Tag Archives: An American Tail

Ready for Ready Player One

When I find out a book is being adapted for film, that book jumps to the top of my TBR list, even if it was never on the list to begin with. I can read the book, get swallowed up in the hype for the movie, and when it’s released I can see it and say, with a smarmy air of superiority and a flip of my nonexistent bangs, “Oh, you haven’t read the book? You should tooooooooooootally read the book.” This may be why I have no friends.

Even cats think I can be too smug.

“Not this again.” Photo by ShayDee13 on Flickr. Click through for source.

That brings us to Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One and its upcoming adaptation by an obscure director you probably never heard of named Steven Spielberg.

Ready Player One takes place in the year 2044. Most of the world is in pretty bad shape (except for Columbus, Ohio—one of the signs that this is a fictional story). Literally everyone is plugged into a virtual reality utopia known as the OASIS. When OASIS creator James Donovan Halliday dies, it’s revealed that he left behind a series of puzzles leading to to a hidden Easter Egg. Whoever finds the Egg will win Halliday’s real-life fortune and control of the OASIS, like if Charlie and the Chocolate Factory took place inside The Matrix. Naturally, everyone wants to find the Egg, including an evil corporation (is there really any other kind in dystopias?). Our protagonist, Wade Watts, has made it his life’s goal to find the Egg and when he happens upon the first clue, everything changes—both in the real world and in the OASIS.

I’d heard of the book way before I learned about the adaptation, but I was turned off by the novel’s fantasy and gaming aspects. I can say with conviction that I’m not a fantasy nerd. In high school, I read a few Terry Brooks and R.A. Salvatore books and got about three-fourths through The Hobbit, but they weren’t for me.

readyplayeroneI missed out on the early days of gaming too, but when I got older I enjoyed the Nintendo 64 and GameCube and, like everyone in the 90s, I got swept up in Pokémania. I loved Guitar Hero and Rock Band and still find the LEGO video games immensely entertaining (probably because you get to destroy everything on screen), but I wouldn’t call myself a gamer.

Despite these facts, Cline has crafted a great book that I really enjoyed.  At the most basic level, Ready Player One is a love letter to all things 80s (there’s Ghostbusters and Oingo Boingo references within the first two pages). Halliday’s quest is filled with references to the 80s because he grew up in the 80s. As a result, everything that was popular during that decade experiences a resurgence in the real world because everyone is searching for the Egg. Here’s a handy list of all the references made in the book.

Some may find the characters a bit one-dimensional (bad guys and good guys are very clearly black and white) and be puzzled about just how the real world declined so quickly (we’re living in a time that’s only thirty years away from the events of the novel). While things with the evil corporation get wrapped up a little too neatly for my liking, it in no way lessened my enjoyment of the book. Plus, there are plans for a sequel so maybe some lingering questions will be answered there.

As for the adaptation, I have faith in this project with Spielberg at the helm. He had a part in practically every great movie from the 80s—director of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the Indiana Jones trilogy; producer of, among others, Back to the Future, Gremlins, An American Tail, *batteries not included, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and The Land Before Time; and writer of The Goonies and Poltergeist. If you don’t unabashedly love at least one of those films, I don’t think we can be friends anymore.

If Spielberg can bring us something like his 80s films or even a few of his 90s films (Jurassic Park anyone?), this could be a blockbuster in every sense of the word. He’s on the right track; he cast Olivia Cooke (about whom I’ve previously gushed) as the tough, sure-of-herself female lead.

Ready Player One opens December 15, 2017, so I have plenty of time to speculate wildly about the film and catch up on some of Spielberg’s films that I missed.

Have you read the book? Are you excited about the adaptation? Let us know in the comments below.



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Movies for Mother’s Day

I love mothers. They make the world go ‘round.

Since my contribution to Eleventh Stack will almost always be about or pertaining to movies and since Mother’s Day is this weekend, I thought it’d be fun to list a bunch of movies for Mother’s Day.

A caveat: these aren’t necessarily mother-themed movies or even typical mother/child movies; you won’t find Juno or Stepmom anywhere on this list. These are movies that I have memories of seeing, at one time or another, with my mother. Never fear, because I have thrown in a few just in case you need to browse a library-themed blog in order to find something to watch with your mother on Mother’s Day.

There are some (potential) spoilers below, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip the entries that you haven’t seen.


Psycho (1960)

Just kidding. But not really. I’m not sure when I first saw this movie, but I want to talk about one time when my best friend was spending the night and we watched it. If you’ll recall, there are a few times when Janet Leigh is topless, save for a bra. Now I’m sure this was scandalous in the 1960s, but it didn’t bother my friend or me; we were both in high school. My mother, on the other hand, kept running into the living room to hold up a towel or a sheet to cover the television screen whenever Leigh was exposed. Other than that personal memory, why is a movie about matricide on a list of movies to watch on Mother’s Day? Well, because of the line: “a boy’s best friend is his mother.” In the context of the film, it’s creepy, but my mother and I frequently and mockingly said it to each other. There is some truth it the line, though; our mothers are often our first and best friends.


What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

I’ll admit that this movie really has nothing to do with mothers and their child(ren). It’s campy and ridiculous and for some reason was always playing on Sunday afternoons on Turner Classic Movies when I was younger. I don’t know if we ever saw it from start to finish in one sitting, but my mother and I couldn’t get enough of it. We thought this scene was particularly hilarious:

Or maybe I was the only one who thought that and she was just humoring me. If you have no prior knowledge of this film, then that scene is really all you need to know.


Finding Neverland (2004)

Here’s a tip: don’t take a girl on a date to the movies if you’re going to end up bawling your eyes out by the movie’s end. I made this mistake when I took a girl to see this movie, back when Johnny Depp was still making good movies. It’s a fantastic movie, but definitely not a date movie. I saw it again with my mother and we both just held hands and cried as J.M. Barrie (Depp) consoles a grieving Peter Llewelyn Davies (Freddie Highmore) over his mother’s death. I got the DVD as soon as it came out and we sat on the couch, watching and crying again. It’s crazy that the guy who directed this also directed Quantum of Solace, World War Z and Monster’s Ball. That’s almost Richard Linklater-levels of diversity. If you haven’t seen it, why not watch it with your mother this year?  Just don’t forget the tissues.


Beauty and the Beast (1991)

This is one of the first memories of a movie that I have. It’s also the first memory I have of seeing a movie at a drive-in (remember those?). I still have a VHS tape (remember those?) of this movie. I even have an autographed picture of Angela Lansbury that I’m sure was the result of my mother encouraging me to write to her. Do I really need to explain why the first full-length animated movie in the history of cinema to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award is on this list? It’s just a movie that’s very much ingrained in my childhood.

Angela Lansbury's autograph

Angela Lansbury’s autograph. You know you’re jealous. If you had some kind of CSI-zooming technology, you would see the postmark on the envelope is from August 1992. I was 5 years old.


The Land Before Time (1988)

What is it about kids’ movies killing off the parents? I’m looking at you, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Bambi, Finding Nemo and Frozen (to name a few). Is it some kind of perverse wish-fulfillment? Or is it more about showing that a family can be a group of people who love each other and doesn’t have to necessarily fit the typical nuclear design? I’m feeling optimistic as I write this, so I’m going with the latter. This is another movie that, to this day, still makes me cry. I tear up just listening to the beginning piano notes of this:

I guess you could argue that this movie is about friendship and overcoming obstacles and all that, but the kid dinosaurs definitely look happy when they’re reunited in The Great Valley with the adult dinosaurs at the end. I’m just gonna go ahead and ignore the twelve (!) direct-to-video sequels and the television show.


An American Tail (1986) and An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (1991)

I have very vivid memories of my mother and me watching these movies, along with the previous two entries, during the lazy, salad days of my youth. Whenever the Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram duet of “Somewhere Out There” came on the radio, we’d assume their parts and sing along at the top of our lungs. Then when the sequel came out, we’d sing along with “Dreams to Dream” on the cassette tape (remember those?).  It could be argued, again, that this movie is about friendship, but I choose to focus on the family aspect of it. I’m getting misty-eyed just thinking about when Fievel finds his family at the end of the first movie.

Yes, these are mine. And yes, I willing moved them with me from my childhood home to Pittsburgh.

Yes, these are mine. And yes, I willingly moved them from my childhood home to Pittsburgh with me.


Watchmen (2009)

Here’s another tip: don’t go to see a movie with your mother and younger brother if there’s going to be a graphic sex scene right in the middle of it. I don’t remember the exact chain of events that led to us being in that theater that day, but there we were, watching Zak Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s best-selling graphic novel. As Nite-Owl II (Patrick Wilson) and Silk Spectre II (Malin Akerman) start going at it, my mother shielded my brother’s eyes. She told me to do the same and I pretended to. Awkwardness aside, my mother still says she enjoyed the movie.


50/50 (2011)

My mother and I saw this when it came out because we both like Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen the movie since we saw it on that rainy day back in 2011. That’s not because it was terrible or anything like that. If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, JGL’s character is diagnosed with cancer and has a fifty-fifty shot of surviving it. There are some strong mother/son scenes that really resonated with us. We both loved it and cried (again) as we held hands (again) in the theater. I really should revisit it soon.


Hans Christian Andersen (1952)

This is another movie that I feel was always on TCM growing up. It’s also a musical and I’ve never met a mother who doesn’t like musicals, so maybe you can watch it with yours! I remember being swept up in it all, really believing that Copenhagen was wonderful and that being a shoemaker’s apprentice could be thrilling. I remember my mother telling me she wanted to marry Danny Kaye when she was a child. I’ve always thought that was incredibly endearing.


The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2012)

My mother, my brother and I started a sort-of tradition of going to the movies for Christmas in 2009. We saw Sherlock Holmes. After the incident with the sex scene in Watchmen, I’m really glad we didn’t see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo remake in 2011. We’ll probably see Tim Burton’s Big Eyes this year; it just got a release date this week. This past Christmas, however, we saw Mitty.

Because of my mother’s aforementioned affection toward Danny Kaye, I was worried she wouldn’t like this movie, a remake of Kaye’s 1947 film, both of which are adaptations of James Thurber’s short story. I hate remakes, mostly on principle, so I wasn’t expecting much myself. I was happily proven wrong; this movie was one of my favorites of 2013.  Part of the reason is because we shared a nice moment, immensely enjoying a movie together. And why was that? Was it because of the tender moments that Walter has with his mother, played by Shirley MacLaine? Was it the breathtaking cinematography? The beautiful score and perfectly picked songs? Was it because one time, when my brother and I were at an open casting call for The Bridge to Nowhere (that’s another story entirely) we met a man who we swear was Ben Stiller’s twin? These are all possible reasons, but I really feel that it’s because we’ve all been Walter Mitty, even you, dear readers. Who amongst us can honestly say we’ve never escaped into our own imaginations and thought up the perfect scenario? The quickest quip? Daydreamed the best possible outcome of an awful situation? If you can honestly say you never have, then I’d like to meet you, because your life must be fantastically awesome!


My mother taught me the importance of imagination. In today’s world of insta-tweeting and face-chatting, it seems the art of imagining has been lost. When one of my action figures lost an arm, it wasn’t broken; it was an amputee version of that toy. She was always ready, willing and able to nurture the growing tapestry of wonder that is a child’s imagination. I’ll never be able to thank her enough for that.

I love you, mom.


What’s your favorite movie to watch with your mom on Mother’s Day? Is it a traditional classic? Or is it more off-beat? Either way, let me know in the comments below!



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