Tag Archives: Neil Patrick Harris


The Matrix Resurrections

by Hope Madden

December is the month for outrage on the big screen. Whether Adam McKay’s latest blistering comedy Don’t Look Up, Radu Jude’s audacious indictment Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, or Lana Wachowski’s return to the power grid that made her famous, movies this December are really, really angry.

And who can blame them?

As the filmmaker resurrects her Matrix series, Wachowski makes sure to point out just how prescient her pleather & action groundbreakers really were.

Back in ’99, Thomas Anderson (Keanu Reeves) had to make a choice. He woke up to the fact that reality itself was harsh and inconvenient and you couldn’t just say what you wanted to hear and convince others that was reality. In 2021, Thomas Anderson is a rich video game designer living in a reality where people insist that their own narratives are the truth regardless of the facts.

Anderson’s story involves, once again, waking up to harsh truth and finding true love. There are battles, action sequences, grudges and nostalgia aplenty—more than enough to delight fans of the trilogy looking for a little pandering.

But that plot, slight as it is, creates a frame on which Wachowski can hang a lot of indignation. The strange synergy between the logical evolution of Anderson/Neo’s story and Wachowski’s rage is what makes The Matrix Resurrection strangely satisfying.

Take Act 1’s monologue from Anderson’s video game business partner (Hamilton‘s Jonathan Groff, priceless) as to why they have to make another Matrix video game: Warner Brothers wants a sequel to the trilogy and they own the rights and will make it with or without us.

That’s not an explanation about Wachowski’s return to the cinematic franchise she thought she put to bed in 2003, it’s dialog. Well, it’s both.

Her film goes on to reiterate the danger in a false world. “If we don’t know what’s real, how do we resist?”

Most often she uses a diabolically smug Neil Patrick Harris to voice her wrath, but again, the context she created about living in two realities could not possibly lend itself better to this treatment.

The film looks good. It’s too long, but all of them are. (All of the Matrix films, or all films in general? Both.) The action doesn’t entirely live up to the originals, but how could it? Carrie-Anne Moss is still a force of nature, Reeves is better at being confused than any actor working today, and the balance of new faces, old faces, and younger replacements for familiar faces works.

Resurrections hits a level of meta that risks alienating core Matrix fans, but whether Wachowski wins on her own terms with a box office success or she sinks her franchise into obscurity with a bomb, there’s little doubt she’s the one making the choices here.

Shooting from the Lip


 A Million Ways to Die in the West

by George Wolf


Picture Seth MacFarlane cracking wise as he watches an old western, and you’re probably not far from the inspiration for A Million Ways to Die in the West.

So how well do MacFarlane’s modern comedy cow patties work when dropped into a pasture of Old West cliches?

Pretty dang well, pardner.

MacFarlane, who co-writes and directs, also stars as Albert, a timid sheep farmer who’s brokenhearted over losing Louise (Amanda Seyfried) to the dashing Foy, owner of the town mustache emporium (Neil Patrick Harris).

Things start looking up when Anna (Charlize Theron) rides into town, and as she and Albert get friendly, Anna conveniently forgets to mention she’s already married to Clinch (Liam Neeson), the most feared gunslinger in the land.

With MacFarlane, you pretty much know what’s coming:  cutaway gags to reinforce a line, toilet humor, and sex jokes (turned up a notch here by the always-demure Sarah Silverman as a town prostitute). But the film also has good fun with the historical setting, as Albert often reacts to his world like a wiseass who just arrived from the future.

Even so, MacFarlane is wise enough not to resort to outright mockery, always keeping the door cracked open just enough to let some homage shine through.

The chemistry between MacFarlane and Theron helps loads. You saw it when she helped him with a bit during his stint as Oscar host in 2012 and you see it here:  they really like each other, and she thinks he’s really funny. Together, they’re a charming pair.

The middle suffers a bit from comedy drought, but the laughs come faster as Albert nears his final showdown with the evil Clinch. Expect a cast more than ready to poke fun at themselves, some very clever songs, a few inspired cameos and two extra scenes after the credits start rolling.

A Million Ways to Die in the West is a big, broad idea that’s thrown on the screen with more frenzy than focus. But will you laugh?

Darn tootin’.