(Copyright © 1999-2024 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

6.8 Bound (1996)
7.0 Matrix (1999)
6.8 The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
6.0 The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
6.0 Speed Racer (2008)
6.5 Cloud Atlas (2012)
5.0 Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Larry and Andy Wachowski (also known and Lana and Lilly, being both transgender) debuted with Bound (1996), a caper film that relies on the gimmick of two lesbian lovers as the protagonists and an admittedly effervescent plot. Faceless voices talk as if in a nightmare. For a brief second we see a woman on the floor. ambiguity: is Violet sincere?
Two girls meet in an elevator. While punkish Corky is trying to unclog the bath tub of an apartment (after having to listen to her neighbors making love), sexy Violet, who lives next door with her boyfriend Caesar, comes in to socialize. At a bar she meets an old girlfriend, who is now dating a police woman. It turns out that Corky (obviously a lesbian) was just released from jail and now is working as a plumber for the owner of the apartment building. Violet finds another excuse to get Corky into her apartment, and proceeds to seduce her the old fashioned way. Corky is annoyed by the affair. One day Corky sees three men take a man into Violet's apartment and then hears as they and Caesar torture him, as they push his face into the toilet, as they cut his fingers one by one. Violet can't stand it and goes to the bar with Corky. At the bar she tells Corky that she wants to leave Caesar, who works for the mob. Violet knows that Caesar has to launder a huge amount of money, and asks Corky to help her steal the money to start a new life. Suddenly Corky's criminal insticts are aroused and she turns into a scientific and enthusiastic planner of capers. Caesar has to deliver some money to a gangster, Johnny, who is his worst enemy, for their boss (and Johnny's father) Gino. Corky's idea is very simple: Corky will steal the money, replacing it in the briefcase with worthless paper, and then Violet will tell Caesar that she saw Johnny leaving the apartment. This way Caesar will think that Johnny took the money to get him killed. Caesar will have no choice but to run away. Of course, the plan depends on the two women trusting each other. Corky went to jail precisely because her previous female lover betrayed her. She has to trust that this time Violent will not betray her.
But Caesar does not react the way they expected. Caesar does not run: he decides to confront Johnny in front of Gino. When Gino and Johnny arrive, Caesar pulls out a gun and wants Johnny to confess. Needless to say, Johnny is clueless. Gino tries to grab the gun from Caesar. Caesar has no choice but to kill them all. Now his plan is to hide the bodies and recover the money, and then tell the mob that Gino never showed up. But the police, alerted about gun shots, show up. Caesar cleans up in time and the police do not find anything wrong. Then Caesar frantically looks for the money at Johnny's house. Back at his and Violet's apartment, he is busy packing the dead bodies while Violet calls Corky. Corky truly loves her because she could have fled with the money. The phone call is a fatal mistake because Caesar catches her in the act and finds out what really happened. Now Corky is on the floor (the woman of the first scene) and Caesar has a gun at her head. Corky would not tell where the money is, but she does when Caesar threatens to cut Violet's fingers. Caesar has no time to rejoice because other gangsters, friends of the dead ones, led by the deadly Mickey, show up to check out if everything is all right. Caesar asks Violent to help convince them that everything is normal, but Violent in exchange demands half the money. The gangsters leave with the briefcase (without checking its contents). Caesar runs to the apartment next door and finds the money that Corky had hidden. In the meantime, Corky has managed to untie herself. Violent, realizing that Caesar has no intention of keeping his word, runs away from Caesar and makes a desperate call to Mickey, hoping to get the gangster to stop Caesar. Caesar, looking for Violet, runs back to the apartment and finds out that Corky has eloped. Caesar finds her and is about to kill her but Violent resurfaces with a gun and kills him. When Mickey arrives, the girls have already hidden the body, so that Mickey thinks that Caesar has run away with the money and promises to catch him. Violent takes off with Corky: they have been faithful to each other, and they hold each other's hand.

The Matrix (1999) is a visually stunning sci-fi movie that recycles the plot of Fassbinder's Welt am Draht/ World on a Wire (1973): how can you tell if you are just a simulation of a human being inside a simulated world? The cliched plot, the clumsy acting and the stereotyped dialogue, not to mention too many lengthy (and boring) scenes, are relieved by fast-paced action (especially the kungfu and gunfight sequences) and by the overall "cyber-noir" atmosphere. The moral values are ambigous, as we mostly do not know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys. Furthermore, most of the film has the feeling of a videogame. Reality is ambigous to the point that the characters themselves question it. Taking clues from Alice In Wonderland, the Bible, Blade Runner, William Gibson novels, and contemporary futuristic nightmares like Dark City and Strange Days, the film feels more like a pop-art collage than a metaphysical meditation. As a Hollywood adaptation of a foreign film, it certainly fares better than the average.

The indomitable protagonist of Matrix is a computer hacker, Neo, who is shocked to discover that his world is a computer simulation designed by super-intelligent machines to conquer humankind. The film was influential in pop culture, frequently cited even by philosophers in discussions about the digital "cyberspace" of the Internet. The film was directed by two trans-women (who later renamed themselves Lana and Lilly Wachowski) and this led to speculations that the film also had a secret "trans" theme.

Somebody is tracing a phone call between a man and a woman: the man tells her that they have decided to "kill him", and she says "Morpheus believes he is the one". The camera dives into a matrix.
The police (probably the ones who were tracing the call) enter a building to arrest a girl, but the girl, Trinity, wrapped in black leather, turns out to be an athletic superwoman, a kung-fu warrior who runs through bullets and jumps from roof to roof. She calls Morpheus and tells him the phone call was traced: he tells her to reach a phone booth and warns her about the "agents". In fact, it is a cool agent wearing dark glasses who chases her in vain. The cool agent is multiplying: there are now three, all identical, and they are after a man named Neo. The camera exits the matrix.
A software wizard, Thomas (Keenu Reeves), who had fallen asleep, is warned on the screen of his computer that somebody is looking for him to talk about the "matrix" and is told to follow the white rabbit. The monitor displays "knock knock" and somebody knocks at his door. He sells an illegal disc to a bunch of punks (as if it was drugs) and the girl, who has a rabbit tattoed on her arm, invites him to a decadent party. He is still upset by the fact that the computer was talking to him, and wonders if he was simply dreaming. At the party, Thomas meets Trinity, who knows his nickname, "Neo". She brought him there to warn him. She whispers in his ear in a cold, insinuating tone about Neo's endeavours to find "him" and that he, Neo, is being watched. She once had the same urge, and when she finally met "him", he made her realize that what she was really looking for was the same question that is bothering him: "What is the matrix"? The alarm goes off and he wakes up, in his apartment.
At work, Thomas is a regular software engineer (although one who seems to be always late). He receives a mysterious package that contains a cellular phone. The phone rings and Morpheus talks to him. Morpheus warns him that the police are searching for him, and, sure enough, agent Smith and one of his doubles are about to walk into Neo's office. Thomas, instructed by Morpheus (who seems to know the building room by room), tries to flee, but is arrested. Agent Smith, who knows Thomas' double life as a smuggler of illegal software, tells him that Morpheus is a dangerous terrorist and threatens to indict Thomas for all his misdeeds if Thomas does not help them arrest Morpheus. Thomas does not cooperate, and the agents forcibly insert into his belly button a scorpion that works as a tracking device.
Again, Thomas wakes up in the middle of the night in his bed, so, again, it is not clear if this was just a bad dream. The phone rings: Morpheus tells him that he is the "one", and instructs him to meet Trinity. She picks him up under the rain and extracts the scorpion from his belly while they are driving to Morpheus's hideout.
Morpheus treats him like someone special, and subjects him to a strange ritual (they basically "improve" his body) that shows him a glimpse of a Metropolis-like futuristic city. Morpheus tells him and shows him (by plugging him into a virtual-reality world) the truth about the evil matrix: the world of the human race is a computer-generated simulation created by an evil race of machines, who feed on humans for their energy needs. The date is far beyond in the future than the official 1999. He, Neo, lives in a simulation of how the world was in 1999, before the artificial-intelligence machines took over, and started using human beings as batteries and thus breeding them like chickens. Planet Earth is now a desert. The machines need to eliminate all humans who know the truth, and for that purpose they employ the Sentient Agents, like Smith. Thomas/Neo is the messiah, the "One" who can save the human race from the current slavery. The only human city that survives free is Zion.
Morpheus, from his pirate but futuristic spaceship, leads a small band of terrorists, who practice gravity-defying mind-powered kung-fu. Thomas/Neo is trained by Morpheus (in different virtual-reality programs) to become one of them.
After this lengthy introduction, the rest of the film is the action-packed chronicle of how Neo, Morpheus, Trinity and the gang lead a guerrilla warfare to destroy the matrix, while being pursued by the Agents who wish to destroy them.
The movie's battles take place in virtual reality. The heroes' minds are plugged into the battlefield. But their deaths are real: when they die in virtual reality, they also die on the chair that plugged them into virtual reality. When in trouble, the characters may call the rebel's control centre, where a man types on a computer and gets them an exit in the matrix. The action is punctuated by a phone ringing whenever something is about to happen.
This second part begins with the whole crew plugging into the matrix, i.e. "traveling" to the Earth (or, better, simulation of the Earth). One of Morpheus' men, Cypher, has accepted to betray him to Agent Smith. Morpheus takes Thomas/Neo to an apartment where the "oracle" lives. It turns out the oracle is a lady dressed in regular clothes who looks like an ordinary housewife (and even smokes cigarettes and bakes cookies). She gives him her blessing, but also tells him that he is not the one. And she foretells that either Morpheus or Neo will have to die to save the other one.
The group of Morpheus, Trinity and Neo walks into a building, but it is a trap set by the traitor Cypher: the Agents storm the building. Morpheus calls his man who is monitoring the scene from the lab, and asks for help. Most of the gang escapes, but agent Smith captures Morpheus in the building. Basically, Morpheus sacrifices himself to save Neo's life. Back in the lab, Cypher wakes up and shoots the men who are monitoring the scene. Trinity calls him from virtual reality, trying to change his mind, but Cypher has decided that the matrix is better than the real world: he is tired of the spaceship, of their daily routine and of taking order from Morpheus. Cypher unplugs the bodies that are plugged into the matrix, i.e. the people who are around Trinity, as she is talking to him, and this kills them, one by one. Luckily one of the men in the lab is not dead and kills Cypher before he can kill Neo (Trinity and Neo hear the phone ring and Neo picks it up). Then this man transports back Trinity and Neo to the lab.
Back in the matrix, inside a skyscraper Agent Smith is lecturing Morpheus about the superiority of the new race (it's all about evolution) and how they have perfected the matrix, i.e. the simulation of the human world, from the original version. In the lab, Neo and the others are staring at Morpheus' lifeless body in the chair that plugs him into the matrix. One of the men realizes that the matrix is using Morpheus to gather information about them that could destroy Zion: the only solution is for them to kill Morpheus before they get destroyed by the matrix. Instead, Neo decides to plug into the matrix and liberate Morpheus, and Trinity, unable to change his mind, decides to follow him.
Back into the matrix, the duo storms the building where Smith is torturing Morpheus. They rescue him and attempt to run away on a helicopter. But the helicopter is destroyed by the Agents, and Neo narrowly manages to save Trinity before it crashes into a skyscraper. Neo tries to tell Morpheus that the oracle said he is not the one, but Morpheus doesn't let him talk: the oracle told him what he needed to hear (in order to fulfill the prophecy?) A phone rings, and Trinity is brought back to the spaceship, alive and well. In the meantime, Neo is chased by Smith, while Trinity and Morpheus watch the duel from their control center. Smith has the advantage of knowing how to travel through the matrix and eventually shoots Neo dead.
But a kiss from Trinity and her love bring Neo back to life and give him the strength to destroy Smith.
The action returns to the beginning, to the phone call that is being traced. Now we see that it is Thomas talking to Trinity from a phone booth. He hangs up the phone and walks in the street, a regular street with regular people in a regular city.
The drawback is that the film is entirely grounded in plot twists and psychedelic graphics. The directors show little interest for their characters and for the meaning of their story.

Erik Molstad writes:

It's possible that the directors did not go into great depth in revealing the character's true personalities and histories but I feel that this was to keep them more representative as the movie was dealing with enlightenment and the dissolving of personal perceptual boundaries, both introverted and extroverted. To go in depth into the minds and emotions of the characters I think would move the focus to the details of human existence and away from a large world/void view (i.e. the Matrix and how to change your experience in it). And as for the directors' interest in the meaning of the story, I'd say that they gave ample clues to the theme and it's relevance to everyone. The scene with the Oracle and Neo for one summed up a great deal as far as love, trust, a leap of faith, and self-sacrifice. Very powerful, I thought, and making for a film that was more than "a visually stunning sci-fi movie" to quote you.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Valentina Filippis)

Matrix (1999) e` un film di science fiction sbalorditivo dal punto di vista visivo. La trama convenzionale, la recitazione rozza e i dialoghi stereotipati, per non menzionare le scene troppo lunghe (e noiose), sono alleggeriti dall'azione che procede ad un’andatura veloce (soprattutto per quel che riguarda le sequenze di kung-fu e sparatorie), e dall'atmosfera "cyber-noir" che pervade il tutto. I valori morali sono ambigui, e generalmente non riusciamo a riconoscere i buoni dai cattivi. Inoltre, la maggior parte del film sembra essere un videogioco. La realta` e` ambigua a tal punto da spingere gli stessi protagonisti a metterla in dubbio. Traendo indizi da Alice nel paese delle meraviglie, la Bibbia, Blade Runner, i romanzi di William Gibson e dai contemporanei incubi futuristici come Dark City e Strange Days,

Qualcuno sta rintracciando una telefonata tra un uomo e una donna. La polizia entra in un edificio per arrestare una donna, ma questa, Trinity, avvolta da una tuta di pelle nera, si rivela essere un’atletica superdonna, un'esperta di kung-fu, che viene attraversata dai proiettili e salta di tetto in tetto. Un freddo agente segreto dagli occhiali scuri la rincorre senza successo. Egli è sulle tracce di un uomo chiamato Neo.
Un mago dell'informatica, Thomas, viene avvisato tramite lo schermo del suo computer che qualcuno lo sta cercando per parlare di “matrix”, e gli viene detto di seguire il coniglio. Egli vende un dischetto ad un gruppo di ragazzi punk (come se fosse della droga), e la ragazza (che ha un coniglio tatuato sul braccio) lo invita ad una strana festa. Qui incontra Trinity, che conosce il suo soprannome, "Neo". Lei gli sussurra nell'orecchio con un tono freddo ed insinuante qualcosa riguardo al suo tentativo di cercare la “risposta”; gli dice inoltre che viene sorvegliato. Per quanto riguarda il suo lavoro, Thomas è un normale ingegnere informatico. Egli riceve un misterioso pacco che contiene un telefono. Il telefono suona ed un misterioso uomo di nome Morpheus risponde. Morpheus lo avverte che la polizia lo sta cercando e che, quasi sicuramente, l’agente segreto Smith sta entrando nell’ufficio. Thomas tenta di fuggire, ma viene arrestato. L'agente segreto, che e` a conoscenza della doppia vita di Thomas (quella di contrabbandiere di software illegale), gli dice che Morpheus e` un pericoloso terrorista e minaccia di accusare Thomas per tutti i misfatti se non lo aiuta ad arrestare Morpheus. Thomas non collabora e gli agenti segreti gli inseriscono forzatamente nell’ombelico uno scorpione, un dispositivo con il quale possono rintracciarlo. Thomas si sveglia nel mezzo della notte, così che non è chiaro se si è trattato di un sogno o no. Squilla il telefono. Trinity preleva Thomas sotto la pioggia e gli estrae lo scorpione dall’ombelico, mentre si dirigono verso il nascondiglio di Morpheus. Morpheus gli dice e gli mostra (immergendolo in un mondo da realtà virtuale) la verità sulla diabolica matrix: il mondo in cui vive il genere umano e` una simulazione generata dal computer, creata da un perfido gruppo di macchine che si nutrono di esseri umani per il loro fabbisogno d'energia. Siamo ben piu` avanti nel futuro che non nell'ufficiale 1999. Il pianeta Terra e` oramai un deserto. Le macchine devono eliminare tutti gli esseri umani che conoscono la verità, e a tale scopo ingaggiano Agenti Senzienti, come Smith. Thomas e` IL messia, "l'unico", colui che e` in grado di salvare l'umanita` dall'attuale schiavitu`.
Morpheus e` a capo di un piccolo gruppo di terroristi, che praticano una sorta di kung-fu controllato dalla mente che sfida la gravità. Thomas/Neo viene allenato da Morpheus (nella realtà virtuale) a diventare uno di loro. A Thomas/Neo viene data la benedizione da un’anziana veggente di colore (che sembra una semplice casalinga). Dopo questa lunga ed inutile introduzione, il resto del film è la cronaca di come Neo, Morpheus, Trinity e il resto del gruppo intraprendono una battaglia per sconfiggere matrix, mentre vengono incalzati dagli Agenti, che vorrebbero distruggerli.
Gli scontri che avvengono nel film, hanno luogo nella Realta` Virtuale. Le menti degli eroi vengono inseriti nello scenario della battaglia. Ma le loro morti sono reali: quando muoiono nella realta` virtuale, muoiono anche sulla sedia che li aveva immersi nella realta` virtuale. Quando si trovano in difficolta`, i protagonisti devono cercare di chiamare la stazione di controllo del gruppo, dove un uomo (digitando su un computer) fornisce loro l'uscita da matrix. L'azione viene scandita da una telefonata ogniqualvolta sta per succedere qualcosa. Gli agenti irrompono nell'edificio, ma la maggior parte della banda fugge. Uno del gruppo, Cypher, tenta di mantenere il controllo, ma riescono a neutralizzarlo. L'Agente Smith cattura Morpheus nella realta` virtuale, mentre Neo e gli altri osservano il suo corpo senza vita sulla sedia che lo collega alla realtà virtuale. Neo decide di connettersi e Trinity fa lo stesso. I due irrompono nell'edificio dove Smith sta torturando Morpheus, lo liberano e tentano di fuggire su di un elicottero. Ma l'elicottero viene distrutto dagli Agenti e Neo riesce a salvare Trinity in extremis, prima che si schianti contro un grattacielo. Neo viene inseguito da Smith, mentre gli altri osservano lo scontro dal loro centro di controllo. Smith ha il vantaggio di sapere come muoversi attraverso matrix, e alla fine riesce a sparare a Neo, uccidendolo. Ma un bacio di Trinity ed il suo amore riportano Neo in vita, e gli danno la forza necessaria a distruggere Smith. L'azione ritorna all'inizio, alla telefonata che viene rintracciata. Ora vediamo che e` Thomas che parla a Trinity da una cabina telefonica. Il problema e` che il film si basa interamente sugli intrecci della trama e su una grafica psichedelica. I registi mostrano poco interesse per i loro personaggi e per il senso della loro storia.
Matrix Reloaded (2003) is an incomplete sequel, a sort of intermezzo between the first and the third part. It is again a shower of visual effects, a futuristic vision a` la Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Homeric mythology a` la Star Trek, a gallery of kung-fu scenes, and a videogame-like hyper-kinetic labirynth. The most intriguing aspect of the film is that the narrative occurs at different levels: back and forth between past, present and future, between the regular city (the present for us, but the past for the movie), Zion (the future for us, but the present for the movie) and the virtual-reality worlds. Neo, monitored by Morpheus' men, is now leading the revolt on Zion. Morpheus addresses a large cheering crowd and tells them that the enemy is approaching and only Neo can save Zion. Neo is haunted by the nightmare of Trinity being killed. Neo and Trinity travel again into the "matrix" and meet the Oracle, a woman, while Agent Smith multiplies and tries to stop him (in spectacular but a little annoying kung-fu battles). (As the clones keep multiplying in a rhythmic way, one is reminded of Busby Berkeley's ballets). Neo has to kiss a woman in front of Trinity in order to get her help. She introduces the trio into her husband's palace and reveals the secret room of the "Keymaker". THen Neo protects their escape with another boring set of kung-fu fights against the guards who try to catch them. Trinity, Morpheus and Keymaker run away, but chased by the guards through the streets of a normal city (in a colossal but totally pointless car chase), while Neo is trapped inside the virtual reality of the palace, surrounded by mountains. Trinity and Morpheus get instructions and help from the men who are monitoring the story on a computer screen. Morpheus stays behind to protect Trinity and Keymaker who ride away on a motorcycle. After smashing dozens of cars and performing all sorts of super-human jumps, they finally get rid of their chasers. Keymaker describes a building in the city and a door that leads to the Source. But they must first destroy the power station. Morpheus, Neo and Keymaker enter the building, but Trinity has to step in to save them from certain destruction. Morpheus and Neo have to fight the usual dose of cloned agents to get to the secret door. Keymaker dies but has time to give them the key. Neo finally meets the Architect who created the Matrix. Neo asks "why am I here"? And the Architect replies that Neo is a... bug in the software! There have been previous versions of the Matrix and there have been countless Neos before. The story keeps repeating because the bug is systemic. On the wall, thousands of monitors project each Neo in each Matrix. Architect reveals that he is about to destroy the Matrix. Neo gets a choice: he can save Zion or he can save Trinity. Neo's nightmare (the death of Trinity) is now happening "for real". Neo plays Superman and saves her. Neo chose Trinity so Zion shall be destroyed. A mechanical monster destroys the lab in which Morpheus, Trinity and Neo are. Neo stops the monster but falls in a coma. Zion has been attacked and destroyed. Only one person survived: a copy of Neo! He is the only one who knows what happened on Zion, but he is in a coma. (Translation by/ Tradotto da Annalisa Piersigilli)

Neo, sotto il controllo degli uomini di Morpheus, è a capo della rivolta di Zion. Morpheus si rivolge alla immensa folla acclamante degli abitanti di Zion, riferisce che il nemico si sta avvicinando e solo Neo può salvare la città. Neo è ossessionato dall’incubo di Trinity che viene uccisa. La coppia entra ancora nella Matrice e incontra l’Oracolo, una donna. Nel frattempo l’agente Smith si moltiplica e cerca di fermarlo (nel corso di spettacolari ma un po’ noiose battaglie di kung-fu. Mentre i cloni dell’agente Smith si moltiplicano ritmicamente, vengono in mente i balletti di Busby Berkeley). Neo deve baciare una donna davanti a Trinity per ricevere il suo aiuto. La donna accompagna il trio all’interno del palazzo del marito e mostra loro la stanza segreta del Keymaker ("Colui che fa le chiavi"). Dopodiché Neo protegge la loro fuga con un’altra noiosa serie di mosse di kung-fu contro le guardie che cercano di catturarli. Trinity, Morpheus e Keymaker scappano via, ma sono catturati dalle guardie lungo le strade di una normale città (in una colossale caccia alla macchina, ma priva di senso). Nel frattempo Neo rimane intrappolato nella realtà virtuale del palazzo, circondato dalle montagne. Trinity e Morpheus ricevono istruzioni e aiuto dagli uomini che stanno monitorando la loro storia attraverso lo schermo di un computer. Morpheus resta indietro per proteggere Trinity e Keymaker che scappano via in motocicletta. Dopo aver distrutto dozzine di macchine e fatto ogni tipo di salto sovraumano, finalmente riescono a disfarsi dei loro inseguitori. Keymaker descrive un edificio della città e una porta che conduce alla Sorgente. Ma prima devono distruggere la stazione di comando. Morpheus, Neo e Keymaker entrano nel palazzo, ma Trinity è costretta a intervenire per salvarli dalla distruzione. Morpheus e Neo devono combattere contro la solita dose di agenti clonati per raggiungere la porta segreta. Keymaker muore, ma fa in tempo a consegnare loro la chiave. Neo alla fine incontra l’Architetto che ha creato la Matrice. Alla domanda di Neo: "perché sono qui?", l’Architetto risponde che Neo è un… virus nel software! Ci sono state versioni precedenti della Matrice e sono esistiti infiniti Neo prima di lui. La storia continua a ripetersi perché il baco fa parte del sistema. Sul muro, migliaia di monitor progettano un Neo per ogni Matrice. L’Architetto gli rivela che sta per distruggere la Matrice. Neo deve scegliere tra salvare Zion o Trinity. L’incubo di Neo (la morte di Trinity) sta per accadere davvero. Neo diventa un specie di Superman e la salva. Neo sceglie quindi di salvare la sua donna, così Zion sarà distrutta. Un mostro meccanico distrugge il laboratorio dove si trovano Morpheus, Trinity e Neo. Quest’ultimo ferma il mostro ma entra in coma. Zion viene attaccata e distrutta. Solo una persona sopravvive: una copia di Neo! È l’unico che sa cosa è successo a Zion, ma è in coma.

Speed Racer (2008), based on Tatsuo Yoshida's 1966 manga, is an overlong melodrama that is visually creative but suffers from a rather tedious story. The plot is the ultimate concentrate of Hollywood-style car chases. There are interesting narrative tricks: some flashbacks are shown in the same frame as the present story, and scenes that relate to each other sometimes share the same frame, and there are overlapping scenes mixing animation and real actors describing two or three events at the same time. But too many lengthy car races (ironically) slow down the film to the point of making it a painful experience. The ridiculous happy ending doesn't help.

A boy, Speed Racer, can't focus on school and keeps dreaming of racing. After school he begs his older brother Rex, a professional racer, to take him to the racing track. The girls make fun of him but there is one, Trixie, who defends him when he gets mocked. Years later, Speed Racer is an 18-year-old racer who participates in wild violent races in front of delirious crowds. The tv commentators compare his driving style to his legendary brother Rex. Trixie is in the crowd, reminiscing of when she used to hang out in Speed's garage where his father and mother had built his cars. A flashback shows us when Rex left to join a rival team and gifted his car to the boy. Their father never forgave Rex's treason. Rex went on to become a much hated racer for his vicious racing style, badmouthed all over television, and eventually died in a car crash. Now his little brother is becoming a star too. An earthquake announces the arrival by plane in their frontyard of the president of a large corporation, Royalton, who flatters his parents and offers Speed a lucrative contract. Royalton takes them for a flight over the city and displays his wealthy lifestyle. He takes them for a tour of his vast high-tech facilities, where the fastest cars in the world are made and where the best drivers in the world are trained. But his lengthy display of comfort and luxury ends up upsetting Speed's father, a proudly independent businessman. Speed is tempted but doesn't want to betray his father.

An Asian kid is being tortured by some thugs and is about to be thrown into an aquarium full of voracious piranas when the alarm goes off. It turns out that the scene is happening inside a truck and a car has appeared that is tailing the truck. After a videogame-like battle, the thugs throw the Asian kid out of the truck. His savior is a racer who wears a superhero costume, Racer X, who picks him up and tells him that the only way to defeat the cartel is to send them to jail, but the Asian kid refuses.

Royalton reveals to Speed that important races are fixed by the big corporations, but the result is to disgust Speed. Meanwhile, his little brother and the family's chimp are wreaking havoc inside the facility (this is supposed to be comical). Royalton makes sure that Speed's car get destroyed in the next race. Royalton also sues his parents' company for stealing industry secrets, enough to discredit the company regardless of the merit of the lawsuit. Racer X shows up at their residence with the chief inspector of an agency that is investigating corruption in the races and thinks he can nail Royalton if they help: Taejo, the Asian kid saved by Racer X, used to work for Royalton and knows everything about his dirty deeds, and boasts of having a file that would incriminate Royalton and his cartel but refuses to hand it over unless someone rescues his family business. To save that business, Taejo demands that Speed and Racer X run for it in the same dangerous cross-country race spanning two continents where Speed's brother Rex was killed. Speed's father forbids Speed to race, but Speed fakes a skiing vacation and enrolls. Trixie follows the (lengthy) race on a helicopter and helps Speed avoid the racers hired to kill him. Speed, Taejo and Racer X do their best through deserts and mountains. The first stage of the race stops in Italy. Speed tells Trixie that he suspects that Racer X could be his brother Rex in disguise, that Rex faked his death. Just then Speed's little brother reveals to their father that Speed is racing, not skiing. The whole family shows up at Speed's hotel. His father insists that he withdraws. When Speed still refuses, supported by Trixie, his father decides to help him win. A masked kungfu warrior enters their room at night and tries to inject a drug into a sleeping Speed but is caught in time and his father destroys him. But they did inject the drug into Taejo, who is therefore unable to restart the race the following morning: Trixie takes his place at the wheel of his car. The race continues on the narrow winding roads of Italy's mountains. Speed defeats Royalton's driver but Taejo, Racer X and Speed are ambushed by the cartel thugs. Speed's family frees them with comical, more or less acrobatic kungfu moves. This allows Royalton's driver to take the lead again. The race enters the icy gallery the place where Rex died, the Royalton's driver sends Speed off a cliff, but he survives the fall and drives right up the cliff face. Speed passes the evil racer who starts shooting at him. Speed maneouvers to send the driver down the cliff. The trio (Speed, Racer X, and Taejo) triumph. Taejo's family business is saved, but Taejo's father simply sells the company at a higher price to Royalton. Taejo was bluffing: he has no files that incriminate Royalton and the cartel: Speed and Racer X raced and risked their lives for nothing. Speed and Racer X race for fun against each other. Racer X removes his face covering and reveals that he is not Rex. Speed confronts his father and tells him that corporations have been fixing the important races all the time: they've known the winners of every grand prix for the past 50 years. Taejo's sister Horuko shows up with an invitation to race in the next grand prix, which in theory was going to Taejo as the winner of the cross-country race. His family sets out to build a car in record time. Meanwhile, Royalton places a bounty on Speed's head. Royalton's driver is the legendary Cannonball, who does not hesitate to use an illegal device, but Speed outsmarts him and triumphs. Both the chief inspector and Racer X have watched the race and, before leaving, the chief inspector asks Racer X whether it was a wise decision to hide the truth from the family: a flashback shows how Rex survived the crash and underwent plastic surgery. Taejo decides to testify against Royalton and so the chief inspector can finally arrest Royalton, and we are informed that he is sent to jail.

Cloud Atlas (2012), based on David Mitchell's novel, was a collaboration with Tom Tykwer.

The new sci-fi saga, Jupiter Ascending (2015), is beyond boring, full of ridiculous shootout scenes, redeemed only by some interesting visuals. After the initial domestic setting, the female protagonist is the only person to speak normal English in the galaxy: everybody else is a concentrate of stereotypical scifi slang. Maybe the film was meant as a parody of Hollywood films from the 1930s and of Star Wars and of many other obnoxious cliches of science fiction books. Unfortunately she looks more like the dumbest woman who ever existed than like a space heroine. Astrogalactic fighting has rarely looked so tedious.

Jupiter was born on a ship after her father Maximilian was assassinated by gangsters in Russia and her mother Aleksa decided to move to the USA. She is now an ordinary girl in a humble, ordinary middle-class family. She helps her mother Aleksa and her aunt Nino in their janitorial business but doesn't make much money. In order to buy the telescope that she dreams of, she accepts to sell her eggs through her cousin Vladie using the name of her friend and housemate Katharine. Sinister beings are watching her from another galaxy. We are slowly told that the galactic royalty seeded life on Earth and many other planets for its own scientific experiment. The royal family is being devastated by a civil war of sorts in which the three heirs, Balem (who speaks in a raspy voice and is surrounded by genetic monsters), Kalique and Titus (who floats in perennial sex orgies), fight over the family's projects and inheritance. One evening as Katharine is getting dressed for a hot date, Jupited sees her levitate and then aliens attack the house. Jupiter takes a picture and everything disappears. Jupiter is unaware of being a pawn in a galactic war. The doctor who performs the egg extraction procedure is actually an agent of Balem, instructed to kill her, but she is saved by Caine, an agent of Titus who has wolf genes and who wears hover boots and therefore can fly. Caine explains a bit of what is going on in the galaxy and flying boats take her to the palace after being chased by enemy spaceships. Jupiter still doesn't know why the enemies want to kill her, but they start calling her "majesty": bees swarm around her, and those bees are genetically engineered to identify royalty. Kalique briefly kidnaps Jupiter and tells her that she is a genetic clone of the dead queen, mother of the three heirs, and therefore she owns Earth. Kalique claims to be 14,000 years old. Meanwhile Jupiter has to phone her cousin that the egg donation did not happen, causing him to panic.
Jupiter is constantly protected and saved by Caine and his old friend Stinger. She falls in love with Caine but he warns her that he has wolf genes. A servant guides her through the galactic bureaucratic procedure to obtain ownership of Earth (a parody of bureaucracy). Stinger betrays Caine and delivers Jupiter and Caine to Titus. Titus has been protecting Jupiter but now we learn that his plan is to marry her simply to get ownership of Earth (and presumably to kill her afterwards). Stinger betrayed his friend because he needs money to care for his sick daughter. Jupiter is given a nice sexy dress and taken to dinner with Titus, while Caine languishes in a jail. Titus He also reveals to her the terrible business that her mother had decided to stop: thousands of dead humans had been used to create a youth serum. Titus thinks that her mother was assassinated. Titus then proposes to her. Titus admits his sinister plan to Caine and then ejects Caine into empty galactic space but Caine manages to free himself. Meanwhile on Earth the cousin is telling to the family that he helped Jupiter sell her eggs to the fertility clinic so that she could buy a telescope. Balem's genetic monsters invade the house looking for Jupiter's family. In the galactic palace the the wedding begins, with Jupiter paraded through the streets dressed like a Japanese mannequin. Caine rescues her in time and Jupiter begs to go back home. Alas, at home she finds Balem's genetic monsters who blackmail her; she has to abdicate if she wants to see her family again. Jupiter meets with Balem, but this time Jupiter rebels because she understands that Balem would kill them all anyway. Caine, now allied again with Stinger, comes to her rescue. While Caine is fighting his battle against Balem's monsters, Balem personally tries to kill Jupiter like he killed his mother (now we know who assassinated her: her own son Balem!) but Jupiter fights back. He talks to her as if she were his mother and indirectly confesses his crime. Caine saves Jupiter's family while Balem falls to his death. Back home Jupiter and her folks don't remember any of this because their memories have been erased. Jupiter wakes up just like in the first scene, except that now she is a model daughter and her family has decided to buy her the telescope she always wanted. She tells them that she has a hot date: she meets Caine on a roof, he spreads his wings, they kiss and fly away. She actually remembers that she owns Earth but she decides to hide it from her family.

They collaborated with Michael Straczynski on the series Sense8 (2015).

What is unique about this cinema database