Review: Ready Player One


Image by Warner Bros. & Amblin Entertainment

Steven Spielberg has seen it all, done it all and everything he touches, bares his cinematic storytelling signature. His adaptation of Ernest Cline’s celebrated literary ode to pop-culture and the 1980s is no different; Spielberg is at the controller of Ready Player One.

The central character is Wade Watts, a youth residing in The Stacks, a neighborhood of towering trailer homes in 2045 Columbus Ohio. Wade, like the rest of the world after the real world disintegrated into barely inhabitable conditions, spends his days escaping the “suckiness” of the real world to partake in the adventures of The Oasis, a virtual reality constructed by his personal hero James Halliday, where anything you can dream of is possible.

The story of Ready Player One, is essentially a quest. Before Halliday left the world of the living, he created three impossible challenges inside the Oasis. Whoever completes the challenges will receive keys, which lead to an “Easter Egg” that will give whoever finds it, complete control of The Oasis and a vast fortune; Wade and his friends embark on finding the Egg before the wickedly greedy Nolan Sorrento gets to it first.

Ready Player One is visually dazzling and while it is a little overkill in narrative, it’s fun to keep up with. I can definitely admit that I enjoyed watching this spectacle of a film.

I found the writing of the picture entertaining and whimsical. Cline and Zak Penn did an admirable job in laying down the framework of the world Cline created in his book for Spielberg to work with and Spielberg himself was in the right neighborhood in locating the proper balance between the spectacle and the plot; meaning that I wasn’t entirely drowning in the mesmerizing splendor of the visual effects and I could follow the film well enough due to the proper amount of pace in the plot.

To be completely honest, once the climax of the film kicked in, the film lost a little bit of credibility and the final act was rather drawn out to the point where I wanted it to just end already, but I was satisfied by the final product of Ready Player One and I believe it is worth seeing in theaters.

I thought the cast was pretty solid altogether. Tye Sheridan is a capable protagonist, Olivia Cooke is a good female lead, Ben Mendelsohn makes his money as the villain and the supporting cast including Lena Waithe, Simon Pegg, Phillip Zhao, Win Morisaki, T.J. Miller, Hannah John-Kamen, Ralph Inesson, Susan Lynch and Mark Rylance all do a good job in their roles.

Alan Silvestri’s score is well-done, Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography is great, Sarah Broshar and Michael Kahn’s editing is fine, Adam Stockhausen’s production design is great, Anna Pinnock’s set decoration is good and the costumes of Kasia Walicka-Maimone are very elaborate. This movie is very rock-solid on a technical level and if there are those in the audience who have read the novel, I think that this could be passable enough to enjoy as a cinematic experience.

Ready Player One is an escape worth exploring. It’s brimming with imagination, thrilling twists and turns, keen craftsmanship and a surprise in every corner; this is a very wild adventure courtesy of Steven Spielberg and I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Movie of the Week: Ready Player One

At the heart of all films and the film-going experience, is the idea and magic of escapism. People go to the movies to escape their issues from the real world for a short period of time. The same can be said for video games, which also provide a convenient sense of escape and wonder into another world. This week, I’m seeing a film about a video game that is based on a book, which can be best described as a love letter to escapism and pop culture in general. Steven Spielberg, perhaps the greatest cinematic storyteller of his time, is at the controller for Ready Player One.

Director: Steven Spielberg

Written by: Ernest Cline and Zak Penn (based on the novel by Ernest Cline)

Starring: Tye Sheridan, Ben Mendelsohn, Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Phillip Zhao, Hannah John-Kamen, Letitia Wright and Mark Rylance.

What am I expecting to see?: To be honest, I’m not sure what I’m in for but I have a feeling that this is going to be a wild ride! This looks visually outstanding with surprises strategically poised at every corner and from what I’ve gleaned regarding the plot, this looks like it’s going to be a grand adventure for both the eyes and the mind. I have no doubt that Spielberg will do justice by Cline’s celebrated novel and deliver a box-office and critical smash of a sci-fi epic in Ready Player One.

Review: Dunkirk

The man who gave audiences Memento, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, The Prestige and Interstellar returns to take audiences back in time to a small, but not insignificant chapter in the history of World War II.

Nazi Germany has enveloped 400,000 French and British soldiers to the beaches of Dunkirk and the possibility of escape is practically perilous in every direction. Pinned to just one location, the enemy takes their time picking off their forces and destroying whatever hope of escape in their wake. Land, sea and air, the Allied Forces are in a bind, and the British government at the order of Prime Minister Churchill has little alternative but to requisition and commandeer civilian water craft to travel across the channel and bring their boys home.

Christopher Nolan’s take on these accounts is segmented into three perspectives on this account of history. The Mole follows a young French and British soldier navigating the beaches trying to find someway back home; The Sea features a father and son and a friend in their sea vessel crossing the channel upon hearing the order to rescue as many men as they can; The Air follows two fighter pilots soaring through the skies above the madness, shooting down German fighter planes bent on sinking anything that floats. These three perspectives all tie together to illustrate the power of the human instinct of survival. These three perspectives are the crux of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.


Image by Warner Bros. and Syncopy

Nolan told this story in three parts; I will describe this movie in three words: elegant, explosive and unyielding.

Going into this movie, I was concerned that Nolan’s take on this war story would be too clean and that might hinder its appeal as a war movie when compared to a classic war dramas such as Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker or last year’s Oscar winning Hacksaw Ridge because those movies truly captured the essences of war; the gore, the graphic imagery, the bloodshed, the need to illustrate that war is hell upon seeing it unfold all around the characters for the audiences to witness themselves. Dunkirk was my boom or bust movie of the year and after seeing it, in IMAX which is the way it was intended to be seen, this movie went BOOM! A loud, resonating BOOM upon the senses that did not let up in the slightest!

My concerns going into this movie? Decimated as I watched it unfold before my eyes! Just because Nolan didn’t go excessive on bloodshed, doesn’t mean he hindered this movie; you don’t need blood or grandiose practical effects to illustrate the horrors of war! Every time a bullet fired, I jumped. Every time I saw a bomb go off or a missile or a torpedo down a ship, I was jolted. Every time a dogfight happened in the sky, I held my breath! Every time the situation became more and more dire in these three arcs, the tension just kept building and building and the suspense was as remorseless like the wind and rain in a hurricane! Nolan just brought his strengths as a filmmaker and storyteller to depict a “back against the wall” situation where individuals had to use whatever resources they could to see tomorrow and the need for bodily harm or horror was not necessary in the slightest to accomplish that.

What’s more impressive about Dunkirk is that the enemy’s presence is felt rather than seen. From the first frame, audiences see the little fliers floating from the sky onto the soldiers saying “We surround you!” you don’t see the enemy, but the presence of danger is felt every second and the tension of this film feeds off that tension for strength.

Nolan intended for Dunkirk to be seen as a story of survival and he wrote and executed this core aspect of the picture with extraordinary distinction! The focus of Dunkirk was never about winning, it was about bringing these soldiers home from extreme danger and knowing that in surviving, they were victorious! I had my doubts whether or not he could pull this off but with this powerful script, impeccable execution, the stunning cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema, the awesome music of Hans Zimmer giving this picture atmosphere where dialogue is scarce, the sound effects, Lee Smith’s editing which came together beautifully as the film went on, Nathan Crowley’s production design, Dunkirk is an outstanding achievement in filmmaking and should become the crown jewel in Christopher Nolan’s body of work so far.

This movie isn’t so much about the actors but what the actors do in the film, in these roles. The collection of Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Cillian Murphy and Harry Styles all do a solid job with the parts they have been given, but the true star of the show is the suspense and the tension that fills up the screen when all of the technical aspects behind the camera come together.

Dunkirk is elegant is how it is shown and heard on screen but the subject matter is brimming with explosive technical execution, resulting in an unyielding cinematic experience that should not be missed! It is the most phenomenal experience I have had this year at the movies!

Movie of the Week: Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan has been one of my favorite filmmakers for years. Whether it is Memento, his prolific Dark Knight trilogy, the ingenious Inception or the spectacular Interstellar, his movies always incite discussion, excitement and fervor among fans, critics and students of cinema. This week, Nolan’s newest project Dunkirk arrives in theaters, attempting to live up to the legacy and adhere to the expectations Nolan has set for himself. In the throws of WWII, 400,000 soldiers are trapped on a beach in Great Britain and the enemy is closing in ready to finish them off. With no way out, there is only one path toward victory: surviving the ordeal before them.

Director and Writer: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Barry Keoghan, Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Damien Bonnard, Jack Lowden and James D’Arcy

What am I expecting to see?: It is true that I have been looking forward to Dunkirk, because I am a fan of Nolan’s films, but I believe this is the biggest boom or bust movie of the year because of a multitude of reasons. For starters, as far as war pictures go, this looks clean compared to a film such as Hacksaw Ridge, also I’m unfamiliar with the story of this battle or campaign and it’s significance in World War II. Nolan also claims that this is a survival story but the fact that it is set in war time with war iconography is something I cannot wrest away. I’m looking to be educated and surprised by Dunkirk; it has much to prove.


Review: The BFG

The literary imagination of Roald Dahl has yielded classical adventures such as James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I never had the opportunity to read the books but I watched the films and I enjoyed them all.

As a film lover and blogger, I honestly admit that I have not seen all of Steven Spielberg’s work but I know most of what he has done and his range as a visual storyteller certainly lives up to his lofty and prestigious reputation. Be it a matter of a frightening nature such as Jaws or Jurassic Park, something profound such as Schindler’s List, Lincoln or Bridge of Spies, something playful and adventurous like Hook or Raiders of the Lost Ark, he will find the right aesthetic to highlight the story’s strong suits.

The words and imagination of Roald Dahl, the perspective of Steven Spielberg and the influence of Disney have converged to bring The BFG to the big screen. The film begins with child abduction and ends with the most absurd paramilitary campaign audiences will ever see and yet I for one could not help but to be taken by the most delightfully innocent family feature I have seen in a long time.


Image by Disney

Little insomniac orphan Sophie glances out her window and sees a wonder beyond imagination and she is whisked away to a magical realm called Giant Country by a 24 feet tall gentle giant, who is dubbed “Runt” by his taller, meaner goliaths who venture into Great Britain, abduct children themselves and eat them. “Runt,” who will be christened “BFG”-abbreviation for Big Friendly Giant-by Sophie, prefers eating vegetables, particularly a rather unpleasant-looking giant cucumber and his pastime is catching dreams-not the type of dreams you’d see in Inception, but rather the essence of dreams-and throughout the film, his good nature, his charming rapport with Sophie and his peculiar grasp of vocabulary is on display and the film simply shines!

Is this Steven Spielberg’s best film to date? No, but this does definitely count as a Spielberg tale that children and adults will love.


Image By Romain DUBOIS, via Wikimedia Commons

I suppose what makes this film something special, aside from Spielberg’s simplistic approach to the subject, is the rapport between leading performers Mark Rylance and Ruby Barnhill. Rylance is certainly taking advantage of the wondrous opportunity working with Spielberg and his take as the BFG is heartwarming, sincere and funny, while Ruby Barnhill is no slouch herself; for a newcomer, she is captivating, engaging, she doesn’t allow the spotlight to make her feel as small compared to Rylance and as I was watching the two of them interact, whether they are catching dreams, eating breakfast with the Queen, sneaking in-and-out of London during the witching hour, they certainly enjoyed working with each other and I feel as though they brought out the best in each other.

I also credit the writing of this film. The late Melissa Mathison has a history with working with Spielberg and she knew how to get to the meat of Dahl’s story and craft something only Spielberg could breathe life into; watching the story of The BFG unfold, the writing just comes so naturally and it touches on something truly pure.

I also couldn’t help but notice John Williams’ musical contribution to the film and the score was a pure positive for the film as well.

The supporting cast including Jemaine Clement, Penelope Wilton, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall, Bill Hader, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Adam Godley, Michael Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Jonathan Holmes, Chris Gibbs, Paul Moniz de Sa, all have relatively small roles compared to Rylance and Barnhill but the best is brought out in all of them.

The cinematography of Janusz Kaminski is practically simple but beautiful to behold, Michael Kahn’s editing is smooth and seamless, Rick Carter’s production design is splendid, Elizabeth Wilcox’s set design is marvelous, Joanna Johnston’s costumes are on point, the visual effects are up there with some of the best I’ve seen this year, The BFG is one of the most technically grounded films of 2016.

I didn’t expect to like The BFG as much I did but I couldn’t help it. The charm of these characters, the attention to detail, the craftsmanship put into this film were on full display and surely and steadily I was won over and I encourage readers to see The BFG in theaters because, I reiterate, it is delightfully innocent to behold.

The BFG is just another triumph this year released under Disney’s banner. It is a great change of pace for what is out in theaters now and audiences of all ages will go home happy because of it.


Movies of the Week: The Legend of Tarzan & The BFG

Edgar Rice Burroughs and Roald Dahl’s classic tales are of particular interest to me this week for their characters are coming to the big screen in the biggest ways possible. The Lord of the Apes is called back to the jungles of Africa when miners are putting the jungle in peril. The Legend of Tarzan finds its title character living a peaceful life in London with his wife Jane, but the call of the wild echoes from the heart of Africa and Tarzan must put his peaceful life behind him to return to the home he grew up in and preserve the peace and balance he built.

What am I expecting to see from The Legend of Tarzan?: David Yates closed out the final Harry Potter installments with aplomb and this looks like a twist on Tarzan I have not seen before. This movie certainly looks like it is not lacking on star power with names such as Margot Robbie, Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Casper Crump, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Broadbent and the title character played by Alexander Skarsgård. I’m intrigued by this movie but it could be boom or bust, so let’s see how it will turn out shall we?

Steven Spielberg will bring his acclaimed talents to Disney in his adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel about a young girl who strikes a rather friendly acquaintanceship with a man whose heart is as big as a full-sized man (literally). The BFG is the tale of a young girl named Sophie who is whisked away into a fantastical realm occupied by giants, who have an appetite for children, but Sophie’s abductor has no interest in eating children. The giant is a kind soul who wants to befriend Sophie and protect her from the other big mean giants.

What am I expecting to see from The BFG?: If movie lovers such as myself can count on anything, it is the range of Steven Spielberg’s range as a visual storyteller. You can bet that he found the right style/tone to bring Roald Dahl’s magical adventure to life. Mark Rylance just won an Oscar for his role in Spielberg’s last feature and he looks ready to carry his momentum onto his next collaboration with the legendary director and his rapport with young Ruby Barnhill looks utterly adorable. I’ve heard great things about The BFG and I know that this will be above-average.