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Ready Player One: A New World for Readers and Characters

When I saw the trailer for the cinematic adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, it almost deterred me from reading the novel. But what seemed like an archetypal hybrid of Tron and Divergent is in fact its own body of work, with unique ’80s culture references, vast world building and most importantly, a story centered around a nerdy, ordinary boy. The book follows protagonist Wade in a near future, roughly 2045, where the world is plagued with hunger, famine and climate change. To escape these harsh realities, people enter an augmented reality world known as the OASIS, where anyone can be anyone; regardless of their past status or background, individuals can make a new life for themselves, choosing where they work, how they live and what they eat. We learn that the founder of the OASIS has died and left behind a tournament in which gamers can search the OASIS for three keys that unlock three gates to find an easter egg.

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GUEST ROOM | An Ode to The Dude

Many of us are easily familiar with the name “Lebowski.” When we hear it, we think of bathrobes, bowling balls and buddy-love between John Goodman’s Walter and Jeff Bridges’ The Dude. With its one-of-a-kind storyline and its clever comedic interjections, The Big Lebowski has become a household film title, an easy answer to the ice-breaker question “favorite movie?” and a classic go-to choice when you and your friends couldn’t agree on anything else to watch on Netflix. But the film has not always been held in such high regards. Twenty years ago, when it was first released, The Big Lebowski was met with dissatisfaction and criticism. The reviews were mediocre at best, and in the box office, it was far from a hit.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

I Can’t Stay Quiet About A Quiet Place

Less is more. That seems to be the spirit behind A Quiet Place. Directed by John Krasinski, with a story by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, the film sticks with a simple premise. It keeps a tiny cast of characters and, as is usual for horror, a relatively small budget of $17 million. It’s a lean pool of resources.

Ready Player One: A Visual Stunner

Trying to adapt Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One was going to be a challenge for any director, even a veteran one like Steven Spielberg. Released in 2011, Cline’s debut was filled with pop culture references that were indicative of the decade it was written in, though he also sprinkled in a plethora of ’70s-’90s references as well. Yet because the film adaptation is gracing screens seven years later, what was seen as contemporary back then is now outdated. Spielberg thankfully does not force characters from 2018’s popular zeitgeist to interact with the characters Cline used in his novel. Ready Player One is surprisingly able to revel in the nostalgic excess that made the novel so popular in the past, yet it explores thought-provoking themes about virtual reality, climate change and escapism present in today’s society.

Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi), Goergy Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor), Lazar Kaganovich (Dermot Crowley) and Lavrenti Beria (Simon Russell Beale) in The Death of Stalin.

Should We Laugh at The Death of Stalin?

I’d say we all enjoy political comedy now and then. Whether it’s making fun of Hillary Clinton dabbing or making fun of anything Donald Trump tweets, nothing feels as good as teasing those in power. So, when I first saw ads for The Death of Stalin, I was thrilled. It’s a British film based on the French comic La mort de Staline, and only recently opened here in the United States. The film has some weak points here and there, but manages to deliver plenty of laughs and has a good heart.

Drawing by Sophie Zheng

Pacific Rim Uprising: A Feast for Eyes, Not Heart

Even with a Kanye West endorsement and an all-star cast, many believed Guillermo Del Toro’s mecha-monster film Pacific Rim would bomb when it was released in 2013. While it is unfortunate that the guileless thrills of seeing giant monsters brawl equally colossal robots no longer excites as it used to, Del Toro’s eye for detail and ability to bestow a haunting grace to his extraterrestrial and mechanical monsters alike elevated Pacific Rim above the typical creature features. A stellar overseas performance helped drag the sequel’s status from the depths of development hell and now, Pacific Rim Uprising graces screens five years later. However, the absence of Del Toro’s idiosyncratic and artful touch looms over this Steven DeKnight directed film. While Pacific Rim Uprising never quite “rises up” to the iconic nature of its predecessor, it is fast-paced and undeniably fun, delivering exhilarating and bright action sequences and crisp CGI spectacle that excites in the moment, even if it does not stimulate much afterthought.

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Sherlock Gnomes: Kids Deserve Better

Do you ever hear about something, and after a few words you already know it’s a terrible idea? That’s how I felt with Sherlock Gnomes, the sequel to 2011’s Gnomeo and Juliet. Now, I never saw Gnomeo and Juliet, but from what I know, I feel that it didn’t warrant a sequel. Audience reactions seem lukewarm at best. Its gross wasn’t particularly impressive, only turning a profit thanks to the small budget.

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Blockers is the New Sex Comedy for this Generation

It was hard to hear a character’s response after a joke had been cracked during Blockers. The close to two-hour runtime was filled with laugh after laugh  which was unexpected, given the film’s old-fashioned premise of sex and its relation to women. However, after its screening at South by Southwest Film Festival and the positive response it received, it is no surprise that Kay Cannon’s (who wrote Pitch Perfect and several episodes of NBC’s 30 Rock) film solidified itself as an effortless comedy, bringing laughs as easily as Superbad or 21 Jump Street. The only thing different about this film is its attribution of raunchy comedy to women, a recent turn that has been explored in comedies such as Bridesmaids, Trainwreck, and Girls Trip. Blockers follows three parents’ (played by Leslie Mann, John Cena, and Ike Barinholtz) desperate attempts to prevent their teenage daughters (played by Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, and Gideon Adlon) from losing their virginity on prom night.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Interview with Blockers Producer Chris Fenton ’93

Blockers, starring Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz and John Cena, is showing at Cornell Cinema tonight at 9pm for an exclusive prescreening. The film, a comedy about a group of parents who try to stop their daughters from having sex on prom night, premiered at the South By Southwest Film Festival earlier this month and “did extremely well down there in front of a really enthusiastic audience,” according to producer Chris Fenton ‘93, a Cornell alumnus. In advance of his movie being screened on his alma mater’s campus, I had the pleasure of talking to Fenton about Blockers, his time at Cornell and his career as a whole:

 

The Sun: Is there anything about Blockers that you think works particularly well with a college audience? CF: Well it’s a rated-R comedy, and rated-R comedies aren’t made as much as they used to be, so it’s exciting to have one that actually seems to be resonating and testing well with audiences, and in particular this movie has two generations that it focuses on. One is our parents that are essentially my age, mid 40s, and then the kids in the movie, who I think really steal the show, are high school age.

Tomb Raider Radiates Authenticity and Female Empowerment

I had low expectations for Tomb Raider given past video game adaptations, including 2016’s Assassin’s Creed which I barely got through. I had played the origin story video game Tomb Raider and loved it for the more realistic approach to Lara Croft as opposed to the previous midriff baring Angelina Jolie incarnation. This film stars Academy Award winner Alicia Vikander, a surprising choice that works. Focused on Croft’s story, Vikander imbued each scene with believability and emotional depth while still showing she really could leap off cliffs and fight with the best of them. From the start of the film, Croft is portrayed believably: she is a strong member of a boxing club, a characterization that makes some of the later fight scenes more believable.