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Entries in Sean Bean (2)

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

Sunday
Feb142010

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

I suppose we can thank good 'ol Harry for this. Due to the success of the Harry Potter franchise, we now have a countless number of books being adapted to the big screen in an effort to start a lucrative series. Harry Potter, Twilight, The Chronicles of Narnia, Cirque du Freak, all hope to grab that cash from you. While not all were successful, namely the latter one, all shared that same trait. Now we have a newcomer hoping to wedge its way into the fold in the form of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Despite a few problems, it largely succeeds and proves itself as a fun, entertaining fantasy adventure that will tide fans over until the next Potter film.

Logan Lerman plays the title character, a teenager who is about to find out that his entire life is a lot more complicated than he thinks. His father is actually Poseidon, god of the sea, played by Kevin McKidd. Years ago, he came onto land, fell in love with his mother, played by Catherine Keener, and they had him as their child. Now, Poseidon's brother Zeus, god of thunder, played by Sean Bean, has accused Percy of stealing his thunderbolt. He has 14 days to return it or the gods go to war, destroying the heavens and the earth. As a result, Percy is taken to a camp exclusively for demi-gods, kids who are half human and half god, to train. Once he arrives, however, he watches his mother get abducted by Hades, god of the underworld (or more precisely, the Devil). He is played wonderfully by Steve Coogan. So Percy decides that he must get his mother back and treks across America with Annabeth, played by Alexandra Daddario, and his protector Grover, played by Brandon T. Jackson, in search of three pearls that will grant them entry and exit to the underworld.

Phew. You wouldn't think so given the PG rating and marketing towards kids, but this film has a lot going on. On their journey, the kids meet Medusa, battle a 10 headed dragon, and travel down into Hell to confront Hades. I felt like I was watching an epic for the ages, an exciting, scary, violent romp through the best parts of Greek mythology. The funny thing is that despite the kid-centric commercials, this thing is more for adults and teenagers. It features decapitations, a drug induced happiness that is played as cool and the aforementioned descent into Hell. Top onto that the intense battles with all sorts of mythical creatures and you have a film that is actually quite creepy. This thing's scarier than The Wolfman.

Although comparisons are unavoidable, especially given that this director helmed The Sorcerer's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, Percy Jackson differs from Harry Potter in these respects. The Harry Potter films are more polished, but Percy Jackson is more fun. This doesn't waste its time in endless set-up with zero payoff (much like the fifth Potter). It's more of a droll, white knuckle action fantasy that moves at a brisk pace towards its conclusion. If you're looking for a better film, go with Potter, but if you're looking for something you can put on and enjoy at any time, Percy Jackson is your best bet.

Still, the film is nowhere near perfect and actually stumbles the most when it tries to mix that drollery with a serious story. The humor rarely works and feels out of place when one-liners are thrown out in the heat of battle. Its tone gets mixed so frequently that I'm not sure one is ever established. For instance, when they first arrive in Hell, they see thousands of tortured souls below them. The visual is haunting. Then they meet the Devil and his, shall we say, mistress, played by Rosario Dawson, and it turns lighthearted with an eerie sexual tension bubbling beneath the surface. The movie would have been helping itself had it gone the full scary route rather than attempting to juggle the two.

Then you have the ineffective side stories about Percy growing up without his father and the kindling romance between him and Annabeth. You see, Percy has been bitter his whole life about his father running out on him and his mother. He was only 7 months old when it happened, so he never even got to meet him and now he's stuck with his nasty stepfather who treats his mom like a piece of meat. The ending tries to resolve these daddy issues and the cheese is stacked up high. The romantic chemistry between him and Annabeth was missing, rendering that moot as well.

If you're looking at the film from an analytical point of view, this is a great story told haphazardly, but if you're looking at it through a normal citizen's eyes, this is great fun. It won't ever reach the success of Harry Potter, but here's hoping it makes enough money to warrant a sequel. Percy Jackson deserves at least that.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief receives 3.5/5