imagine the chaos they’d create in a time machine.

DIVERGENT; March 21st

This is based on one of the popular dystopian Young Adult (YA) novels of late. I’m not saying that it’s just like the Hunger Games trilogy or Maze Runner–both of which also have movies coming out in 2014–but it’s clearly the subgenre du jour. In this YA dystopia, people are divided into five classes by testing, but some are divergent–defying classification.

UNDER THE SKIN; April 4th (US, previously released elsewhere)

An alien seductress lures hitchhikers into her van with nefarious purpose (and maybe lollipops.) Moral: if Scarlett Johansson tries to pick you up in a serial killeresque van, think twice; and then get in because it’s Scarlett-freakin’ Johansson.

EARTH TO ECHO; April 25th

Kids discover an alien. It sounds a lot like ET.

THE SCRIBBLER; May 1st
Katie-cassidy-picture-1219918070
Supposedly based upon the graphic novel of the same name, which would make this about a girl with multiple personality disorder who partakes in an experimental treatment called the “Siamese Burn.”

GODZILLA; May 16th

The latest attempt to revive Godzilla–using CGI to make him bigger and uglier than previously imaginable.

EDGE OF TOMORROW; June 6th

Like Groundhog Day but with guns and explosions.

THE PURGE 2; June 20th

Sequel to the movie about a dystopian future in which all laws are set aside for a short period once a year.

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES; July 11th

This one takes place after the escape shown in the last PotA movie (w/ James Franco) and a pandemic and war that followed, but before humanity is completely enslaved by the damn, dirty apes.

JUPITER ASCENDING; July 25th

A nobody Earthling, played by Mila Kunis, turns out to be the most important woman in the Universe. Naturally, lots of people want her dead.

THE GIVER; August 15th
200px-The_Giver_Cover
Based on the popular YA novel. One person’s utopia is another person’s hell.

RESIDENT EVIL 6; September 12th
Resident_Evil_6_box_artwork
Wow! They’ve made six of these? Way to milk it. Just kidding. I’m sure it will be novel and interesting.

MAZE RUNNER; September 19th
mazerunner
Another YA dystopian adventure. Lord of the Flies meets Hunger Games?

INTERSTELLAR; November 7th

A huge Christopher Nolan film about interstellar travel.

MOCKINGJAY, Pt. I; November 21st
Mockingjay
The first part of the third book in this trilogy, because why make three movies based on three, thin YA novels when you can make four movies based on three, thin YA novels.

HOME; November 26th
200px-The_True_Meaning_of_Smekday_cover
This film is supposedly based on the above book. It’s about an 11 year old who must survive on her own after her mother is abducted by aliens.

Other potential sci-fi releases of unknown date and quality:



THE ZERO THEOREM; no US release date set; the UK release is supposed to be in March

It’s about a man trying to solve a theorem, but with all sorts of craziness in the mix.



MAX STEEL; based on a line of toys (promising.)
SPACE STATION 76; that 70’s sci-fi movie.
GLIMMER; more teen time travel [shudders]

Interview with the Vampire: The Real Deal

InterviewwithaVampireMoviePosteI saw a review of Anne Rice’s book recently, and it got me thinking about how an actual interview with a vampire would go.

Interviewer (I): So, about this whole turning into a bat thing. It seems to me that a man is much bigger than a bat. Therefore, my first question is do you conserve mass? In other words, do you get really dense as a bat, and, if so, how do you even get off the ground? If not, you must shed mass, but then how do you get it back?

Vampire (V): I am the prince of darkness. I rule the night. I take whatever form suits my needs.

I: Well, that’s not really a proper answer, now is it? That’s sort of a politician on the Sunday morning talk shows answer.

V: [Bares fangs and growls]

I: Well then, moving on. Are you at all concerned about the many blood-borne illness out there: HIV, Hepatitis, Ebola, Rift Valley Fever, etc.?

V: I’m immortal. I can’t be killed by your puny germs.

I: So, that’s a… no?

V: Hrrumph!

I: Moving on. Have you ever had anyone put Vaseline on their neck or something else really gross–you know to prank you?

V: You suck!

I: One could say the same of you, my friend. Ha!… You know… because you suck on people’s necks… Well, then, moving on. Which would you rather have: a wooden stake to the heart or a silver bullet in the chest?

V: Silver bullets are for werewolves, you imbecile.

I: Yeah, but it’s still got to be quite unpleasant, wouldn’t you say?

V: [Sighs loudly] OK, I’d have to take the silver bullet, but the longer this interview goes on, the more fond I grow of the stake.

I: I love steak, too, but that’s besides the point. Any way, who would you rather have as an enemy: Bram Stoker’s  Van Helsing, who’s very smart but has no kung fu; or the  Hugh Jackman Van Helsing who’s all buff and studly but not the sharpest tool in the shed?

V: It matters not. They are both humans and, as such, no match for me.

I: Really, because in both the book and the movie…

V: [hisses like a rabid cat,  fangs out] Human propaganda. Are we done yet?

I: Not quite. What’s the hurry? Got a hot rendezvous with a Victorian wench on the docket?… Anywho. What would you say are the pros and cons of working the night-shift? I’d think it would be rather easy to get a parking space, but, then again, you don’t really need one if you turn into a bat. But, then again, all that flapping must get tiring…

V: I’m out of here!

 

The Most Intense Blockbuster You’ll Never See

REV_Kirkpatrick-designAmong the Kindle Daily Deals yesterday was a book entitled Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad by Melanie Kirkpatrick. It was well-timed to a news story about a Korean War Veteran, Merrill Newman, whose video statement as a prisoner of the DPRK was released the same day. Anyway, I bought the book and I’m hooked. The stories it contains are a mix of chilling and thrilling.

As I began reading, I wondered why no one had made a major Hollywood blockbuster based on an escape from North Korea. It’s a journey fraught with peril. There’s so much to go wrong from being shot in the back crossing the Tumen River to being repatriated to being double-crossed by smugglers to falling into the hands of traffickers or other predators. Adding to the challenge is the fact that most North Koreans are severely undernourished, and each is on his or her own for the first part of the trip–getting across the border. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for North Koreans to stick out physically because they’re unusually small and, as pointed out by one of Kirkpatrick’s sources, prone to bad hair and split ends.

I know these are words that writers despise but the screenplay practically writes itself.

Then I remembered, oh yeah, this will never be a movie because China’s government would be one of the villains, and Hollywood isn’t in the business of making films that PO the Chinese any more. Why is China the villain? Well, it’s not the main villain. That distinction, of course, goes to the Kim dynasty, presently personified by Kim Jong Un–who has been the biggest bastard yet when it comes to escapees. China’s policy is one of repatriation. It would be kinder for China to just execute the North Koreans themselves. One of the stories early in the book is about an entire family that was to be sent back who–having eaten their first decent meal in a long time–decided to die full and committed suicide while in Chinese custody. Lest one think that this is a Communist thing, Kirkpatrick points to Vietnam as one of the countries that quietly helps North Korean escapees get to safety. Like the democracies that do so, Vietnam keeps this on the down-low to avoid cheesing off the Chinese, but at least they do it.

Why would such a movie be good? Because everybody needs to know what’s going on, and movies are the surest injection point into the public consciousness. There have been books and documentaries about this for years, but I don’t think most people realize how bad it is.

I should point out that there have been films on the subject. The Crossing, made in South Korea, is probably the most well-known feature film on the subject. It’s about a father who crosses the border to get medication for a wife, but ends up stuck on the other side of the border during which time his wife dies and his boy becomes–for all intents and purposes–an orphan. This film is apparently based on a true story.

And there have been a number of documentaries on the subject. The Defector: Escape from North Korea is one of the best.

This is the book trailer for the Kirkpatrick book.

Are Action Movies Dazzling Us Stupid?

AvengersJust like everyone else, when I first watched The Avengers, I was awed. As I digested the experience, however, I realized how appallingly flawed the story was. Can a film that is visually impressive enough dance over the hard parts of story?

Alright, it’s not just being visually impressive. If it were, then the Transformers movies (I’m thinking particularly of the second one) wouldn’t be so sucktacular. No. Filmmakers also need clever quips. This feeds an inexplicable urge of young people to repeat the witty remarks of movie characters ad infinitum. (Confession: I’ve always longed for an excuse to say, “I’m your Huckleberry,” as per Doc Holliday’s words to Johnny Ringo in Tombstone.) It’s not just that the Hulk bashes a marble floor to dust using Loki’s lanky frame, but that he delivers that witty, two-word rejoinder. Together the CGI and the quip seal the scene in one’s mind.

[Spoilers ahead] If one looks up deus ex machina in the dictionary, one learns that it means: “someone or something that solves a situation that seemed impossible to solve in a sudden and unlikely way, especially in a book, play, movie, etc.” If one’s dictionary is online, one would then probably be treated to a video clip of the scene in which Professor Selvig is knocked on the head, becomes unenslaved, and consciously realizes that his subconscious built a backdoor that will allow him to shut down the portal that were previously told can’t be shut. The clip could then continue through the end of the movie (minus the post-credit shawarma scene.)  The following are key incidents of deus ex machina in this film:

-a bump on the noggin releases one from the mind-control of a god (A “puny god,” indeed.)
-a conscious mind (in a waking and non-meditative state) knows in great detail what happened in the subconscious
-an attack on the mothership disables all troops on the ground, Independence Day style (worst command and control ever.)

One may be thinking that I’m just one of those douches who picks nits, but I’m really not. These flaws are fundamental to how the story is resolved. They are cheats that make everything that happened leading up to the climax irrelevant. Think about it; if the Professor had gotten knocked on the head 20 minutes earlier, the massive Avengers battle through Manhattan would never have been necessary. They could have called the movie “Professor Selvig’s Magical Mind” and left the Avengers out of it all together.

I’m willing to sustain disbelief about the small things. There are plenty of critics who get into the minutiae of continuity gaffes and the like. A couple of my favorites are below.

Lest one think that I’m picking on The Avengers, that’s only because it’s the third highest grossing film ever and first in the superhero genre. If you’re spending hundreds of millions on a film, you’d think you could throw some chump change into good story-building.  I realize that filmmakers have a jaded audience to contend with, and that they have to ramp up the peril to impossible heights to impress. Maybe they are forced to then throw away the resolution of story. Those who read my recent review of The Wolverine, will know that my criticism isn’t restricted to The Avengers.

Well, I’ve got nits to pick.

TODAY’S RANT: Toy Movies

Uggh!

Uggh!

I’m troubled by the devolution of movie source material. As soon as there were movies, there was a desire to convert books into films. This worked great. While it wasn’t always easy to convey the depth of a 600 page novel in a 100 page screenplay, this gave even the least of us the ability to raise ourselves up to the status of pretentious douche-bag with the mantra –say it with me: “The book is always better than the movie.”

Running low on literary fodder, movie-makers decided to shift to making movies from comic books. This worked even better. You could convey the complexity of a comic in a movie, and you had an existing visual media for continuity. The major challenge was finding actresses with huge boobs who could deliver a spinning back-kick (enter Scarlet Johansson), and figuring out what to do about the crotch bulges (or lack thereof) of male superheroes in Spandex.

Pushing the limits, directors turned to video-games. This gave us such hits as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Doom.  Okay, a video game may give us a nice action-packed romp of mayhem and carnage– albeit with dialogue like, “Suck on this!” (accompanying a grenade toss.) One can watch such a movie on basic cable on a Sunday afternoon while eating an entire pizza and still leave all of one’s mental faculties for contemplating such deep questions as whether this is the low point of one’s existence.

Movies based on toys and board games are the low point of Hollywood’s existence. I thought they had learned their lesson from the movie version of Clue in the 80’s, but apparently not. 

To show that I am nothing if not flexible, I will say that I’m willing to change my view if any of the studios are willing to develop  my ideas such as:

Lincoln Logs: Zombie Slayer: A rogue ex-cop, Lincoln Logs, takes a break from drinking himself to death after his family is Zombified to lure zombies into poorly constructed cabins, toppling the cabins, he crushes the Zombies to undeath. Tagline: “Eat Log, Bitches.”

Chutes and Ladders: Into Darkness: Two naughty children find out what happens when one chutes right off the board — an express ride to hell, that’s what. In order to get out they have to learn to count to 100, but the devil is teaching them to count: 1, 7, brick, egg, 14, 6, toad, biscuit… They must warm Satan’s heart, and then develop the upper-body strength to climb a ladder out of hell.  Tagline: “Numbers are Hard, Hell is Hotter.”

Lego Box: The Musical: A plucky red-headed stepchild is devastated when his siblings get all the Lego bricks, but he only gets the plastic tub they came in. However, through hard work and dedication, he becomes the lead percussionist for the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, leaving his horrid family behind. Working Tagline: “Eat Box, Bitches.”