What to watch: The 4 best movies to stream from 'The Matrix 4' to 'Fire Island'
Forget about sunshine and street parties: the long weekend also brings with it plenty of time for movies. But are you wondering what to watch? The start of a new month means some big titles coming to streaming, originals and otherwise.
Chief among them is The Matrix Resurrections landing on NOW, a belated new Matrix sequel that was originally intended as a reboot, but thankfully found its way back into the hands of Lana Wachowski, one of the two directors of the original.
Also on board are Sense8 co-writer Aleksandar Hemon and Cloud Atlas author (and screenwriter) David Mitchell, who bring their wistful, transcendent and romantic idea of sci-fi to the series. It’s a markedly different film from the others by design — openly mocking the cynicism of Warner Bros in cynically cashing in on the IP while leaning into the relationship between Neo and Trinity (a returning Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss).
Read more: Everything new on Prime Video in June
Anyone looking for another, different kind of Keanu fix would do well to check out his directorial debut, the martial arts flick Man of Tai Chi, arriving on Netflix.
Last and certainly not least is Fire Island, a delightful new rom-com that cannily brings a Jane Austen story into the modern day.
Please note that a subscription may be required to watch.
The Matrix: Resurrections - NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership (pick of the week)
The Matrix was always a franchise never content to rest on its laurels, always looking to push boundaries and rigidity of thought in one way or another. Rather than simply repeat the successes of that landmark first film, Reloaded was an expansion on the first’s melting pot of heroic bloodshed and wuxia and anime and other East Asian cinema but also one that’s defined by its contemplation about The Matrix, famously an allegory for its directors’ coming out as trans, being appropriated by the wrong people.
Alternatively it also wonders about the feverish worship of The Matrix itself becoming a new kind of prison of thought, something both challenging to “fans” and honestly as ahead of its time as its digital effects.
Read more: Everything new on NOW and Sky in June
Revolutions once again sought to push further away, basing its stakes of its conflict with the people of Zion and delving into Neo and Smith as mirrors of each other. The Matrix Resurrections — to the annoyance of many who waded into a Matrix film expecting the same thing again — drops all of that once again for a stirring love story, one that is simultaneously self-reflexive about the impulse that drives Lana Wachowski (and by extension us) to revisit these characters, while also simply being happy to be back.
Watch a trailer for The Matrix Resurrections
Having survived his apparent death at the end of The Matrix Revolutions, Neo has found himself back in the program, living a new and incredibly, winningly meta life as a programmer who makes The Matrix videogames. He’s in a rut, something nagging at him, constantly dissatisfied and pining for Trinity — though he doesn’t know who she is. From there Resurrections enjoys continually pulling the rug out from underneath the audience in showing off the change in status quo, though not in a way that ridicules anyone for liking the originals.
It’s that reason that I’ve begun to think of it in the same terms as a film like Hideaki Anno’s Evangelion 3.0+1.0: Thrice Upon a Time (that, you can catch on Prime Video), another very personal film that is essentially about itself, and the filmmaker’s state of mind at the time of making it, as opposed to the time they made the first version of this story.
It’s miraculous that a film that in part exists because an exec wants to make the most of a franchise lying dormant, one seemingly revived for nostalgic purposes, is so determined to not let itself only be defined by any one thing, especially not by what it used to be.
Available 3 June.
Dual - NOW with a Sky Cinema Membership (pick of the week)
A new feature from The Art of Self Defense director Riley Stearns, Dual opts for an even more disquieting, vaguely dystopian drama in the tradition of Yorgos Lanthimos. In this, a terminally ill woman (Karen Gillan) opts for a cloning procedure to ease her loss on her friends and family.
Of course, this becomes a nightmarish complication instead of any help as she instead makes a miraculous recovery — because the only way to reverse the decision is to fight her clone to the death on live television. Stearns’ execution of a pretty dark, entertaining script is wanting in places as it feels conspicuously derivative of Lanthimos’ trademark combo of monotone line readings and dry, dark comedy without adding much of its own. But it’s a tone that still works, and seeing Gillan get to play two cold, funhouse mirror versions of herself is worth the price of entry.
Also on NOW: Dear Evan Hansen (2021)
Man of Tai Chi - Netflix
Another Keanu Reeves special, but not in the way that you’d expect. While the beloved action star also appears in front of the camera — as the villain, no less! — Man of Tai Chi is also the actor’s directorial debut. His collaborative spirit comes through his ceding of the heroic spotlight to Tiger Chen, a martial artist and stunt performer who worked with Reeves on The Matrix films (you might recognise Chen as one of the heavies from Reloaded, particularly in a sequence at the Merovingian’s mansion).
Read more: Everything new on Netflix in June
Unlike The Matrix, Man of Tai Chi, as the title gives away, is less a remix of martial arts action and more a straightforward entry in the subgenre - following a young martial artist who, out of a desperate need of money, enters the world of underground fighting.
Reeves has a delightful heel turn as the sneering capitalist and fight club owner Donoka, though his organisation of the action gives away the slight lack of athleticism and speed, compared to performers like Chen anyway, that the Wachowskis so elegantly cut around. While it’s a little rough around the edges Man of Tai Chi is a pretty fun time, especially with the incredibly talented cast that Reeves pulls in — his passion for action cinema old and new is incredibly evident with who he chooses to spotlight.
It’s a shame Reeves is yet to follow up with another film as director, as one can only wonder what he’s capable of now, with the John Wick series and a Matrix reboot now under his belt too.
Also on Netflix: The Crow (1994), Run Fatboy Run (2007)
Fire Island (2022) - Disney+
Directed by Andrew Ahn, Fire Island smartly adapts Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice to the eponymous locale. In the script penned by lead actor Joel Kim Booster, two gay best friends take a trip to the Pines, a hamlet on New York’s Fire Island that’s a hotspot for queer culture. During their trip, they party and flirt with two other, very rich vacationers.
It’s simultaneously a throwback in its blend of contemporary rom-com with classic literature, but with a clever indirectness that feels original in its own right while expertly channelling the tone of Austen.
Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in June
Actors Joel Kim Booster and Yang are the main draw of the film, but the entire cast is delightful in their own right, without a weak link among them. At the very least, Fire Island is incontestable proof that Bowen Yang was wasted on Saturday Night Live.
At its best though, Fire Island is a fun, sharp and sexy queer romantic comedy that actually gets to luxuriate in some sensuality, which is a significant point in its favour.
Also on Disney+: A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999), The Sixth Sense (1999)
Watch a trailer for Fire Island