Ready Player One


Viewed – 11 April 2018  Cinema

I went into this not knowing much.  However, for as long as I can recall I’ve been a huge fan of much celebrated director Steven Spielberg, and usually seek out his movies when they land.  Yet this particular effort seemed like something different whilst at the same time an accuse for Spielberg to throw his hat back into a field he’d pretty much pioneered.  Did he still have it to deliver blockbuster spectacle once again?

ready-player-one

Set in 2046, a society lives in the slums governed by rich corporations who run everything whilst the general public turn to a virtual world for escape.  One such player, Wade Watts (Ty Sheridan)  finds escape from his real world problems by entering the ‘oasis’ a vast online game where the only limitations are one’s imagination, where all your favourite pop-culture, video-game and movie obsessions run wild.  Following the death of the world’s creator, the reclusive, eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance) it transpires he has left an ‘easter egg’ and if a player can find it, he will own it all, worth trillions.  Of course a shady government organization lust for such power also, and so a race to unlock the game world’s secrets is on.

Art3misThis was an interesting cinema experience.  The theatre I was in was fairly bare considering the movie had not long been released, and it got me thinking well, this isn’t a sequel, a remake or a comic book movie.  That’s a shame that cinema going has become that marginalized, but I guess it’s inevitable and probably why Valerian bombed at the box office.  I predict a similar fate for this, which would be disappointing because this was refreshing, imaginative and most importantly – a barrel load of fun.  At it’s core it’s kind of a cross between Wreck It Ralph and The Matrix, with a sprinkling of Tron for good measure.  The writer of the book it’s based on clearly had many influences, and the wealth of references, cameos and nods to movies, games and music is exhausting.  Initially I had trouble getting into the movie – it’s a bit of an avalanche of information and visual excess … but once I adjusted I was along for the ride.  The rag-tag team of ‘resistance’ who team up to beat the game are a likable bunch especially Bates Motels’ Olivia CookeBen Mendelsohn also makes for a suitable boo-hiss villain and I got a kick out of each character’s video-game alter egos (think avatars from games like World of Warcraft or Destiny).  This is a movie that plays to the geek in us, it seemed to work for me as a gamer and a movie geek but I can see it possibly dividing audiences as a result – and well, all that recognisable imagery doesn’t exactly serve the story.  However with amazing sequences like a section in the Overlook Hotel from The Shining and lots of spectacle and fun characters, I had a great time with this.

Tired of superhero movies?  See this.  Want something different?  See this.  Love geek culture?  See this.  Simple as that.

Verdict:  4 /5

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation


Viewed – 03 August 2015  Cinema

Good to see that one of our most enduring Hollywood stars can still deliver a pulse-pounding action extravaganza even as he settles into his fifth decade on this planet.  Add to this the fact he does many of his own stunts, and actor Tom Cruise is the real deal, regardless of what some may think of him personally.

Rogue

Cruise plays super-agent Ethan Hunt who, currently in hiding and ‘gone rogue’ is trying to unmask the real identity of secret organization ‘the syndicate’ whilst back at Langley, CIA headquarters the big wigs are disbanding the IMF.  Following a lead in London, Hunt witnesses the murder of a contact and the revelation that those he believed he worked for may be involved in a global conspiracy.   Like Ghost Protocol before it, this is a confident and well directed spy movie full of fancy gadgets, intense action and lots of double-crossing.  Director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) has put together what feels like the Mission Impossible movie we’ve all been waiting for – the action feels bigger, the locations more diverse and glamorous (London, Paris, Vienna etc.) and the story seems more dramatic.  Add to this a wonderful discovery in actress Rebecca Ferguson, who may be the sexiest (and deadliest) femme-fatale we’ve had on screen in years, and with excellent comedic support from Simon Pegg – this almost has it all.

Rogue NationI felt that even for an M.I. movie, sometimes the stunts and situations got a little implausible (a somersaulting car?), and some moments were just plane mad (the admitedly tense under water sequence).  Also, creepy-demeanour aside, the villain was again like Ghost Protocol, rather one-dimensional.  It was a shame to also see Jeremy Renner not be fully utilized for such a gifted actor … but regardless, this was still a shot of adrenaline to the heart and packed full of memorable moments, an amazing car turned bike chase, and an ending that made me want to stand up and applaud.  With Spectre on the horizon, I’d say in the spy movie world, this is going to take some beating.

Over to you, Mr Bond.

Verdict:  4 /5

The World’s End


Viewed – 26 January 2015  DVD

I went into this fairly apprehensive.  I’d heard only luke warm opinions of it and the usual it’s no ‘Shaun of the Dead’ which has been ringing in my ears with every movie the comedy pairing of Simon Pegg & Nick Frost have appeared in since.  This time around Pegg plays a lovable loser whose never really grown up and still yearns to complete the sacred ‘golden mile’ pub crawl that he and his friends attempted and failed at on the last day of school.  Now approaching forty, he decides to ‘get the band back together’ and hunts down his old mates who have all moved on, got jobs, gained families, become someone where as Pegg is still the same person he ever was.

worlds end

A great initial concept sets forth a very energetic ride with snappy dialogue-a-plenty and the usual slapstick pop-culture referencing fun of Pegg & Frost at their best.  Lending a helping hand is a wealth of familiar Brit actor faces, including The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman along with Paddy Considine to name but a few.  Unlike Pegg & Frost’s last outing ‘Paul’ however this is brought endlessly to life by the scatter-shot, imaginative direction of Edgar Wright, yes the same man that brought us ‘Shaun and Hot Fuzz not to mention the underrated Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.  Very clever editing and stylish camera work and surprisingly excellent effects work too.  You see the friends all go back to their home town to attempt this so-called pub crawl and suddenly find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion where the majority of the towns folk have been assimilated, ala The Stepford Wives.

I’m not ashamed to say it, but I had a riot with this.  There’s some very funny lines (… ‘he may be a bit of a cock, and he is a cockbut he’s my cock’…) and some great action (the gents fight scene is first rate, think the matrix with a twist) and the on-going gag of getting a pint in in every pub, no matter what is happening just never stopped being funny.  Yes the ending feels a tad thrown together, and well the alien invasion concept is almost as tiresome as zombies … but that never hurt Shaun of the Dead.

Check it out.

Verdict:  4 /5

Star Trek Into Darkness


Viewed – 03 September 2013  Blu-ray

Although far from calling myself a Trekkie, I have enjoyed the movies and grew up with a brother who is quite passionate about them along with the various TV shows.  When learning that director J J Abrams was bringing the franchise up to date with an all new, younger cast – I could understand why fans were somewhat nervous what the creator of Lost may do with their beloved saga.  Rest assured though that 2009’s Star Trek was a resounding success and with a (mostly) perfect cast breathing new life into very old characters – I came away rather impressed.

This second outing had much to prove – could Abrams nail it twice in a row?  The simple answer to that is … yes.  We return to the crew of the Starship Enterprise who get caught up in a terrorist attack on Star Fleet and accept a mission to hunt down a rogue officer who seems responsible.  Joining the likes of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Simon Pegg this time is British actor Benedict Cumberbatch as the mysterious terrorist, who brings no shortage of sinister intensity to his role and really gives Kirk & co a run for their money.

The big-budget FX laden look of this is just gorgeous, set-design and locations all adding a wow factor (including London).    Pegg has a little more to do this time around as engineer ‘Scottie’ and Quinto’s Spock is just excellent, capturing the spirit of the character as well as adding a few quirks of his own.  Yet the sultry Zoe Saldana is a little side-lined, as is John Cho’s Sulu.  Although not a big fan of Chris Pine, I think he is a perfect Kirk, arrogant but charming just like Shatner in his heyday, and the friendship between him and Spock is really well observed.  For me the frequent nods and winks to Star Trek of old got a bit much, (“I’m a doctor, not a torpedo technician!”) bordering on satire, but were still fun.  Also the script borrows a little too much from the older movies, yet still manages to make it work regardless … especially towards the end.

So a worthy sequel that in some aspects surpasses the last movie, whilst also managing to be a fine tribute to the Trek legacy as a whole.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol


Viewed – 04 May 2012  Blu-ray

Despite what some may say regarding actor Tom Cruise’s much publicised private life and Scientology beliefs, I have always considered him the very embodiment of a movie star.  He has the looks, the charisma, the acting ability and presence of a true Hollywood talent, and I personally have enjoyed many of his movies.  So naturally this latest instalment in the hit action franchise was a tantalising prospect … the only question remains, has Cruise, now approaching 50 still got what it takes to be a credible action star?

When a mission to Moscow goes wrong and the IMF team are accused of terrorism, Cruise and his band of agents are forced to go underground in order to track down the real culprit and prevent a nuclear threat.  Cruise is super-agent Ethan Hunt, this time joined on his mission by computer expert Simon Pegg, fellow agent Jeremy Renner and token hot stuff bad ass babe Paula Patton.  Directed by Brad Bird in his live action debut following animation hits The Iron Giant and The Incredibles this is slick and exciting stuff, with several stand-out action sequences including a veritgo-inducing sequence on the worlds tallest building in Dubai, as well as car chases, fist fights and lots of cool gadgets.

Unsurprising for a Mission Impossible film, the plot gets a touch complicated, and the villains are little more that stereotypical Russian nutjobs.  That being said, it was nice to see Michael Nyqvist in the lead bad-guy role following his turn in the Swedish The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and it’s sequels, but he doesn’t add much to proceedings other than look menacing.  Jeremy Renner on the other hand is quickly becoming one of my favourite actors and is again more than just hired muscle, adding some much-needed depth.  Simon Pegg also delivers in the comedy department with his usual one liners and lovable charm.  Brad Bird directs the action well with a few funny nods to franchise clichés such as a telephone that fails to self-destruct and to top it all, Cruise has lost none of his physical ability or screen charisma over the years.  I’d have loved the Mission Impossible theme to have been better implemented (why do they keep remixing it?) but overall this was a satisfying experience and a great addition to a great franchise.

Verdict:  4 /5