Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Vintage video games come to the forefront in Pixels, a feature movie starring Adam Sandler that is based on a quirky little short film by Patrick Jean.

The fact that the short film is a lot cooler than the feature film reveals that perhaps the concept works better in a smaller dose—and that getting Adam Sandler involved was, and usually is, a terrible idea.

Sandler, in mopey-dog wiseass mode, plays Brenner, an installer of home-video equipment and the best friend to Cooper (Kevin James), the president of the United States. Brenner is a former video-game whiz kid who lost a world championship to Eddie (Peter Dinklage) when he failed to come through during a round of Donkey Kong. That loss sent him into some sort of spiral that ruined his life, while fellow gamer Cooper went on to be the leader of the free world.

While Brenner is out making the rounds and trying to score with Violet (Michelle Monaghan), a customer going through marital turmoil, Guam is attacked by the 1980s video game Galaga.

It turns out that aliens found a videotape of old games that was shot into space in the early ’80s—and they interpreted it as a declaration of war on their planet. So they are sending old-timey video games to wipe us out, and using dubbed footage of ’80s icons like Daryl Hall, Ronald Reagan and Madonna as messengers.

It’s fairly interesting at first, but this is an Adam Sandler project, after all, and he and his cohorts wind up wearing out their welcome after the first half. The film goes from mildly entertaining to total Stinksville as it wears on, thanks to the Sandler shtick and some tepid, shallow writing.

As for the special effects, we are talking about Pac-Man, Centipede and Donkey Kong here, so massive, awe-inspiring special effects are not in order. Should you choose to spring for the 3-D version, you will find yourself wholly disappointed.

Surprisingly, even though Sandler is nothing to get excited about, the worst performer in Pixels is the normally reliable Peter Dinklage. He mugs so much in this movie that you could drink a cup of coffee out of his head. Also making an ass of himself is Josh Gad as Ludlow, the strange conspiracy-theorist friend who is around because he’s overweight and kooky.

The film is directed by Chris Columbus, who directed the first, shitty Harry Potter movie (and the second much-better one) along with the awful Mrs. Doubtfire and Home Alone. Even though he’s responsible for some lousy movies, he did debut with Adventures in Babysitting, and that movie ruled. Thus, I can only partially hate him.

The once-mighty Sandler has hit so many cinematic potholes that his suspension is totally shot, and his tires are trashed. He’s got a deal with Netflix to produce and star in films, including the upcoming, already-controversial Western spoof The Ridiculous 6. Hollywood is finally losing faith in him.

It’s sad to see Monaghan, so good in films like Source Code and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, hitting a point in her career in which she has to play a Sandler love interest. In fact, it’s utterly heartbreaking. It’s perhaps the film’s greatest feat that Monaghan makes her character’s leanings toward Sandler semi-convincing. That’s some heavy-duty acting, for sure.

If you are looking for some summer movie fun, go see Ant-Man, Trainwreck or Inside Out. Pixels is a total letdown.

Pixels is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Adam Sandler’s latest film has a fairly interesting premise and gets off to an OK start—but it quickly becomes awkward (even gross) and eventually degenerates into a stupid, predictable thriller.

Sandler plays Max, a cobbler in a New York shop once owned by his dad. After his electric stitching machine goes kaput, he uses an old manual one in the basement to fix some shoes. He tries them on—and instantly becomes the person who owns the shoes (played by Method Man). He figures this out, and begins using shoes to become other people, including, most disgustingly, his long-lost father (Dustin Hoffman) for a date with his mother. (Ew!!!) The plot then goes crazy, as Method Man’s character proves to be a street thug, and Max schemes to steal his money so he can buy a tombstone for a family member.

Director Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent) is all over the map, attempting too many genres and subplots for a single movie. Sandler just can’t make a decent film these days.

The Cobbler is available on demand and via online sources including iTunes and 

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Chris Rock writes, directs and stars in Top Five, a semi-autobiographical look at a stand-up comedian turned film star looking for industry respect.

After a string of movies about a bear cop and a bout with substance abuse, Andre Allen (Rock) is taking a break from stand-up and slapstick to do “serious” movies. On the day of a big premiere, a reporter (Rosario Dawson) tags along to interview him. Rock and Dawson are fun together, while a supporting cast that includes J.B. Smoove, Cedric the Entertainer, Gabrielle Union and—holy crap!—Ben Vereen score a bunch of solid laughs.

A sequence involving a cocaine-and-hooker party stands as one of the year’s funniest scenes, and Rock’s writing is solid throughout. As Chris Rock films go, this is his best starring vehicle by far. Also: Adam Sandler and Jerry Seinfeld have hilarious walk-ons. Sandler hasn’t been this funny in years. Perhaps he should allow Rock to direct him all the time. Maybe Rock can turn that whole Grown Ups franchise around!

Top Five opens Thursday, Dec. 18, at the Cinemas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews

Director Jason Reitman delivers a boring, lethargic and woefully predictable look at humans and the way in which interact with the Internet: Men, Women and Children winds up being nothing more than an ugly commercial for the Ashley Madison dating services.

Adam Sandler plays a sex-addicted married man who jerks off to Internet porn and eventually begins using an escort service. Meanwhile, the wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) has started having sex with men she meets on Ashley Madison. Oooh … the Internet is bad.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Garner plays a mother who obsessively stalks the Internet activity of her daughter (Kaitlyn Dever), while Judy Greer plays a mom who has no problem creating a provocative website for her daughter (Olivia Crocicchia). That darned Internet!

Everybody in this movie is either maddeningly morose or completely deranged. Reitman may think he’s delivering some sort of time-capsule movie showing how technology is the destroyer of relationships and real human communication, but there is absolutely nothing provocative or probing about what he’s saying in this movie. It’s a total drag, squandering a talented cast and offering nothing new.

Men, Women and Children is now playing at the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 844-462-7342) and Cinemas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0730).

Published in Reviews

Maybe I’m crazy, but there is still part of me that believes Adam Sandler will wake up one day and proclaim, in his angry voice, “Alright already! Enough with keeping my no-talent friends working. I can just give them money. It’s time to make decent, funny movies again! Stay home, Dennis Dugan! Screw you Frank Coraci! Maybe Paul Thomas Anderson will put me in a movie again! Flibberdy-Doo!”

Blended, Sandler’s latest collaboration with director Coraci—who actually made some of the better Sandler films back in the day with The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer—might be Sandler’s worst movie yet, and that’s saying a lot. He plays a widower who has a terrible first date with a woman (Drew Barrymore) at Hooters. One thing leads to another, and the two wind up on a vacation together in Africa with all of their kids. Yes, you read that right.

This all leads to rhino-humping jokes, ostrich-riding and Terry Crews making an ass of himself with some sort of makeshift musical group that kind of sounds like Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

I had a real bad time with this thing. It caused major, jaw-clenching tension, and I think I may’ve cracked a molar. It’s the sort of racist, sexist movie that you watch in complete disbelief, wondering how such a monstrosity could ever get past the, “Hey, why don’t we send Adam and Drew to Africa … it’ll be so funny!” stage.

Everybody involved should be embarrassed.

Blended is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Adam Sandler has done it again: He has made the worst movie of his career. How do his films keep topping themselves in horribleness?

Grown Ups 2—a sequel to the Dennis Dugan disaster that joined David Spade, Chris Rock and Kevin James—is twice as bad as the original. Considering how awful the original was, I didn’t think such a feat was possible.

The plot involves Sandler moving back to his hometown, where a deer enters his house and promptly urinates on him. Then he goes shopping with his friends who fart and burp a lot. Then he has a big party where everybody dresses up as people from the ’80s (Pat Benatar, Bruce Springsteen, The Terminator). Then somebody farts again, and then the movie is over. I sat in a theater in which people were laughing their asses off every time somebody farted. It was one of the most-depressing experiences of my summer so far—and I had to sit through The Purge, so that’s pretty bad.

I have officially given up on Sandler. This is a talented, funny guy who can’t seem to say goodbye to people who drag him down.

Given the box office performance of this piece of crap—it earned more than $42 million on its opening weekend—Sandler will probably be giving Dugan plenty of directing jobs in the future. This is our loss.

Grown Ups 2 is unfortunately playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

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