For a re­view of “Ready Player One,”

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For those of the millennial set who thought the great di­rec­tor Steven Spiel­berg — he of “Juras­sic Park,” the “In­di­ana Jones” films and “E. T.”— was but amyth, given that he’s passed on more friv­o­lous fare in re­cent years to tackle sub­jects such as the Pen­tagon Pa­pers (“The Post”) and the Civil War (“Lin­coln”), meet one of the men­who taught a gen­er­a­tion to love­movies.

Spiel­berg re­turns to the fun in “Ready Player One,” a film based on the novel of the same name by Ernest Cline. The fast- paced ad­ven­ture re­calls the whimsy and won­der that Spiel­berg pro­duced in movies suchas “Juras­sicPark.”

There is, how­ever, a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence for those who’ve grown ac­cus­tomed to the work in his more se­ri­ous phase, which ar­guably be­gan in earnest in 1993 with “Schindler’s List,” his cin­e­matic mas­ter­piece that won Os­cars for best pic­ture and best di­rec­tor. He doesn’t aban­donask­ing rel­e­vant ques­tions.

On its sur­face, “Ready Player One” is a romp through vir­tual re­al­ity. Scratch a lit­tle more and au­di­ences will re­ceive a ru­mi­na­tion on our con­nected so­ci­ety that ques­tions what dam­age is be­ing done to the so­cial fabric by tech­nol­ogy.

“RPO” fol­lows the ad­ven­tures of Wade Watts ( Tye Sheri­dan, Cy­clops in “X- Men: Apoc­a­lypse”), a Colum­bus, Ohio- area teen, who lives in an Amer­ica where want— want for food, want for suit­able shel­ter, want for hap­pi­ness— rep­re­sents the norm. He lives with his aunt and her abu­sive boyfriend in a trailer park­where the mo­bile homes are stacked above one an­other.

De­spite­mu­chof so­ci­etyfind­ing it­self in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions, ev­ery­one finds awayto log into the Oasis, a vir­tual world where youcan bewhat youwantto be and, men­tally, you’re amil­lion miles from re­al­ity.

The mas­ter­minds be­hind this tech­no­log­i­cal ter­ror — James Hal­l­i­day ( Mark Ry­lance) and Og­den Mor­row ( Si­mon Pegg) — have lit­tle idea what they have wrought un­til it’s too late. Upon Hal­l­i­day’s death, we learn there is anunusual so­lu­tion to solv­ing who will ul­ti­mately have con­trol of the Oasis, one that ol’ Wil­lyWonka­would be proud.

He leaves three clues that lean heav­ily on knowledge of 1980s pop cul­ture. Crack the code and con­trol of the Oasis is yours. But it isn’t just in­di­vid­u­als who seek to own the tech.

In­no­va­tive Online In­dus­tries, a cor­po­ra­tion with plans to com­pletely mon­e­tize the Oasis, as­sem­bles an en­tire depart­ment ded­i­cated to winning Hal­l­i­day and Mor­row’s cre­ation.

Wade, with the help of a group of friends, re­al­izes it’s up to them to en­sure that doesn’t hap­pen.

Spiel­berg asks salient ques­tions of the day re­gard­ing tech­nol­ogy all while ques­tion­ing the role of cor­po­ra­tions in con­trol­ling it. It’s not dif­fi­cult to in­ter­pret “Ready Player One” as an ar­gu­ment for net neu­tral­ity, a pol­icy that fa­vored an open in­ter­net that the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion re­cently voted to re­peal.

How­ever, a plethora of rel­e­vant top­ics lurk be­neath the sur­face of “RPO,” enough to make the au­di­ence still pon­der the subject mat­ter after leav­ing the the­ater.

How­ever, for those who read the book, be warned that the changes made to some of the pop- cul­ture ref­er­ences rep­re­sent sig­nif­i­cant de­par­tures here. In fact, many of the changes in “RPO” can be down­right jar­ring. Apiece of ad­vice: Roll with them.

Ul­ti­mately, a lik­able cast, Ry­lance’s per­for­mance is es­pe­cially memorable, an imag­i­na­tive story and Spiel­berg’s abil­ity to meld mirth, mys­tery and pop cul­ture en­sure that “Ready Player One” is a must- see.

“Ready Player One,” a Warner Bros. Pic­tures re­lease, is rated PG- 13 for se­quences of sci- fi ac­tion vi­o­lence, bloody im­ages, some sug­ges­tive ma­te­rial, par­tial nu­dity and lan­guage. Run­ning time: 140 min­utes.

“Jour­ney’s End”

Last year’s movie about WWI, also known asWon­der Woman, made $ 1 bil­lion around the globe, and that’s prob­a­bly not a re­al­is­tic out­come for “Jour­ney’s End.”

In part be­cause there are no su­per­heroes in “Jour­ney’s End,” only men. And doomed men at that, English sol­diers stuck in a trench about to be doused in poi­son gas, and over­run by Ger­man sol­diers. It’s hall­mark is a dogged real­ism— it’s based on ma­te­rial writ­ten 90 years ago byWWI veteran R. C. Sher­riff, who turned his ex­pe­ri­ences into the play, which opened in Lon­don star­ring a young Lau­rence Olivier, and went on to be­come a West End smash and a hit across the pond aswell.

Au­di­ences were in­trigued by the nov­elty of Sher­riff ’ s then- mod­ern take on the un­prece­dented hor­ror of in­dus­trial- age mech­a­nized war­fare— con­flict on a mass scale, con­ducted with weapons of mass de­struc­tion ( ma­chine guns and nerve gas) that had turned com­bat into point­less, numb­ing slaugh­ter — the bat­tle fea­tured here would claim 700,000 men, and ac­com­plish noth­ing, not even a dis­gusted de­sire to end the­war.

Jour­ney’s End plops us into year three of the mad­ness, when the fu­til­ity and in­san­ity of the sit­u­a­tion had left sol­diers shell- shocked and cyn­i­cal. On a pa­rade ground, troops drill and sing: “We’re here be­cause we’re be­cause we’re here be­cause we’re here,” a bit­ter strain of esprit de corps.

Sol­diers are fight­ing to pre­serve monar­chies and a class sys­tem that views them as lit­tle more than can­non fod­der. This de­based sit­u­a­tion, in­creas­ingly ob­vi­ous, has un­nerved even the of­fi­cers.

Among them is Stan­hope ( Sam Claflin), who in Jour­ney’s End is in­formed the Ger­mans are pre­par­ing to mount a ma­jor as­sault, and that he will re­ceive no re­in­force­ments. At this in­op­por­tune mo­ment, he “wel­comes” a new of­fi­cer named Raleigh ( Asa But­ter­field) a friend fromhome.

Stan­hope strug­gles to con­ceal from Raleigh what we would now rec­og­nize as PTSD — three years of war have driven him nearly mad ( an­other of­fi­cer is al­ready there), and he nowgets by on al­co­hol and cathar­tic bouts of rage ( of­ten di­rected at the poor cook, Toby Jones).

Stan­hope re­lies on friend and fel­lowof­fi­cer ( Paul Bet­tany), but even this con­so­la­tion is threat­ened­when Stan­hope is forced to se­lect of­fi­cers for a sui­ci­dal pa­trol to snag Ger­man pris­on­ers.

“Jour­ney’s End” makes no at­tempt to dis­guise the stage ori­gins of the script. In­stead, di­rec­tor Saul Dibb shows the phys­i­cal di­men­sion of the sit­u­a­tion in a new way — much of the ac­tion oc­curs in the tun­nels— it’s shot imag­i­na­tively in ex­treme low light — where the of­fi­cers live, eat, and de­cide which men are to live and­which are to die.

And as­pects Sher­riff ’ s drama re­tain their ap­peal— in­clud­ing the way it re­flects the un­par­al­leled Bri­tish gift for un­der­state­ment. When a sergeant ( Stephen Gra­ham) grasps the sui­ci­dal lu­nacy of the unit’s lat­est as­sign­ment, he de­scribes the orders as a “nui­sance.” In­deed. The play wears well, even if it’s end­ing is a bit dated— a fam­ily mem­ber re­ceives a let­ter home from one of the men, who is es­sen­tially ly­ing about what he’s seen, and pre­serv­ing il­lu­sions of gal­lantry and honor for the sake of the folks back home.

War is no longer able to keep those kinds of se­crets. But that hasn’t made it any less in­erad­i­ca­ble.

“Jour­ney’s End,” a Good Deed En­ter­tain­ment re­lease, is rated R for vi­o­lence. Run­ning time: 117 min­utes.


Tom Stur­ridge stars in the World War I film “Jour­ney’s End.”

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