Movie Review – Ready Player One

Ready Player One (2018)
Written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline
Directed by Steven Spielberg

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Wade Watts is a young man living in the Columbus stacks in the year 2045. An online virtual world called The Oasis dominates everyone’s lives providing them the ability to be whomever they wish and do whatever they want to. The deceased creator of the Oasis, James Halliday posthumously announces a contest hidden throughout this artificial reality, a search for three keys. To find the keys, you must decode the riddles Halliday has left which all seem to tie back to events in his personal life, particularly regrets. Wade befriends Kira, a fellow searcher for the keys and they take on the menace of IOI, a corporate entity devoting their resources to finding the keys. The person who solves the riddles and finds the keys will end up with ownership of the Oasis and determine its future.

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Movie Review – Super 8

Super 8 (2011)
Written & Directed by J.J. Abrams

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Strange things are happening in the town of Lillian, Ohio in the summer of 1979. Teenage Joe Lamb lost his mother in the winter, and now he and his father are struggling to recover. Joe is occupying his time by helping his best friend Charles make an amateur zombie film. While shooting a scene at a train depot, they witness a horrific crash caused by a local science teacher parking his truck on the tracks. Something was on that train that is now menacing the residents of this small Midwestern town. Joe and his friends quickly become embroiled in a mystery that brings the air force to town and puts their lives in danger.

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Movie Review – The Endless

The Endless (2017)
Written by Justin Benson
Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

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Justin and Aaron are brothers who escaped from a UFO death cult a decade ago. While they toil away as professional cleaners day to day, Aaron starts to wonder if life back with the cult would be better. They receive a videotape in the mail that appears to be a farewell message from one of the cult members. The two men finally decide to return to the rural campground where the cult operates from and finds none of them remember sending any tape and are just happy to see their old friends back. Strange phenomena begin to happen around the camp and the two men figure out that the very fabric of reality is breaking down around them.

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Movie Review – Explorers

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Explorers (1985)

Written by Eric Luke

Directed by Joe Dante

explorers

Ben is an average kid having extraordinary dreams. In these dreams he is flying in the clouds, looking down on a complex outline of circuitry. These could just be inspired by his late night viewing of classic science fiction films, but he still shares them with his nerdy friend Wolfgang. They discover this information allows them to manifest an anti-gravity field that they can manipulate the size and speed of. With help from their other friend Darren, they use an old Tilt-a-Whirl car to create a ship they can fly across the city with. A variety of complications arise putting the boys’ plans of space exploration and alien contact in jeopardy.

This is not going to be the review you are expecting.

As I have watched this films inspired by the Spielberg sense of wonder starting with E.T. I have noticed something. It came to the forefront when watching Explorers when I saw the female love interest looked familiar. A quick google search and I found her name, Amanda Peterson. You likely remember her from the teen comedy Can’t Buy Me Love where she starred alongside Patrick Dempsey. She had a few more films after that major one but settled into a few television movies, and by 1994 her filmography ends. The next time you probably heard about Amanda was in 2015 when she died.

Amanda Peterson was raped the year after Explorers came out. She was only fifteen at the time, and this story didn’t come out until after her death. Her parents felt that it needed to be told. While her assailant has never been named, we do know he was 27 years older than 15-year-old Amanda. I don’t think it’s too big of a stretch to assume this was someone in the film industry because Amanda insisted to her parents that they don’t go to the police about it. After all, she wanted to be a star and who wouldn’t want to rush past such a traumatic moment in their lives.

Amanda retired from the industry in 1994 and returned home to Colorado, where she had been born. She ended up in two failed marriages and with two children. She started self-medicating with alcohol and an astounding assortment of illegal and prescription medications. Arrests began around 2000, and she ended up in jail for three months at one point over an assault. There were even charges of child abuse around 2012. Her parents claim she was drug-free at the time of her death. The autopsy showed she had pain meds for a recent hysterectomy in her system, on top of illegally obtained morphine, opiates, and marijuana. Doctors say her respiratory system just shut down. Amanda was 43.

In Explorers, Amanda plays Lori the one-dimensional love interest of Ben. We never learn anything much about her, and she spied on by Ben using the anti-gravity technology. His interest is framed with innocence; he wants to be close to her. Darren comments that she isn’t even undressing. Amanda pops back up at the end, seemingly in on the same alien transmission as the other boys. And that is it for her character.

River Phoenix made his film debut in Explorers as the scientifically minded Wolfgang. River would go on to have a short but pretty prolific career. He was transitioning from teen fare into more adult cinema when he died of a heroin overdose at the age of 23. River’s parents joined the Children of God cult in the 1970s, during the height of cults in America. They moved to Venezuela as missionaries. River would talk about his experience in the Children of God cult in interviews and revealed that he lost his virginity at the age of 4 with other children. The Children of God encourage sexual intercourse between minors. River didn’t go into much detail, merely saying “I’ve blocked it out.” The Children of God still exist, having undergone some name changes, they are currently known as The Family International.

These 1980s films that use childlike imagination and wonder as their hook is fine, but we cannot forget they gloss over a dark reality of that time and our own. While these young actors play clean-cut, bright and happy kids, they were being forced into adulthood in the most traumatic and horrific ways. They deserved better than this. And we do them a disservice by flushing these realities from our minds when we view their work. When we watch E.T., we have to acknowledge the turmoil Drew Barrymore was already going through at that point in her life.

It’s not pleasant to make a note of the darkness of reality, but the blatant ignoring of these abuses is one of my most significant problems with modern geek culture. Our fun and enjoyment never come before human decency.

Movie Review – Ex Machina

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Ex Machina (2015)
Written & Directed by Alex Garland

ex machina

Caleb Smith is a computer programmer for the search engine Blue Book whose life is changed when he is announced the winner of a week-long retreat with the company’s founder Nathan Bateman. The journey takes Caleb to a remote estate on a vast swath of property. Here Nathan introduces the programmer to Ava, an artificial being he has created. Nathan wants Caleb to run the Turing Test, a thought experiment where you seek to determine if an artificial consciousness is indistinguishable from an organic one. Strange power outages allow Caleb and Ava to communicate briefly without Nathan’s watchful eye. What Ava tells Caleb causes him to question the true nature of why he was brought here and his reality.

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Movie Review – Back to the Future

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Back to the Future (1985)
Written by Bob Gale & Robert Zemeckis
Directed by Robert Zemeckis

back to the future

Marty McFly is your average high school student. He lives in Hill Valley, California. He has a girlfriend. He has lame parents. He’s friends with an elderly disgraced nuclear physicist. You know as regular teenagers do. Things get heavy when Marty meets Doc Brown in a mall parking lot in the middle of the night. Doc shows off his modified Delorean, transformed into a mobile time machine. The experiment is cut short when the Libyan terrorists Doc stole plutonium from show up and kill the elderly scientist. Marty escapes in the Delorean and is tossed back to 1955 without the needed fuel to get time machine running again. To make matters worse, he interrupts his parents’ first meeting so that his future mother is now in love with him! The clock is ticking before Marty destroys his timeline and he needs the Doc Brown of 1955’s help to undo the damage.

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TV Review – Utopia Series 2, Episode 6

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Utopia Series 2, Episode 6 (2014)
Written by Dennis Kelly
Directed by Sam Donovan

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The ending is finally here. The story, at least in the U.K. version, doesn’t continue from this point, so we have to examine what we are left with. In many ways, this episode is less the ending of the story than the aftermath of episode five. The core story of Carvel, his children, and Milner is over now and as this last chapter opens they are in a state of shock, the clock still counting down for the release of the Russian flu. In many ways this finale is focused around the idea of what happens with an extreme ideology is carried out to its inevitable ends.

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