Paul McGuire Grimes of Paul’s Trip to the Movies shares his top three picks of 2018.
3. READY PLAYER ONE
In Columbus, Ohio in 2045, reality is a real bummer. The need to escape to a different world is paramount for so many people. The OASIS is a virtual reality world that provides an escape for people to get away from their desolate home life. Wade Watts puts on his visor to morph into his avatar Parzival to carry out the majority of his day in the OASIS. The man behind the OASIS is James Halliday whose recent death has the world in mourning. His final proclamation to his fans is the announcement of a new game. Buried deep within the Oasis are three keys all with clues leading to the golden Easter egg. Whoever finds the egg becomes the grand prize winner and inherits his stock and fortune from the Oasis. Parzival uses everything he knows about ’80s pop culture and the life of James Halliday finds the keys.
-Starring: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Mark Rylance, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, Simon Pegg
-Director Steven Spielberg has made a love letter to his fans with this film. Watching it feels like he made it for me and the legions of other movie and video game geeks out there.
-It’s stacked to the brim with pop culture references from all things Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, Atari, and other video games and songs that made up the 1980s.
-Based on the beloved book by Ernest Cline who was inspired by Spielberg’s work, so it feels appropriate that only he could bring the book to life.
-The film mixes live action, motion capture, and other CG tricks as it goes between real life in the Stacks versus what happens in the OASIS. It’s a visually stunning feat with seamless transitions.
-Story is quite simple and effective. Part of it is the underdog David and Goliath story with Wade/Parzival going up against Sorrento. It’s all set to a very Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory model.
-The film asks the viewer to find their purpose in life, like Wade has, so there isn’t always this instant urge to run off to a different reality as found in video games, movies, or television. Can we put our phones and devices down and actually interact with each other in reality versus in virtual reality?
-Diversity is key in realizing how we are all bound by a common goal regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.
2. A STAR IS BORN
Bradley Cooper has written, directed, and stars in the latest adaptation of A Star is Born. He plays rocker Jackson Maine who is struggling with a pill and alcohol addiction. He stumbles into a drag bar where he meets Ally, played by Lady Gaga, who takes the stage singing Edith Piaf. She’s stunning and beautiful, and he’s instantly attracted to her talent. A connection forms between them, and he realizes how truly talented she is as a singer and songwriter. Their love story takes off from there. As Ally’s rise to stardom takes off, Jackson’s battle with addiction continues to escalate. Both artists battle the highs and lows of the entertainment industry and what it means to their art and relationship.
-Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott, Anthony Ramos, Andrew Dice Clay, Dave Chapelle
-4th version of the story following 1937’s with Janet Gaynor/Frederic March, the Judy Garland/ James Mason one from 1954, and then the 1976 one with Barbra Streisand/Kris Kristofferson. The newest is the best one yet.
-Starts off with an energetic opening concert performance by Bradley Cooper and then switches to Lady Gaga’s Ally stunning take on Edith Piaf.
-Cooper is wise as a director to draw his audience in quickly with both musical performances and gets us to care about both characters right from the beginning. If you’ve seen the other versions, he has a lot of ground to cover yet keeps the pace up throughout the movies run time.
-As an actor, this may just be his best performance to date. He gets under the skin and mindset of what it’s like to be an addict. Cooper can SING and riff on the guitar better than I had expected. He has the gritty rock country sound to his voice.
-As Ally, Gaga is electric. While it may seem like the role is catered to her and what she went through in her career that never detracts from her performance. She is a natural on screen drawing you in every second we see of what Ally goes through throughout this movie.
-FANTASTIC chemistry between Lady Gaga Cooper. Vital to the love story
-Original music co-written by Gaga, Cooper, Jason Isbell, Diane Warren, and others
-References to all three others. The version gets this story right. Ally’s Rise, Jackson’s fall, and their relationship are all given equal weight.
Ron Stallworth was recruited to become a member of the Colorado Springs Police Force in 1972. He’s brought on to be the first black cop in the city. Part of their undisclosed reasoning is to save face with the community as the racial divide grows stronger and tension is mounting. At first he’s stuck in the records room until Ron asks to be promoted to an undercover officer. It’s in his new role where he comes up with a dangerous plan to infiltrate the local chapter of the KKK. He knows he’ll never be able to show his face there in person, so he deals with David Duke and other members over the phone and sends in another officer, played by Adam Driver, to meet the members of the KKK in person.
-Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Topher Grace, Alec Baldwin
-Based on bizarre true story that seems too far-fetched to be true.
-John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth and happens to be Denzel Washington’s son. He’s definitely carrying on the family legacy. He has the swagger, force, and voice of his father. He’s fantastic in this movie and should be considered for awards consideration.
-Be warned you’ll have an uneasy feeling throughout as you remember that this is set in the ’70s but also reflects 2017, 2018
-The script is harsh to hear at times, same goes for the visuals, but that’s Spike Lee’s point. He wants you to be uncomfortable with the language and images you see hurled at the black community at the hands of the KKK.
-Spike Lee directs it with a precise vision on how he balances adding humor set against such a horrific violent images. He plays some of it like satire knowing which buttons of ours to push at any given moment.
-If it doesn’t leave you shaking or have a pit in your stomach by the end, you’re not paying attention. There’s a reason why he released it on the one year anniversary of the Charlottesville riots.