Tying this up before part four comes out. Neo’s in limbo, aptly represented as a train station, having passed out using his matrix-powers in the real world. Morpheus and Trinity and the Oracle’s protector Seraph (Collin Chou with WKW glasses) visit Lambert for some interminable dialogue, cutting a deal to rescue him. But the dummies should’ve known not to trust a character named Bane, who gets reverse-matrixed, possessed by Agent Smith, and blinds Neo with a power cable (he can still see).

Movie is about 60% boring, and keeps trying to make us care about new characters, particularly the enthusiastic young Clayton Watson, a Neo fan who steps up during the climactic battle. But the Wachowskis are also good at creating touching human moments on the flimsiest of background and evidence. Carrie-Anne dies in a crash, and Neo gets the central AI to agree to reset the world if Neo can defeat the now thousands of Agent Smiths, which he does by simply absorbing them then exploding.

In 2003 we watched this, wanting it to rule, but it kinda sucked. In 2021, I am a serious auteurist cinephile who understands the unique artistry of the Wachowskis, rewatching with a corrected mindset, wanting it to rule, but it kinda sucks. The action certainly moves like a twice-as-big upgrade to the original, but the digital effects and music picks say otherwise.

Keanu dreams an extreme-bullet-time moto-leather-splosion intro, then he’s back with Larry, who always uses three words when one would suffice. Jada Pinkett Smith is a bigwig in a red coat. Humans live in caves, led by Harry Lennix, and worship Neo and Morpheus. Neo has hot sex with Trinity, then has to battle Oracle’s agent Serif before he’s allowed to visit her – those two are said to be programs, not human. At this point, Neo battles a playground full of Agent Smiths, who have been duplicating themselves.

There are too many new characters, and it’s very talky, but somehow Lambert Wilson and his wife Monica Bellucci are important – she opens a secret door behind a bookcase and shoots a guard with a silver bullet, then the albino twins turn into medusa-haired ghosts. The crazy car chase with the twins is just as crazy as I remember it, and Neo isn’t even there. This is all a quest to save the Keymaster, who all but admits he’s an NPC. Keymaster leads Neo to The Architect, who is of course a genteel bearded white man (c’mon Wachowskis). GW Bush appears when he says the phrase “varying grotesqueries.” “It was all another system of control” is very Adam Curtis. There’s talk of performing a full system reset, saving a few people after Zion is destroyed, but we’re distracted by the death and resurrection of Trinity. Chad Stahelski and Leigh Whannel both in the credits.

My WFH setup:

What I do at work:

He is Sangwon, she is Youngshil, meeting by chance after years. They are young and stupid, and bad at sex – even more pathetic than the characters in Woman is the Future of Man – get drunk and hook up and decide to die together. But she awakens and calls for help, and rescued Sangwon fights bitterly with his family.

Sangwon (right) with his brother:

Dongsoo is attending a retrospective of a sick/dying filmmaker, a former classmate. He stalks an actress, Youngshil – they get drunk and hook up and consider dying together. “I’m too fond of drinking. Life is too tough.” Aha, I’d been wondering why the first 45 minutes of Tale of Cinema contained no cinema, but it was meant to be the dying filmmaker’s short film – Dongsoo claims his own life story was stolen for the script (very believable – both guys are flaky and awkward and smitten with Youngsil). Good ending. Michael Sicinski:

When Dongsoo admits to Youngshil that he believes that their old director friend “stole” his life to make the movie they just saw, he is admitting that he lives in his own head, in his own internal tale of cinema. This is why, at the end of the film, Youngshil’s final line to him – “You didn’t really understand that movie” – is so withering. Dongsoo quite literally does not understand the ‘movie’ of which he is the star, that is, his own life.

Dongsoo & Youngshil:

Incredibly, I don’t know any of the three leads from the other twelve Hong movies I’ve seen. She’s from Like You Know It All, the first guy was in Woman on the Beach, and second male lead is from Memories of Murder.

Opens with a crackpot on a TV talk show discussing the events of the previous film, not a good sign. Also not good that Devon has been killed offscreen in the interval. But I got the one thing I asked for: more Coroner Tony Todd, and now he’s even got a character name (Mr. Bludworth). Trying to avoid looking up how many more sequels he’ll be in. David R. Ellis had previously made Homeward Bound II, how’d he get this gig?

Cop and Kim:

Ellis acquits himself capably right from the start of the action – I knew this was the movie with the log truck, but thought that’d be a single-car accident, not this awesome super-fatal setpiece. Rewind to Kim (AJ Cook, a Virgin Suicides sister) seeing it happen and blocking the entrance ramp, saving herself and a bunch of strangers (not her friends, who still get killed a minute later, haha). The action remains good, but script is clunky, and each survivor is allowed one character trait: Pregnant Lady, Mom & Kid, Firebird Guy, Businesswoman (“my career is at a peak,” she will later tell us), and so on. Before they all die a la the first movie, Kim and Cop and Ali Larter (who checked herself into an asylum between movies to hide from death) are gonna have to solve the same ol’ mysteries.

Ali’s asylum wall:

It’s too late for Firebird Guy (David Paetkau of the second Alien vs. Predator) who gets the funniest death scene of the movie, everything in his kitchen trying to kill him all at once as he carelessly cooks fish sticks, until he escapes and gets his head smashed by the fire escape. Every survivor hears of his death that night on the TV evening news (everyone in 2003 watched the news). They repeat the trick with Kid (James Kirk, Iceman’s brother in an X-Men sequel), who survives a chain of dentist office catastrophes only to leave unharmed and be smooshed by falling construction equipment. I’m detecting references to Poltergeist (Kim’s room at night) and Hellraiser (“get them off me” in asylum).

Ali and Businesswoman after the elevator incident:

It’s decided that if Pregnant Lady (Justina Machado of a Purge sequel) gives birth then New Life will derail Death’s Plan, so Cop and Kim scheme to rescue her from Kim’s flashforward deathdreams. Meanwhile, Mom (Lynda Boyd of The V Word) gets beheaded by a elevator, Ali Larter and Verbose Black Guy (TC Carson of a Rob Lowe prison murder mystery) get fried in an explosion. They are so, so quick to proclaim that they’ve cheated death, should really know better. Half the movie was mega-death setpieces with spinning camera, so I’m happy and am gonna have to keep watching these.

One of those movies I’ve been low-key meaning to watch every year for a decade and a half, and it’s good. Maybe not horror exactly, but it’s still a ghost story, expertly designed and written. Opens with a one-two rhyme just like all those Nightmares on Elm St. I’ve been tearing through, but the ghosts here are sad orphans who died in the house Laura is moving into. She’s BelĂ©n Rueda of a couple twisty Oriol Paulo thrillers, has got a husband and a curly-haired boy. When her son goes missing during a party and never returns, she invites medium Geraldine Chaplin to investigate the house’s spirits. Laura plays tag with the house ghosts, finally discovers her son dead under the stairs, then takes all the sleeping pills and plays ghost-mom to the houseful of dead children.

“Sci Fi Pictures presents”

The Full Moon era has ended. Sci Fi are producers of hundreds of TV movies I’ve never heard of, most of them involving sharks, and a few craptastic sequels (Species 3, Stir of Echoes 2, Firestarter Rekindled, Return of the Living Dead 4+5, lots of Lake Placid movies).

“Written by Courtney Joyner”

A cowriter on part 3, also video store faves Class of 1999 and Doctor Mordrid.

“Directed by Ted Nicolaou”

Ted made Bad Channels, which you’ll recall got mashed up with Dollman vs. Demonic Toys, and also made TerrorVision and the Subspecies movies, so he seems like the right man for the job.

It’s a Christmas movie! The Demonic Toys have been rebranded as Christmas Pals by a toy company run by Vanessa Angel (the fake woman in the 90’s Weird Science TV series). In a Child’s Play / Halloween III mashup, she’s helping a demon destroy humanity, and step one is getting cursed toys into every household.

Angel + Henchman Julian:

Meanwhile across town, Disgruntled Suburban Ruffalo Scientist Bobby Toulon has got a full collection of crucified puppets in his basement, is trying to bring them to life using ol’ Andre’s notes. It’s a funny thing to say about circa-2004 Corey Feldman, but he gives one of the finest performances of the franchise – I like the gruff crank voice he’s doing. He’s assisted by loyal daughter Dani Keaton (already a horror vet from Pinocchio’s Revenge and Carpenter’s Village of the Damned). Everyone else in the movie is Bulgarian, since that is a very cheap place to shoot a movie.

All the nazi-fighting magic is turned into toy company espionage. I don’t love the attempt to cross dark puppet magic with christianity, but whatever. Each side runs into setbacks: Six Shooter blows up the lab and all the puppets catch fire, and Angel is scrambling for a human sacrifice on Christmas eve and has to bleed her receptionist in the iron maiden.

It’s definitely a proper Puppet Master movie, in that it’s crowded with Toulon family mythology bullshit, and feels long at 90 minutes. Angel needs the Toulon secrets to complete her evil plan and kidnaps the daughter, but Corey upgrades the puppets’ weaponry, and they fuck up some demonic toys. The demon (wearing a santa suit, nice) is displeased and drags Angel to hell.

Pretty good unwinking found-footage ghost story, or, an Australian remake of Fire Walk With Me with a worse sound mix. Some Paranormal Activity stuff after Alice dies on a family lake trip then is spotted on camera afterwards. These appearances are twice explained away: first her brother was acting ghostly to get her exhumed, then the neighbor actually snuck into the house looking for the sextape Alice made with him. So partly it’s about a grieving family, partly about Alice’s secrets, and maybe there’s a real ghost. The director’s follow-up is a six-hour Netflix show called Clickbait.

I don’t remember why I avoided these movies for so long, but they’ve been buzzing around the internet long enough that it’s time I check them out. The first dialogue scene is a 90’s version of Doris Wishman, this ain’t good. I decided which teens I’m rooting for based on the posters hanging in their room – Alex (Devon Sawa of Idle Hands) has Pecker and the Goo Goo Dolls, but Claire (Resident Evil regular Ali Larter) has Cub and Mule Variations, so she wins.

Devon, Ali, Sidemouth Todd:

Big school trip, but Alex gets all upset after dreaming the plane falling apart, and also has a bad haircut, so six get kicked off the plane, which does fall apart, and since they cheated death, death comes for them one by one. Sidemouth Todd (Chad Donella of a Saw movie) dies first, clotheslined in the tub. The teacher (Kristen Cloke of Black Christmas Remake) is taken out by everything in her house in a coordinated attack, and two kids (curly girl must’ve been Amanda Detmer of Saving Silverman, and Seann William Scott six months before Dude Where’s My Car) die in vehicular accidents, unexceptional but for their shock timing. Despite the Goo Goo Dolls poster, Devon grew on me, and his escaping the FBI in a rowboat is really good. He and Claire are both alive at the end, but I only see her in the cast of part two. Very excited to see Tony Todd as a mortician, hoping he’d be Death Incarnate, but just a mortician… he’s in the cast of future Final Destinations, so hopefully this will still play out.

There’s talk of alternate realities. It’s fun that the characters are named after classic horror people – sometimes it pays off, as with teacher Val(erie) Lewton, and sometimes it’s just weird… I’m sure naming the FBI guys after the Caligari director and Nosferatu actor looked cool on the page, but when they introduce themselves as “Agents Ween and Shrek” it sounds ridiculous. Director James Wong was a major X-Files contributor, and named the asshole teen Carter, hmmm. Wong followed up with forgettable Jet Li film The One, and somehow made a live-action Dragonball movie I’ve never heard of.

I watched this and Days within 24 hours. Is this what existentialism is? Will someone explain what it is?

Guy in a Mets hat walks outside, has a shit, sets to wrecking some nice trees with axe and chainsaw and shovel. He borrows a truck, sells the wood for under 30 pesos then spends 10 on gas and cigs. Was Makala a remake of this? Instead of dancing in a prayer tent at the end, he cooks and eats an armadillo. Still, there was more dance music than I expected from a one-person manual-labor movie set in the woods.

Gofundme to get Misael some gloves:

Watching the Alonso movies out of order, but it’s easy to see the progression, and I like the direction he’s going – anticipating the eventual followup to Jauja. I don’t have the original Cinema Scope cover story handy, so it’s worth reading V. Rizov’s letterboxd writeup for context on this movie’s groundbreaking status for doc/fiction hybrids and fest-style slow cinema.