Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Matrix”

In 1999, the science fiction film style of cyberpunk was turned upside down with a revolutionary film that would come to define the genre for decades. This film was The Matrix, written and directed by a sibling team collectively known as the Wachowskis.  The film is set in the dystopian future of a large city where people go about mundane and dogmatic lives. We are introduced to our protagonist, Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves), who works as a computer analyst by day and a jaded internet hacker by night with the alias of Neo. He begins to question the order of things in the world and is puzzled by the reappearance of the phrase “The Matrix” online in hacker chat rooms.

Neo agrees to meet with an infamous hacker know as Trinity, played by Carrie-Anne Moss. Trinity reassures him that the answers he seeks are held by a man named Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), but he must be prepared for the consequences. Neo is soon caught by the authorities led by Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). Smith warns Neo that Morpheus is a terrorist and the most dangerous man on the planet. Undeterred, Neo finally meets with Morpheus and his group of followers where he is giving a choice between two pills: one red and one blue. The red will answer his questions about the matrix, and the blue will make him forget and he can return to his normal life. Neo chooses the red pill, and the reality around him begins to distort. He then awakens in a nightmarish world but is soon rescued and brought aboard a hovering ship.

It is explained to Neo that his world is a simulation of the 21st century and, in reality, it’s closer to the 22nd century. Morpheus explains that, in the past, mankind went to war with an advanced form of artificial intelligence and lost the war. As a result, humans are now made to serve the machines as incubators for energy, and the Matrix was designed to give humans the appearance of a normal world to hide them from the fact that they are slaves to the machines. Morpheus and the few remaining humans unplugged from the Matrix believe that one day there will be a prophetic one who can defeat the machines and liberate humanity. Morpheus believes Neo is the one prophesied and begins training him for the conflict to come. Throughout his training, Neo questions Morpheus’s faith in him as he doesn’t feel special. But once disaster strikes, it falls to Neo and Trinity to attempt to save humanity from the machines.

The Matrix would go on to become a trilogy and spawn a multitude of spin-offs, graphic novels, and video games. The cinematic nature of the Matrix was ground-breaking for introducing cinema to a blend of high wire stunt chorography, Kung-Fu, and slow-motion cinematography aptly named “Bullet Time.” The themes expressed in The Matrix are as varied as they are transcending: the classic epic hero myth aspects of both Christianity and Buddhism, Platonic thought, and Utopianism.

The film review website Rotten Tomatoes still hold it at a solid 88% fresh. In 2012, it was inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant. The Matrix is a detailed film that will continue to be studied for decades. If you would like to re-watch this masterpiece or watch it for the very first time, I encourage you to do so.  The Matrix is available at the Union University Library.  Please note it is rated R for violence and some language.

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Argo”

In light of the recent escalation in hostilities between the United States and Iran, I feel it’s a good time to recommend an excellent film that helps trace the history of the long-brewing conflict between these two nations.

Argo is a film that was directed, produced, and starred by Ben Affleck. The film details the Iranian revolution of 1979, during which the Shah of Iran, who was despotic and pro-western, was removed from power by Islamic fundamentalists. In the process, Iranian revolutionaries stormed the U.S embassy in Tehran and took sixty Americans hostage. However, unbeknownst to the Iranians, six embassy staffers escaped and were hidden away in the Canadian ambassador’s home.

Back in the United States, it falls to CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) to find a way to infiltrate the country and then escape with the six embassy staffers. In one of the more audacious and bizarre moments in history, a plan is conceived to make cover I.D.’s for the staffers and portray them as a film crew scouting locations in Iran for a sci-fi fantasy film akin to Star Wars. To do so, Tony must travel to Hollywood and find a producer and film studio to make it appear that they are in pre-production of the film without letting in on the fact that it’s a total fake. Once in Iran, it’s a race against time as the Iranian revolutionaries attempt to track down the missing staffers while Tony works to smuggle them out of the country.

Argo is a fantastic suspense-filled caper and was widely praised by critics. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.

Argo is available at the Union University Library. It is rated  PG-13 for some violence and mild profanity.

 

How To Find New Movies At The Library

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We love unpacking new movies here at the library! There are two lists online that can show you which movies we’ve just gotten.

 

The New Items List

We keep an updated list of new movies and books on the library website. You can find the link to this list under our Quick Links section of the homepage; or you can just click here to see it!

 

The Recently Added Items List

To see the last 50 movies that have been added to the library’s collection, you can use the Recently Added Items list. Go to the library website and click the “Find Materials” link to the top left of the homepage. From the drop-down menu, select “Movies & More.” From there, you can see the most recent movies that we have gotten; or again, you can click here to go straight to the list.

 

All of our DVDs are located on the west side of the second floor. You can also stream movies digitally through Films On Demand, a database we subscribe to.

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Shawshank Redemption”

The Shawshank Redemption is based on a short novel by famed author Stephen King. It was adapted for film by writer and director Frank Darabont. The story is set in Maine in the late 1940’s, where a mild mannered banker, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), is convicted of the double murder of his wife and her lover. He is given a life sentence and is set to serve it at Shawshank State Prison.

Once Andy arrives at prison, we are introduced to Ellis Boyd Redding or “Red” played by Morgan Freeman. Red is a popular prisoner for his ability to smuggle in contraband for other prisoners. Andy and Red soon strike up a friendship after Andy uses Red’s smuggling services. Warden Samuel Norton (Bob Gunton) soon singles out Andy for his intellectual abilities concerning finance and enlists him in some accountant work in the warden’s shady business dealings. As the years pass, Andy attempts to retain his humanity by refurbishing the prison library and clings to his stoic nature in spite of the harsh conditions and having to participate in Norton’s corrupt business dealings. Andy and Red are conflicted about the nature of their situation as Andy retains hope of living beyond the walls of the prison; whereas Red fears he would not make it on the outside as prison is all he knows. As events later take a turn for the worst, Andy begins to lose hope and is forced to make a fateful choice.

This film highlights the horrors of an unjust prison system. It does this by humanizing most of the prisoners as normal, rational people who have made mistakes in life and are now faced with living in oppressive conditions as a result. The film features many elements that hearken to religious interpretations of key moments in the film, from a falsely pious warden to Andy’s reoccurring attempts to bring the feeling of freedom to the prisoners if only for a moment.

While this movie did not earn much gross revenue at the box office, it was an outstanding success among critics and the public later on. It would be nominated for seven Academy Awards. It was eventually selected for the Library of Congress to be preserved in the National Film Registry for it being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant. The Shawshank Redemption remains to this day on the popular website IMDB as rated #1 on its top 250 films of all time. This film has such a powerful impact on anyone who watches it.

The Shawshank Redemption is available at the Union University Library.

* Please note it is rated R for violence and harsh language.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Ocean’s Eleven”

In 2001, director Steven Soderbergh gave us a fantastic remake of the classic 60’s era Rat Pack film. Ocean’s Eleven features a star-studded cast of George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, and Julia Roberts. The plot centers around Danny Ocean (George Clooney), a recently paroled thief who plots the unthinkable caper: robbing not one but three Las Vegas casinos.

Now your average Las Vegas casino has more money than a federal bank and more armed security and cameras than most military bases, so this isn’t a marginal undertaking. Danny decides to enlist a dream team of fellow thieves, hackers, and con-artists to pull off this impossible heist.

Too cool for school is the name of the game here: every actor is on point. They do a fantastic job in portraying a motley crew that each uses their individual talent and charisma to stay one step ahead of the casino security and the law. While the task they set out to accomplish is quite serious as the odds aren’t stacked in their favor, this film truly shines on its lighthearted and sharp-witted comedy through near misses and close calls that could spell doom for the thieving band. At this film’s heart is actually a quasi-love triangle between three characters as Danny Ocean desperately tries to win back the love of his ex-wife.

Ocean’s Eleven was a big hit at the box office, racking in $450 million dollars based off of an $85 million budget. It’s no wonder this film went on to become a three-part trilogy as well as inspire an ensemble all-female spinoff. This is a fantastic film filled with thrills and tasteful comedy that aims to please mainstream audiences. Ocean’s Eleven will leave you with the desire to see it again and again. You’ll want to catch all the subtle slights of hand in this picturesque heist

 Ocean’s Eleven is available at the Union University Library.

* This film is rated PG-13 for mild violence and some suggestive scenes.*

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Revenant”

Writer and Director Alejandro González Iñárritu has had a steady stream of success over the years, and his much celebrated film The Revenant is proof of his amazing talent and coordination to put together such an audacious project.

Our story begins in the far north near the Canadian American border, where scout and fur trapper Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) is leading a group of fur trappers through unsettled territory along with his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck).  The party of trappers are ambushed by a large group of Native Americans. Many are killed, and the survivors are forced to flee, abandoning their fur pelts and with it their livelihood. No one is more upset by this turn of events than John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy). Fitzgerald’s character is that of a cruel and utterly selfish man who has a deep hatred of Native Americans due to being partially scalped when he was younger.

As the trappers seek to survive and evade their enemies, Glass is attacked and nearly killed by a grizzly bear. Fitzgerald urges the party to abandon Glass as the Indians are hot on their trail. Hawk refuses to leave his father, and, reluctantly, Fitzgerald and one other trapper Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) agree to stay behind for extra pay. Shortly after Fitzgerald grows impatient and attempts to “mercy kill” Glass. Hawk discovers his intentions and, in the ensuing struggle, Hawk is killed. Glass is then left for dead as Fitzgerald and Bridger return and report that Glass had died naturally.

Incredibly, Glass recovers from his wounds and starts the long trek back to the fort in search of revenge for the death of his son. He is relentlessly pursued by different Native American groups and struggles to survive the incredibly harsh frozen north. Glass finally makes it back to American territory and confronts Fitzgerald for his murderous treachery.

The Revenant is a difficult film to review because it relies heavily on its awe inspiring visuals and impressive camera angles. The fact that it was shot on location in northwest Canada in the middle of winter is a triumph alone. There are only a handful of dialogue scenes, but they only help to show the intensity of the rival characters. The physical exertion of the cast, particularly DiCaprio’s performance, is not fake: he literally is cold, wet, and in one particular scene he actually consumes the liver of a bison. It is due to this incredible commitment that DiCaprio finally one Best Actor in that year’s Academy awards.

Tom Hardy also steals the show with his amazing acting skills, as he comes off so believable in his villainous role that he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. This film also earned Iñárritu Best Director, and The Revenant would go on to earn 533 million in box office sales. The Revenant is a faithful look at what life was like in the grim and harsh expanse of early 1800’s era north America where U.S settlers and frontiersmen encounter native peoples in an often violent struggle for resources.

This film is available at the Union University Library.

*Please note it is rated R for intense violence and some language.*

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Mean Girls”

In the early 2000’s, teen comedies generally focused on the trials and tribulations of high school life, and Mean Girls set the standard for the genre.  This coming-of-age style film is brought together by an amazing cast of Hollywood’s leading young actresses of the time and witty writing by well-established producers and writers.  The film was produced by Lorne Michaels, the famous creator of Saturday Night Live and written by Tina Fey. This background of veteran comedic writing (with a long history of successful sketch comedy) helped to create an immensely funny and quotable film.

The film begins with our protagonist Cady Heron (Lindsey Lohan), who is returning to the United States after twelve years abroad with her parents. Cady is enrolled at North Shore High School and feels immediately like a fish out of water due to her years of homeschooling. She is quickly taken aside and befriended by Janis Ian (Lizzy Caplan), a fellow outcast who describes in depth the various cliques that compete in the school for popularity.

Of all the cliques in the school, none is more sought after and notorious than “The Plastics.” This clique features the most popular girls in school; The Plastics flaunt their good looks and their posh sense of fashion while exhibiting profound narcissism. Internally, each of them is filled with insecurities, and they feed off each other in order to maintain their status. This trio of manipulators includes Gretchen Wieners (Lacey Chabert), Karen Smith (Amanda Seyfried), and the leader, Regina George (Rachel McAdams). Gretchen is a pure follower who is always at Regina’s beck and call. Karen fulfills the  pretty blonde with no brain trope with her antics. Regina is the brains of the group, being the most popular girl in school and a puppet master extraordinaire. She is a crafty demagogue and can be so self-absorbed, she makes Cersei Lannister from Game of Thrones look humble.

Regina and The Plastics soon take notice of Cady and quickly befriend her. Cady enjoys the new found allure of parties and popularity, and she quickly develops a crush on Regina’s ex-boyfriend, Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett). Janis insists that Cady use her new position in the group to get close to Regina and steal her old diary dubbed “The Burn Book,” as it is filled with gossip and secrets about girls and teachers at the school.  Things start to heat up when Regina discovers Cady’s crush and a jealous feud begins. This causes a schism between The Plastics, and Cady becomes the new queen bee mirroring Regina’s own tyrannical behaviors. Desperate and enraged, Regina releases the contents of The Burn Book and total anarchy unfolds. Cady, seeing, what she has become and the damage done to everyone, regrets the choices she made and seeks to reconcile with those she wronged.

This is a fantastic and iconic film. The comedy is top notch and it’s also relatable to anyone who shared similar experiences in high school where you weren’t quite sure where you fit in and hadn’t really discovered your true self. Mean Girls is still such a popular movie that as of late 2017 and 2018, it was adapted by Tina Fey as a Broadway musical in New York City.

Mean Girls is rated PG-13 for some language and suggestive situations. It is available at the Union University Library.

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “District 9”

In 2009, director Neill Blomkamp earned his claim to fame and established himself as an accomplished writer and director with his hit film District 9. What makes this sci-fi action film stand out from an overcrowded genre is its unique setting and thought-provoking real world themes of the dangers of xenophobia and the desperation of refugees.

District 9 begins as a quasi-found footage documentary that also shifts to standard narrative approach. The film describes the events of first contact between humans and an alien race. These aren’t the pretty and majestic Na’vi people from Avatar nor are they  like the enlightened Vulcan Captain Spock from Star Trek. The District 9 aliens are large, insectoid organisms that resemble a cross between a shrimp and a cockroach (the name “prawn” is used in the film as a slur). They arrive on earth in 1982 and end up in Johannesburg, South Africa. They are quickly rounded up and quarantined in a makeshift camp. The aliens appear to be quite dim-witted and unable to fix their broken ship. As the government struggles to find resources necessary for the housing for the ever-growing population of aliens, they turn to The MNU “Multinational United.”  The MNU is a powerful para-military defense corporation that has the ulterior motives of adapting and making use of the alien’s weapon technology (of which only the aliens themselves can use).

The film follows our main protagonist Wikus van de Merwe (played by Sharlto Copley).  Wikus works for the department of Alien Affairs and is charged with leading MNU security forces in relocating the Aliens. While serving an eviction notice on the alien known as Christopher Johnson, Wikus is unknowingly infected with an organic chemical substance that slowly begins to change him into one of the aliens. Christopher is unlike the other aliens as he possesses a high intelligence and is lperhaps the last of a higher cast order of his species. Christopher has hopes of restarting the mothership and saving his son and people. Wikus and Christopher team up with the promise of curing Wikus and fleeing Earth. The MNU begin hunting Wikus as he is the key to adapting alien technology for human use. The MNU sends a sadistic mercenary, Colonel Koobus Venter (played by David James), to capture Wikus. Then it’s a race against time with ever increasing stakes.

District 9 is an ambitious and awe-inspiring film. It is an allegory for the problems faced in the world from the plight of migrants and refugees to the dangers of unaccountable global corporations. It also hearkens back to the horrible aspects of apartheid in South Africa. District 9 would go on to be nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture.

 

*This film is rated R for violence and language. It is available at the Union University Library.

 

**Written by Matthew Beyer.

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The 13th Warrior”

It’s a new year and a great time to review some odd gems of cinema history. In my ongoing review of films that catch my attention and critical acclaim, I hope to shine the spotlight on films that have taken on a cult status.  Although today’s film was not financially successful nor did it achieve fame from a wider audience, it is often taken for granted among the adventure genre of films.

First a bit of background on this film: the 13th Warrior was released in 1999 and it was adapted from a book by the famous Michael Crichton entitled Eaters of the Dead.  Michael Crichton is more widely known for his novel Jurassic Park. During the mid to late 90’s Crichton’s novels were being adapted to film as fast as possible hoping for another big hit like Jurassic Park. Thus enters director John McTeiran, who’s best known for directing action hits like Predator and Die Hard. Although this film seemed like it would be a great success, it ended up coming in way over budget and flopped with audiences at the box office with estimates at a $120-million-dollar loss.

Now I hope to make the case that this film is not nearly as bad as it is made out to be. While it does have some obvious shortcomings, I still think this film shines in its narrative and set design, and the actors really try to give it their all in spite of the problems associated with the filming and production disputes. I think modern audiences can appreciate an adventure piece set in the dark ages due to a renaissance in the popularity of Norse Viking culture and current trends in video games such as the like of Skyrim.

Plot Synopsis

This film’s story begins with our main protagonist, Ahmad ibn Fadlan, played by Antonio Banderas. Ahamd ibn Fadlan is based in part of a real historical figure who would go on to write and describe his time spent as an ambassador to the Volga Vikings. In this adaptation Ahamd ibn Fadlan is forced to travel with 12 Vikings on a sacred mission of honor back to the far north of their homeland because an ancient enemy has returned and is terrorizing a Norse Kingdom. We are introduced to the leader and King of the Viking warriors: Buliwyf, played by Vladimir Kulich.  Buliwyf encompasses all the traits one would expect to find in a Viking, boasting a tall, silent, stoic appearance that can turn in an instant into ferocious fighter steeped in knowledge of Norse religion. His character is loosely based in homage to that of the mythical Beowulf.   The last character that stands out amongst the rest is that of Herger played by the Norwegian actor Dennis Storhøi. Herger’s character has the closest relationship to Ahamd and the two develop a quick friendship. Herger helps to explain the different culture the Vikings possess while being a friendlier and comedic character in stark contrast to the rest of the Vikings.

In summary, the 13th Warrior was a swing and a miss with mainstream audiences and to many it feels like an unfinished film due to some pacing issues. I wouldn’t go as far as some do and rule it out as a bad film, and I wouldn’t suggest it’s a B film either as the tone remains serious throughout and isn’t that campy. I think what’s most important is that I grew up with the film when there weren’t many choices in the genre as the Viking craze was still years off and this film has a very good period piece feel to it. So why not give this film a try- if it’s not the best, it’s at least entertaining!

This film is available at the Union University Library the Logos.

* Please note The 13th Warrior is rated R for violence throughout and some minor language.

**written by Matthew Beyer