Steven Spielberg goes back through the future with the story of Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan, looking not unlike a young version of the director), a Willy Wonka for his time. He’s a poor kid from the stacks in 2045 Columbus, but he’s super-good at gaming, so there’s hope that he’ll be the one to find the golden ticket — in this case, the three keys that will gain him ownership of the world’s biggest company, which just happens to control the virtual world in which he (and everyone else) spends his time. (Why? Because, as Watts puts it, “Reality is a bummer.”) That world, the OASIS, is the brainchild of a pop-culture junkie with a taste for the classics, and so much of the movie’s fun amid the relentless action comes from spotting old favorite stuff — hey, it’s the old Batmobile! or the sphere of annihilation from Dungeons & Dragons! — and rejoicing in the appearance of old favorite characters. Life in the OASIS is exciting and wondrous to behold through your avatar’s oversized anime eyes, but it doesn’t mean much without some real-world stakes, and that’s where the film stumbles, badly. It seems the evil boss wants to…place ads in virtual reality? And that he runs a hi-tech (and apparently legal) debtor’s prison right under his executive offices? And that reality, bummer or otherwise, is the only place where you can get a decent meal? Well, okay then. (2018) — Matthew Lickona
This movie is not currently in theaters.