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By midlandsmovies, Aug 5 2018 07:00AM



Ready Player One (2018) Dir. Steven Spielberg


Co-written by Zak Penn (X-Men: The Last Stand) and the novel’s author Ernest Cline, Ready Player One is a new film struggling hard to condense the pop-culture complexity of the book into a 2-hour action blockbuster from Steven Spielberg.


In 2045, the world’s decimated population is immersed in the OASIS – a virtual reality world where ‘anything goes’ – and whose creator James "Anorak" Halliday (Spielberg stalwart Mark Rylance) runs a contest to challenge players to uncover three hidden keys in the game to win full ownership of the pixelated world. A corporation run by Nolan Sorrento (the perennially evil Ben Mendelsohn) is out to use an army of players to find these treasures whilst teenager Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) and his online friends try to get there first.


The beginning is everything I feared from the trailer. Figuratively and literally, the film’s opening is like watching a friend play a computer game – full of CGI, uncanny valley avatars and obvious pop culture references. The cool quirkiness of a Zombieland-esque voiceover filling in the backstory helps flesh the story out but the images are akin to the visual hell of Speed Racer (which is also referenced in the film itself). Its backwards in its introduction with a very quick ‘real-world’ segment before the likeable Sheridan has his amiable acting ditched for an elf-like cartoon avatar.


Ben Mendehlson is having some fun as he overacts his way through a very 80s inspired villain and whilst there are echoes of both Tron films, the quirky Mark Rylance as the OASIS’s creator channels South Park’s Matt Stone, Garth from Wayne’s World and (obviously) Steve Jobs in an eclectic performance.


The film sees Sheridan’s virtual character Parzival team up with Lena Waithe’s virtual mechanic Aech, Philip Zhao’s Sho, Win Morisaki’s Daito and Olivia Cooke’s feisty Art3mis as the "High Five", an informal group jumping from the game challenges to a virtual archive. The archive contains video clips reconstructing Halliday's life which provides clues to the game’s construction, history and to the concealed prizes too.


These historical sections are great and the scenes give a more human aspect to a film filled with so much spinning camera which, as a non-video game player, demonstrated how unattuned to this aesthetic I am. The film is so kinetic I struggled to focus on the action as the camera zipped from one millisecond shot to the next.


It’s not all bad however. I did find myself warming up to the (many) Back to the Future nods – from snippets of score, a ‘Zemeckis cube’ and the DeLorean itself. A section where the gang ‘visit’ The Shining is very good. Like Back to the Future 2, the characters actually go back into the movie in a phenomenal sequence that recreates the iconic hotel and visuals from Kubrick’s film flawlessly.


Whilst the tone varies between Wreck It Ralph and his own Minority Report, Spielberg becomes guilty of the teal/orange ending at the film’s finale making it look like every other blockbuster. The Michael Bay-ness of a huge CGI battle which although looks the business, uses stupidly quick editing and a constantly spinning camera that will give all but die-hard video game fans a migraine.


So I really just wished Ready Player One slowed down so I could savour the characters, story and action. It would really benefit from it as a movie but, again, feels like a real-life game delivering a style to satisfy gamers’ short attention spans.


But that leaves us the question as to who is the film for in the end? Whilst the style reflects modern gaming (MMRPGs and Metal Gear Solid aesthetics) the film references are pure 80s so what’s the audience here? At 38, I recognised most allusions to the trivia of the past but some will be aimed at kids who wouldn’t have a clue about Mad Balls, Chucky and Mecha Godzilla.


Fans of the book may find joy in seeing all their childhood pop-culture dreams come to life but the film feels a mish-mash of wildly varying tones and styles. The actors do the best they can with the material but by spending so long in the OASIS, the computer-generated ‘sprites’ left me cold without the human attachment so badly needed. A fun ride at times for sure, Ready Player One is an entertaining and sometimes dazzling blockbuster for the family. But bring your headache pills for the unfortunate messy action and endless trivia nods which are both at the expense of real character arcs.


7.5/10


Midlands Movies Mike



By midlandsmovies, Jul 30 2018 08:56AM



Gamer


2018 - Directed by Sheikh Shahnawaz


Filmmaker Sheikh Shahnawaz returns with a new short that presents one man’s dependency on a virtual life that has some serious repercussions back in the real world.


Sheikh has become a bit of a machine on the Midlands movie scene himself. With 4 shorts already released in 2018 (reviews of his films Duality, Sleepless, Blackmail and Witness can be found here), the director has previously stated his prolific production stance to try his hand at a variety of film styles with little budget and crew.


And here he tackles some well edited special effects in this thoughtful short concerning the side-effects of spending too much time online.


The film begins with a bit of background about a small of squad of players involved in the online game Fortnite. For those unfamiliar with the game (myself included), Fortnite is a mass online brawl with 100 players dropped on an island who fight until only one remains – akin to Battle Royale and The Hunger Games.


We are introduced to a cyborg (Nazgore), a sniper (Thorax) and a steampunk dancer (GetRekd69) who are an “unstoppable” force within the game. However, this powerful squad contrasts with the lonely man we see playing as Nazgore as we cut to Noah (Gurjeet Singh) in a dark room staring at his computer screen. His solitary figure is only drawn out of his game by the sound of his 6am alarm as he says goodbye to his online teammates before going to work.


At work, his boss (Nisaro Karim) wants to insert some last minute information into a big presentation but Noah is distracted as he sees his avatar from the game come to life in the office. The film uses good special effects to insert the pixelated characters into the film and as he returns to his house, the other characters appear throughout different rooms.


“We’ve been waiting for you” says one of the avatars as he runs upstairs to escape. Tormented by these manifestations and physically and emotionally drained, Noah exits his game. But before long, after a takeaway for one and avoiding the task of completing the boss’ request on his laptop, he is compelled back for another game.


A tiny few wardrobe issues aside – a professional suit rather than a cardigan would be a better fit for a boss pressuring his employee, whilst a wedding ring on Noah’s had undercuts his lonely demeanour – the film gets straight to the point regarding the themes of gaming addiction.


Like 2018’s Ready Player One from Steven Spielberg, the complex interaction between our real life and online personas are explored here. The music by SavFK is also a good electronic pulsing soundtrack that becomes more ominous as the protagonist begins losing his grip on reality.


In March 2018, the Guardian newspaper suggested the game’s elements are combined into a free downloadable package which makes it easy to join and stick with. And the concept of “video game addiction is contentious within the medical community”. However, the film’s ideas suggest a blurring of lines between reality and fantasy that could have an effect on vulnerable individuals.


Gamer therefore traverses an intricate set of ideas about compulsion, cravings and enslavement to technology. Whilst Sheikh has certainly provided the Midlands with a quantity of short films, the director doesn’t shy from quality productions across genres that provide food for thought. And that’s one habit I’d happily return to time and again.


Mike Sales


Watch the full short below:




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