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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