READY PLAYER ONE (Steven Spielberg, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ready Player One:

1. During the olden days, my only goal in life was to be the top scorer of our family in a game of Pac-Man. I would wake up in the middle of the night while everyone slept (especially my mom who would get really cranky with the additional electricity consumption) and silently crouch over this black plastic Atari controller for hours on end while gobbling pellets and running away from ghosts named Pinky and Blinky.

Whenever we had guests or relatives come over for lunch or dinner, I would be in front of the TV screen and showing off (a better term would be pakitang-gilas) my agility and dexterity through a video game. “Yan lang ang ginagawa niyan buong araw”, my dad would proudly say while I continued to wow the crowd with the completion of every level. Weeks later, my brother would master the newest Missile Command game and that signalled the end of my Pac-Man glory days.

2. I never really considered myself as a certified gamer even if I had played a lot of games across different platforms (from the ancient Nintendo Family Computer to the current PlayStation 4). I couldn’t even learn the basic controls in Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat and my usual battle consisted of pushing every button while hoping for a special attack. Still, my insides would tingle at the mere mention of Space Invaders, Super Mario Bros., Civilization, or Final Fantasy. It was this same geeky pride plus the astounding power of nostalgia that made me enjoy this film which seemed to coast on an abundance of pop culture references (easter eggs galore!). I loudly squealed in my seat when a chocobo appeared during the ultimate battle sequence.

3. Spielberg films had always been criticized for their overt sentimentality and it was surprisingly lacking in this one. I expected myself to turn into a puddle of emotions when Wade/Parzival (a terribly bland Tye Sheridan) unlocked the third puzzle, but it just didn’t feel completely magical (I probably cried more when Charlie discovered that he won the final Golden Ticket for the Chocolate Factory). Maybe it was because the movie was already running on for far too long or that it was trying to generate last minute faux excitement, but my brain was just screaming “Just stick that freakin’ key in that effin’ hole, dammit!”.

4. I really liked how the coolest sequence in the movie was a nod to the huge disappointment of my all-time favorite author on the adaptation of one of his finest novels. The twins, Room 237 with the naked old lady, the river of blood from the elevator, and the iconic axe hacking itself on the bathroom door, stuff of a true classic. I never fully understood Stephen King’s disdain for The Shining film considering that the thought of Danny repeatedly croaking the word “Redrum” while holding a giant knife still freaked me to this day.

5. Has anyone read the book (or is a real-life Sheldon Cooper)? Kindly enlighten me on the following burning questions:

• Who was funding The Oasis? I knew James Halliday (a great Mark Rylance) was a trillionaire, but did he really have that much money to keep a game running for more than five years after his death? I was just curious because when Parzival retrieved the first key, he won 100,000 virtual coins that he used to purchase a body suit in the real world.

• Why would such a powerful man like Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) not even bother to memorize his password? It was only B055man69 and not something tough like B0$$m4n_Ph0wz_aQuoH69. Did he have a reason for scribbling down such a confidential information on a piece of paper and keeping it on his armrest other than being a MacGuffin?

• Who was Gundam and was he really that popular? (Fanboys, please don’t kill me. I seriously had no clue.)

6. More than the shoulder pads, leotards, and heavy perms, the 80’s would best be remembered because of its glorious songs, no? Nothing would beat humming along to a good old Hall & Oates song on your best days. (I would always associate Blondie’s One Way or Another with Mean Girls, though. Yup, Trang Pak made out with Coach Carr.)

7. Wouldn’t it be fun if their online personas/avatars were completely far off from their real identities? When Aech (Lena Waithe) mentioned that the real Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) could actually be an overweight old man, I really wished this were true. Wasn’t it Wade himself who said that people stayed in The Oasis because of all the things that they could be? Why didn’t we get a lot more of these people playing out their online fantasies? It could have saved us from the icky (and forced) love story as well. That part was even more horrific than the thought of virtual reality putting an end to human connections. Besides, shouldn’t reality be real?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE (Jake Kasdan, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle:

1. If this video game version of Jumanji were real, I’d most probably end up with the Mouse Finbar (Kevin Hart) avatar since I’d usually choose the smartest (albeit the physically weakest) character. I never went for warriors or fighters in any role-playing game. I’d usually be a wizard or a mage with the highest intelligence and the strongest spells. Even in my fantasy world, I was the geek choosing brains over brawns.

(Also, cake would aptly be my weakness that would cause me to spontaneously combust.)

2. I had really low expectations going in this reboot because I wasn’t that fond of the original material so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this fun popcorn flick. Even if it didn’t make a lot of sense (both as an adventure and video game movie), it was able to capitalize on the individual strengths of its really talented cast.

3. Jack Black was hilarious as a vain teenage girl trapped in an older obese man’s body (his wicked performance reminded me of John Lapus’ in Here Comes the Bride). From his utter disgust upon seeing his reflection, to the way he swished his arms while running away from enemies, down to his inspired quips (“I look like a living garden gnome!”), he fully embraced his character and brought back the funnyman last seen in Nacho Libre.

My favorite moment with him was when he needed to take a leak and saw male genitalia for the first time (“Martha, come look at my penis!!”). I needed a puff of my inhaler after that one.

4. Kevin Hart, with his usual high-pitched delivery, elicited laughs aimed at his character’s height and lack of speed and strength (really laughed hard when he got smacked face first onto the side of a cliff).

The Rock took advantage of his signature eyebrows and smoldering intensity, while Karen Gillan (check out her now-defunct sitcom Selfie!) made awkwardness look really hot and sexy (“Did she twist her ankle?” LOL!). The scene where the two of them had their (sloppy) first kiss was a hoot.

5. When Spencer went to the so-called freak house wearing a yellow raincoat, was that a direct reference to the It movie?

6. How did the board game magically turn into what looked like an updated Atari console? Also, wasn’t it too advanced to have four controllers slash players during the late ‘90s gaming era? If anything, I definitely geeked out at specific references such as NPC (non-player characters) and the spot-on explanation of cut scenes.

When a character gave one of her lives to another, I was even reminded of the game Contra when my brother would steal my lives because he was a weak player (peace bro!). Another sequence where they had to step only on the white bricks or had to freeze not to get killed by booby traps was reminiscent of Resident Evil. Cool gaming stuff!!

7. Speaking of references, the Alex character (Nick Jonas) reminded me yet again of my age when he mentioned Cindy Crawford and used catchphrases like ‘so fly’. But seriously, the 90s supermodels were like royalty back then, no? Christy Turlington, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and company were ‘the bomb’.

I even rented the VHS copy of box office flop Fair Game several times from ACA Video to pay my respect to the wonderful acting of Crawford and William Baldwin (train rides were never the same after watching that). Be kind, rewind? I sure did.

(Also, the women were obviously invested in this Jonas brother because there were audible gasps in the audience when he got bitten by a mosquito. Ok, I gasped as well. So what?)

8. Shelly Oberon (Black) screaming “Yassss kweeen!” to Ruby Roundhouse (Gillan) was the highlight of my week.

9. I wasn’t the only one that teared up a bit during that Alan Parrish scene, right? *sniff, sniff*

Rating: ★★★☆☆