The Matrix Resurrections (Warner Bros., Blu-ray or DVD, R, 148 min.). For more than a decade, nobody though a “Matrix” sequel would ever be made, especially after the brilliant first film was followed by two less-than-acclaimed sequels, the last being “The Matrix Revolutions” in 2003. Here it is though, with a slightly confusing plot for those familiar with the trilogy — the actors who play Agent Smith and Morpheus have changed — and vast confusion for those not familiar. Throughout the film, though, co-writer/director Lana Wachowski serves up exciting, kinetic action that sometimes borders on awe.

The film opens with Thomas Anderson (returning star Keanu Reeves) as an award-winning video game designer, whose “Matrix” series of games has been a huge success. He works for a subsidiary of Warner Bros. that is demanding a fourth game, with or without his participation. Anderson has forgotten, except for nightmares, that he also is Neo from the world of the Matrix. When he sees soccer mom Tiffany (Carrie-Anne Moss) in his favorite coffee shop, he recalls her, only as Trinity from the Matrix. (I was surprised how many similar plot-points the recent “Free Guy” has.)

Morpheus is no longer played by Laurence Fishburne, but by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, equally cool looking in dark sunglasses and sharp suits. Jonathan Graff, in his first action film, plays Smith and, I think, so does Neil Patrick Harris, who first shows up as The Analyst. The return of heroes Neo and Trinity actually is strange too, as “The Matrix Revolutions” killed them off.

The extras are quite good and detail how Wachowski, after making the first three films entirely in the studio, decided to film outside for much of this film, including the mob attack scene and the lovers’ jump off a 43-story building, both shot in San Francisco. That is all contained in the making-of feature (30:44), with another 7:56 looking at the leap off the building, which Reeves and Moss both did themselves. Several of the actors try to sum up the first three films (8:52); Reeves and Moss have a sit-down discussion with clips (8:16); there is a look at allies and adversaries and the actors who play them (8:27); a look at crew who have worked on all four films (6:19); and a look at the stunts and action (4:56). Finally, there are eight more discussions of specific scenes (48:38: a ninth repeats the jump). Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 3.5 stars
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Dancing Pirate (1936, The Film Detective, NR, Blu-ray, 83 min.). Described as the first dancing musical in 100 percent Technicolor – it was the third feature film in three-strip Technicolor overall – the film stars Broadway’s Charles Collins as Boston dance teacher Jonathan Pride, who gets shanghaied in 1820 and is forced to serve as a galley boy on a pirate ship. He escapes outside of Las Palomas, Calif. — still part of Spain — and is about to be hanged as a pirate when the mayor’s daughter (Steffi Duna as Serafina) intervenes so Jonathan can teach her the scandalous new dance, the waltz. (It was scandalous because the gentleman placed his right arm around his partner’s waist.)

Unfortunately, Collins is no Fred Astaire, who was originally sought the part. There is no joy in his rather stilted performance. Both he and Duna, who was Hungarian, get to sing a song and there is plenty of dance, from an awkward bit on the scaffold while Jonathan still has a noose around his neck to two big production numbers, which probably were what earned the film an Academy Award nomination for Best Dance Direction. That final dance number includes Rita Hayworth, then going by Rita Cansino, in one of her first on-screen appearances.

The film is stolen by Frank Morgan, who plays Mayor Don Emilio Perena in much the same joyously funny manner as he would play the Wizard in “The Wizard of Oz” three years later. The songs were written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, and the musical director was the great Alfred Newman.

Extras include a booklet essay and audio commentary by Jennifer Churchill; an interview with historian David Pierce on the birth of Technicolor (8:57); an interview with film producer/historian Michael Schlesinger about the film (8:13); and an image gallery. For a long time, the film was thought to be lost. Grade: film 2.25 stars; extras 2.75 stars

The Fabulous Dorseys (1947, The Film Detective, NR, 88 min.). This biographical film about swing big band leaders Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey stars the Dorsey brothers as themselves and features a lot of great music. While the film does show how the brothers’ relationship turned contentious and they split their band into two, the tale is not note-perfect to historical fact. And where is Frank Sinatra, who rose to fame as party of Tommy Dorsey’s band?

The boys’ mother (Sara Allgood) performs as the occasional narrator and is seem throughout the film, as is their father (Arthur Shields), a coal miner who turned to teaching music and insisted the boys practice four hours a day. It is the brothers’ relationship with their parents that actually colors much of the film’s account of what supposedly happened. One example of a shift is the brothers’ actual fight took place on the roof of the Hotel Astor in New York. After the brothers split, there is the old standby of a montage of newspaper headlines that show how well each was doing apart.

A subplot revolves around the growing relationship of composer/pianist Bob Burton (William Lundigan) and Dorseys’ childhood friend/band singer Jane Howard (Janet Blair). Some of the musician cameos are special, including Art Tatum on piano, Paul Whiteman leading his orchestra and Charlie Barnet.

Extras include audio commentary by Jennifer Churchill; a new documentary about big bands on the big screen in the 1940s (18:24); and a booklet essay by Don Stradley on the brothers’ film careers. The film has been transferred in 4K from archival film elements. Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2.75 stars

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

filed under: