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“Ready Player One”: The Movie Based on the Book Based on the Lists Based on the Collections

Ready Player Cyclops!

A grimdark timeline in which the only survivor of X-Men: Apocalypse was Cyclops.

Everyone loves crossovers! Who doesn’t get excited every time two to 10,000 pop culture characters of varying degrees of familiarity get stuffed into the same frames or panels and generate mechanical synergy for the amusement of fans and the enrichment of corporations? As a young teen collector of both Marvel and DC Comics I was bedazzled by the one-two punch of Secret Wars and Crisis on Infinite Earths, each of which tossed piles of IPs into dogpiles and let them take turns teaming up and punching each other into oblivion. This brilliant concept in apocalyptic storytelling wowed me at the time, but began losing steam over the decades as all the other annual Marvel and DC crossover events kept (and keep) producing diminishing returns for increasingly transparent financial cravings. Meanwhile in other media, we had the innovative novelty of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and mash-ups like Kingdom Hearts, Soul Calibur, and Super Smash Bros. We had obscurities like Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, while the previous generation arguably had their own predecessor in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Despite the amount of behind-the-scenes wrangling involved, the method is simple: pick lots of famous faces that each have had tons of stories and years of character development dedicated to them, cultivated by their creators and successors with some combination of time and care; strip away everything from them but their outer shell and a one-line descriptor of their most superficial traits; throw everyone into an arbitrary arena; make them fight and fight and fight; then, profit. Hurray! It’s a crossover!

To those who love crossovers and other spectacles a la Battle of the Network Stars, by all means keep loving what you love. After a couple decades or more of them, they’re not an automatic draw for me.

And don’t get me started on the crossover’s close cousin, the whole “Easter egg” fetish that’s become a mandatory element of every geek-related product ever, to the point that viewers spend so much time expecting recognizable tokens and high-fiving each other for spotting them that they become the point of purchase and the only reason to pay attention. Some works are so oversaturated with Easter eggs, they’re less like a narrative and more like an extended Highlight for Children “Hidden Pictures” puzzle.

That brings us to Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One, adapting the novel by Ernest Cline that I couldn’t bring myself to touch after reading a lacerating review of its nostalgic self-indulgence that gave me more than enough signifiers to tell me it was Not My Thing. As if that weren’t enough, someone on Twitter (I wish I could remember who or in which recent month) shared numerous excerpts from the novel that confirmed it’s entirelty about the hero name-checking, listing, and pumping himself up with his never-ending stream of collector callback consciousness. Unless someone wants to pay me to bypass my gut reaction, count me among the viewers who saw the movie but didn’t and won’t read the book.

Frankly, I only saw the movie because I knew friends or family would ask me about it. In their defense and to my surprise, I’ll give them this: Ready Player One was a lot less anathematic to me than The Big Bang Theory.

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C2E2 2018 Photos, Part 3: More Cosplay!

Luke Skywalker and green milk!

Jedi Retiree Luke Skywalker swigging green milk, a nutritious part of every space breakfast.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time again! The ninth annual Chicago Comic and Entertainment Exposition (“C2E2″) just wrapped another three-day extravaganza of comic books, actors, creators, toys, props, publishers, freebies, Funko Pops, anime we don’t recognize, and walking and walking and walking and walking. Each year C2E2 keeps inching ever closer to its goal of becoming the Midwest’s answer to the legendary San Diego Comic Con and other famous cons in larger, more popular states. My wife Anne and I missed the first year, but have attended every year since 2011 as a team.

In this special miniseries I’ll be sharing memories and photos from our own C2E2 experience and its plethora of pizzazz. If it’s a convention, that means it’s time for more cosplay photos! Anne and I are fans of costumes and try to keep an eye out for heroes, villains, antiheroes, supporting casts, and various oddities that look impressive and/or we haven’t seen at other cons…

Part Two featured the majority of Marvel characters we met. This time around, the arbitrary chapter divisions bring us to the amazing world of DC Comics, including a handful of Marvel/DC team-ups. As a value-added bonus, also on deck are heroes and villains from the Star Wars universe plus a selection of video game personalities, just because. Same disclaimers apply as in Part Two. Enjoy! Again!

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My Life in Concerts, Part 3 of 3: Classical Geeks

Ewoks at Conseco!

That time Conseco Fieldhouse hosted grotesque samples of Ewok taxidermy.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Over the past few days, live performances have been on my mind for a couple of reasons I’ll get to at the end of this miniseries — to wit: my life at concerts over the past 25 years, mostly but not entirely rock-based, including a smattering of stand-up comedy and a pair of classical orchestras in more recent times. That number of years might sound impressive if I were a 30-year-old roadie and if the results were novella-length. As a 45-year-old introvert, I’m surprised they add up to as much as they do.

The next two concerts in my timeline shared quite a few traits. Both were at the same venue in downtown Indianapolis. My wife and son accompanied me for a change. Both featured large orchestras, multimedia displays, and original scores from entertainment media.

One of these presentations differed from all the other shows in this miniseries in a very noticeable way: we took photos!

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Old Guy with a PS3, Year 3: The Never-Ending “Borderlands 2”

Face McShooty!

In Borderlands 2, some missions are harder and more meaningful than others. The showdown with Face McShooty is not one of them.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover two years ago:

As a kid, I frequented video arcades regularly. As a parent, my son and I spent a good decade playing games together on his various systems. When he graduated and moved away to college, he took all his systems with him, leaving me with only my old Nintendo that won’t play cartridges unless you keep the Game Genie firmly inserted, and an Atari Plug-‘n’-Play Controller I got for Christmas a few years ago that interested me for about two weeks. On Black Friday 2014, I decided I wanted back in the 21st century gaming mode and picked up a used PS3.

Naturally I started off a generation behind the rest of the civilized world, but I didn’t care. After fifteen months without, holding a controller felt abnormal and rusty for the first few weeks. Once I got used to it again and figured out how to disable the “Digital Clear Motion Plus” feature on my TV, I could shake the dust off my trigger fingers, choose the games I wanted to play, sprint or meander through them at whatever pace I saw fit, and try some different universes beyond Final Fantasy and our other longtime mainstays. The following is a rundown of my first year’s worth of solo PS3 adventures…

…which brings us to our third annual round-up of how I spent my retro-gaming time this year. In previous entries I would list all the games I played that year in the order I played them and with my trophy percentages included, whether impressive or embarrassing.

This year, it’s a short list, he understated:

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Our Christmas Day with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”

Jumanji!

Dwayne Johnson on a motorcycle with a flamethrower. Maybe movies do get better than this, but some days they don’t need to.

No one deserves to be left alone on Christmas, least of all a grandmother. When one of our families canceled their Christmas gathering altogether at the last minute, it left one kindly relative in danger of spending all day alone with her dashed hopes and her TV dinners and a 227 marathon. We knew we had to do something. That’s why for the first time in ages we headed to the theater on Christmas Day — gave her some company, some fresh air, and the treat of an all-new movie. Waiting there for us with two hours’ worth of innocuous, family-bonding fun was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his happy sidekicks in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

In his wrestling days our man Mr. Johnson famously asked his opponents, “Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?” He may not get into the ring anymore, but we can still smell what he’s cooking. And if there’s one thing The Rock cooks best these days, it’s popcorn. Lots and lots of popcorn. Movies with The Rock in them are like the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving of cinema. You might groan at what’s on the table, but even if you don’t touch it, someone else will appreciate the love and effort he put into that popcorn, and they’re gonna have some and love it.

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Wizard World Chicago 2017 Photos, Part 3: Last Call for Cosplay

Hands of Blue!

The mysterious Hands of Blue from Firefly, on the hunt for WWC guests River Tam and River Song. Their next target after that: possibly Melissa Rivers.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

It’s that time once more! This weekend my wife and I made another journey up to Wizard World Chicago in scenic Rosemont, IL, where we found much enjoyment and new purchases alongside peers and aficionados of comics and genre entertainment. Friday night left us near death by the end of our day, after a few miles’ worth of walking up and down the aisles and hallways, with breaks to go stand in lines of varying lengths and value. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

…I know, I know, less typing, more costume photo galleries. While you enjoy I’ll just be sitting over here in a musty corner, waiting to get back to writing paragraphs at some point. ‘sokay, I ain’t jealous.

So: cosplay! From gaming, movies, TV, and cereal!

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