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The Matrix

Starring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne
Written and Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski
website: www.whatisthematrix.com

IN SHORT: What is The Matrix? **** if I know. [Rated [R]]

THIS IS REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT: If you are a new reader and t know how this site workd

click here first. Do it now. Now remember that a review is based on ONE viewing of a flick. That's all she gets. Rules is rules . . . and now a trip back in time. . .

A couple of months ago, Cranky's brain hurt pretty bad from trying to figure out Oprah Winfrey's Beloved. Selfsame gray matter is in total crash and burn mode from the new Keanu Reeves starrer, The Matrix, which absolutely nobody who watched it with me understood. To be fair, though, if Beloved was an experience akin to Hell on Earth, then The Matrix is more like a gentle psilocybin mushroom trip.

Not that Cranky is endorsing or suggesting you take illegal drugs, you understand. The Matrix is filled with enough ooh aah special effects that the gentle feeling described is decidedly invoked.

What is the Matrix? Remember the Gap commercial in which swing dancers freeze in midair, while the camera does a 360 around them, and then continue dancing? The Matrix substitutes karate moves for swing dancing and tosses a couple of million dollars worth of artistically spectacular computer effects on top of it all, but it is still, essentially, a movie length Gap commercial.

Though you'll be looking at spectacular visuals -- this thing is designed within an inch of its life -- and guffawing at the nonsense spewing out of the character mouths, poor old Cranky sat there trying to make sense of it all. Three days and a fistful of controlled substances later I think goes like this:

The Year 2199, give or take, sees mankind slave to a form of artificial intelligence invented just after the Millennium. Millions of babies grown by the AI live in gestation capsules, blissfully living a computer generated fantasy life implanted in their brains. The bug-like machines imbued with artificial intelligence suck out and live off of the biochemical energy that these kidlets generate. Once a baby grows too large for its cell and wakes up, it is unplugged and flushed into a cyber sewer. Anyone who survives to fight back are quickly dispatched by AI agents, all Men In Black. Ironic, eh?

With most of mankind destroyed, the survivors regroup in the city of Zion, at the center of the Earth, where it's warm. Battle hovercraft fight a never-ending struggle against The Matrix (which might be the master computer program/fantasy which runs the baby world. Maybe). The sole hope for human survival is a mythic being called The One, who has the power to destroy it.

I'll leave it to you to figure out how Thomas Anderson aka a computer hacker code named Neo (Keanu Reeves), a resident of the year 1999, figures into this world of cyber warriors who travel through time and space via telephone lines. Theoretically, Neo lives in a time before the AI exists, yet both good guys and bad guys modem into his world. Cranky figured out a very simple explanation, but you must suffer through The Matrix as I suffered through it, before I'll tell you.

While you sit there, pay no attention to anything resembling story explanation as delivered by future warrior Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). Watch the fights 'cuz there are some spectacular sequences. Enjoy the special effects 'cuz they're top notch. Wait for Keanu to deliver his trademark "whoa". Giggle insanely. Clap and cheer if you really feel like it. The Matrix is a popcorn flick that doesn't have to make sense to be enjoyable.

That doesn't mean you should pay top price for it. If you've got theaters that make you wait six months to save half the first run ticket price, that's when you should go. Do that and you can watch this thing twice. Maybe it'll make more sense to you after a couple of showings.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Matrix, he would have paid...

$3.00

(and if it hadn't screened in the dump the bad movies month of February, it would've gotten the $5 dateflick level 'cuz of the action)

Need more than one showing to figure it out? That's why God invented Rental.

ADDENDUM: With the dissmail running 3 to 2 against me, the one thing all of you that have taken the time and effort to explain to me comes down to this: you have to see The Matrix twice to "get it". That puts the flick automatically at the rental level. I may have sat with the dumbest audience in New York, but I questioned at least two dozen people after all was said and done and they didn't get it either.

And, quite out of the ordinary, I've sat through the darn thing three more times during its HBO runs before I -- still -- barely get it. Please do not be so kind as to write to explain it all to this dumb old brain. I've already got dozens filed away in the e-mail box, and none of them are alike. [Actually maybe you should write. I can probably sell a book based on all of the explanations...]


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