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Entries in jack and jill (4)

Thursday
Jul232015

Pixels

If there’s one actor working today that is hated by seemingly every moviegoer and critic across the globe, it’s Adam Sandler. There’s a good reason for that, as he pukes out a new film every year, each one seemingly worse than the last. After the train wrecks that were “Jack and Jill” and “Grown Ups 2,” which are easily two of the most mind-numbing, soul crushing, rage inducing, insipid cinematic abortions of the last few years, it would be easy to write off his newest, “Pixels,” as more of the same, but that would be unfair. While it still succumbs to many of the problems most Adam Sandler movies do, there was some genuine effort put into this one and while it won’t blow anyone away, it’s unlikely to be the subject of derision among those willing to give it a shot.

Sandler plays Brenner, an electronics expert at a Geek Squad-esque retail company, and his best friend, Cooper (Kevin James), has overshadowed him in their adulthood and has worked his way up to the highest office in the country, residing as the President of the United States. As kids, Brenner was a video game expert, competing in the 1982 Worldwide Video Arcade Championships and falling short to only one other competitor, Eddie (Peter Dinklage). As part of an initiative to find potential life in the universe and introduce our customs to them, NASA sent video feeds of this tournament out into space. Over 20 years later, it’s learned that we did indeed stumble upon aliens, but they have misinterpreted those video feeds as a declaration of war. Using intense bundles of energy disguised as classic games such as Galaga, Pac-Man, Centipede and more, they begin their attack and the only way to save the world is to abide by the rules of the games and defeat them. After the world’s militaries struggle in battle, the President figures, who better to defeat the aliens than the best arcade gamers in the world?

As someone who grew up with classic video games, has an affinity for them and still enjoys them to this day, I approached “Pixels” with trepidation, fearful that they may take some of the most beloved pop culture icons of all time and ruin them with a plethora of bodily fluid and fat jokes, as Sandler and James movies are wont to do; “I guarantee Kevin James will attempt to eat a Pac-Man fruit at some point in the movie,” I joked to a co-worker prior to the film’s pre-screening. However, “Pixels” shows a surprising amount of restraint; aside from one quip from Dinklage to James, the jokes rarely took the low road with slapstick and fat jokes. More importantly, it treats these classic games with the respect they deserve. It could be argued that not enough was done with them to justify their inclusion—games like “Paperboy” and “Frogger” show up for no other reason than for viewers to acknowledge that they’re there—and such an argument wouldn’t be wrong; “Pixels,” for all of its potential, is decidedly lacking in imagination.

But while it doesn’t fully utilize these games to the extent it could, nor does it abuse them. There is a clear love for these games that shines onscreen and the very nature of the story only proves this fact, as the characters discuss classic gaming strategies and the mechanical patterns those old arcade games were known for. While gaming today is more randomized, games of old were meticulously programmed and, with some effort, the entire game could be memorized and beaten by following a pattern and “Pixels” revels in that. At times, certain gaming mainstays are forced into the proceedings, particularly one scene involving a cheat code that makes absolutely no sense, but the affection is there. So if you’re worried your memories of your time with these classic games may be tarnished, fear not. “Pixels” treats them with respect.

Still, “Pixels” stumbles heavily with a weak story and a forced in romance—evidently, Sandler can’t go through an entire movie without kissing a pretty girl, this time played by Michelle Monaghan, in a surprisingly more intelligent role than most female fodder in Sandler’s movies as a military weapons specialist. Most egregious, however, is Sandler’s continued insistence to pack as many noticeable faces into his films as he possibly can, including cameos from Dan Patrick, Sean Bean and a nothing role for Jane Krakowski as Cooper’s just-for-show wife. It also plays into the worst gamer stereotypes—you know the ones: they’re lazy, they don’t have friends or socialize, they live in their parents’ basements—but it also celebrates gamers, as it’s ultimately the gamer geeks who have to save the day.

With all that said, “Pixels” remains both a pleasant surprise and a disappointment, as it’s largely a give-and-take affair. It doesn’t feel like your typical inane Sandler movie, but it doesn’t do anything to stand out from the crowd. The humor is amusing, but it’s never truly funny. The action is competent, but overall underwhelming, as the film never capitalizes on the inherent abilities of the very games and characters it portrays. But it does just enough to work. Perhaps low expectations contributed to my overall enjoyment of it—an understandable state of mind given recent Kevin James and Adam Sandler films—and it may be slight, but “Pixels” is admittedly fun.

Pixels receives 3/5

Thursday
May222014

Blended

It’s easy to understand if some cinemagoers have given up on Adam Sandler. Despite some solid performances in movies like “Reign Over Me” and “Punch-Drunk Love” and a few (arguably) funny early films, he has, at this point, fallen off the wagon. With a five film run (excluding animated voice work) of “Grown Ups,” “Just Go With It,” “Jack and Jill,” “That’s My Boy” and “Grown Ups 2,” only “Just Go With It” managed to be even remotely watchable, while “Grown Ups 2” can easily be labeled with no hyperbole as one of the absolute worst comedies ever made. However, it doesn’t appear he’s totally lost, as evidenced by his latest, “Blended.” While a positive reception to it could very well be due to the disastrously low expectations Sandler has set for his movies over the last few years, there’s a certain warmth to it that makes it more than the sum of its parts.

In his third outing with Drew Barrymore, Sandler plays Jim, a manager at a local Dick’s Sporting Goods store who has a terrible first date with Lauren, played by Barrymore. Neither are interested in the other, so they part ways expecting to never see each other again. However, a chance circumstance lands them both at an African resort where they are booked to participate in a number of couples events. Along with them are Lauren’s two boys, one a reckless danger to himself and the other just discovering his sexuality, and Jim’s three girls, the oldest of which is developing a crush for the first time, terrifying Jim. However, their attraction grows while on the vacation and they each develop bonds with the other’s kids, which leads them somewhere unexpected.

“Blended” has a leg up when compared to Sandler’s recent filmography. Whereas films like “Grown Ups” and its sequel didn’t even bother with a story, this film’s ideas and themes center around its story. Sure, it’s predictable, but there’s heart to it and its family value themes come naturally rather than forced like in “Jack and Jill.” Similarly, the kids aren’t just throwaway figures like they have been in previous movies. They’re integral to the film’s meaning. Each of Jim’s children misses their mother, who died of cancer, and they each have their own ways of coping. The middle child, for instance, likes to pretend that her mom is still there, an invisible force that she speaks to and saves a spot at the dinner table for. Jim, who also misses their mother more than anything in the world, goes along with it, understanding the pain his daughter feels.

Both Jim and Lauren, the latter of whom is dealing with the resentment from her children for leaving their deadbeat father, have the best intentions and are trying to make the most out of a life that hasn’t quite gone as they planned. They’re both flawed, particularly Jim, who dresses his girls up in boyish clothes and styles their hair in the female equivalent of a bowl cut, but they’re doing their best, both clearly out of their comfort zones when they have to deal with issues that their spouses would have traditionally handled, like when Lauren finds a hidden centerfold under her son’s bed or when Jim’s oldest daughter hits that time of the month.

They say the quickest way to someone’s heart is through their kids, so it comes as no surprise that it’s they who end up sparking the attraction between Jim and Lauren while in Africa. Each help the other in various ways and as more layers of Jim and Lauren are revealed, their desire to spend more time with each other grows. These moments are genuine too. At first, some of the jabs they take at each other are a little mean spirited, but more often than not, they’re nothing more than playful pokes, the type of innocent jokes any loving couple shares with each other.

On top of all that, “Blended” is actually pretty funny, surprisingly so after Sandler’s last few abominations. Granted, likable characters make for a more pleasant and humorous experience, but some of the jokes are genuinely clever, like when it upends the post-makeover slow-mo entrance scene made popular by romantic comedies in the 80s and 90s with transitioning music based on the reactions of those looking on, including Jim’s horrified expression as he realizes his little girl will now be an object of desire for the boys around her. It even nails the awkwardness of first dates; those who have ever been on a bad one will get to see the old “planned emergency phone call” escape we’ve all wanted to try, but never had the guts to.

With all that said, “Blended” is still not a great movie. It has just as many jokes that land with a thud as it does that actually work and some late movie dramatics pile on the cheese, despite previous false set-ups that could have circumvented it. “Blended” stumbles a ton, that’s for sure, but when it’s at its best, it finds real meaning. It’s touching and doesn’t feel exhausting despite its nearly two hour runtime, which includes a recurring bit from Terry Crews where he shows up in the most random places to sing, a bit that should get old, but, oddly, never does. This is a major step up for Sandler after his previous debacles. Let’s hope he continues this upward swing and realizes his potential because I’m not sure I could suffer through a “Grown Ups 3.”

Blended receives 3.5/5

Thursday
Mar282013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation

One mustn’t expect much when sitting down to watch “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” It’s based on a silly Hasbro toy meant to portray the fighting spirit of the American soldier and as such, one should expect nothing more than mindless entertainment. In this case, the film nailed the “mindless” part, but forgot about the “entertainment.” Having seen the original movie only once, it’s hard to say which is worse—they appear to be equal in terms of quality—but this is action at its most basic. Only junkies of the genre will find anything to enjoy and even they might be put off by the lousy script, horrible puns and desperation seeping through this thing. “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is an early contender for one of the worst movies of the year.

According to franchise lore, the Joes are an elite covert special mission unit operating under the supervision of the US military. They’re given all the difficult jobs, the ones where a lesser group of soldiers wouldn’t make it back alive. However, they’re about to be set up and most of them are about to be put into retirement for good. After a successful mission with no casualties, an air attack comes by and wipes them out. Only a few survive, including Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), the new leader of the Joes. Along with his remaining comrades, he sets out to discover who double-crossed them and bring them to justice.

Of course, other prominent franchise characters play their roles as well, like Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Cobra Commander (Luke Bracey), though keeping track of them all is a daunting task for the uninitiated. So many characters appear, some of whom look similar enough to be indistinguishable from each other, that it’s sometimes difficult to tell who is on whose side. To blame this entirely on the existing franchise would be unfair, however, as it’s primarily the screenplay that does such a poor job of establishing them. “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” has the most hackneyed screenplay of the year so far and it’s filled with so much expositional dialogue that you’d be playing the odds if you bet that the rest of this year’s movies combined wouldn’t equal its amount.

It’s insulting, quite frankly. Characters, motivations, schemes, places, all are explained almost entirely through exposition, as if the audience is too dumb to figure it out for themselves. When so much of that exposition is interrupted with some of the lamest jokes this side of “Jack and Jill,” it becomes difficult to handle. One attractive woman introduces herself as a reporter for Fox News. “That must be why you look so fair and balanced,” the man says in reply, as if that somehow makes sense. Early on, one Joe tells another to prepare for extraction and he replies, “Extraction? What are we, teeth?” The villain even refers to himself as the “quicker blower-upper,” a clear play on words of Bounty’s paper towels.

These moments will make you roll your eyes so far into the back of your head, you may put yourself into a catatonic state. The only thing that could have saved “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” from total irrelevance is its action scenes, but they’re hardly exciting. Aside from one impressive, though CGI-fueled, battle on the side of a mountain, what is presented here is generic of dozens of other shoot ‘em ups that have come before. To make matters worse, the action scenes are too short and too few while the narrative sections are unnecessarily stretched out, despite their simplistic nature. One example of this simplicity comes fairly early on (so this can hardly be considered a spoiler) when the Joes figure out that the President isn’t actually the President. “Last week, he said soda. Now, he says pop!” one Joe proclaims. “When he crossed his fingers together, the right thumb rest on top, but now it’s the left!” she follows. If this is all the deduction it takes to uncover a terrorist plot, we would all be super soldier sleuths.

“G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is awful, yet it doesn’t even realize it. It doesn’t play off its own obvious deficiencies with a playful wink and nod. To the contrary, it actually thinks it’s good, but its dramatic moments are flat, its humor is desperately unfunny and its action scenes are unimaginative. Let’s hope next time someone double crosses the Joes, he takes them all out so we won’t have to sit through another one of their movies.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation receives 0.5/5

Friday
Nov112011

Jack and Jill

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Adam Sandler is a great actor. You need look no further than his various dramatic endeavors to see that. Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me and even Funny People all showcased how terrific he can be when forced to do something other than make silly faces and talk in an annoying voice. That’s why it’s so disheartening to see him star in Jack and Jill, a shockingly bad, heinously unfunny and pathetically witless film with close to zero redeeming factors. Jack and Jill is the absolute worst thing Sandler has ever been involved in and he starred in Grown Ups, Mr. Deeds and I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, so that’s really saying something.

The plot revolves around Jack (Adam Sandler), a successful advertising executive in Los Angeles who is looking forward to taking his kids on their first ever cruise after the holidays. Unfortunately, his twin sister, Jill (also Adam Sandler), is on her way to visit and she’s not so easy to get rid of. Of course, this leads Jack and Jill into a series of supposedly “wacky” situations and mishaps, though the only two mildly humorous parts in the whole thing are in the trailer. The rest of it is a vacuous wasteland where laughs are delivered like food at a Chick-fil-A on a Sunday.

Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh because Al Pacino, in one of the most interesting career choices he’s ever made, is fun to watch. He plays himself in the movie and breaks free from his typical roles where drama always comes first. Here, he is at his silliest and you can’t help but admire his willingness to play along with such absurdity while mocking his own celebrity and career. If only he had been in a movie that actually took advantage of his dedication. Instead of clever humor, we are shown scene after scene of slapstick shenanigans and shameless potty humor. Despite Pacino’s presence, Jack and Jill is for those who still think artificial fart sounds are funny. If that’s not you, then congratulations! You’re too mature for this movie.

Still, even the least humorous comedies can survive with strong characters, but like many of Sandler’s other movies, the characters are unlikable, self centered and accompanied by some type of annoying vocal treatment (Bobby Boucher has nothing on Jill). Jack is played as a family man, but his love only goes as far as his wife and kids. His sister, on the other hand, he loathes. He dreads her visit, urges her to leave, calls her a number of hurtful names and even tells her in the most sarcastic and mean spirited way possible that she makes those around her uncomfortable. He’s a terrible brother that you come to hate, yet you can’t really blame him for any of his actions. It would be a test of wills for anyone to spend any amount of time with Jill, a statement I feel comfortable making seeing as how the short hour and a half I spent watching this made me wish for any type of debilitating illness to hit so I would have an excuse to leave the theater. She’s loud, obnoxious and beyond aggravating. She’s one of the most annoying characters in the movies this year.

Of course, you’re supposed to come to like both of them by the end of the movie—you learn of Jill’s hardships and watch as Jack redeems himself—but such a tired formula doesn’t work anymore unless something special is done with it. As should be plainly obvious by now, there’s nothing special about Jack and Jill. A better ending would have seen Jack falling down a hill (preferably a big one) and Jill tumbling after.

Jack and Jill receives 0/5