“Ready Player One” movie review

A spectacular journey that will have you on the edge of your seat. Ready Player One is a throwback to the classic Spielberg blockbuster films from the 70s, 80s, and 90s that many of us know, quote, and love. You’ll do far more than wax nostalgic in this film, because the focus is on the conflict at hand and not the pop culture references. Spielberg’s adaptation of the best-selling novel, written by Ernest Cline, takes on the challenge of crafting a visually compelling narrative that shows the benefits of virtual reality (VR) and gaming, juxtaposing it against the harshness of a reality following socio-economic and natural disasters in the near future. Although the story highlights the benefits of VR and shows the wonders of the imagination through the exquisitely designed scenes, there is one element seen throughout the story that transcends the illusion of Oasis (the virtual world); and that is humanity. Generosity of spirit and integrity are showcased brilliantly through the various central characters. I found myself, at the end of the movie, thinking about how much it reminds me of the magic of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Never once, will you find an opportunity for boredom to set in. And you’ll find yourself rooting for this open source of entertainment and information to remain available to all those who want to participate, and not regulate content based upon how much someone is willing to pay.

From filmmaker Steven Spielberg comes the science fiction action adventure “Ready Player One,” based on Ernest Cline’s bestseller of the same name, which has become a worldwide phenomenon. The film is set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse. But the people have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). When Halliday dies, he leaves his immense fortune to the first person to find a digital Easter egg he has hidden somewhere in the OASIS, sparking a contest that grips the entire world. When an unlikely young hero named Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) decides to join the contest, he is hurled into a breakneck, reality-bending treasure hunt through a fantastical universe of mystery, discovery and danger. (IMDb)

Pop culture, geek-dom, and nerd-dom for everyone! Whereas the book primarily contains 1980s references, the movie adaptation spans pop culture from the 80s to today. This was an important and strategically solid move in order to appeal to a wide age-range of movie-goers. Not being a gamer myself, I am unable to comment on the various references in the film and how they are placed perfectly in the narrative; however, I LOVE movies and TV, so I can definitely comment on those references, and they were spot on! Loved every one of them. And not just because these references were in the movie–anyone can just shove references and product placements into a movie without thought of the meaning or contribution to the plot–each and every movie or TV reference was selected specifically to fulfill a larger purpose and placed precisely where it needs to be. It would have been far too easy for the pop culture references to steel attention away from the plot, but the structure and pacing of the movie is such that the references enhance the experience without becoming sheer spectacle that could have been interpreted and pandering to audiences.

Of all the references, my favorite is Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. That’s right. Return to the infamous Overlook Hotel during one of the quests to search for the Jade Key. The Overlook Hotel from Kubrick’s horror masterpiece (that was, interestingly enough, disliked strongly by Stephen King) was incredible. I felt that I was legitimately transported to the macabre setting in which we encounter unimaginable terror. This referenced worked particularly well because I cannot imagine another setting that could have been used in such an instrumental fashion. There are times in films that a location could be swapped out for another similar setting and achieve the same result because the plot is not predicated on it–essentially, the plot would play out just as well and effectively through another comparable location. The Overlook Hotel and specific events from The Shining (that I won’t go into because of spoiling the experience) were nearly as integral to the advancement of the plot as the characters themselves. No sooner could you replace The Shining sequence than you could the main turning points between Acts I/II and II/III. Although there are many excellent sequences to choose from in the movie, the series of scenes during the time spent at The Overlook are definitely my favorite.

It’s not often that an action-adventure or fantasy movie is deep enough to provide social commentary on real issues facing us in the real world or what it means to be human; but Ready Player One contains fantastic material for philosophical discussions regarding the current trends and challenges facing present-day society. The subtext of this movie contains material on human values, equitable access to content online, and the dangers of falling victim to only “existing” in a virtual world. Man vs technology, greed vs generosity are ways to look at the story, not to oversimplify the subtext. Because of the present crisis of the ending of net neutrality facing the United States, there is clearly a message that everyone has the right to equitable access to the universe of entertainment and information online. When a greedy capitalist attempts to disrupt that access and determine someone’s access based upon how much someone is willing to pay, we see that the system runs the risk of breaking down and not allowing for the joy that was once ran through the very framework of the virtual world. The film also provides audiences with commentary on the importance of actively participating in the real world to form tangible, physical relationships with others in order to find love and forge friendships. Furthermore, if a society becomes so fixated on avoiding the problems of the real world by transporting to a virtual world, then the problems of the real world grow worse, bigger, and more devastating than if society takes the time and effort to combat that which seeks to destroy our world.

Such an excellent movie! If you are a fan of the Black Mirror series on Netflix for its Twilight Zone approach to tackling tough subject matter involving the degree to which technology permeates our lives, then you’ll enjoy Ready Player One. I find that many elements of this movie feel like the San Junipero episode, and the successful show at large, because of the terrifying visions of the near future distorted by the abuse of technology. Thoroughly enjoyed every moment on the more than two-hour runtime. I was initially afraid that the movie would feel too much like a video game, but that is not the case. The design is such that the virtual world and real world feel just as tangible. Being that I am not a gamer, I don’t want to attend the cinema and feel that I am watching cut scenes from a video game, so this was handed extremely well. You’ll easily find characters that you can identify with and root for, and the opposition forces are well-developed too.

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“X-Men: Apocalypse” movie review

XMenApocalypseEpic! It isn’t often that one word can sum up the screening experience of a movie, especially when going into the film, one had lots of hesitations that stemmed from the questionable trailers. Prepare yourself for the heaviest of the X-Men movies future or past. Probably the best feeling to take away from this one is the storytelling quality of the cartoon paired with Bryan Singer’s unparalleled handling of what is arguably the most successful Marvel franchise over the decades (that may be changing with the unprecedented popularity of The Avengers). While some may describe this movie as a failed attempt at reliving the glory days of the X-Men, I venture to say that there is enough evidence to support this being a strong third movie. As much as I enjoyed the movie–and do not mistake me, I did–there was a LOT going on in this movie and it came close to failing to effectively and successfully tell A complete three-act story. Just like in Batman v Superman, where Warner Bros bit off more than they could chew, 20th Century Fox came close to making the same mistake. Thankfully, the story was just strong enough to drive excitement and thrill through the minds and bodies of the audience.

X-Men: Apocalypse is the third movie in the Bryan Singer reboot (fourth installment if you count the original X-Men movie from 2000). The world of Ancient Egypt was once the center of the universe; and in that great empire, there lived the original mutant [Apocalypse] (Oscar Isaac). He grew in strength and power to the point that he ruled the world. After several of his fellow Egyptians betrayed him in attempt to bury him alive, he was cast into a deep sleep hundreds of feel beneath the surface. Due to a dedicated group of followers thousands of years later, Apocalypse was awaken and he has set out to reclaim the planet as his own and raise his children. Determined to build his mutant army, he begins to recruit the most powerful X-Men including Storm (Alexandra Shipp). When Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) encounters Apocalypse while in Cerebro and is captured, the still-fractured X-Men must go to great and nearly impossible lengths to rescue him and save the world. Teaming up with new student Scott (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Quicksilver (American Horror Story’s Evan Peters), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), and Havoc (Lucas Till) will battle Apocalypse and his four horsemen including Storm, Angel (Ben Hardy), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

What a cast! The quality of talent in and of itself is an outstanding accomplishment and is responsible for a great deal of the success of the film. Writers create characters and directors craft them, but it is the actor who ultimately brings the characters to life for the silver screen. Each and every actor is an excellent match to their respective characters. In addition to the actors we have been introduced to in past films, the newcomers quickly cement themselves in this and future movies. With so much material and less than three hours to deliver a movie that could be on par with the previous two and The Avengers films, it was vitally important to have an impressive cast that could win you over instantly. There simply wasn’t time for an actor to grow on you or to decide how you felt about a particular character. Each actor needed to his a homerun as soon as they stepped out of the dugout. I paid close attention to Sophie Turner because I was only familiar with her from Game of Thrones, and I just wasn’t sure how I would feel about her as one of the omega class X-Men (Jean Grey). Oh, I knew she looked the part, but could she pull it off??? And the answer to that is a resounding yes.

Much like Captain America: Civil WarX-Men: Apocalypse is nothing short of a superhero extravaganza. And although they are similar in many respects, there are two completely different tones in the respective movies. Are they both serious? Yes, but the former also includes comedic relief sequences and dialog (and yes, if you read my review, I found those to be poorly handled but I am not going to revisit that tarmac scene or the annoying Spider-Man in this article) while the latter retains the serious tone throughout the movie. However, it is successful in not becoming a parody of itself as was the case with Batman v Superman. I will state this: Civil War does boast a dynamic plot that flows smoothly the whole time, whereas Apocalypse flows smoothly most of the time, but at others, it does feel a mite bumpy. We could discuss symptoms of the problems all day, but the root of the problem is simply trying to tell too much story in one movie. To be honest, I have a felling that I am going to decide that I like X-Men more but that is likely because, in all fairness, I grew up with the cartoon. What works for X-Men, much like Captain America, is the fact that the audience does not need to be familiar with the comics in order to enjoy the movie. Singer makes sure that anyone who enjoys high concept comic book superhero action movies will enjoy this film. Well, that is, unless you happen to be a diehard comic book aficionado. This movie is simply exciting and visceral.

Memorial Day weekend will either be dominated by powerful mutants or charicatures from the other side of the mirror. Although X-Men will probably not perform as well as Civil War, I don’t think Alice has a chance of topping this quintessential summer blockbuster on the unofficial start to the summer. Unless you live here in Florida where summer started in March. Haha. Speaking of Florida, and in particular Orlando where MegaCon 2016 is being held, knowing that most of the theaters would be filled with cosplayers and enthusiastic fans, I had the challenge of finding a theatre in the area at which to watch the movie and not face cols out auditoriums and nose-bleed seats. I was successful in finding a small privately owned theatre in the vicinity and has the whole thing practically to myself. Running camera for a medical convention, so I am writing from the Rosen Shingle Creek instead of my condo in Tampa. It’s been quite nice to stay on site versus driving an hour here for the event each day. Happy Memorial Day!