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Throwaway DVD? July 17, 2006

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I’ve just bought yet another DVD from the Music Zone store in Manchester. It’s yet another horror film ;  The Last Horror Movie a low budget British thriller directed by Julian Richards. It’s had mixed reviews so I’m looking forward to watching it (whenever that might be).

However my decision to buy this DVD was greatly influenced by its price, a snip at £2.97. It puzzles me how a store can sell a title for less than a fish and chip supper and still make a profit. Are DVD’s becoming throwaway commodities? It’s certainly a phenomenon I don’t remember happening with video tapes. There was a line of budget VHS titles that came out in the mid-eighties which were sold in stores like Woolworth’s for around £4.99 but this was the exception rather than the rule (I’ve still got Invasion of the Body Snatchers(1956), my first ever pre-recorded tape).

Prices for DVD’s are now so low that it’s cheaper to buy, watch and throw away a DVD than hire it from a rental library. Of course, you have to wait a little longer and not all titles are reduced but I find myself buying more of the little shiny disks than I ever did of the old clunky video tapes. Long may it continue.

The Matrix Trilogy

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Believe it or not I managed to miss all three Matrix movies on their original cinema release. It didn’t bother me that much, i’m not a huge fan of big-budget SF films and, after reading some of the reviews, my enthusiasm for seeing the trilogy wained somewhat. Until this weekend.

Ever on the lookout for a bargain I just had to pick up the Ultimate Matrix ten disk box set for under £20. After procrastinating for weeks over when to commit myself to over six hours of film I finally sat down on Friday evening and, in fits and starts, managed to get through the three films in as many days.

Was it worth it? Perhaps, maybe, probably…yes. You can see I’m hedging my bets and I’m still not sure what to make of these bloated epics. I’ll not bore you with the plot here (as anyone interested in reading this will know it already), suffice it to say that the trilogy operates on at least two levels of reality and postulate that the earth has been taken over by sentient machines whilst humans live in an artificially created world and used as slaves by their mechanical masters.

What sets the trilogy apart from most other big-budget SF epics is their use of philosophical concepts to forward the action. Such ideas as free will, predestination and the nature of reality are all given an airing here sometimes at inordinate length, which meant that, on at least one occasion, I had to turn off the film so that I didn’t fall asleep (my fault for watching the thing so late at night).

The law of diminishing retuns operates, as it so often does, in the world of sequels. The Matrix is a fine blend of SF, kung-fu, noir and action picture. The acting is OK, for the most part, and the action scenes frequent, short and to the point.

The Matrix Reloaded (a title that doesn’t really make much sense) is an altogether bigger movie. The action sequences go on forever, Zion just looks like any number of Star Trek cultures (the renegade humans have access to great technology yet wear knitted tunics) and is ruled by the stock Old But Wise (and good looking) Council. On the plus side the plot has a nice twist to it and Hugo Weaving is great as Agent Smith. This is counterbalanced by the lack of chemistry between our love-birds Neo and Trinity who keep saying they love each other but, if they do, it never reaches their eyes. Oh, the cliff-hanger climax doesn’t work if you havn’t been paying close attention to a five-minute scene earlier on in the picture.

Finally, The Matrix Revolutions tries to make sense out of what has gone before and more or less fails. Out goes much of the cod philosophizing and in comes stock action movie characters (the grizzled veteran, the plucky kid, the wife waiting at home). Cliche is piled upon cliche with deaths that don’t mean anything and a battle scene that just tries to do too much. The film also sidelines its main characters. Fishburn doesn’t get to do a lot and poor Keanu is not seen for a good thirty-minutes. The ending is confusing and a tad predictable. It’s never less than watchable though, even if, as I was doing, you groan at the bad dialogue and the stock situations.

Final thought (and about time you say) ;  I don’t think I’ve ever sat through six hours worth of film, where the hero is so damn gloomy, even when he’s with his love, a smile never flickers across his face. If that’s what it’s like being human in that world, give me the Matrix anytime.

Well then July 13, 2006

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I don’t suppose anyone will want to read the film ramblings and jottings of a middle-aged librarian but here they are anyway. I’ve never used a blog before (is it that obvious?) so please bear with me whilst I try to figure everything out. Should only take me a month or so…

I reckon this is going to take the form of a diary, with brief reviews of most movies I see, along with comments on film in general. Expect to find all kinds of movies discussed here, with a bias towards horror and science-fiction. My tastes are generally old fashioned but I can be persuaded to see the occasional contemporary offering. At the moment I’m going through the Ultimate Matrix box set. I’m seeing the trilogy for the first time and I’m struck already by the difference in quality from one film to another. More on this in a day or two. Enough preamble. There’s work to be done.

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