A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at Steven Spielberg’s virtual reality flick “Ready Player One,” the family drama “Mary Goes Round” and the financial documentary “The China Hustle.”
Richard joins CP24 anchor Nick Dixon to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including Steven Spielberg’s virtual reality flick “Ready Player One,” the family drama “Mary Goes Round” and the financial documentary “The China Hustle.”
Think you spend a lot of time online? Check out Wade Watts, a gamer searching for Easter Eggs in OASIS, the world’s most elaborate virtual reality game, in Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One. “Except for eating, sleeping and bathroom breaks,” says Wade, “everyone does everything in the OASIS.”
Tye Sheridan, the 21-year-old actor who plays Wade, says the film isn’t just about losing oneself in an artificial world.
“The OASIS can teach us. You may not look like the person you want to be or the avatar you want to be,” says Sheridan on a stopover in Toronto, “but you are you and there is nothing you can do about that. It’s OK to be who you are and to be comfortable with who you are.”
The story is an orgy of special effects about a technological escape from the all-too-real societal ills that make Wade’s life miserable.
“Although it is a crazy adventure, sci-fi futuristic movie,” Sheridan says, “at the core of it there is so much humanity. It is also very relatable today in 2018. I feel like the OASIS is a huge metaphor for social media and digital platforms and for people who don’t feel comfortable with who they are in the real world. Sometimes they focus more on that than they do on who they are in this realm.”
The young actor auditioned for Spielberg last year. In a quick “chemistry read” with Olivia Cooke, who had already been cast as the gunter — egg hunter — Art3mis, he shot one scene with the director in the room, operating the camera.
“I didn’t know if I would get the role or not,” he says, “but I wanted to thank him for all his movies. His movies played hundreds of times during my childhood. I think they definitely influenced me and helped become the person I‘ve become. Without him and his films, without ET, I think I would be a different kid. To work with someone who has had that impact on you and so many people like you is such a cool thing.”
A month after the try-out he got a call from his agent: “You’re going to be working with Steven Spielberg this summer.”
Working with an icon caused a case of the nerves, but only for the first day.
“It’s hard not to be nervous on the first day because as an actor in his film you are carrying his film. You want to get it right. You wouldn’t want to have a bad relationship with that guy. (Co-star) Lena Waithe said something that was really amazing and such a great way to describe Steven and how it feels to work with him — she said, ‘He’s a giant that doesn’t make you feel small.’
“He is such a leader and knows how to command a set. He’s a great collaborator and doesn’t let anything get in the way. At the end of the day it feels like you are there with someone who is equal to you. You both want what is best for the story and are passionate about what you are working on and putting two heads together to get the best result.”
As for that final result? Sheridan says he’s seen the film, with its elaborate special effects, twice. “It was still surprising,” he says, “even for me and I was there.”
You don’t have to overtax the Google machine to find negative comments about being on set with Steven Spielberg. Type in “working with Steven Spielberg” and in 0.57 seconds 20,900,000 results appear, including an article where Shia LaBeouf rants, “He’s less a director than he is a f—ing company.”
LaBeouf’s resume is dotted with Spielberg-produced or -directed films like Disturbia, Transformers, Eagle Eye and, most famously, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but if Spielberg ever does the same search it’s unlikely they’ll ever pair up again. “You get there, and you realize you’re not meeting the Spielberg you dream of,” LaBeouf told Variety. “You’re meeting a different Spielberg, who is in a different stage in his career.”
But that’s pretty much it for the negativity. There’s a story about Crispin Glover suing Spielberg for using his likeness in Back to the Future Part II and the critical drone that his films are overly sentimental, but primarily it’s LaBeouf against Spielberg and the world. Most of his other co-workers have nothing but praise for the filmmaker Empire magazine ranked as the greatest film director of all time.
This weekend he returns to theatres with Ready Player One, a sci-fi film that brings a virtual reality world called the OASIS to vivid life. Star Tye Sheridan calls the director a great and passionate collaborator who makes everyone feel equal on set. Co-star Ralph Ineson calls Spielberg “one of the most iconic figures of the last 100 years,” adding that it was difficult to takes notes from him on set. “When he is speaking to you your mind vaguely goes blank the first few times because your internal monologue just goes, ‘My god, Steven Spielberg is giving me a note.’ And then you realize you haven’t actually heard the note.”
All directors give suggestions on set, but it seems it’s the way Spielberg speaks to his actors that sets him apart.
Ed Burns remembers making a mess of several takes on the set of Saving Private Ryan to the point where Tom Hanks said to him, “I’ve seen you act before, and this isn’t acting.” Afraid he would be replaced, he got nervous and continued to blow take after take but Spielberg didn’t offer guidance. Two weeks passed. The cast started laying bets on who would be fired first.
Turns out, no one was fired and Burns learned a lesson he would later take into his own directorial efforts like Sidewalks of New York. The actor reports that Spielberg said, “I like to give my actors three takes to figure it out. If I step in after the first take and give you a note, especially with young actors, you’ll hear me rather than your own voice.”
Burns calls the experience “a life changer” adding it taught him that being a director is “about knowing when to give direction.”
The superstar director says the listening lesson was learned early in life. “From a very young age my parents taught me probably the most valuable lesson of my life: Sometimes it’s better not to talk, but to listen.”
There’s someone else Spielberg keeps in mind when making a film. “I always like to think of the audience when I am directing. Because I am the audience.”
In brand crazy Hollywood “Ready Player One,” the new sci fi film from Steven Spielberg, is an everything-old-is-new-again hybrid. Based on the novel of the same name from author Ernest Cline it’s not a reboot or reimagining of a comic book or old film. It’s an original story that may appeal to folks who say the movies only recycle ideas. At the same time it’s stuffed to the gills with enough pop culture icons to warm the hearts of any nostalgic moviegoer.
It’s 2045 and the world is a mess. Cities are a hodgepodge of dystopian horrors, overcrowded, polluted and corrupt. For the people, whatever joy can be mined from the desolate, depressing life comes from immersing themselves in a virtual reality world called OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation). “Except for eating, sleeping and bathroom breaks,” says Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), “everyone does everything in the OASIS.” Based on 1980s movies, pop culture and videogames, it’s a technological escape from the all-too-real societal ills that make life miserable. “These days reality,” Wade says, “is a bummer.”
When OASIS creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) died he created a way for Watts and his on-line Gunter pals—egg hunters—to find a way out of their IRL problems. The creator left behind an Easter Egg—if you don’t know that an Easter Egg is a hidden game message or image, give up now—amongst the game’s familiar pop culture characters. Whoever finds the three keys that unlock the Easter Egg will inherit the OASIS empire. Money, power, the whole nine yards. Watts, who lives in a vertical trailer park called The Stacks in Columbus, Ohio, along with his digital team the High Five, work to navigate the game and change their lives. In a race against time, they must beat the Sixers, an army of gamers employed by evil corporation Innovative Online Industries, in a war for control of the future.
Think your kids spend too much time playing video games? Get a load of Wade, Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), Aech (Lena Waithe), Daito (Win Morisaki) and Shoto (Philip Zhao). This crowd are best friends, although for most of the movie they have never met on terra ferma. They spend all their time on line, forming friendships, falling in love and eventually fighting for their real life lives.
“Ready Player One” takes off like a rocket. There’s a lot of set-up and Spielberg finds a way to impart information and keep it lively. He fills the screen with an industrial view of the future, contrasting Wade’s dour real life with his vivid on line adventures, visually developing the push and pull between reality and virtual reality that fuels the film’s story. A wild car race, featuring Freddy Krueger, King Kong and the Batmobile, establishes the OASIS in a way that the minutes of exposition surrounding it never could. It also establishes the film’s love of spectacle over story.
Spielberg dives deep into the VR world, intoxicated by the endless possibilities of mixing-and-matching pop culture iconography with an adventure story. When Wade says, “The limit of reality is your own imagination,” he could very well be talking to the director. The result is a frenetic film that is fun for a while but the whimsy soon gets bogged down with feverish detail. It’s a little too long, there’s too much exposition, too many twists for a story that can be boiled down to the notion that we should spend more time in the real world.
A tribute to “The Shining” is often quite fun and there are moments of levity but it isn’t about anything other than the adventure. The commentary on our own virtual lives are never expanded upon. Of a spark of on-line love between Art3mis and Wade, who hadn’t yet met outside OASIS, Art3mis says, “You only see what I want you to see. You don’t know me.” It’s a good starting point for a conversation about what happens when avatars become real people but instead we get more exposition.
“Ready Player One” is pure escapism that begs the question, Will there ever be a video game movie that really works? The function of storytelling is vastly different between videogames and film and yet filmmakers try for a amalgam, the best of both worlds. What we usually end up with is what Steven Spielberg finds in his treatment of “Ready Player One,” a film that honours the spirit of the games at the expense of great storytelling.