Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Ready Player One (2018)

Ready Player One – Film Review

Cast: Tye Sherdian, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg

Director: Steven Spielberg

Synopsis: In the year 2045, the real world in pretty bad shape. As such, in order to escape their daily troubles, many people go into a virtual game world known as the OASIS, where a world of games and activities await…

Review: If ever there was a record for the amount of pop culture references that were made throughout the runtime of one particular film, the odds are good that this particular work would be pretty near the top of the list. If you were to play a round of pop culture bingo whilst watching this film, you would probably have enough references to yell out bingo, possible a few times over, and maybe then a few more.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, the story focuses on Wade Watts (name to sound like a superhero alter-ego). He is just one of many citizens whose life is far from idyllic in Columbus, Ohio. So he goes into the virtual reality world known as the OASIS, essentially on a daily basis. Given what you can do in this world (basically anything) it isn’t hard to see why people jump into this world with such regularity. As part of a prize left behind by the world’s creator, a competition arises to win a pretty sweet prize that would change the life of the winner forever, which naturally has Wade’s attention. All the while, the head honchos at a rival company led by Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn) try to get their hands on the big prize for their own maniacal purposes.

Given the sheer volume of pop culture references in this film, it could have very easily felt just like a massive pop culture extravaganza. However, despite all the references that will undoubtedly delight audiences everywhere, Spielberg strikes a balance between the vast array of pop culture and a very personal story involving Wade and the relationship he begins to strike up with another gamer, namely Samantha (Cooke). The chemistry between these two is really well done and provides the film with the emotional heart that it really needs amidst all the pop culture phenomenon that is taking place, and the battle that ensues between these two and Sorrento.

Given the portfolio of a director such as Spielberg, with so many pieces of work that have left their ever-lasting stamp on the world of entertainment, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Spielberg crafts a visual treat in terms of the world of the OASIS and all that it encompasses. After his last few films have ventured for the most part into the Oscar territory, it is refreshing to see Spielberg go back into the pure blockbuster spectacle territory. As such, it is likely that a lot of fun was being had during the production, which definitely filters through when it comes to the story. Though it is a visual treat, the plot does suffer from some narrative issues and there is a notable lack of character development on some of the supporting crew besides Wade and Samantha. Furthermore, though the film is extremely entertaining visually, the plot can’t help but stray into very familiar and predictable territory.

Nevertheless, there is something delightful to behold in what Spielberg has brought to the screen, which will definitely be enhanced by how many of the references you will recognise and appreciate. Sheridan and Cooke are excellent in their key roles, and Mark Rylance once again reunites with Spielberg to great effect once again as perhaps the most significant player in this entire story. Spielberg strikes just about the right balance between this incredible world of the OASIS and the real life struggle that comes about as a result of this quest. The nostalgia factor plays its part, but the film is driven deeply personal story at its core. Though let’s be fair, a film driven entirely by the nostalgia/Pop culture Easter egg bonanza under the genius vision of a director like Spielberg wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing at all.

Visually delightful with pop culture Easter eggs aplenty, fused together with a heartfelt and intriguing story ensure a solid return in the blockbuster film-making department for Spielberg.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Tomb Raider (2018)

Image is property of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Bros. Pictures

Tomb Raider (2018) – Film Review

Cast: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas

Director: Roar Uthaug

Synopsis: After an explorer vanishes without a trace, his fearless daughter Lara Croft sets out on a mission to his last known location, and to discover what exactly was the true purpose of her father’s venture…

Review: It seems as though there is one genre of films that whenever a new one is announced, that said film is doomed to be a failure before it is even released to the general public. This genre is of course films adapted from popular video games. It is fair to say that over the years, they have gained a reputation for being, simply put, not very good. Two such examples, would the two Tomb Raider films that starred Angelina Jolie in the early 2000s. Though they did not enjoy the best of receptions, the legacy of Lara Croft as an iconic video game character remains very much intact, so much so that another attempt at bringing perhaps the most iconic video game character of the 90s to the big screen was almost inevitable.

Indeed, a good decade and a half later, and here we are. In terms of our badass heroine, it is out with Jolie, and in with recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander who works in a pretty much dead end job in present day London, though questions still remain her regarding her long lost father. When she stumbles upon a clue that links to his last known location, she decides to set out in search of what it was her father was investigating. Of course it would not be a Tomb Raider film if Lara doesn’t find herself in a spot of bother when she lands on this island and must use all of her skills to negotiate the obstacles she finds in her path.

A badass with a bow, watch out Katniss…

For this film to really stand any chance of being a success, it was essential that they cast a capable actress in the lead role. Though casting an Oscar winner is by no means a guaranteed recipe for success, Alicia Vikander brought charisma and personality to the role. She compliments this the physical attributes that are key traits of what makes Lara Croft, well Lara Croft. Vikander gives a committed performance and showed herself to be more than capable of handling the physicality of the role and the demanding action scenes. Though there is nothing ground-breaking about the, these scenes are for the most part fairly well handled by director Roar Uthaug.

It is essential in a film like this that your main character is well fleshed out, and this screenplay does just that. It gives Lara a backstory that explores her origins principally  her relationship with her father and how that has had an influence on her and her tomb raiding adventures. Though it sometimes comes across as a bit soppy, as it is an integral to who Lara is as a character, it does its job. Once we get to the crux of the adventure though is where things start to get really interesting. The plot, certainly recaptures that gritty nature of the games, and while it is entertaining, could be deemed to be a little bit by the numbers.

Yet, for what it is worth, this lays the foundations for the start of what could well turn out to be a franchise. There isn’t a great deal of character development for some of the other characters, most notably Kristin Scott Thomas and Walton Goggins. Nevertheless, the film achieves its goal of delivering a solid adventure for the legend that is Lara Croft, with plenty of visual nods to the franchise that die hard fans are undoubtedly going to appreciate.

The story treads familiar ground, but a strong capable performance from Vikander anchors the film and proves that adaptations of video games aren’t all bad.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Wreck-it Ralph (2012)

Image is property of Walt Disney Animation Studios

Wreck-it Ralph – Film Review

Cast: John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Mindy Kaling, Alan Tudyk

Director: Rich Moore

Synopsis: Video game Bad guy Ralph yearns for something more out of life than just being the bad guy, and when the opportunity to win a medal and become the good guy presents itself, he seizes his chance of glory…

Review: Everyone loves a good video game as the perfect activity to pass the time on a miserable day when it’s pouring with rain outside. There have been a great deal of very memorable video game characters down the years, yet when a video game is adapted for the big screen, the end result is usually nothing to get all that excited about, and in some cases, they have been HORRIFICALLY bad. Well, those folks at Disney certainly had a trick up their sleeve, as they often do, to bring the perfect combination of the mediums of film and video game to the big screen, in a deeply entertaining and very enjoyable manner.

The difference here is that this is not based off a single video game, as this film takes place inside an entire video game arcade. In the same way that when in Toy Story, the toys come to life when their owners leave the room. When the arcade closes for the day, the video game characters have their own lives and the way the lives of the characters once their gaming duties for the day are done,  is really innovative.

For Ralph, resident bad guy of the fictional game Fix-it Felix, well he’s not too happy with his current predicament. Having grown tired of the bad guy lifestyle and the unsatisfying outcome that this lifestyle brings to him, there’s no reward to his bad guy endeavours. Meanwhile he watches on with envy as the hero of his game, Felix receives the adulation that Ralph craves desperately, as such Ralph tries to change his fortunes, and though he’s the bad guy, you really feel for him and will him to turn things around for himself.

So many Easter Eggs…

The games in the arcade are all connected in a similar to this giant central hub, that very much resembles those concourses that you see in train stations.  players can interact with the other games in the winding down period after a busy day of gaming. One rule though, no one must ever leave their game, otherwise the consequences could be severe, but this is precisely what Ralph does in pursuit of his dream. Video game fans can rejoice as there are many rather good Easter Eggs cameos from some of the most recognisable faces in video game history, including a few at the Bad Guys Anonymous meeting. The story takes a few twists and turns before eventually arriving at a racing game which is like a cross between Mario Kart and a land of delightful sugary confectionery, appropriately name Sugar Rush, which sets the stage for some hyperactive drama!

It is here that we meet Vanellope, a character like Ralph who is experiencing some hardships in her life and is desperately striving to change things for the better, and the two share a connection in this respect, and watching these two, through their differing struggles and striving for acceptance, is heart-warming to watch, even if it is straying into familiar Disney territory with themes you will have undoubtedly seen many times before. It’s trademark Disney, but that does not prevent it from being exciting, colourful and really amusing entertainment that takes audiences on a pleasant and satisfying journey, and ensures that there will not be groans of frustration as a “Game Over” flashes on the screen.

 A very unique concept that’s tremendously well realised and extremely entertaining, with plenty of the humour and heart that you’ve come to expect from Disney.