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Posts Tagged ‘Tye Sheridan’

“READY PLAYER ONE” My rating: B
140 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

That most films based on video games suck mightily should come as no surprise…video games are all about dishing visceral thrills, not building dramatic momentum or developing characters.

This is why Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” is such a remarkable achievement. Instead of attempting to wrestle the video gaming experience into a standard dramatic format, this surprisingly entertaining entry is really just one long video game, albeit a game with so much pop-culture name dropping that geeks will spend countless hours documenting all the visual and aural references.

Think “Tron” to the nth degree.

Don’t go looking for the usual plot developments or relatable characters. The strength of  “Ready Player One” lies in its ability to create an totally plausible fantasy world that operates by its own rules.  At times the audience’s immersion in this universe is total and totally transporting.

The screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline (based on Cline’s novel) unfolds in the year 2045.  Economic and environmental disasters have left the working class chronically unemployed.  They live in “stacks,”  mini-high rises made of mobile homes resting on metal frameworks. In this world video games are the opiate of the masses — when they’re not eating, sleeping or taking bathroom breaks, the citizenry are experiencing virtual realities through 3-D goggles.

This is the world of Wade (Ty Sheridan of “Mud,” “Joe” and the X-Men franchise), a shy teen whose on-line avatar is the game-savvy Parzival.  Wade/Parzival is a devotee of The Oasis, a massive video game developed by the late programming guru Halliday (played by Mark Rylance in flashbacks) and so complex and challenging that in the years since its inception no player has come close to beating it. But millions log in daily in an attempt to find three hidden keys that will unlock Halliday’s fantasy world and grant the winner ownership of the unimaginably wealthy Oasis empire.

The challenge attracts not just individual gamers like Parzifal and on-line buddies like the hulking giant Aech or the samurai warrior Daito.  The IOI corporation and its Machiavellian director Sorrento (Ben Mendelssohn) has its own army of players who compete for the prize.   The person — or business — that solves the game’s many puzzles will in effect become one of Earth’s dominant forces.

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Tye Sullivan, Nicolas Cage in "Joe"

Tye Sullivan, Nicolas Cage in “Joe”

“JOE” My rating: B (Now showing at the Leawood)

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Nicolas Cage has for so long seemed a parody of himself that it’s a minor shock to realize that an Oscar-winning actor still lurks beneath the scenery chewing.

As the title character of the rural-Texas drama “Joe,” Cage shows he’s still got it, delivering an indelible portrait of a small-town ex-con trying to get through life without falling back into the violence that almost ruined his life.

The bearded, laconic Joe contracts with a big lumber concern to scour company forest land, poisoning trees that are of no commercial value to make way for new seedlings. He has a crew of workers – unsophisticated, rural black men, mostly – with whom he does a neat balancing act, being both the man who writes the paychecks and just one of the guys.

Gary Hawkins’ screenplay (adapting Larry Brown’s novel) isn’t densely plotted. It’s more of an extended character study.

Joe lives outside town in a nondescript farmhouse. A pit bull on a chain lives beneath the porch. He tends to drink alone at the local bar. He’s hasn’t got a regular girl – although halfway through he allows a local gal to stay with him until her trouble at home blows over. He’s known by his first name at the seedy whorehouse outside town.

At the same time, Joe appears always ready to do a good deed for someone even more hapless at negotiating life than he is. He’s no Chamber of Commerce poster boy, but he tries to keep his nose clean and do right by others.

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