FlixChatter Review – Ready Player One (2018)

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Directed By: Steven Spielberg
Written By: Zak Penn & Ernest Cline
Runtime: 2hrs 20min

Before seeing Ready Player One, I had to remind myself to judge it as a stand-alone movie rather than a book adaptation. I’ve read the book several times and thoroughly enjoyed it for the most part, and I didn’t want to ruin the experience for myself by nitpicking every little difference between the book and movie. This was a good mindset going in, because it isn’t a very faithful adaptation, but it’s a decent movie on its own.

Tye Sheridan w/ Olivia Cooke, Philip Zhao and Win Morisaki

Ready Player One takes place in the year 2045, when the world has become an economic and environmental wasteland. To escape their dreary reality, people spend their time in an incredible virtual world called The OASIS. When its creator, Halliday (Mark Rylance) dies, he challenges its users to find three keys to unlock an Easter Egg that will bestow his fortune to the winner. OASIS users Wade, AKA Parzival (Tye Sheridan), Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao), and Daito (Win Morisaki) work together to find the Egg before the evil corporation IOI, led by Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), gets there first.

My biggest issue with this film is its heavy reliance on narration, especially at the beginning. I understand that it’s difficult to fit a lot of pertinent information from a novel into a film adaptation, but the rule “show, don’t tell” is important to remember, and this movie had plenty of opportunity to do so. It opens showing people in their homes in The Stacks (mobile homes literally stacked like high rises), escaping their dreary surroundings by wearing high-tech VR goggles and accessories, then shows the detailed, fantastical, hyperrealistic virtual world of the OASIS- all of which is then explained with nearly ten minutes of narration. It’s completely unnecessary. The movie has plenty to work with visually to establish the background information, and what they can’t do visually they could set up through dialogue (which, to be fair, they do sometimes); it would have felt more natural and less lazy.

Despite this, Ready Player One is still an enjoyable movie. The CGI is impressive, and there are a lot of great 80’s and 90’s visual references, some subtle and some obvious, that will appeal to nostalgia geeks. The action is beautifully animated and really sucks you in. The soundtrack is a nice blend of 80’s rock music and original orchestration that is all the sweeping schmaltz one would expect in an 80’s adventure movie from Spielberg.

The acting is excellent as well. Despite the character of Parzival/Wade being about as bland as an un-toasted slice of white bread lightly seasoned with tap water, Tye Sheridan does well with what he’s given. I was thrilled to see Olivia Cooke as Art3mis/Samantha, especially after seeing her in another film, Thoroughbreds, earlier this year. She gives a fun, genuinely passionate performance. I don’t think she and Tye have great romantic chemistry, but that might just be a writing issue, as it isn’t very well-developed. Both TJ Miller as I-R0k and Lena Waithe as Aech have several great comedic moments. Mark Rylance is delightful as the awkward but sweet Halliday. Ben Mendelsohn is satisfyingly sleazy as Sorrento, although he’s not a particularly intimidating villain; again, though, that might be a writing issue, as Mendelsohn usually pulls off villainous roles well.

If you’re hoping for a good film adaptation of the book, Ready Player One will probably disappoint you. But if you go into it expecting a fun, well-animated adventure flick, you’ll probably enjoy yourself. Despite its problems, this movie is still entertaining.

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Have you seen ‘Ready Player One’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: DUNKIRK (2017)

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After three super hero and two sci-fi films, Christopher Nolan is ready to tackle a war genre. Of the current well-known directors working in Hollywood today, Nolan might be the most popular among movie fans. He’s able to secure $150mil for his latest picture and he didn’t need to cast any big named stars to be appear in it.

In the summer of 1940, German forces successfully marched forward with their plan to take over Europe. Many British and French soldiers were forced to leave Dunkirk but help isn’t coming as fast they should. As the film begins, we see young British soldiers being ambushed by unseen enemies, one of them named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) was able to escape. He ran into some of his fellow soldiers named Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (Harry Styles). They want to leave Dunkirk and will do anything to get away and avoid their commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh). We then see a civilian named Dawson (Mark Rylance) and his son make their way into Dunkirk to help rescue the soldiers. While in the air, pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) are trying to shoot down the German planes that have been dropping bombs on the soldiers and rescuing boats.

Nolan, who also wrote the film, decided to tell the story in a non-linear way. We saw three perspectives of the event, from land, air and sea. Personally, I thought the way he constructed the story is work of genius. There have been so many WWII films through the years and I’m glad to see Nolan decided to make something that really hasn’t been done before when it comes to this genre. Shooting the film in 65mm, including IMAX cameras, this is a film that needs to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. Nolan mentioned that he wants the audience to experience what those soldiers experienced and I thought he achieved that task. Since it’s based on a real event, I was worried that Nolan might glamorize the battle scenes, thankfully that didn’t happen. The action scenes were not something I would called “entertaining” but the aerial battle sequences were great to see on the big screen.

Performances were great all around. Whitehead, Barnard and Styles were believable as young soldiers and some would call them cowards. They didn’t have a lot of dialogues so their performances were mostly about body language and facial expressions. I’ve never been a soldier or seen any real battles in my life, so I don’t know how I would react if I was in their situation. Rylance, who’s always been great in the films I’ve seen him in, shines again in this one. There’s a scene where he showed raw emotion that I don’t think many actors can achieve. Hardy spent most of the film in the plane and technically he’s the “hero” of the story. Lastly, Branagh’s great as always. He conveyed a man who’s in total control even though he knew he might lose his men in any moment.

This isn’t the kind film where there are character developments and there’s no plot to speak of. Nolan wants the audience to experience the horror that happened during this event and to me he succeeded. Just like his previous film Interstellar, this one it’s being shown on various formats. Nolan’s preferred formats are 70mm IMAX or regular 70mm. If there’s a 70mm IMAX theater near where you live then I highly recommend you see it there.

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So have you seen DUNKIRK? Well, what did you think?

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Trailer Spotlight: DUNKIRK (Trailer #1)

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Happy Wednesday! It feels like a sluggish past few weeks… especially when I got barely ANY vacation left through the end of the year. My European friends, you guys are lucky you get at least a month worth of vacation, I mean I’ve worked in the same company for a decade and only got three weeks of vacation :\ But hey, I’m seeing Rogue One tonight, so at least that adds an extra spring in my step in these cold, frigid Winter days!!

It’s been ages since I did some community links… so let’s get to it!

Jordan reviewed the music documentary of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, One More Time With Feeling

Margaret reviewed the last episode of Westworld (can’t wait to binge on this later this month)

I love it when a fellow blogger reviewed a little-seen indie gem I happen to enjoy. Steven reviewed the Welsh comedy Hunky Dory

Glad someone else thinks this film deserves to be seen. Brittani reviewed Loving 

Vinnie reviewed one of my Blind Spot picks (that I haven’t yet to see), The Big Sleep

Well, it’s that time of the year! Chris asked fellow bloggers ‘What’s their favorite Christmas movies?’

Last but not least… Courtney reviewed critical darling of the year La La Land (and from her headline I think you know full well how she feels)


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Well it seems that every movie out of Christopher Nolan is a big event… and DUNKIRK is no different. I’ve been excited for this for a while. I posted the teaser trailer here back in August, but now we finally got the full first trailer. Behold…

Woof, this gives me goosebumps! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film dedicated to the brutal event in Dunkirk, France. The only one I remember vividly was this scene in Joe Wright’s Atonement, with its stunning tracking shot. But it’s such a pivotal moment in WWII history, and if there’s a director who could do it justice on the big screen, it’d be Chris Nolan!

As always, Nolan’s always assembled top notch cast for his epic films…

  • Tom Hardy
  • Kenneth Branagh
  • Cillian Murphy
  • Mark Rylance
  • James D’Arcy
  • Aneurin Barnard

I love all of those actors, including my recent discovery (read: crush), Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard! Sorry I don’t care for that kid from the famous boy band, but surely it’ll bring a ton of teenyboppers to see this. So Tom Hardy plays a fighter pilot, but I hope he gets to talk in this movie? Yes it seems to be another male-dominated Nolan film, which made me think perhaps Nolan’s next movie should be a female ensemble cast? 😉


Visually this movie just looks epiiiiic! It’s shot in IMAX 65 mm and 65 mm large format film stock by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema who also worked with Nolan in Interstellar (though my fave work of his is the visually-stunning Her). Does that mean he’s done working with his longtime cinematographer Wally Pfister?? But looks like Nolan regular Hans Zimmer is back scoring this film.

It’d be amazing to behold how Nolan recreated the harrowing chaos of Allied forces who are surrounded by German army. It’s more than just staging a spectacle of aerial bombardments wreaking havoc on the beach and the ocean, destroying troops and sinking Allied ships. It’s also a tale of hope… as the evacuation is also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk. Per Wiki, on the first day of the evacuation, only 7,669 men were evacuated, but by the end of the eighth day, a total of 338,226 soldiers had been rescued by a hastily assembled fleet of over 800 boats.

I’m not usually a huge war movie fan just because I can’t handle the brutality, but yet I’m looking forward to this.


What do you think of the the first DUNKIRK trailer? 

Five for the Fifth: JANUARY 2016 Edition

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Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Well, since it’s the first Five of the Fifth of 2016, I’ll just start with something easy as I reckon it’s still fresh in your mind.

For me, the last one I saw last year was The Force Awakens and the first one of the year was this masterfully-crafted German noir drama Phoenix that I saw on Netflix. I still can’t get it out of my head how beautiful and mesmerizing it was, I can’t recommend it enough folks!

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A disfigured concentration-camp survivor (Nina Hoss), unrecognizable after facial reconstruction surgery, searches ravaged postwar Berlin for the husband (Ronald Zehrfeld) who might have betrayed her to the Nazis.

What’s the last film you saw in 2015 and the first film you saw in 2016? 
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2. Now that I’ve posted my Top 10 films of 2015, it made me think about films that early in the year I thought would likely make my list. Of course we have our list of most-anticipated movies, and we set our expectations high on them. But then as the year wind down, those films barely even crack your top 20!

MacbethStill3For me that film was Macbeth which I thought I’d love given that I usually enjoy Shakespeare. But I find it too tedious and didn’t have the emotional oomph I was looking for. As a friend said to me after the screening, ‘beautiful but boring.’ Oh and Spectre, given that Skyfall was in my top 10 of 2012 the fact that it doesn’t even merit an Honorable Mentions is disappointing.

On the flip side, there are films that critics absolutely loathe than I actually didn’t think was all THAT bad. Case in point: Agent 47. I actually had a good time watching that and liked it more than the first remake from a few years ago.

So, what’s the biggest film surprise of 2015, either good or bad?

3. Five days into the new year, I’m already setting my sights on 2016 films! Despite being dismayed time and time again by my own expectations, I still can’t help anticipating upcoming movies!

Well, it should be no surprise to anyone that the Star Wars fever is as high as ever, just like many things in life, everything old is new again 😉 According to Fandango survey, apparently Star Wars: Rogue One, a spin-off of the saga already tops the list of most anticipated movies of 2016! (per Variety)

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I’m surprised that Dawn of Justice is more anticipated than Captain America Civil War [huh?]  As for ‘Most Anticipated Comic Book Character Debuting in a Major Role,’ at the top of the list is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and I’m on board with that. I think she’ll be good in the role, but she probably won’t get to do much until her standalone film in 2017.

I’ll be making a list of movies I’m anticipating later this year, but the films I look forward the most in 2016 is pretty much anything my crush Stanley Weber is in [natch!], I don’t care if he’s sporting a dorky haircut as a Cistercian priest!Pilgrimage_still

Stanley’s supposedly got a few films out that’s due out later this year but the most likely one I’ll be seeing first is Pilgrimage with Richard Armitage, Jon Bernthal (who’s playing the Punisher in Daredevil) and Tom Holland (aka the new Spider-man).

Let’s put the big-budget ones aside for a moment, what’s an indie film you look forward to the most this year?
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4. Ok now we’d have to wait two years to see this one but I was excited about it when I read this during my vacation in late December. Even though I wasn’t totally blown away by Interstellar, but Christopher Nolan is still one of my fave directors so naturally I’m still curious what he’ll tackle next.

Apparently French newspapers first reported the news upon learning that Nolan and his brother, screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, had been scouting location in Dunkirk. Per Variety, Nolan will direct Dunkirk from his own original screenplay as his next project. Nolan will also produce the film with his longtime producing partner and wife, Emma Thomas.

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The story is set during the legendary evacuation of the northern French city during WWII. Nolan and his casting department recently began testing teenagers in London for lead roles, but the director also wanted to nail down some choices for the few adult roles in the film before the holiday.

Now, the adult roles casting certainly piqued my interest greatly. Three of them are on my MVP list of 2015, with Kenneth Branagh as director of Cinderella. Anything with Tom Hardy is fantabulous in my book, this will mark the third time he’ll be working with Nolan after Inception and The Dark Knight Rises. Mark Rylance is phenomenal in Bridge of Spies. He’s a versatile actor who I think will elevate everything he’s in. I’d love to see a strong female performer (or two) among the cast as well, hopefully the script isn’t just strictly ‘boys only’ story.

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Warner Bros. has dated the film for July 21, 2017. It’s certainly a project I’ll be keeping an eye on.

Thoughts about this project and its casting?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Ted S. It’s a two-part question, so here goes.

What are your favorite TV shows that don’t have re-watchable appeal? For example, I love The Walking Dead, Justified, Breaking Bad and The Americans but I have no desire to watch the episodes I already saw.

On the flip side, I can re-watch many of my favorite films. So for the second part question, what are your favorite films that you can watch over and over again?


Well, that’s it for first 2016 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Weekend Roundup + Mini Review of Bridge of Spies (2015)

What a weekend it’s been! It’s just three days until Twin Cities Film Fest kicks off Wednesday night 10/21 so naturally my week and the entire weekend is filled with preparation for the festivities.

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve likely seen me tweeting up a storm about TCFF, so yeah clearly I’m excited 😛

The TCFF programmers have traveled to Austin, Los Angeles, & New York in search of great movies this year… the result is an awesome lineup of more than 100 premieres, including a bunch that have huge awards buzz. I’ve highlighted some of those must-see films here, but I’ve also made a list of MN-connected films that I can’t wait to see – from comedies, dramas, thrillers, docs, there’s definitely something for everyone, cinephiles or otherwise.


This weekend happened to be a perfect Fall day here in MN, with seasonably cool temps and ample of bright sunshine both Saturday and Sunday. So I did get a chance to get out and be outdoors before I’m cooped up inside a theater watching a whole bunch of movies. I LOVE Autumn in Minnesota… the fall colors is just absolutely gorgeous!!


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The last Steven Spielberg film I saw was War Horse, which was back in 2011. I haven’t got around to seeing Lincoln but for some reason, I haven’t been um, compelled to see it. Spielberg is back to yet another based-on-a-true-story historical drama, about an American insurance lawyer who’s recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help arrange a prisoner swap when a rescue a pilot is detained in the Soviet Union.

Bridge of Spies is the kind of slow-burn espionage thriller in the vein of a John le Carré’s adaptation, so if you’re expecting an action-packed movie a la James Bond or Jason Bourne then you’re likely disappointed. But the lack of action doesn’t mean there’s lack of suspense and the Cold War intrigue is ever present. I don’t think a film needs to be violent to build tension, and Bridge of Spies is proof of that. The film lives up to the title as well as the pivotal scene on the Glienicke Bridge is certainly memorable.

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Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as James B. Donovan, channeling Jimmy Stewart as a virtuous and effortlessly likable everyman who’s more shrewd and skillful than meets the eye. There’s an unsubtle message about defending an American value that everyone deserves a fair shake, but yet it doesn’t feel preachy thanks to Hanks’ portrayal. Hanks is in nearly every frame of the film, but English actor Mark Rylance is equally brilliant as the Soviet spy Rudolf Abel. In fact, he’s quite the scene stealer right from the opening scene. Abel’s relentlessly-unperturbed demeanor is part of what makes his character so intriguing. I love that the film also takes the time to show us the unlikely friendship of these two characters.

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Out of a decent ensemble of supporting cast, Amy Ryan stood out as Hanks’ wife, a role that would’ve been utterly forgettable in less capable hands. The script is co-written by the Coens, who infused it with a dose of wity humor to break the tension that make all those dialog scenes sprightly. Visually speaking, the set design looks realistic, especially all the Berlin scenes just right after WWII. The cinematography by Spielberg’s frequent collaborator Janusz Kaminski is stunning to look at, especially the rainy scenes that echoed a memorable scene in The Road to Perdition that also starred Hanks. The music by Thomas Newman perfectly complements the tone of the film, I’ve come to expect that Spielberg movies usually have memorable scores.

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There are slower moments, but overall this film was pretty engrossing. This is definitely another Spielberg/Hanks fruitful collaboration and clearly the two have formed a great rapport over the years. I didn’t know anything about the protagonist, but Mr. Donovan’s story is definitely worth telling. Unlike some of le Carré’s spy stories though, this film is pretty straightforward and easy to follow. There’s an earnest quality about Spielberg directing, the lack of cynicism in the way he tells the story that some people might call conventional. But I admire that sincerity that Spielberg and Hanks are known for, and there’s a great deal of measured and astute work from the both of them.

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Have you seen Bridge of Spies? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: The Gunman (2015)

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Sean Penn has been out of the limelight for a few years, so in order to get people talking about him and promotes his new movie; he decided to tell some lame joke at the Oscars. Kudos to his PR team, after the so-called “offensive” joke, Penn is relevant in Hollywood again. Now it remains to be seen if his off color joke will get people to go see his new action picture.

The movie opens with a flashback to 2006, Jim Terrier (Penn) is a humanitarian working in Congo with his buddies Felix (Javier Bardem) and Cox (Mark Rylance). Terrier also has a girlfriend named Annie (Jasmine Trinka), she’s also part of his team of do-gooders. What she doesn’t know is that Jim, Felix and Cox are a bunch of assassins working undercover. They’ve been assigned to take out an important political figure that their boss wanted to get rid of. After he assassinated Congo’s Minister of Mines, Jim disappeared and told Felix to look after Annie.

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Fast forward to present day, Jim is still working as a do-gooder in Africa, but things got dicey when some armed men came after him, of course being a super assassin, he took them out easily. Alarmed after the attack, Jim sets out to London to see his old buddy Cox, who’s now working as a top executive at some big corporation. Jim suspects that their mission back in 2006 has been compromised and it’s the reason why he’s being targeted. Cox is skeptical but assured Jim that he’ll look into this matter. After a brief stay in London, Jim heads to Spain to see Felix, who’s now married to Annie. Things got messy when assassins showed up at Felix’s house and now Jim and Annie are on the run. The rest of the movie is about Jim trying to figure out who’s after him and keeping Annie safe. This being an action movie, there has to be some shootouts and explosions between the boring scenes. And that’s the problem with this movie, it’s so boring! There’s nothing interesting about the plot or any of the characters, by the time the true villain is finally revealed, we the audience already figured out before the hero did. Not only was the movie boring, it also took itself way too seriously.

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Not known for being in action pictures, Penn was actually decent as an action hero. It’s obvious he worked out for a long time to prepare for this role, because he can’t seem to keep his shirts on in a lot of scenes. He also looked good in fight scenes, particularly a brutal hand-to-hand combat in the climatic sequence. But again he seems to take the role too seriously and doesn’t look like he has any fun with it. Being that he’s also the producer and co-writer, he must’ve demanded that he’s on the screen 99% of the entire run of the movie. I’ve never seen Jasmine Trinka in anything before this movie and she was okay as the damsel in distress, but it’s kind of creepy seeing her as the leading lady to a man who’s old enough to be her father. Bardem pretty much phoned in his role since it’s nothing more than a cameo. Ray Windstone might be the only one who seems to get what the movie should be about and had a lot of fun with his sidekick role. Fans of Idris Elba will be disappointed, he didn’t show up until the last 20 minutes or so of the movie and he’s more like a cameo. Although for those who wants to see him as 007, the filmmakers did give a little wink by naming his character with initials JB.

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I don’t know how much control director Pierre Morel has during the production, but he was going for the 70s espionage thrillers mix in with the Jason Bourne flicks and the result was a disaster. The pacing was very slow, about 20 to 30 minutes should’ve been edited out. What’s worse was that he shot most of the action scenes in that shaky cam up close style that I can’t stand. I still don’t understand why some directors still uses this kind of style, what’s the point of making action movies if you’re not going to show the action? The only good action sequence was the bloody hand-to-hand combat between Penn and an assassin. I won’t even go into the script because it’s so generic that most people can figure out what’s going on.

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This could’ve been a good action thriller if it didn’t take itself too seriously because I think Penn was believable as the action hero. But it’s obvious he has hidden agenda by making this movie. By masking it as an action picture, he probably thought he could get the message out to a wider audience. Unfortunately though, the movie was poorly written and directed. With a better script and tighter editing, it could’ve been good.

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Have you seen The Gunman? Well, what did you think?