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Ready Player One is the clickbait version of a movie


“Oh my God, it’s THE IRON GIANT! I’m so excited, that’s worth the price of admission alone!” -what every executive at Warner Bros expects you to say when you see the marketing for Ready Player One

I knew going into Ready Player One that there would be a never-ending parade of nostalgia geared toward people around my age. What I didn’t realize was that it was the sole focus of the movie. While that does sound like something that COULD work, my conclusion is that it doesn’t.

And to be clear, I’m reviewing the movie only. I’ve never read the book, nor do I think that should be required for seeing the movie.

I thoroughly reject the argument that you won’t get this movie if you are not a gamer. I wouldn’t call myself hardcore, but I’ve been playing video games for nearly my entire life. The fact that the movie’s plot is covered in a video game wrapper doesn’t matter. Nearly all action adventure movies conform to The Hero’s Journey just as this movie does – there’s not really anything new happening here in terms of structure. Most adventure stories have a down-on-their-luck hero (Marty McFly, Billy Peltzer, Luke Skywalker, etc) with a love interest, then he overcomes threshold guardians to ultimately beat the bad guy and win the day. That’s just how these movies work.

The real problem with Ready Player One is the lack of world building backstory (I don’t understand how a corn syrup drought created a dystopia and so on) and a cast of characters that just don’t compel. I wasn’t actively rooting for the protagonists to fail, but I wasn’t excited when they won, either. At a late point in the movie, I just wanted it to be over because the end was so telegraphed and obvious that I was starting to get bored.

In concept, I would think I’d like Ready Player One. The movie is all about 70’s, 80’s and 90’s pop culture (which is very much my bag), but it wasn’t charming.  Instead, it’s beyond forced. Maybe that’s the problem – references work when they’re subtle, not when they’re the sole focus and reason something exists. That’s when something stops becoming a reference and just becomes the plot. Yeah, I saw the campaign poster from Back to the Future in the background, big deal. That didn’t make the movie better. Yes, I see the Iron Giant too, except this film seems to be missing the entire point of its to titular character and if you were going to ignore the moral, then why leave out the giant gun that lives inside his chest? When the good guy army was rushing toward the bad guy, I think I saw a Battletoad in there, but honestly, everything image is so saturated with characters and things that I feel like the movie is really just an advertisement for the Blu-ray. By this I mean the movie is intentionally visually dense to the point where the only way to really see all of its bloat is to watch it at home while continuously pausing it and examining each frame. I guarantee you that when this movie hits the aftermarket, you’ll see every single website in existence write an article entitled All The Stuff You Missed in Ready Player One. It’s coming, I promise you – if they’re not here already.

The thing is, I didn’t hate the movie. I wasn’t particularly bored or frustrated with any one scene, it’s just that the movie as a whole is bland. I didn’t really feel anything while watching this movie. At all. I appreciated all the work the zillions of digital animators did on this movie and I think that if Steven Spielberg didn’t direct it would be a horrible mess, but that’s about the only positives I can rattle off.

When when it comes down to it, Ready Player One is an underdeveloped movie that tries to make up for its own shortcomings with nostalgia and flashy visuals, but it’s just not enough. The only reason to see this in the theater is because every image is so cluttered that if you care about seeing every single thing, the bigger it is the better.

Jaws quick movie review

What can one say about Jaws?  It’s the first summer blockbuster.  It basically created the film industry as we know it today and is a legend in its own right.  It’s spawned countless parodies, references and even theme park rides, not to mention three lackluster sequels.  All of this pontificating is me saying it’s a great movie.  Read the rest of this entry

The Hundred-Foot Journey (quick movie review)

The Hundred-Foot Journey features great photography, color pallet and a marvelous cast that brings their A game, but as the movie drags on, its endless montages and meandering subplots turn a quality film into a movie that can’t keep your interest. Read the rest of this entry

Raiders of the Lost Ark – Indiana Jones (movie review)

Raiders of the Lost Ark seems to be the favorite Indiana Jones movie of anyone who’s in their forties or older – if you’re in your thirties, you tend to gravitate toward The Last Crusade, but such is life. I mention this because I myself am a Last Crusade man and therefore don’t worship at the altar of the Lost Ark. That’s not to say I don’t like the movie, but I thought it was worth mentioning that this one isn’t my favorite so you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

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5 things to love/hate about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (movie review)

I go back on forth on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – lots of people love it, lots of people hate it. I used to fall solidly in the latter category, but now, the more times I watch it, the more I get split on the subject. Therefore, I’m prepared to speak on both the good and the bad: here are five things to love and five things to hate about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
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Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (movie review)

Harrison Ford and Sean Connery. In the same movie. On an adventure. What more could you ask for? Sure, Connery isn’t exactly playing James Bond in this movie, but then, Indiana Jones kinda is James Bond already, so we’re set on that front. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has it all.
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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the worst movie in the franchise… (movie review)

I’ve seen a lot of bad movies. A lot of bad movies. But, there are subtle levels of terrible films. In the case of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it’s certainly the worst movie in the franchise, but it’s hardly one of the worst movies ever. It’s not even the most disappointing movie ever. While it is fair to call it a bad movie, the reasons I hear are usually off base. They usually go something like this: Read the rest of this entry

Super 8 (movie review)

super-8-movie-posterI don’t have a lot of J. J. Abrams experience, but after two entertaining (though not flawless) Star Trek movies, I might have had unrealistic expectations for Super 8.

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Lincoln movie review – an FAQ

lincoln-movie-posterLincoln is the newest jam by director Steven Spielberg, which stars “he who disappears into every role and pulls them off without fail” Daniel Day-Lewis in the title role.  While the movie is well done (and such a welcome change from a visual perspective after the close-up shot tyranny of Les Mis), the movie might generate some confusion, so I’ve put together this Frequently Asked Questions post that should clear everything up.  Score, trailer and FAQ after the jump… Read the rest of this entry

Prince of Egypt Movie Review – Passover Style

As we’re in the midst of Passover, I thought now would be an appropriate time to take a look back at 1998’s The Prince of Egypt.


Before I get to into The Prince of Egypt, I think I should disclose that I’m not much of a fan when it comes to musicals.  You know what I find so weird about musicals?  People spontaneously burst into song and choreographed dance, that’s what.  Besides that, it feels like all musicals are adopted from original source material and the story suffers for it.  Perhaps the most seamless transition from book to movie musical is The Wizard of Oz, but the movie still leaves a lot of the book on the cutting room floor.  However, if you were a movie producer way back when and somebody handed you this fantastical book and wanted to make a movie about it, you’d be right to do it.  There is plenty of wackiness in Oz already, why not ad some singing and dancing?  It’s already weird as it is, and making it weirder isn’t going to be much of a problem – anyway, that’s what the guy in the talking lion costume said.  I still remember the first time I saw a poster for the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde musical – having read the book, I was shocked.  “What could they possibly find to sing about?”  I wondered.  I imagined a moment where he broke the forth wall and explained to the audience what it was like to go back and forth between being Jekyll and Hyde in a rousing number I called, “Duel of the Fates” – what?  There’s already a tune by that name in Star Wars?  Oh well.  Let’s just set the words to that tune:  “First I’m Jekyll, a kindly doctor; Then I’m Hyde, a hideous monster!  Korah! Matah! Korah! Rahtahmah!”

In my mind, singing about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde doesn’t work, so you can imagine how I feel about turning elements from The Bible/Torah into musicals (take that, Andrew Lloyd Weber) – but really, why sing at all?  Does anything do more to take away the seriousness of a subject then adding song and dance?  If you’re working on the premise of ‘slavery is bullshit,’ do you really want some asshole to start dancing around, singing some ridiculous song about it?

I just don’t get it.  Who’s bright idea was it to adapt The Book of Exodus into a musical?

from Wikipedia:
The idea for the film came about at the formation of DreamWorks, when the three partners, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, were meeting in Spielberg’s living room.


I thought then and I still believe now that the decision to do an animated musical version of the Exodus story is because they were thinking that there was no other way to get the audience to take it seriously.  And you know what the worst part is?  It’s actually a pretty entertaining movie.

Despite the fact that the movie is a musical and adopts its story from a book of The Bible/The Torah (…uhm… I guess you get to pick depending on your religion… and if you’re neither Jewish nor Christian, I guess you can just say it’s based on Judeo -Christian lore), it’s a pretty good piece of film making.  Aside from the aforementioned “Playing With The Big Boys,” the songs are decent, and “All I Ever Wanted,” is very well done, both musically and visually.  In fact, they really directed their ass off – and when I say ‘they,’ I do mean theyBrenda Chapman, Steve Hickner and Simon Wells are all credited with directing the movie on IMDB…  maybe animated movies always have multiple directors, but I don’t know.

Then there’s the cast:  prince_of_egypt_movie_poster

Val Kilmer as Moses/God

Ralph Fiennes as Rameses II

Michelle Pfeiffer as Tzipporah

Sandra Bullock as Miriam

Jeff Goldblum as Aaron

Patrick Stewart as Pharaoh Seti I  (“Engage!”)

Danny Glover as Jethro

Helen Mirren as Queen Tuy

Steve Martin as Hotep

Martin Short as Huy

Val Kilmer takes on a double role as both Moses and God – how’s that for a resume?  The worst part of the movie is Jeff Goldblum as Aaron, who makes no attempt whatsoever to act and hide his Jeff Goldblumishness – his character’s tone sounds so out of place with everyone else in the film, and it’s hard to blame the directors for this because this movies was made way back when Jeff Goldblum being Jeff Goldblum was a big deal.  As an actor, he needed to suck less, but he couldn’t be bothered.  Otherwise, the cast does a fine job.

The movie didn’t really win any awards, though – it pretty much got it’s ass kicked by The Iron Giant in the Annie Awards, but rightly so – The Iron Giant is an amazing original film, while The King of Egypt is simply a solid movie, no more, no less.  Is it worth seeing?  I suppose so – if you want to get your Passover on in animated musical form.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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