Pixels

July 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Peter Dinklage
Directed by: Chris Columbus (“Home Alone”)
Written by: Tim Herlihy (“Happy Gilmore”) and Timothy Dowling (“Just Go With It”)

Sure, the big-screen’s “Pixels” is ostensibly based on a short film of the same name, a glorified demo reel that features classic arcade characters attacking New York City, but in reality the film is a rip-off and re-skinning of four superior products that came before it. Take the “aliens misunderstand vintage media as how Earth really works” inciting incident from “Galaxy Quest,” season liberally with the crumbs of classic video game nostalgia left behind by “Wreck-It Ralph,” hint at the underdog spirit of the guy who just can’t beat the brash, be-mulleted bad guy in “The King of Kong,” lift, well, pretty much the entire plotline of one segment of an anthology episode of “Futurama”—called “Raiders of the Lost Arcade”—and toss in an indifferent, fading movie star in Adam Sandler and you’ve got the recipe for “Pixels,” a boring excuse for a summer movie that thinks talking about Donkey Kong or Pac-Man appearing on screen as they appear on screen is entertainment in and of itself.

The movie begins somewhat promisingly in 1982, when young Sam Brenner (Anthony Ippolito here, Adam Sandler as an adult) and his best pals Will Cooper (Jared Riley, grown up as Kevin James) and Ludlow Lamonsoff (Jacob Shinder, Josh Gad grown up) ruled the local arcade with their skills. Sam was so good, in fact, that he was able to compete in the video game world championship that year, only to lose his Donkey Kong game in the finals to Eddie Plant (Andrew Bambridge as a kid, Peter Dinklage as an adult), a flashy, arrogant video game rock star. Thirty something years later, Sam never really recovered, living his existence as a lowly flat screen TV installer instead of doing something meaningful with his life. That all changes, though, when Cooper—now the goddamn President of the United States, for some reason—calls upon Sam’s expertise to battle video game villains who somehow mistook a time capsule video of classic arcade games as an act of war.

“Pixels” could have been something special, but alas, director Chris Columbus (himself a faded star) seems content in just referencing classic video game characters instead of exploring why they would be doing what they’re doing as bad guys and what such a retro-gaming friendly alien invasion would mean. The movie treats Sandler and crew like the only people on the planet that understand Pac-Man, for crying out loud, as if iterations of the game haven’t been released on every single video game console for the last 30 years. Summer special effects movies can get away with being a lot of things: stupid, childish, shallow, and so on, but the cardinal sin is to be incredibly boring, and “Pixels” is just that. Download Pac-Man or Donkey Kong to your phone and play those for an hour and 45 minutes instead.

Ep. 19 – Gone Girl, Adam Sandler’s moving to Netflix, a Zombieland sequel, Joaquin Phoenix out of the running for Doctor Strange, and our Netflix picks.

October 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Podcast

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 Click here to download the episode!

In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys from CineSnob.net review “Gone Girl.” They also discuss Adam Sandler signing a four-movie deal for movies exclusively for Netflix, a “Zomebieland” sequel and Joaquin Phoenix being out of the running for Marvel’s “Doctor Strange.”

[0:00-4:25] Intro; Everyone is tired and Jerrod bought a Disneyland jacket
[04:25-18:57] Adam Sandler signs a four-picture deal with Netflix.
[18:57-27:03] Zombieland sequel is coming
[27:03-36:54] Joaquin Phoenix no longer in talks to play Marvel’s Doctor Strange
[36:54-50:49] Gone Girl
[50:49-1:01:28] Gone Girl Spoiler Talk
[1:01:28-1:08:24] Gone Girl Wrap-up
[1:08:24-1:34:53] No Ticket Required – Netflix picks
[1:34:53-1:41:38] Teases for next week and close

Subscribe to The CineSnob Podcast via RSSiTunes or Stitcher.

To give your feedback, e-mail us at podcast [at] cinesnob [dot] net, or leave a voicemail at 920-FILM-210.

That’s My Boy

June 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester
Directed by: Sean Anders (“Sex Drive”)
Written by: David Caspe (debut)

A good chunk of 2009’s “Funny People” seemed intent on shaming star Adam Sandler for filling the decade since the release of “The Wedding Singer” with terrible, terrible movies. From the pen of old friend Judd Apatow, Sandler’s character ended up a thinly-veiled version of the man himself: an insanely rich and popular actor who drifted away from his sharp stand-up comedy roots to headline juvenile box office hits. The fake movies that Apatow cooked up for “Funny People” were all eerily plausible Sandler movies from another dimension, with titles like “MerMan” and “My Best Friend is a Robot.” While this might have been a turning point in Sandler’s career – a public moment of reflection from a creatively-bankrupt mega-star – it instead seemed to have just been a brainstorming session. Sandler regressed immediately, following up with high concept garbage like “Just Go With It” and “Jack and Jill.”

There are glimmers of hope that part of the message got through, however, in Sandler’s “That’s My Boy.” Sandler plays Donny Berger, a 40-something Boston burnout coasting on the skeevy fame he acquired in his early teens from having sex with his insanely attractive math teacher Ms. McGarricle (Eva Amurri). When the inappropriate relationship results in a pregnancy, Donny is left to raise the child alone as an incredibly irresponsible teenager. Fast forward 27 years: Donny is broke and owes the IRS nearly $50,000 while his estranged son Todd (Andy Samberg) is preparing for his wedding to fiancé Jamie (Leighton Meester) and telling everyone his parents died in an horrific explosion. A desperate Donny makes a deal with sleazebag talk show host Randall Morgan (former ESPN anchor Dan Patrick): reunite Todd with his mother in prison on television and earn enough money to settle his debts and avoid prison himself. Donny throws himself into the wedding, sending the straight-laced Todd spiraling back into a troubled childhood he’s tried hard to forget.

“That’s My Boy” begins with director Sean Anders (of the underappreciated “Sex Drive”) merely filling the chair for longtime Sandler director Dennis Dugan, a duty which includes indulging Sandler’s seemingly random desire to play Berger with a wicked broad Boston accent and casting long-time Sandler associates Blake Clark and Nick Swardson in supporting roles (Rob Schnieder, though, is thankfully absent). The film lumbers through its over-long setup, with the student-teacher sexual relationship serving as nothing more than a somewhat realistic reason for someone as young as Sandler to have a son as old as Samberg. The present day scene-setting doesn’t fare much better, introducing the goofy wedding guests like ’70s singer Tony Orlando and a horny grandma that plays like a microwaved knock-off of the weirdo guests in “The Wedding Singer.” But when it’s time for the bachelor party, Anders cuts loose and lets straight man Samberg be led down a path of hilarious debauchery by Sandler and a scene-stealing Vanilla Ice, playing an exaggerated version of himself. The film embraces its R-rating, indulging in cursing and nudity while re-sharpening the fangs Sandler had seemingly dulled with years and years of PG-13 pabulum.

Is it stupid? Yes. Is it funny? Absolutely. And in 2012, that counts as a win for Adam Sandler.

The Zookeeper

July 15, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb
Directed by: Frank Coraci (“Click”)
Written by: Nick Bakay (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop”), Kevin James (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop”), Jay Scherick (“Norbit”), David Ronn (“Norbit”), Rock Rueben (debut)

Deep inside the ferocious land of Hollywood, grazing around the talent pool like a fat warthog at a watering hole, a stumpy beast hunkers down waiting to pounce on the first screenplay too weak to defend itself. His eyes dart back and forth as other more agile predators pick off the meatier prey one by one. Suddenly, the creature gets his chance. A scrawny script has been separated from its herd and is helpless. Within seconds, the brute leaps from his squatting position and takes aim. His broad calves push him forward for the kill, but it isn’t meant to be. His feet are caught in the brush and he lands on the ground with his face in the mud.
 
This is what the narration might sound like if the Discovery Channel featured a Kevin James Week.
 
Unfortunately for audiences, James, best known for the TV series “The King of Queens,” which ran for nine seasons before ending in 2007, gets his paws wrapped around more flimsy screenplays than anyone who likes to laugh would hope.
 
Despite his terrible movie choices over the last four years (“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Grown Ups”), James is as harmless as a collection of chubby cherubs, which is one reason he continues to get second-rate roles in comedies like “The Zookeeper,” another dismal product from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Production Company (AKA Rob Schneider’s meal ticket).
 
Directed by Frank Coraci, who delivered one of Sandler’s best movies with “The Wedding Singer,” “Zookeeper” takes a page from another James flick, 2005’s “Hitch.” Instead of taking dating advice from Will Smith, however, James, who plays insecure lead zookeeper Griffin Keyes, is schooled in the subject of love by a zoo-full of chatty wildlife. Voice work includes Sylvester Stallone as a discerning lion, Nick Nolte as a depressed gorilla, and what sounds like a constipated Sandler as a capuchin monkey.
 
Although it might sound like another wannabe “Charlotte’s Web,” the talking animals don’t make up much of the story, which centers on Griffin trying to win his materialistic ex-girlfriend back. In one unfunny scene, a wolf explains that a male mammal must mark his territory to get the female species’ attention. Acting like even more of a numskull and for no particular reason, Griffin relieves himself in a potted plant at a dinner reception as if the advice was actually useful.
 
Let’s just hope James stops pissing on things long enough to realize his film career is already sufficiently soaked.

Just Go With It

February 16, 2011 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Brooklyn Decker
Directed by: Dennis Dugan (“Grown Ups”)
Written by: Allan Loeb (“The Dilemma”) and Timothy Dowling (“Role Models”)

Although it isn’t as unpleasant to watch as other Dennis Dugan-directed Adam Sandler comedies of the last few years (“Grown Ups,” “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”), there’s not much in “Just Go with It” to make you believe Sandler has any intention to give audiences anything more than the bare minimum. A remake of the 1969 comedy “Cactus Flower,” which landed Goldie Hawn an Academy Award,” “JGWI” goes for the cheap jokes and comes up with punch lines to match. Model/actress Brooklyn Decker might be the rom com’s selling point, but there aren’t enough slow-motion walks on the beach that can remedy the Sandler mediocrity.

Grown Ups

June 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock
Directed by: Dennis Dugan (“You Don’t’ Mess with the Zohan”)
Written by: Adam Sandler (“You Don’t’ Mess with the Zohan”) and Fred Wolf (“Strange Wilderness”)
 
Adam Sandler’s reputation may proceed him as an actor, comedian, and screenwriter, but it’s probably time we refer to him differently now that his career seems to be on autopilot. Meet Adam Sandler the humanitarian. Since first forming Happy Madison Production Company in 1999, Sandler has single handedly kept his closest – and least talented – friends employed for a good part of the last decade.
 
For those of you who thought “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “Strange Wilderness” or “The Benchwarmers” (all movies under the Happy Madision umbrella) were actually funny, “Grown Ups” might be just the summer nonsense you’ve been waiting for.

In “Grown Ups,” Sandler and his crew, which includes Kevin James, Rob Schneider, David Spade, and a very much out-of-place Chris Rock, play five childhood friends who reunite after 30 years when their middle school basketball coach passes away. Not only did Coach Buzzer (Blake Clark) teach them how to be champions on the court, he taught them to live life without any regrets.

Somehow the sound advice translates into the geeky grown friends deciding they should spend the Fourth of July weekend together at the same campground they frequented as boys. Lenny Feder (Sandler), a hotshot sports agent, wants to show his bratty sons and fashion designer wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek) they can survive without luxuries.

Schneider plays a holistic vegan with an elderly wife he swaps spit with; Rock plays an underappreciated stay-at-home dad; Spade is the life-long bachelor; and James is, well, the fat guy (most of his moments come in the form of sight gags written specifically for the portliest actor of the group).

Written by Sandler (“You Don’t’ Mess with the Zohan”) and Fred Wolf (“Strange Wilderness”), “Grown Ups” is nothing more than lowbrow mockery between characters that is on par with a brainless collection of “your mama” jokes.

It’s painful and awkward to watch these men lounge around with goofy smiles and nothing interesting to say. While most of the dialogue seems improvised, the only ones that seem to be snickering at the stupidity of it all are the actors themselves.

Centered on a terribly-written, pun-filled screenplay, “Grown Ups” is another lame entry into the more juvenile projects Sandler can’t seem to kick. If he has any interest at all to make movies with more to offer than one-liners you could find on the walls of a public bathroom, Sandler will have to cut the cord that connects him to Dugan and his regular army of idiots.

Funny People

July 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann
Directed by: Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”)
Written by: Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”)

It’s been satisfying to watch the evolution of Adam Sandler over the last 15 years. While he started off as a mostly juvenile comedian whose popular five-year stint on “Saturday Night Live” propelled him into films like “Billy Madison,” “Happy Gilmore,” and “The Waterboy,” Sandler has grown into this oddly mature actor who is slowly learning that there is a lot more he can offer moviegoers than the jibber-jabber most mainstream fans flock to the theaters to see.

In “Funny People,” Sandler take a step forward in his career by taking a step back to recognize the fresh comedy that director Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”) has brought to Hollywood in the last few years. While Sandler’s best years are still ahead of him, it’s a testament to him as an actor to be receptive to the younger generation of talented showmen who are hungry for the same things he was at twenty-something years old.

Sandler continues working on his dramatic acting chops (although he’s already done a noteworthy job so far with films like “Reign Over Me,” “Spanglish,” and especially “Punch-Drunk Love”) by returning to where it all started for him as a performer back in the 80’s: stand-up comedy.

In “Funny People,” Sandler plays George Simmons, a famous comedic actor who has taken full advantage of his wealth and celebrity, but is still searching for that special something (or someone) to make him truly happy. George has to come to terms with the idea that this will never happen when he is diagnosed with a rare terminal disease and given an eight percent chance to live if he begins to take experimental drugs.

Along with fighting his illness, George starts focusing more on his stand-up routine. He immerses himself in the improv club lifestyle where up-and-comers are hoping to be discovered. When he hears a set by aspiring comedian Ira Wright (Seth Rogen), who shares an apartment with a pair of much more successful roommates (Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman), he hires him to write a few jokes for an upcoming corporate gig.

They’re business relationship soon turns more personal when George confides in Ira about his sickness and the regrets he has in life, the most specific being his breakup 11 years ago with Laura (Leslie Mann), the only woman who ever truly loved him.

Just as soon as George begins to accept the fact that his life will soon end, he is hit with an emotional blitz. The experimental drugs have cured him of his disease. “What the fuck do we do now?” George tells Ira as he tries to wrap his head around the miracle he is experiencing.

“Funny People” is a giant leap into something different for Apatow who knows how to combine vulgarities and compassion and have the outcome make sense. Here, he skirts the boundaries of inappropriateness with jokes about male genitalia (Apatow is probably one of the very few writers who can say 100 of these and make them all sound different) but never loses focus of the mature narrative he has crafted.

While the third act doesn’t really match the first part of the film thematically, Apatow attempts to make up for the lack of funny moments and muddled characterizations in the homestretch with an ambitious message about family, which doesn’t come across as totally realistic. Still, the imperfections in parts of the story are shadowed by the wittiness Apatow is known for. “Funny People” may not be his best film of the bunch, but it proves there’s plenty of reason to anticipate his next assertive move in the industry.

Bedtime Stories

December 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, Kerri Russell, Guy Pearce
Directed by: Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”)
Written by: Matt Lopez (“The Wild”) and Tim Herlihy (“Mr. Deeds”)

When are actors, directors, and filmmakers in general going to learn that after they pop out a few kids with their significant other, they don’t necessarily have to take a step back during their children’s formidable years and think to themselves, “You know, I’d really like to make a movie my kid could watch.”

It’s hard enough to make a family film for parents and kids with IQs above, say, 35, but it’s probably even more difficult when you have something as precious as good intentions invested into the project. Remember the Robert Rodriguez 2005 debacle “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3D,” a movie written from a story conjured up by his 8-year-old son? Even innocent ideas can be irrefutably toxic.

In “Bedtime Stories,” director Adam Shankman (“Hairspray”) and screenwriters Matt Lopez (“The Wild”) and Tim Herlihy (“Mr. Deeds”) make such a disaster on screen, it’s hard to really point fingers at anybody since the primary concept for the film seems to have been scribbled down by kindergarteners working on writing shifts.

Maybe that’s the idea Lopez and Herlihy wanted to convey, but in “Bedtime Stories” even the uber-dorky Adam Sandler doesn’t seem like the right match against the grab bag of nonsense tossed around so effortlessly. In the film, Sandler plays Skeeter Bronson, a hotel handyman who agrees to babysit his nephew and niece for his sister Wendy (Courtney Cox) even though he hasn’t seen them in four years. Since the kids are forbidden to do anything fun or time consuming like watch TV, Skeeter tells them a bedtime story, a story which the children happily add their own ideas to the narrative. But when the kid’s embellishments to the story start coming true (the script gets really sketchy here), Skeeter tries to use the newfound magic to manipulate a few things to go his way.

There’s plenty more grizzle and fat in “Bedtime Stories” that won’t hurt to omit since it makes no bearing either way on the topsy-turvy mess. This includes a bland romance between Skeeter and his sister’s friend Jill (Kerri Russell) and some terrible CGI effects a la “Alvin and the Chipmunks” featuring a wide-eyed hamster who gives new meaning to annoying. Actually, Rob Schneider gives new meaning to annoying, but he’s not nearly in this as much as the rodent.

You Don’t Mess with the Zohan

June 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Adam Sandler, John Turturro, Emmanuelle Chiriqui
Directed by: Dennis Dugan (“I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry”)
Written by: Adam Sandler (“Little Nicky”), Robert Smigel (TV’s “Saturday Night Live”), Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”)

Adam Sandler is easy to love when he’s doing hilarious things like “The Wedding Singer,” easy to hate when he finds time to star in bombs like “Little Nicky,” and easy to respect when he recognizes once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to star in films like “Punch-Drunk Love.”

Unfortunately, with his most recent comedic attempt “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan,” Sandler somehow returns back to the types of movies he was making when he first left “Saturday Night Live” to pursue an acting career. Comedies like “Billy Madison” might have been enough for the most loyal of Sandler’s fans, but when one-joke movies turn into feature-length films, the extremely sporadic laughs can be tiresome after a while.

The same happens in “Zohan,” where Sandler plays an Israeli Mossad super agent who fakes his own death so he can move to New York City and pursue his dream to become a hairstylist. As harebrained of an idea as it sounds, “Zohan” could have worked if it wasn’t for the surprisingly lazy writing combination of Sandler, Robert Smigel (TV’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien”), and Hollywood’s hottest comedy commodity Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”).

Like Sandler has done with his Happy Madison Production Company, Apatow seems to always have his friends in mind when making films under his Apatow Productions umbrella. The difference is, while Apatow has a handful of funny buddies like Michael Cera (“Superbad”), Jason Segel (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”), and Paul Rudd (“The 40-Year Old Virgin”), Sandler has to settle for names like Rob Schneider (“The Animal”), David Spade (“Joe Dirt”), and “Zohan” director Dennis Dugan, who has helmed three other Sandler catastrophes prior to this one.

Sandler is a true comedic performer, not a screenwriter. That’s why it seemed so destined when Apatow stepped in to co-write “Zohan.” Somewhere in the writing process among friends, however, the trio felt making a comedy about Middle East culture simply needed a few repetitious jokes about hummus, sex with old ladies, and bare butts. Even the talented John Turturro (“The Big Lebowski”), who plays the Zohan’s arch-nemesis known as the Phantom, is wasted and tawdry.

“Zohan” wouldn’t be so bad if it had reared its ugly head to us 15 years ago when Sandler didn’t know any better. However, his and Apatow’s stock is much higher than this. They might be able to prove it when they reunite in 2009 for another comedy, which is currently an untitled work. The good thing with that one is that Apatow is the sole writer and director and has already begun casting his own regulars including wife Leslie Mann and Seth Rogen. As long as Sandler is able to stay in front of the camera and not sneak his way behind, the project is still something to anticipate.