What an astounding recovery for Adam Sandler. His contract with Netflix has led him from making Sandy Wexler, one of 2017’s worst films, to The Meyerowitz Stories, one of the year’s best. I suppose if director Todd McCarthy can go from directing the worst movie of 2015 (the Adam Sandler starring The Cobbler) to the Academy Award winner of 2015 (Spotlight) anything is possible. Yes, Virginia, there is a brilliant Adam Sandler starring movie.
Continue reading ““The Meyerowitz Stories” Review”
McG’s wild stab at a dark horror comedy continuously misses the mark, struggling to land a laugh like a lousy comedian flopping about a stage slippery with blood. Not only does it fail to garner a giggle, but also becomes embarrassing for how hip this script tries to be, slinging out geeky and topical talk like a grandpa drawing inspiration from a few threads he read online. This is almost like McG’s midlife crisis of a horror film, trying to prove that he’s still the fun director with his fingers on the pulse of today’s youth. His attempt comes off with more cringe than cool, akin to your dad dusting off his bellbottoms and throwing on some Ray Jay Johnson to impress your friends.
Continue reading ““The Babysitter” Review”
Tom Hanks is such a likable guy that something as sappy and sweet as Larry Crowne is sure to cause a cavity. But unlike his stronger fables of Forrest Gump and The Terminal, this Hanks-directed affair seems strangely light. Perhaps I just can’t buy him so easily as the everyman at this stage in his life. It’s this distance with his charm that makes him hard to buy and forces a lot of comedy that doesn’t suit him well.
Continue reading ““Larry Crowne” Review”
Baywatch was the most trashy of 1990s television that started out as a suggestive lifeguard drama and spun itself into the craziest of spin-offs where characters solved ghost mysteries at night. No, seriously, look up Baywatch Nights – it’s real. The show at least started off knowing what it wanted to be with daring rescue drama and plenty of slow-motion shots of Pamela Anderson’s boobs bouncing and David Hasselhoff’s hairy chest glistening. That’s more than I can say for this big screen adaptation that can’t decide what movie it wants to be. Is it an R-rated puke-fest of a comedy or a hard-nosed adventure of daring feats? Is it an intense story of water rescues or a silly caper of foiling a drug scheme? It is all these and none of them – the jack of all cliches and fool of them all.
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This is the black hole of cliche comedy that every road trip movie swirls around but rarely dares to enter. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul doesn’t just kamikaze into this abyss of laziness; it does so with almost suicidal tendencies. There is no desire here to be original or clever, relying more on the gross humor and slapstick gags that should have been retired decades ago. I can only fathom the filmmakers figured that today’s kids would be too young to have seen the old pee-in-the-bottle gag from Dumb and Dumber and too simple to not find anything foul about poop, vomit, and urine.
Continue reading ““Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul” Review”
I suppose I should be grateful that the third film of Adam Sandler’s Netflix contract was not as terrible as it could have been. He disgusted me to no end with cringe-worthy Native Americans satire and scatological scenes of horse droppings in The Ridiculous Six. He shocked me with how sexist, homophobic and downright mean he could be in The Do-Over, in addition to nearly making me vomit from the grossest three-way I’ve ever witnessed on film. The best I can say about Sandy Wexler is that it didn’t make me recoil from being grossed out or feeling uncomfortable. It did give me a massive headache for Sandler’s ear-splitting titular character though. Progress?
Actually, calling Sandy Wexler a character might not be accurate. To embody the role of a consistent liar of a talent agent, Sandler throws on dorky clothes and speaks in his most nasally of Jewish stereotype voices. It’s that familiar nails-on-the-chalkboard voice that veteran movie critics know quite well of Sandler’s work. Surprisingly, he doesn’t say anything that offensive about his religion or others. There’s also no scene where we get to hear him wail while he has violent diarrhea or an awkward orgasm. The lack of crudeness and offensiveness allows the audience to appreciate just how unbearable this character is even when trying to be a nice guy.
Continue reading ““Sandy Wexler” Review”
Pixels is a movie that used cheat codes to get to its own nostalgic special effects. It bypasses all the story, character and necessary logic to feature Adam Sandler and his friends battling video game characters in real life. It’s not important that there is any rhyme or reason to any of spec of this action comedy – all that matters is Adam Sandler’s passive commentary on video games and Josh Gad screaming at the top of his lungs. Sadly, there is no cheat code on the DVD to make any of this funny.
Nothing about this premise is all that original. The idea was based off a visual effect short of the same title and the story is ripped straight from an episode of Futurama. Slam them both together with the usual lazy writing of Happy Madison productions and you have one big mess of a movie about video game themed aliens invading Earth. The aliens – which we never see out of the form of licensed video game characters – declare war on Earth after viewing some of our video games from 1982. I never thought Pac Man or Galaga were declarations of war, but what do I know about aliens? I can tell you I don’t know much about these aliens considering how little of their intent is revealed.
To combat this threat, the United States decides to enlist the aged video game champions of 1982 comprised of Adam Sandler, Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage. Why are they recruited as opposed to all the other video game champions or alien experts of the past three decades? From what I can gather, Sandler is apparently able to recognize that the Galaga enemies were from the arcade version and not the home console version. Why is this important? It’s the script’s laughable excuse for using men in their 40’s for a video game themed movie. Could they have at least tried to make the scenario plausible and maybe abduct everybody on Earth born after 1982? It wouldn’t make much sense, but would be far more plausible.
Pixels banks entirely on nostalgia. Most of its comedy seems to derive from the mere sight of a CGI Pac Man devouring cars and Centipede ripping up buildings. Director Chris Columbus crowds the screen with so many of the visual gags, perhaps to cover up the script of lesser characters and dialogue. Sandler is portrayed as a tired and boring nerd that has been reduced to house calls for setting up electronics, but he’s still not above picking up chicks while on the jobs. A bad hygiene trait is forced on his character to enforce some sort of nerd stereotype. Peter Dinklage is an imprisoned champion of Donkey Kong, performing the worst accent of his entire career. Kevin James is the president of the United States and doesn’t have much to do until the third act. Josh Gad plays an alien conspiracy theorist who spends most the movie screaming.
I suppose the movie wants us to marvel at such unlikely heroes, but I’m more floored by such unlikable characters with nothing all that funny to do. Gad must instruct some soldiers on the mechanics of video games and makes a plethora of gay jokes while shouting at the men. He then spanks their butts while they are playing video games. There might have been a subplot to this humor about Gad’s character being a closeted homosexual, but such creativity is not in the cards. After all, Gad has a terrible romantic subplot about being in love with a female video game character. And if you can make any sense of that arc, I would love to hear about it.
I’m not much for video games, but even I was staring at this picture in astonishment for how much it got wrong. There are no cheat codes in Pac Man or Donkey Kong, but the scriptwriters believe every video game has a cheat code. Q-Bert pops up as an ally, but speaks in perfect English as opposed to the garbled babble he spoke in the video games. Even the title of the movie is wrong as the CG video games characters are assembled with voxels and not pixels. If the movie gets so many of these geeky facts wrong while focusing on a very geeky subject, the mind reels at just who this movie is intended for. It’s not for the geeks for its inaccuracy and it’s not for kids since they won’t get the references to Max Headroom or Hall and Oates. I can only fathom that it must be meant for baby boomers who played a lot of arcade games in the 1980’s and haven’t played one since. What an oddly specific demographic for such a terrible comedy.
Keeping with the format of Sex and the City, HBO gives Entourage a theatrical send off that feels less like a movie and more as four episodes strung together. There’s not much of a leap from the format of the TV series, sticking close to its old formula as if this were the beginning of a new series. Or possibly another movie. It happened with the Sex and the City movie anyway.
The Entourage movie does little to stand on its own, acting more as a reunion special than a theatrical movie. Vincent (Adrian Grenier) and his crew have grown since the series finale, but no more than if the show continued on for a couple of seasons. Tired of just being an actor, Vinnie now aspires to direct and star in his own picture. He rallies his troops of bros and friends to make the picture a reality. Fast forward to the completion of the picture and Vinnie finds himself at odds with the worried Texan of a producer (Billy Bob Thorton). Namely, the producer’s spoiled brat of a son (Haley Joel Osment) who becomes consumed with sexual jealousy that he aims to sabotage the movie with recuts and recasting.
That would be enough of a plot for a movie, but a slew subplots are pushed into the mix to give every character enough to do. Ari (Jeremy Piven) reluctantly dives back into being an agent despite having retired and trying to work out his anger issues. Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) is still grappling with his acting career, but still has trouble with connecting to others in his cocky tone. Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) has now lost weight, made some money and is seeking to share his life with someone special. And Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly) finds himself dealing with a serious relationship as he enters into fatherhood.
If you think that’s too many subplots to cram in, just watch how the movie crams in as many celebrity cameos as it can. No less than 30 recognizable celebrities pop in to play more or less themselves. Liam Neeson tells Ari to piss off at a stoplight. Bob Saget attempts to woo some younger ladies at a party. Kelsey Grammer departs angrily from a therapist’s office – remarking to Ari about how ineffective his sessions were. Mark Wahlberg chats with Vinnie at an editing studio about his Ted movies that he hopes will never end. And the list goes on and on with cameo after cameo of celebrities mocking themselves with in-jokes and movie-related banter. For a movie buff, there’s a laugh to be had from a handful of these scenes, but the comedy of it all does start to wear a bit thin by the 28th cameo.
Why so many? The Entourage series is probably most notable for such comedy that comes in small bursts rather than engrossing arcs. As such, the movie extends itself to be a collection of episodes that proceeds so quickly through all the beats you don’t get the feeling of a send-off. More importantly, it doesn’t improve on or grow these characters past their usual personalities, only finding more celebrities hi-jinks for them to get into. So if you didn’t like these entitled boys before, you’re sure as heck not going to like them in this movie either. And even calling it a movie is stretching its writing a bit. Despite some smiles and chuckles here and there, the Entourage movie just ultimately left me wanting more from a picture that delivers modest laughs amid a rather shallow story. There’s no reason to care all that much if the movie Vinnie makes is a success because we know it will be. All you can do is distract yourself with the sex, vulgarities and cameos.
Entourage refuses to evolve, resolve or put an end to the bad boys of Hollywood. I didn’t feel like I was watching a movie so much as a handful of episodes from the show. And if that’s all a movie can offer you, you’re better off just watching the show instead.
Not all old men are refined gentlemen of sage wisdom. Allan is one such character who never really fit it in with society or even understood it all that much. All he understands is explosions. Firecrackers, dynamite, atomic bombs – anything that can blow up is what he fancies. When a fox murders his favorite cat, Allan lays a trap for the vicious beast and blows him to kingdom come. He’s not maniacal – at least in his own mind – as explosives are just his innocent calling. He doesn’t comprehend the death and destruction he brings even after witnessing his bombs decimate many. I wanted to like him in all his dark comedic brilliance, but there’s just something about this twisted Forrest Gump that didn’t quite put me in the right frame of mind.
The premise begins as the title implies and then snowballs into elderly antics. Allan finds himself escaping from his retirement home on his 100th birthday to have himself a bit of adventure. While he wanders around the Swedish countryside unwittingly carrying drug money, he recalls his long and disturbing life. Through his many travels, he ran across several dictators and masterminds. His obsession with explosives took him far in the world, acting as a more destructive version of Forrest Gump. He cared not for the politics of the wars he took part in – he just wanted to blow stuff up real good. Allan also doesn’t care much for laws either the way he has no problem killing uppity young punks and hiding the body. Life just seems so passive and easygoing for a man who doesn’t appear concerned about charges of murder and robbery.
There’s a dark comedic edge to this farce of the elderly on a rampage and the life of a quiet demolitions madman. But much like the protagonist, the story finds itself meandering around in its own whimsy and ridiculousness. On his travels, Allan gains some allies in the form of snide thief, a gun-toting artist, a middle-age college student and an elephant. There’s not much of an arc or a goal to any of this – even the case of the missing money and old man is never given much attention. The story mostly plays out like an extended version of Mister Magoo with various mishaps and slapstick worthy of any cartoon.
The picture does have its smile-worthy moments for how fantastical it wants to be. There’s an allure in how Allan nonchalantly proceeds through the wars of the 20th century – drinking with Franco and dancing with Stalin. When initially hired as an explosives expert during the war, he cares more about his bombs than he does the war itself. When he loses his passion for blowing up bridges, he states that he got tired of it all and just decided to do something else. The same logic applies to the movie as when it gets tired with one storyline, it swaps it out for another plot or character. A perfect embodiment of the random memory of the elderly or just unfocused writing? I wouldn’t dig that deep into a comedy featuring an elephant sitting on someone and dynamite blowing up a chicken coop.
Sometimes amusing and sometimes warped, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared has all the charm of watching a series of Looney Tunes cartoons. It’s silly, snide and at times witty, but best taken in small doses. This makes the picture a great recommendation for a rental, but not worth treasuring for a purchase.
While Pitch Perfect managed to find a comical tone for a capella, its sequel doesn’t have any fresh ideas. All of the characters return with all their quirks and comedy, but have not developed or improved. The sequel finds them once again singing in another ridiculous competition, but with minimal difference in terms of stakes and progression. It’s an encore presentation of a melody that just doesn’t have the same ring on the second go around.
The Bella musical team return once again with Beca (Anna Kendrick) leading them in song as the heavy hitters of the International Championship of Collegiate A Capella – which is apparently a real thing. But their glory takes a tumble as comical tubby Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) has a wardrobe malfunction that reveals too much and instigates Muffgate. Banned from the ICCA, their only to regain their title and continue to compete is if they can win the World Championship of A Capella – a contest America has never won. So there’s a little more on the line in this competition instead of just having the group effortlessly transition towards the bigger contest.
The group begins to compete in underground and above ground tournaments of the a capella scene. Their rivals are naturally a German team – dubbed Das Sound Machine – dressing in all black and looking down on the Bellas with a snotty disposition. They’re sharp on their toes when it comes to song and dance, but amusingly lost when it comes to insulting the Bellas. David Cross plays an overly enthusiastic a capella fan that hosts a “Riff-Off” singing competition. He plays up his devotion to the sport as comically as you’d expect for a David Cross role. And the picture just wouldn’t be complete without the snarky and politically incorrect commentary of song commentators John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks.
But what of the Bellas themselves? Aside from the two driving forces of Beca and Fat Amy, there isn’t much for any of them to do or expand upon. Cynthia-Rose is still is a lady-obsessed lesbian, Lily is still the strange Asian and Stacie is still overtly sexual. They all just pop in to deliver a few funny one-liners and nothing more. Even the new addition of Emily (Hailee Steinfeld) is mostly sidelined despite her raw talent as a legacy Bella with an amazing voice. What side plots the scripts offers with Beca and Fat Amy are nothing all that special either. Beca struggles to maintain a secret internship at a record label while leading the Bellas and Fat Amy develops a relationship with a rival singer. While these are interesting directions for the characters, they offer little more than a few laughs.
And that right there is the biggest problem with Pitch Perfect 2 in how it hopes to recapture that lightning in a bottle by not straying far off course. The songs are pleasing to the ears, but no more than were in the first film. The gags and jabs are amusing, but no more than they were before. There’s a massive sense of deja vu when watching such a picture that never aspires to higher standards – cautiously attempting not to rock the boat of its own formula. I want to root for the Bellas to win the big competition, but it’s a little hard to do that when all characters eventually boil down to simple jokes. If the series ever hopes to grow past just being a movie jukebox, it needs to find a better use of its characters and take advantage of its potential. When the only showstopper is how the Bellas shock the a capella world by actually singing an original song, it may be time to find a different tune.