Tag Archives: Adam Sandler

Pixels (2015)

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Hearing about a new Adam Sandler movies used to excite me, but now it just fills me with fear.

Pixels, on its face, at least seemed like an interesting idea brimming with potential: for some reason aliens attack Earth using massive real-life versions classic arcade games (like Galaga, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, etc), and the best video gamers in the world are called upon to save the human race.

It’s a nerd fantasy that’s supposed to inspire awe and nostalgia, or at least a offer a cool and fun visual feast thanks to modern special effects. The fact that it is directed by Chris Columbus, the dude who gave us the first two Harry Potter films, the first two Home Alone films and Mrs Doubtfire, also suggested that it would at least be a technically sound production.

I guess I shouldn’t have expected so much from an Adam Sandler movie.

Pixels is actually not a horrible film by Sandler’s recent standards. At the very least it’s not as atrocious as the Grown Ups movies or trash like Jack and Jill or Thats’s My Boy. It’s biggest problem is that it’s just really lazy. Everything just reeks of laziness. Lazy script, lazy performances, and even a lazy effort from the typically reliable Columbus.

Let’s start with the script. The story itself is a great idea, but that’s about it. The execution of the story is cliched and mechanical, arbitrarily ticking off plot points just to drag the narrative from point A to point B. Worse, it is completely lacking in logic. That’s normal for Sandler comedies of old, but those were great because they made sense within their own universe. There are decisions made in Pixels that make no sense in any world, and I’m not even talking about the sci-fi elements. It’s as though the script was reviewed by a petulant child who demanded that everything be amended to his/her liking, with no consideration of what developed brains might think.

Then there’s the performances. Sandler, at this stage, feels like he’s just phoning it in. There’s a deadness in his eyes that permeates his acting. It’s a shame, because there are flashes of the old Sandler in this film — when he’s being a smartarse tossing wisecracks and making fun of people. It’s the only time when he seems to have any energy. Instead, we get scenes like the one where his character is doing a moonwalk, and just when he’s about to do it the camera switches to the legs of someone who clearly isn’t Sandler (the legs look about 100 pounds lighter, for starters), before switching back to his upper body again. It’s that lazy.

Michelle Monaghan plays the token female character and there’s not a whole lot for her to do. The forced romance between her and Sandler’s character is predictable and cringeworthy, another example of the film’s laziness and excessive willingness to follow film tropes.

Kevin James again plays Sandler’s sidekick, though his character happens to be a very important person. I would say it’s completely implausible, but then again, we’re living in a world where Donald Trump could be US president soon. James has a few solid lines, but for the most part he’s relegated to the background.

The only actors I felt put in any real effort are Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad, who play two fellow top-level gamers. Dinklage plays Sandler’s douchebag childhood rival, and he seems to relish the opportunity to portray a character with some unusual fetishes. Gad plays a younger gaming prodigy who grows up to be a conspiracy nut who is still in love with a fictional gaming character. Both actors try, but only Dinklage is consistently funny. It’s not Gad’s fault; it’s just that his character isn’t interesting enough.

Lastly, we come to the ordinarily reliable Columbus. There’s nothing really wrong with the film from a technical perspective, and the special effects indeed very nice, but for whatever reason, Columbus fails to inject Pixels with what it needs most: a sense of fun and excitement. It’s strange, because the innovative ideas are all there. On paper, the real-life video game battles should be fantastic, though for me, apart from the Pac-Man stage, there wasn’t much to capture the imagination.

The end result is a surprisingly bland film with much less passion and enthusiasm than it ought to have had. It would be unfair to say Pixels has no merit. There is still a cool concept at heart, slick visuals and some laughs along the way. It’s just that the film with this much potential– even with Sandler’s involvement — should never have been this dull.

2.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Cobbler (2015)

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The Cobbler looked promising in the trailer. A cobbler played by Adam Sandler realises that he can turn into different people (in terms of physical appearance) by wearing their shoes. On its face, the film seems like a fable about what it means to walk in another man’s shoes, though in reality The Cobbler is just a dull comedy-drama that’s neither very funny nor very dramatic, and much shallower than the premise suggests.

Sandler plays Max, a traditional neighbourhood cobbler who lives with his elderly mother. It’s a sad existence for him, getting by alone in his workshop day to day, abused by clients with more money and better lives than him, and still wondering why his father (Dustin Hoffman) left him and his mother years ago. His only friend is the barber next door, played by the legendary Steve Buscemi.

So when one day Max discovers that he can turn into his clients by wearing their shoes, he decides to live the life he wishes he had. He becomes a dashing Brit (Dan Stevens), who has a stunning girlfriend and still gets plenty of attention from the ladies. He tries his hand at being a Chinese man, complete with an accent when he speaks English. But it’s when he attempts to be a criminal that things start spiralling out of control.

Despite an interesting premise, The Cobbler fails to flesh it out, instead going for cheap ideas, bizarre sentimentality (that borders on creepy) and a boring final act that revolves around a nasty property developer (Ellen Barkin). Rather than teaching Max how to sympathise with others by walking in their shoes, he abuses the power for his own benefit before becoming a cliched benevolent superhero of sorts. Everything is on the surface only, and this is confirmed by a predictable and silly ending.

There were plenty of opportunities for humour that went to waste, delivering at most smirks rather than genuine laughter. There also wasn’t much drama to speak of, and the only legitimate attempt involving Max’s father completely weirded me out. Thank God for Steve Buscemi, the only guy who really brought any life to the film with the exception of Method Man, who was menacingly good as a thug.

Having bagged the film out, it’s still probably one of Sandler’s best efforts in years. Seriously, his list of films before this one are all colossal critical flops: Men, Women & Children, Blended, Grown Ups 2, That’s My Boy, Jack and Jill, Zookeeper, Just Go With It, and Grown Ups. It’s frustrating, because anyone who has seen Punch-Drunk Love knows Sandler can act and isn’t exclusively confined to shit movies. The closest thing I can compare The Cobbler to is his 2006 film Click, which is also a magical fantasy comedy supposedly trying to teach a life lesson or two. But while Click at least had a few funny moments and some surprisingly touching scenes, The Cobbler doesn’t even have any.

It wasn’t so bad that it made me want to stop watching, but when you start feeling that a 99-minute film is too long it can’t possibly be very entertaining.

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Blended (2014)

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It has become almost customary to trash every Adam Sandler film that comes out these days. And let’s be honest: he has no one to blame but himself. Once one my my favourite farce-comedy hit makers with classics like Happy Gilmore and The Waterboy (notwithstanding all the panning from critics), Sandler has somehow devolved into the ultimate dud maker. His last five live-action feature films before Blended  in which he has a major role are Grown Ups 2, That’s My Boy, Jack and Jill and Just Go With It. All five have undoubtedly featured on annual “worst of” lists for critics and movie-goes alike.

Which is why I am almost excited to proclaim that Blended will NOT be on my worst of list for 2014. Now that is not to say that it is in anyway a good film, but it does represent a step in the right direction for Sandler, who returns to the idiotic roots that made some of his earlier films so memorable.

Unfortunately Blended only takes us half way. Despite doing an excellent job in the first half of the film with some nostalgic stupidity, Sandler could not help himself, eventually resorting back to the trite, predictable and corny drivel he tries to pass off as meaningful “drama.”

In other words the film’s title is apt — it’s a “blend” of Sandler’s earlier, more effective comedy, and his later, insufferable crap. Having said that I am still very happy overall that there is finally one Sandler film in recent years that does not make me want to stick my thumbs in my eyes and keep pressing until my entire head explodes.

The film begins with a blind date at the fine establishment known as Hooters between our two protagonists, a father of three girls, played by Sandler, and the mother of two boys, played by Drew Barrymore. Needless to say, it does not go well, but by chance the two families end up on a safari together in Africa. And so it begins.

The strength of Sandler’s humor has never been witty observations or sharp dialogue. This is a man who rules when it comes to saying and doing things so moronic that you cannot help but laugh — and for the vast majority of the first half of this movie, Sandler is in blistering form.

Achunk of the credit has to go to Drew Barrymore (now starring in her’s third film with Sandler after The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates), who is very difficult to dislike and has solid chemistry with Sandler. Kudos also have to go to the director, Frank Coraci, for once again  giving us the best of both actors after having guided them so well in The Wedding Singer back in 1998.

Their five kids in the film also play a major role in bringing the laughs. On Sandler’s side there’s the obviously pretty teenage girl being brought up as a boy (Bella Thorne), her weird younger sister who keeps interacting with their dead mother (Emma Fuhrman), and the youngest sister, who is all cuteness (Alyvia Alyn Lind). On Barrymore’s side there is the sexually awkward geek son (Braxton Beckham), and the younger brother with serious anger management issues and considerable gymnastic prowess (Kyle Red Silverstein).

The one major downfall of Sandler’s films in recent years is that they come across as mean spirited. In Blended, however, it doesn’t feel that way even though he is clearly making fun of these children’s quirks, and I think that has a lot to do with him knowing where to draw the line with children and being aware that ultimately he needs to place the emphasis on how innocent and adorable they are rather than what a dick he is.

The rest of the supporting cast is pretty solid too. There is the legendary white chicks actor Terry Crews as a raunchy resort performer, Kevin Nealon from TVs weeds, and even a cameo from Shaquille O’Neal that has nothing to do with basketball!

Sadly, after doing so much good in the first half of the film, Blended makes the fateful decision to go full steam ahead in turning into another typical, predictable, sappy family drama down the stretch. It’s bad enough that we already know exactly how it’s all going to end; what makes it worse is that the film starts becoming less and less funny the more conventional it tries to be. I don’t remember exactly when I lost interest and started to get bored — I just know there was still too much of the 117-minute running time left for me to be feeling that way.

Having said all that I understand I might not be the target market for the film, which was clearly aiming for more family-oriented audience. I’m not going to say it achieves what it’s aiming for because there is plenty to pick on in such a politically incorrect film (it has been accused of everything from racism to misogyny) — I’m just saying I don’t really care. In any case, I just can’t help but be disappointed after experiencing, in the first half of the film at least, the closest thing to a vintage Adam Sandler I’ve seen in more than a decade, only to watch it all fall apart before the end.

3 stars out of 5

2012 Movie Blitz: Part 3

That’s My Boy (2012)

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Adam Sandler, Adam Sandler, Adam Sandler. What the heck happened to you? That’s the question I kept asking myself throughout That’s My Boy (and every Adam Sandler movie I watch these days).

To be fair, I actually think That’s My Boy is one of Sandler’s better efforts in recent years (it’s not easy being worse than Grown Ups and Jack and Jill). It is a film that will divide and infuriate audiences because it is so politically incorrect, but I ascribe to the school of thought that as long as the material is funny it gets a pass. Sadly, not much of it is funny.

Sandler plays Donny Berger, a 14-year-old who impregnates his teacher (played by Eva Amurri and later on by her mother Susan Sarandon). I suppose this kind of behaviour was less frowned upon in 1984, because Donny becomes a huge celebrity and is high-fived everywhere he goes. Fast forward to present day and Donny has become a bum in need of cash, and his one life line is his estranged now-adult son, played by Andy Samberg (of the Lonely Island fame).

Most of the film is about Sandler trying to get back into Samberg’s life as the latter, who is clearly carrying emotional scars from his childhood, prepares for marriage to his wealth fiancee, Gossip Girl‘s Leighton Meester. It’s typical Sandler immaturity comedy, and a little bit of it pays off, but most of it doesn’t.

That’s My Boy tries to shock with themes such as paedophilia, statutory rape, incest, and so forth. The obscenity will offend, but I doubt it will produce laughs. The biggest problem with the film is a recurring theme in pretty much all of Sandler’s recent films — it comes across as mean-spirited. Tasteless I can stomach, but not this.

1.75 stars out of 5

Red Lights (2012)

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I am a huge fan of the unknown and supernatural powers, so naturally I was drawn to Red Lights, which received surprisingly little buzz.

Cillian Murphy plays a young psychic debunker working with Sigourney Weaver. The pair become drawn into a nasty confrontation with Weaver’s nemesis, Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), who disappeared from public view 30 years ago after his biggest critic died under mysterious circumstances. Weird stuff happens, the stakes rise, things get dangerous, and the debunkers become more and more frustrated as Silver seems to be revealing himself as the real deal.

While Red Lights is not as good as it probably could have been, I found myself really enjoying it. Maybe it’s my fascination with the subject matter, but it was interesting watching how psychics are debunked and wondering whether there really are supernatural powers that can’t be explained by science. The film has some tense moments, but it’s the intrigue that holds it together. It’s just unfortunate the script could not have brought out more from the characters.

I liked the ending, but I didn’t love the excessive explanations and exposition that came along with it. On the whole, it’s quite a flawed film, but my personal fascination with the occult made it a worthwhile experience.

3.5 stars out of 5

Magic Mike (2012)

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So I keep hearing rave reviews about Magic Mike, a supposedly semi-autobiographical film about Channing Tatum’s time as a male stripper. But I reckon people just liked it because ripped guys took their shirts off. Talk about double standards.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad film, and I can definitely see it’s appeal, but in my opinion Magic Mike is overrated. The main character of the film is actually Alex Pettyfer (otherwise known as Number Four), a young stud who gets introduced to the lucrative and sordid world of male stripping by Tatum’s character, the titular Mike. At first Pettyfer is shy and nervous working for boss Matthew McConaughey, but as he finds his confidence he starts to become brash and loses control.

It’s the typical coming-of-age, rise-and-fall tale where the protagonist learns some valuable life lessons by the end of it all. So what’s good about it? Well for starters the execution from director Steven Soderbergh is excellent — it’s a sensitive and insightful portrayal that doesn’t sanitize what happens behind the scenes of a male strip club but does it tastefully and without that sleazy after taste. Secondly, the acting is very good, and this was highly unexpected for me because I never thought Tatum or McConaughey could act. The supporting actors are also solid, with familiar faces such as Olivia Munn (The Newsroom), Matt Bomer (White Collar) and Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami) rounding out the cast.

Magic Mike is billed as a comedy-drama, but it’s predominantly a drama where the comedy comes naturally from the antics of a strip joint. The film gets darker and more serious as it plods along and ditches the comedy completely before the end. It’s no wonder why I found the first half much more enjoyable.

3 stars out of 5

What to Expect When You’re Expecting (2012)

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You don’t need me to tell you that any ensemble cast movie based on a pregnancy guide book (!) is going to suck. But I will tell you anyway. What to Expect When You’re Expecting sucks. Balls. The film is so far off what a real pregnancy is like that it should have been called What NOT to Expect When You’re Expecting.

The film actually starts off strongly with a hideous-looking Cameron Diaz and Glee’s Matthew Morrison participating in a celebrity dance competition that also includes NBA star Dwyane Wade, which was kind of amusing. But everything goes downhill from there, especially as we start jumping around from pregnant couple to couple, each suffering from a different set of circumstances that is supposed to reflect real life.

We’ve got JLo and Rodrigo Santoro dealing with adoption, Elizabeth Banks unexpectedly feeling awful throughout her pregnancy, an old Dennis Quaid and a young Brooklyn Decker, and a young Anna Kendrick and young Chace Crawford. All of them are having babies! And there is a father’s group where a bunch of fellas , including Chris Rock, gather to bitch about their problems. Oh, the humanity!

Aussie Rebel Wilson stole some scenes with her random boganness, but in general the film was an disingenuous money-grabbing turd that had almost no laughs and way too much sappy melodrama, feigned joy and manufactured elation. Don’ watch this film if you have a child or intend to have a child. Actually, just don’t watch this film.

1 star out of 5

Recent Movie Reviews: Part II

Fast and Furious 6 (2013)

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It’s rare that a film franchise hitting its sixth entry can still generate so much hype and continue to attract new A-listers to join the cast. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Fast and Furious series (I don’t care much for cars) but I’ve watched most of them and found them to be solid popcorn entertainment.

Fast and Furious 6 is more of the same, but it’s arguably the best of the lot. The Rock and his steroids are back and they need the expertise of the fugitives led my man-sized Mini-me Vin Diesel and Paul Walker to help the feds capture an ex-British special forces dude played by Luke Evans. He’s really mean and nasty, but he has a secret weapon — Vin Diesel’s ex-girlfriend, the believed-to-be-dead Michelle Rodriguez (making this the second time in about a year she’s returned from the grave after the latest Resident Evil instalment — though don’t worry, she’s not a clone this time).

A lot of cheesy jokes, hot women, crazy combat and car chases ensue. I guess you could say it’s a guilty pleasure, but to be honest I think it’s good enough to just be “a pleasure.” Credit to Taiwanese-American director Justin Lin for divvying up the screen time appropriately between the stars and adding a bit of variety to the action so it’s not just the same thing over and over. It’s silly but it knows it and makes the most out of the situations to create unexpectedly effective humour.

The end of the film is even tied up to Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, which I think was the fourth film of the franchise but chronologically the final one — until Fast and Furious 7, of course, which has already been green-lit and will be fast tracked to our screens next year with a different director (James Wan from Saw and Insidious). It will also star new addition Jason Statham, who makes a brief cameo in this one. I’m pretty sure I’ll watch it.

3.75 stars out of 5

Parker (2013)

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Speaking of Jason Statham, the next film in this review blitz is Parker, a strange little revenge action film with lots of excessive violent behaviour. Even more strangely, it stars JLo in what must be her first role in some time, and she’s playing an unappealing supporting character I would not have expected her to say yes to at the peak of her fame.

Anyway, Statham is the titula Parker, who is a shady fellow with a lot of principles. He gets involved in a heist but is stabbed in the back by his fellow crims and left for dead. He survives, however, and goes about trying to get his share of the money back and making his former partners in crime pay.

It’s by no means an original movie or a memorable one, but watching Statham in action as a ruthless, vengeful crim has its moments. I don’t know if the film had to be that violent but it works on a visceral level.

I didn’t love it or hate it. It was entertaining for the most part but nothing special. In fact, it felt like a very solid straight-to-DVD flick but not much more than that. Oh, and by the way, the film also co-stars Nick Nolte. I still don’t have a clue what the heck he is mumbling on about.

3 stars out of 5

Hotel Transylvania (2012)

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I’ve come to expect nothing but turds from Adam Sandler these days, but Hotel Transylvania is an animated film, so I thought I would give it a chance.

Well, I shouldn’t have. It sounded like a good idea on paper with many opportunities for great laughs — a hotel getaway for misunderstood monsters like Dracula (Sandler), Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, werewolves, and so forth — but the jokes were so cliched and obvious and lame and nowhere near as cool as it wanted to be. It felt like a film desperate to get laughs but didn’t have a clue how to do it. The whole premise was to make fun of the flipped idea that monsters are really afraid of humans, not the other way around, but the monster stereotypes aren’t enough to keep the film afloat.

The great thing about films like Toy Story and Up is that they appeal to both children and adults alike with a broad spectrum of multi-layered jokes, and they have plenty of heart. The message in Hotel Transylvania is that you need to follow your heart no matter what — a noble message — but one that has been done to death already in much superior films.

This one was a dud, possibly the worst animated feature I’ve seen since the awfully misguided and derivative Shark Tale nearly a decade ago.

1.5 stars out of 5

Stoker (2013)

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Huge anticipation for this bizarre psychological thriller penned by Prison Break star Wentworth Miller (who shopped around the script using a pseudonym).

Stoker is an eerie, sexually charged, almost surreal film dominated by a trio of formidable Aussies. The lead is played by Mia Wasikowska, a young girl mourning the loss of her father when her mysterious and handsome uncle (played by Watchmen‘s Matthew Goode) comes to stay with her and her mother, Nicole Kidman. The third Aussie is Jacki Weaver, who has a small but important role as Mia’s great aunt.

I found myself intoxicated by Stoker because I had little idea where it was heading and whether what I was seeing was real. Korean director Park Chan-wook (in his English-language debut) infuses the film with a dreamy, horror-inspired atmosphere that is effectively gothic in nature (not surprisingly, as the film has allusions to Bram Stoker’s Dracula — though this is a psychological thriller as opposed to a supernatural one). It’s a film where people do strange things and have strange reactions but draws you in and keeps you unsettled so you never quite feel like you know what is going on.

I wouldn’t call it a brilliant thriller but it definitely had me intrigued with its dark atmosphere and demented characters. The plot twists are interesting but not as clever as I had hoped them to be, but overall it is still a finely crafted film I would recommend, especially for those looking for something a little different.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Jack and Jill (2011)

Can someone please explain to me what the f@&! happened to Adam Sandler?

I guess I am just a glutton for punishment.  After hearing that Sandler’s latest comedy about twins, Jack and Jill, in which he plays both titular characters, raked in the Razzies nominations, I decided to check it out because it made me curious.

Could it really be that bad?  After all, I had seen some real shockers last year, and the Razzies usually tend to be based on hype more than anything else.  Most of the time the winners were nowhere near the worst films of the year, or so I believed.

And thus I held out a little bit of hope for Jack and Jill.  Sadly, while I doubt it is the worst film of 2011, it was a colossal disappointment, even by Sandler’s recently abysmal standards. And hey, I loved his earlier films like Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, The Waterboy and so forth.

Jack and Jill is just so wrong on so many levels.  Sandler plays Jack, an advertising executive married to the most thankless character I’ve seen in years, played by Katie Holmes (I’ll get to her later, don’t you worry).  He is what you would probably call a “normal guy”.  His twin sister Jill, also played by Sandler, is an overweight, embarrassing, ignorant and probably slightly mentally challenged woman who comes to stay with him for a little while.  During her stay, Jill somehow inexplicably catches the attention and affection of Al Pacino (played by the real deal), whom Jack is trying to get for one of his commercials.  And I can’t believe I just tried to explain the plot of this film.

The biggest problem with Jack and Jill is that it’s just not very funny, especially when Jack and Jill are on screen, which is almost all the time.  I don’t know why, but lately Sandler keeps playing these rich, “normal guys”, probably versions of himself, who are complete dickheads.  Jack is no different.  He’s just his mean, highly unlikable guy who’s pretty much a big bully.  I know he also plays Jill, but this feels different because she’s a woman and we know she’s nothing like Sandler in real life.  And the whole film is essentially Jill, who is actually quite likable despite her flaws, being bullied.

You can probably already guess what happens. Jack can’t stand Jill at the start of the movie and tries to use her to get to Pacino, but in the end he realises…need I say more?

In fact, I’ve come to realise that most of Sandler’s films follow this same trajectory nowadays, and it stinks. Jack and Jill painfully reminded me of one of the worst films I saw in 2010, the appalling Grown Ups, in which Sandler and his comedian buddies were about as unfunny as I had ever seen them.

Here, watching Sandler on screen was as funny as watching some successful millionaire make fun of a handicapped person begging on the side of the street.  When I saw him revert to incredibly obvious and lame toilet humour I knew he had hit a new low.

The only thing that saved the film from complete disaster was the great Al Pacino, playing the great Al Pacino…or at least a caricature of the great Al Pacino. I have no idea how they convinced him to star in this movie, but Pacino was the film’s saving grace and provided essentially all the laughs — though to be fair even he was a little hit and miss at times.

Oh, and before I forget, Katie Holmes.  Is this what Tom Cruise allows her to do these days?  Really?  She did basically nothing.  A pot plant could have played her role, and probably could have done it better.  It made me wonder whatever happened to her after carving out a successful TV career in Dawson’s Creek.  Sure, she was popular for a while, especially after she bared her gifts in The Gift, but has she had a role in which her character really mattered since?  Batman Begins, maybe, but remember how much better The Dark Knight was without her in it?  It’s a tragedy because I think she has a lot more potential.

I hate to finish on a sour note after this rant, but the truth is Sandler needs to get back to his roots, where “character development” takes a back seat to just plain old silly fun.  That’s what he was good at and that’s what he’s always been good at.  His earlier movies were funny because he made fun of himself.  Now he is, explicitly or implicitly, making fun of others who don’t deserve the ridicule, and that’s just not fun to watch.

1.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Just Go With It (2011)

It seems like it was so long ago that I was an Adam Sandler fan.  I loved his crazy, stupid movies.  No matter what anyone says about them, they were (for the most part) hilarious and unique in that Sandler-esque kind of way.

These days, frankly, Sandler’s movies suck.  They’ve become predictable, formulaic, and not very funny.  I feel like he is undergoing some kind of mid-life crisis, for some reason always trying to make his films have a proper storyline and some kind of message about life.  That’s not his forte.

And so it was with reservations that I went to see Just Go With It, a ‘romantic comedy’ about a plastic surgeon who pretends he is married to lure chicks, kind of like that episode of Seinfeld where George gave it a go.  And just like George in that episode, the scheme backfires when he meets the woman of his dreams (Andy Roddick’s SI model wife Brooklyn Decker), and must now continue to pretend he is temporarily ‘married’ by getting his assistant (Jennifer Aniston) to act as his wife.

You don’t need me to tell you where this movie heads and how it ends up.

As I mentioned above, Sandler doesn’t make good movies anymore (his best efforts these days are, I would say, ‘average’ at best).  Jennifer Aniston almost never makes watchable movies.  Throw the two together and it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Fortunately for them, there were a few good moments in Just Go With It, but none of them involved Sandler or Aniston.  The real stars of the film were Bailee Madison (who plays Aniston’s quirky daughter) and Nick Swardson (who is more hit and miss but has some good moments as Sandler’s cousin).  And Brooklyn Decker was surprisingly adequate as the fake love interest, demonstrating not only that she can act but also that she possesses decent comedic timing.  There’s also a supporting role with Nicole Kidman that I didn’t know about, but she wasn’t as funny as she could or should have been.

But ultimately, Just Go With It is probably exactly what you’d expect it to be — two big stars, an initially interesting premise, a predictable plot and a few good jokes, but far too many bad ones.  Potentially worthy as a DVD rental on a rainy night if you are in the right mood, but otherwise don’t waste your money.

2.25 stars out of 5

End of Year DVD Blitz: Part II

Four more movies in this second instalment.  If you want to check out the first one, click here.

Yes, I voluntarily watched SATC2

Sex and the City 2 (2010)

I know, I know.  I must have been really desperate.  I saw the first one and it didn’t strike me as horrible, so I thought maybe this one might have some merit.  After all, it was advertised as a fun movie.

But my goodness, SATC2 was atrocious.  Perhaps not as bad as some people say (ie worst movie of all time), but it was pretty awful.  Basically, this was a self-indulgent 146 minutes of advertising for Abu Dhabi, product placement, and rather insulting jabs at Muslims (and especially Muslim women in the Middle East).

There was a paper thin plot somewhere in there, and I suppose the fans of the show will always be happy to see the foursome on screen together, but SATC2 really should be the last one.  Please, enough is enough.

1.5 stars out of 5

Yeah, I voluntarily watched this too

Charlie St Cloud (2010)

This was a nasty little Zac Efron surprise.  When I first saw the trailer, I thought it looked pretty good.  A supernatural slant on a touching story about life and death.  It may have seemed a little too ‘Nicholas Sparks’, but I loved The Notebook, so why not?

Anyway, despite the terrible reviews, I still decided to watch it.  Perhaps it was the low expectations, but Charlie St Cloud didn’t strike me as one of the worst films of the year.  It’s one of those stories that you can tell would have been pretty good as a book, but when translated to the screen, feels overly melodramatic and frankly, quite ridiculous.  Mind you, I love ghost stories and I don’t mind feel-good, sappy dramas, but Charlie St Cloud stretched my latitude a little too far.

The film has brought comparisons with The Sixth Sense, but that’s not really fair.  To me, it’s a little more Field of Dreams, but nowhere near as good.

While it’s watchable and not entirely uninteresting, Charlie St Cloud is probably only suitable Zac Efron fans.

2.25 stars out of 5

I thought this would be good, but...

Grown Ups (2010)

I was really looking forward to this one, an all-star comedy starring Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, David Spade, Rob Schneider and Kevin James.  But damn, this was one of my biggest disappointments of the year.

The intro was great — a bunch of little kids on a basketball team playing in a big game and spurred on by their enthusiastic coach.  Fast forward 30 years and the coach has passed away, and the funeral serving as a catalyst for the old friends to reunite at some luxurious holiday cabin.

Was I expecting too much?  Admittedly, I have been at least a minor fan of each of these comedians at some point in my life, but Grown Ups was a complete dud.  Why?  It wasn’t funny.  The jokes were repetitve (which is I suppose a trademark of some of these comedians) and surprisingly mean spirited.  I just couldn’t get past how mean they were.  Granted, being mean can be hilarious, but here it only highlighted how obnoxious and unlikable the characters are.

And I don’t get what the deal is with recent Sandler movies always trying to put in some contrived family goodness/poignancy into his comedies these days.  Here, it was a massive failure.  They should have never tried.  It just made the whole thing more uneven.

The only thing that prevented Grown Ups from being an epic disaster was the fact that my main man, Steve Buscemi, had a minor role in it — and as usual, he was brilliant.  Apart from that, this movie sucked.

1.75 stars out of 5 (with half a star for Steve Buscemi)

Nothing to say really...

Killers (2010)

I’m really on a roll here.  Killers is promoted as an action comedy, and while there is decent action in it, there is very little comedy.  Or should I say the attempts at comedy weren’t funny.  Ashton Kutcher is some CIA assassin, and Katherin Heigl is his unsuspecting wife.  Tom Selleck and Catherine O’Hara (the mother from Home Alone) are her parents.

Apart from being completely and outrageously unbelievable (which I could accept if the film took itself less seriously), Killers is extremely bland and formulaic.  Kutcher is okay, but Heigl’s ditzy, flustered routine is really getting old.  She’s very annoying.

I don’t blame it all on the direction of Robert Luketic, because the screenplay really lacks a punch.  I didn’t hate this movie but I can’t think of anything to like about it either.

2 stars out of 5

Wow, I’ve really been watching some shit movies lately.  Can’t believe Charlie St Cloud is the best film of the bunch.  Nevertheless, there’s more to come.  The next set will be better, I promise.

Movie Review: Funny People (2009)

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Judd Apatow is a name that gets thrown around a lot these days when it comes to comedies (as writer and producer), but in reality, there have only been three films where he has been the director – The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and his latest, Funny People, starring his former flatmate Adam Sandler and a mid-weight-loss Seth Rogen (I believe he’s lost more since).

Very loosely based on some of Apatow’s experiences as a struggling comedian, Funny People is about stand-up comedians and, basically, their lives, from those battling at the bottom, to those living it up at the top.  I don’t want to reveal much more than that.  If you haven’t seen the previews, then good for you, because as usual, it reveals some of the best parts and spoils the surprises.

You hear the names Judd Apatow, Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, and you may be thinking ultra-hilarious, stupid, vulgar comedy, but Funny People is more accurately classified as a drama-comedy.  Put it this way – it’s more Spanglish and Punch Drunk Love than Happy Gilmore and Pineapple Express.  That said, the film has plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, often coming from unsuspecting cameos, of which there are many.  The film did a splendid job of combining people acting as other characters and people playing themselves (or at least public versions of themselves).  Things such as fictional movies and movie posters (some just in the background) mixed in with real-life archive footage added an extra layer of comedic complexity to the film.

The stand-up routines were also apparently written by the actors themselves, performed and shot in front of live audiences and then edited for the movie.  I suspect there must have quite a bit of improvisation too.  It makes me wonder how many of the actual lines were ad-libbed, because some sounded too spontaneously brilliant to have been scripted.

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However, it is the dramatic elements of Funny People that set it apart from Apatow’s earlier films.  There are some pretty emotional scenes in there, and I was surprised how well Apatow pulled them off.  Not all of them scenes may have worked, but enough did to make Funny People an engaging drama as well as a clever adult comedy.

As for the cast, Apatow employs the usual suspects to support Sandler and Rogen – Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, Leslie Mann (his wife in real life) and even  his two daughters Maude and Iris Apatow.  The addition that may seem out of the blue to some is of course Eric Bana, who demonstrates his comedic talents to the world (outside of Australia) for the first time.  To fellow Aussies, his hilarity comes as no surprise (as he was a comedian before he turned serious), but I think those who only know him from Hulk and Troy are going to be pleasantly surprised.  Oh, and I must say, I usually find Jonah Hill rather irritating, but he’s actually funny here.  Jason Schwartzman was excellent too.  I knew Adam Sandler was capable of being a great dramatic actor, but was pleasantly surprised by Seth Rogen.  He was very very good.

My main complaint with Funny People is its running time, which at 136 minutes is far too long, even for a drama-comedy.  The ending was also a bit ‘meh’.  Nevertheless, overall this is still a quality film, definitely worth your time.

4 stars out of 5!