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First Look: READY PLAYER ONE Review

First Look: READY PLAYER ONE Review

We go into the Oasis to see what Steven Spielberg’s latest sci-fi action flick really has to offer… First Look: ready player one review by Jamie White.

I’m sure there’s a lot to like about READY PLAYER ONE. The adrenaline pumping action scenes, the unique and intriguing concept about virtual reality video gaming, the discourse it has about our current culture and gaming. The skepticism about how advanced technology can just take over our lives, and even give us an outlet to create a new life. I, however, did NOT enjoy this. At all.

You may hear that a producer will only read the first 10-20 pages of a script – all the busy people we would be pitching to, rely on a great first ten pages to convince them a script is worth reading. This script would not (or should not have) made the cut.

The constant, highly expository voice-overs from the main characters, lazily doing the heavy lifting (the world building). It was infuriating. And oh boy did the voice-over not end there. Dear God… I could go on and on about how the script let this film down, but I’m sure I won’t waste too much of your time, so here’s a quick list.

  • That exposition throughout the first ten minutes. Then when the title card finally hit I thought “Oh thank ****! The actual film can start.” What was the first thing you hear next? That’s right – another voice-over. Man, oh man, did they overuse voice-overs in this film.
  • The dialogue was incredibly cringey. Anyone could’ve written the dialogue for this.
  • Certain “twists” or reveals were uninspiring and predictable. (People’s real-life identities, for example).
  • There was no sense of time in this film – it really felt like everything happened within 2-3 hours.
  • Character relationships were rushed, and, you guessed t, incredibly conventional and stereotypical. The romantic subplot advanced to “I love you” within 5 interactions between the love interests. I mean, c’mon.

I’ll stop there before I get too frustrated, but I do just want to add on one small thing. This film was set in 2040, but there was nothing to suggest that (other than the massive virtual reality world). Every reference or cameo was to something that was made over 20 years prior. Anything from Overwatch to Sonic to Asteroids was used – but we didn’t get any notion of what 2040 pop culture was like. Maybe it’s a criticism of the huge focus on franchises, but it still felt very jarring. As was the very 80s centric soundtrack – I get why they went that route, but it felt so wrong – GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY pulled it off perfectly, READY PLAYER ONE did not. If you wanna have the 80s culture play such an integral part have the protagonist be an 80s freak – it otherwise just felt out of place.

Phew! OK, so there’s my little rant. I didn’t wholly dislike the film, but there was much in there that took me out of the experience, and that’s what killed it for me.

What did you think of READY PLAYER ONE? I hope you enjoyed more than I did!

FIRST LOOK: BRIGHT Review

FIRST LOOK: BRIGHT Review

Critics and audiences are continually growing apart when it comes to film, and that divide has been very apparent with the reaction to BRIGHT’s release via Netflix. Here’s Jamie White’s BRIGHT Review.

OK, so this is not the best film ever made. The story was lacking in places, the foreshadowing of certain plot points is heavy-handed and done with visual cues and prophecy rather than using the story. BUT, the concept is refreshing, the genre mix is intriguing, and it’s generally enjoyable film.

After being shot by an orc, police officer Will Smith returns to duty with his partner Joel Edgerton – another orc. This creates immediate conflict with the two characters – Smith’s character is wary of the partner who didn’t have his back. But there’s also the issue of race – the humans don’t like having this orc on the force, and a group of them even plot to kill him, just so he’s not one of them anymore.

Now this discourse on race may be fairly blunt, but think of it this way. The audience is made to think and confront the issues of race in our society, made literal here through the obvious race clashes between orcs and humans. But since there aren’t really orcs in our own society, they stand here as a blunt symbol for what really happens in much subtler ways in real life. The message may be blunt, but by swapping human race-differences with the orc race, audiences face up to our own issues in society.

But generally, this is such an enjoyable film. I can’t think of another film quite like it in terms of genre, tone and style – it truly is a refreshing, entertaining film.

So then why the critic hate? Well, it isn’t Oscar-worthy in any way. It has problems with its plot and its antagonist (who doesn’t really have a great impact on the story) – which we’d have definitely flagged up if this script came our way. But the critical backlash seems like a bit of an attack on Netflix and the way cinema seems to be evolving. It feels like critics are against straight-to-streaming releases, and because of that, are scoring the film down. Just my opinion, but when some critics call this film the worst of 2017 – a year which also had JUSTICE LEAGUE (c’mon, at least BRIGHT has a cohesive plot and likable characters) – something seems to be up.

I’d recommend this film to anyone trying to escape the monotony of superhero films, sequels, adaptations, dry, overdone genre films. This is something refreshing, fun, and wacky. And you know what? Will Smith’s performance was fine!

© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.

FIRST LOOK: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI Review

FIRST LOOK: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI Review

Ian Kennedy and John Sullivan both give their opinions on the latest installments of Disney’s STAR WARS film in this THE LAST JEDI review… SPOILER WARNING – there are some mild spoilers for STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI ahead.

Ian says:

I really enjoyed this one, and as a writer and analyst there was plenty to make me smile about it. Like THE FORCE AWAKENS it shows the right amount of respect and reverence to the original series and characters while pushing the familiar premise and themes firmly into a new generation and new world. At times during the battles, key characters and their craft got an easy ride – often for long unexplained periods while it was clear that they ought to be taking a lot of fire (like the others around them). Other than that, a few gimmicky jokes (“I’ll hold”) and the ultimately pointless time at a casino – which wasn’t other-worldly enough for a STAR WARS movie, and unnecessary anyway – this one worked for me.

From an analyst’s point of view, here are some of the things that were great. Somehow, ALL of the characters we care about – and there are a LOT of them now – get the right amount of screen time and strong character arcs that complement the main story. (R2-D2 only really gets one moment, but c’mon, BB8 is better anyway; the ever-annoying C3PO gets interrupted every time, and even Yoda gets another chance to mentor Luke.) We see Luke Skywalker complete his character arc from farmboy to transcendent Obi-Wan Kenobi. The lightsaber fights and the new uses of the Force are fresh and eyecatching, as are some of the uses of other tropes we’ve seen before (lightspeed, for example). There are plenty of new quirky aliens and droid moments – I liked the nuns at the Jedi temple, for example. Just as the plot and premise of THE FORCE AWAKENS mirrored the original STAR WARS (EPISODE IV), this one mirrors THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK in that it’s a long dark night of the soul for the Resistance, who are down to almost nothing by the end. This film finds new shades of grey to enrich its binary central conflict (the Resistance vs the Dark Side) – with new kinds of dilemma and battle for the hearts of the central characters, and reference to the arms dealer selling to both sides, for example. There are new kinds of heroism, self-sacrifice and resistance – contrasting the strategic rivalry between the wasteful hotshot methods of Poe, and the more subtle and clever methods employed by his superiors. All of this explores the series’ themes and conflicts further and better than before.

All in all, the movie ticks all the right boxes. Sure, not an Oscar-winner, but a great blockbuster sci-fi action adventure and a strong STAR WARS movie. And let’s be honest, those are more fun than most Oscar-winners.

Meanwhile, John says…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away there used to be amazement and anticipation surrounding STAR WARS. But after watching THE LAST JEDI I’m only left with a remarkable feeling of being underwhelmed.

It’s hard to put into words how disappointed I am with THE LAST JEDI, but I’ll do it anyway. THE FORCE AWAKENS, while not magnificently original, felt like a STAR WARS film. The plot followed the same pattern as both A NEW HOPE and THE PHANTOM MENACE, stakes were high, the new characters were well-introduced and we spent a good amount of time with one character we loved.

THE LAST JEDI was just… a whole lotta nothing. For a 2-and-a-half-hour flick, there’s a lot going on, but nothing ever really happens. The film never really expands on what it’s logline is. The last of the Resistance forces try to escape the clutches of the First Order, while Kylo Ren and Rey come into conflict with themselves and each other. You’d imagine that’s a good set-up for a STAR WARS film, right? Wrong.

There is no expansion on the story, or the characters. Whole subplots, that are made out to be vitally important and integral to the storyline are made redundant with certain character and writing decisions. Characters that were made out to be hugely important were shoved aside meaninglessly. This film just did not have an end goal in sight. There were no major consequences in the film, or rather, none that were logically formed from the plot or character decisions. We are more or less in the same spot that we were in at the start of the film thematically and in terms of the greater story – nothing of any substance happened… at all.

THE LAST JEDI was just so… sigh… What was it Yoda used to say? “Do, or do not. There is no try.” Well, there was no trying with this film’s plot.

Who do you agree with? What did you think of THE LAST JEDI? Let us know on our Twitter and Facebook pages!

© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.

FIRST LOOK: Molly’s Game Review (2017)

FIRST LOOK: Molly’s Game Review (2017)

FIRST LOOK: Molly’s Game Review (2017)

View the Molly’s Game film trailer from the  FRESH Movie Trailers YouTube channel here.

Article by guest author Jonathan Wiggins.

Prolific writer Aaron Sorkin has built his career on finding intensely creative ways to explore the fascinating and complicated stories of real-life contemporary figures. He’s done this with The Social NetworkCharlie Wilson’s War, and Steve Jobs. But this year, Sorkin has taken on his first female heroine in Molly’s Game, which explores the life and times of the phenomenally savvy woman who went from competing as a skier for the US National Team to running an exclusive high stakes illegal poker den for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by the FBI.

Sorkin’s overdue directorial debut is an electrifying adaptation of the titular Molly Bloom’s 2013 memoir of the same name, starring an equally exhilarating Jessica Chastain as Bloom and a compelling Idris Elba as her lawyer. The film has already won a handful of awards in the international circuit ahead of its mainstream premiere on Christmas Day, and is expected to fascinate and intrigue audiences for years to come.

A thrilling hand

The film revolves around the titular Molly Bloom, who suffers a career-stopping accident at a national skiing contest at the beginning of the film. The Hollywood Reporter explains that this life-derailing incident sends her down a drastically different path – which starts with law school ambitions and ultimately ends in pleading guilty to running a high-end illegal gambling ring.

Overloaded with lines and monologues of razor sharp wit (a testament, of course, to Sorkin’s love of the written word), Molly’s Game shows Bloom teaching herself about poker and the vices of rich men, first as an assistant to an arrogant real estate agent and gambling host Dean (Jeremy Strong), and later on by herself, after having cut Dean loose. She saunters through her exclusive gambling den full of the biggest names in Hollywood, riveting and unimpressed, before moving on to higher stakes and clients in New York.

Over there, the buy-in is at $250,000, and the games are twice a day, six days a week. On top of Hollywood A-Listers, her clients included rich Russians and mobsters from the criminal underworld, and as her fortune increased, so did the attentions of the authorities. An illegal gambling den as grand and as lucrative as hers couldn’t be kept a secret for long, Bloom business implodes and she is forced to face the legal consequences of her actions. The storytelling is fast-paced and tight, never failing to entertain, even at two hours long.

Poker onscreen

As Sorkin’s first-time directorial effort, Molly’s Game is well executed, thrilling, and visually intense. Fluid camera movement, clever cuts, and excellent visualization worked to add nail-biting excitement to what many consider an un-filmable sport, arguably putting Molly’s Game a step ahead of the likes of Rounders (1998) and The Cincinnati Kid (1965), which have been listed by PartyPoker as some of the greatest gambling films of all time. In fact, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich has gone on to suggest that Molly’s Game is “the first great poker movie,” commending Sorkin’s direction, which he finds is much like his writing – crisp, fast, and just a tiny bit too blunt. Chastain’s cool, cynical voiceover makes the film great as a poker procedural. However, it is Bloom’s understanding of her clients, as well as the ebb and flow of the game itself, that makes the film luxuriously entertaining, regardless of whether or not you are a poker fan.

Chastain powers her way through rapid-fire dialogue and monologues, and is a force majeure in a world full of men. She bulldozes through the role with a confidence and energy that is intoxicating to watch. The real-life Molly Bloom told the BBC that she loved Chastain’s extraordinary performance, making the entire experience of watching the film a cathartic and emotional one for Bloom.

Filmmaking, like poker, is a game that all boils down to stakes. In Molly’s Game, Sorkin is finally cashing in his chips, and we’re all excited to see his next thrilling hand.

 

Take a look at other reviews right here: https://writemovies.com/category/writing-insights/movie-reviews-tv-reviews/

First Look: JUSTICE LEAGUE Review

First Look: JUSTICE LEAGUE Review

In this JUSTICE LEAGUE review, Jamie White gives his verdict on DC’s superhero team-up and why he’d be more optimistic about seeing more DCEU films in the future…

I love DC. Their characters are rich, the storylines can be tragic, entertaining and enjoyable. I hate the DC expanded universe (DCEU). It’s been dull, gloomy, just not very comic booky, and although JUSTICE LEAGUE was a step in the right direction, it still had major problems.

The big issue is the fact that this film had two directors – Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon. Both have directed comic book films before, but both have very different styles – in fact, they’re almost polar opposites. Snyder definitely appreciates the visuals of comics more, while Whedon is all about tone and style, and while you’d think that would be a great match it really, really isn’t. These two directors’ styles clash horribly throughout the film that you can pinpoint when one scene is Snyder’s and when one is Whedon, and this makes the film feel very disjointed.

The first half of the film especially. There is no focus, no thread from one scene to another. It’s all just stuff happening. Then something else happens. But there’s no connection. Or rather, it’s a building being held together with sticky tape – the connection is there, but it’s weak. The film does pick up from around the halfway mark when a certain super man comes into the fold – it feels like we finally have a proper protagonist with more character depth. The film gains direction when Superman becomes a factor in the story, which it didn’t have before.

Now, this doesn’t redeem the film entirely – it just becomes a fairly average film with a lack of tension and consequences. Still a step in the right direction, I guess. I didn’t hate the film, but I didn’t like it. A lot of the action was poorly edited, the jokes didn’t land, and the character chemistry was just not there yet (it only really existed with Clark (Henry Cavill) and Lois Lane (Amy Adams) who of course have shared the most screen time as these characters in the DCEU.)

What I will say though is this: I was not excited to see this film, BUT it has given me some of Superman’s (newfound) hope that the franchise will improve. Let’s see what you’ve got DC…

© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.

First Look: THOR: RAGNAROK Review

First Look: THOR: RAGNAROK Review

Disney. Marvel. Superheroes. Every time I feel like I’m done with the genre, Marvel seems to release a film that draws me back in… well, a little bit. This year that film was not THOR: RAGNAROK, it was SPIDERMAN: HOMECOMING. But without Spidey’s refreshing re-introduction I wouldn’t have even thought about watching the third THOR installment.

Before the SPIDERMAN reboot, my interest in the MCU had fallen so low.

I have no strong feelings, one way or the other about these films. I didn’t care for CIVIL WAR, which I still haven’t watched, and to be honest, I don’t think I’ve missed anything from it. But there is no doubt that Marvel still produce some solid and entertaining films, even if they have no massive impact on my life.

THOR was a very nice mix of superhero, steampunk sci-fi, and comedy – a real good dose of comedy. I was impressed with how the film and director, Taika Waititi, balanced the odd blend of tone and genre. The comedy certainly had the New Zealand subtle, monotone style which Waititi employed brilliantly in one of his previous films, EAGLE VS SHARK. The comedy came naturally within the story and characters and hit all the right beats. Hell, this film might be the confirmation that Chris Hemsworth is more of a comic actor.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD… The story had a solid premise – with the death of Odin, Thor’s evil and power-hungry sister (Cate Blanchett, who is her usual brilliant self) was released from an other-worldly prison, and she was set on taking her throne back. The film takes Thor to unique and interesting places, but as with most superhero films, you don’t ever feel he’s in any danger.

THOR: RAGNAROK represents my biggest issue with the Marvel films, though. Yes, it’s solid, it’s funny, it has decent action, it keeps your attention but… it doesn’t do anything else. This is the type of movie you put on TV if there’s nothing else to watch – you don’t hate that you’re gonna watch it, but there’s better things out there. For me, that is every single Marvel film. There is no film in the entire roster, from IRON MAN to THOR: RAGNAROK where I would go “Oh man, I gotta watch this again!”

These Marvel films just don’t do anything spectacular – not really. They aim to grab and maintain the attention of most of its main demographic, and hey, they do that super well, but at some point, we (and by we, I mean me) need something a bit more different. There was some variety here, in HOMECOMING and even in ANT-MAN, but each of these felt like there were two hands on the wheel – the director and Marvel. As much as I could see Waititi’s style on THOR, or Edgar Wright’s on ANT-MAN, I could feel Marvel’s influence just as much.

THOR: RAGNAROK was a fine film, I enjoyed it, but that’s it. Each Marvel film is a solid 7 out of 10 now – they’ve got their formula and it works. But there’s no WOW factor. Sooner or later there needs to be some change, some variation in these films and the genre as a whole… otherwise, I might think about watching some DC films… OK maybe not, but you get my point!

What did you think of THOR: RAGNAROK? Was it another home run for Marvel, or just another superhero flick? Let us know on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

© WriteMovies 2017. Exclusive to WriteMovies – To syndicate this content for your own publication, contact ian (at) writemovies dot-com.