Pixels Review

pixels10You like that poster?  Well, my friends in the new movie Pixels there is no Pacman the size of a city, no Golden Gate Bridge and no San Francisco.  No West Coast at all in fact.  The poster looks like an exciting concept but sadly that’s not the movie we got.  And in many ways that is emblematic of Pixels as a movie.  It’s not really satisfying on any level.

That said, if you like Adam Sandler and were one of the cinemagoers that contributed to the $247 million gross box office that was Grown Ups, you will love Pixels.  It isn’t as bad as That’s My Boy or Grown Ups, or Jack and Jill.  It’s watchable. If you like Adam Sandler’s schtick there were a few laughs.  Something I can’t say for those other films I mentioned.  At least Pixels does not have a vomit, urine or other bodily function joke.  Great job Adam Sandler!  (Have you got the idea I’m not a big Adam Sandler fan).

It’s a shame really because Pixels could have been the next Ghostbusters.  It’s directed by Chris Columbus and he gives it an 80s sensibility with the music and some of the early scenes feel authentic to movies of that era.  Just like with Ghostbusters the creatures special effects are pretty well done and you have this tag team of comedians fighting them off.

pixelsThe problem is the writing is so bad.  With Ghostbusters you had 4 eclectic guys who start up a business.  Are actual entrepreneurs which makes them unique and fun to watch.  Plus, the script is dry and funny and each of the 4 guys has his own personality and story arc. All the guys in Pixels are the same and have the same story to tell.  Basically the entire point of the Pixels script is to say to Adam Sandler “you haven’t done anything with your life but that’s ok.  Your lazy manchild skills are really what are going to save the world after all”.  How hilarious.

The first joke of the movie is that Kevin James is supposed to be President of the United States.  This should be the one gamer who did something with his life but he’s a buffoon.  You get no idea of how he could have possibly become president.  In fact, some of the gags at his expense come off as kind of mean. For example, it is a big joke that Kevin James can’t read very well.

Wouldn’t it be more funny to have an actor like Martin Sheen or Michael Douglas (who both can be very good in comedies) be the video gamer at heart but also be a serious President?  Wouldn’t that have way more potential for comedy?  Or put in someone like a Kiefer Sutherland who is super angry and vengeful towards the aliens.  That would have been funny.  Anything other than Kevin James acting like a buffoon as the leader of the free world.

pixels6Anyway, Adam Sandler is James’ old friend who was defeated in the 1982 World Arcade Game Championships.  This left him devastated (who knew coming in second was such a horrible thing at a WORLD championship).  Anyway, NASA at the championship sends off a time capsule with clips of the video games and other pop culture relics from 1982 in hopes of it reaching extra-terrestrial life.

pixels5The problem is that capsule is seen as a declaration of war and so the aliens come down as those video game creatures and attack America.  There are tons of plotholes throughout this whole scenario.  Like when Pacman and Centipede come down there are specific rules that are the same for the game and yet later on it is just a barrage of video game characters who evidently have no rules?  Also why would the aliens know about cheat codes?  And why would they design into their attack a way to defeat the game and destroy their complete existence? And wouldn’t it make more sense to have the aliens create their own characters? Why would you invade a race with the exact things that they are using in their ‘declaration of war’?  Because this movie is stupid that’s why…

All this would be fine if it was funny (Gozer in Ghostbusters isn’t exactly a great villain either) but aside from a few chuckles it just didn’t make me laugh.  Josh Gad who I normally love is especially annoying in this.  He literally screams every time he is on screen.  I wanted to yell- “channel your inner Olaf.  That was funny!”

pixels2Peter Dinklage is alright in it but he has a strange accent that wanders in and out.  His character is inconsistent and not very well written but he tries.  He gave me a few laughs.

The other thing with Ghostbusters is in that movie you had a lot of factors against the team.  In this you have a grumpy Brian Cox who is listed as “a military heavyweight” in the cast list and he doesn’t like these civilians butting in with his team.  Gad is even allowed to scream at the seals for an extended unfunny scene that added nothing to the story. It makes no sense for Cox to be hating on the team especially after they have defeated Centipede and Pacman. I guess he wanted the world destroyed?

Sean Bean appears for a gag Sandler loves of 2 men hugging in fear.  It’s 2015 is that still funny having 2 men awkwardly hugging?  The women are also completely wasted.  Michelle Monaghan is gorgeous and a  lieutenant colonel in the army but her main job is to invent things for Sandler and then direct them from a screening room.  She also gets dumped for a woman named Sinnamon (with an S as pointed out several times) and is seen drinking chardonnay with a sippy cup even though her son is at least 10. I’m nitpicking there but they totally underuse her.

Jane Krakowski who can be so funny is in 2 scenes of the movie and one of them she is decorating a cake with the her husband the President in the middle of a war and in another they are at a party also thrown in the middle of wartime.  Ashley Benson is literally a trophy given to one of the men for their victory (when I say literally I mean literally).

pixels3All of that said, the special effects do look kind of cool and I did chuckle a couple times.  I can’t say that about all Adam Sandler movies.  In fact, this is probably one of the best he’s done since the 90s…

pixels8Little kids might like it.  There’s a little mild language but that’s about it as far as offensive content.  But will kids get the appeal of the 80s arcade games? So I don’t know who this movie is made for?

Like I said, if you like Adam Sandler movies and think some of his comedies of the last 10 years have been funny than you will probably love this.  It’s just not my cup of tea but I can see its appeal to others.  Hopefully that gives you some idea of what to expect.

Overall Grade- D+ (for special effects and I feel like at least Adam Sandler tried so I won’t give him an F).

My youtube review on this one. I must say I think my thumbnail on this turned out really good! 🙂

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Ant-Man Review

antman9Back in 2011 I swore off superhero movies for good.  I had seen the terrible Green Lantern movie and I was done.  They were stupid, moronic, boring, self-important junk and I didn’t want to see another one again.  So, if you had told me then I would be giving a positive review of a movie called Ant-Man I would have said you were insane.  Yet here I am giving such a review for Marvel’s new movie Ant-Man. Nice job Kevin Feige and Marvel.  With Ant-Man you have an entertaining time at the movies.  It’s as simple as that.

Part of what makes Ant-Man work is they have assembled an incredibly charismatic and likable cast.  I’ve been a huge Paul Rudd fan for years going all the way back to Clueless (and totally have a crush on him). He plays Scott Lang a thief who is recruited to be the next Ant-Man.  As always he is a complete charmer in the role.

antman6Scott is trained in the Ant-Man ways by Hank Pym played by Michael Douglas who looks like he is having a blast in a Marvel movie.

antman4Another actor I always love is Corey Stoll who plays the villain Yellowjacket and has a swagger that is magnetic on screen.

antman7 antman5Finally there are 3 friends of Scott from prison that are a riot- TI, Michael Pena and David Dastmalchian.  Michael Pena is especially funny in his part as the Latino crook who knows art and wine.

antman8Ant-man reminded me a lot of Sam Riami’s Spiderman and maybe a little bit of the original Ironman.  It feels light and fun and superhero movies have gotten so overly serious of late.  And yet it isn’t stupid like a Batman and Robin or Green Lantern.

There is a fair amount of humor and pretty much the entire plot of the movie is centered around Michael Douglas’ house so it feels very small (forgive the pun) in its scope.  It is not like an Avengers movie where the entire earth could be destroyed by the rising of a city.  This is a single building with one technology and one madman trying to control it. In truth it is a heist movie.

The training montages are a little ‘seen it all before’ but I liked the way they filmed the interactions with the ants and the CG looked very good in those scenes.  Except for a CG rat which made me shout in the middle of the theater it caught me off guard!

antman3Evangeline Lilly plays Hank’s daughter and I’m sorry but I do not think she is a very good actress.  She was terrible in the Hobbit movies and she isn’t very good here.  Just a bore and no chemistry between her and Rudd at all.

I could see how some might say this is a light weight superhero movie and in a way it is but I had so much fun with it.  Like I said it is funny and for the most part has actors who can pull it off.

It also doesn’t get too mired in the MCU (which I kind of like those clues to the broader universe but I know others hate it).  There is one cameo that is very well done and a few name drops but not distracting at all.

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014If you thought Jurassic World was fun I can’t imagine you not enjoying Ant-Man.  In my mind it is much better silly entertainment.  It’s not deep or profound or going to make you think about life.  Ant-Man is just an enjoyable superhero movie with laughs, a good cast and some decent action set pieces I’ve never quite seen before.

I also liked that Bobby Cannavale plays the new love interest of Scott’s ex and for once he is actually a good guy.  It’s such a cliche for the new guy to be a total jerk (I’m talking to you San Andreas!).

The entire family can go to Ant-Man.  There is nothing offensive or off putting in it aside from a few very mild fighting.

There’s not that much to say about Ant-Man except this is the kind of movie I can have fun with.  It does everything I need it to do and doesn’t distract me with big plotholes, annoying characters or a meandering script.  I really enjoyed it.

Overall Grade- A-

Scrooge 25: The Worst Christmas Carol Movie Ever Made

ghosts_of_girlfriends_past02I know some of you out there enjoy reviews of bad movies and I would include myself in that group.  I’ve tried to keep these Christmas Carol reviews positive but I decided to take my hand at being witty and write about what is without a doubt the worst Christmas Carol movie ever made.  If anyone tries to defend this garbage I will be stunned.

Yes, this is even worse than the Tori Spelling Christmas Carol movie.  At least Tori had a little bit of fun with how bad they were.  This junk actually takes itself too seriously.  There are no jokes.  Nothing funny at all.   It’s even worse than All Dogs Go to Heaven Christmas Carol (although not by much) because it has way more potential to be good.

We are a talking about a The Ghosts of Girlfriend Past made in 2009 and starring 2 Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Michael Douglas.  Decent actresses of Jennifer Garner and Emma Stone and directed by Mark Waters of Mean Girls fame.  It was written by Jon Lucas who wrote The Hangover and Wedding Crashers.

All of that talent produced this junk!

Now I am a staunch defender of the romantic comedy.  We all experience romance.  It’s a part of life where other genres are not part of most of our lives.  When they are done right they are an important part of cinema and very entertaining for poor saps like me.

The Ghost of Girlfriends Past screams of a board meeting where people came up with a gimmick and then pumped out a movie using the latest flavor of the months.  They didn’t have an idea or a theme.  It was the ultimate in cynical film-making.  No effort, no attempt to do anything creative or different. It’s not even stupid funny.  It’s just 95 minutes of vanilla laziness.

So here’s the gimmick.  Matthew McConaughey is one of the least convincing photographers in movie history and the ultimate womanizer.  He is never condemned for these choices but actually applauded for them.  It is just time for him to settle down with the old friend Jennifer Garner now that he has sowed his wild oats…

jennifer garnerThe movie never stops to ask why a woman like Jennifer Garner would want a womanizing jerk like McConaughey?  She is merely the puppet that is waiting when he is ready to accept her.  This is after they dated as adults and he left her after a one night stand.  Groan.

She is even the one who started him on the path to photography by giving him his first camera.  Because we know all women in these types of movies are there for is either be frigid ice queens or adorable hags who can’t get a date.  Double groan.

Here’s the main problem with this movie (well one of many).  The whole point of a Christmas Carol is to show Scrooge how isolating himself from others and from the faith and hope of Christmas has made him a terrible, horrible person and hurt other people.  This is a new understanding for him.

In this film, McConaughey has used people too much so showing him people doesn’t show him something different.  It’s merely one in the same.  It makes everything that is intense and thought provoking in the original story feel crass, manipulative and incredibly stupid.  There is no reason to believe McConaughey’s change in the end because he hasn’t been shown anything different, certainly nothing worthy of a dramatic life shift.

What is an intense realization of the life Scrooge could and should be enjoying becomes a clipshow of his greatest hits.

ghosts_of_girlfriends_past18Michael Douglas is the Marley character and it is an embarrassing performance.  He tells Conner that in order to not get his heart broken he should love women and leave them.  Yeah because that doesn’t lead to any heart break…I know he is trying to put on a Hugh Hefner persona but it comes off as cliched and stupid and insulting.  This is Michael Douglas’ grand advice for bedding women (this is the way this movie looks at women):

“So here’s a couple of tips. When you first meet a girl you give her two compliments above the neck. Yeah, tell her she’s got nice lips, nice eyes, nice hair… she’s intelligent, her moral ethics, whatever crap comes to your mind. Then just when she begins to thinks that you’re another – you know – vanilla nice guy that she can tool around with all night without getting naked… then you *insult* her! Flip the power dynamic and your let her know that you’re here to play”

Are you kidding me movie?

Then we get the usually delightful Emma Stone as the Ghost of Girlfriends Past and we get to see how Jennifer Garner was a surrogate mother figure for Conner and he didn’t ask her to the prom and all went to pot. Again, there’s nothing mind altering that McConaughey learns here, nothing that makes him wonder about his life.

ghosts emma stone For Present we get Noureen DeWulf where he learns that his friends make fun of him when he is out of the room…Wa, wa, wa.  That’s the kind of thing that makes someone really change their life.

There is also a scene where 3 of his former loves bond over the fact that he dumped them via a conference call.  Isn’t that hilarious…These women are also told by past to “Don’t be sad, you whiny bitches”…That’s right they had the chance to be with McConaughay so they don’t have any right to complain or have feelings.  They aren’t human beings but neither is he.  He is worse than a bad soap opera character.  At least those men have some drama to their past!

matthew_mcconaughey_and_noureen_dewulf_in_ghosts_of_girlfriends_past_2 And then finally we get Future by Olga Maliouk where he finds that Jennifer marries his friend Brad who is actually a nice guy.  Never good in a movie when we actually want the girl to pick the other guy…

About this time McConaughey says “Really? I mean, now a days being a single means, what? You’ve lost your way? That something is missing? Never mind that every night I swim in a lake of sex, and they fall asleep in each others arms, spooning. ”

And he is right.  There are of course concise and thoughtful answers to why his life is shallow and bad but in the world of this movie he is right.  There is no good reason given why he should be doing anything different.  No convincing case is made for him to change his life and like I said it isn’t even funny.

The movie just assumes, like it’s women, that the audience is too stupid to realize that.  We will just accept that he needs to change even though the plot hasn’t convinced us of it.  Instead we feel manipulated and unsatisfied with the ending for Jennifer Garner.

009GOW_Olga_Maliouk_001McConaughey wakes up in time to save his friends wedding and tell Jennifer Garner that she is the one for him.  Groan, groan, groan.

This movie sucks because the lead character is unlikable and stays unlikable.  The twisting of a classic story into this premise is insulting and stupid.  The writing isn’t funny.  The character doesn’t work because he isn’t shown anything different from his life?

He is not offered a new perspective or shown how he is wrong.  He is merely shown more of how he lives his life.  It’s like if Scrooge was just taken to various counting houses he’d worked at over the years.  Sure that would make him change and yet the  movie expects us to buy that?

Women are treated like objects to check off a list and then it tries to redeem itself by making the jerk a good guy and all the women readily forgive him as if we are all sheep and he is leading us off a cliff. And the dialogue for the women is insufferable.

There is no chemistry between Garner and McConaughey or any of the other women.  Nothing is funny.  Nothing is clever.  There is no skill in any of the movie making at all.

I saw this piece of junk in the theater- yes you read right I saw this in the theater with friends and it made me so angry I wanted to throw popcorn at the screen.  To take a story about ultimate redemption and turn it into a booty call is insulting.  What were they thinking?  I’ll tell you what they were thinking- they assumed we were all so stupid that we wouldn’t care that it had lazy characters, stupid story, pandering writing, stupid women and a story that doesn’t make sense.

Matthew-McConaughey-in-Gh-001So, that’s the worst Christmas Carol movie I’ve ever seen and will always be on my short list of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  It’s trash.  Complete trash.  Nobody was trying to make a good movie here.  There is no spark, no effort, no creativity.  Nothing. On top of everything it’s actually even kind of boring.  There’s just nothing. It’s an insult to the name of Dickens.