‘Pixels’ Review

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Dir:  Chris Columbus

Writer(s): Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling

Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Michelle Monaghan, Josh Gad, Peter Dinklage, Matt Lintz, Jane Krankowski, and Brian Cox

Synopsis: When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

 

Based on the 2010 short from French director Patrick Jean (which I highly recommend), Pixels extends the idea of classic video games attacking major cities to aliens disguising themselves as classic video games to attack. I was pretty excited to learn they were making a movie based on the short, but was less excited when I heard that Adam Sandler was involved with his Happy Madison Production company. I’ll even admit that the first trailer didn’t do much for me and wasn’t even looking forward to this. The second trailer came out and I was warming up to it. Now, watching the movie itself, well my mind was changed. Pixels is not perfect, but it still is pretty enjoyable.

 

The movie starts off in the early 80s when friends Sam Brenner (Sandler) and Cooper (James) go to a grand opening of an arcade. Sam becomes a local favorite because he’s really good at the games and Cooper tells him to enter a championship league. There they meet Ludlow (Gad) and Eddie “The Fire Blaster” Plant (Dinklage). Skip ahead to the present and Cooper is now the President of the United States, while Brenner works as an installation guy. However, Cooper soon has lot on his plate when a military base is attacked overseas in the form of Galaga.

 

Cooper and Lt. Col. Violet van Patten (Monaghan) – who early on in the film had already meet Brenner and the two don’t completely get along – bring in Brenner and Ludlow, who is a conspiracy theorist and is the one that actually brings up the notion of aliens disguising themselves as classic video game characters, in to help the military lead by Admiral Porter (Cox) to take them down. They also need the help of a now jailed Eddie to take down the aliens.

 

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Like I mentioned before, I wasn’t really looking forward toward Pixels. I, probably, like many of you, thought this was going to be another unfunny, dumb, lame joke (although there are flat jokes in there) movie by Adam Sandler. Also, like I said, Pixels is not a perfect movie. Once you get past the notion that Kevin James is playing the President somehow, they never mention how he became president, and how everyone somewhat accepts the idea that it is aliens disguising themselves as classic video games OR even that they bring in civilians to deal with the situation, Pixels is enjoyable for the most part. All that sounds nitpicky, but it’s hard to avoid it once you watch the movie.

 

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The idea behind the aliens thinking that the capsule that was sent up to space to make communication them was an act of war is pretty interesting, but it is never really fleshed out. It is bought up, but they way they handled it was off to me. Even some of clichés the movie brings up didn’t bother me so much as it will probably other people. The clichés, dare I say this, work for the movie, but only to a certain extent. Some of the references are dated, but considering the concept of the movie you don’t necessarily have to forgive it, but it helps you experience the movie better. I’m not making excuses for the movie, but at the end of the day it is an Adam Sandler movie.

 

Speaking of Sandler, he does okay here. Although, I haven’t really watched a Sandler film in a long time, it does look at times like he’s phoning it in sometimes. Josh Gad has his funny moments and plays a bit the role a bit over-the-top, but the role calls for it and Gad nails it. Peter Dinklage looks like he’s having fun playing the role and even has some scene stealing lines as the arrogant and egotistical video game player. The personality fades away a bit near the end unfortunately, but he will no doubt be a fan-favorite, if not for the character then at least for fact that it’s played by Peter Dinklage.

 

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Michelle Monaghan, the only real female actress of the movie besides Jane Krakowski who doesn’t really do anything than being the First Lady, has her own moments to shine as well. Although, without spoiling it, the character feels a bit inconsistent when you first see her to later in the final act. Still she holds her own with what she’s given. Kevin James also doesn’t get a lot to do here, sure he has a couple good moments, but for the most part he’s a supporting character that pops in every now and then.

 

The rest of the supporting cast don’t do much and play into the clichés that I briefly spoke of earlier. Brian Cox’s Admiral Porter is the tough and no nonsense-type that doesn’t believe in “the arcaders.” While Ashley Benson’s Lady Lisa doesn’t show up until the final act and doesn’t even speak a line of dialogue. A nice surprise is fan favorite Sean Bean pops in a small role as another military leader that also doesn’t believe in the “arcaders.”

 

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If you don’t like the story or the characters then the action sequences should at least be fun for you. The heavily promoted Pac-Man chase scene is pretty fun to watch in its entirety and the King Kong fight is probably the next highlight, if not the highlight of the movie. The special effects is pretty cool and during the action sequences really elevate the scenes a little more.

 

All in all, Pixels was surprisingly enjoyable. Some of the jokes fall flat, but for the most part you’ll laugh for sure at some of the jokes. The movie does seem targeted a bit toward families, but pay attention to the rating, it is PG-13 for some language. If you’re a video gamer, especially the old-school games, you’ll enjoy some of the references scattered throughout. Pixels isn’t going to win any awards – maybe some Razzies – but go and judge for yourselves. Pixels is a lot of fun for the most part, and this is coming from a guy that wasn’t looking forward to it.

 

Pixels

3.5 out of 5

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‘The Guest’ Review

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Dir: Adam Wingard

Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Tabatha Shaun, Joel David Moore, and Lance Reddick

Synopsis: A soldier introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence

 

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review*

 

 

The team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett is one that I’m starting to fully invest in. They caught eyes of general audiences with You’re Next and segments in V/H/S and its sequel. But they also made a highly enjoyable survivor thriller A Horrible Way to Die but with this new movie The Guest, Wingard who serves as the director and Barrett as the writer, they bring a great homage to the old movies of James Carpenter and 70s and 80s horror/thriller films.

 

The movie starts off with Laura Peterson (Kelley) who is grieving over the death of her son Caleb when a mysterious charming man shows up calming to be an old army friend named David (Stevens). He quickly wins over the family that includes the bullied son Luke (Meyer), rebellious daughter Anna (Monroe), and frustrated husband Spencer (Orser). Soon though, we start to realize that David is not who he says he is and terrible things start to happen.

 

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Almost like You’re Next, The Guest shares the same vibe as a movie from the 70s and 80s. It’s got action, dread, mystery, some dark comedy and catchy synthesizer music. Wingard knows exactly what he’s doing and finds the balance of all the tones running through the movie and manages to make every one of those moments enjoyable and fun to watch. It does have a rough part right before the final act but the nice thing is that even the characters are aware of it and even rolls their own eyes. In any other movie it would seem too self aware and cheesy and it is here, but considering the rest of the movie, it’s actually welcomed.

 

But The Guest isn’t just defined by its tone or feel, but by the performance of Dan Stevens. Stevens is wildly known for his performance in Downton Abbey, but never seeing the show, I can assume that this is nothing compared to what he’s done there. Stevens does a fantastic job of balancing David’s personalities through the movie. He has his charm about him and calls people “sir” and “ma’am” but the time it takes for him to get you to like him, David can switch to a menacing demeanor, which was truly frightening in some occasions. The nice thing is that he never really overdoes it and makes the movie hard to watch, in the sense that you never know what’s going to happen when David enters a room.

 

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The hard part is deciding what you think of David. He acts as a defender to the Peterson family – deals with some bullies for Luke – but since his actions are so brutal, it makes you think if the Petersons made the right choice in bringing in David or not. But, again, Stevens’ performance is so well done that you end up rooting for him, even though his actions are very exciting but brutal.

 

The other performances are a little hard to judge since we spend a lot of time with Stevens, and even when he’s not on screen the movie kind of slows down. Lance Reddick shows up as a man from David’s past and does what he can with the role but really goes nowhere expect to tell Anna about David. Brendan Meyer as Luke Peterson sees David as a friend and possibly surrogate brother as David teaches Luke to stand up for himself. Meyer does okay as the younger brother who finally finds someone he can talk to and a friend.

 

Finally there is Maika Monroe as Anna. The role really could have gone the way of Anna being a bit bitchy, but instead Anna is a bit standoffish, which is understandable once you understand the dynamic of the family. As the movie progress she suspects that David isn’t really who he says he is and rapidly sees David is a different light. Monroe is a relativity newcomer and manages to hold her own against Stevens. One particular scene stands out to me around the halfway point when Anna confronts David about who he is.

 

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All in all, The Guest has a great mixture of tones and pays a nice homage to other films from the past. With a great score and performance by Dan Stevens, The Guest is a fun, scary, and enjoyable ride from start to finish.

 

 

The Guest

4.5 out of 5