In 2045, the real world is in tatters. People find their only satisfaction in the OASIS, a virtual reality simulation enabling you to be or do anything you want.
At his death, the OASIS creator leaves a challenge to the millions of users worldwide: Find three keys hidden somewhere in the program and inherit control of his estate. It’s a billion dollar golden ticket, just waiting to be found.
Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan: All Summers End) is a nobody living in the stacks, a park of trailers stacked several stories high. He has one friend, Aech (Lena Waithe: Master of None), and no money, limiting his options even in the OASIS. Playing under the tag Parzival, Wade finds the first key, becoming a celebrity in the virtual world.
Everyone wants a piece of Parzival. His avatar is famous. His crush wants to talk to him. Tech Company IOI recruits him to find the other keys. With fame and fortune, however, come problems. As the battle for control of the OASIS becomes more intense, Wade wonders who he can trust and if he’ll survive this virtual Easter egg hunt.
Filled with gaming and 1980s’ pop culture allusions, Ready Player One is beautiful, bombastic and hollow. Think of it as Willy Wonka with the candy replaced with smug video game references.
The problems begin, unfortunately, with veteran director Steven Spielberg (The Post). The plot, derived from a bestselling dystopian novel, is a jumble of scenes strung together with the thinnest of logic. References have no purpose but to make the audience feel clever for recognizing them. Performances are abominable. Sheridan is out of his league whether delivering the overly sincere monologues that infatuate Spielberg or looking tearily at the girl he loves. Ready Player One ill serves fans of both the book and good movies.
There are, however, two bright points. As Aech, Lena Waithe is a delight, bringing levity and charm to her scenes. A brilliant 10-minute sequence in the Overlook Hotel combines humor, thrills and references to The Shining.
Terrible Adventure • PG-13 • 140 mins.
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Realizing their daughters are planning to lose their virginity, three parents make a pact to keep them from having sex. As they chase the girls and their virtue through a barrage of parties and high school locales, they wonder whether their cause is worth the effort.
You know what you’re in for from Seth Rogen: There will be gross jokes, probably about sex or going to the bathroom; there will be slapstick; and there will be a heartwarming message jammed in about 10 minutes before the end.
Prospects: Flickering • R • 102 mins.
An infamous event in Kennedy family history is recreated and examined in this docudrama.
The story follows young Ted Kennedy (Jason Clarke) as he meets and subsequently causes the death of Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara).
Kennedy fans may be uncomfortable with this fascinating story of how money and power can sort out almost any problem.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 101 mins.
Personal assistant Jill LeBeau (Lola Kirke) is devoted to starlet Heather Anderson (Zoë Kravitz). That devotion is tested when a crime threatens Jill’s freedom.
This twisting tale of fame and betrayal is a modern noir with plenty of style. If you’re a fan of plot twists, diabolical character studies and intriguing mysteries, this should be well worth the ticket.
Prospects: Bright • R • 93 mins.
Isle of Dogs
When a canine flu threatens the people of a Japanese city, dogs are exiled to an island used as a dump.
A young boy flees to the island to find his banished dog. Instead he meets a group of ragtag mutts, led by feral stray Chief (voiced by Bryan Cranston). As Chief and the boy grow closer, Chief reevaluates his opinions of masters.
In Wes Anderson’s precise, gorgeous stop-motion animation film, a very particular sense of dark humor is masked in bright colors. If you’re looking for something family friendly, don’t be fooled by animated dogs — this is darker than Disney or Pixar.
Great Animation • PG-13 • 101 mins.
A Quiet Place
A family of four lives in terror and silence, as even the slightest snap of a twig will bring invading monsters barreling down upon a target.
But it’s hard to keep children quiet, and the monsters are getting closer to the family’s home.
A tense tale, A Quiet Place is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. The cast is fantastic, the story seems solid and the concept is novel. As this film depends on near silence, don’t unwrap a candy covered in cellophane.
Prospects Bright • PG-13 • 90 mins.