Monday Movies 27/07/2020

Well Phil stole my thunder for his Thursday retro/grim movie, and chose an action sci-fi movie which is neither retro or grim and really my thing, but hey ho, we’re married, give and take and all that 😊 .

Ready Player One (2018) directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tye Sheridan, who at the tender age of 23 has already carved out a career for himself in the movies. Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance are two of the more recognisable names (to me) starring in it as well.

The story, based on a novel by Ernest Cline, who also had a hand in the screenplay, is set in 2045, when the world is so devoid of much and desolate, the majority of the population use OASIS, a virtual reality software invented by James Halliday (Rylance) with his business partner Ogden Morrow (Pegg). OASIS lets people do anything they want, from surfing to travelling etc,etc. When Halliday dies he leaves behind a golden easter egg, which if found, gives the finder total control of OASIS. There are 3 keys to unlock a gate that leads to the egg, and three challenges to do in order to win a key. Sheridan plays Wade Watts, an orphan steeped in playing the game and wanting to win so he can get out of the poor living situation he is in.

Of course there are baddies, rival software company IOI who want to take over OASIS and monopolise the internet, headed by Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendlesohn). Wade has a small group of friends in OASIS who come together to try and win the game, and that’s it for spoilers.

A lot of the movie is set in the virtual world, with all the main characters having avatars, some are quite surprising as they are revealed. The world building is quite visually stunning and Spielberg remarked that “this is the most difficult movie I’ve done since Saving Private Ryan. He collaborated with George Lucas’s visual effects company to get it done, and it is class.

The ‘real’ world scenes are mostly filmed in Birmingham (England, not Alabama 🙂 ) though I’m not sure even Brummies would recognise it!

The soundtrack is really on point, with lots of references both musical and otherwise to popular culture from the 70’s through to the 2010’s, an excellent scene in the movie is when our heroes end up in a replica of the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. People have counted  well over a hundred references to films, television shows, music, toys,video games and comics from these times and it’s fun spotting them whilst watching.

It’s a full on movie, but does go on a bit in the final third, lots to see and keep track of. There’s too much going on for in-depth characterisation but it’s a great ride and good fun.

Critics mostly like it and I agree with Owen Gleiberman of variety, who said it’s a :- “coruscating explosion of pop-culture eye candy”, and found the sequence based on The Shining to be “irresistible”. However, he also criticized Spielberg’s dichotomization of fantasy and reality, as well as the film having “more activity than it does layers“.

My choice for Saturday night was a bit more mundane, 21 Bridges (2019) directed by Brian Kirk and starring Chadwick Boseman as NYPD Detective Andre Davis. He is known for hunting down and shooting cop killers, but is not comfortable with that assessment as as far as he is concerned, the criminals he killed fired on him first and so he shot them in self defence. The story really starts in New Jersey, when two ex-military chaps, Michael Trujillo and Ray Jackson (Stephan James & Taylor Kitsch) take a job to steal some cocaine holed up in a winery. This all goes tits up when they first find a whole heap more cocaine than they were expecting, and the arrival of 4 police officers. Consequently Ray shoots and kills all four cops and the winery manager. They grab mucho packs of the cocaine to sell and then drive off, but more cop cars arrive and there’s a fab car crash and loads of gunfire when Ray finishes them off too.

The two go on the run into Manhatten and Davis is given the task of tracking them down, whereby he shuts down all the bridges, and tunnels, and any airspace, so the baddies can’t leave. The ubiquitous J.K Simmons plays Captain McKenna who’s precinct the dead cops came from, and he’s pleased that Davis as a cop-killer-killer will be leading the hunt. Sienna Miller plays Frankie Burns, a narcotics detective who partners up with Davis in the chase. Anti-spoiler stoppage!

It’s a decent movie, with a good cast doing a fair job. The director paces it well, and the cinematography by Paul Cameron is top notch. There are a couple of twists which I saw coming, but it’s really not that original a story, so not surprising really.

Critics were so-so with the consensus on Rotten Tomatoes :- “21 Bridges covers its beat competently enough, but given its impressive cast, this cop thriller should be more arresting than it is.

I’d agree with that.