Posts Tagged ‘2018 movies’

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Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)

October 18, 2018


Director: Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods)
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman

This movie had some serious potential with an electric cast in a Quentin Tarantino stylized mystery written and directed by Drew Goddard, a dude mostly known for writing and directing the unique and awesome horror flick The Cabin in the Woods and for creating “Daredevil”, easily the best Marvel series on Netflix.

I wanted to like it so much. All the ingredients for an awesome movie were there and for the first third of the movie, I was enthralled with the snappy dialogue and the intrigue surrounding all the mysterious visitors of Lake Tahoe’s El Royale hotel, which is literally split in half by the border of California and Nevada. I’ve thought about the film quite a bit and it’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but I can say with certainty that the pacing was brutal at times. No one is going to criticize this movie for lack of character development, as each individual gets back story and plenty of screen time, but Bad Times at the El Royale has a tendency to reset just as things are getting really interesting. For instance, like many Tarantino films before, the movie is told in chapters and just as a chapter climaxes and something shocking happens, the scene cuts and we move on to another chapter and new point of view. Some might enjoy the slow burn of building back up to that climatic moment, but if I had to guess what made the pacing of the movie a bit excruciating it would be this tendency.

The cast is mostly great. Jeff Bridges is always very good and I enjoyed Jon Hamm also. Although I have zero interest in the 50 Shades of Grey series, Dakota Johnson has been captivating in other roles, particularly A Bigger Splash, and she is good again here. Chris Hemsworth plays against type as Billy Lee, a cult leader and possible pedophile. He’s very loose in the role, dancing, smoking cigarettes, and really seeming to enjoy doing something different. It’s a stark contrast to the stiff (although sometimes funny) Thor we’ve been watching him play for the past decade. He’s definitely villainous in this movie, but I enjoyed his screen presence.

Another point where I feel the film suffers is when Cynthia Erivo’s character is the focus. She’s an aspiring songstress that is headed to Reno for a small gig singing in a Keno lounge. I think Erivo’s acting is plenty good, but she sings at least four different songs in the film and the movie comes to a screeching halt whenever this happens. The songs are all slow, long and not particularly interesting and her performances aren’t nearly captivating enough to justify it. I know I reached a point where if I had to listen to her sing again, I was going to literally groan in agony.

Bad Times at the El Royale has some things working for it, particularly strong performances, cool and shocking moments, and plenty of intrigue, but pacing really hurts the overall enjoyment and the eventual revelations are a bit uninspired. It’s a Quentin Tarantino impression that will just make you wonder how much better it would have been if it was actually a QT film.

Replay Value: It’s not a must rewatch, but I could maybe do it again some day.

Sequel Potential: It wouldn’t make much sense to do one.

Oscar Potential: I’m going to say none.

Dina Meter: If this movie bored me at times, I’m sure it would bore Dina to death. I would not suggest that she needs to watch it.

5/10 (Decent)

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Venom (2018)

October 17, 2018


Director: Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad, Zombieland)
Starring: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed

Venom was a mess long before it hit theaters, so I’ve never really thought it was going to amount to much of anything. This movie has been in production since before the Sam Raimi Spider-Man franchise died and rumors of Spidey-related spinoffs abounded after the series rebooted with Andrew Garfield. So after Disney and Marvel reacquired the film rights to Spider-Man and Sony decided to plow forward with a Venom movie anyway, well, I just didn’t see how that could end well.

I actually thought this movie had nothing to do with the current Marvel Cinematic Universe, but after doing some digging it looks like I could be wrong. Maybe? As late as June 2017, Marvel’s president Kevin Feige said that Venom is solely a Sony project, but the Sony side of things have claimed that their new universe will be “adjunct” to the MCU and that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man may even appear in future films. I’m not an expert Venom historian, so I don’t know if it’s possible to pull off a Venom movie without Spider-Man and not piss all the fans off, but I imagine DC trying to do a Joker movie without Batman and – wait… that is actually happening.

Then they cast Tom Hardy as Eddie Brock and I was officially bewildered. Was there actually hope for this movie? Well, the trailers looked awful and critics were crucifying it, so heading into my viewing of Venom I was expecting to to be absolutely terrible.

Honestly, I didn’t like it much, but I have definitely seen worse. The first hour or so of Venom is brutally boring. We are introduced to Eddie Brock’s world and watch as everything quickly crumbles around him. I actually thought three different people were going to tell him to “have a nice life” in a 10 minute span, but somehow the screenwriters resisted the urge to have Michelle Williams say it during their breakup scene. Basically, the first hour of the movie is a sequence of moments that you can already imagine Eddie Brock getting redemption for in the third act. It’s very formulaic and not at all interesting.

Meanwhile, Riz Ahmed’s character is a super rich science type that has acquired a bunch of symbiotes and he’s trying to figure out how to unite them with a host so that he can… honestly, I don’t remember what he’s trying to do. He probably plans to sell them as some sort of super soldier.

The movie does pick up once the Venom symbiote finds Eddie Brock. It gets very slap-sticky and starts to feel like a buddy film and the humor elevates enough that it made me laugh a few times. Most importantly, the pace and action are picked up significantly.

I think Venom looks terrible in this movie. For 2018, the CGI is awful. Venom looks incredibly fake and the climax of the movie literally looks like two giant wads of silly putty doing battle with each other. It is absurdly terrible. The special effects in this movie are a total embarrassment.

Venom managed to exceed my expectations, only because they were very, very low. This is not a good movie. All the characters are stale and uninteresting, Eddie Brock isn’t really someone you want to root for, and the performances are very uninspired. Tom Hardy is okay, I guess, but Michelle Williams’ talent is totally wasted and I’ve seen Riz Ahmed in some great roles (Nightcrawler, “The Night Of”), but he is straight up laughable in this movie. You think these things might be salvaged a bit when Venom is on screen – and to some degree they are – but the Venom personality is actually kind of stupid and annoying. Plus he looks really cheesy.

But what do I know? This movie has a 7.1 rating on IMDB and an 88% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, all while breaking October box office records. It’s an absolute smash hit and the general public seems to really like it, so… maybe you will too.

Replay Value: The thought of sitting through the first hour again sounds painful, but I could do the second half.

Sequel Potential: It looks like this will reach $250 million domestically so a sequel is inevitable. I don’t have much interest in Sony’s superhero movies and their history doesn’t suggest they are going to step their game up.

Oscar Potential: Zero.

Dina Meter: Dina might enjoy this more than I did, but I would be surprised if she watched it and said “that was good!”

3/10 (Bad)

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A Star is Born is the Best Movie of 2018

October 10, 2018

Director: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott

My goodness, I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I knew going in from how I perceived the trailer and from a couple of reviews that I read that it could be something special and A Star is Born did not disappoint. It’s a true marvel in the marriage of my two favorite art forms: cinema and music. I spent the first half of the film smiling uncontrollably as Lady Gaga’s character Ally is taken under rock star Jackson Maine’s (Cooper) wing and thrust into the spotlight. The entire sequence that leads up to her stepping on the public stage for the first time is remarkable. It gave me goosebumps… It made my eyes water… It made me want to stand up and clap… and there were 90 minutes left in the movie!

The second half of the film is a different beast altogether and it took me two viewings (yes, I saw this movie twice in three days) to come to grips with how I really felt about it. While the first half of A Star is Born treads through familiar territory – underdog overcomes obstacles and odds to achieve success – the second half finds the film’s characters travelling paths that may make audiences cringe. That’s a good thing. Life isn’t easy and even the most successful and famous people in the world are real human beings with real problems. That’s something that’s easy to forget in a world where we tend to place entertainers and athletes on a surreal platform where their triumphs and tragedies are merely here for public amusement. Nothing pounds this point home like sitting in a packed theater and listening to the audience laugh through one of the film’s most tragic scenes. I can see how it is humorous, but it’s a horrifying and potentially career-threatening moment for Ally and I can assure you, we aren’t laughing with her.

Bradley Cooper has really elevated his star power with this movie. He was already an A-List actor, giving Oscar-nominated performances in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle, and American Sniper, but this is the best performance of his career. He really disappears into the role of Jackson Maine and embodies a grizzled, gin-soaked rock star in convincing fashion. And he can sing? And play the guitar? What. Being able to do those things at all is impressive enough, but being able to do them at a high level is pretty mind-blowing to me. I never thought the guy that played Phil in The Hangover could possibly be this talented, but here we are, and Cooper is easily one of my top 5 or so actors of the moment.

Cooper also directs A Star is Born and helped write the script. It really is a monumental achievement as this movie is going to get heaps of Oscar nominations. The script may have roots in previous films, but the chemistry and complications of the two main characters feel entirely genuine and that is a credit to Cooper’s intimate, borderline invasive, direction as the camera is unrelentingly capturing their every vulnerable moment in extreme close up. This is particularly true of Jackson Maine as you see him absentmindedly interacting with the people around him while he’s clearly wrestling with the demons inside his own head. Until he meets Ally. Ally gets his whole attention.

And she will get yours too. Lady Gaga is a revelation. I’ve read that exact sentence about this movie quite a few times, but I don’t know how else to put it. She is absolutely remarkable. Gaga is an international superstar with over 26 million records sold. She’s as famous for being absurdly eccentric as she is for her music. And yet, she embodies Ally as a talented, but unremarkable nobody and is convincingly blown away by her newfound good fortune. It amazes me that the pop star confidently strutting around in a meat dress and the girl trying to work up the courage to step on stage in this movie can be the same person. I suppose Eminem did something similar with 8 Mile in 2002 when he was at the height of his popularity, but every moment of that movie felt like Eminem was simply playing Marshall Mathers. Ally is so far removed from how we perceive Lady Gaga that even though this movie may be semi-autobiographical it still feels like a transformative performance. Gaga is mesmerizing every moment of this movie. She will get an Oscar nomination and she seems like a favorite to win right now.

Andrew Dice Clay plays Ally’s father and Sam Elliott plays Jackson’s brother and both performances are noteworthy. There’s a scene where Elliott’s character comes at odds with Jackson and I could feel Elliott earning an Oscar nomination in that moment.

A Star is Born also happens to feature the best music of Lady Gaga’s career. “Shallow” and “Always Remember Us This Way” are amazing songs and the whole soundtrack ranges from good to incredible. Even the poppy “Why Did You Do That?” has its place and plays an important role in the course of the story. Gaga’s performances brought tears to my eyes no less than three times and even Bradley Cooper’s solo songs are quite enjoyable. That reminds me… the stage performances are incredibly shot. I’ve read that the crew shot the scenes during breaks of actual music festivals, so it’s no surprise how authentic it all seems… because they are real performances in front of real crowds.

Cooper plays an alcoholic in this movie and it really hit home with me. I’m over eight years dry now and I don’t attend meetings and I have fully rebounded from any lasting affect drinking had on my life. So most of me feels completely removed from that part of my life and the majority of the people in my life these days never even knew that side of me, my wife included. But a small part of me stays vigilant, reminding myself not to forget and not to get too confident in sobriety. I’m sure one of the worst mistakes I could ever make is to think I could possibly drink responsibly. Watching A Star is Born is the closest I’ve felt to my own personal hell in many years. It literally broke my heart watching Jackson Maine succumb to his disease. I thought the portrayal was incredibly authentic and every step of his evolution was something I could personally relate to. It’s amazing how walled off you can be to the damage you are causing to those around you.

It’s been a while since a film affected me the way A Star is Born did. It’s easily my favorite film of 2018 and, glancing at my Top 10 lists, might be the best movie I’ve seen in years. This movie really has it all. It’s an absolute must watch that may end up being viewed as a true classic a few years down the road.

Replay Value: I’ve seen it twice already and liked it even more the second time. My wife still hasn’t seen it and I’d be happy to watch it a third time in theaters with her. I will definitely be buying this movie.

Sequel Potential: No direct sequel potential, but since this is at least the fourth iteration of this film, future versions are clearly likely.

Oscar Potential: Tons. Here are your locks for nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Original Song, and Best Sound Mixing. The movie is also drawing live at Best Supporting Actor (for Sam Elliott), Best (Adapted?) Screenplay, Best Original Music Score, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Makeup, Best Production Design, and maaaaaaaaybe Best Costume Design. It’s basically drawing live at a nom in every possible category and could challenge the record of 14 total nominations. I’m not sure exactly how Best Original Song works, but if one film can get multiple nominations I expect this one to get at least three in that category alone. This movie will win Best Original Song, but I’m not sure for which song. My personal vote would be for “Shallow.” I will be surprised if someone tops Lady Gaga’s performance in this movie and I can’t imagine rooting for anyone else come Oscar night. This is also my clear favorite for Best Picture at the moment.

Dina Meter: I think the second half of this movie is a bit challenging, but I will be pretty shocked if my wife doesn’t fall in love with this movie and if it doesn’t bring her to tears.

9/10 (Phenomenal)

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Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

May 2, 2018


Director: The Russo Brothers (Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: Winter Soldier)
Starring: Half of Hollywood

I’m going to attempt to do something difficult and review a movie that a) I feel like I need to see again before I have a firm grasp on how I feel about it and b) I’m not sure I can say much about without spoiling things. Here goes…

This is what we’ve all been waiting for. If you’re still with Marvel at this point, then Avengers: Infinity War is as big as it gets. My friend I saw this movie with is a comic book fanatic and I’m pretty sure seeing this movie ranked somewhere in the top five most anticipated moments of his entire life. This is where we’ve been headed since Robert Downey Jr. first became Iron Man all the way back in 2008 – when Marvel completely changed the movie-going experience by creating a massive shared universe that has stretched over a decade now. And if you’re still eagerly awaiting Thanos’ arrival on Earth then chances are it’s going to be very hard for Avengers: Infinity War to disappoint you.

But that didn’t stop Age of Ultron from disappointing, did it? Admit it, that was arguably the worst and most forgettable film in the ten years of Marvel’s nearly flawless run of box office dominance. It was also at that point that Joss Whedon passed the directing baton to the Russo brothers, whom have proven to be the most adept filmmakers in the MCU, with both Captain America: Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War ranking in the top five Marvel movies to date.

I’ve actually read some criticism of Infinity War saying that it lacks character development. Something along the lines of the characters just show up and get involved in the story. What. Yeah, I forgot about the last ten years and previous 18 movies that have led up to this point too. Outside of Thanos, basically everyone else involved has had multiple movies worth of character development. We don’t really need it here. Hush.

So the basic premise here is that Thanos is the biggest and baddest dude from space and he has obtained what I believe is called the Infinity Gauntlet and he is after the six Infinity Stones that can be placed in the Infinity Gauntlet and when that happens, he can unlock unrivaled universe-erasing power. Not that he needs it: in the first sequence of the film, Thanos puts a severe beating on a few heroes and proves that The Avengers are already no match for him, Infinity Gauntlet or not.

It’s pretty easy to see how earth’s mightiest heroes get pulled into the fracas. If you’ve seen all the movies that have led up to this point (and you should have) then the following are not spoilers: Vision has an Infinity Stone in his forehead; Loki likely has an Infinity Stone and he’s currently traveling through space with Thor and the few surviving Asgardians; Doctor Strange has the Time Stone; and two other Stones are in space with people we’ve seen the Guardians of the Galaxy interact with. Needless to say, Thanos will have to go through some Avengers and possibly some Guardians to get all the Stones.

So that’s the gist of the plot and I have to say the execution mostly doesn’t disappoint. Infinity War is wonderful cinematic spectacle. At over 150 minutes and with a massive amount of characters to include, the film manages to be engaging and juggle screen time quite effectively. Sure, some of our heroes get less screen time than others, but when it comes down to it, this is Thanos’ movie anyways. I think I actually may have stepped out of the theater to use the bathroom at an inopportune time – particularly, when Thanos explained his reasoning for wanting to obtain the Stones and erase half of the universe’s population. So I really can’t comment on his motives, but if anyone wants to destroy half the universe, there’s probably a good reason for it, right?

I definitely enjoyed my first viewing of Infinity War. Like most Marvel movies, it blends action and humor to perfection and all the key players have an opportunity for a WOAH moment.

While Infinity War packs all the necessary punches, it also had a number of eyebrow-raising and eye-rolling moments. There are quite a few moments in the movie where a character has to make a tough (yet incredibly easy, all things considered) decision and makes an idiotic choice. What kind of hero would jeopardize the fate of the entire universe for one life? A shitty one. One that will be hard to root for in the future. Also, there’s a point where Doctor Strange looks into the future and says something along the lines of in 14 million possible outcomes, The Avengers only win in one of them. Is that really necessary? 1 in 14 million? When everyone in the theater knows the actual chance of an eventual Avengers victory is 100%? Do we need to be insulted like that? And if Doctor Strange can see into the future, and knows the one path to victory, then what is really at stake here? Nothing.

And that brings me to something I can’t really talk about. What I will say is that the film had no emotional impact on me. There are supposed to be huge moments of shock and sadness and I felt nothing. Because none of it seems real. None of it seems final. Because of the Soul Stone and the Time Stone and the nature of comic books, I just have a hard time believing that anything of massive consequence that happens in this movie can’t just be overturned at the snap of a finger. And because of that, my only emotional response was PFFFFFFT.

Still, I definitely enjoyed the movie. Fans of the genre should love it – and they do: it’s currently sitting in the top ten all time on IMDB’s Top 250 list (and that’s just absurd). If you haven’t been a fan of the MCU, this movie won’t change your mind. I’m looking forward to seeing it again and wonder if my opinion of it will change at all.

Replay Value: I’m ready for my second viewing already!

Sequel Potential: Avengers 4 has already been shot, I believe.

Oscar Potential: None?

Dina Meter: My wife enjoyed it.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)

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Blockers (2018)

April 17, 2018


Director: Kay Cannon
Starring: John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, Geraldine Viswanathan, Kathryn Newton, Gideon Adlon

Wasn’t expecting much out of Blockers other than to laugh a bit and be entertained and it mostly delivered on those fronts. The premise here is three lifelong friends making a pact to all lose their virginity on prom night and their parents discover the pact and set out to stop them – and hopefully hilarity ensues. I laughed pretty consistently, but not uproariously. One of the worst things about comedies is they tend to get really stupid and outrageous but most of the stuff in Blockers was within the boundaries of reasonable, with one exception: the butt chug scene they hint at in the trailers. I mean… really?

John Cena definitely has some comedy acting chops. He’s the best thing about this movie, but the three main adults all have pretty good chemistry together. The kids are way less interesting, but Geraldine Viswanathan, Cena’s daughter in the movie, gives a confident and promising performance. She might be worth keeping an eye on. The other two girls were more or less forgettable in their roles.

I don’t have much else to say about Blockers. It’s a decent and entertaining comedy, with a touch of heart to it, but nothing anyone needs to see.

Replay Value: I can’t imagine wanting to see this again.

Sequel Potential: Blockers has basically doubled its budget, but it’s not exactly a huge hit either. There’s certainly no need for a sequel, but if this crushed at the box office they would obviously make one.

Oscar Potential: Zero.

Dina Meter: I’m honestly not sure. I think it was entertaining enough that Dina would enjoy it, but it’s not like she’s missing out if she never watches it.

6/10 (Fun)

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A Quiet Place (2018)

April 11, 2018


Director: John Krasinski (Brief Interviews with Hideous Men)
Starring: John Krasinksi, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

We have a new favorite for best film of 2018 through the first 14 weeks of the year!

I wouldn’t have guessed that Jim from “The Office” would be a good candidate to direct a horror thriller, but much like Jordan Peele and Get Out last year, we have an actor known for comedy directing a horror movie to perfection. Not only does Krasinski craft one of the most tense films I’ve seen in recent memory, but he also gives a solid performance in a lead role that requires very little humor and comes across very heroic.

The premise of A Quiet Place is that the human population of earth has been wiped out by some sort of monster/alien creature that can’t see but hunts by sound only. We are introduced to a family with Krasinski and Emily Blunt as mom and dad, respectively, and their three kids, and follow their story of survival, as they live life within the confines of never being able to make a sound and the film wastes no time in letting the audience know that their lives are genuinely at stake. The opening scene creates an incredibly tense atmosphere that doesn’t let up until the end credits and will keep audiences on their toes for 90 minutes straight.

You have to wonder… at what age does a child fully grasp how vulnerable they really are and what is at stake every waking moment of their lives? And who would bring a newborn into this world? Not just because it seems impossible for a baby to survive in a world where you can’t make a sound, but why would anyone purposely procreate in a world where your lives are at stake every second of every day? I have to admit that I was surprised and perturbed when I saw that Emily Blunt’s character was pregnant, but SPOILER ALERT the scene in which she gives birth is truly incredible. I suppose it’s best not to question the how of her pregnancy, but conceiving in this environment seems like an incredibly risky task! I do think that Krasinksi and his team of writers (and movie mom and dad) handled the complications of having a newborn quite delicately and managed to raise the stakes without raising more questions or getting into unbelievable territory.

I was very impressed with A Quiet Place. It was scary and tense all the way through. The monsters looked amazing! Both Krasinski and Blunt were terrific and the kids also gave strong performances, particularly the daughter. This is probably the most satisfying 2018 film I’ve seen so far this year and I’d consider it a must watch for any fan of the horror or thriller genres, but A Quiet Place is more than a scary movie; it’s also a film about family and survival and forgiveness. Unless you absolutely can’t stand scary movies, I think this is another must see movie for 2018.

Note: First off, anyone that brings a baby to a movie is pretty selfish and kind of an idiot. Find a sitter or stay home. But someone that brings a baby to a movie called A Quiet Place is just a straight up asshole. It’s right in the title and in the trailer that this movie is going to be very quiet and sounds from the audience are going to be very unwanted. I felt guilty eating popcorn! I’m not confrontational at all, but I really had to contain myself from saying something to these morons. Perhaps it’s because the baby wasn’t that bad; for the most part, it was pretty quiet and only had short bouts of crying throughout the film and only one really bad stretch, but it was still very distracting and in a movie that is almost entirely built around suspense and a taut atmosphere, distractions from the audience are unforgivable. What jerks. Thank you, baby, for being mostly tolerable.

Replay Value: This would be fun to watch again.

Sequel Potential: There is definitely potential here, especially since there was zero explanation about the creatures. Where they came from, what they are, etc. On the other hand, this is a movie about the family, not the monsters, so I don’t think it was made with sequels in mind… but that hasn’t stopped Hollywood before.

Oscar Potential: A Quiet Place lacks the social and political commentary that made Get Out an Oscar contender, so I suspect this movie won’t get much attention next awards season, but it’s my top film of the year so far, so maybe? The monsters are definitely worthy of Visual Effects consideration.

Dina Meter: Dina hates scary movies, but sometimes I force her to watch the really good ones and A Quiet Place will be no exception. I suspect she will hate the experience but will appreciate the movie. I’m just going to tell her it stars Jim from “The Office” and looks really funny.

8/10 (Must See)

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Ready Player One (2018)

April 3, 2018

Directed by: Steven Spielberg (E.T., Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Jaws)
Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg

This movie was a lot of fun.

It takes place in the year 2045, when most of the world spends their free time in a virtual reality world called OASIS, where players can go anywhere they want and do anything they want (i.e. climb Mount Everest with Batman!). Because of the limitless possibilities, filmgoers will be in for loads of nostalgia as popular 80s and 90s pop culture icons are common choices for the gamers’ avatars. In the first 10 minutes or so, I saw Freddy Krueger, Batman, and Jason Vorhees – and the references never stop. This movie is littered with them and there’s no way you’ll be able catch them all on your first viewing. Plus, there’s a sequence in the movie that pays homage to Stanley Kubrick that is utterly fantastic.

The gist of the plot revolves around the creator of OASIS passing away and leaving behind a number of Easter eggs and keys for players to search for with the final prize being complete control of OASIS. There’s definitely a bit of a Willy Wonka thing going on here. We are introduced to a group of ragtag gamers that quickly become the favorites in the contest and they are in a race against the big bad corporation IOI to the finish line for control of OASIS.

Most of Steven Spielberg’s action-adventure film takes place in OASIS and is computer animated and we see the film’s heroes as their avatars much more frequently than we see the human actors. This is probably a good thing. Tye Sheridan plays Wade/Parzival, the film’s main hero, and his time spent as Parzival (his avatar) was much more interesting than when the film focused on his human life. Sheridan doesn’t do a bad job here, but his performance is missing something that I’m having a hard time putting a finger on. Wonder? Life? I dunno, I just thought he was a little on the dull side and kept thinking they should have found someone better. The supporting cast is much better. Olivia Cooke is fun and sexy as both Art3mis and Samantha. T.J. Miller does some funny voicework playing a scary and formidable-looking avatar but giving the character a self-conscious and silly tone. Ben Mendelsohn checks in with his standard slimy bad guy role as the head of IOI and does some of his best work to date.

The animation in this movie is spectacular and I imagine that Spielberg’s crew is in line for some Oscar attention. Ready Player One certainly works best when we are in OASIS and taking in the action from that point of view, which is kind of ironic because there’s definitely a message in this film that we need to be less “plugged in” and more in tune to the real world.

One thing about Ready Player One that I either missed or didn’t fully grasp was the role of IOI. I know the corporation is technically the bad guy, but I didn’t understand what the real world consequences were if they won the contest or how they became a known evil empire that is somehow allowed to operate unchecked by any sort of political authority or law enforcement. I remember there was a scene where actual police officers show up in the real world and I was like “wait… what?” And what exactly does the company do? Help women get pregnant? Maybe a second viewing answers these questions for me, but a movie can’t be truly great if you finish it and you’re not sure why the bad guy was the bad guy.

Still, Steven Spielberg can tally up another successful adventure film full of spectacle. The director has a long history of making these types of films and leaving us with an all-time classic. Ready Player One doesn’t reach those heights, mainly because of an average lead actor and unclear consequences, but it was still very enjoyable – especially considering it clocks in at almost 2.5 hours – and the film is visually great and the nostalgia factor enhances the fun. Hard to imagine anyone being too disappointed with this movie – it checks most of the boxes – and it gets a solid recommendation from me.

Replay Value: I did not watch this in 3D and I wonder if that was a mistake. It seems like the kind of movie you would definitely want to see in 3D. That might make it worth seeing again in theaters. I would watch it again regardless though.

Sequel Potential: This was based on a book and I’m not sure if there are more novels in the same world, but it’s easy to imagine how they could continue this story.

Oscar Potential: Seems like a cinch for a Visual Effects nomination and could get some editing and sound love. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it up for Best Score. I wonder if it will qualify for Best Animated Feature. If so, that could be a nomination, but it wasn’t strong enough to get Best Pic or Best Director nods.

Dina Meter: I think Dina would like the spirit of this movie, but because of the animation and the fast and furious action, she might not be able to handle it. She doesn’t do rollercoasters, 4D rides, or watch movies in 3D because she gets motion sickness, so Ready Player One might be too much for her – even without the 3D.

7/10 (Highly Enjoyable)