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 excuse for Spielberg to throw his hat back into a field he’d pretty much pioneered.  Does 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 very 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 – and what a ride! The rag-tag team of ‘resistance’ who team up to beat the game are a incredibly likeable 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.  That matters little though, with amazing sequences like a section in the Overlook Hotel from The Shining and a ton of spectacle and fun characters, I had a blast with this.

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

Verdict:  5 /5

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Jaws


Viewed – 15 September 2012  Blu-ray

What more can be said about this classic blockbuster?  Pretty much the original summer event picture, this has gone down in cinematic history, and even watching it now with much more jaded eyes, the experience is still something bone-shaking, powerful and epic.  Based on the pulp novel by Peter Benchley, this follows the story of Police Chief ‘Brody’ (the brilliant Roy Scheider), who after a girl is killed during a night time skinny-dip by what seems to be a shark, is understandibly concerned about the tourist season looming on the horizon.  Then after a young boy is killed in broad day light, it’s time to call in the big guns, and although a selfish, money hungry mayor refuses to close the beach, the help of marine specialist and a world-weary shark-hunter, gives Brody the chance to save the day.

One of the earliest movies from famed director Steven Spielberg, this has lost none of its brilliance.  With three stand out performances from Scheider, Robert Shaw as a classic salty sea dog, and Richard Dreyfuss as the token shark expert – this has not only excellent casting, but also perfectly staged sequences that show, even today in the age of CGI and limitless imagination, that Jaws was something special.  Spielberg’s direction is faultless, perfectly executing every stand out moment (we’re gonna need a bigger boat!) and has brilliant camera work throughout, broken up with perfectly chosen moments of humour.  The characterisation is especially good, making this more than just a creature feature, and add to this John Williams’ amazing score (der duh, der duh, der duh…) there really is nothing to complain about here.  In my opinion one of the finest movies ever made.

This newly released Blu-ray is derived from a brand new 4k digital master, and for the most part it is very pleasing.  Some fuzziness does rear its head, especially during in door scenes or night sequences, but close-up detail and daytime scenes are actually very impressive.  It’s safe to say the movie has never looked as good as this.  The biggest wow-factor for me however is the lossless 7.1 soundtrack, with John Williams’ score packing a punch and dialogue and effects crystal clear throughout.  Some controversy has been labelled at the classic line ‘smile you son of a bitch’ as Brody fires the rifle at the end to kill Jaws, with the gunshot noise covering the ‘bitch’ part, but I thought it worked well, and have no issue with it.  Extras consist of exhaustive documentaries covering the making of the movie, including a new 8 minute look at the restoration.  Again no Spielberg commentary which always grates (he refuses to do commentaries on his work …. tutt tutt) but overall this is a worthy package for what for me at least, is one of the all time greats.

Verdict:

(the movie): 5 /5

(the Blu-ray): 4 /5

Jurassic Park


Viewed – 28 April 2012  Blu-ray

Universal Studios 100th Anniversary Edition

Not many movies have had the monumental impact with the box-office that this enjoyed during the nineties.  Directed by Stephen Spielberg, this was going to be the blue print by which all future summer blockbusters would be judged, and pioneered many of the effects we now take for granted.  Two Paliantologists (Sam Neill and Laura Dern) are called to a remote island by a wealthy tycoon (Richard Attenborough) in order to over see the imminent opening of a theme park.  Yet this one isn’t anything like Disney.  This one has living, breathing dinosaurs as it’s star attractions.  Of course something always goes wrong, and soon its a battle to survive against some of the deadliest creatures to ever roam the earth.

At its basic level, this is a monster movie, but with a director like Spielberg behind the camera, it quickly becomes so much more … uplifting, awe-inspiring, exciting as hell and to some extent magical.  He is a grand master at the high-concept picture, being responsible for the likes of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Jaws, to name but two of his many achievements.  Add to this some of the finest effects work of their day (that still look good now, even if day-time shots reveal the CGI a bit too much) and set-pieces that have become Hollywood legend (the amazing T-rex attack especially).

The movie does crawl in the quieter moments and there’s too much exposition at the start, but along with some enjoyable performances (with a memorable Jeff Goldblum) and that stirring score from John Williams … this still works magnificently and for me, remains one of the finest blockbusters ever made.

The Blu-ray picture quality whilst not jumping off the screen as I had hoped, still has enough ‘pop’ to satisfy, seems free of noise-redcution and is in pretty good condition.  More importantly the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack positively roars and really enhances a movie that for me, was always about its sound design not just its effects.  Saying that, in HD some of the CGI is showing its age, but overall this is a movie that has stood the test of time fairly well.  Extras-wise we get a 3 part documentary (not 6 part as stated on the sleeve) as well as archive featurettes, interviews and galleries.  I would have liked a Spielberg commentary, but apparently he doesn’t like doing them, so that isn’t going to happen.  Overall as a tribute to a classic movie, this could have been better, but as it stands, many fans will still find plenty to like.

Verdict:

(the movie) 4 /5

(the Blu-ray) 3.5 /5

Super 8


Viewed – 24 December 2011  Blu-ray

Current hot property J. J. Abrams (TVs LOST, Star Trek re-boot, Mission Impossible 3) is probably one of the most reliable director around at the moment, with obvious skill and cinematic knowledge going into everything he puts his name to.  Combine this with Producer Stephen Spielberg, and this one promises plenty.  Hyped as a throwback to eighties kids adventure movies like The Goonies and E.T. this offers up a cast of likable child actors and a small town setting that immediately feels familiar.

Set in 1979, a group of friends are making an amateur movie and witness a (very over the top) train crash during the filming of one scene.  Yet this was no freak accident and something not of this world was being transported onboard – and now its loose.  As the military step in to clean up the wreckage, the kids begin an investigation of their own whilst attempting to finish their movie.  This has a very nostalgic feel and captures the wonder of childhood innocence well, if not necessarily as timelessly as Spielberg has done in the likes of the aforementioned E.T. and even Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.  Something is missing, that much is evident, and although Abrams nails the performances and feel, the imitation of such material is probably done a touch too well, and at times feels very old-fashioned and dare I say it, clichéd.  Also what the movie is ultimately about is underwhelming, lacking that essential ‘magic’.  The child actors were all good though, and special mention should go to  Joel Courtney in the lead and Elle Fanning as his sort-of love interest.

This works however as a fun adventure movie, and perhaps unlike me if you don’t have a good knowledge of the movies this is clearly copying, then on its own merits, it’s good entertainment.  It must be said however that Abrams movie is lacking its own identity, and although things come together quite heart-warming at the end … I was left disappointed.

Verdict:  3 /5

Back To The Future 25th Anniversary


Just ordered the Limited Edition Collector’s Tin of The Back To The Future Trilogy: 25th Anniversary.  This is obviously the Blu-ray version.

I will let you know my thoughts on the overal picture / sound quality and what the extras consist of.  For now though, here’s some artwork from the trilogy from renowned Hollywood movie poster artist Drew Struzan … please click on his name to check out his website!!