READY PLAYER ONE (2018) – Cinematic References Best Part of this Fantasy Tale

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I’m not a gamer. I don’t play video games, and I haven’t read the book  Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and so my interest in seeing READY PLAYER ONE (2018) the new fantasy adventure by director Steven Spielberg, was purely for cinematic reasons.  That’s right. I saw this one simply because I wanted to see the movie.

So, as a movie, how does READY PLAYER ONE size up? Not bad.  For the most part, it’s a fairly entertaining two-plus hours at the movies, even if it’s telling a story that is about as compelling as a game of Donkey Kong.

The best part of READY PLAYER ONE is all the cultural cinematic references. After all, where else can you find King Kong, MechaGodzilla, and the Iron Giant all in the same movie?  Where else can you have your characters enter a world based on Kubrick’s THE SHINING (1980)?  The answer is READY PLAYER ONE! These and other references and nods [including to ALIEN (1979) and LOST IN SPACE (1965-68)]  are what kept me most interested in this movie, long after I lost interest in its story.

Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) lives in 2045, a time when life is so hard people need to escape from reality, and they do so by entering the OASIS, a virtual reality world created by the brilliant James Halliday (Mark Rylance) where pretty much anything can happen. You can be whoever you want to be and do whatever it is you want to do. So, Wade plays in this video game world as a handsomer version of himself known as Parzival.

Halliday has since died, but he’s left a challenge to all the players in the OASIS: he has left three keys inside his virtual reality world, and the player who finds all three keys will unlock the game’s secret and become controller of the entire OASIS.  Wade and his friends make it their goal to do just that, but they’d better hurry because an evil company led by a man named Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) has other ideas.

And that’s the story.  This one’s certainly not going to win any awards for Best Screenplay, that’s for sure.

Visually READY PLAYER ONE is a lot of fun, and Spielberg keeps the action fast, bright, and playful.  I have no problem with this part of the movie.

The cast is okay, even though they don’t have a whole lot to work with. Tye Sheridan is decent enough in the lead role as Wade/Parzival, but the character as written in this movie is rather dull, and Sheridan doesn’t really bring this young man to life.  Both his parents have died, yet this grief barely resonates in the story.

Olivia Cooke fares better as Samantha, who becomes Wade’s best friend and eventual love interest.  Samantha is also a kick-ass character who is much more interesting than Wade.  I like Cooke a lot and have been a fan since I first saw her on the TV series BATES MOTEL (2013-17) and also in the Hammer horror movie THE QUIET ONES (2014).

Ben Mendelsohn plays the cardboard villain Sorrento who acts like he walked out of an old Scooby Doo cartoon.  Mendelsohn played a much more effective villain, Orson Krennic, in ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016).

I did enjoy T.J. Miller as Sorrento’s henchman I-ROk, as he provides the film’s best bits of comic relief.  Miller was recently in DEADPOOL ((2016), but I always remember him as Hud, the frightened yet frequently hilarious guy behind the camera in CLOVERFIELD (2008).

Mark Rylance, either hidden under lots of hair or CGI effects in the OASIS, is quiet and unassuming as the gaming genius Halliday, but Simon Pegg as Halliday’s business partner Ogden Morrow is little more than an afterthought.  These two fine actors really don’t get a whole lot of chances to do much in this movie.

The screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, who wrote the novel, is straightforward and pretty much tells a by-the-numbers plot.  Teens have to save the world from an evil meddling company while learning about the man who created their favorite game and about themselves as well.

At times, the film feels like a cross between TRON (1982) and WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971). In fact, it’s been reported that Spielberg had approached Gene Wilder to play Halliday, before the iconic comedic actor passed away.  Its nonstop video game landscape is mixed with a syrupy sweet nostalgia tale that makes for lightweight fare, as opposed to a hard-hitting fantasy adventure.

There’s not a lot of memorable dialogue either. And the action scenes, while visually stunning, were pretty tame.

READY PLAYER ONE is chock-full of fun cinematic, video game, and cultural references, especially from the 1980s, and it’s a treat for the eyes, as it’s full of colorful alternate reality landscapes, but its story is meh and often falls flat.  For example, for nearly its entire 140 minute run time, we are immersed inside its virtual reality world, yet at the end, we are treated to a message that says the real world is still more important and interesting, which after all that came before it simply sounds hollow and forced.

READY PLAYER ONE is a colorful diversion if you have 140 minutes to spare.  If not, feel free to spend some time outside instead.  In the real world.

—END—

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Lists: Gene Wilder

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Gene Wilder shrieking “Give my creation, life!” in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).

Welcome to another edition of MOVIE LISTS, the column where you’ll find lists of odds and ends about movies.  Today, we look at films starring Gene Wilder.

Wilder, who passed away on August 29, 2016, was one of the most popular comic actors on the planet between 1974-1982.  Here is a partial list of his film credits:

THE PRODUCERS (1967)- Leo Bloom- if you’ve seen this Mel Brooks comedy, you’ll remember Wilder as the neurotic producer who can’t handle it when the sure-fire flop he and co-producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) plan— a musical about Hitler— becomes a surprise hit.  Wilder at his unstable best.

START THE REVOLUTION WITHOUT ME (1970) –  Claude/Philippe – Having fun with Donald Sutherland during the French Revolution.

WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971) – Willy Wonka – Wilder is excellent in the lead in this Roald Dahl fantasy.  I believe this is the first Gene Wilder movie I ever saw, although it’s not the movie that made me a fan.  That would happen with YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.

EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK (1972)- Doctor Ross.  Wilder is hilarious here as a man who falls in love with a sheep in this wacky yet uneven Woody Allen comedy.  I saw this years after it came out, probably in the early 1980s when I was in college.

BLAZING SADDLES (1974) – Jim – another Gene Wilder/Mel Brooks classic that I didn’t see until years after its release, again in the early 1980s.  I was only 10 in 1974, and BLAZING SADDLES was Rated R, which meant it was off limits to me.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)- Dr. Frederick Frankenstein – this one I did see shortly after it came out, as it was rated PG, and it’s the movie that made me a lifelong Gene Wilder fan.  So many amazing memorable moments in the movie, generated by Wilder and the entire cast, and of course writer/director Mel Brooks.  Among my favorite Wilder bits:  “You just made a yummy sound,” “Put the candle back,”   and “I thought I told you never to disturb me while I’m working!”  

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Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).  Hello, handsome!

THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES’ SMARTER BROTHER (1975)- Sigerson Holmes- Funny film, but tried too hard to follow the same formula as YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN with inferior results.  Wilder’s directorial debut.

SILVER STREAK (1976) – George- Wilder’s first pairing with Richard Pryor.  Probably my second favorite Gene Wilder movie behind YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.

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Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder

THE WORLD’S GREATEST LOVER (1977) -Rudy Hickman- Not one of my favorites.  This was the second film Wilder directed, after THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES’ SMARTER BROTHER. The jokes just aren’t as sharp this time around.

THE FRISCO KID (1979)- Avram-  This has always been one of my favorite Gene Wilder roles and movies.  Wilder plays a rabbi on an adventure in the wild west in this unlikely charmer by director Robert Aldrich.  Co-starring Harrison Ford.

STIR CRAZY (1980) – Skip Donahue – Wilder’s second pairing with Richard Pryor might be their funniest.  Directed by Sidney Poitier.

HANKY PANKY (1982) – Michael Jordon – Wilder co-stars with future wife Gilda Radner in this box office disaster originally written to feature both Wilder and Richard Pryor again.  Once more directed by Sidney Poitier.  Wilder considered this to be one of his worst movies.

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Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder

THE WOMAN IN RED (1984) – Teddy Pierce – Another one of my favorites.  Wilder becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman in red played by Kelly LeBrock in this amiable romantic comedy.  Co-starring Charles Grodin and Gilda Radner.  Wilder directed and co-wrote this remake of a French movie, which might be his best directorial effort.

HAUNTED HONEYMOON (1986) – Larry Abbot-  Wilder once more directs himself and wife Gilda Radner, in what would be both his final directorial effort and last movie that he and Radner made together.  Not surprisingly, this unfunny film bombed at the box office.

SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL (1989) – Dave Lyons-  Wilder’s third pairing with Richard Pryor, directed by Arthur Hiller, who also directed Wilder’s/Pryor’s first pairing, SILVER STREAK.  Early film role for Kevin Spacey.

ANOTHER YOU (1991)- George/Abe Fielding – Wilder’s fourth and final movie with Richard Pryor.  This was also Wilder’s final theatrical release.  He would make four more movies, all of them made for TV.

Okay, there you have it, a partial list of the movies starring Gene Wilder.

Gene Wilder – June 11, 1933 – August 29, 2016

Thanks for reading everybody, and I’ll see you again next time for another MOVIE LISTS column where we’ll look at more odds and ends from the movies.

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)

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Some of the funniest conversations in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) occur between Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) and Igor (Marty Feldman).

Some of the funniest conversations in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) occur between Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) and Igor (Marty Feldman).

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN   (1974)

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Michael Arruda

It’s one of the funniest movies of all time, and it’s the subject of today’s MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES column, the column where we look at fun quotes from some memorable movies.  The film is YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, Mel Brooks’ hilarious spoof of the old Universal Frankenstein movies.  It’s absolutely hilarious and works on every level. Nearly every joke works.

Seriously, there are so many memorable lines from YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, there’s not enough space in one column to cover them all.  We will definitely have to re-visit YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN in future MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES columns.

Some of the best lines are between Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) and Igor (Marty Feldman), and so in this column we’ll focus on the conversations between these two characters.

Here’s a look at some memorable lines from YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, screenplay by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder:

 

When Dr. Frankenstein and Igor first meet, they have this discussion regarding their names:

IGOR: Dr. Frankenstein…

DR. FRANKENSTEIN:  Fronkensteen.

IGOR:  You’re putting me on.

DR. FRANKENSTEIN:  No, it’s pronounced “Fronkensteen.”

IGOR:  Do you also say “Froaderick”?

DR. FRANKENSTEIN: No… “Frederick.”

IGOR:  Well, why isn’t it “Froaderick Fronkensteen”?

DR. FRANKENSTEIN: It isn’t. It’s “Frederick Fronkensteen.”

IGOR:  I see.

DR. FRANKENSTEIN: You must be Ee-gor.

IGOR;  No, it’s pronounced “eye-gor.”

DR. FRANKENSTEIN:  But they told me it was “ee-gor.”

IGOR:  Well, they were wrong then, weren’t they?

 

And later, this funny bit in a horse and wagon with Dr. Frankenstein, Igor, and Victor’s female assistant Inga (Teri Garr) on their way to the castle:

 

(A wolf howls)

INGA:  Werewolf!

DR. FRANKENSTEIN: Werewolf?

IGOR:  There.

DR. FRANKENSTEIN: What?

IGOR:  There, wolf. There, castle.

DR. FRANKENSTEIN: Why are you talking that way?

IGOR: I thought you wanted to.

DR. FRANKENSTEIN: No, I don’t want to.

IGOR:  [shrugs] Suit yourself. I’m easy.

 

One of my favorite Igor moments in the film is when he gives this advice to Frederick Frankenstein, who’s sad that his initial experiment to create life has failed.

IGOR: You know, I’ll never forget my old dad. When these things would happen to him… the things he’d say to me.

FRANKENSTEIN: What did he say?

IGOR:  “What the hell are you doing in the bathroom day and night? Why don’t you get out of there and give someone else a chance?”

Igor then returns to eating silently.

 

A bit later at the dinner table:

IGOR: (referring to the dessert): What is this?

FRANKENSTEIN: Schwartzwalder Kirschtorte.

THE MONSTER (off-camera): Mmmmm!

FRANKENSTEIN:  Oh, do you like it? I’m not partial to desserts myself, but this is excellent.

IGOR:  Who are you talking to?

FRANKENSTEIN: To you. You just made a yummy sound, so I thought you liked the dessert.

IGOR:  I didn’t make a yummy sound. I just asked you what it is.

FRANKENSTEIN:  But you did. I just heard it.

IGOR:  It wasn’t me.

INGA:  It wasn’t me.

FRANKENSTEIN:  Well, now look here. If it wasn’t you, and it wasn’t you…

THE MONSTER (off-camera):  Mmmmmm!

 

Here is one of the most famous exchanges in the film, the classic bit where Dr. Frankenstein finds out just what kind of brain Igor has collected for him:

FRANKENSTEIN:  Now that brain that you gave me. Was it Hans Delbruck’s?

IGOR (pauses): No.

FRANKENSTEIN: Ah! Very good. Would you mind telling me whose brain I did put in?

IGOR:  Then you won’t be angry?

FRANKENSTEIN: I will not be angry.

IGOR:  Abby someone.

FRANKENSTEIN: Abby someone. Abby who?

IGOR:  Abby… Normal.

FRANKENSTEIN: Abby Normal?

IGOR:  I’m almost sure that was the name.

FRANKENSTEIN (chuckles): Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven and a half foot long, fifty-four inch wide gorilla?

(Grabs Igor and starts shaking and strangling him.).  Is that what you’re telling me?

 

And to finish, one of my favorite silly bits in the whole movie:

IGOR:  Where are you going?

FRANKENSTEIN:  To wash up. I’ve got to look normal.  (As he says this, his bow tie pops open, making him look ridiculous.) We’ve all of us got to behave normally.

 

And that’s it for now. We’ll re-visit YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN in a future column.

Thanks for joining me today, and I’ll see you next time on another edition of MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael