At The Movies: The Matrix Resurrections, Silent Night and Sing 2

The Matrix Resurrections continues the story where it left off in The Matrix Revolutions (2003). PHOTO: WARNER BROS.

The Matrix Resurrections (PG13)

148 minutes, opens Dec 22, 3 stars

Like most artists, film-makers love saying their work has layers, like an onion. Don't like one layer? No problem. Keep going and a more appealing strata will reveal itself.

That sort of declaration rarely holds water, but in the case of the original Matrix trilogy (1999 to 2003), it might be true.

Beneath the crust of goth-cyberpunk visuals - for a hot minute, edgy high-school students everywhere embraced the main characters' long black overcoats - lies the layer that deals with the nature of reality, using language lifted from Wired magazine and an introductory class in philosophy.

Ignore the windbaggery and the fun begins, because the films have always been grounded in stylish comic-book action.

The new film continues the story where it left off in The Matrix Revolutions (2003). New versions of Neo (Keanu Reeves) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) exist in the simulation known as The Matrix. But the pair, who were lovers in the previous version of the simulation, are now strangers.

Despite his material success, game designer Neo is miserable. His analyst (Neil Patrick Harris) prescribes calming medications. Morpheus, or at least a version of him (played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen), shows up to tell Neo that his life is a lie.

Director and co-writer Lana Wachowski adds one more layer - self-awareness. The film's winking call-outs to its legacy is clever in spite of how it pats itself on the back for its prescience in pointing out the wide adoption of artificial intelligence and the rise of computer gaming as a major industry.

In the intervening years, Wachowski has learnt to craft great action scenes, but folding exposition into story still escapes her. Characters such as the rebel human Bugs (Jessica Henwick) and sentient program Sati (Priyanka Chopra Jonas) mostly exist to hurl chunks of Matrix cosmology at Neo.

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Silent Night (M18)

91 minutes, opens Dec 23, 3 stars

The misunderstandings that drive Silent Night appear to be trivial and fixable with one honest conversation between characters. PHOTO: ENDEAVOR CONTENT

In this holiday-themed ensemble black comedy from Britain, adult characters speak too rapidly to be comprehensible to this reviewer's Singaporean ears and the children swear in a precocious fashion. The misunderstandings that drive the story also appear to be trivial and fixable with one honest conversation between characters.

British writer-director Camille Griffin, making her feature debut, has made a film with strong comedic moments, despite a tone that feels self-consciously edgy.

Nell and Simon (Keira Knightey and Matthew Goode) host a Christmas party for good friends - among them loud Sandra (Annabelle Wallis) and dull husband Tony (Rufus Jones) and their spoilt daughter Kitty (Davida McKenzie).

Art (Roman Griffin Davis, son of director Griffin), Nell and Simon's son, is unhappy about the circumstances of the gathering. His parents' refusal to come clean gives the event an ominous edge.

Matthew Vaughn, creator of the violent and proudly taste-free Kingsman spy franchise (2015 and 2017, with the third film coming in a few weeks), is a producer here, which might explain the use of a snark-tinged tone to deal with deep issues.

Sing 2 (PG)

110 minutes, opens Dec 23, not reviewed

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Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton and more return to voice characters in this sequel to the 2016 animation film about anthropomorphic animals caught up in a singing competition.

After the events of the previous film, theatre owner Buster Moon (McConaughey) concocts an ambitious plan to launch the careers of his favourite singers in the big city.

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