Friday 20 April 2018

Cinema: Ready Player One - a pop culture geek out

Cert: 12A; Now showing

Isle of Dogs
Isle of Dogs
Paddy Considine in Journeyman

Although born of love, fandom can be so nasty. In extreme cases, the forum dwellers have a hierarchy and sometimes a collective sense of hard done-by-ness that sees them lash out at any perceived slight or inaccuracy. And Ready Player One, Spielberg's take on a beloved game culture novel by Ernest Cline (who co-wrote the screenplay) was always going to draw fire from the extremists. Their complaints are the negative buzz in the background for what is to most eyes a spectacular and enjoyable if not emotionally engaging piece of cinema.

Set in 2045, five years after the death of game-creating genius James Halliday (Mark Rylance) no one has yet found his parting gift, an Easter Egg hidden in the virtual world of OASIS that will unlock that half trillion dollar empire. Naturally everyone wants it - from individual gamers to the massive evil IOI corporation under Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).

Virtual Reality and reality are now so enmeshed that winning one means success in the other, and while people can be whoever they choose in OASIS, they are still limited by their real status. If you're poor and have substandard game gear, it's harder to get rich in OASIS, yet debt in VR can follow you into reality. When Wade Watts, aka Parzival (Tye Sheridan) a poor Halliday superfan, and Samantha, aka Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), find the first of three keys to the egg, the competition doesn't always play fair.

It's complex and the continuous exposition fuels the plot but dampens the degree to which you can feel involved. It's a pop culture geek out, but also visually stunning and good fun even for non-gamers. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Blockers

Cert: 16; Now showing

Sense of humour can vary wildly, and Blockers is unusual in that it caters for most comedy tastes, from slapstick to pun there is something to make most people laugh.

Continuing in the raunchy female-led trail blazed by Bridesmaids it is funny but it also has great heart, characters and a real emotional backbone.

Three little girls start school together and have remained best friends when they hit 18 and are about to reach that American school-ending milestone, Prom night. Julie (Kathryn Newton) is in a long-term relationship and has decided that Prom night is the night for her to lose her virginity. Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan) thinks it sounds like a plan and for slightly different reasons, Sam (Gideon Adlon) thinks she should give it a shot too. So a virginity-losing pact is born.

Their parents Lisa (Leslie Mann), Mitchell (John Cena) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) have also known each other since that first day at school but their friendship has been different.

However, when they accidentally discover the pact they set out to thwart it. There is far more nuance there and while the comedy lies in how they go about thwarting their daughters, the richness lies mostly in why.

All the performances are really good and the mixed gender perspective of director Kay Cannon and writers Brian and Jim Kehoe really adds something for both teens and parents. Probably not together though. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

Isle of Dogs

Cert: PG; Now showing

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Isle of Dogs
 

The wilful perversity of Wes Anderson's filmmaking has become as ubiquitous to cinemaland as the superhero genre. Laced with awkward pauses, achingly square aspects and a deadpan humour that is comedic Marmite, the catalogue has been nothing if not consistent since Anderson's breakthrough indie hit Rushmore (1998).

Isle of Dogs sees him return to the stop-motion frolics he succeeded so well with in Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) with a hefty assortment of A-list voice talent in tow. The setting is a future Japan, where a canine flu epidemic sees all of Megasaki's dogs exiled to Trash Island by cat-devoted Mayor Kobayashi.

The first to go is Spots, the companion dog of the mayor's orphaned 12-year-old nephew Atari. Atari steals a small plane and flies out to the island to find his beloved pooch. Initially bemused, a resident gang of mutts decide to help the boy.

Look past the irony and stark, symmetrical detachment of the aesthetic and there is something fresh, mesmeric and deeply touching about Isle of Dogs and its tale of courage and loyalty. Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansson, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Yoko Ono, Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum are just a handful of the voices you'll spot. The expressive puppetry, meanwhile, is both a circus and a quiet bow to the Japanese art of bunraku.

Essential viewing for the dog-loving hipster Kurosawa fan in your life. ★★★★ Hilary A White

Midnight Sun

Cert: 12A; Now showing

From Cinderella to Twilight, as long as there are teenage girls in this world, there will be lovesick dramas that work off the "lonely beauty meets forbidden fruit" template. Midnight Sun, a particularly mawkish addition to this long and lusty cannon, will work for its hormonal target market, but alas, few others.

Bella Thorne is Katie Price, a 17-year-old who is housebound by a rare condition that makes her dangerously intolerant of sunlight. The only taste of the outside world she gets is playing her gentle guitar strums down the local railway station by night.

She's also spent her life staring longingly from her window at local hunk Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger). She keeps this and her condition from Charlie when he happens upon her at the station and is utterly smitten by her deceptively fine fettle. Things might be looking up for our heroine, but every date with her dreamboat suitor is only a sunrise away from disaster. Cheesy as they come, Scott Speer's film does hold its ground to the end. HHH Hilary A White

Journeyman

Cert 15A; Now showing

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Paddy Considine in Journeyman
 

Although devastating, brain injury is frequently misunderstood. Paddy Considine's second outing as writer/director sheds light on a subject not often dealt with and it gives a real insight into how life is altered for everyone affected.

Boxer Matty Burton (Considine) and his wife Emma (Jodie Whittaker) know and appreciate that they have been lucky in life. After a boxing match Matty collapses and returns from hospital a much- changed man.

The film explores this from both his perspective and Emma's. The music and a few details are a little unnecessarily manipulative in a story, which with its performances, is emotionally effective enough on its own but overall it's a moving and effective look at an all too often private pain. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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