Ready Player One Review

Ready Player One movie posterSynopsis
In the near future when a virtual reality world known as the Oasis serves as the most popular social getaway, Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is on the hunt for three hidden keys hidden by the game’s creator. His search puts not only his virtual self but real-world self in the sights of IOI, a corporation looking to control the Oasis.

I wanted to see Ready Player One for exclusively two reasons: 1) it is based around a video game (one of my favorite past times), and 2) it is directed by Steven Spielberg (my favorite director). A marriage of the two was guaranteed to get me into a seat. I know that it is based on a book of the same name, written by Ernest Cline. However, I have never read it so I can’t say how it compares to the source material. What I can say how it stacks up as a film and boy does this film deliver!

As soon as the movie steps into the Oasis, you are overwhelmed with breathtaking visuals. While much of the world looks realistic, it does just enough to prevent itself from falling into the uncanny valley territory, making sure you know it takes place inside a video game. With that, a wide range of environments are visited throughout the film. There’s a race track, a night club, a bustling city, tundra, literally every kind of place imaginable makes an appearance, driving home that the Oasis is a place is inside a video game.

Since half the movie is inside a video game, where literally anything is possible, this movie takes full advantage of that. Every turn of the camera reveals a plethora of pop-culture characters, icons, and items from anything including video games, movies, or television series. Nothing is left out. I can’t wait for the home video release so I can comb through the movie and find all the easter eggs that I missed in the theater. As someone who loves to play video games (one of the reasons this review is so delayed), I felt a real love and reverence for the medium oozing from this film.

No video game movie would be complete without some action and adventure. The action is big and the adventure is exciting. This film takes full advantage of the “anything is possible” aspect of its video game setting that I have mentioned several times already. The opening scene is a car race along a track filled twists and turns and loop-the-loops, populated with all kinds of movie characters. Later the characters have to make it through a portion of The Shining. And then a huge fight sequence happens in and around a castle in an icy world. Even in the real world, there are car chases and excitement throughout. All of it, in the Oasis and the real world, everything is well shot. It doesn’t rely on too much shaky cam or cut-a-ways. What’s important stays in the frame.

World building can be a tricky thing to do. Some movies use flashbacks, some use exposition, Ready Player One does a little of both, as well as its own special method. While Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) narrates some of the basics of how the world works in 2045 after a virtual reality world takes over the real world, the Oasis’ history is given through flashbacks but not in the standard fashion. Instead, the game’s tasks requires Wade and his friends to look through the game’s creator’s memories. This way, the history is integrated into the story itself and doesn’t derail the narrative. I found this technique unique and engaging.

One of my favorite characters was actually the villain I-R0K, voiced by TJ Miller. I-R0K is a gun-for-hire, tasked by the main baddy, Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), with eliminating Wade’s avatar inside of the Oasis. Miller infuses I-R0K with his signature wit and humor, creating a character that you know instantly is Miller. His voice feels like a mismatch compared to I-R0K’s large and sinister figure, making it all the more comical (appropriately so).

I thought Ready Player One was GREAT 😀 From simple things like appearances of popular characters or items, to classic genre tropes, to easter eggs, even to why people play video games in the first place, I felt connected to the story and the characters themselves in a way that I can’t say happens very often to me during a movie. Director Steven Spielberg weaves a dazzling pop culture tapestry and a love letter to games and what it means to be a gamer. There isn’t anything more exciting than playing with your friends or more satisfying than playing simply for the enjoyment of the game. This movie understands that and shares that pleasure in a genuine and beautiful way.

Oasis is actually an acronym. It stands for Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation. This is mentioned in Ernest Cline’s source novel but not mentioned in the film. (Via IMDb)


Cast & Crew
Steven Spielberg – Director
Zak Penn – Screenplay
Ernest Cline – Screenplay

Tye Sheridan – Parzival / Wade
Olivia Cooke – Art3mis / Samantha
Lena Waithe – Aech / Helen
Philip Zhao – Sho
Win Morisaki – Daito
Ben Mendelsohn – Sorrento
TJ Miller – I-R0K
Mark Rylance – Anorak / Halliday
Simon Pegg – Ogden Morrow

Lightning Review: Grandma’s Boy

Decades Blogathon 2016 banner

This review was originally posted for the 2016 Decades Blogathon, hosted by Three Rows Back and Digital Shortbread.

Grandma's Boy movie posterSynopsis
When video game tester Alex (Allen Covert) gets kicked out of his apartment, he moves in with his grandma (Doris Roberts) and her roommates. Meanwhile, at Alex’s work, Samantha (Linda Cardellini) has been sent by the company’s corporate office to oversee the final stages of production of their latest video game.

Grandma’s Boy isn’t going to get any recognition for being overly creative or groundbreaking, but dammit does it make me laugh. There is something about toilet humor that always tickles my funny bone. The characters are constantly berating each other, cursing up a storm, making sex jokes and getting high. Despite all that, it has charm behind it. Allen Covert and Nick Swardson are so much fun to watch together on screen. Some of the best lines of the film come from when these two are bouncing off each other. The plot is super simple, not providing any twists or turns that allow the film to focus on the comedy. Grandma’s Boy revels very much in making as many obscene jokes as it can. Some of the jokes hit because they are funny but others hit because you can’t help but think “they did not just do that.” The late Doris Roberts may seem out of place in a stoner film with her sweet grandma persona and all but she holds her own and meshes surprisingly well with the rest of the cast, like Covert, Swardson and Peter Dante, who fit perfectly well into the molds of their characters.

I thought Grandma’s Boy was GOOD :-). Its brand of comedy may not be for everyone but if you sit back and relax, you might find yourself having a good time.

Favorite Quote
Jeff: What does “high score” mean? New high score, is that bad? What does that mean? Did I break it?


Cast & Crew
Nicholaus Goossen – Director
Barry Wernick – Writer
Allen Covert – Writer
Nick Swardson – Writer
Waddy Wachtel – Composer

Allen Covert – Alex
Linda Cardellini – Samantha
Nick Swardson – Jeff
Doris Roberts – Grandma Lilly
Shirley Jones – Grace
Shirley Knight – Bea
Joel David Moore – JP
Peter Dante – Dante
Kevin Nealon – Mr. Cheezle
Jonah Hill – Barry
Kelvin Yu – Kane

Wreck-It Ralph Review

Wreck-It Ralph movie posterSynopsis
Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is a bad guy, and he’s tired of it. After constantly being overshadowed by his games titular hero, Fix-It Felix, Jr. (Jack McBrayer), Ralph sets out to claim a medal of his own and prove that he can be a good guy, too. However, after game jumping, he ends up in Sugar Rush, where he loses the medal after he meets the misfit Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman). She agrees to help him get his prized medal back if he helps her win a race to get a spot on Sugar Rush’s character selection screen.

I love to play video games and grew up on the likes Mario, Sonic, Pac-Man, and many others. So when I first heard that Disney was creating a movie in the world of video games, as you can imagine, I was pretty excited. Finally I would get to see my favorite game characters together on screen. Wreck-It Ralph, the resulting mash up, was greater than anything I could have imagined.

Wreck-It Ralph is the Who Framed Roger Rabbit of video games. There are characters from Nintendo, SEGA, Konami, Capcom, and many more that I can’t even remember right now, all interacting together. When the characters are walking through Game Central Station, a parody of New York City’s Grand Central Stations located in the power strip, there are many, many cameos. You really have to look close to catch them all, and even after a few viewings I am still finding nods and references I haven’t caught before. It’s a real nostalgia trip.

There are four distinct worlds in Wreck-It Ralph: The “real world”, Fix-It Felix, Jr., Hero’s Duty and Sugar Rush. The animators did a great job of making each world feel unique. The world of Fix-It Felix, Jr. has a flat color palate reminiscent of the 8-bit era. Everything is based around squares; The dust is square, cake splatter is square, even the characters only move at right angles. Hero’s Duty is much darker and has greater contrasts and sharper edges than the other worlds. On the other hand, Sugar Rush is much more colorful than the others and everything is rounder and softer. These little nuances between each world makes each one a unique experience.

Reilly wouldn’t have been my first choice to voice Ralph, but he did phenomenal in the role. His humor carried over well from his movies like Step Brothers and Cedar Rapids and made the part energetic, while at the same time not becoming overbearing. McBrayer and Silverman fit their roles appropriately and Jane Lynch filled the role of the no-nonsense Sergeant Calhoun surprisingly well. But the biggest surprise was Alan Tudyk as King Candy, the ruler of Sugar Rush. I didn’t even realize it was him until the credits rolled! He did an amazing job and I hope he does more voice acting (He voiced the Duke of Weselton in the more recent Frozen, but that was only a minor role). Disney did great casting the right people for this film.

Like most Disney movies, Wreck-It Ralph has a lot of heart. I’m sure almost anyone can relate to Ralph’s struggle to be accepted by those around him or Vanellope’s desire to fit in. The oddball relationship Ralph and Vanellope formed together can be seen in many of our own friendships. Whether you are an adult or kid, you can find some part of yourself in this movie.

Wreck-It Ralph pays homage to many of the great video game characters and successfully brings them all together, very similar to the cartoon characters in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The animation is superb and each video game world feels distinct. Every voice actor was perfectly cast, but Tudyk stole the scene as King Candy. There is a lot of heart to the story and something for everyone to relate to, either in the story or characters. Disney has once again created an animated masterpiece that everyone, young and old, can enjoy.