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April 2018

Review: ‘Ready Player One’ Is Spielberg’s Best Film In A Decade Mark Hughes


With the official summer box office season fast approaching, the current spring of tentpole contenders continues apace with the arrival of cinema’s grand master of blockbuster franchise filmmaking. Steven Spielberg returns to theaters with Ready Player One, the sort of big-budget action-adventure extravaganza that turned the director into one of the most successful, beloved, and acclaimed filmmakers of all time. Can he work his magic again after many years away from the tentpole game?

With Ready Player One’s domestic opening weekend shaping up for $40-50 million, international markets will provide a welcome boost expected to exceed $100+ million over the Easter holiday. Some tracking suggests interest in the film is slowing a bit as we head into the weekend, but don’t be surprised if the numbers tick upward as the weekend progresses.

An average run would see a $150+ million global bow translate into perhaps $300-350 million range. If word of mouth is strong, however, then the initial relatively modest opening numbers (particularly in North America) could give way to solid holds and long legs that carry the film toward $400+ million territory.

With terrific critical reviews pushing it over 80+% at Rotten Tomatoes, a best selling novel to provide branding, Spielberg’s name recognition, and the story’s mix of video games and ’80s-90s nostalgia, there’s good reason to expect audience word of mouth to drive attendance for Ready Player One. It lacks any big-name stars who could attract an additional fanbase, but these days only a few performers really deliver that sort of star power anyway.

Spielberg used to be the poster boy for blockbuster box office results, as his films through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s regularly racking up several hundred million bucks apiece. After the turn of the century, Spielberg slowly turned his focus away from franchises and big mainstream crowdpleasers, and toward more serious dramatic fare. As a result, the box office revenue from his pictures declined significantly — which, of course, is fine for movies made without need for massive box office results.

Ready Player One will be Spielberg’s highest-grossing movie since at least The Adventures of Tintin, and more likely his biggest box office success since Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. It’s also one of only six of his post-2000 films to top 80% at Rotten Tomatoes, out of 13 total pictures he’s directed during that 18 year period. It could also become his second-best domestic performer in a decade, possibly behind only Lincoln, which took $182 million stateside).

So, why do I think audiences will reward Ready Player One with good word of mouth and long box office legs? Read on and find out…



Standing before the parliament of our great country, I see my journey to this place in the continuum of my family’s story.

My grandparents on both sides were migrants from Europe. In the late 1930s Morrie and Leah Frydenberg came from Poland to Australia to seek a better life. They arrived while Europe was plunging into darkness.

The experience was different for my maternal grandparents, Sam and Ethel Strauss, and their young daughters, including my mother, who were interned in the Budapest ghetto by the Hungarian fascists. They survived and eventually made their way through displaced persons camps to Australia.

My great‐grandparents, and many relatives on both sides, perished in the Holocaust, but one who survived is with us today.

My great‐aunt Mary Frydenberg spent two years at Auschwitz. She was transferred back to Germany by the Nazis and then sent on a death march, but she escaped with the assistance of a humane German guard. In her run for freedom, she was given shelter by a Catholic priest—at great risk to him—before making her way to Australia.

Mary’s story serves us all as a constant reminder of hope, even in the presence of tragedy.

What drives us as Liberals are notions of individual liberty, individual responsibility and a fairness borne out of a particular kind of equality.

The equality which Liberals seek in a society is the equality of opportunity, not the other kind of equality—the equality of outcomes.

By mandating outcomes, the state removes responsibility from individuals and denies the worker, the student and the patient the opportunity to be the best that they can be. It seems to me that these two notions of equality reflect the fundamental fault lines between us and the members opposite. It is not a thin divide.

“How can we all be better off when the government targets independent and Catholic schools merely because parents are exercising choice?”

“The opportunity to prosper is given its best chance through competitive markets—the insight reached by Adam Smith more than two centuries ago.”

“It may appear a paradox but the first of my large thoughts is that we need to limit the government. Our government is too big.”

“We must always remember that whenever we create a new arm of bureaucracy or expand a field of activity, we are not spending our own money; we are spending the money of our citizens who look to us as the guardians of their wealth.”

“The reduction of our per capita consumption of energy and non‐renewable resources is necessary … but part of being responsible is knowing what it will cost, who it will impact and how communities and businesses will need to react.”

“There has never been a better time for innovative technologies, practices and solutions.It seems inexplicable that in Australia we have yet to have a constructive and thorough debate about nuclear power, the only baseload, carbon neutral energy source.”

“How can we all be better off when the government discourages private health insurance at a time when the public system is overburdened?

“Our alliance with the United States is the cornerstone of our national security strategy. It must be protected and defended by both sides of the House.Our friendship and common purpose rests upon more than Realpolitik; it reflects our values, traditions and commitment to the democratic ideal.”

My vision is to achieve what Menzies termed ‘civilised capitalism’, unleashing the power of the individual and his enterprise while always providing a safety net for those who despite their best efforts are unable to cope.

These are my motivations, my cause and my way, and they not negotiable.

Trump is Cutting Old Gordian Knots By Victor Davis Hanson

The proverbial knot of Gordium was impossible to untie. Anyone clever enough to untie it would supposedly become the king of Asia. Many princes tried; all failed.

When Alexander the Great arrived, he was challenged to unravel the impossible knot. Instead, he pulled out his sword and cut through it. Problem solved.

Donald Trump inherited an array of perennial crises when he was sworn in as president in 2017. He certainly did not possess the traditional diplomatic skills and temperament to deal with any of them.

In the last year of the Barack Obama Administration, a lunatic North Korean regime purportedly had gained the ability to send nuclear-tipped missiles to the U.S. West Coast.

China had not only been violating trade agreements but forcing U.S. companies to hand over their technological expertise as the price of doing business in China.

NATO may have been born to protect the European mainland, but a distant United States was paying an increasingly greater percentage of its budget to maintain NATO than were its direct beneficiaries.

Mexico keeps sending its impoverished citizens to the United States, and they usually enter illegally. That way, Mexico relieves its own social tensions, develops a pro-Mexico expatriate community in the U.S. and gains an estimated $30 billion a year from remittances that undocumented immigrants send back home, often on the premise that American social services can free up cash for them to do so.

In the past, traditional and accepted methods failed to deal with all of these challenges. Bill Clinton’s “Agreed Framework,” George W. Bush’s “six-party talks” and the “strategic patience” of the Obama administration essentially offered North Korea cash to denuclearize.

Is Trump About to Repeat Obama’s Worst Mistake? by Malcolm Lowe

Should American personnel be removed from Syria, President Erdogan will be able to use his tanks and airplanes to revive the Turkish genocidal tradition by expelling the Syrian Kurds from their towns and villages along the entire border with Turkey. These are the same Kurds — remember Kobani? — who drove out ISIS from its Syrian “caliphate” and enabled other Syrians to regain their freedom and return to their own homes.

In early February, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman begged Turkey to cease its assault on Afrin, claiming — truly enough — that “the continuation of Turkey’s military operation will facilitate the return of instability and terrorism to Syria.” Indeed, deprived of American protection, the Kurds will hardly find anyone else willing to rescue them apart from Iran. If that happens, the Kurds will reward Iranians with same loyalty and devotion that they showed hitherto to Americans. Understandably, since they will owe their lives and homes to Iran, not to the United States.

Even if the implications of the massacre in Afrin were not so clearly evident, President Trump should remember the worst mistake of Obama’s presidency in the area. This was Obama’s precipitous and petulant decision to withdraw residual American military forces from Iraq. So, Mr. Trump, we beg and urge you not to copy Obama, who made his big mistake and reversed it, but to reverse your mistake before you make it.

The terrified dire warnings that greeted Donald Trump’s election to the presidency of the United States have proved to be mostly exaggerated or imaginary. In some cases, like his decision to terminate absurd diplomatic antics about the location of Israel’s capital, he has put an end to nonsense perpetrated by politicians throughout the world, including all recent American presidents. Very sadly, extremely sadly, he now seems inclined to repeat the worst mistake of his predecessor, President Obama.

What about the Plight of Myanmar’s Hindu Rohingyas? by Keya Mukherjee

In its effort to gather evidence against the Burmese government for its ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims, the international community must not let the dire circumstances of the Hindu Rohingyas go unnoticed.

On March 11, 2018, the UN Special Advisor on Genocide Prevention told the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh that the United Nations is planning to amass evidence of genocide against the Rohingyas in Myanmar (formerly Burma) through a judicial investigation.

The persecution of Muslims in Myanmar has been condemned by Western policymakers, international human rights organizations and the United Nations for the past year. Since August alone, more than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape atrocities committed against them by the Burmese army.

During the same period, however, more than 100,000 Hindu Rohingyas have also sought refuge in Bangladesh, but for a different reason: to escape the brutality of the members of Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a Muslim terrorist outfit fighting against the Myanmar government.

The Heavy Price of Israeli Generosity No good deed extended to Palestinians goes unpunished. Mordechai Nisan

Although some stubborn Israelis won’t agree, Israel is really to blame for the absence of peace with the Palestinians. This is not to say Israel is also guilty for the war with the Palestinians, though people might mistakenly think so, considering the recent killing of 18 Palestinians in Gaza who were engaged in a pseudo-civilian invasion of Israeli territory on March 30.

The real story is clear but generally misreported or unreported by the fake news outlets: Israel’s wanton concessions, innumerable gestures of good-will, and wide range of assistance that have all failed since the 1993 Oslo Accord to bring peace with the Palestinians. Israel withdrew from all of the Gaza Strip and parts of Judea and Samaria in the spirit of “territories for peace.” Facing Palestinians with their battery of terrorists and rock-throwing youth, knife-stabbers and arsonists, food-poisoners and maniacs crashing their vehicles into soldiers and pedestrians, Israel often showed undue indulgence where iron-clad firmness would have been expected and justified.

Israel’s complacent generosity has provided quality medical treatment in its hospitals for Palestinian enemies of Zionism, offered academic studies to convicted and imprisoned Arab terrorists, and transfers gas and electricity to Gaza and its Hamas jihad regime. And the courts – well, Israel’s Supreme Court – is on constant alert to block any government initiative to build its security wall through an empty field near an Arab village, and to cancel government punishment and deterrence decisions to destroy a terrorist’s home.

In Middle Eastern cultural terms, we have uncovered an explanation for the interminable conflict. We have to speak about this with frankness, free from PC thought-control and Edward Said mantras.

Mueller Comes Up Empty Against Trump Special prosecutor admits that the president is not a criminal target. Joseph Klein

According to a report in the Washington Post, “Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III informed President Trump’s attorneys last month that he is continuing to investigate the president but does not consider him a criminal target at this point.” In other words, while Mr. Mueller still considers the president a subject of investigation, he has concluded, after nearly 11 months looking for something solid to use against President Trump, that he does not have enough evidence to charge the president with conspiring to collude with the Russians to interfere in the 2016 presidential election or, for that matter, with any other crime. Despite having gathered hundreds of thousands of documents for review, interviewed multiple witnesses, and gained guilty pleas for conduct unrelated to the Russian collusion investigation itself in return for full cooperation, Special Counsel Mueller has admitted that he lacks substantial evidence linking President Trump to the commission of any crime. Ironically, this matches the conclusion of former FBI Director James Comey himself before President Trump fired him.

While this development is obviously welcome news to President Trump, he is not entirely out of the woods yet. The Washington Post article added that Mr. Mueller informed the president’s lawyers that “he is preparing a report about the president’s actions while in office and potential obstruction of justice.”

The special counsel could suggest in his report that President Trump may have had a “corrupt intent” to interfere with the Russian collusion investigation by firing Comey, for example, or by asking Comey to go easy on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, but has not accumulated enough evidence yet to go forward with an indictment. Not only would the special counsel’s discussion along such lines in his report heighten calls for extending the special counsel’s mandate indefinitely, for further congressional investigations and for impeachment. Such a report would place more pressure on the president to submit to an interview with the special counsel or a high-level member of his team. President Trump has indicated a willingness to consider such an interview against the advice of John Dowd, the lawyer who had led the president’s legal team dealing with the Mueller investigation until he resigned last month. If the president does agree to an interview, he needs to tread very carefully to avoid falling into a perjury trap or saying something that the Mr. Mueller can use as evidence of the “corrupt intent” necessary to make a credible case of obstruction of justice against the president.

The K-12 Code Can Stop Political Child Abuse Indoctrination, bias and racism have no place in a classroom. Daniel Greenfield

Hampton Middle School has a problem.

The school in Hampton, Georgia managed to make national news twice in one week.

A sixth-grade teacher from the school was caught on tape ranting against Trump’s slogan of Make America Great Again. “Maybe he’s talking about it was great during segregation in the ‘60s. Is that what he’s talking about?”

“He must be talking about when it was great for Europeans,” Johnetta Benton sneered. “Because when it comes to minorities, America has never been great for minorities.”

Josie Orihuela , the Cuban-American student who tried to argue with her teacher, was told that she had no right to complain because her European ancestors have killed millions.

The teacher, who was supposed to be talking about Black History Month, also claimed that all Americans were illegal immigrants who had stolen the land. “When you say immigrants are killing folks, that’s us. That’s you, you, you, you and you,” she said, pointing at the different students, including Josie.

Josie had been named after her grandfather, who had fled Castro’s Cuba, and had Cherokee ancestry.

Joe Parkinson and Gbenga Akingbule Boko Haram Raid Hits as Nigeria Pursues Peace Talks Local official says at least 20 are dead after the attack on a military base and villages near a regional capital

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria—Boko Haram insurgents launched coordinated assaults on a Nigerian military base and villages close to this regional capital on Monday, a brazen operation that left at least 20 people dead just weeks after the government confirmed it was in talks with a breakaway faction of the extremist group.

The dawn raids—which saw insurgents deploy suicide bombers, mortars and truck-mounted machine guns—sparked a protracted battle with Nigerian soldiers at a military base on the edge of Maiduguri, an army spokesman said. Local officials, still tallying the dead and injured Monday afternoon, said the jihadists were attempting to infiltrate the city.

The attack left at least 20 people dead and 63 injured, according to Kashim Shettima, the governor of surrounding Borno State. “We will continue to intensify our efforts to safeguard lives and properties,” Mr. Shettima said. “Terrorists bask in the oxygen of publicity, they are aiming at soft targets and senselessly opening fire on innocent citizens, but we will stop them.”

The brazen operation came after Nigeria’s government revealed it was in peace talks with a Boko Haram breakaway faction allied with the Islamic State terror group and led by a mysterious young commander called Abu Musab al-Barnawi. CONTINUE AT SITE

Trump Administration Unveils Plans to Send National Guard Troops, Build Base Walls Near U.S.-Mexico Border Homeland Security secretary says agency and Pentagon will be directed to work with governors on deployment

WASHINGTON—The White House said Wednesday it would deploy National Guard troops to the border with Mexico and would consider building a wall along at least one military base set on the border.

Administration officials also said they were hoping for a high-profile congressional debate this spring and summer over U.S. protections for children and migrants seeking asylum, saying these “loopholes” were encouraging illegal migration.

The goal of the debate appeared to be in part to create a greater political contrast with Democrats on the issue of immigration. If Democrats resist, a senior administration official said, the administration would work to tell voters that the opposition was “the party of open borders.”

Officials said their goal is to combat what they see as out-of-control illegal migration, though the number of unauthorized crossings is lower than it has been in decades, according to government statistics. Administration officials said there was an uptick in March and said they feared bigger increases this spring and summer.

Few details about the size, scope or timing of the National Guard deployment were available. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said President Donald Trump would sign a proclamation ordering the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon to work with border-state governors to dispatch troops and that she hoped the deployment would begin immediately.

“We are beginning today and we are moving quickly,” she said. “The threat is real.”

Details, she said, would need to be worked out with the four border state governors, and she said she had spoken with each of them. State officials in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico expressed support for the administration’s latest initiatives on illegal immigration, but California has fought Trump immigration policies. CONTINUE AT SITE