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Jeri Jacquin

This Friday in theatres is the highly anticipated film based on the Ernest Cline novel and director Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainments vision with Warner Bros. presenting READY PLAYER ONE.

Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is a young man living in the future, far into the future in fact is the year 2045. Living in The Stacks with an Aunt and the one of many boyfriends, Wade seeks escape into the virtual world of the OASIS under the name Parzival. In this imaginary world he can be what ever he wants to be with no judgments and as many adventures as one wants to have.

The Oasis was created by the very unusual James Halliday (Mark Rylance) and encouraged by friend Ogden Morrow (Simon Peg). When Halliday passes away his dying wish was a contest – who ever could find the Easter Egg hidden in the OASIS would gain financial freedom and control of the Oasis. Of course it isn’t that easy as there are three keys that need to be located and to find those, someone would have to really know the idiosyncrasies of creator Halliday.

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Wade wants to find the keys and joined by friends Aech (Lena Waithe), Sho (Philip Zhao) and Daito (Win Morisaki) they begin with a race that no one can seem to get past. Preparing for the next race, Parzival meets virtual Art3mis aka Samantha (Olivia Cooke) who also wants to find the keys. When neither wins the race, Parzival realizes that he is not looking deeply enough into Halliday’s life.

Off to the virtual museum of Halliday’s life, he takes it slowly taking in all the information again when it comes to him how to get the first key. Once he does, he shares the information with other. Everyone is thrilled – well, not everyone! In charge of OASIS is Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) and his goal is to make sure that no one ever finds the keys and inside OASIS uses I-Rok (T.J. Miller) to keep an eye on things.

Sorrento is unconcerned on the outside that Parzival obtained the first key but begins to find ways to make sure that he doesn’t find another. That means attacking Wade in the real world and hurting those he cares about. When The Stacks are attacked, Wade is grabbed and taken to safety and it is the first time Wade and Samantha meet in person. They both realize that if they are to stop Sorrento, it is going to have to be both in the real world and the virtual one.

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Along with Aech, Sho and Daito, they plan to not only find the final keys but where the Easter Egg is hidden. Calling upon all of those who love the OASIS to help protect it and a battle royale begins.

Sheridan as Wade/Parzival is a young man who just wants to escape life in The Stacks. From an Aunt who seems to find the biggest losers to be with to the stacked neighborhood he lives in, the Oasis is a place to forget real life and discover a virtual life that is seen as amazing. Sheridan does a good job as a young man who is smart and willing to do whatever it takes to find the keys but that turns into something larger than himself.

Cooke as Samantha/Art3mis is a young woman who seems to be a thrill seeker and although that may be true, she is also a young woman with a goal – to stop Sorrento from controlling the Oasis. Cooke lends such empowerment to her character and not just because she sees herself as facially defective, instead she has humor and the smarts necessary to prove to Wade that there is more at stake than just a few bucks to be made in the Oasis. That’s not a bad character to be!

Mendelsohn as Sorrento is perfectly happy being in charge of everything – literally and virtually. There is so much at stake and Sorrento isn’t about to give up any inch of it. Mendelsohn has proven time after time that he is an actor to keep an eye on. If you get the opportunity, see his work as Danny Rayburn in the series BLOODLINE because that will give you more than enough reason to see why his character of Sorrento is so deliciously twisted.

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Waithe as Helen/Aech is a supportive friend and has the ability to create amazing works in the Oasis but also happily joins with Samantha to fight Sorrento. Zhao as Sho is ‘just an 11 year old’ who is a pretty tough 11 year old if you ask me. He believes in the fight and doesn’t want anyone telling him that age should stop him from helping. Morisaki as Daito knows a good fight when he sees one and isn’t about to let down his companions.

Pegg as Morrow is a character that builds to the very end. His story isn’t as big and bright as Halliday or Sorrento, but it is important none-the-less and it’s always good to see Pegg. Miller as I-Rok is hilarious and when Sorrento takes his virtual character into the Oasis, these two play off one another.

Now, lets talk about Rylance as Halliday/Anorak – what an amazing performance. Now, there are moments when I capture a bit of the BFG but who cares! This character is smart, funny, sweet, endearing and is the most harmless human being and virtual character I think I’ve ever seen. Rylance has the amazing ability to draw the viewer into his characters world and invite you to sit for tea (which I gladly would). Of course I would tell you more but that would spoil it and I’m not about that. Just know that Rylance was the perfect choice to play Halliday. and I loved it.

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Other cast includes Perdita Weeks as Kira, Susan Lynch as Alice, Clare Higgins as Mrs. Gilmore, Ralph Ineson as Rick, and Hannah John-Kamen as F’Nale Zandor.

I had an absolute blast watching READY PLAYER ONE and there are several reasons why. First, of course it was a thrill to see all the characters that I watched my sons play with their videos games back in the 80’s and early 90’s. It was such a different time when my boys taught me how to play and it was something we started doing together. So much so that the three of us entered a DONKEY KONG contest at Blockbuster (yes, Blockbuster!) and it was so much fun.

Added to that was the pop culture drops here and there mixed in with music that, to this day is something that I listen to because to me – that’s when music was music. When Parzival says that Halliday’s favorite song was from A-Ha, it made my heart melt. What a perfect reference if those my age remember the awesome artistry that went into making ‘Take On Me’.

Of course there is video, music, and pop culture references everywhere but then adds film references and oh my what a cherry on top of the cake. THE SHINING makes an appearance and I couldn’t have been more thrilled, delighted and I even laughed (which of course I didn’t do watching THE SHINING all those years ago!) at how it blended perfectly.

As a bonus, like chocolate shavings on the cake is seeing so many characters in the epic battle scene between Parzival, Art3mis and the gang along with every other virtual person and Sorrento with his own evil crew. There is one character I didn’t expect to see but then again why not? See if you can see the iconic favorite Bugs Bunny friend running across the battlefield and then hit me up when you see who it is.

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So, READY PLAYER ONE is going to be a hit for the 80’s and 90’s crowd most definitely. It has almost everything and the kitchen sink thrown in for a fun time at the movies. I’m not giving anything away by saying that a beloved giant friend makes an appearance in the film which just tugs at my heart. The CGI is amazing and truly fun to watch.

This is the film to gather the family together to see and have such an amazing time. There is nothing, and I mean nothing about this film that I didn’t enjoy. Of course I realize there is a book which I have not read but it doesn’t take away from the fun I had in the theatre. It was actually quite nice to not take a film so seriously but instead let it take me on a journey to a conclusion that I’m pretty happy with.

Mr. Spielberg, prior to seeing the film I posted a pic and stated, “please don’t let me down” and I’m here to say that your track record for entertaining me throughout all these years is still in tact. Well played sir, very well played.

In the end – a better reality awaits!

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