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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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A Wrinkle in Time Leaves Audiences With Frown Lines

When my third grade teacher read A Wrinkle in Time to the class, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room. In my local theater, the cinematic rendition of Madeleine L’Engle’s book failed to evoke the same emotional response: there was not a single tear shed, but rather the occasional yawn. The first act follows the typical coming of age narrative that we’ve all seen hundreds of times, even featuring the classic bully scene where the mean girls gang up to taunt the protagonist in the school hallway. The head mean girl, Rowan Blanchard from Girl Meets World, just so happens to live next door to the protagonist and spends the majority of her screen time scowling from her bedroom window. The story was written before the various tropes such as this one even existed, but when adapted to the screen, seems like a poorly executed rip-off of other movie franchises like Divergent and The Hunger Games.

GOULDTHORPE | My Thoughts on Coco’s wins at the Oscars

What an absolute shock that Pixar won Best Animated Feature. Okay, so sarcasm doesn’t translate well into text. It was practically certain that Pixar’s Coco would end up with the coveted Oscar. Of course, when half of its competition is Ferdinand and The Boss Baby, it had a relatively easy path forward. Now there has been plenty of discourse about how the animation nominations are selected, and plenty of discourse over whether it’s proper for Disney to win the award so often.

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The Sun’s Oscar Predictions

Here are the Sun’s predictions for the 2018 Academy Awards. Best Picture:

Should Win — Get Out

Unless we want another Crash over Brokeback Mountain situation, Get Out should win Best Picture this year. It captures the zeitgeist of 2017 in a way that something like The Shape of Water simply doesn’t. Jordan Peele, in his directorial debut, accomplished the rare feat of creating a movie that is entertaining as hell and a layered onion to peel far after you leave the theater. At nearly every juncture, Peele’s script goes somewhere smart and unexpected, with plenty of clever foreshadowings along the way.

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GUEST ROOM | Lady Bird: A Story of Love and Attention

The number of movies, TV shows and books that attempt to show the transition from high school to college is too large to count. It is always the same story, with most depictions relying on one-dimensional or thematically exhausted protagonists. Then Lady Bird, directed by Greta Gerwig, came out of nowhere and reminded me of the power of authentic characters. Gerwig’s characters stepped outside of stereotypes, not fitting into villain or hero because in actuality, people don’t fit into those roles so easily. It felt different as soon as the movie opened with a Joan Didion quote about California.