Ready Player One movie review

For inSing

READY PLAYER ONE

Director : Steven Spielberg
Cast : Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Mark Rylance, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, Hannah John-Kamen
Genre : Sci-fi, action
Run Time : 2h 20m
Opens : 29 March 2018
Rating : PG13

This Easter, several faith-based films are being released, including I Can Only Imagine and Paul, Apostle of Christ. This movie is about an Easter Egg hunt of epic proportions, with none other than Steven Spielberg as our guide.

It is 2045, and teenager Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives in ‘the Stacks’, a shantytown outside Columbus, Ohio. Like millions of other people around the world, he escapes the drudgery of life by entering a virtual reality realm known as the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), where he is known as Parzival. His best friend within the sprawling game is Aech (Lena Waithe), who runs a virtual garage.

James Donovan Halliday (Mark Rylance), who created the OASIS with his former partner Ogden Morrow (Simon Pegg), has passed away. Halliday has created an Easter Egg hunt – the Easter Egg Hunter (Gunter for short) who finds three keys will inherit Halliday’s fortune of half a trillion dollars, and full control of the OASIS. Wade teams up with Aech, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Sho (Philip Zhao) and Daito (Win Morisaki) to complete this epic quest.

Their main opponent: the Sixers, an army of Gunters indentured to Innovative Online Industries (IOI). The company’s greedy CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) has effectively enslaved players indebted to the company and wants control of the OASIS himself. It’s up to Parzival and company to beat Sorrento to the prize.

Ready Player One is based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline. This is the ultimate geek power fantasy – what if one’s knowledge of pop culture ephemera could actually be used to gain a fortune and save the world?

At its heart, this is a hero’s journey, and the mechanics of the plot are not unlike that of many Young Adult novels with ‘chosen one’ plots. What makes Ready Player One more than the sum of its innumerable references is director Spielberg. Working from a screenplay adapted by Cline and Zak Penn, Spielberg infuses the film with energy, wide-eyed imagination and sheer awe-inspiring spectacle.

Spielberg works in one of two modes: ‘fun Spielberg’ and ‘serious Spielberg’. We saw ‘serious Spielberg’ this past awards season with The Post. While many ‘serious Spielberg’ movies are masterpieces, this reviewer always prefers ‘fun Spielberg’. The self-confessed video game enthusiast gets to indulge his inner gamer, fashioning a dizzying virtual world bursting with detail and lots of existing characters for audiences to point at the screen and recognise.

Ready Player One comments on nostalgia, escapism, and the power of pop culture in shaping our world. Much of Spielberg’s filmography inspires nostalgia, trades in escapism, and he is one of the premiere forces in shaping modern pop culture. Spielberg omitted the overt references to his own oeuvre found in the book, fearing it would come off as too self-indulgent. It feels like no one else could have made this movie, and even over 40 years after inventing the modern blockbuster with Jaws, Spielberg’s still got it. There are times when Ready Player One feels like it’s pandering to its geek target audience, but that’s inherent in the source material. There’s a pleasure in knowing that a filmmaker as exalted as Spielberg demonstrably is a geek at heart.

Of special note among the surfeit of references is a sequence which draws heavily on Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining. This is a delightful tribute to the late filmmaker, who was originally set to direct A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Spielberg took over after Kubrick’s death.

The staggering scope of the OASIS is effectively conveyed. It feels like a world which would demand nothing less than complete devotion, and it’s therefore easy to buy the idea that people’s lives have been ruined in the pursuit of credits in-game. The visual effects, supervised by Roger Guyett and supplied by vendors including ILM and Digital Domain, are expansive and astounding. Credit also goes to special projects supervisor Deidre Backs, whose job it was to clear licenses to the myriad properties referenced in the film.

Spielberg’s regular composer John Williams dropped out of scoring this film to work on The Post. In his stead is Alan Silvestri, who seems like the best possible replacement for Williams. Silvestri pays homage to his iconic score for Back to the Future with rousing, melodic music.

The characters are all archetypical, but because of the storytelling device of the video game, that’s more than justified. Tye Sheridan’s Wade is a sometimes-dopey geek, a nobody in the real world but a somebody in the OASIS. He’s very much a wish fulfilment figure, but Sheridan is never annoying in the role.

Cooke’s Art3mis is a typical action girl, and the attempt at portraying the vulnerabilities that lie beneath that surface are sometimes clumsy. Cooke is poised to be the next big thing and is often more interesting than Sheridan. The romance is almost absurdly underdeveloped, undercutting Art3mis’ agency in the story somewhat.

Waithe is fun as the stock best friend character, while the two Asian characters seem to be only there so they can do martial arts. The supporting characters don’t get too much development, but that’s a function of the structure, so it’s easy to forgive.

Mendelsohn has found a niche playing middle management supervillains, and Sorrento is squarely in his wheelhouse.  It’s an entertainingly smarmy performance that’s the right side of hammy.

Rylance, Spielberg’s new muse, delivers a deeply affecting performance as misunderstood genius Halliday, who displays traits of Asperger’s syndrome. There’s a Steve Jobs-Steve Wozniak-type dynamic between Halliday and Og, which the film doesn’t quite have the space to flesh out but is compelling based on the little we see of it. This reviewer would love to see a prequel just about Halliday and Og developing the OASIS.

Ready Player One might feel intimidating to those who aren’t dyed-in-the-wool pop culture connoisseurs, but even if one doesn’t get all or even half of the references, there’s plenty to enjoy in seeing a master of the blockbuster work his magic on a massive canvas.

RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

Jedd Jong

Deadpool

For F*** Magazine

DEADPOOL 

Director : Tim Miller
Cast : Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T. J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić, Leslie Uggams
Genre : Action/Comics
Run Time : 1 hr 49 mins
Opens : 11 February 2016
Rating : M18 (Sexual Scenes and Violence)

There’s an actual Deadpool movie and we’re reviewing it; this is a real pinch-me moment for any comic book fan. This X-Men spinoff centres around the invulnerable, trigger-happy, wisecracking, fourth wall-breaking antihero Deadpool. When mercenary Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he volunteers for an experimental procedure to cure him and grant him regenerative super-powers in the hopes that he can live out the rest of his days with the love of his life, Vanessa (Baccarin). Ajax (Skrein), one of the operatives in charge of his transformation, intends to torture Wade and lease his services to the highest bidder. Reborn as Deadpool, Wade seeks vengeance against Ajax and fears he won’t be able to win Vanessa back after being horribly disfigured, supported by his bartender friend Weasel (Miller) and blind landlady Al (Uggams). In the meantime, Colossus (Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Hildebrand) of the X-Men are out to recruit Deadpool to join their band of do-gooders.

            There’s definitely an underdog quality to the Deadpool movie. For years, it seemed just out of reach, no matter how hard star/producer Reynolds lobbied for it to get made. Despite repeated attempts by Fox execs to suppress it, it’s seen the light of day and was definitely worth the wait. First-time feature film director Tim Miller helms the movie with admirable confidence and the brash, tongue-in-cheek tone is very faithful to the character’s portrayal in the comics. Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick of Zombieland fame have crammed the script with more smart-alecky pop culture references and snicker-inducing double entendres than you can shake a katana at. While this is still very much a straight-forward origin story decked out with bells and whistles, it is refreshing amidst the current landscape of comic book blockbusters which run the risk of feeling samey-samey. There’s a leanness to Deadpool that serves as a counterpoint to the bloat of more conventional franchise entries.

            Deadpool makes it known loud and proud that he’s far from a straight-arrow, nice guy superhero. He’s crass, cocky and all-around unpleasant, which means it might not be particularly easy to get audiences who aren’t already acquainted with his shenanigans to be in his corner. However, it is easy to see why Reynolds has such an affinity for the character, who like him, hails from Canada. Reynolds has been in a string of flops with most attempts at pushing him as an A-list leading man falling flat, and Deadpool is just the right material for his particular talents. To put it bluntly, Reynolds can sometimes come off as a bit of a douche, what with that smirking, handsome mug of his. Deadpool is unapologetically, 100% a douche. Surprisingly, Reynolds is also able to imbue the character with a decent amount of pathos and the sequence in which Wade is being tortured as he undergoes his transformation is genuinely affecting. There’s also a fight scene in which Reynolds gamely goes completely nude.

            The film’s limited budget means not being able to shell out for a star-studded supporting cast, a fact which is acknowledged as part of the self-aware humour. While the character is thinly-drawn, Baccarin is alluring as Vanessa and more than able to keep up with Reynolds’ non-stop snarking. A montage of Wade and Vanessa’s eyebrow-raising lovemaking proclivities is just the right combination of being a turn-on while also being hilariously uncomfortable. Colossus, with skin of metal and a heart of gold, provides plenty of laughs as well, despite the digital animation used to bring him to life falling a little short of the standard set by bigger-budgeted superhero movies. Miller’s comedic shtick can sometimes be annoying (see Transformers: Age of Extinction), but he tones things down and is able to sell Weasel as a comforting, familiar presence.

Alas, the film’s weakest point is its villains, with Skrein unable to bring much charisma or menace to the role of primary baddie Ajax. As Ajax’s henchwoman Angel Dust, MMA fighter Gina Carano stands around looking tough and throws punches when required. With his healing factor and formidable arsenal, Deadpool never actually faces a significant level of threat from his antagonists, but battling the bad guys consciously takes a back seat to the character strutting his irreverent stuff.



            Deadpoolgleefully crosses the line at any given opportunity, revelling in the violence, nudity and profanity like nobody’s business. It adheres to plenty of tropes we’ve seen before in comic book character origin stories, but there’s definitely a new spin on things here to enjoy. Sure, there are audiences who will find Deadpool too smug and obnoxious for their tastes, which is completely understandable. And there will teenagers who will emulate the character’s unsavoury manner, thinking it’s the definition of cool. But if you’re experiencing comic book movie fatigue (and really, who isn’t at this point?), Deadpool is a delightfully naughty shock to the system. And yes, stick around for the de rigeur post-credits stinger which hints at things to come, albeit in the movie’s own offbeat way.



Summary:A fan-favourite character finally gets his due. While not as unconventional as it would like to be, Deadpool is what fans have been waiting for and is enjoyable in its wholehearted embracing of the source material.

RATING: 4out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong  

“I’ve already broken three WALL-Es before you!” 


Big Hero 6

For F*** Magazine

BIG HERO 6

Directors : Don Hall, Chris Williams
Cast : Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Génesis Rodríguez, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., T.J. Miller, Daniel Henney, Maya Rudolph, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk
Genre : Animation/Family/Action-adventure
Rating : PG (Some Intense Sequences) 
Run time: 108 mins
Moviegoers everywhere are still chanting “make mine Marvel!” and with the announcement of Marvel Studios’ exciting Phase 3 slate, it seems this chanting will continue. Here’s something a little different: the first Disney animated film to feature Marvel characters.
Hiro Hamada (Potter) is a 14-year-old robotics prodigy living in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo with his older brother Tadashi (Henney), under the care of their aunt Cass (Rudolph). Tadashi convinces Hiro to turn away from illegal bot-fighting and to put his intellect to good use by enrolling in the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology. Hiro is introduced to robotics pioneer Professor Callaghan (Cromwell) and Tadashi’s friends at the institute: the tough, no-nonsense Go-Go Tomago (Chung), the bubbly and eccentric Honey Lemon (Rodríguez), the heavily-built but timid Wasabi-No-Ginger (Wayans Jr.) and laid-back comic book geek Fred (Miller). Hiro befriends Baymax (Adsit), a healthcare robot invented by Tadashi. When a masked supervillain named Yokai threatens San Fransokyo using microbot technology developed by Hiro himself, these friends must put their scientific knowledge to use, assuming the role of superheroes.
            Big Hero 6 is a loose adaptation of the source material by writing collective Man of Action and one of Marvel’s weirdest super-teams (yes, even weirder than the Guardians of the Galaxy) has been transformed into a cuddly bunch packed with plenty of kid-appeal. For example, Baymax is a shape-shifting robot/dragon in the comics and is not at all cute. Here, he is a comforting, eminently huggable, marshmallow-like medical care robot. The simple, charming character design takes inspiration from the field of “soft robotics” and his face is based on a Japanese suzu bell. Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams have created a crowd-pleasing animated film with fun action sequences, rib-tickling jokes and a good measure of emotion – plus a sprinkling of Tony Stark-style “building the tech” montages. While it is a very familiar story with plenty of plot devices and character types we’ve seen before, Big Hero 6 acknowledges and embraces this and doesn’t feel like a soulless re-tread.

            The design team goes wild with the opportunity to mesh San Francisco together with Tokyo, resulting in amusing, eye-catching touches such as the Golden Gate Bridge with Japanese torii gates in place of its usual towers. While the action is fun and a sequence of Baymax soaring in-between the skyscrapers of San Fransokyo is sweeping and beautiful, there is a lack of truly memorable action set-pieces. The titular team, despite being diverse, seems somewhat homogenised, fulfilling the requisite character types every bunch of rag-tag heroes must possess. There’s the tough chick whose catchphrase is “woman up”, the lanky, hyper nerd, the big guy who’s meek and cautious on the inside and the slacker dude. To the film’s credit, it’s able to keep the energy up enough such that we can go along with the clichés instead of having them pull us out of the experience.

            The voice cast is effective and entertaining. While these certainly aren’t unknowns, there doesn’t seem to be any blatant celebrity stunt-casting going on. Japanese-American actor and martial artist Ryan Potter gives a fluid, affecting vocal performance, managing to make Hiro sympathetic in his moments of grief without coming across as brooding and angsty. Scott Adsit is marvellous as Baymax, conveying endearing warmth and care within the confines of having to sound sufficiently robotic. T.J. Miller has been the comic relief dude bro in a number of films, and he sticks to what works for him here, the geeky Fred providing a dose of genre-savvy winking at the audience. Jamie Chung doesn’t have too many lines since Go-Go is the strong, silent type but she does convincingly sound like someone who won’t take any guff from anyone, playing somewhat against her sweet public persona. Interestingly enough, Génesis Rodríguez’s Honey Lemon is the only character who pronounces Hiro’s name accurately, with a Japanese accent, which is neat.

            While Big Hero 6 falls a little short of the emotional depth and dazzling imagination of Wreck-It Ralph and is not as clever a take on the superhero genre as The Incredibles was, it still is well-made family entertainment. It’s easy to see why Baymax is the centre of the film’s promotional material – the movie is titled Baymax in Japan. He is loveable in just that right way, without being cloying or too obviously, artificially cute. He’s a robot who is programmed to care and the bond that forms between him and Hiro does give the film a good deal of heart. Feast, the short film preceding the feature, is about a Boston terrier who experiences his owner’s romantic relationships by sharing in all their meals. It’s not quite as sublime as Paperman, which ran before Wreck-It Ralph, but dog-lovers will find it utterly irresistible. Also just as with the live-action Marvel movies, be sure to stick around for a great post-credits scene.


Summary: Not particularly cutting-edge but still entertaining, funny and sufficiently moving. This holiday season, kids will be quoting Baymax rather than singing “Let It Go”.
RATING: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong