Ready Player One

posterReading the novel by Ernest Cline felt a bit like watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory – not necessarily in a bad way, but more in the way that I wasn’t exactly sure who the book is written for. The book is, at first glance, for young and old geeks who like geeky things and aren’t opposed to a bit of pulp in their fiction. That’s definitely me! But at the end of the book, I didn’t really feel anything, and it had not felt like an adventure. Maybe I’m just not of a “good enough” nerd, you might say. If you do feel inclined to say that, maybe the book’s for you.

The film, on the other hand, does away with a lot of the American Psycho-esque listing of esoteric knowledge and keeps the story grounded much more in reality, both in the reality of the characters and the reality of, well, actual reality.

Some spoilers below.

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Thor: Ragnarok

thorragnarokWhen choosing which movie to see last weekend there wasn’t really a debate. Above the cinema, and on every other bus in town, was the drab and unsettling poster for Justice League, DC’s Avengers, their first full line-up movie. I think it’s safe to say I’ve been more lenient to the DC movies than most of the reviewers I follow, but I still had absolutely no desire to see another DC outing.

The alternative was Thor: Ragnarok, the follow up to Thor: The Dark World, which is arguably near the bottom of Marvel’s film hierarchy, and God knows which number it holds in Marvels cinematic universe timeline. I should have Marvel fatigue, but I happily paid to visit this franchise yet again, knowing exactly what I was going to get, instead of giving DC the benefit of the doubt.

Setting aside the why and the how of my Marvel-tolerance, can Thor: Ragnarok be a better sequel than the first?

The review below contains mild spoilers

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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword review

arthurThere are some stories that we will never stop telling. The recent round of these stories, be it fairytales, legends or classic books, seem to lean towards the “darker and grittier” aesthetic. A lot of people complain that this is unnecessary; that it leaves the characters one dimensional, and makes the ridiculous aspects of fantasy worlds all the more obvious and harder to swallow. But there are good things to say about this “genre” of remake. For one, it occacionally looks totally badass. It also, when done right, allows otherwise “silly” aspects of stories to be reworked, which can be a good stepping stone to more nuanced versions of those stories.

The gritty remake of King Arthur was King Arthur (2004) with Clive Owen as the legendary king. It did not add much to the Arthurian legend, and only stands out in my mind due to the uproar over Keira Knightly’s photoshopped bosom on the poster. It’s a bit of an odd relic today, full of actors who would become better known later, for better or worse.

Guy Ritchie’s take on the well-known story is full of grittiness – silent screams, washed out colours, deep drumming music. In the hands of any other director it might have come out as “Batman in the 12th century”, but Ritchie has his own aesthetic, one that clashes head first into the dark fantasy version of Camelot. If you don’t like Guy Ritchie, you won’t like this film. It has all his hallmarks: parallell story, hard to follow narrators, hand held running, slow-motion, and cheeky banter. But does it lean too much in either direction? Would the story have been better served if it layed on more dark grit, or more lock stock?

Spoilers ahead.

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Dr. Strange review

strangeA photographic memory, a complicated personality, 177A Blecker street, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Which genius literary hero am I speaking of? It’s Dr. Steven Strange, the charming, flirtatious, magical doctor, played, as the universe dictates, by the equally charming Mr. Cumberbatch.

Marvel continues to stretch their opening logo-time with each success, showing off the status of their brand. They have every reason to gloat, and Dr. Strange does nothing to change that. But, does it enhance the brand? Does it lie in that good second-tier Marvel shelf, along with Ant-Man and Thor, or does it stretch up to that top shelf to be remembered among the Guardians, Winter Soldier and Thor (I’m conflicted, ok?). Read below to get my take on the shelving of Dr. Strange.

SPOILERS BELOW

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Kongens Nei – The King’s No

kongensneiIt might be strange for Americans, who fought a war to get rid of a king, to learn that Norwegians voted one in after gaining their independence peacefully. Since 1905, when Norway left the union with Sweden, our kings have been a source of pride, patriotism and fondness. This is useful in that we can all hate on our politicians as much as we like. During the Second World War King Haakon VII was used by many as a symbol of resistance against the Nazi occupation.

The King’s No is perhaps the story that cemented this sentiment in the Norwegian people. It adds as much action and epic patriotism as it can, without sacrificing too much history on the alter of Hollywood. The result is something between a History Channel reenactment (with a budget) and a biographical look into a foreign prince who became a democratically elected king.

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Hardcore Henry

hardcorehenry_posterWhile I’m a great fan of the British tv-comedy Peep Show, I’ve never been overly enthusiastic about its format. It took quite a few episodes before I could overlook the perspective filming, the constant staring into the camera from the actors, and the sometimes awkward and nauseating camera movements. Hardcore Henry is basically the last few minutes of the film Doom (2005) as a whole movie. I wasn’t convinced I could avoid throwing up, but the trailer did get me into the theater because this one I had to see.
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Only Lovers Left Alive Review

Only-Lovers-Left-Alive-Australian-Poster-copyDisclaimers are important I think, and perhaps never more so when writing about vampire movies. Personally, I enjoy them a lot, and have followed the vampire as a character, phenomenon and monster through half my life.

Vampires are more associated with sparkling, emo six-packs these days, but the vampires of Only Lovers Left Alive have much more in common with Anne Rice’s old pantheon of characters than Meyer’s more recent “evolution”. These are vampires who interacted with history, with the great writers, scientists and painters. Their endless, and sometimes tedious lives, punctuated by some cultural or scientific genius who can keep their attention for a few more decades.

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Godzilla Review

GodzillaPoster2014The trailer for Godzilla (2014) gave me actual shivers. I’ve never been a Godzilla fan, but I think I understood his potential, even while being misled by the fun but generic monster movie of 1998. When I saw the first image, I think I finally understood why hardcore fans referred to the previous Hollywood version as Godzilla In Name Only. The iconic profile, obscured in debris fog, made my anticipation rise to fanboy-levels, even though I have never seen an original Godzilla film.

You do not want to go into this movie spoiled. This film has one of the few trailers, and marketing campaigns, that hasn’t ruined anything. Suffice it to say, it’s a film about Godzilla, and there might be something else lurking around. The humans in the movie are just as important, however, if not more. You have Bryan Cranston as a nuclear engineer, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson playing his son, who is married to Elizabeth Olsen. Fun fact: they’ll be playing brother and sister, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, in the next Avenger movie, hopefully with a different kind of chemistry.

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Aronofsky’s Noah Short Review

noah-posterI remember actually enjoying certain Biblical stories as a child. My favourite was an illustrated version of Samson, which I guess technically makes him my first superhero. Hollywood once knew why the Bible was perfect for the screen, and Aronofsky is apparently the one to remind them, which he undeniably does.

The traditional story of Noah is adapted and embellished in the film, titled simply Noah. The trailer hints at a lot of the additions, but I still wasn’t prepared for how original the story looked. The rock-angels are probably the biggest surprise. Fallen angels who turn to stone upon impact, they now wander the earth being bitter about their decision to help humanity. Noah and his family are far more complex than I expected as well. This isn’t so much a story about saving the animals or surviving the flood, it’s about one man’s struggle with interpreting the Creator’s will, how his family deal with his conviction, and humanity’s capacity for good.

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