THE ULTIMATE MATRIX COLLECTION
THE MATRIX is a really cool science fiction movie, that offers an intelligent story and some of the most impressive visual effects ever created for any cinematic genre. Written and directed by Andy Wachowski and Larry Wachowski, THE MATRIX fuses the styles of Hong Kong action/martial arts movies with the Cyberpunk of Japanese Anime to create a totally unique motion picture experience. THE MATRIX remains the most impressive science fiction film that I’ve seen Alex Proyas’ greatly under-appreciated DARK CITY. Why THE MATRIX succeeded in the marketplace, while DARK CITY failed dismally is anyone’s guess, since both films are incredibly stylish and intelligently written science fiction offerings that exceed the expectations of their own genres.
In THE MATRIX Keanu Reeves portrays programmer Thomas Anderson who does the nine-to-five corporate thing during the day, but by night switches to the other side- becoming a computer hacker who goes by the moniker of Neo. Although he can’t quite put his finger on it, Neo senses that there is something wrong with his life. Neo’s suspicions are validated when he is contacted by an enigmatic figure know as Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who offers to show Neo the truth about existence. Of course, learning the truth comes with consequences- making it impossible for Neo to return to his ordinary life. Once Neo leaves behind the world he knew, THE MATRIX turns into a non-stop action thrill ride filled with beautifully choreographed martial arts, spellbinding action, unbelievable visual effects and the kind of stylish gunplay one would find in several John Woo movies. In addition to Keanu Reeves (whose lack of personality actually works in this film) and Laurence Fishburne, the cast of THE MATRIX also features Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Gloria Foster, Joe Pantoliano, Marcus Chong, Paul Goddard, Robert Taylor, Julian Arahanga, Matt Doran, Belinda Mcclory and Anthony Ray Parker.
THE MATRIX RELOADED
There is no denying it; THE MATRIX RELOADED is one heck of a cool movie. By the same token, THE MATRIX RELOADED isn’t quite as good as it predecessor- THE MATRIX. Whereas THE MATRIX had a whole lot of originality on its side, this second film in the trilogy by brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski, seems a bit too stylistically reminiscent of its predecessor, as well as every copycat movie that has come this way since. Also, some sequences in THE MATRIX RELOADED come off as too self indulgent- going on longer than necessary and sucking some of the energy out of the film’s pacing. Now don’t get me wrong, I really liked THE MATRIX RELOADED, I just think that if the plot and pacing could have been streamlined a bit more to maintain a continuous sense of urgency throughout the entire film.
Picking up the story after Neo discovers the true nature of reality and his place in the order of things, THE MATRIX RELOADED finds the last free contingent of humanity on the brink of loosing their ongoing war. However, the enigmatic Morpheus is convinced that prophecy is soon to be fulfilled and that Neo is the key to humanity’s victory. While he may be the key to the prophecy, Neo, and his comrades Morpheus and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) are dependent upon the guidance from The Oracle (Gloria Foster), who has gone into hiding within The Matrix. Also waiting for Neo inside The Matrix is his old nemesis, Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), who now packs more than a few surprises. The cast of THE MATRIX RELOADED also features Jada Pinkett Smith, Monica Bellucci, Harry Lennix, Helmut Bakaitis, Randall Duk Kim and Anthony Zerbe.
THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS
Right up front, I have to say that I was not overjoyed with THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS the first time I saw it. Personally, I didn’t find the conclusion to this movie trilogy to be satisfying because I thought that the Wachowski Brothers had misstepped on several plot points, in addition to allowing the story to get too bogged down in quasi-religious symbolism (and yes, I realize it is their movie and they could have done anything they wanted with it). However, after seeing THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS several more time, I have come to appreciate the film somewhat more, but still have some difficulty with those aspects of the story that troubled me the first time around.
Now, despite those bothersome story points in THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS, the movie is actually more enjoyable on repeated viewings because one knows what is coming and isn’t subject to unforeseen disappointments as the story unfolds. Of course, in the film’s favor, there are plenty of great action sequences and special effects, but those jaded members of the audience are certain to find that even in these areas THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS lacks the originality and inventiveness of THE MATRIX or even THE MATRIX RELOADED.
After an unexpected conclusion to his encounter with the robotic sentinels, Neo (Keanu Reeves) finds himself trapped in limbo between The Matrix and the outside world- where the last free contingent of humanity is coming perilously close to losing the war. To retrieve Neo’s consciousness, Morpheus and Trinity return to The Matrix for another encounter with the vengeful Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), the entity who has humanity’s savior imprisoned between worlds. Once free, Neo finds he has but a mere few hours left to fulfill destiny, before the overwhelming machine army of sentinels breaches humanity’s stronghold. As Morpheus and Niobe (Jada Pinkett Smith) return to Zion to lend their support to the final battle, Neo journeys to the Machine City where he hopes to end to war by striking a truce over a dangerous common enemy- an increasingly powerful Agent Smith. The cast of THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS also includes Mary Alice, Monica Bellucci, Harry Lennix, Harold Perrineau, Clayton Watson, Bruce Spence and Anthony Zerbe.
As a companion piece to THE MATRIX trilogy, THE ANIMATRIX is not only a brilliant piece of marketing, it is one of the most ambitious collections of animated films culled together to flesh out the mythology of a popular science fiction universe. On top of that, THE ANIMATRIX is probably the coolest direct-to-video animated release in the history of home entertainment. This extension of the movie trilogy created by brothers Andy & Larry Wachowski, features nine short animated films that fill in some of the back story on how The Matrix came to be, as well as providing additional detail to certain characters and situations from THE MATRIX RELOADED. Coming from different directors and production teams, each of the nine films that comprise THE ANIMATRIX are as stylistically different as one could imagine, yet create a cohesive whole due to the commonality of the universe they depict.
Produced in full CGI, The Final Flight Of The Osiris is the most ambitious, erotic and beautiful of the nine shorts that make up THE ANIMATRIX. Set on a sister ship to Morpheus' Nebuchadnezzar, The Final Flight Of The Osiris tells a story that is tied directly into events that come to pass in THE MATRIX RELOADED. The second and third films comprise two halves of a story called The Second Renaissance, which depicts the rise of the machine and the fall of mankind. Kid's Story ties directly into THE MATRIX RELOADED, with its tale of a teenager, whose Internet activities attract the attention of a hacker named Neo, as well as some unstoppable gentlemen in dark suits.
In the film Program, we find two samurai warriors facing off in a training simulation, due to the fact that one of these freed minds has grown weary of their existence outside of The Matrix. World Record features a driven athlete, who discovers the true nature of reality by pushing his "body" beyond the limits of physical endurance. In Beyond, a young woman searching for her missing cat discovers a place where the laws of physics have seemingly broken down. A Detective Story is a noir-ish tale, in which a private investigator is put on the case to find a hacker named Trinity. Matriculated is the final segment; one that depicts the human resistance using an interesting technique to create a rapport with captured robots, so they will help to defend humanity against their own kind.
Warner Home Video has made the films that comprise THE ULTIMATE MATRIX COLLECTION ($130) available on Blu-ray Disc in 2.40:1 aspect ratio presentations that have been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentations for the films contained in this collection are everything they should be- virtually perfect. Across the board, the theatrical trilogy demonstrates excellent levels of image sharpness and detail. In fact, there is a scary amount of fine detail present, check out every pore, line and inconsistency in Laurence Fishburne’s face to see what mean. Additionally, everything in the theatrical trilogy appears highly dimensional and maintains a very film-like appearance. Colors demonstrate a purposely green cast, but are otherwise nicely saturated and appealing. Blacks are deep and accurate, while the whites are crisp and clean. Contrast very good and very smooth. Shadow detail is terrific. The elements from which THE ULTIMATE MATRIX COLLECTION has been transferred are near perfect and there is a fine veneer of grain throughout the theatrical trilogy that gives each presentation a nice film-like quality. THE ANIMATRIX has also been given a top of the line presentation on Blu-ray, with its wildly different animation styles looking incredible- most especially The Final Flight Of The Osiris.
The films that comprise THE ULTIMATE MATRIX COLLECTION are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtracks. A perfect complement to the visuals the soundtracks are also exactly as they should be- totally kick a**! The sound design for the three theatrical films is certain to rock the viewer’s home theater. Sound effects are deployed in an exceedingly aggressively manner, all of the outlying channels deliver with as much force as a rocket launcher. Additionally, sounds move effortlessly in all directions throughout the soundstage, so there is also a sense of subtlety to the sound. Fidelity is really marvelous on the TrueHD track, as the convincing sound effects and full-bodied music an attest. Sound quality for THE ANIMATRIX isn’t quite at the theatrical level, but impresses nonetheless. English, French and Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are Spanish and Portuguese 2.0 tracks. Subtitles are available in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, Italian and Portuguese. THE ANIMATRIX offers the same language options, but all supplementary soundtracks are Dolby Digital 5.1.
The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as an overwhelming amount of supplemental materials that is certain to keep fans plugged into this collection for days. Four running Audio Commentaries are provided for THE MATRIX: the first is a Philosophers commentary by Dr. Cornel West, Ken Wilber; the second is a Critics commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers, David Thomson; the third is a Cast and crew commentary by Carrie-Anne Moss, Zach Staenberg and John Gaeta; the fourth is a Composer commentary by Don Davis with music-only track. The In-Movie Experience is essentially a video commentary assembled from interviews and augmented with behind-the-scenes footage. THE MATRIX also comes with a Written Introduction by the Wachowski Brothers. Next is the two-hour Documentary The Matrix Revisited. Other Programs include Behind The Matrix (forty-three minutes), Follow The White Rabbit (twenty three minutes) and Take The Red Pill (seventeen minutes). The Music Revisited (forty-one music cues), the Marilyn Manson Music Video for Rock Is Dead, plus Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots are also included. A Digital copy of the film is also provided.
Two running Audio Commentaries are provided for THE MATRIX RELOADED: the first is a Philosophers commentary by Dr. Cornel West, Ken Wilber; the second is a Critics commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers, David Thomson. The In-Movie Experience offers an assembled video commentary, augmented with behind-the-scenes footage. THE MATRIX RELOADED also comes with a Written Introduction by the Wachowski Brothers. Next is the forty-seven minute Documentary Behind The Matrix. Other Programs include Car Chase (fifty-five minutes), Unplugged (forty minutes), Teahouse Fight (three minutes), I'll Handle Them (seventeen minutes) and Exiles (eighteen minutes). The P.O.D. Music Video for Sleeping Awake, plus Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots are also included.
Two running Audio Commentaries are provided for THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS: the first is a Philosophers commentary by Dr. Cornel West, Ken Wilber; the second is a Critics commentary by Todd McCarthy, John Powers, David Thomson. The In-Movie Experience offers an assembled video commentary, augmented with behind-the-scenes footage. THE MATRIX REVOLUTIONS also comes with a Written Introduction by the Wachowski Brothers. Supplemental Programs include Behind The Matrix (twenty-four minutes), Siege (forty minutes), Aftermath (forty minutes), Crew (twenty-five minutes), Hel (twenty-eight minutes), Super Burly Brawl (seventeen minutes) and New Blue World (twenty-six minutes). Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots are also included.
Four running Audio Commentaries are provided for THE ANIMATRIX: The Second Renaissance Parts I & II each features a commentary by Mahiro Maeda, Program features a commentary by Yoshiaki Kawajiri and World Record features a commentary by Takeshi Koike. Each of the nine short films THE ANIMATRIX has its own Making-Of Featurette (fifty-five minutes total running time). Supplements also include Scrolls To Screen: The History And Culture Of Anime (twenty-two minutes) and text based Biographical Profiles Of The Directors And Animation Producers.
The Matrix Experience Bonus Discs offer two additional discs of supplemental materials. Programs include The Burly Man Chronicles (ninety four minutes), Return To The Source: Philosophy And The Matrix (sixty-one minutes), The Hard Problem: The Science Behind The Fiction (sixty-one minutes), Rave Reel (nine minutes) and The Matrix Online Preview (nine minutes). Other supplements include Follow The White Rabbit (profiles), The Zion Archive (storyboards and concept art) and The Media Of The Matrix (more Music Videos, Theatrical Trailers and TV Spots).
THE ULTIMATE MATRIX COLLECTION is a stunning accomplishment in terms of high definition film presentation, as well as providing an overwhelming wealth of supplemental materials. If you are a fan of THE MATRIX film trilogy, then this Blu-ray set comes with the absolute highest recommendation.
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