Ready Player One: Movie Review

Ready Player One became available for rent on iTunes this past week so I finally got to see whether or not my theory from this post that Ernest Cline’s novel would translate better onto the big screen proved true. As always, I’ll try my best to avoid spoilers but I’m not sure how successful I’ll be.

There were parts of the movie I ended up liking better than the book and parts of the book that I liked better but I think, overall, my theory was right. For those who missed the original post, my theory is primarily based on the fact that all of the exposition that bogs down the plot of the novel wouldn’t really be an issue in a visual medium like a movie. And it’s true, in the movie all of the 80’s pop culture references that Cline spent way too much time explaining in great detail in the book were used as cool little easter eggs scattered throughout the movie that didn’t stop the plot every time they came up they way they did in the book. They even added some more modern references–Halo characters, the Serenity from the tv show Firefly, a girl dressed like Harley Quinn from the Arkham video games, etc.–which I really appreciated. All of the other exposition from the book–the background on Halliday, IOI, and the egg hunt and the like–was either explained through brief narrator voice-overs, through dialogue or through visual means making the barrage of information easier to bear than the pages and pages of exposition found in the novel…still I’m not sure I’d say that the movie was 100% better than the book.

The only reason I hesitate to say that the movie was better than the book is that the movie was so different from the book. Yeah I know that they can’t fit everything from a 400 page novel into a two-hour movie (even if it seemed like two hundred of those pages were exposition) so obviously the movie is going to change some things. However, Ready Player One the movie was so different that it often seemed like the only things they kept from the book were the characters and the bare-bones plot–by which I mean the plot if it were boiled down into the bullet points:

  • Race to find three keys to get a hidden egg
  • Winner gets control over the OASIS
  • Evil corporation is after the egg

Some of the changes were good changes–I particularly enjoyed that the movie made Parzival, Aech, Art3mis, Daito, and Sho more like team members than rivals for the majority of the story where the book really makes Parzival act like it’s more important for him to win the egg on his own than to team up with the people he considers his friends to stop IOI until he literally has no other choice. Some changes were unfortunate but necessary–the whole plot detour in the novel where Parzival gets the magic quarter is one of my favorites from the novel but it was a long and convoluted one that definitely needed to be cut for time and I think the way he gets this seemingly random but extremely important object in the movie was a pretty good solution to the problem. Even changing it so that the three gates were just sort of checkpoints and not their own separate tests was understandable. Other changes, however, were just too drastic for me to get behind. I’m talking about the fact that the whole freaking quest is different.

I don’t know, maybe they didn’t think a life-or-death game of Joust against an evil wizard was very cinematic (never mind the whole first half of the test that involved navigating a tomb full of bad guys) but then they went ahead and made a game of Adventure on Atari the last quest anyway so I don’t think that was the problem. But changing it so that some random no-name gunter found the first test, which opened multiple portals to allow all of the OASIS to attempt it (not just those who also figured out the clue), and then having the first test be a literal race–albeit a seemingly impossible one with admittedly cool easter eggs thrown in–was jarring and it seemed irrelevant to me like it had nothing to do with Halliday at all except for the fact that it was a reference to a conversation Halliday had with Morrow…which they made up for the sake of the movie. It’d be like if in the movie adaptation of The Goblet of Fire, instead of facing a dragon to retrieve a golden egg, Harry had to, I don’t know, wrestle a bear for a fish or something…cinematically interesting I guess but it has literally nothing to do with Harry or magic or Hogwarts. The second quest in the movie was a bit better than the first one–involving a sort of re-enactment of The Shining mixed with a zombie game Halliday had worked on–but it still didn’t scream Halliday to me and changing it from the test in the book seems pointless as I’m not sure it actually saved any time. The final test was actually pretty much the same as the one in the book–finding an easter egg in the Atari game Adventure–a simplified version of it of course but, again, I get that they had to do that for time-saving purposes. Overall, I enjoyed the movie but I think I enjoyed it more as its own standalone thing and not as a movie adaptation of a book–the drastic changes are less frustrating that way.

Kelly Amber Reads: Ready Player One

I finally finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline the other day. Dad has been begging me to read Ready Player One for forever and well, sometimes people telling me to read something makes me less willing to read it—especially now that I don’t go through books as fast as I used to (I know, I know, that’s on me but TV is just so much easier) and I want to save the time I do spend reading on books that I’ve chosen. But with Ready Player One making its way to the big screen this year I finally caved.

For those who are unfamiliar with this title, Ready Player One is set in a dystopian future where the global economy and environment have completely collapsed due to severe overpopulation. The only escape people have from this horrible reality is the OASIS—a vast virtual reality online game with literal universes full of things to do. When James Halliday—the creator of the OASIS—dies he leaves behind a video will stating that his vast wealth as well as complete control over the OASIS are to be given to the first person to complete a massive virtual scavenger hunt by following the clues Halliday left scattered throughout the OASIS. Eighteen-year-old Wade Watts, known in the OASIS as Parzival, is the first person to solve the first clue and successfully claim the copper key in the five years since Halliday’s death. Now, it’s a race to finish the quest and in the midst of it all Wade finds himself targeted by an evil multi-billion dollar corporation bent on winning the quest and destroying everything that makes the OASIS the last safe haven in a dying world.

I haven’t seen the movie yet so I’m not sure how well it turned out, but my main thought about this book is that it would make a better movie than it does a book. Of course, there’s the fact that today’s special effects should make all of Cline’s amazing world-building in regards to the OASIS really come to life on the big screen, but the main reason I think it would make a better movie than book is that the book is so exposition heavy. Yes, most of the exposition is necessary stuff like world-building, background on Halliday, etc. but there’s just so much of it—the first six chapters especially were a pain and a half to get through—that it bogs down the plot and it sometimes felt like Cline sacrificed the action in favor of explaining every single little 80’s reference in great detail. Movies don’t really have this problem. With movies, any necessary exposition has to happen through dialogue or events happening in the background of a scene or through cinematography so it’s a lot harder to get bogged down by all the details. Plus, the overwhelming plethora of 80’s references that fill the novel would all just be fun Easter eggs throughout the movie rather than things that stop the plot every time they appear so that the author/narrator can make sure the audience understands just how cool something is. Don’t get me wrong; Ready Player One was overall an enjoyable read I just think that its fun action-filled plot would benefit from a medium that allows that action-filled plot to shine instead of burying it under all of the other details that the novel seemed to get distracted by. But I guess I’ll just have to wait till the movie comes out on iTunes to see if I’m right.

Musical Shenanigans

Hey guys, instead of a Town Line Tuesday this week I wanted to finally post something I’ve been struggling to finish for a while now about one of my all time favorite TV tropes—the musical episode (What’s not to love about watching your favorite characters spontaneously burst into song for seemingly no reason at all?)—I also want to try to post some flash fiction later this week and we’ll get back to our regularly scheduled Town Line Tuesday next week. Anyway, a few weeks ago one of my current TV show obsessions—SyFy’s The Magicians—came out with its version of the musical episode and it got me thinking about all of my favorite musical TV shenanigans. I thought about watching them all over again to see how The Magicians stacked up against them but including Magicians that’s seven hours I simply don’t have. Still, if I were to rate them from good to best, I think it would look something like this. (A/N: These are all the musical episodes I have seen—or at least all the ones I remember. Also, most of these are over a year old but since The Magicians is on this list I should warn you that this is in no way spoiler free so if you want to avoid spoilers stop reading now.)

Continue reading

The Search

 

One of my biggest goals since moving to Tennessee has been to seek out the best Mexican food Music City has to offer, a task that, as a California girl, I set upon with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation (Pros: finding new places to eat is always fun. Cons: no offense to any Southerners reading this but I didn’t know what to expect from whatever passed for tacos in Nashville). I haven’t tried nearly as many places as I would like—I pretty much have to save my Mexican food adventures for whenever it’s just Mom and I—but I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good sample size thus far.

 

Fogatas

Yelp has quickly become my best friend on this journey to find all the best restaurants my new home has to offer and when it comes to Mexican food I rely pretty much exclusively on the app to tell me which places are worth trying. When I came across Fogatas while scrolling through Yelp, I was quickly swayed by its four-star rating and almost-exclusively-good reviews that raved about the place. So Mom and I excitedly went to lunch… and were seriously disappointed. I ordered a lunch combo of a chicken enchilada and a chicken taco (don’t ask me to tell you what Mom had, I barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning—or for lunch a couple of months ago as the case may be—let alone what someone else had) and it was fine, I guess, it certainly wasn’t bad anyway but I don’t know it just kind of lacked flavor and considering I had just read these raving reviews it just didn’t live up to the hype. Now, this was at their newer location about a week or two after they had opened and many of the reviews referred to their original location so it’s possible that it was just a case of a new restaurant working out the kinks. Still, with so many places left on the never-ending list to try, it didn’t inspire any desire to try again any time soon.

 

Las Brisas

Las Brisas was not a Yelp find but a place that we found while driving and impulsively decided to try. Overall, it was a better experience than Fogatas, the chips and salsa were good and I ordered a combo of a chicken enchilada and a carne asada taco. Flavor-wise it was pretty good—better than Fogatas though not nearly as good as other places I’ve tried either in California or here in Nashville—however, the ridiculously small portion sizes ruined it for me. While it’s true that sometimes Mexican food—particularly sit-down (as opposed to fast/counter order) which is what Las Brisas is—can be almost too much food at times with large portion sizes of heavy carb-loaded food plus rice and beans plus the chips and salsa before the meal, but a single street taco and one tiny enchilada that was barely bigger than the street taco is just not enough food when you’re paying the same price you’d pay for a huge meal at another restaurant.

 

Bajo Sexto

When I visited Nashville a few months before I moved here, I found a small counter-order taco place called Bajo Sexto in downtown Nashville that looked and smelled amazing. Unfortunately, when I found it, it was five minutes before closing so I had to leave empty-handed. mouth-watering thoughts of street tacos plagued me for months before I finally had the opportunity to try Bajo Sexto. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have hyped the place up so much for myself. The pork in the carnitas street taco was completely unseasoned which was unfortunate but the chicken one had really good flavor and the chips and salsa were great. I’d definitely eat there again but I think if I’m looking for tacos in downtown Nashville I’d rather just go a couple blocks up the street to Bakersfield instead.

 

Pueblo Real

Pueblo Real, at least the location I went to, is one of those places that unless someone personally recommends it or it has really good yelp reviews you would probably never set foot in it. From the outside it looks like this tiny little hole-in-the-wall place located in one of the sketchier parts of town. Inside, however, the place is plenty clean and when I was there many of the booths were filled. Of the mid-range sit-down Mexican restaurants I’ve tried since being here, Pueblo Real is definitely my favorite. I had my usual first-visit order of a chicken enchilada and beef taco combo. The meat was well seasoned and the sauce on the enchilada was delicious. I haven’t had a chance to go back there yet—or tried their sister restaurant Tito’s—but I definitely plan to.

Oscars

Oscars Tacos has two locations near me: one bigger, newer-looking location that at least every time I’ve been there has been mostly empty and a smaller one that’s a lot farther out-of-the-way that is usually full of people. The farther one is significantly better than the bigger one, strange for a chain restaurant to be so different store-to-store but having eaten at the closer location twice I can say with absolute certainty that the longer drive and larger crowd is worth braving if you’re looking for quality tacos. Oscars Tacos is a fast-casual counter order restaurant that boasts “California-style” Mexican food. I haven’t had a chance to try any other counter order taco places other than Bajo Sexto in order to compare Oscars to other local options but on its own, Oscars is pretty good. I’ve had the carne asada and carnitas street tacos as well as the shredded beef crispy taco. I prefer the carne asada and beef tacos but the carnitas are good too. They’ve also got two different house-made hot sauces that go really well with the tacos. My biggest complaint is that they have Pepsi products—usually a deal-breaker in my book so it’s a good thing they’ve got fast, cheap, and tasty tacos.

Uncle Julio’s

Uncle Julios, on the fancier side of Mexican sit-down restaurants, was a birthday meal for my mom. The waitress told us that they were famous for their fajitas so rather than my usual enchilada/taco order I went with the “Carnitas Azteca” fajitas which were described as “savory braised pork with honey chipotle glaze, lima crema, and fresh cilantro.” While they weren’t necessarily the most Mexican tasting fajitas, they were fantastic. The combination of sweet and spicy is one of my favorite flavor combinations and these fajitas really delivered. Uncle Julio’s is also known for their chocolate piñata dessert, which we didn’t end up ordering but we did see it being served at several other tables. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a hollow ball of chocolate filled with fresh fruit and homemade churro pieces hanging from a little metal stand like a bunch of bananas that you break open with what looked like a wooden rolling-pin. Probably the most fun looking dessert I’ve ever seen at a restaurant.

 

Bakersfield

In downtown Nashville, a few blocks up from Bajo Sexto, Bakersfield is a small taco place that looks more like a nice bar than a restaurant. They serve street-style tacos a la carte on a metal pan and stand like you’d see at a pizza place. Easily the best tacos I’ve had since coming to Nashville. I ordered the “pollo rojo”, “al pastor”, and “cochinta pibil” tacos all of which had great flavor and quality meat and left me genuinely disappointed when I had finished and realized there weren’t any left. Both of their salsa options—a mild green citrus-y one and a medium heat smoky red one were fantastic as well. I wish Bakersfield weren’t so far from where I live; I’ve been craving it since almost the minute I left, although I supposed it’s a good thing for my wallet and my self-control that they aren’t super close by.

 

Overall, I feel like my search for quality Mexican food in Nashville has been surprisingly successful and I can’t wait to taste what else Music City has to offer.

Kelly Amber’s Top 5 TV Shows

Hi there! So last week I came down with a nasty cold and although I tried to keep up with my posts, trying to write while sick is a bit like herding cats where the cats are my creative ideas, cohesive thoughts, and motivation/creative energy; the moment I got one under control another one went running off in its own direction. But I’m pretty much recovered now so I thought I’d post something simple that would let you get to know me a little better. So without further ado, here are my top 5 favorite TV shows (most of these are off the air so I shouldn’t have to worry about spoilers but I’ll do my best to avoid them anyway)

Continue reading

Motherboxes and Infinity Stones: Or Why Character Development is Crucial

As a storyteller, one of the most important–if not the most important—elements that make up every great story are its characters. If plot is the backbone and setting the skin, characters are the heart and soul of a story. Without interesting, well-developed, loveable (or hate-able), and relatable characters a story is little more than an empty shell. This is a principle I believe wholeheartedly in whether I’m writing a story or consuming it. Plot may be what drives me to pick up a book or start a TV show but characters are what keep me from putting it back down or abandoning it in search of something new. So when the excitement over the Avengers: Infinity War trailer that dropped last week had subsided I was struck with just what, exactly, sets the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far apart from the DC Extended Universe. First, let me preface this post with: I will try to avoid spoilers but if you have not seen Justice League yet (or any of the MCU or DCEU movies for that matter) and want to avoid being spoiled, you should probably stop reading now.

Continue reading